Cardinal Raymond Burke, through a Facebook post on Thursday, expressed support for the pope in the wake of another interview in which he seemed to undermine Catholic Church practice.
Burke, who previously had criticized the pope strongly, recently condemned gay couples and remarried Catholics, comparing them to murderers who are kind to other people.
The Facebook post is a link to an Italian interview in which he is quoted as saying, “I never spoke against the pope. I always conceived my activities as a support to the Petrine ministry. I would only serve the truth.”
The former bishop of the La Crosse Diocese, who caused a stir in January when he blamed radical feminism for many problems in the church — including clergy sexual abuse of boys — had earlier underscored his conservative views during an interview with LifeSiteNews in Rome.
Responding to questions from an interviewer who used the term “disorder of divorce,” Burke said it isn’t enough for gay couples and divorced and remarried Catholics to live “kind,” “generous” and “dedicated” lives.
“Of course it’s not. It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people,” he told the U.S.-based website that advances conservative views.
“If you are living publicly in a state of mortal sin, there isn’t any good act that you can perform that justifies that situation: The person remains in grave sin,” Burke said in the interview, published March 24.
Burke, a native of Richland Center, Wis., is a noted church lawyer who was bishop of the La Crosse Diocese from 1994 until 2003 and archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008 before being appointed head of the Vatican’s highest court that year.
Pope Francis demoted him from that position last fall after, among other criticisms, Burke compared the church under Francis’ leadership to a “ship without a rudder.”
Under church law, divorced Catholics who remain single are in good standing and eligible for sacraments. Those who remarry may do so if they obtain a church annulment of the previous marriage.
In the LifeSiteNews interview, the 66-year-old Burke seems to challenge the annulment process, contending that modifications in the 1970s and ’80s eroded its credibility.
“It had disastrous effects and people began to talk about ‘Catholic divorce’ — and not without reason,” he said. “This is a scandal to those who are workers of justice or ministers of justice in the secular order, because when they see that the church doesn’t practice justice — doesn’t care any more about the truth — then what can law and justice possibly mean?”
Although La Crosse diocesan officials weren’t available for comment on Burke’s remarks, the diocese ministers to divorced and remarried Catholics and has policies acknowledging annulments and governing the reception of Communion.
Those policies stipulate that:
- “A Catholic who is divorced cannot validly marry anyone, anywhere, except if they have petitioned for and been granted an annulment of the previous marriage. ... If a divorced Catholic remarries, either civilly or in the church of another faith, and his or her previous spouse is still living, he or she cannot worthily receive Communion, and any attempt to do so would be considered a sacrilege.”
- “Divorce does not mean one can no longer receive Holy Communion. A Catholic is barred from receiving Communion only if he or she goes on to remarry after a divorce, while their previous spouse is still living, and no annulment has been granted in regards to a prior marriage.”
- The topics of church tenets on marriage and gays propelled contentious debate during a global bishops’ meeting on family issues at the Vatican last fall, arguments that are expected to be raised in a follow-up meeting in October.
Assessments from other church officials include the following:
Pope Francis: The pontiff has suggested that the church investigate the possibility of a “somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage,” including the eligibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
The issue is typical of a general need for forgiveness in the church, he said, adding, “The church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy and find a form of mercy for all.”
In a December interview, the pope acknowledged that divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment cannot participate in activities such as presenting readings at Mass or becoming godparents.
The pontiff nonetheless wondered aloud whether the church shouldn’t “open the doors a little bit more. … Why can’t they be godparents?”
Pope Benedict XVI: Benedict, the conservative who elevated Burke to the rank of cardinal in 2010, said in 2005 that Jesus Christ still loves divorced Catholics who remarry outside of the church.
They still may participate during Mass, without receiving Communion, Benedict said.
Archbishop Gerhard Muller: The prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog re-emphasized church regulations barring divorced and remarried Catholics from the sacraments without an annulment in October 2013.
If an annulment has not been obtained, civilly remarried Catholics may receive communion if they promise to abstain from sexual relations, living together “as friends, as brother and sister,” Muller wrote in the Vatican newspaper.