Cardinal Burke: old school not in tune with Pope
Francis and his Church of the Poor
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).