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Interview With Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke . . . The Faithful Are Suffering…But Schism Can Never Be Right

December 5, 2018 Frontpage, Our Catholic Faith No Comments
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By PEGGY MOEN

(Editor’s Note: This interview took place in Rome on October 22, 2018, the Feast of St. John Paul II, during the final week of the October 3-28 Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment and before its conclusion. See The Wanderer, November 1, 2018, p. 1 for an article based on this interview.)

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Q. Your Eminence, the first thing I wanted to ask is, many Catholics, following this Summer of Shame, think they are living through the worst period of Church history. Do you agree?
Cardinal Burke: It’s certainly among the worst, if not the worst. The Church has had other periods of great scandal. But this has dimensions about it that seem to be equal to or greater than other scandals that the Church has endured.
The primary scandal with the situation of Theodore McCarrick is, it’s clear, that he was able to lead this life of abuse of young people as a priest, and as a bishop, because he was protected and promoted. This is the source of the greatest scandal. And so, I think that we’ve reached a moment of terrible crisis that has to be addressed.
Q. If you had to pick, which other troubled period of Church history would you compare this one to?
Burke: One would think of the Renaissance, which involved both financial and sexual scandals that corrupted the clergy.
We know for instance, with regard to this plague of the homosexual agenda, that St. Peter Damian [born 1007, died 1073] wrote a whole treatise on this because of the scandal in the Church of his time. So I think, above all, there’s the need for a consciousness of this difficulty of homosexual activity in seminaries, in the clergy, and even in the hierarchy.
And that has to be addressed in a very thorough and effective way.
Q. As we speak, the Synod fathers have yet to vote on the final Synod document, which fortunately will be a paragraph by paragraph vote. Do you have any predictions or concerns about the document? Or concerns about the authoring of it?
Burke: There is a concern. Apparently — I didn’t read this directly — Archbishop Bruno Forte is one of the Pope’s key advisers, and has said that a draft of the document has already been written. That’s very concerning.
The other thing that’s very concerning is that it has been said that the draft of the Synod’s final document will only be available in Italian. In the past, the Synod documents have been available in several languages. And the fact of the matter is that there would be some Synod fathers who don’t read Italian. So that’s very concerning.
I’ve heard from some who are participating in this Synod that the overwhelming interest in the Synod has been on the question of a new evangelization and also the situation of persecuted Christians. Whereas there is an element that keeps trying to push this homosexual agenda, the same element that put the reference to the LGBT in the preparatory documents.
The young people that I meet tell me that what they need is for the Church to tell them honestly and clearly what she teaches and to hold them to live accordingly. Whereas there’s a certain element in the leadership of the Synod which keeps stating that young people don’t accept anymore the Church’s teaching, and the Church has to use some totally new language and approach. That’s very concerning.
Q. It’s true many don’t accept it, but so many haven’t been taught it.
Burke: That’s right. There’s a great ignorance of the Church’s teaching on faith and morals.
Q. On The World Over [EWTN] last week, Robert Royal said he didn’t think the LGBT agenda was getting the traction that its backers hoped they would get.
Burke: I hope not. I certainly hope not. And you have to understand that I don’t have any direct experience of the Synod. It’s just what people say to me or what I read.
Q. In the course of the Synod, Robert Cardinal Sarah has said that youth should be challenged with the Church’s teaching on sexuality.
Burke: Exactly. What the young people want most — I travel a great deal and I encounter many young people — is to be challenged because yes, they live in a world where there’s a tremendous amount of immorality having to do with sexual matters and also with drugs, but they clearly realize that this can’t bring them happiness. So they are looking for a life which will only bring them happiness and that of course is what Christ alone offers. And so, they want to hear what Christ is teaching in His Church.
The point you made is very true. One of the major difficulties is that we have some generations of very poorly catechized Catholics — the parents of the young people probably don’t know their faith very well and the children haven’t been catechized.
But when you do catechize them, I find them most receptive.
Q. It has definitely gotten to be generational.
Burke: Yes.
Q. And we tend to think we want nothing but comfort and ease, but I think we’re hard-wired to want something more than that.
Burke: We’re made to carry the cross and to do it joyfully and with great love.
Q. One thing that came out in the Synod early on was the decision to make the Synod document part of the ordinary Magisterium. Do you see a problem with that?
Burke: Yes. The whole apostolic constitution on the Synod [Episcopalis Communio, made public on September 18] is problematic. It needs to be completely reviewed and critiqued. But it’s not possible that a Synod creates ordinary Magisterium, and neither does the Pope do it on his own, apart from what the Church has always taught and practiced.
This idea that either the Pope on his own or the Synod together with the Pope can create some new Magisterium, is simply false.
The Synod is a consultative body, to help the Pope to see how best to present the Church’s teaching in time. It’s not able to create ordinary Magisterium.
Q. [The apostolic constitution that governed this Synod] would, I suppose, unless it’s changed, apply to future Synods.
Burke: Yes, of course.
In fact, there was a problem in the last Synod, because this approach was followed in the last Synod. That caused trouble.
Q. I’ve heard comments that while the Synod’s topic was youth, the title also included vocations, and that aspect has disappeared in the discussions.
Burke: I don’t hear anything about it. And I don’t know if they’re going to take that up this week, but I haven’t heard anything about it.
One of the things with regard to vocations that’s very alarming is that an auxiliary bishop of Brussels came out with a declaration calling for a change in the Church’s discipline on clerical celibacy. And there was this talk in the preparatory period that the young people don’t accept celibacy, but that isn’t true, either. Many of them probably don’t understand it. But when they have it explained to them, beginning with our Lord’s own example, they embrace it readily.
And I certainly saw that in young men who were discerning a vocation to the priesthood, in the years I was a bishop and an archbishop.
And even now I know many young men who are discerning a vocation.
Q. The whole idea of vocations has been somewhat dumbed down, so that everything has to be a vocation on an equal plane. And I think myself that you’re not supposed to say one thing is higher or better than another.
C.S. Lewis talked about that at some point, that people just don’t really understand that when you say one thing is better than another, that doesn’t mean that the lesser thing is evil.
Burke: No, and it doesn’t mean that the person who is following his vocation faithfully is somehow a lesser person. Some people are called to the priesthood, some are called to the consecrated life, some are called to married life. For each person, it’s the same dignity and a call to lead a holy life in accord with that vocation.
The matter of fact is the whole life of the Church depends upon the priestly vocation. How can we not say that in a certain way it’s a higher calling? God calls whom He wishes and, of course, the person has to respond to that grace. People can be called to a higher calling and betray it terribly, as we’ve seen.
Q. One thing that bothers people that I talk to is the question of what can the laity do and not do in response to the crisis, particularly when something that is problematic is apparently coming from the Pope?
Burke: Yes, I think that the laity have to communicate with their priests and bishops their profound concerns and they have to, in their own conversations and their own activities, defend the truths of the faith as they are set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the authentic teaching of the Church. Even if it seems like the Pope is teaching something contrary, they have to remain faithful to what is Christ’s will.
The Pope is the first among us who is called to be obedient to Christ, and we as priests, and as lay people, must show that obedience, even if it seems in some way that the Holy Father is not being obedient.
Q. Is there a danger of schism in the Church?
Burke: There is a danger. A real danger.  I understand how much the faithful are suffering. But schism can never be right.
Q. Today is St. John Paul II’s feast day.
Burke: Yes, it is.
Q. Do you still have hope for a response from the Pope on the Dubia [questions], or what is your outlook on that?
Burke: I think, at this point, it’s highly unlikely that he will respond. And so, at this point, the question is, the faithful deserve a response to these important questions. In some way, the truth of the matter has to be stated. That’s the question for the moment, but the Dubia remain and the fact that the Pope doesn’t respond to them doesn’t change the fact that they are real Dubia and they have great importance for the salvation of souls.
Q. On that, one thing I noticed in [former apostolic nuncio to the United States] Archbishop Carlo Viganò’s statements, three of them now, is that he said very ardently that he feared for his own soul if he didn’t say something [about how Pope Francis and several high-level prelates were complicit in covering up for former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick]. And so, on that, what specific answerability do Church leaders have in these matters?
Burke: Here’s a very clear question. The evils he has denounced are of the most serious nature, and, if they are true — he says he has proofs that they are true — he was obliged in conscience to make them known. Because the law of God in these matters is higher than, for instance, the obligation of the pontifical secret.
And so, people have attacked him, but his act is an act done in conscience, according to his conscience, and we ought to receive it accordingly and take very seriously all that he has said. And to do otherwise is to be negligent with regard to the good of the Church. Because he has stated, and I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt it, that he did this for the good of the Church.
Archbishop Viganò is a lifelong servant of the Holy See. I have known him during my years of service in the Roman Curia. I have also known him during his years as the apostolic nuncio in the United States. I with many others have always viewed him as a person of the highest integrity and great competence. I think you’ve seen that. That any number of United States bishops have spoken up to express their support of him.
Q. You see him as a man of the highest integrity?
Burke: I do, I do. In any case, to engage in ad hominem responses is completely inappropriate. He’s made very specific and clear accusations. They need to be addressed.
Q. I thought some of the comments about him were a little silly — like he was angry that he didn’t get to be a cardinal — come on!
Burke: The man is 77 years old. He’s preparing to meet our Lord.
Q. What he says I think is true. It’s hard for the rest of us not to imagine the terrible soul suffering he must have gone through.
Burke: I agree.
Q. On another topic, I read your book Hope for the World [first published in 2015] and you spoke of the Obama administration’s attacks on life and family. Do you see more hope with this administration?
Burke: I do. The fact that the president spoke live to the March for Life, the appointments of judges, appointing men and women who seem to have a solid commitment to the moral law, are causes of hope. In various other ways, I see him as strengthening family life, also by addressing the situation of the economy, the unemployment.
There’s no question, character-wise, he’s an original person. From that point of view, he might not always act as I think the president of the United States should act, but I think we have to recognize the good he’s doing and encourage it.
I think it’s very important — I know that he’s a Christian by background. I don’t know how strong his Christian faith is, but I have the impression that he’s very sensitive to the concerns of Christians, and I think we need to let him know, the citizens need to let him know, what our concerns are.
I think one of the great prayers that we should be making in our country is to pray for good politicians. There has developed over time the idea that politics is all corrupt and that you can’t trust any politician. And I encourage good young Catholics who have an interest in politics to go into politics because this is what we need.
Q. Finally, what are the ongoing plans for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe?
Burke: We’re just in the midst of concluding a major campaign with two goals in mind. Number one, to bring the endowment trust of the Shrine to ten million dollars. God willing, soon it should be announced that we have succeeded. That’s important because the annual earnings of the endowment trust will help support the ongoing operation and maintenance of the shrine.
But the second project is also very important. We want to build a catechetical center and retreat house.
Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, was a great catechist who died in the year 2000. He founded the Marian Catechist Apostolate to provide spiritual and doctrinal formation for catechists. Its center is at the Shrine. But it needs a better facility.
And then the other thing is we have so many people who want to come and spend a few days at the Shrine, individuals, but also groups — bishops bring their seminarians, there are married couples that come, different organizations, catechetical groups, and so forth — who want to come and spend an overnight or some days at the Shrine in order to benefit as fully as possible from this holy place.
We want to build as much of that as we can. So, the more money that we can raise, the more we’ll be able to do.
Those are the great plans. But, of course, the fundamental direction is always to keep the Shrine a true place of pilgrimage, that is, a true place of prayer. The thing that comforts me the most and encourages me the most is that people repeatedly tell me as soon as they come on the grounds of the Shrine, they sense that they are in a holy place and that they receive great peace.
But the Shrine staff can never become complacent, because the Devil never rests, and we have to be very vigilant in fostering the holiness of the Shrine.
Q. Those are all the questions I had. We thank you, Your Eminence, for your time.

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Fr. James Schall passed away today. A Jesuit priest & Georgetown professor, he served as mentor & model to a numberless many (including me). With penetrating insight & wit, he pointed us to Christ & those great Catholic minds we mustn't forget.

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