Last week, Rorate Caeli interviewed Raymond Cardinal Burke via telephone on numerous topics. Nothing was off the table for this interview and His Eminence was incredibly generous with his time. He showed himself to be brilliant and yet filled with humility. And his care and concern for traditional Catholics must be acknowledged and appreciated.
In this wide-ranging interview, His Eminence talked about issues ripped from the news such as: Vatican officials threatening to sue bloggers; more priests coming under his authority; the dismantling of the Franciscans of the Immaculate; how traditional Catholics can save their souls in this modern world — and get their children the sacraments in the traditional rite in the face of dissenting bishops; priestly celibacy; daily confusion from Pope Francis; and much, much more.
VATICAN OFFICIALS THREATENING TO SUE BLOGGERS
Rorate Caeli: Your Eminence, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. As the most-read international blog for traditional Catholics, we believe this will give much hope to our readership, and to traditional-minded Catholics everywhere. For our first question: The traditional world, recently, has been stunned by the news that two officials of the Vatican have threatened to sue traditional-minded Catholic bloggers and reporters. Do you agree with this approach, and do think we should expect to see more of this in the future?
Card. Burke: Unless the blogger has committed a calumny on someone’s good name unjustly, I certainly don’t think that that’s the way we as Catholics should deal with these matters. I think contact should be made. I presume that the Catholic blogger is in good faith, and if there’s someone in the hierarchy who is upset with him, the way to deal with it would be first to approach the person directly and try to resolve the matter in that way. Our Lord in the Gospel and St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians instruct us not to take our disputes to the civil forum, that we should be able, as Catholics, to resolve these matters among ourselves. (cf. Mt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 6:1-6)
CONFUSION FROM POPE FRANCIS
Rorate Caeli: After eight years under Pope Benedict XVI, clergy, laymen, even the media became accustomed to clarity. With so much confusion stemming from the daily statements of Pope Francis, confusion from the Synod, et cetera, is it best to focus more on the local and parish level and on the Church’s tradition, rather than looking for specific guidance from Rome on issues of the day?
Card. Burke: Yes, I think that, in fact, Pope Francis himself has given that indication. For instance in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he says that he doesn’t consider it to be a magisterial teaching. (n. 16) With someone like Pope Benedict XVI, we had a master teacher who was giving us extended catechesis on various subjects. I now say to people that, if they are experiencing some confusion from the method of teaching of Pope Francis, the important thing is to turn to the catechism and to what the Church has always taught, and to teach that, to foster it at the parish level, beginning first with the family. We can’t lose our energy being frustrated over something that we think we should be receiving and we’re not. Instead, we know for sure what the Church has always taught, and we need to rely on that and concentrate our attention on that.
COMMUNION FOR ADULTERERS & ATTACK ON DOCTRINE
Rorate Caeli: Speaking of that teaching and what we’re hearing, you’ve made news lately by saying you will resist any teaching that’s heterodox on marriage, and that Catholics should fight back, which gets to a whole other question we were asking about. What should be the response of faithful Catholics if there is a change in the discipline in regards to Holy Communion for divorced and remarried adulterers?
Card. Burke: I was answering a hypothetical question. Some people have tried to interpret it as an attack on Pope Francis, which it wasn’t at all. It was a hypothetical question posed to me, and I simply said, “No authority can command us to act against the truth, and, at the same time, when the truth is under any kind of threat, we have to fight for it.” That’s what I meant when I said that. When the hypothetical question was put to me, “What if this agenda is pushed?” I said, “Well, I simply have to resist it. That’s my duty.”
Rorate Caeli: How can a faithful Catholic fight back? Is it in his home? Is it on a blog?
Card Burke: I think you have to keep teaching, in your home and in your own personal life, to hold to the truth of the faith as you know it, and also to speak up about it and to make known to the Holy Father your deep concern, that in fact you cannot accept a change in the Church’s discipline which would amount to a change in her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Here I think it’s very important to address a false dichotomy that’s been drawn by some who say, “Oh no, we’re just changing disciplines. We’re not touching the Church’s doctrine.” But if you change the Church’s discipline with regard to access to Holy Communion by those who are living in adultery, then surely you are changing the Church’s doctrine on adultery. You’re saying that, in some circumstances, adultery is permissible and even good, if people can live in adultery and still receive the sacraments. That is a very serious matter, and Catholics have to insist that the Church’s discipline not be changed in some way which would, in fact, weaken our teaching on one of the most fundamental truths, the truth about marriage and the family.
DISSENTING BISHOPS & SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM
Rorate Caeli: Getting to something that’s right in Your Eminence’s wheelhouse, how do we fulfill the promise and the mandate of Summorum Pontificum at this particular time in the Church, and what role does Canon Law play in making the traditional Latin Mass available in every parish?
Card. Burke: The law stands as it was given by Pope Benedict XVI, and it has not been changed. The document for its implementation was issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. All of that holds. All of that urges that when there is a desire for the traditional Mass among a group of the faithful, it is to be provided for them.
Rorate Caeli: Sticking to Summorum, for families whose children have never been exposed to the Novus Ordo, yet their local ordinary will not fulfill the mandates of Summorum by granting them traditional Confirmation, should those families take their children to a neighboring diocese or a personal parish like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, FSSP, in order to have them confirmed in the traditional rite?
Card. Burke: They certainly have the right to receive the sacraments in the traditional rite, in the Extraordinary Form. If they can’t receive it in their own diocese, then certainly they could ask their parish priest to give them a note that the child is ready to be confirmed, and then have them confirmed in another place where it is permitted.
DISMANTLING THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF THE IMMACULATE
Rorate Caeli: You probably know, we have been covering the disheartening and frightening accounts of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate being dismantled over the last year. Does Your Eminence think that the commissioner, Father Volpi, has been fair? And what does Your Eminence think of Father Volpi’s court mediation statement regarding the founder’s family?
Card. Burke: I really don’t have the kind of direct information on which to make a judgment about the matter. I have to say that, just from an outsider’s view, Father Volpi has taken some very strong actions very quickly. Seemingly, I read the story too, he had to admit that the accusation which he made against Father Stefano Manelli, the founder of the Friars of the Immaculate, and his family members, of somehow misusing the temporal goods of the Friars of the Immaculate, was not true. That’s certainly a very serious matter. Many friars are leaving, and it would seem that there should be some way of dealing with the whole situation in which the order itself wouldn’t collapse, because they were strong, they had a lot of vocations, and they have a great number of apostolates. That’s the part that’s worrisome to me.
Rorate Caeli: There are reports, and frankly we get personal reports of this, of FFI priests saying they’re “fleeing,” they’re “in hiding,” using those words from the current FFI under Fr. Volpi. There’s also reports of bishops taking in FFI priests seeking refuge in their dioceses. Would Your Eminence encourage those other bishops to do the same?
Card. Burke: If there’s a priest who desires to leave his religious community, and this a good priest, and there isn’t anything contrary to the bishop accepting him, I think a good bishop would certainly accept such a priest and try to help him to become a priest in his diocese. There’s a process; it takes time. The priest who is wanting to leave his religious community has to have a welcoming bishop. When a bishop is able to welcome such a priest, I think the bishop should be happy to do that, because it assists a good priest to be able to continue to exercise his priestly ministry.
TRADITIONAL PRIESTS SUPPRESSED BY DISSENTING BISHOPS
Rorate Caeli: What, in Your Eminence’s opinion, are good priests supposed to do who are being suppressed by their bishops? We know of many, though we’re not going to name them publicly. Some have no mission whatsoever now, and they’re living on donations and help from family and friends. Some find it necessary to join independent groups. What is Your Eminence’s advice to those priests who simply want to live, preach and say Mass as all priests did before the Council?
Card. Burke: I would simply urge them to seek a bishop who is receptive to such priests and would try to help them, if he can, or if he can’t help them directly himself, to help them find another bishop who would permit them to lead a good priestly life. That’s all that one can do. Obviously, also, there is recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy. If the priest feels that he’s simply being treated unjustly, then he could ask the Congregation for the Clergy to intervene.
Rorate Caeli: There are reports that in an attempt to fix the problem we just discussed, an Apostolic Administration for traditional priests and religious may be in the works, in order to solve many of these issues facing them, in terms of living out their vocations strictly according to Summorum Pontificum. Can Your Eminence comment on where in the process that may be — the future of an Apostolic Administration?
Card. Burke: Such a thing is possible. I’m not aware that anything is in process in that regard. Maybe it is, I just haven’t heard about it. Certainly that is a possibility and would be a way of assisting these priests and the faithful who are attached to them to remain in communion with the Church.
MORE PRIESTS COMING UNDER CARD. BURKE’S AUTHORITY
Rorate Caeli: Now, Your Eminence may have a bias on this question, but would the Sovereign Military Order of Malta theoretically be able to function as an Apostolic Administration, giving faculties for traditional priests and religious?
Card. Burke: Well, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, has incardinated priests. But it did so as a sovereign military order, not as an Apostolic Administration. The Order has a Prelate, appointed by the Holy Father, who participates in the governance of the Order. He is clearly the lawful superior of any priests incardinated in the Order. Right now, we’re studying the whole situation because we have requests from additional priests who wish to be incardinated in the Order. But certainly it has happened in the past, and there’s no reason why it couldn’t continue to happen, not in virtue of the establishment of an Apostolic Administration, but in virtue of the nature of the Order.
Rorate Caeli: We were already planning on asking this question months ago when we first started crafting these interview questions, and then the Pope was reported to have said just yesterday the issue of married priests is “on his agenda.” Is priestly celibacy for western priests under serious threat with this pontificate?
Card. Burke: That would be a very serious matter because it has to do with the example of Christ Himself, and the Church has always treasured in her priests the following of Christ’s example, also in His celibacy. I’ve heard this reported, but I haven’t been able to verify it, but that would be, obviously, a very serious matter. The matter was taken up already by a world synod of bishops in the late ’60s, and at that synod there was a very solid reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on clerical celibacy. I don’t refer to it just as a discipline because it has to do with what from the earliest centuries the Church understood as being most fitting for her priests. It’s something more than a discipline, and therefore I would think it’s very difficult to conceive that there would be a change on this.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR TRADITIONAL CATHOLICS
Rorate Caeli: What words of encouragement can Your Eminence give to traditional Catholics who are struggling to save their souls and the souls of their children in this modern world, and without, it sometimes seems, any help from Rome?
Card. Burke: I frequently say to those who are writing to me and are expressing such discouragement, or are asking for direction in what seems to be a very troubled situation, that when, in times like this, there seems to be some confusion in the governance of the Church, then we have, more than ever, to steep ourselves in the Church’s constant teaching and to hand that on to our children and to strengthen the understanding of that teaching in our local parishes and our families. And our Lord has assured us — He didn’t tell us that there wouldn’t be attacks on the Church, even from within, but He has assured us that the gates of Hell will never prevail over the Church. In other words, Satan, with his deceptions, will never finally prevail in the Church. We have to have that confidence about us and go about it with great joy and great determination, in teaching the faith, or in giving witness with apologetics to souls who don’t understand the faith or who have not yet become members of the Church. We know that the gates of Hell will not prevail, but in the meantime, our way is the Way of the Cross. And when we have to suffer for the sake of what we believe, what we know to be true, we can embrace that suffering with the knowledge of the final outcome: that is, that Christ is the Victor. He is the one that ultimately overcomes all the forces of evil in the world and restores us and our world to the Father. That is the way in which I try to encourage faithful Catholics. I think it’s important, too, that devout traditional Catholics get to know one another and support one another, to bear one another’s burdens, as the Scripture says. We ought to be prepared to do that and be sensitive to families that might be suffering some particular difficulty in this regard, and try to be as close to one another as possible.
THIRD VATICAN COUNCIL?
Rorate Caeli: Thank you. We only have a few questions left. There are some very loose reports, but from credible sources, of Francis considering calling a Third Vatican Council. Has Your Eminence heard anything about this at all?
Card. Burke: No, not at all.
PROCESS FOR CHOOSING BISHOPS
Rorate Caeli: Episcopal appointments in the United States were, on average, conservative-leaning under Benedict XVI. That was not the case everywhere. From this arises what is a clear gap with the priests and actual churchgoing faithful of the new generation that are widely conservative, attached to the true catechism, to Catholic moral law, to a reverent Sacred Liturgy. Is Your Eminence in favor of a new orientation in the naming of bishops in the United States and elsewhere? Is the current method for the selection of bishops a good one, in your view?
Card. Burke: I think it is. It involves the consultation not only of other bishops and priests in the diocese, but also the lay faithful. And there is always the possibility for individual members of the laity or groups of lay faithful to make known their concerns to the Congregation for Bishops or the Nuncio. I think that the most important thing is to let the Apostolic Nuncio know, when there’s an appointment of a bishop being considered for a diocese, that there are very many faithful Catholics who have particular needs and to express those needs.
CURRENT ROLE IN THE CHURCH
Rorate Caeli: What’s Your Eminence’s main focus on work these days?
Card. Burke: My main focus is on the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, helping the Grand Master with the governance of the Order, especially in the spiritual dimension. The Order has a twofold purpose: the defense of the faith, and the care of the poor. The two things honestly go very much together. I’m helping him with questions about the structure of the Order itself in order to fulfill more effectively those two purposes, but also to deal with questions that inevitably come up in any Catholic organization with regard to doctrine and with regard to morals. That’s my main focus. I am also spending time studying and writing on important questions in the Church today.
TRADITIONALISTS RESTORING THE CHURCH
Rorate Caeli: Do you see traditional Catholics taking more of a leading role, in the future, in the restoration of the Church?
Card. Burke: I think so. I find more and more very strong Catholic families who are devoted to the traditional Mass, and I think that those families will have more and more influence in the time to come. If those families influence other families, then obviously there’s a momentum that grows.
Rorate Caeli: Is there anything else that we haven’t touched upon that Your Eminence would like to add?
Card. Burke: Just to encourage everyone to be devoted to the Sacred Liturgy, which is the highest expression of our Catholic faith, the highest expression of our life in God, and to be very devoted to the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and to the teaching of the faith in our homes and in our local communities. The Church has suffered terribly from decades of poor catechesis, such that the faithful, children and young people, even adults, don’t know their faith, and we need to address that because the two things go together. When we know our faith well, then we have a strong desire to worship in accordance with our faith, and at the same time our worship makes us desire more to know our faith. And then, obviously, all of that gets expressed in action by the charity of our lives, especially on behalf of those who are in most need.
Rorate Caeli: That leads to one last question. Your Eminence has mentioned the family in the home many times. Was John Paul II prophetic when he spoke about the Domestic Church?
Card. Burke: Oh, yes. He said that the Church comes to us by way of the family, and that’s true. Christ Himself comes by way of the family. He was prophetic in the sense that he pronounced again what the Church has understood from the very beginning. That term, Domestic Church, is very ancient, and it was repeated at the Second Vatican Council. It’s a very ancient terminology for the family. In that he was prophetic, in the sense that he set forth what God Himself teaches us about the family.
Rorate Caeli: That’s all we have for Your Eminence. Thank you very much for your time today and for your incredible service to Holy Mother Church.
Cardinal Burke visits England in March
SPUC is pleased to announce a talk by Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Remaining in the truth of Christ on holy matrimony on Friday, 6th March, 2015, at 7 pm, at Abbey Suite, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Warrington Road, Chester, CH2 3PD. All are welcome. Admission free.
Cardinal Burke is also speaking at SPUC’s youth conference. The SPUC Youth Conference will take place from the 6-8th of March 2015 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Southport. It is a unique opportunity to motivate the pro-life youth to go out and spread the pro-life message. The price of the youth conference is £100, including all meals and accommodation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org A few sponsored places are available.