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Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

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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.)

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Part 1

Q. We are in the midst of celebrating the centenary year of Our Lady’s apparitions to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal from May to October of 1917. The eldest of the seers, Sr. Lucia dos Santos, in a letter to Carlo Cardinal Caffarra penned in 1983 or 1984, indicated that “the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.” With all the attacks on marriage and the family that have occurred in recent years and which continue to escalate, do you think we have entered into that period of history when the “decisive battle” is taking place? If so, how is the laity to respond?

A. Yes, I firmly believe that we have entered into that period of history. In civil society, we are seeing attacks on the integrity of the family through the ubiquitous “gender theory” and the so-called marriage of people of the same sex which, of course, cannot be true marriage. This is a sign that a truly apocalyptic situation is present in society.
Moreover, these ideas have even come into the Church as witnessed in the Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family held in 2014 and 2015. These types of ideas were being pushed in the Synod in terms of the so-called “change” necessitated by the “signs of the times.”
This change, as it is claimed, has not occurred in doctrine, but rather in practice. The idea promoted was that the Church’s teaching on marriage is an ideal, and that the Synod was focusing on pastoral practice as adapted to the troubles of our time, while leaving the ideal intact.
However, you cannot have a pastoral practice that does not respect underlying doctrine. The doctrine is not an ideal, but an expression of the reality, the reality of the grace of being man and woman, the grace of being called to the marital union, the grace which the couple confers on each other in the Sacrament of Matrimony, which is truly what husband and wife do when they enter into marriage.
During the 2014 session, I recall a cardinal stating that this teaching on marriage is fine as an ideal. However, since it is so difficult to follow in practice, we do not expect people to be so heroic as to live up to its demands. My response was, “We certainly do expect that of them, that everyone is called to live a heroic Christian life and to struggle against the tendency to sin.” Thus, I really do believe that we are in this decisive battle. It is one of the reasons why — in my own little way — I am doing whatever I can to defend the truth about marriage and the family.
At the Rome Life Forum just this past May, Cardinal Caffarra told a story regarding the beginning of his service after being named by Pope St. John Paul II as the first president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He related that there were numerous difficulties to be overcome in starting the Institute. He decided to write to Sr. Lucia at her Carmelite monastery in Coimbra, Portugal, to ask for her prayers. It was in writing back that Sister stated that the decisive battle will be over marriage and the family.
It is critically important for the laity to know the teaching on marriage and the family, teaching which is set forth so clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In discussions with other lay people, whether in situations at work or in business dealings or in the universities, they must be prepared to refute false notions being widely spread about. They must be prepared to say, “No, that is not true! That is not what the Church teaches.” Even those who lack eloquence and/or do not have a theological background have a sense of faith. Such people can respond to questionable notions by saying, “No, what you say I do not believe. That is not the teaching of Christ.”

Q. In Our Lady of Fatima’s apparition on July 13, 1917, the shepherd children were shown a vision of Hell. Sr. Lucia reported that multitudes of sinners were falling into Hell (like snowflakes) because there was no one to pray and make sacrifices for them. Yet in modern-day society, the existence of Hell is denied by many, and many who believe in its existence surmise that very few souls are condemned (only the most notorious mass-murderers). Even among high-ranking prelates of the Church, the universalist position is promoted (which holds that everyone is saved in the end and Hell is empty).
This view seems to contradict not only the private revelation of Sr. Lucia, but also numerous passages in Sacred Scripture. What is the teaching of the Church on the existence of Hell and the number of souls who will be condemned?

A. The Church clearly teaches that there is a place of eternal punishment for those who reject the grace of God, for those who knowingly and willingly sin grievously against God and against His grace. That place we call Hell — it is a place of eternal punishment. We know for certain that the fallen angels (the devils) are in Hell, so to say that Hell is empty doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. We also know that these fallen angels (Satan and his cohorts), as we say in the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, “prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Sacred Scripture attests to this in the First Letter of St. Peter: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
Besides the fallen angels, we know that unrepentant sinners are in Hell. But to my knowledge, the Church has never determined who they are or how many there are. However, in Holy Scripture, Our Lord seems to indicate there may, in fact, be many souls in Hell. For example, He says, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14) and “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” (Matt. 7:13).
So the teaching is firm that there is a Hell and that there are souls in Hell. How many, we do not know, but it is certainly a cause for us to reflect on our own lives and not to fall into that error of what the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” by which one thinks that God simply forgives everything — that we can carry on however we want and yet will ultimately be saved. No! If we do not cooperate actively and try to respond to God’s grace, we run the risk of eternal damnation.

Q. According to Documents on Fátima (from the Fatima Family Apostolate), Sr. Lucia wrote on August 29, 1989 that Pope St. John Paul II’s consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984 fulfilled Our Lady’s request. At the Rome Life Forum about three months ago, you urged the Catholic faithful to “work for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” What does the consecration you are calling for entail; is it more than the Pope simply naming Russia explicitly?

A. It is exactly that; it is as simple as that, namely, to fulfill Our Lady’s request exactly as she asked for it. There is no question that Pope St. John Paul II was keenly aware of the seriousness of the situation, of the need to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He intended precisely to do that on March 25, 1984. For my part, I believe he would have done it explicitly except at that time it was argued that in order to promote a friendlier relationship with the Eastern Bloc countries, the name of Russia should not be mentioned in particular.
I believe it was the Holy Father’s intention — that he did, in fact, consecrate Russia. However, it is also my belief that, given the situation in which we find ourselves today, the consecration of Russia must be done explicitly, exactly as Our Lady requested (while in no way denying John Paul’s intention to include Russia when he consecrated the world to her Immaculate Heart). My intent is not to level accusations against anyone, but rather in response to the present time which is so grave to urge the need to carry out what Our Lady asked exactly as she asked it.
To repeat, the consecration I called for is in no way to call into question what Sr. Lucia said about St. John Paul II fulfilling what Our Lady asked for. It is simply to respond to that request one more time and consecrate Russia in an explicit way. At the same time, it is the right and duty of the faithful to ask Pope Francis to do this consecration.
In actuality, I believe that for Russia it is a sign of a particular respect and affection for the country that the Church would consecrate it explicitly to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Certainly, at the time of the apparitions, Our Blessed Mother had in mind the spread of atheistic Communism. It is connected with a spread of materialism and relativism which people now do not call atheistic Communism but which is so virulent in our society. That Russia be consecrated now expresses also the respect for their nation which could now lead to a repudiation of Godless thinking. In this way, Russia could return to her noble past in which it was one of the most God-fearing nations in the world and where there was a tremendous devotion to Our Blessed Mother, especially as a means of expressing faith in God.

Collegiality

Q. In his recent letter to the Holy Father on behalf of you and your fellow cardinals who respectfully authored the five dubia concerning confusing statements in Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Caffarra wrote that you “are moved solely by the awareness of the grave responsibility arising from the munus of cardinals.”
As a preface to questions that will follow, can you expound on the weighty responsibility that falls upon you in your office as a Cardinal of the Church? Also, how important is the collegiality of fellow cardinals (and bishops) throughout the world? Is it time for those who have been silent to come forward?

A. The College of Cardinals is often referred to as the Senate of the Roman Pontiff. They are to be the principal counselors of the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church. Each cardinal has a very grave responsibility to express what, in his conscience, he believes to be for the good of the Church. In the present crisis in which we find ourselves, as Cardinal Caffarra expressed in his own name as well as in the name of the other three cardinals (Cardinals Brandmüller, Meisner, and Burke), the Church is undergoing a frightening and alarming time of confusion and division.
As Cardinal Caffarra states in his letter, “What is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta.” Likewise, what is said in some dioceses in the United States about the reception of Holy Communion and Penance is contradicted by bishops in other dioceses. This has resulted in a situation in the Catholic Church which is nearly impossible — it is as if we have become simply a denomination of the Protestant community in which we pick and choose which of the constant teachings of the Church we are going to follow. The cardinals, therefore, indeed have a very weighty responsibility.
With regard to collegiality of the cardinals, we are in fact a college and there should be unity among ourselves. What is the principle of that unity? It is not a political principle where cardinals who are more politically adept convince the College of Cardinals to agree with their view on various questions. The principle that is to unify us is the constant teaching and practice of the Church; that is the only principle that leads to unity.
As I mentioned in my recent presentation at “The Church Teaches Forum,” it is scandalous that one cardinal accuses another cardinal of taking a certain position because he is embittered at not becoming a power figure in the Church. This is all political language and has no place in the Church. I believe the cardinals and the bishops of the world need to turn their attention to what is central: Our Lord Himself, alive in His Church, and His unchanging teaching and discipline — the law that He teaches us.
Up until now, a number of cardinals and bishops have communicated with me privately and expressed their support. Many have not wanted to speak publicly and have openly told me that the reason is because they do not want to endure the attacks of the mass media and the attacks from within the Church.
We are now in a situation in which if one defends what the Church has always taught and practiced, he is accused of being “an enemy of the Pope.” This is a terrible accusation to make against a brother cardinal or bishop.
I believe it is critical for those who have remained silent — for whatever reason — to realize the time has come to speak. Otherwise, we will see a situation similar to that faced by St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More at the time of King Henry VIII.
On one hand, they were defending the authority of the Roman Pontiff who refused to allow Henry to divorce his wife and to marry another. At the same moment, they were defending marriage because what Henry VIII wanted to do was, in fact, to live with another woman when he was truly married to his wife. Practically speaking, Saints John Fisher and Thomas More were alone at that moment.
During the trial of St. Thomas More, he was reminded that the greater part of the bishops and abbots of monasteries, and many others supported the king. St. Thomas’ response was that he had Sacred Scripture, the teaching of the Ecumenical Councils, and of all the great saints as his witnesses — and that he chose to stay with them. For my part, it is the example of these two great saints that I try to follow.

(Next Week Part 2)

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