Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why They Are Afraid of Pope Francis 16

Cardinal Burke: old school not in tune with Pope
Francis and his Church of the Poor
Well, we haven’t finished the Dissolution of the Monasteries and I am a bit frustrated.  I thought I could do it in two posts and have done three and we still have at least two to go.     But I need to go back to Pope Francis for a while.   I do notice that the hits to the website jump whenever we talk about him, but more to the point he has done a few things lately that are worth comment.  And at least one of them has a lot of the neo-trads running scared again.  He replaced Cardinal Burke on the Congregation of Bishops with Cardinal Wuerl and this is a pretty clear sign that Burke’s sun is setting.  We should not be surprised.  Burke is the old-fashioned prelate who likes the princely style that Francis has been renouncing.  His Eminence is particularly attached to the pre-Conciliar rites and a very close padrone of the Institute of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest a peculiar institute of self-appointed quasi-prelates who work to revive the monarchial style of Catholicism prevalent before the Second Vatican Council.  Cardinal Burke was Archbishop of Saint Louis until his heavy handed abuse of power led Pope Benedict to remove him to various desk jobs in Rome.   Now he has lost what is probably the most influential of those desk jobs, his position on the committee that nominates bishops.  He remains as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura which is the Church’s highest court but is not equivalent to our Supreme Court in as that it cannot rule on the constitutionality of Church Law nor can it hear cases unless those cases are appealed from two lower courts that are each considered supreme within their own areas of competence—the Sacred Roman Rota which is the normal court in which cases ranging from appeals against one’s bishop to marriage annulments and the Apostolic Penitentiary which is the court that deals with internal forum issues and excommunications.  Each of these courts are supreme in their jurisdictions and only if there has been a procedural error do cases get referred to Burke’s bench at the Signatura.  In other words, unlike our supreme court, the review is based not on an interpretation of the law, but only if there has been a procedural error that needs to be rectified.  Moreover, there are 26 judges who sit on the Signatura and cases are not heard by an individual judge but dealt with administratively by panels of judges assigned to hear a case.  Thus Burke’s power is highly checked as he does not have the same position of decision making that prefects of the various congregations would have.  His appointment to the Signatura was a clever way of disposing of a man to whom experience proved power cannot be entrusted. 
Power he may lack, but until this recent fall influence has been Cardinal Burke’s in abundance.  His position on the Congregation for Bishops put him in a position to advance or check the careers of up and coming bishops.  He was a key player in the advancement of Archbishop Lori, for example, from being Bishop of Bridgeport to Archbishop of Baltimore—a see that often carries a red hat with it.  Lori and Burke—along with the infamous but influential Cardinal Bernard Law, formerly of Boston—were responsible for the allegations against the American nuns affiliated to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.  Cardinal Burke still sits on a number of other Vatican Congregations and Commissions as do each of the Cardinals, notably those who live in Rome, but none have the influence that the Congregation for Bishops has.  His removal from that Congregation and replacement by Donald Wuerl is a clear sign of the sort of Bishop Pope Francis wants appointed for the American Church.  The notable conflict between Burke and Wuerl was over Burke’s policy of refusing Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support legislation in conflict with Catholic moral theology whereas Wuerl has set the policy in his diocese that the Eucharist is not a weapon to be used against people—whether politicians or individuals whose lives do not conform strictly to Catholic moral theology. 
Many of the extremists among Catholic conservatives were delighted with Cardinal Burke’s outspoken defense of traditional Catholic values whereas the vast majority of more moderate Catholics agreed with Cardinal Wuerl that the issues need to be addressed at a place other than in the Mass itself.  Cardinal Burke has always interpreted canon 915 that Holy Communion is not to be distributed to those who are excommunicate, to those who are under interdict, or to those who persist in grave public sin to apply to politicians who support or do not oppose “pro-choice” legislation or who support or do not oppose same-sex marriage.   Cardinal Wuerl reminds his priests that such politicians have neither been excommunicated nor placed under interdict and disputes whether their legislative actions consist of “grave public sin.”  Of course as head of the Apostolic Signatura, the chief judicial arm of the Church, one would think that Burke is the better arbiter of the Canon Law, but Pope Francis obviously does not see things the same way.  Reading through various “pro-life” blogs and articles, one sees a growing disillusionment with Pope Francis, and even a sense of alarm.  The pope’s admonition that the Church needs not to be “obsessed” with the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage have provoked outcries from Michael Voris, Judy Brown of the American Life League, and others who see their Catholic credentials being eroded in the policies of this papacy.   Certainly with Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation for Bishops we can expect more middle of the road prelates than we have seen in the past decade or two (or three). 

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