By Elise Harris
Amid the ongoing debate surrounding “Amoris Laetitia,” dubia author Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a new interview that he’s wrongly depicted as the “enemy” of Pope Francis, but he stressed that current division in the Church demands an answer to requests for clarity.
“The urgency of a response to the dubia derives from the harm done to souls by the confusion and error, which result, as long as the fundamental questions raised are not answered in accord with the constant teaching and practice of the Church,” Cardinal Burke said.
“The urgency weighs very heavily on my heart,” he said. In his experience, the cardinal said he’s seen “a great deal of confusion, also people feeling that the Church is not a secure point of reference.”
“Some are feeling even a certain bewilderment…they are looking for a much stronger presentation of the Church’s doctrine.”
Cardinal Burke was one of four signatories of a letter submitted to Pope Francis last September outlining five dubia, or doubts, about the interpretation of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”
That letter had been submitted to the Pope privately, but released to the public two months later, prompting a firestorm of media commentary and debate.
However, the cardinal also addressed the purported “conflict” between him and Pope Francis, stressing that the media portrayal of he and the Pope is inaccurate, and frequently “overdone.”
“It’s all a caricature. They depict Pope Francis as a wonderful, open person and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they depict me as just the opposite,” he said, explaining that this is done “to advance their own agenda.”
However, Pope Francis “is actually not in favor of their agenda. They use this kind of technique to make it seem like he is and that’s fundamentally dishonest,” Cardinal Burke said.
Neither is there an intention to build up resistance against the Pope, he continued, explaining that the image of him being the “enemy” who is trying to undermine the Pope “isn’t the case at all.”
Cardinal Burke made his comments in a recent interview with Australian journalist Jordan Grantham, published Sept. 21 in Diocese of Parramatta’s online publicaton, “Catholic Outlook.”
The cardinal noted that as faithful Catholics, those who have expressed doubt or concern over the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” love the Pope “with complete obedience to the office of Peter.”
Yet at the same time, he said, “they don’t accept these questionable interpretations…of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ interpretations, which in fact contradict what the Church has always taught and practiced.”
Without clarity on these issues, “people are in a very difficult state,” he said, explaining that this is demonstrated by the fact that bishops conferences have issued conflicting guidelines on how to interpret “Amoris Laetitia.”
In addition to Cardinal Burke, other signatories to the dubia letter were Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna; and Joachim Meisner, Archbishop Emeritus of Cologne.
Cardinals Meisner and Caffarra passed away within two months of each other over the summer, leaving Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller to carry forward the ongoing debate over the dubia.
Cardinal Burke’s latest interview was not related to the release of a letter signed by 62 Catholic clergy and scholars, the most notable being superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X. That letter presented itself as a “filial correction” to Pope Francis for reputed errors and heresies.
Among other things, the letter argues that the Pope has either directly or indirectly perpetrated seven heresies, most of which surround comments he has made about Martin Luther and ambiguities in “Amoris Laetitia,” specifically related to the question of the reception of Holy Communnion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics who cannot get an annulment.
The letter also objects to the Pope’s silence in the face of the “dubia” submitted to the Pope by the four cardinals.
Like the four cardinals’ original dubia letter, the 25-page letter of “filial correction” was also sent to the Pope privately, but the signatories decided to publish it after having received no response from the Pope.
Neither Cardinal Burke nor Cardinal Brandmüller signed the document. According to a Tweet sent out by the traditionalist blog “Rorate Caeli,” which has provided favorable coverage of the document’s release, cardinals were not asked to sign. The letter was “step one only.”
In his interview, Cardinal Burke said that many lay people argue over “Amoris Laetita,” and “many priests are suffering in particular because the faithful come to them, expecting certain things that are not possible because they’ve received one of the these erroneous interpretations of ‘Amoris Laetitia’.”
As a result, these people no longer understand Church teaching, the cardinal said. And in the Church, “we have only one guide, the Magisterium, the teaching of the Church, but we now seem to be divided into so-called political camps.”
The at times volatile “attacks” from parties who disagree is “a very mundane way of approaching things, it has no place in the Church,” Cardinal Burke continued. “But that’s where we’re at right now.”
The only way for the conversation to move forward on these matters, he said, “is to make the point of reference the doctrine of the Church. That’s what unifies us.”
Cardinal Burke also cleared up what he said are several misconceptions about him that are often promoted by the media, namely that he is “only interested in doctrine and law,” and that he is “out of touch with the times and living in the Middle Ages.”
“I am very pastoral and in fact, I don’t see any contradiction between being pastoral and being faithful in announcing the Church’s teaching and following the Church’s law,” he said.
The cardinal insisted that he is also “very conscious of the everyday culture in which we live, and I try to address it, but in a way that is full of compassion in the sense of addressing the Church’s teaching to the cultural situation and trying to lead the culture to a certain transformation.”
Referring to those who at times paint a picture of the Pope as a great revolutionary changing the tide of the Church in modern times, the cardinal said being the Successor of Peter “has nothing to do with revolutions.” Rather, it involves “maintaining the Church in unity with her long and constant tradition.”
Many people also claim the Pope is somehow going against the Church’s centuries-long tradition, he said. “And that isn’t possible either, because the Roman Pontiff is that principle of unity, unity which is not only present now, but unity with those who have gone before over the centuries.
“In fact, the two are one. When we are unified with the saints and especially with the great teachers of the faith along the centuries, then we also find unity with one another.”
Offering a word to all those currently worried about the state of the Church, Cardinal Burke stressed the need to remain confident in the fact that it is Jesus Christ whom they encounter in the Church, and who comes to meet us.
“Therefore, no matter what confusion or even divisions enter into the Church, we should never give up hope,” he said.
“We should cling all the more faithfully to what the Church has always taught and practiced. And that way we will really save our own souls, with the help of God’s grace, which, of course, we must always be about.”