Archbishop Raymond Burke

Cardinal Burke’s Strange Commentary on Amoris Laetitia

(Guest post by commenter Greg Mockeridge)

I remember watching a documentary on Michael Jackson shortly after his death. In this documentary, a journalist had said regarding Jackson’s ever-changing facial appearance, ” Just when I thought Michael couldn’t look any weirder, he would look weirder.” Likewise, Just when I thought the pontificate of Pope Francis couldn’t get any more bizarre, it gets more bizarre.

And the release of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) added another bizarre twist to the disaster that is this pontificate. I’m not really surprised by the document itself. From what precious little I have read, it seems to be standard Pope Francis writ, some beautiful statements along with incoherent gibberish and laced with a poison pill or two.
What I really find bizarre is this essay from former prefect of the  Apostolic Signatura and now Patron of the Knights of Malta Cardinal Raymond Burke that appeared on the National Catholic Register’s website on Monday April 11th. The first two paragraphs state:

The secular media and even some Catholic media are describing the recently issued post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “Love in the Family,” as a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church, up to now, regarding marriage and the family.

Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful and potentially a source of scandal, not only for the faithful but for others of goodwill who look to Christ and his Church to teach and reflect in practice the truth regarding marriage and its fruit, family life, the first cell of the life of the Church and of every society.

As to what His Eminence means by “even some Catholic media” is not all together clear. Some have tried to say that the Cardinal is merely referring to the National Catholic Reporter/America Magazine crowd. Regardless of who the good cardinal had in mind by that statement, the upshot of it is that the Pope Francis shills in the orthodox Catholic Media Complex have used Burke’s essay as a club to beat the pope’s orthodox critics over the head. One such example is this attack on Steve Skojec (of One Peter Five fame) from blogger Dave Armstrong. 

But contrary to what Mr. Armstrong asserts in his post, the Cardinal has not come out “strongly in support” of the apostolic exhortation. He utters not a word of praise (or criticism for that matter) of AL. He merely says, repeatedly, that the document is not magisterial. 

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Catholic Advocacy of Torture: A Teaching Moment for the Catholic Bishops?

Writing at Vox Nova, the author known as “Morning’s Minion” has published a post calling for consistency in the application of canon 915 — the denial of Holy Communion to those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin” — in this particular case, the public advocacy of abortion and torture. The post was occasioned by the recent appearance of Mark Thiessien on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over”, in which the duo lobbied vigorously in defense of waterboarding:

I think the analogy is clear. Arroyo and Thiessen are both Catholic public figures, and Arroyo in particular is a TV personality on a Catholic TV channel, making the scandal all the more grave. They are clearly “obstinately persevering” in support for an intrinsically evil act. Worse, they actually try to justify it on Catholic grounds. Thiessen has made it his life’s work to claim that some forms of torture are virtuous. Arroyo, again and again, invites defenders of torture onto his show, and instead of confronting them with clear Church teaching, voices his agreement. As [Archbishop Raymond] Burke says, this is “public conduct” that is gravely sinful. I would go further and argue that it is even more scandalous than support for legalized abortion. Most public supporters of abortion do not go on television extolling the great virtues of abortion for women and society. Their argument is more with how it should be treated under the law. But the Arroyo-Thiessen-Sirico cabal are (i) claiming to the faithful Catholics while (ii) making public pronouncements on the positive value of torture.

Catholic debate over torture (and/or what the Bush administration has termed “extreme interrogation”) has been going strong for several years now. It’s online manifestation initiated — to my recollection — with the publication of Mark Shea’s article in Crisis, “Toying with Evil: May a Catholic Advocate Torture?” and subsequent discussion at Amy Welborn’s, in March 2005. From time to time I’ve personally blogged on the various vollies and controversies between various camps as the debate has asserted itself, time and again, over half a decade (has it really been that long?)

That EWTN (“Eternal Word Television Network”) has hosted two explicit defenses of waterboarding — most recently by Thiessien, as well as Fr. Joseph Sirico of the Acton Institute, not to mention Q&A from Judy Brown of the American Life League questioning whether torture should be considered “intrinsically evil” — does not surprise me in the least. As I noted recently, there has been open dispute as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture from many prominent Catholics, including editor Deal Hudson, Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, and Fr. Brian Harrison (in the pages of This Rock — the flagship publication of Catholic Answers, the largest largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States). [Note: Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a newcomer to the debate, has likewise made it known in the comments of this post where he stands on the matter].

Little wonder that a Pew Forum survey examining “the religious dimensions of the torture debate” found many white Roman Catholics, along with most frequent churchgoers, affirming that the use of torture against terrorists is “sometimes” or “often” justifiable.

With respect to abortion, readers may recall a number of opportune moments during the 2008 presidential elections when Catholic bishops were obliged to speak out, publicly, forcefully and collectively, in correction of blatantly false presentations of Catholic teaching on abortion by Nancy Pelosi and (then) Senator Joseph Biden.

There have been numerous missed “teaching moments” for our bishops and the Catholic Church on the matter of torture.

Archbishop Burke's appointment to the Congregation of Bishops

200px-Archbishop_Raymond_Leo_BurkeArchbishop Raymond Burke has long been held with disdain (or outright revulsion) by liberal Catholics for his penchant to speak bluntly on various issues — from his cautioning the Democrats that they risk becoming “the party of Death” for their grievous stance on bioethical issues), to his disapproval of Obama’s appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to Secretary of Health and Human Services to his weighing in on the matter of reception of communion by publicly disobedient Catholics (see The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin Periodica de Re Canonica vol. 96 (2007)). His appointment by Pope Benedict XVI to the office of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura was interpreted both as sign of the Pope’s favor (by conservatives) as well as perhaps a “punishment of sorts” by liberals, who hoped that his outspokenness on American political affairs would be muted by geographical distance.

Guess again. From National Catholic Reporter‘s “man in Rome” John Allen Jr. comes the news that, with his Oct. 17 appointment to the powerful Congregation for Bishops, Burke’s influence is set to grow:

When a diocese becomes vacant, it’s the job of the papal nuncio, or ambassador, in that country to solicit input on the needs of that diocese and to work with the local bishops and bishops’ conference to identify potential nominees. The nuncio prepares a terna, or list of three names, which is submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, along with extensive documentation on the candidates.


Members of the congregation are expected to carefully review all the documentation before meetings, and each is expected to offer an opinion about the candidates and the order in which they should be presented to the pope. Ultimately, it’s up to the pope to decide who’s named to any given diocese, but in most cases popes simply sign off on the recommendations made by the congregation.

To be sure, Burke’s nomination doesn’t mean he can single-handedly control who becomes a bishop, whether in the United States or anywhere else. … on the other hand, Burke’s influence may grow with time.

He’s by far the youngest of the current crop of Americans on the congregation (the next youngest, Levada, is 73, and Rigali is 74). Since appointments are for five-year terms and may be renewed until a prelate reaches the age of 80, Burke could be involved in bishops’ appointments for the next two decades. At some point he may well become the senior American in the process, with a correspondingly greater impact.

As Allen concludes: ” If anyone suspected that the decision to bring Burke to Rome last year was a way of muzzling him, or limiting his influence in the United States, it certainly doesn’t seem to be playing out that way.”

Now This Is An Archbishop!


Hattip to our commenter Phillip.  When Raymond Burke was Archbishop of Saint Louis he was a tireless advocate of the unborn and also tireless in taking to task those who supported abortion.  His elevation to be head of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature in Rome has not diminshed his zeal for the pro-life cause.  In an interview in October of last year he stated that the Democrat party risked transforming itself into the party of death.

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