Cdl. Burke Dissents from the Church’s Teaching

Cdl. Burke Dissents from the Church’s Teaching September 10, 2019

Mike Lewis, over at Where Peter Is, writes:

Recent remarks by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, captured on audio, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Burke explicitly rejects the revised teaching on the death penalty in Catechism #2267 and urges catechists not to accept or teach the change that Pope Francis has mandated.

On this site, we have long been tracking the views of those with extremist viewpoints who criticize Pope Francis. We have also noted a more mainstream contingent whose members strongly oppose Francis’s papacy but couch their language in a manner that allows them to argue that they are trying to promote his teaching. I earlier observed this phenomenon with regard to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. More recently, Cardinal Raymond Burke has likewise attempted to present himself as a supporter of Pope Francis in a recent interview on Fox News where he said:

“They say that I’m the enemy of the pope, and nothing can be further from the truth. I’ve never spoken against Pope Francis or spoken disrespectfully of him.”

Perhaps Burke hasn’t spoken explicitly against Pope Francis’s character or passed judgement on the state of his soul. However, he has explicitly rejected magisterial teachings on faith and morals that Francis has promulgated, has openly mocked them (and has done so in front of an audience), and has referred to them as Francis’s “personal opinion.”

When he became a cardinal, he swore an oath, whereby he pledged to:

“Promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff [name], and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed.”

Sadly, in his comments to this audience, he demonstrates supreme disobedience to Francis, Peter’s successor, who asked, upon promulgation of the revised section of the Catechism, “for it to be translated into various languages and inserted in all the editions of the aforementioned Catechism.


If you don’t have time to listen to the audio or read the full transcripts, here are some key quotes.

From his second address, on Saturday, July 20, 2019, Cardinal Burke spoke on the declaration’s response to the pope’s teaching on the death penalty, and said:

  • “Number 28 declares the truth about capital punishment. This also has been called into question in our time, as if for 2000 years, the Church was in error in its teaching, with regard to capital punishment.”
  • Society has this Right. Pope St. John Paul II rightly pointed out that today, that probably the need for this is less than it had been in the past, as society has other means. We cannot rule out absolutely, that: the necessity of resorting to capital punishment.”

In his Q&A session the next day, Burke went far beyond these common talking points against the revised teaching. He explicitly rejects its Magisterial nature, the pope’s authority on faith and morals, and decries the possibility of any future changes to the Catechism (never mind that John Paul did just that in 1997). He also strategically avoids any mention of paragraphs 2 and 3 of the 1997 teaching, those that demonstrate clearly that JP2 planted the seeds for Francis’s development.[1]

Here are some examples of what he said (key passages are in bold, I used italics when he’s quoting something, anything in [brackets] was added by me):

  • Responding to a question about what to do about the revised teaching, he says, “I’ll explain this to you now: you should teach what’s in the Catechism.” (Meaning the 1997 edition, which doesn’t include Pope Francis’s revision.)
  • He goes on to say, “Is the change now official teaching? No.
  • “The Pope doesn’t change the teaching of the Church by his personal opinion.”
  • Critiquing the new teaching, he says, “‘Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority following a fair trial was long considered’ — The word should be ‘always’ considered.
  • Consequently, the Church teaches in the light of the gospel, that the death penalty is inadmissible.”  This is simply not any language; this doesn’t have any doctrinal import to it. What does it mean to say something isn’t admissible? That is a relative term, either say it’s intrinsically evil, or it’s good. — “Because it is an attack on the inviolability indignity of the person.” — And it’s not. And what’s the citation? What’s the doctrinal citation? A speech of the pope on October 11 2017. [Audience laughter.] My point is this, with all due respect, and I’m not trying to be disrespectful in any way: This is an opinion of Pope Francis as a man.
  • “He has this personal opinion about, about capital punishment, but this does not suffice, to change something the church has always held and taught.”
  • “Once in a while, a pope would express his personal opinion about something and generally caused a lot of confusion and turmoil. And so, but Pope Francis does this a lot, but you can’t – this, this kind of argumentation that’s given in this text – it simply won’t do it.”
  • “Archbishop Fisichella, who says that … he’s heading up a rewriting of the Catechism, we have to be very attentive to that. But what I would advise you to do is to buy a copy of the Catechism as it is now and keep it in a safe place.” [Audience laughter.]

The statements above clearly demonstrate that Cardinal Burke rejects the teaching of Pope Francis on the death penalty in its entirely. He seems to think that a change to the Catholic Catechism, mandated by the pope and accompanied by a document from the CDF (one which declares the change to be, “An authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium”) is simply the personal opinion of the pope “as a man.”

He even advises his audience to buy a copy of the 1997 edition of the Catechism and “keep it in a safe place,” as if doctrinal development, papal authority, and the Living Magisterium are all a big joke.

This dismissal is inexplicable in light of the what is expressed in the Profession of Faith, which states:

“I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.”

It’s also a rejection of Lumen Gentium 25Canon 752, and Catechism number 892, which assert the same teaching.

In the past, Cardinal Burke has cited “ambiguity” and “lack of clarity” in Francis’s teachings as a way to create reasonable doubt about his dissent. He’s a (canon) lawyer, after all, and is skilled at lawyerly language. In the past, he’s also avoided naming Pope Francis when describing his problems with the Holy Father’s teachings. Not in this case, however.

What we have here can be described as a “smoking gun” that indicates that Cardinal Burke openly dissents from magisterial teaching.

Lest we forget, the 1990 CDF instruction Donum Veritatis says this about dissent:

  1. Dissent has different aspects. In its most radical form, it aims at changing the Church following a model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society. More frequently, it is asserted that the theologian is not bound to adhere to any Magisterial teaching unless it is infallible. Thus a Kind of theological positivism is adopted, according to which, doctrines proposed without exercise of the charism of infallibility are said to have no obligatory character about them, leaving the individual completely at liberty to adhere to them or not. The theologian would accordingly be totally free to raise doubts or reject the non-infallible teaching of the Magisterium particularly in the case of specific moral norms.

I suppose Cardinal Burke’s defense is his absurd claim that the teaching on the death penalty is mere “personal opinion.”

Your Eminence, when the pope mandates a change to the Catechism and approves a CDF document explaining the change as a development from “prior magisterium,” it’s not simply his personal opinion.

It is my hope that Cardinal Burke will be called forth by ecclesiastical authorities so he can be corrected and given a chance to repent of his error and to retract his dissenting statements.

There’s much more here.

Scott Eric Alt does his usual fine job of performing the autopsy on the latest round of Pope Francis-enmity.  Particularly of note is this:

Now I’m sorry to have to point this out, in the midst of the holy guffaws of FaithfulCatholic™ laughter at the pope Burke’s sarcasm generated, but Pope Francis did not cite only himself. Take a look at the letter to bishops if you doubt me. I pointed this all out myself, last year.

  • Pope Francis cites Evangelium Vitae. “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity,” John Paul II writes, “and God himself pledges to guarantee this.”
  • Pope Francis cites John Paul II’s Urbi et Orbi message of 1998, in which John Paul II urged an end to the death penalty. “The dignity of human life,” he said, “must never be taken away.”
  • And Pope Francis cites Benedict XVI’s General Audience of November 30, 2011, in which the now emeritus pope also urged an end to the death penalty, since it does not conform to “the human dignity of prisoners.”

So I’m sorry to disappoint Cafeteria Catholic Burke, but this is not something Pope Francis just dreamed up one day as a private opinion of his own and then decided to defile the Catechism with it. John Paul II and Benedict XVI taught the same thing. And Pope Francis cites both of them — not just himself — in his letter to bishops.

None of this is hard to grasp except for the demographic of Francis-hating, Trump-adoring Catholics who have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long that only fool would trust their immense terrible judgment.  Only these people can be awesomely and infallibly wrong about everything and never pause to ask, “What if we are wrong again?”

Meanwhile all the Church–yes, the Church, not Jorge Bergoglio–is saying is, “Don’t kill people if you don’t have to.”  Given that we commit the human sacrifice of about four completely innocent people just in order to satisfy the completely lust for blood of the guilty, you’d think that would be easy to grasp. But the Greatest Catholics of All Time are nothing if not immovably committed to their own pride and are not about to let the Magisterium get away with common sense and Christian charity on their watch.  So the war against the Church will continue.

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