Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Faith is not Decided by Votes

An Interview with His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke
Alessandro Gnocci

His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke
Cardinal Raymond Burke pleases the world very little - or not at all. And, if possible, he pleases the Church which pleases the world even less. Then again, the 66 year-old American from Richland Center, Wisconsin does everything to provide a Catholic jolt to the apathy-prone Christian conscience: he takes part in the March for Life; he says that politicians who support abortion legislation should be denied Communion; he criticizes the rapid advance of the homo-agenda; he lets Pope Francis know that the defense of non-negotiable values is not some fashion subject to pontifical whims; he supports the traditional liturgy. He recently contributed to the anthology Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 2014), written in defiance of the "merciful opening" proposed by Cardinal Kasper of Communion to the divorced and remarried. No wonder, then, that Bergoglio's planned reshuffling of the Curia provides for the Cardinal to be removed from his position as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and exiled to the office of Cardinal Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta. In the meantime, however, this fine canonist and son of rural America has assumed the role of the opposition - one might say, the katechon - at the Synod on the Family against the revolution attributed to and never denied by the mens papale. As it says in the old polyglot Bible, which lays on the lectern of his study, opened to Ecclesiates: "All things have their season (...) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."

Q: What do you see behind the media fog which surrounds the Synod?

A worrying tendency is becoming visible, because some are arguing for the possibility of adopting a practice which deviates from the truth of the Faith. Although it should be obvious that one cannot proceed in this manner, many encourage, for example, dangerous openings on the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried. I do not see how one could reconcile the irreformable concept of the indissolubility of marriage with the possibility of admitting to Communion those who live in irregular situations. This directly challenges the words of Our Lord when He taught that a man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Q: According to the reformers, that teaching is "too hard."

They forget that Our Lord assures the help of grace to those who are called to marriage. This does not mean that there will be no difficulties or suffering, but that there will always be divine assistance to those who remain faithful to the end.

Q: It seems that yours is a minority position....

A few days ago, I saw a news report in which Cardinal Kasper said that we're 'heading in the right direction towards an opening.' In short, the 5.7 million Italians who watched the report formed the impression that the entire Synod is moving in this direction and that the Church is getting ready to change her doctrine on marriage. This, however, is simply impossible. Many bishops intervened to say that changes cannot be admitted.

Q: But this is not apparent from the daily briefings of the Vatican Press Office. This was also criticized by Cardinal Müller.

I do not know how the briefing was conceived, but it seems to me that something is not working properly if the information is manipulated so as to highlight only one opinion instead of giving a faithful report of the different positions presented. This worries me a great deal, because many bishops do not accept the notion of an opening, but only a few are aware of this. One hears only of the 'necessity' of the Church 'opening herself to the world,' as was announced by Cardinal Kasper in February. In fact, his position on the issues of family and the Communion of the divorced and remarried is nothing new; it was already being discussed thirty years ago. Since February, it has gained strength and, regrettably has been allowed to spread. But this must stop, because it is causing serious harm to the Faith. Bishops and priests are telling me that many divorced and remarried individuals now want to be permitted to receive Communion, because 'that's what Pope Francis wants.' On the contrary, however, I note that he has not commented on the matter.

Q: But it seems obvious that Cardinal Kasper and those in line with him speak with the support of the Pope.

Apparently, yes. The Holy Father appointed Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate continue along this line. But, as another cardinal noted, the Pope has not spoken. I'm waiting for his comments, which can only be in continuity with the teaching of the Church throughout its history. It is a teaching which has not changed, because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional teaching say that, if the Pope were to make changes, they would accept them. Isn't this a contradiction?

Yes, this is a contradiction, because the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth and thus the first servant of the truth of the Faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how we can deviate from this teaching with a doctrinal statement or a pastoral praxis which ignores the truth.

Q: Doesn't the stress put by the Pope on mercy as the most important - if not the only - guiding principle of the Church serve to sustain the illusion that one can engage in a pastoral praxis detached from doctrine?

It spreads the idea that there can be a merciful Church which does not care for the truth. I am deeply offended by the notion that the bishops and priests have been unmerciful until now. I grew up in a rural part of the U.S. and remember from my childhood that, in our parish, there was a couple who lived on a neighboring farm and who always came to our church for Mass, but never received Communion. When I was older, I asked my father why this was, and he explained to me, very naturally, that they lived in an irregular situation and accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very kind to them, very merciful, and applied that mercy in his work so that the couple could return to a life in harmony with the Catholic Faith. Without truth, there can be no mercy. My parents taught me that, because we love the sinner, we must hate the sin and do everything to free them from the evil in which they live.

Q: In your study, there is a statue of the Most Sacred Heart. In your chapel, there is another image of the Most Sacred Heart over the altar. Your episcopal motto is Secundum Cor Tuum ("According to Your Heart"). A bishop can, then, unite mercy and doctrine....

Yes, it is at the inexhaustible and unremitting source of truth and love - that is, the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus - that the priest finds the wisdom and strength to lead his flock in truth and charity. The Curé of Ars called priests to the love of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The priest who is united to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus will not succumb to the temptation to tell the flock anything other than the words of Christ as unfailingly transmitted to us by the Church. He will not succumb to the temptation to replace the words of sound doctrine with a language which is confused and leads easily into error.

Q: But the reformers maintain that, for the Church, charity means to chase after the world.

This is the cornerstone of the arguments used by those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I am very concerned. It is said that the times have changed so much that we can no longer speak of natural law, of the indissolubility of marriage. But man has not changed; he continues to be just as God created him. Of course, the world has become secularized, but this is only one more reason to clearly and forcefully to pronounce the truth. This is our duty, but in order to carry it out, one must - as John Paul II in Evangelium vitae teaches - call things by their names. We cannot resort to - at best - ambiguous language just to please the world.

Q: Clarity does not appear to be a priority for the reformers, as, for example, they do not see any contradiction in their position that the divorced and remarried can be admitted to Communion on the condition that they recognize the indissolubility of marriage. 

When someone sincerely maintains the indissolubility of marriage, then he either clarifies the irregular situation in which he finds himself, or he abstains from Communion. There is no third option.

Q: Not even the so-called "Orthodox divorce"?

The Orthodox practice of oikonomia or the second or third 'penitentiary marriage' is both historically and presently very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has known of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it by virtue of the words spoken by Our Lord in the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

Q: Don't you think that, if this opening were to be granted, many others would follow?

Certainly. Now they are saying that it would only be allowed in certain cases. One who knows people even a little knows that, if you acquiesce in one case, you will ultimately acquiesce in the other cases as well. If you recognize as lawful the union between the divorced and remarried, the door will be opened to all unions which are not in accordance with the law of God, because the conceptual bulwark which defends sound doctrine and the good pastoral praxis resulting from it will be eliminated.

Q: The reformers often speak of a Jesus who is willing to tolerate sin in order to approach people. Is this accurate?

Such a Jesus is a concoction with no basis in the Gospels. Just consider His clash with the world as recounted in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent of His age and remains so today. I recall what He said to the woman guilty of adultery: "Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more."

Q: Admission of the divorced and remarried undermines not only the Sacrament of Matrimony, but also that of the Eucharist. Is this not an error which strikes at the heart of the Church?

In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 11, St. Paul teaches that he who receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats his own condemnation. Access to the Eucharist means to be in communion with Christ, to be conform to Him. Many oppose the notion that the Eucharist is the 'sacrament of the perfect,' but this is a false argument. No man is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of those who are fighting to be perfect, as Jesus Himself demands: "be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect." Even he who struggles to attain perfection certainly sins, and when he finds himself in a state of mortal sin, he may not receive Communion. In order to do so, he must confess his sins, repent of them and have the firm purpose of never committing them again. This applies to everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: Today, reception of the Eucharist is barely seen as a sacramental act, but rather as a social practice. It no longer means communion with God, but acceptance by a community. Is not the root of the problem to be found here?

It is true that this Protestant notion is becoming prevalent. And that applies not merely to the divorced and remarried. One often hears that, at special events such as First Communion, Confirmation and Weddings, even non-Catholics are receiving Holy Communion. This, however - again - is against the Faith; it contradicts the very truth of the Eucharist.

Q: Instead of discussing these topics, what should the Synod be doing?

A Synod is not a democratic assembly where bishops gather to change Catholic doctrine according to majority opinion. I would like for it to become an opportunity to offer support to the pastors of all families who want the best experience of their faith and their vocation; to support those men and women who, despite many difficulties, do not want to break away from what the Gospel teaches. This should be a Synod on the family rather than one which loses itself in useless discussions on issues which are not open to discussion in an attempt to change a truth which cannot be changed. In my opinion, it would be better to remove these issues from the table because they are not viable. We should speak rather of how to help the faithful to live the truth of marriage. We should speak of the formation of children and young people who come to marriage without knowing the basics of the Faith and then fall at the first hurdle.

Q: The reformers are not considering those Catholics who have sacrificed to keep their family together, even under dramatic circumstances, instead of starting over?

Many people who have made this effort now ask me if they have it all wrong. They ask me if they have thrown away their lives making unnecessary sacrifices. This is not acceptable; it is a betrayal.

Q: Don't you think that the present crisis in morality is linked to the liturgical crisis?

Certainly. In the post-conciliar period, there has been a collapse in the life of the faith and in ecclesiastical discipline, made especially apparent by the liturgical crisis. The liturgy has become an anthropocentric activity, reflecting the ideas of man rather than God's right to be worshipped as He requests. From there it follows that, in the field of morality, attention is given almost exclusively to the needs and desires of men rather than to what the Creator has written in the hearts of all creatures. The lex orandi is always bound to the lex credendi. If man does not pray correctly, then he will not believe correctly and, thus, will not behave correctly. When I go to celebrate the traditional Mass, for example, I see so many beautiful young families with many children. I do not think that these are families without problems, but it is clear that they receive more strength to deal with them. All this must mean something. The liturgy is the most perfect expression, the most complete expression of our life in Christ, and when that diminishes or is betrayed, every aspect of the life of the faithful is wounded.

Q: What would you say to a Catholic pastor who feels lost among these winds of change?

The faithful must take heart, because Our Lord will never abandon His Church. Think of how Our Lord calmed the stormy sea, and His word to His disciples, "Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?" If this period of confusion seems to jeopardize their faith, they must engage more actively in a truly Catholic life. But I realize that living during these times causes great suffering.

Q: It is difficult to avoid thinking of a chastisement.

I think of the same - first of all, for myself. If I am suffering for the current situation of the Church, I think Our Lord is telling me that I need to be purified. And I think that, if the suffering is so widespread, it indicates that the whole Church is in need of purification. This is due, not to a God who is just waiting to punish us, but to our sins. If we have, in any way, betrayed doctrine, morals or the liturgy, then suffering will necessarily follow, which will cleanse us, and lead us back to the straight and narrow path.

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