Interview With Cardinal Burke… Insights On The State Of The Church In The Aftermath Of The Ordinary Synod On The Family
By DON FIER
(Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, recently traveled from Rome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., a magnificent place of worship which he founded and dedicated.
(His Eminence graciously granted an extensive interview to The Wanderer during which he shared his insights on a variety of topics, including the recently concluded Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family and his recommendations for how we should contend with the uncertainty and confusion that is currently prevalent among the clerical and lay faithful.
(This is the last installment of our three-part interview with Cardinal Burke.)
+ + +
Q. Do you have any words for faithful priests who find themselves discouraged by the current ecclesiastical atmosphere of doctrinal confusion and subversion?
Also, what about lay people? If faithful members of the laity find themselves in parishes (or dioceses) where aberrant practices contrary to authentic Church teaching are taking place, what is the proper response?
To whom does the laity turn if those in leadership positions in the magisterial office of the Church espouse pastoral practices that are in opposition to her unchangeable doctrine?
A. I hear this from many good priests; even bishops talk to me about the difficulty of dealing with confusion when they present the Church’s teaching. They are told they are not in step with the current practice of the Church or even that they are against the Pope.
One archbishop said to me, “How is it that those of us who teach what the Church has always taught are now called enemies of the Pope by the media and others?”
My response is this: “We know what the Church teaches. It is memorialized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; it is in the magisterial statements with regard to marriage and family. Go to Familiaris Consortio, go to Casti Connubii, go to Humanae Vitae! We know what the Church teaches and we hold firm to that.”
We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged. The situation of pervasive confusion is disheartening. I understand that and know that. It is difficult because the faithful are reading the newspaper and various reports and are saying to the priests: “You are not up with the times,” or “you are not following Pope Francis.” The Pope cannot teach us or urge us to do anything other than what the Church has always taught and practiced.
It is discouraging for me, too, to observe so much confusion. It can be disorienting and there can be the temptation simply to be silent and let all this go on as somehow being the will of God, which it cannot be. I have reflected on this and said, “No, we priests and bishops are true teachers of the Faith. The Deposit of Faith is given to us by the Church and we must stick to that. We do not betray or abandon it by following all kinds of popular trends.”
There is a wonderful passage in Pope John Paul II’s Novo Millennio Ineunte which says that people are always looking for some magic formula or some new program for the pastoral practices of the Church. But John Paul II says, “No, the program is the same as ever: it is Jesus Christ in the living tradition” (cf. n. 29).
With regard to the laity, everywhere I go I strongly encourage lay movements, organizations, and associations to sponsor “Days of Reflection” during which the truths of the Faith are presented by good solid speakers, and even more so, days of prayer connected with them. The laity needs to write about these things. If we remain silent, it gives the impression that we, too, are going along with all of this confusion and error. That, we know, is the work of the Devil — he is the master of confusion and error.
Q. Please offer your thoughts on the confusion that has resulted from recent remarks made Pope Francis during a Q&A session at Rome’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (as reported in the National Catholic Register on November 16, 2015). The Holy Father’s comments appear to suggest — unless read very carefully — that the Lutheran wife of a Catholic man is allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.
A. First of all, Pope Francis’ remarks were offered completely spontaneously. In my judgment, as I read them, it was not clear what the Holy Father was saying. However, the impression was given that a non-Catholic may approach the altar to receive Holy Communion if he or she decides in his or her heart that it is all right to do so.
The bottom line is this: the Pope cannot teach anything that the Church has not always taught with regard to reception of the Holy Eucharist. One who does not have Catholic Faith in the Eucharist may not approach to receive the sacrament. Moreover, the faith required to receive the Eucharist is not something one can decide on his or her own. Rather, it requires that a person be prepared through catechesis to embrace fully the Catholic Faith, and then enter into communion with the Church. Full communion is then accomplished when one receives Holy Communion — the required steps cannot be short-circuited. It is in this way that the Holy Father’s comments must be interpreted.
Q. Likewise, can you offer any comments on the Holy Father’s recent ad limina address to the German bishops during which he expressed his concern about the “erosion of the Catholic Faith in Germany”? The Holy Father noted “a sharp drop in participation at Sunday Mass, as well as in the sacramental life” (as reported by CNA/EWTN News on November 20, 2015).
A. Yes, I am familiar with the address given by Pope Francis. It appears to be very solid and to give good direction. In my estimation, it seems to be a message that is desperately needed in Germany. Some of the public declarations of the Church leadership in that country, including that of the Conference of Bishops, are scandalous.
Those who have the responsibility to lead the Church have been major proponents of the breakdown of her discipline regarding the indissolubility of marriage. They must look very seriously at the sad fact that people are not practicing the Faith and that they are not going to church and frequenting the sacraments.
There has been a great loss of faith in Germany, a country which — in the past — has practiced the Catholic Faith to a heroic degree. There is clearly a dire need for a New Evangelization. And I take it that Pope Francis’ address is precisely a call to that.
I also believe that Catholic leaders in Germany cannot take the position that the Church in their country is different than the Church in Guinea, the Church in the United States, or the Church anywhere else — and that they can therefore have different pastoral practices. No, the Church founded by Christ is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as it always has been and always will be.
Q. One of the charisms of the Knights of Malta is defense of the Faith. Do you foresee the Knights (and Dames) taking a leadership role in teaching and defending the Church’s teachings on sexuality, marriage, and family? Are any projects currently underway?
A. Clearly, the Knights and Dames of Malta face the same situation that good priests and lay faithful are experiencing with regard to confusion. This is of particular concern for the Knights because their primary purpose is the defense of the Faith and the care of the poor (Tuitio Fidei and Obsequium Pauperum).
In fact, the two are inseparable. You cannot have true care of the poor which is not informed by a coherent defense of the Faith. In my meetings with the Grand Master and on every occasion I am asked to speak with the Knights, I urge them to embrace their responsibility in the present state in which the Church finds herself by becoming leaders in defending the truths of the Faith.
Our model in this endeavor should be St. Paul, the heroic Apostle to the Gentiles, who faced all manner of trial and difficulty. At the end of his life he was able to write to St. Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
I, likewise, urge the Knights to fight the good fight in this present situation where we are faced with rampant confusion: we must be leaders. If one accepts the great honor of being a Knight or Dame of Malta, one must also accept the responsibility to be a defender of the Faith.
Pray The Rosary
Q. In closing, it must be with great joy that you are able to spend this week at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse and to celebrate a Pontifical High Mass on her great feast day on December 12. During these tumultuous times in the Church, please comment on how Our Lady, Star of the New Evangelization, is our beacon of hope on whom we can most surely depend.
A. I so much look forward to this occasion each year with great joy. First of all, this is truly a holy place — it is a place that is suffused with prayer and devotion. And Our Lady is leading it all and directing it to her Divine Son. The Mass on her feast day is the culmination of a whole year of spiritual activities which inspires us. She is truly our beacon of hope.
In the midst of all this confusion, people sometimes get very discouraged and even fear that the apocalypse is upon us. But if we put ourselves into the maternal arms of the Blessed Mother, she will keep us close to her Son. She tells us, as she told the wine stewards at Cana who were in such a desperate situation, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
Mary is the beacon who is drawing us back to the tradition, to the foundations of our Faith. She will not let us get carried away by so-called “new ideas” which are secular and are not true to our Faith. We need to pray the Rosary ever more fervently, asking for her intercession for the Church in our time.
In addition to being the Mother of the Church, she is the Mother of our continent and the Star of the New Evangelization. What did she do when she came? Fundamentally, she asked that a chapel be built in which she could manifest the mercy of God. How does she do that but in a chapel in which the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, in which the faithful can make a good Confession, and in which they can pray and offer their acts of devotion.