Tag: Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Burke – In or Out?

Buzzfeed has an interview with Cardinal Burke which makes it sound like he’s out. Sorta. But read carefully. Is he confirming a rumor or is it more? Nothing is formal….

Question_mark_(black_on_white)Buzzfeed has an interview with Cardinal Burke which makes it sound like he’s out. Sorta. But read carefully. Is he confirming a rumor or is it more? Nothing is formal. Then again, Pope Francis never confirmed him in his position as head of the Apostolic Signatura. Vatican watchers would be better able to judge the significance of that. For example, who else has not been confirmed in their positions? Read carefully this section from Buzzfeed:

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of doctrine to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust by accepting this assignment I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

I find it interesting that he hasn’t met with Pope Francis. Too bad BuzzFeed didn’t ask him who told him. Also, interesting that he hasn’t yet received formal notice.

All we have is confirmation that there is a rumor and that Burke has been told the rumor. It will be interesting to see how things settle out after the close of the Synod, particularly in light of Cardinal Kasper’s most unfortunate comments concerning the African Bishops.

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Why I’m Grateful to Cardinal Kasper: “Remaining in the Truth of Christ.”

I am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere,…

712lpuKFawLI am grateful to Cardinal Kasper. Indeed, I’ve long had a particular respect for him because I often attended daily Mass that he reverently offered at Santa Maria in Trastevere, a beautiful ancient Roman church with a vibrant parish community. He was usually assisted by seminarians and he was consistently emphatic in his teaching and formation of the seminarians even during the Mass.

That made a lasting impression on me. I saw that he was a priest who took the sacrifice of the Mass very seriously.

Later, I learned that we might not see eye to eye on some issues. Well, it is the Catholic Church and there’s not always a whole lot of agreement under our big tent. Yet, we’re all Catholic and there’s something to be said for that.

In February, when the Cardinal addressed the extraordinary consistory in preparation for the Synod, he raised a very important pastoral issue (though by no means the only one): the admittance of the divorced and remarried to the reception of the Eucharist.

As the content of his presentation leaked out or was presented in other interviews, and finally the publication of his book, The Gospel of the Family, I found myself at odds with his solution to the problem – sort of a via media. Simply put: find a way for some couples meeting specific criteria in irregular marital situations so that they could perhaps undergo a penitential process and then be admitted to all the sacraments, including the Eucharist.

I get where he’s coming from. It’s a serious problem. But, not withstanding his scholarly expertise, his priesthood, and his ranking as a Cardinal, I did not find his solution convincing because I did not see that it took into account fully the deep tradition and theology of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, he started a necessary conversation that could have hijacked the Synod had it been left for initial discussion until then. Having started what has become a dialogue of sorts has allowed time for thoughtful scholarly exchange to begin, most notably in the work of the upcoming volume Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, a collection of essays written by five Cardinals and four additional scholars responding to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal and claims.

It’s very important to have accurate scholarly analysis when addressing complex and emotionally charged issues like that of the divorced and remarried. As the internet has become the dominant form of publication and exchange of ideas, some debates have been obliterated by the very forum provided by the internet: quick responses, no editing, not so much academic work and careful research. Instead it turns into a rapid fire response that does not allow time for the true work of academia: seeking and discovering truth. It just becomes a way for more people to stay fixed in their opinions, something more in line with the tenor of cable news shows.

That said, I’m not betting that Cardinal Kasper’s opinion will change simply because of this volume. But I eagerly await his response so that the exchange can continue so that we can better understand our faith.

Remaining in the Truth of Christ includes historical analysis, Scriptural exegesis, theological study, and canonical analysis, all of it very carefully researched and presented. In order to know where we’re going, we’ve got to know where we’re coming from. We have to know what exactly the Church has done, thought, and promulgated over 2,000 years. Does the annulment process make sense when we look at it in its entire context or not?

I think this will be a foundational book for anyone, scholar or not, interested in the questions not only of the divorced and remarried, but also marriage, the Eucharist, the role of law, the meaning of what it means to be pastoral. In many ways, it’s a great compliment to St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981) [the resulting document of the previous Synod on the family (1980)] and also to his Theology of the Body, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Each essay presents unique themes and insights. In particular, I was probably most interested in an observation by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ. He brings out a special ontological significance to Genesis 2,24 (“Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his woman,and they become one flesh”) that could further our understanding of St. John Paul’s theology of the body. [I hope to post more on this in another post once I’ve obtained permission to excerpt the text before its publication.]

Cardinal Burke’s contribution is brutally honest, putting forth serious shortcomings of various tribunals while at the same time arguing for the integrity of the annulment process. He clearly sees a need for reform, too, even if it’s not the same one that Cardinal Kasper enunciates.

The historical analysis by John Rist, not to mention the overview of the various Orthodox approaches to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, by Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, SJ, provide an essential basis to any serious conversation on the topic. So far, there’s been casual mention of historical and Orthodox practices, but very little discussion and analysis of the actual practices.

If we’re going to move beyond the realm of opinion and emotionalism, we have to encounter the truth face on. I don’t expect this volume to be the last word, even though each expert makes a very important contribution, and I certainly hope Cardinal Kasper responds in kind so as to keep the conversation going until we have a better grasp of the truth as the Church in her entirety.

And as things begin to become better understood at the academic and hierarchical levels, they need to trickle down to pastors and other lay leaders so that every parishioner, indeed every person who comes into contact with the Church, is greeted with the truth, even when it’s difficult.

I’ve always been put off by the practice of hiding or denying truths that are “too difficult.” In psychological parlance, that’s a bad form of co-dependence. I don’t like it because it doesn’t respect the dignity of the human person to think and act for herself.

In some cultures, for example, the patient is not told the full extent of her illness in an effort to “protect” her. Many have noted that we are sick because of our sins and Pope Francis has called the Church “a field hospital for sinners.” And that’s precisely why I think that it’s so very important to not only arrive at the truth, but to promulgate it. A patient can’t get better or prepare for a terminal diagnosis without being fully informed.

It’s my hope that this volume will be foundational in the field hospital that is our Church. It’s also my hope that Cardinal Kasper and others who agree with his thinking will respond for the sake of the pursuit of truth.

After all, as Christians we believe that Christ is the only means of obtaining eternal health and well being: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14,6). We cannot follow Christ or live as Christ if we do not have the truth.

If you’re interested in the truth and want to inform yourself about a debate that will surely continue beyond this Synod and onto the next in 2015, pre-order Remaining in the Truth of Christ. Read it and study for yourself and for all those in your life who will also be asking questions related to the topic at hand.

You might also enjoy my recent post on how Pope Francis may have organized a pre-Synod, sort of a release valve, to make the upcoming Synod more effective and focused.

Pia de Solenni is a moral theologian and cultural analyst. Her dissertation was recognized by St. John Paul II in 2001.

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Pope Francis’ Pre-Synod

Opinions have not been lacking in the lead up to the Synod on the family, which begins in Rome on October 5. And now, as I read a preview copy…

Source: Google Images - Licensed for Reuse

Source: Google Images – Licensed for Reuse

Opinions have not been lacking in the lead up to the Synod on the family, which begins in Rome on October 5. And now, as I read a preview copy of Remaining in the Truth of Christ, the response to by five Cardinals and some additional scholars to Cardinal Kasper’s The Gospel of the Family, I am more convinced than ever that Pope Francis essentially arranged a pre-Synod.

First, there was the survey that was sent out to all the episcopal conferences around the world. It was not an unprecedented step, it was just unprecedented in the media coverage that it generated. As the results came back, some understood them to be an indication that the Church should change her teachings on the typical hot button issues: contraception, allowing divorced and remarried couples who have not received a decree of nullity to receive the Eucharist, accepting the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriage, and so on.

But, secondly, in December 2013, as the Vatican awaited the survey results, Francis addressed the International Theological Commission on the topic of sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful – a somewhat complex theological term).

This witness pertains to the People of God, a People of prophets, in its entirety. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Church possess a ‘sense of faith’. This is a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’ that makes us ‘sentire cum Ecclesia’ [think with the mind of the Church] and to discern that which is in conformity with the apostolic faith and is in the spirit of the Gospel. Of course, the ‘sensus fidelium’ [sense of the faithful] cannot be confused with the sociological reality of a majority opinion. It is, therefore, important—and one of your tasks—to develop criteria that allow the authentic expressions of the ‘sensus fidelium’ to be discerned.For its part, the Magisterium has the duty to be attentive to what the Spirit says to the Churches through authentic manifestations of the sensus fidelium. There come to mind the two numbers, 8 and 12, of Lumen Gentium, which is so strong in fact about this.  This attention is of greatest importance for theologians. Pope Benedict XVI often pointed out that the theologian must remain attentive to the faith lived by the humble and the small, to whom it pleased the Father to reveal that which He had hidden from the learned and the wise. (cf. Matthew 11:25-26. Homily in the Mass with the International Theological Commission, December 1, 2009). [Emphasis mine.]

This was a very important preface to the survey results. The Pope was clearly indicating that the survey was not an opinion poll. From my point of view, it was a performance review. The survey showed just how poorly Church teachings are understood. In other words, we as a Church have done a mediocre job of living and communicating what the Church teaches.

The survey results continued to generate a lot of media hype.

Then, thirdly, the extraordinary consistory in preparation for the Synod happened in February 2014. Cardinal Kasper addressed the Cardinals and introduced some very challenging themes, ideas that seem to go counter to existing Church teaching. The Vatican reported:

The introductory presentation by Cardinal Kasper, which will not be published as it was intended for use within the context of the meeting by participants only – occupied almost the entire morning, with the exception of the last ten minutes in which a few comments were made. However, this afternoon and tomorrow morning will be dedicated to comment and discussion.

In all honesty, I don’t find the reporting to be all that forthcoming as later reporting and the Cardinal’s own book indicated quite clearly that his presentation had been innovative, to say the least.

Again, step back and look at what happened. It was sort of a release valve. Debates and unpleasantries that could’ve happened during the Synod happened before instead. The media has hammered the issues requiring responses which have been forthcoming from many, many Catholic voices, turning the preparation for the Synod into a teaching moment as well as allowing participants to prepare more carefully.

Now as I read Remaining in the Truth of Christ, I am seeing a really necessary catechesis and exegesis put forth by some of the Church’s best minds. It’s also refreshing to see the Cardinals, including Cardinal Kasper, doing the work of really testing what the Church teaches. So often, it becomes very easy to see them as having little more than a decorative role, you know, showing up in fancy vestments for big Church events. Even if they’re disagreeing, they are doing the thoughtful and necessary work of helping the Church to conform more to Christ.

Cardinal Burke recently commented on the media hijacking the Synod. I agree that it looks like they might be trying to do so. But I also think that Pope Francis’s words, decisions, and actions may have been a brilliant strategy to essentially hold a pre-synod, one in which Cardinal Burke’s contribution, as in this new book Remaining in the Truth of Christprovide a fantastic basis for moving the conversation in a constructive direction. As the interview above reports:

The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”

“That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” he said.

I’ve never attended a large meeting that didn’t require a lot of management to stay on track. This pre-synod of sorts may just have accomplished a great deal. It’s allowed for a lot of work of clarifying to be done. No doubt the upcoming Synod and the time until the companion Synod in 2015 will generate even more controversy, resulting – one hopes – in conversation, additional clarification, better teaching, and – most importantly – lives lived closer to the truth of Christ.





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