Where Peter Is takes up the Douthat interview w/ Cardinal Burke

Where Peter Is takes up the Douthat interview w/ Cardinal Burke November 20, 2019

…and does their typical fair and judicious work.  The author, Mike Lewis, is (I think) very charitable to the Cardinal, remarking:

[U]nlike many other Catholics who see Cardinal Burke as a Machiavellian and power-obsessed schemer, I actually believe he is sincere, not terribly political, and is following his conscience. Those who have met him, even his critics, have told me that he is–at heart–a kind-hearted and dedicated priest who deeply cares about the Church and the salvation of souls. In that way, he’s not an enemy of Pope Francis, even if the effects of his words and and actions against Francis have had significant negative effects on the Church.

Nonetheless, Lewis gets to the nub of the problem:

Prior to his election, many committed conservative Catholics here had a vague sense that he was a faithful, orthodox prelate. They might not have even known what he looked like, but his name was consistently rattled off in the list of orthodox Catholic bishops (Chaput, Burke, Olmsted, Gomez, etc.). I didn’t realize anything was off about his views until he told a French interview in early 2015 that if Francis taught something he disagreed with, “I will resist.

It was fortunate that I had been studying papal primacy at the time because I was curious, having been influenced and confused by various strains of traditionalism, about how Catholics can be certain that a particular official teaching was orthodox. My studies led me to a  CDF document from 1998, that summarizes the Church’s teachings on papal primacy. These words in particular struck me:

The Successor of Peter is the rock which guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God against arbitrariness and conformism

It’s simply not rational to hold, on one hand, that the Church teaches the pope is the guarantor of orthodoxy, while on the other, to believe (as Burke does), that it’s acceptable to call for resistance to his false teachings. It’s not only impossible, but it’s absurd. My study of the papacy has only reinforced the truth: Cardinal Burke’s circle cannot be squared.

But if I wasn’t knowledgeable about the papacy, if I hadn’t begun to understand the relationship between the papacy and the Magisterium, I might have simply accepted what Cardinal Burke said. And I think there are many well-meaning conservative Catholics who have fallen into that trap. They are in our families, our communities, and among our friends.

Since 2013, Cardinal Burke has been presented by the Catholic media as the voice of orthodoxy in contrast to a heterodox pope. And he’s done very little to dissuade his supporters from embracing all kinds of extremist positions and actions. For example, in the interview with Douthat, he says this about the man who stole the indigenous statues and threw them in the Tiber:

I can only express my respect for him and my gratitude for his courageous witness to the faith.

Additionally, he described Antonio Socci, the author of a book that denies the validity of Benedict’s resignation as a “saintly man.” Likewise, Burke called the barring of John Rist from Pontifical Universities (after Rist signed an open letter accusing the pope of heresy) as evidence of a “totalitarian mentality.”

It’s very difficult to find much of anything in Burke’s public record suggesting he’s actually helping Pope Francis or being a particularly good cardinal, much less a teacher of the faith.

What impresses me, as ever, is the way the Holy Father responds to all this, which is to say he does not respond.  His silence in response to all this is, to me, Christ-like.  It is something I wish I were more capable of, yammering Irishman that I am.

As Francis described the situation to a Mexican interviewer,

I pray for them because they are wrong … I saw [them as] poor people [who are] manipulated by some. … Seriously, I looked at it with a sense of humor and, I would say, tenderness, paternal tenderness. That is to say, it did not hurt me at all. What hurts me is the hypocrisy, the lie. That hurts me. But a mistake like that, in which there are people whose heads have been filled…. No please. We have to care for them also, we have to take care of them.

And we must pray for them.


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