Cardinal Burke: ‘It Is Always My Sacred Duty to Defend Church Teaching’
The patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta clarifies what he meant about ‘resisting’ Pope Francis.
VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Raymond Burke said he was “responding to a hypothetical situation” when he stated that he would resist any possible move by Pope Francis away from Catholic doctrine.
“I simply affirmed that it is always my sacred duty to defend the truth of the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage,” Cardinal Burke told CNA Feb. 9.
“No authority can absolve me from that responsibility, and, therefore, if any authority, even the highest authority, were to deny that truth or act contrary to it, I would be obliged to resist, in fidelity to my responsibility before God.”
Cardinal Burke said his interview with the French television channel France 2, broadcast Feb. 8, was “accurately reported” concerning a question and answer about resisting Pope Francis.
According to a translation of the interview on the blog Rorate Caeli, the cardinal stressed the need for attentiveness to the power of the office of the papacy in Catholic understanding. Papal power is “at the service of the doctrine of the faith,” he explained, “and thus the Pope does not have the power to change teaching, doctrine.”
The interviewer then asked: “In a somewhat provocative way, can we say that the true guardian of doctrine is you and not Pope Francis?”
“We must — let us leave aside the matter of the Pope,” the cardinal replied. “In our faith, it is the truth of doctrine that guides us.”
“If Pope Francis insists on this path, what will you do?” the interviewer then asked.
“I will resist. I cannot do anything else,” he said.
The cardinal’s statement about resistance drew significant coverage.
Cardinal Burke went on to tell France 2 that the Catholic Church is facing “a difficult time” that is “painful” and “worrisome.”
At the same time, when asked whether the Church as an institution is being threatened, he voiced confidence.
“The Lord assured us, as he assured St. Peter in the Gospel, that the forces of evil will not prevail — non praevalebunt, we say in Latin: that the forces of evil will not achieve, let us say, victory over the Church.”
Asked whether Pope Francis is his friend, the cardinal replied, “I would not want to make of the Pope an enemy, certainly!”
The cardinal, a former archbishop of St. Louis, served from 2008-2014 as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Roman Rota, effectively the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church. He also sat on the Congregation for Bishops for several years.
Pope Francis removed him from his Curial positions and assigned him as patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a 900-year-old institution focused on the defense of the faith and care for the poor. The order has a presence in more than 120 countries, with 13,000 members and 80,000 volunteers.
Cardinal Burke was a leading figure during the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. At the time, he told CNA that much of the media had been inaccurately presenting Pope Francis as being in favor of allowing holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried, along with other proposals.
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