02 October 2017

Cardinal Burke Deserves Our Support

I started this blog more than ten years ago with two purposes: in my own small way to support Catholic tradition in doctrine and liturgy, and to defend Cardinal Burke (then-Archbishop of Saint Louis) from unjust attack. I write today with the same purposes. 

Over the years, defending the Cardinal has been a labor of love for me. Of course His Eminence does not need my help. But I enjoy the effort all the same. Local heretics, the pro-sodomy lobby, Sheryl Crow, apostates in and out of the hierarchy, politicians—almost all of the critics, apart from some sedevacantists, have come from the “left”. 

Today the friends of tradition themselves have started to turn on him. Why? Because the Dubia remain unanswered and, as far as the public knows, no fraternal correction (or better) has been given to Francis. Because Louie Verrechio reported His Eminence recently stated the SSPX is in schism. And because Cardinal Burke is now reappointed to serve at the Apostolic Signatura, and everyone understandably smells a rat. 

I can’t speak to the statements Cardinal Burke made about the SSPX, their context, or his reasoning. The SSPX is not in schism as far as I can see, at the very least not since the lifting of the excommunications of  the four bishops by Pope Benedict XVI. If the Cardinal really thinks so, I disagree, just as I disagreed with his insinuated public opinion that women no longer must cover their heads in church. 

Does Francis want to squash his opposition? Check. Is he willing to use carrot and stick? Check. And I have written on the blog more than once BEGGING His Eminence to move quickly and decisively to end the confusion caused by Francis. 

But here’s the thing: I think we should not be quick to impugn the motives, resolve, or character of this great man. Who has done more in the last two pontificates to lead, teach, defend, inspire, rally and fight against the evil in the Church, for the faith and the liturgy, for moral truths and the Natural Law than Cardinal Burke? Seriously, who? Easy: nobody. No one has the combined intelligence, clarity, influence and care for souls. Yes, there are a few other worthies—too few, of course. But Cardinal Burke has so far outdone them all. 

And are people so quick to chalk him up as cowardly, or stupid, or duplicitous?  Come on. He has been persecuted for the faith and has never capitulated. How about some loyalty? Or at least some perspective?

No, I don’t like that the Dubia linger, unanswered. I don’t like some of the recent comments.

No man is perfect, and only Christ and His Mother are incapable of ever letting us down. But I will believe in Cardinal Burke and give him the benefit of the doubt, out of gratitude and respect for all he has done, until loyalty to Christ demands otherwise. 

I will wait and see. 

If Raymond Cardinal Burke has not earned the benefit of the doubt, who in God’s name has?


Athelstane said...

Because Louie Verrechio reported His Eminence recently stated the SSPX is in schism.

I think His Eminence is not right about this, too. The consecrations in 1988 might have been a schismatic act in some sense, as John Paul II stated; and one could argue there are potentially schismatic mindsets among some of its followers; but Rome has been fairly consistent in refusing to use the "schism" label in characterizing the Society.

But you know how excitable Louie can be. He's a guy with no filter, but all the caffeine.

Lynne said...

I don't have time for a full response right now but I'll be back later today or tonight... I just wanted to answer your question, "If Raymond Cardinal Burke has not earned the benefit of the doubt, who in God’s name has?"

Archbishop Lefebvre

thetimman said...

Lynne, I figured I'd get some Abp. Lefevbre answers, which is why I said "in the last two pontificates". By that time the Archbishop had already earned his reward.

Lynne said...

haha I missed that qualifier up above. :-)

Okay, Bishop Fellay.

He has had to walk a tightrope, appearing neither too easy-going towards the Modernists in Rome nor too harsh, i.e. capitulating or "schismatic".

I appreciate your loyalty towards Cardinal Burke and that you wrote this post with your honest thoughts and opinions. I always have and always will enjoy your blog.

However, the thing that disturbed me most about what Cdl Burke said about the SSPX is that
1. he's a canon lawyer and should undestand the situation better than others.
2. he was asked this at a conference where laity heard him, laity who may not have a diocesan TLM or the ICKSP or the FSSP. What if they are in a horrible diocese with insane parishes and yet they can get no relief by traveling 30 minutes down the road to the SSPX chapel because Cdl Burke said that the SSPX is in schism? What if they leave the Church in despair? (I know, I know, conjecture on my part but these times are making people crazy)

If the current code of the Canon Law, revised in 1983, says that it is a schismatic act to consecrate new bishops without the approval/permission of the Pope, that is new. It was not previously a schismatic act. St Athanius consecrated new bishops during the Arian crisis. It's ironic that this particular part of the Code was changed in 1983...what was happening then? Hmmmm...

Fidei said...

Do you have his personal e-mail or phone? If so, *YOU* should let him know to please act...like a man...and TAKE BOLD ACTION (as it is sorely needed!)!!!! Also, maybe a quick aside about not attacking a group that has been MORE FAITHFUL to Jesus than the Pope and most of the Cardinals/Bishops!!!

M. Prodigal said...

I am also an admirer of Cardinal Burke. He remains steadfast in the face of being vilified by both left and right. Only he knows the whole story with the dubia and other things; we do not.

thetimman said...


I agree with you that his comments were very unfortunate. I also disagree with the statement that the SSPX priests are in schism. So, please take this explanation for what I intend it to be-- not a "this is OK, nothing to see", but rather a "if you listen to the context and words used it isn't as bad as it seems, and there is room to give benefit of the doubt":

I listened to the remarks Mr. Verrechio provided. The exact words are important, so my paraphrase below is not intended to discourage anyone from parsing the actual words. But the order and context does mitigate here.

First, he begins by saying the SSPX priests (not laity, btw) are in schism "after" the illicit consecration of 1988. This is a defensible position, though I may not agree and the Society certainly doesn't. The only controversial part would be if he feels they still are. Though he doesn't bring the discussion fully back to the beginning, he does later note that the lifting of the excommunications needed to be considered. He then leaves the conclusion hanging, by obsverving (getting sidetracked by a Canon Law tangent IMHO) that such a lifting without the subjects admitting guilt (which of course in this odd situation they don't feel-- correctly so if they acted lawfully, but regardless they certainly acted in good faith) is an historical and canonical anomaly. As a canonist, I can see why that true observation interests him. The faithful are much more interested in the question asked.

Clearly he discourages attendance and sacramental reception in the case where there are other traditional alternatives. He leaves hanging, again, what to do in the N.O. context. There is no doubt that his answer certainly discourages attendance at tHe SSPX, but is that so surprising? A supporter of the traditional communities not involved in the 1988 consecrations thinks so? And again this is not an indefensible choice, whether we agree or not.

When he talks about members of the SSPX being reconciled in St. Louis, remember his reign here occurred before the excommunications were lifted. And while I admit that his remarks are with regard to timing ambiguous, and could be taken to mean "presently", they could also be taken to refer to a canonical situation that no longer exists. So, again, for me I give the benefit of the doubt.

Finally, even today he would encourage attendance at Masses where the priests are not (again, subject to contention) suspeded a divinis. In a place where there are other alternatives, I would make the same call. Again, there can be reasonable disagreement here.

Now, the larger point-- it sounds bad? Yes. Might be bad? Yes. But not necessarily bad. And to the extent we disagree with him on a given point, he hasn't said anything like a "betrayal". And he made no comment about the desirability of welcoming the SSPX back to a full regularization, which I strongly believe he backs.

His remarks were unfortunately made, and used. But he is a precise thinker and speaker. This isn't Joe Biden here. His actual words don't necessarily add up to either "the SSPX is now in schism" or "you can't go to Mass there and fulfill your obligation."

That's how I read it anyway. We can all wish he would have said, "You know, they shouldn't have consecrated bishops in 1988 without papal mandate, but they had reason to be suspicious and they make a lot of good points. I think they should be regularized now and welcomed with open arms by fellow Catholics." I hope we will hear him say that soon, and I don't think it is unrealistic.

If I prove to be wrong, I will admit it.

john said...

He's a nice gentleman, but several in the hierarchy are, too. However, what's he really done to save souls from the wretch, Bergoglio? Archbishop Lefebvre was not in schism, if anything, today's situation proves him correct in his actions. If anything is illicit, or even in schism, it would be the N.O. Church. The N.O. Mass is a radical departure from Catholic Tradition; Those

YoungCatholicSTL said...

Timman -

Let me change the focus here a bit with one of my favorite, and probably otherwise not widely known, stories about Card. Burke. One of my very close friends is a diocesan priest (not St. Louis). When we were in college at SLU, Card. Burke was archbishop of St. Louis and became quite close to many of us more conservative young Catholics, especially those of us who expressed potential interest in the priesthood. Well, after college, my friend went to teach in France for a year. After a year, he was enjoying it and being asked to stay on for another year, although he still very much desired to become a priest. So he wrote to his old friend, Card. Burke and asked what he should do. As one would expect, Card. Burke did not mince words in his answer. He responded to my friend (paraphrasing), "What did the apostles do when they saw Jesus cooking fish on the shore? Did they tell him they'd be there after they caught a few more fish? No! They jumped out of the boat and raced to Christ. Christ is calling to you. Race to him. Do not deny him another year. Heed his call!" Needless to say, my friend entered the seminary that fall and just celebrated the 7th anniversary of his ordination.

Cardinal Burke is an amazing man. And I think your explanation of Card. Burke's statements on the SSPX are fair and accurate. Card. Burke picks his words very carefully. We've sadly gotten so attuned to having to try to read through the lines with this pope, and knowing that when he says X, he could mean X, or he could mean Y, that I think we might be unfairly applying it to all clergy. Much like St. Pius X, when Card. Burke says X, he means only X, nothing more than X, and if you want to talk about Y, that's a whole different conversation.

Long-Skirts said...

Interesting that in what is probably one of the vilest times in the Church with heretical clergy spewing homoheresy, liberation theology, etc., daily, the Cardinal doesn't say X, Y or Z about oh, say, the Jesuit Order or the New Catechetical Way.

thetimman said...

Yep, things are bad. And I agree that Burke is no firebrand. He is too scholarly, and too gentle, and not a great orator. Certainly we need more of the "best" and not the "worst"-- to quote Yeats-- to have "passionate intensity". We are bleeding out in apathy from a billion cuts.

JBQ said...

In point of fact, SSPX is in a state of schism. The "paper definition" says that they are. The definition of pornography according to the Supreme Court is based on the standards of the neighborhood. A movie on "Bambi" of Walt Disney would be pornography in Times Square. With all of the theology mockery of this papal administration, SSPX would be considered not only schismatic but pornography as well.

c matt said...

I guess we should be fair to Cdl. Burke, but we also should be fair to Louie V. LV makes good points, and he has born a lot of personal sacrifice for standing his ground. I can understand the frustration someone like LV would have with Cdl. Burke. The Dubia brothers are down to two, how much more time do they think they have? What is that old saying - paralysis by analysis? I think the good Cardinal may suffer from a bit of that.

And, in the end, no one - not even the good Cardinal - seems to want to address the elephant in the room: Vatican II is the root of which Bergoglio is merely the bloom.