In Wanderer Interview . . . Cardinal Burke Offers Insights On The Synod On The Family And The New Evangelization
By DON FIER
(Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Mo., and as Bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, during which time he founded the Shrine. His Eminence granted an interview to The Wanderer on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe during which he shared his insights on a variety of topics, including the recently concluded Extraordinary Synod on the Family and on the New Evangelization. Part 2 will appear in next week’s print issue. See details below as to how you can access the complete interview NOW!)
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Q. Several weeks have passed since the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. What do you see as the lasting impact of the disturbing midterm relatio? Do you think the subsequent changes made in the final relatio went far enough? What will take place in preparation for the General Synod next fall and who will participate?
A. The very disturbing midterm relatio, which I have openly said was not a relatio or report but a manifesto, served to wake up the Synod Fathers to an agenda that was at work which touches upon the truth about marriage. In the period between the midterm report and the final relatio, the small groups worked very diligently to try to repair the serious damage done by the midterm relatio — and much progress was made.
For example, the midterm relatio had practically no foundation in Sacred Scripture or the extremely rich teaching of the Church’s Magisterium on marriage — even if one considers only St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio [his 1981 apostolic exhortation “On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World”].
I believe that the changes that were made in the final relatio were a great improvement, but I do not think they were sufficient. One thing that disturbs me is the three very objectionable paragraphs which did not receive the required two-thirds approval by the Synod Fathers, but yet were included in the final printed text. One must to go to the end of the document to see the notation indicating that they were not approved. This has never happened before in a Synod of Bishops. If a proposition did not receive approval by two-thirds of the voting members, it simply did not become part of the final synodal document.
A Lineamenta [preparatory document] for the forthcoming 2015 General Synod has been formulated and issued so as to obtain feedback from dioceses around the world. On the basis of the responses that come back, the Vatican’s Office for the Synod of Bishops will produce a working document — an Instrumentum Laboris — for use by the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops when they gather in October of 2015.
With regard to participants, we know they will include the heads of the Roman dicasteries and representatives elected by the Conferences of Bishops. The participants we do not know are those whom the Holy Father will ask to participate by special invitation.
Q. The term “development of doctrine,” as articulated by Cardinal Newman in his famous 1845 essay, was cited by some bishops at the Extraordinary Synod. Please explain what the term means and when it applies. Is its use justified for changes being proposed for dogmatic teachings on marriage, the family, reception of Holy Communion, and other topics that are included in the Synod’s final relatio?
A. The “development of doctrine” means that the truths of the Faith, which remain unchanged and are unchangeable, experience a deeper understanding in the Church. In other words, the Church can deepen her appreciation of such truths as, for example, the indissolubility of marriage and the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Technically speaking, the doctrine does not develop — it remains the same. What is attained rather is a richer appreciation of the doctrine under consideration.
For instance, any change with regard to the reception of Holy Communion on the part of those in irregular matrimonial unions cannot occur. The doctrine is clear — it is the word of Christ Himself Who said, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” The meaning is very clear because even His disciples said to Him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But Our Lord reassures them that if a person is called to marriage, God will give him or her the grace to live the sacrament. So there can be no change with regard to the truth of the indissolubility of marriage. Therefore, there is an inability for those who attempt a second marriage, while still bound in a matrimonial union, to receive Holy Communion. They are living in an objective state of grave sin.
It would be the same with regard to the suggestion that the Church could discover elements of goodness in extramarital sexual relations. This is impossible — these are gravely sinful relations, and there cannot be anything good about them. The same is true for homosexual acts.
Q. Returning to a point you previously mentioned, you noted that even though three contentious paragraphs failed to garner the required two-thirds majority, they were included in the final relatio. You subsequently called for these “hot-button topics” to be removed from consideration. Do you think there is a legitimate possibility that they will be taken off the table prior to the General Synod?
In the meantime, how can faithful Catholics respond to questions regarding the perception of many that the Church is on the verge of changing her teaching? What positive steps can be taken by the laity?
A. I trust that there is a possibility that these topics will be taken off the table prior to the General Synod — that is precisely why I have insisted upon it. But it will not happen easily because those insisting on their consideration are in positions of great influence with regard to the Synod of Bishops.
The Church cannot change her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the grave sinfulness of sexual relations outside the matrimonial union and the grave sinfulness of homosexual acts.
The laity needs to nourish themselves with the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium on marriage, with the teaching that is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They must also give witness to it in their everyday dealings, not only with other Catholics but with people who are not of the Catholic Faith, to make it clear that the Church is not changing her teaching — indeed, that she cannot.
I am hopeful that there will be opportunities for the lay faithful to take part in days of study with regard to the Church’s teaching on marriage and its beauty. I also hope that there might be demonstrations and other public manifestations in support of the truth about marriage.
Q. “Who am I to judge?” continues to be a phrase that is used and misused by the media and is a source of confusion among many of the lay faithful. In your opinion, what steps need to be taken by the Church’s Magisterium to correct misperceptions of this statement? When is it acceptable to make judgments and when is it not?
A. The phrase “Who am I to judge?” is one that I have to understand according to sound Catholic teaching and practice, namely, “Who am I to judge the individual?” We have always withheld judgment on an individual because to be in grave sin, one must have knowledge and full consent of the will. The Church has always taught that we love the sinner, but we hate the sin.
On the other hand, a person is bound to judge evil acts as evil. We cannot pretend — tolerance cannot fly in the face of truth. We are held to judge if we see an act which is objectively disordered — to make that judgment. For instance, if people are involved in extramarital activities, one must be charitable to them, loving the sinner but at the same time being very clear that the acts they are committing are gravely immoral.
The Goodness Of Suffering
Q. Another “culture of death” issue that is gaining momentum is euthanasia. Recently, a 29-year old woman with untreatable brain cancer chose to “die with dignity,” to “die gently” at a time and place of her choosing with family members present and her favorite music playing in the background. The Vatican, including the Holy Father and the Pontifical Academy for Life, spoke out against the practice of assisted suicide. Family members and assisted suicide advocates responded by insisting this is a human rights issue, that the Church’s religious beliefs should not be imposed on others, and even that Vatican officials lack sensitivity and compassion. Please explain why these reactions, in reality, are misguided and a form of false compassion.
A. There can be no human right that goes against the inviolable dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. One can never claim as a human right the right to end his or her own life. That is suicide and is contrary to the natural moral law.
The Church is not, in this case, imposing her confessional beliefs on anyone. She is simply upholding the moral law that is inscribed in every human heart, namely that human life is a gift from God Who gives it freely and Who also calls us home to Himself in His time.
A great sadness here is that we have lost all sense of the goodness of suffering, of sharing in Christ’s suffering for the sake of others and for the sake of the Church. We give the sick and the suffering the idea that their suffering is useless when, in fact, it is an invitation to love even more selflessly and purely God and one’s neighbor.
The advocates of euthanasia have a completely man-centered, rationalist understanding of human life. They see human life as a mechanical operation that can be terminated in a situation of suffering when one chooses and according to orchestrated circumstances. The compassionate approach is to help someone to accept his or her suffering and to await, with hope and trust, God’s call to come home to Him.
Q. The crisis of catechesis that began two or three generations ago still seems to have a stranglehold on our society. Many who profess to be Catholic do not acknowledge (or at least accept) basic tenets of the Faith, especially with regard to morality and the natural law. For example, polls indicate that Catholics contracept and divorce and remarry at the same rate as the rest of society. Have you observed any hopeful signs regarding a renewal of catechesis in response to the call for a New Evangelization?
A. I do see hopeful signs. I think, for instance, of the Marian Catechist Apostolate. I also learn from time to time of strong diocesan catechesis programs.
However, until we get back to a complete presentation of the Faith from the early years — starting as soon as children are able to understand — followed by an ever-deepening formation over the years, we will end up in situations where people will not even believe in the natural moral law, let alone the other teachings of the Faith.
Even though there are hopeful signs, we cannot rest on any laurels — a more intense reform of catechesis is needed. For instance, in the Synod on the Family it was evident to me that one of the major problems is that people do not understand marriage because they have not been properly catechized. Sadly, this sometimes applies even to the clergy.
The Extraordinary Form
Q. Please comment on the connection between the Sacred Liturgy and the New Evangelization. Is the Sacred Liturgy a peripheral matter to the preaching of the Gospel? Or does the Sacred Liturgy play an essential role in the Gospel imperative to proclaim Jesus Christ? If the two activities of the Church are in fact essentially connected, how can this connection be shown more clearly and lived more compellingly within the ordinary parish setting? Does a wide celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass have any part to play in the efforts of the New Evangelization?
A. The Sacred Liturgy is absolutely the first act of the New Evangelization. Unless we worship God in spirit and in truth, unless we celebrate the Sacred Liturgy with the greatest possible faith in God and faith in the divine action which takes place in Holy Mass, we are not going to have the inspiration and the grace to carry out the New Evangelization.
The Sacred Liturgy shows us the form of the New Evangelization because it is a direct encounter with the mystery of faith: Christ’s redemptive Incarnation for the sake of conquering sin in our lives and winning for us the grace of the divine life, a share in the life of the Holy Trinity through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.
The first three commandments all have to do with the worship of God. It is the Sacred Liturgy which establishes a right relationship with God and with one another which we are called to live in our daily lives.
The way this connection can be more compellingly lived in parish life is by celebrating the Sacred Liturgy in such a way that all of the faithful understand that the priest is acting in the person of Christ. They must understand that it is Christ Himself Who is descending to our altars to make truly present His sacrifice; that they must unite their hearts to His own glorious pierced Heart to cleanse them from sin and thus strengthen them for love of God and love of neighbor.
If the Sacred Liturgy is celebrated in an anthropocentric way, in a horizontal way in which it is no longer evident that it is a divine action, it simply becomes a social activity that can be relativized along with everything else — it doesn’t have any lasting impact on one’s life.
I think the celebration of the Extraordinary Form can have a very significant part to play in the New Evangelization because of its emphasis on the transcendence of the Sacred Liturgy. In other words, it emphasizes the reality of the union of Heaven and earth through the Sacred Liturgy. The action of Christ through the signs of the sacrament, through His priests, is very evident in the Extraordinary Form. It helps us, then, to be more reverent also in the celebration of the Ordinary Form.
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(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. He is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)
Part 2 will appear in next week’s print issue.
Join with The Wanderer as we enter the new-year with an initiative to defend the Church’s teaching on marriage. Cardinal Burke has called on both clergy and laity alike to explain and defend the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage before the upcoming synod on the family in 2015. The Church is under assault from forces within and without. We must make our voices heard. Fill out the form below and or text us the word “check” to 6513545000 and we will send you the link to the entire Cardinal Burke interview. By doing so , we will keep you apprised as to how you can join with The Wanderer and other like-minded organizations in this next year to make our voices heard as we explain and defend the Church’s teachings in these challenging times ahead. Please distribute this interview widely and ask your friends and family to join us for this most important cause by texting or entering your email TODAY!.
Joseph Matt, President, The Wanderer