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Interview With Cardinal Burke… (Part 2) Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

August 14, 2017 Frontpage No Comments
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By DON FIER

(Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics for which he provided his illuminating insights are the Message of Our Lady of Fatima, an appraisal of the situation in which the Church finds herself in contemporary times, and the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.
(This interview will appear in three parts in The Wanderer. Part one appeared in last week’s issue.)

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Part 2

Q. When I last interviewed you for The Wanderer about a year and a half ago, you noted that “many good priests, even bishops talk to you about the difficulty of dealing with confusion when they present the Church’s teaching.”
And that was before Amoris Laetitia was promulgated. The confusion has heightened as is clearly evidenced by the quote in Cardinal Caffarra’s letter to the Holy Father that you referred to earlier: “What is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta.”
In fact, it seems as if some interpretations are in direct opposition to what is taught in paragraph 1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In light of the current situation, do you have any advice today for faithful bishops, priests, religious, and lay people who yearn for clarity?
A. My advice is simple. We know what the Church teaches and practices. It is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; it is contained in the constant Magisterial teaching of the Church. This is what we hold to be true. Since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, I find that the situation has only worsened. I travel a good deal and wherever I go, I invariably find large groups of the lay faithful (as well as priests and even bishops) who confide in me about this situation — they are practically in desperation.
I often say that priests are the ones who suffer the most; they are the ones who have direct contact with the lay faithful who approach them and ask them to do things they simply cannot do. When faithful priests explain to the people why they are unable to fulfill their requests, they are accused of going against the Pope, of going against this so-called new direction in the Church.
This is why I admire what you are doing in writing a comprehensive commentary on the Catechism that appears weekly in The Wanderer. We need to return to the Catechism and study it carefully, paragraph-by-paragraph, making sure that we understand the depth of the Church’s teaching on marriage and all it demands of us.
Q. This leads to another topic we spoke of in December of 2015. When I asked you a question about possible decentralization of the Church’s hierarchical structure of governance, you emphasized that there is nothing in “the Church’s tradition that would give Conferences of Bishops [or diocesan ordinaries] the authority to make decisions about pastoral practices which would involve a change in Church teaching.”
Yet, as so clearly evident in the previous question, that is exactly what appears to be taking place. With regard to marriage, are we reaching the point of having a Church where Catholics can literally shop around for a location that suits their desires? Is the Church in danger of schism unless universal doctrinal discipline is restored?
A. This, in fact, is exactly what is going on. Bishops tell me that when they insist on authentic Church teaching with regard to irregular matrimonial unions, people are simply rejecting their teachings. They say that another bishop teaches differently and they choose to follow him.
The response of the Archbishop of Malta was shocking, who, when criticized about the troublesome document the Bishops of Malta published on Amoris Laetitia, said they follow the teaching of Pope Francis and not of other Popes. How can that be? The Popes are all to proclaim and be obedient to the one true Catholic Faith. If not, they have been deposed, as in the case of Pope Honorius. So then, this is simply not possible.
People talk about a de facto schism. I am absolutely in opposition to any kind of formal schism — a schism can never be correct. People can, however, be living in a schismatic situation if the teaching of Christ has been abandoned. The more appropriate word would be the one Our Lady used in her Message of Fatima: apostasy. There can be apostasy within the Church and this, in fact, is what is going on. In connection with the apostasy, Our Lady also referred to the failure of pastors to bring the Church to unity.
Q. Setting aside the question of timing, please explain how the process for the execution of a “formal correction” would proceed should a response to the five dubia not be forthcoming? How is a formal correction officially submitted, how is it addressed within the Church’s hierarchal structure, etc.?
A. The process has not been frequently invoked in the Church, and not now for several centuries. There has been the correction of past Holy Fathers on significant points, but not in a doctrinal way. It seems to me that the essence of the correction is quite simple. On the one hand, one sets forth the clear teaching of the Church; on the other hand, what is actually being taught by the Roman Pontiff is stated. If there is a contradiction, the Roman Pontiff is called to conform his own teaching in obedience to Christ and the Magisterium of the Church.
The question is asked, “How would this be done?” It is done very simply by a formal declaration to which the Holy Father would be obliged to respond. Cardinals Brandmüller, Caffarra, Meisner, and I used an ancient institution in the Church of proposing dubia to the Pope.
This was done in a very respectful way and not in any way to be aggressive, in order to give him the occasion to set forth the Church’s unchanging teaching. Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the five dubia, so it is now necessary simply to state what the Church teaches about marriage, the family, acts that are intrinsically evil, and so forth. These are the points that are not clear in the current teachings of the Roman Pontiff; therefore, this situation must be corrected. The correction would then direct itself principally to those doctrinal points.
There have been cases, as I mentioned, of the correction of past Roman Pontiffs on non-doctrinal points where cardinals have gone to the Holy Father on one thing or the other such as, for example, matters dealing with administration of the Church.
Another question can also be raised. The Pope is the principle of unity of the bishops and all the faithful. However, the Church is being torn asunder right now by confusion and division. The Holy Father must be called on to exercise his office to put an end to this.
So then, the next step would be a formal declaration stating the clear teachings of the Church as set forth in the dubia. Furthermore, it would be stated that these truths of the Faith are not being clearly set forth by the Roman Pontiff. In other words, instead of asking the questions as was done in the dubia, the formal correction would be stating the answers as clearly taught by the Church.
Q. During his tenure as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Gerhard Cardinal Mueller was a steadfast defender that confusing statements in Amoris Laetitia must be interpreted in line with the Church’s traditional teaching on reception of Holy Communion by civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. Do you foresee any possibility of a reversal in this teaching from the CDF in the aftermath of his non-renewal as Prefect?
A. It is not possible for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to declare otherwise. If it did, it would be out of communion with the Church. What Cardinal Mueller has set forth is exactly what has always been taught by the Church. In more recent times, paragraph 84 of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio has pronounced the Church’s constant teaching. So then, that type of reversal is simply not possible.
Q. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a message read at the funeral Mass of Joachim Cardinal Meisner, expressed his admiration of the Cardinal’s ability “to let go and to live out a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”
The former Vicar of Christ prefaced his remark by referring to Cardinal Meisner as “a passionate shepherd and pastor [who] found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination.”
Your Eminence, as a friend and close collaborator of Cardinal Meisner, how do you understand these touching words of tribute by Benedict? Can you offer any personal reflections on the life and legacy of this great Prince of the Church?
A. There is no question that Cardinal Meisner had a profound sense of the Catholic Faith in its entirety and a deep love for Our Lord and His Church. He was completely dedicated to being a good shepherd. I especially remember an encounter with him in February of 2014 at a consistory when Walter Cardinal Kasper gave his presentation suggesting there was a possibility of changing the Church’s discipline regarding those who live in irregular matrimonial unions receiving the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confession.
Cardinal Meisner and I were walking out after one of the sessions and he said to me: “This is not possible. This will lead to schism.” And he was very passionate about it.
All along, Cardinal Meisner followed very carefully, and supported and encouraged those who were defending the Church’s constant teaching and practice. He was a wonderful pastor and was never one to say that those who supported the Church’s teaching were legalists and do not care about people, that they were throwing stones at them. He was a very loving pastor who understood that a good shepherd of the flock must teach the truth to the faithful in its entirety.
I saw him on March 4 of 2017 in Cologne when a former canon-law classmate celebrated his 65th birthday. A number of us wrote essays to honor him that were published in a book. I attended the presentation of the book, and Cardinal Meisner was there. It is absolutely true what Pope Benedict XVI wrote of him: He was serene, but also very ardent.
I vividly recall Cardinal Meisner saying to me that we need to continue fighting for the Church and her teaching. He possessed a wonderful combination of those two qualities, of serenity and ardor. I always had the impression that he was someone who was very close to Our Lord in prayer and that he spoke from a conviction that was not based in himself, but on an intimate knowledge of Our Lord.
Q. Multiple unconfirmed reports have surfaced suggesting that a “secret commission” has been formed in Rome to re-examine the teachings on contraception contained in Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae. Can any credence be given to these reports? Is it not the Church’s infallible and unchangeable teaching that it is intrinsically disordered to separate the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act?
A. I cannot speak directly about the situation because no one who is a member of such a commission has spoken to me about it. However, I have heard from any number of serious and well-informed people that, in fact, such a commission has already been established and the members of the commission are at work. So I believe credence can be given to these reports.
At the same time, what is stated in your question is exactly the case — it is the infallible teaching of the Church that contraception is intrinsically disordered, that to separate the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act is always and everywhere wrong. If this teaching is not upheld, not only is there a violation of the conjugal act in its essence, but there would then be an opening for all kinds of immoral activity involving our sexual faculties while people would justify sinful genital acts.
I call them genital acts rather than sexual acts because they do not respect the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act. This is, for instance, how two people of the same sex justify genital activity between themselves; they justify their immoral behavior by saying they “love each other” and therefore it does not matter that their actions are not procreative.
Then people engage in further gravely immoral activity in an attempt to have children as a product of their so-called love. In the same way, too, this is the justification used for solitary acts involving our sexual organs. This, of course, cannot be right either.

Love And Truth

Q. Many today seem to understand “mercy” as if it means tolerance of moral evils, and to characterize another’s acts as “sinful” as being intolerably judgmental. Yet we know that mercy can never be divorced from truth. How can we be effective champions of a “discriminating” mercy? Is repentance a prerequisite for mercy?
A. When I was a child I can remember being taught that we love the sinner, but we hate the sin. The failure to follow this truth is the source of the confusion we see today. People incorrectly think that in identifying certain acts as sinful, they are expressing hatred for the people who commit these acts. In reality, they are expressing the greatest possible love for them. In other words, if one truly loves another person and that person is committing acts that endanger his or her eternal salvation, he is obliged to say something to help that person leave the sinful act behind and to reform his or her life.
It is a little bit like the situation of parents trying to raise their children. I can still remember that when my parents corrected me as a child for doing things that were wrong, I did not like it. Now, as an adult, I can see very clearly why I was corrected. When parents correct their children, the children often run out of the room saying, “I hate you.” Later, they are very grateful to their parents because they helped them to become a virtuous person.
Discriminating mercy, which is an excellent way to describe it, distinguishes the sin from the sinner. An expression of love toward the sinner makes it very clear that the sin he or she is committing is absolutely repulsive and must be stopped. Yet, the tendency is to respond with a false sense of mercy.
If we are not conscious of our sin and repenting of it, what does it mean to ask for God’s mercy? Why are we asking for God’s mercy if we have not sinned? So it is as simple as that. Otherwise, mercy is a meaningless term. We must admit the sin we have committed is wrong, that we are deeply sorry for it, and that we are asking for God’s mercy.

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Having watched the first session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting, and that fact that the Pope has ordered them not vote on any action items, I have to ask, what is the point of this meeting? What is the point of National Bishops' Conferences?

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