Pope removes Cardinal Burke from Vatican post

Cardinal Burke leaves concluding session of extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at Vatican

Cardinal Burke leaves concluding session of extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at Vatican. (CNS/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has removed U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, 66, as head of the Vatican’s highest court and named him to a largely ceremonial post with a chivalric religious order.

Cardinal Burke, formerly prefect of the Apostolic Signature, will now serve as cardinal patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Vatican announced Nov. 8.

The move had been widely expected since an Italian journalist reported it in September, and Cardinal Burke himself confirmed it to reporters last month.

It is highly unusual for a pope to remove an official of the cardinal’s stature and age without assigning him comparable responsibilities elsewhere. By church law, cardinals in the Vatican must offer to resign at 75, but often continue in office for several more years. As usual when announcing personnel changes other than retirements for reasons of age, the Vatican did not give a reason for Cardinal Burke’s reassignment.

A prominent devotee of the traditional liturgy and outspoken defender of traditional doctrine on controversial moral issues, the cardinal has appeared increasingly out of step with the current pontificate.

In December 2013, Pope Francis did not reappoint him to his position on the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the pope on episcopal appointments.

Cardinal Burke expressed frustration, in a February 2014 article in the Vatican newspaper, that many Americans thought Pope Francis intended to change Catholic teaching on certain “critical moral issues of our time,” including abortion and same-sex marriage, because of the pope’s stated belief that “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

Insisting that the pope had “clearly affirmed the church’s moral teaching, in accord with her unbroken tradition,” Cardinal Burke blamed perceptions to the contrary on “false praise” of Pope Francis by “persons whose hearts are hardened against the truth.”

After Pope Francis invited German Cardinal Walter Kasper to address a meeting of the world’s cardinals in February, Cardinal Burke emerged as a leading opponent of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Cardinal Burke also warned that any efforts to streamline the marriage annulment process — the mandate of a commission the pope established in August — should not undermine the process’ rigor.

During the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, Cardinal Burke was one of the strongest critics of a midterm report that used remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. The day the report was released, the cardinal told an American reporter that a statement from Pope Francis reaffirming traditional doctrine on those matters was “long overdue.”

Cardinal Burke made the news again late last month when he told a Spanish journalist that many Catholics “feel a bit of seasickness, because it seems to them that the ship of the church has lost its compass. The cause of this disorientation must be put aside. We have the constant tradition of the church, the teachings, the liturgy, morals. The catechism does not change.”

A former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Burke has led the Apostolic Signature since June 2008. At the time of his dismissal he was the highest-ranking U.S. bishop at the Vatican. That distinction now belongs to Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new head of the Apostolic Signature is French Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, till now the secretary for relations with states, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister.

8 Responses

  1. It was pay back for his defence of Catholic moral teaching. He is a brave cardinal and we must pray for him. In the era of Pope Francis we only hear nice words followed by punishments for those who don’t go along. may God protect the Church!

  2. It seems to me that the least Pope Francis could have done was to offer Cardinal Burke a diocese here in the US. Perhaps even the place of his birth, LaCrosse. The current bishop could have been offered another see. As for a cardinal serving as a bishop rather than an archbishop, we already have examples of that today. One of them is Cardinal Lehmann, bishop of Mainz, Germany, a see that is suffragan to the archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau. The Haitian cardinal is a bishop of a suffragan diocese and is not one of the two archbishops in his country.

    If Cardinal Burke were to say to Francis, “Thanks, but no thanks” to his new assignment, he could hardly be blamed.

  3. I think that the Pope is cleaning house of all orthodox Cardinals. It is rumored that Cardinal Mueller is supposed to get the ax as well. I wonder if a schism is brewing? I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall of that Papal conclave when Francis was elected.

  4. Praying all goes well for Cardinal Burke. In his own words, from yet another recent interview, “he is at the service of the pope. I am sure wherever he goes, he will do well.”

    Praying for our Holy Father and all the Bishops of the world.

  5. It is also fair to ask whether something else is going on here to prompt the pope to remove the cardinal. It could be that Burke’s public comments had nothing to do with it. We don’t know anything about the Signatura operations or Burke’s relationship with his own staff or other heads of dicasteries or the pope himself.

    However, given the pope’s unilateral determination recently to retain certain Synod discussion points, rejected by the Synod itself, we might have in this pontiff a “take charge” person in the totality of the meaning of that phrase. This would hardly be something new in the “apostolic palace.”

  6. Pope Franics is showing his vindictiveness.

    The Pope has every right to appoint whomever he wishes to his Curia.
    HOWEVER for him to try to silence a Faithful Cardinal like Burke by not giving him an available Diocese within the USA is an abomination – when accurate catechesis is sorely needed by the Laity.
    (Per the USCCB as of this date there are 5 Diocese in the USA with vacant Bishop seats.)

    The Pope’ actions speak louder than any of his words, and we should remember this action.
    .
    Congregation for Divine Worship is also being purged of Faithful Cardinals as of Nov 5.. They are being replaced with Bugnini followers.

  7. I am deeply disappointed and despondent. Look around folks at American culture. If you think church teachings are being influenced by it, you need to wake up. The language that was in the latest Synod’s summary findings prior to Cardinal Burke’s revolt concerning homosexuals was borderline heretical. Orthodox Catholics should be worried….. very worried. Make no mistake, the removal of this brave Cardinal sends a strong message to less courageous conservative Cardinals – your views are not welcome!

  8. Cardinal Burke is a Catholic. The Pope doesn’t want any Catholic Cardinals in his service,

    After all, you’re allowed to do and say anything, except Catholicism. If you practice Catholicism, you get the iron rod of vengeance and in the case of the SSPX, you get falsely “excommunicated.”

    God save the Church. May St Michael intercede for her and destroy Freemasonry!

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