Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the signatories of the so-called “Four Cardinals Letter,” gave an interview to Catholic Action in which he explained the reasons behind the letter and why it was time to take the step of releasing it to the public. I believe this interview is a major step in the direction of an official ecclesiastical action to oppose the errors of Pope Francis.
[The following then gives excerpts of the most important parts from the interview Cardinal Raymond Burke gave to Catholic Action, and that we have already published on CP&S.]
There are always complaints that what the bishops and cardinals are doing is too little or too late. Nevertheless, I think this is an incredibly important development. Recall that the Church moves far more slowly than we are accustomed to in the information age where everything is so nearly instantaneous. Amoris Laetitia was only promulgated in April of this year. We are seven months into the fallout, and the steps being taken here are significant. Don’t let the gentleness of the language fool you. A few thoughts:
- Cardinal Burke is documenting the obstinacy of Pope Francis in terms of his refusal to address “serious ambiguities that confuse people and can lead them into error and grave sin.” He gave all the same examples I did yesterday, and added the Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline.
- He is making clear that this request for clarification follows a formal process: “There have been many other statements of concern regarding Amoris Laetitia, all of which have not received an official response from the Pope or his representatives. Therefore, in order to look for clarity on these matters, three other Cardinals and I used the formality of presenting fundamental questions directly to the Holy Father and to the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.”
- He has outlined the history of Amoris Laetitia, has associated Francis directly with Kasper, has re-visted the deeply troubling mid-term relatio from the 2014 synod, has even mentioned his own removal from the synod process itself after 2014.
- He has positioned the adversarial relationship between the four cardinals and Pope Francis in relation to the fixed point of Christ and His teaching. “I, together with the other three Cardinals, are striving to be loyal to the Holy Father by being loyal to Christ above all. ” and “Rather than being a matter of disloyalty to the Pope, our action is deeply loyal to everything that the Pope represents and is obliged to defend in his official capacity.” He is signalling that the pope has a moral duty to defend Church teaching, not to innovate or depart from it.
- He is indicating that he and the other three cardinals are now performing their own duty, “which the Church has the right to expect of us.”
- While some dislike the word “clarification,” Burke and the cardinals (and other bishops) who stand with him are asking Francis to state clearly what he believes. “It would contradict the Faith if any Catholic, including the Pope, said that a person can receive Holy Communion without repenting of grave sin, or that living in a marital way with someone who is not his or her spouse is not a state of grave sin, or that there is no such thing as an act that is always and everywhere evil and can send a person to perdition.” This statement indicates that they know he has contradicted the Faith, and if he does not recant but rather affirms this, then he will officially stand in opposition to the Faith.
I submit to you that these statements are indicative of something momentous. This could well be the prelude to something unprecedented: the challenging of a sitting pope for the crime of manifest, obdurate heresy. Remember that the “manifest and obdurate” parts are necessary to establish. As Michael Davies wrote in his essay, A Heretical Pope?
If, per impossible, a pope became a formal heretic through pertinaciously denying a de fide doctrine, how would the faithful know that he had forfeited his office as he had ceased to be a Catholic? It must be remembered that no one in the Church, including a General Council, has the authority to judge the Popes. Reputable authorities teach that if a pope did pertinaciously deny a truth which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith, after this had been brought to his attention by responsible members of the hierarchy (just as St. Paul reproved St. Peter to his face), a General Council could announce to the Church that the Pope, as a notorious heretic, had ceased to be a Catholic and hence had ceased to be Pope. It is important to note that the Council would neither be judging nor deposing the Pope, since it would not possess the authority for such an act. It would simply be making a declaratory sentence, i.e. declaring to the Church what had already become manifest from the Pope’s own actions. This is the view taken in the classic manual on Canon Law by Father F.X. Wernz, Rector of the Gregorian University and Jesuit General from 1906 to 1914. This work was revised by Father P. Vidal and was last republished in 1952. It states clearly that an heretical Pope is not deposed in virtue of the sentence of the Council, but “the General Council declares the fact of the crime by which the heretical pope has separated himself from the Church and deprived himself of his dignity.“(7) Other authorities believe that such a declaration could come from the College of Cardinals or from a representative group of bishop, while others maintain that such a declaration would not be necessary. What all those who accept the hypothesis of an heretical pope are agreed upon is that for such a pope to forfeit the papacy his heresy would have to be “manifest”, as Saint Robert Bellarmine expressed it, that is notorious and public (notorium et palam divulgata).(8) A notorious offence can be defined as one for which the evidence is so certain that it can in no way be either hidden or excused.(9) A pope who, while not being guilty of formal heresy in the strict sense, has allowed heresy to undermine the Church through compromise, weakness, ambiguous or even gravely imprudent teaching remains Pope, but can be judged by his successors, and condemned as was the case with Honorius I.
Cardinals Burke, Caffara, Brandmüller, and Meisner — along with their other as-yet unnamed supporters among the bishops — are giving Francis a way out. They are bringing “to his attention” as “responsible members of the hierarchy (just as St. Paul reproved St. Peter to his face)” the errors which he has fomented. (Remember, John XXII repented of his error after being confronted.) This is no doubt not only for Francis’ good, but for the good of the countless souls who would be scandalized by any act of public deposition of a pope, and the massive schism that would at last break the Church apart on her many emergent fault lines. If Francis continues to refuse to address this, these Cardinals, along with any other orthodox prelates yet remaining in the Church, will have no choice but to take action. Anything less will destroy their credibility as apostolic successors and shake the faith of countless souls in the indefectibility of the Church.
As one high-ranking member of the clergy confided to me recently, “Francis is an eclipse of the sun of Catholic truth.” It is long past time for the sun to come out again.
CP&S Comment – We believe this to be an unprecedented moment in the history of the Catholic Church, and we ask all Catholics to stand firm and pray hard.