Amoris laetitia and Cardinal Burke

cardinal burke lourdes

I took this picture in the Immaculate Conception “Upper” Basilica in Lourdes when I was a permanent chaplain there for a couple of years, when Cardinal Burke was on pilgrimage with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2009. I suffered terribly in the days of yore, trying to facilitate such Masses.

I’ve had quite a number of extended conversations with Cardinal Burke over the years, one of which was quite recent. I’ll tell you this: he is the utmost gentleman, the most humble parish priest who has no “airs” about him at all, except the brightness of a spirit of unstoppable humble reverence before the Lord Jesus. But there are those who are upset with him, I think, precisely for this reason. It makes them nervous.

Those who are upset with Cardinal Burke the most are the traditional-ism-ists. Don’t they know that they are only proving in this manner whatever it is that Pope Francis is trying to say about charity toward others? I know a number of the pseudonymous crowd, but they literally run away and hide (really) when I ask for them over the phone after they’ve published things without a name. Otherwise, in safer times, they’ll buy me lunch. Or, alternatively, attack me as best they can. I’ve known some for decades, and have suffered terribly for some of them, perhaps unbeknownst to them. But there’s no real talking with them. Very quickly everything turns to: “It’s a conspiracy of the Jews!” and then whatever else makes them breathless for the day, living on the adrenaline of mystery, the whole pen-name thing.

Cardinal Burke has been their hero until now. He’s said something they don’t like. He’s taken away their thunder. He has correctly said that the most recent intervention of Pope Francis is his own personal opinion, which is correct, both because that is what Pope Francis himself said, and because that’s the kind of document it is. That’s it.

I suggest that those who think they know better than Cardinal Burke start to read some history about the Church being, as Saint Robert Bellarmine said, “never closer to dropping into hell than at this time.” That statement is always true, and is always true because of, get this, your sins and mine. And Jesus did descend into hell, the Church in hell, if you will, to preach to the damned spirits. But the Immaculate Bride of Christ is saved from hell always and at every moment, because Christ Jesus is our Savior. Our savior is not our own cleverness, not our ad hominem attacks on mere men. We are at war with the fallen angels. We need to help each other out of respect for Christ crucified. Cardinal Burke had to make this preliminary statement. I’m sure he will have more to say. Give him a chance! But you can see how difficult the battle is. There is mutiny for the sake of mutiny. Attack for the sake of attack. People letting bitterness turn them into cynics.

Do I have questions about, say, I don’t know, casuistry for our Holy Father? Yes, I do. Would I present those questions to him with the utmost respect for his person and with the utmost reverence for his office as the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter? Yes, absolutely. I’ll give some background to those questions in articles to come about the prodigal son and the adulterous woman.


Filed under Amoris laetitia, Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Synod on the Family, Year of Mercy

16 responses to “Amoris laetitia and Cardinal Burke

  1. pelerin

    I too have a great respect for Cardinal Burke and was able to attend a Mass celebrated by him in November last year in Westminster Cathedral London. I’m pleased he has spoken as he has.

  2. Rory O'Callaghan

    Thank you George. With your head exploding I thought something was remiss, but no. Cardinal Burke was crystal clear, as well as eloquent. Mercy may be working its way through us all.

    • Father George David Byers

      Rory — It’s just that I know that I myself have been a complete and total jackass in my life and have had people accompany me until I came to see the greatness of Jesus’ love for me. And now, there I am, however much a jackass, before the Face of Jesus, not ever wanting to depart, knowing I could, but looking to Him for His continuous mercy. From a distance, I see the wounds, and then up close. Oh my… And I want to share the greatest love of my life, the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception.

  3. I quite like and admire Cardinal Burke – I do not know him well, but I have talked to him on a number of occasions, and I second your assessment of him – but I do wonder about this: “He has correctly said that the most recent intervention of Pope Francis is his own personal opinion.”

    If that’s true, I wonder how Cardinal Burke characterizes Familiaris Consortio? That was also a post-synodal exhortation. Was that only the personal opinion of Pope John Paul II? Because if it was, why did chunks of it make it into the current Catechism? If it was not, how are we to distinguish it as such, against what he says AL is? Because His Eminence bases his conclusion on the “very form of the document” (an apostolic exhortation) that AL is.

    • Father George David Byers

      So, this is going to sound crass, but consider this anyway: there are citations in the New Testament of apocryphal books from the time before Christ. Does that mean that those books are inspired, or that passage? Not in the least. But their use in context of an inspired book makes the use in that context inspired. If there is that which can be used with a hermeneutic of continuity, then we do use it and use it well. If that’s really just so difficult for whatever reasons, then we are happy to look again to Humanae vitae, Familiaris consortio, Veritatis splendor, etc. It just happens that what Saint John Paul II wrote is incredibly wonderfully useful.

  4. SognPlaci

    I don’t think that it is correct to say the an Apostolic Exhortation is simply the “own private opinion” of a pope. This is a document of the ordinary magisterium.

    • Father George David Byers

      I’m getting some backlash back from a canon lawyer on that. I think what Burke is trying to say is that effectively (affectively) this is true in the minds of many if not everybody, but that this doesn’t necessarily make it true, so that, narrowly, legalistically, it’s not a letter or encyclical or anything of the sort, but an exhortation in which the Holy Father himself wished to back away from doing what he had said he would do in his speech last October on the 50th anniversary of the Synods of Bishops.

  5. Fr. Byers, I agree with Richardmalcom1564. Here are my further points:

    1. I love Cardinal Burke. No question. But here he is wrong. My understanding is that Catholics should assent to the ordinary magisterium….writings of the Popes, even if they are non-fallible. [assent to what you can if possible, yes… But, if it’s not infallible, it’s NOT infallible.]

    If not, why are we criticizing those who opposed Humane Vitae? [That’s a teaching document deciding an extremely controverted question for the universal Church by the Bishop of Rome explicitly deciding on the matter of faith and morals. Also, Ratzinger’s commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem says Humanae vitae was infallible ordinary Magisterium, what Francis wants to back away from in his “exhortation”, which we are to give assent to inasmuch as we can…]
    Why is Cardinal Burke encouraging us to be Cafeteria Catholics… picking and choosing what we accept from the ordinary Magisterium? [No.]

    2. There is something incredibly wrong with AL- among the verbosity is little bits of poison, that the average sheep, especially given our culture that lauds the poison, will have no qualms about injesting. [The ambiguity is catastrophic. There’s no other way to say it. I would ask Francis about that as well.]

    Where are the shepherds who are supposed to keep the sheep from ingesting the poison? Please. don’t. diss. the. Traditionalists. [Traditional-ism-ists. Make the distinction. It is important for everyone to not to create a schism.]

    They have every right to be concerned. If strong concern is the criteria for dissing the Traditionalists, well, I consider myself dissed. [To call His Eminence names, for instance, is uncalled for. The Cardinal has made a preliminary statement, which people treat as the only thing he will ever say for the rest of his life. And they slit his throat. Don’t be dissed for a concern. Express the concern, as you have. But what some have done is uncalled for.]

    3. Why do we need a papacy at this time, if the papacy can directly contradict the teachings of Our Lord? Why support the papacy? We all have the Magisterium, and hey- we can interpret it as well as Pope Francis, probably even better.- given what he has just exhorted. So what use is it? My response is of course, that Our Lord established it. So it is important. But even St. Paul corrected St. Peter, why can this not happen now? [I think we need to be respectful.]

    I guess truth doesn’t matter too much any more with the hierarchy. [If you’re saying that about the Cardinal, you’re WAY WAY WAY over the line. Just. Wow. Give the Cardinal a chance. He is a thousand times more incisive and more refined in his thinking than every one of his critics put together. If they only knew. They would crawl into a hole and die. He will say more.]

    Even if it leads people astray. There are timebombs in the AL, that will explode in time. This is scary! [There are and it is. As I say, I intend to write of a better way altogether.]

    • Father George David Byers

      Also, as I say, there are reasons to use pseudonyms. I’ve used them. I still might in the future. But we are weak, and if we have the opportunity, we may well use a pseudonym to hide behind. If they use this for ad hominem attacks, well, I disagree with the modus operandi. I think that encourages a gnosticism that pushes for schism.

  6. Father George David Byers

    Now, if you were just to ask me, and I weren’t defending Cardinal Burke, I would say that the Apostolic Exortation is an act of the Magisterium. It can contain infallible matter. Not necessarily.

  7. meshugunah

    I’m going to quote Msgr Haughney again: God draws straight with crooked lines; and Pray as if it’s all up to God, then work as if it’s all up to us…

    If we’ve managed to muddle through for 2000 or so years without “burning down the barn”, we as Church will make ith through this as well. Over the course of time we’ve had all sorts of fellas in the Chair of Peter – some of ’em have been real lulus! Can’t tell what sort of chap the current occupant may be during his occupancy – so, we pray like crazy, love him like crazy, and trust that the Holy Spirit knows what He’s about.

    Honestly, folks are getting so stirred up about this – Read the Bible! Read the Chatechisim, other spiritual reading like Aquainas. Pray the Rosary!!!!
    Go to Mass and receive the sacraments!!!!!. Deo Gratias.

  8. Liz

    I love Cardinal Burke. He has the prudence, wisdom, and the charity that many of us lack. God bless him!

  9. Father Byers, I truly apologize for the disrespect in my post above. Truth to tell, I’ve been avidly Pope Benedict’s books…and have gone to bat for him with the Traditionalists, as well as with the the secular people around me.

    I’ve been trying to live the Catholic Faith (not very evident in my response above I know- mea culpa), and with the current Holy Father it has been beyond difficult trying to clarify to my Catholic-nonpractising colleagues, and friends what Pope Francis is saying – from his videos, which seemingly put all religions at the same level, ….to now the latest where people in ‘irregular’ situations can go to communion. Regarding the latter, I’ve encouraged my friends who co-habit to go to Mass, but not to go up for communion, rather for a blessing, with their hands crossed over their chest , to indicate they want a blessing. Don’t know what I will be able to do about this now.

    I do have the greatest respect for Cardinal Burke – and his evident gentleness, humility and deep love of Our Lord. I also will go to confession about what I said about the need for the papacy. That was done in frustration, not in truth. Our Lord established it, and I have gone overboard by saying what I did. Mea Culpa again.

    My abject apologies for the parts in my comment above the disrespected Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke and the papacy.

  10. “I’ve been avidly Pope Benedict’s books” should say, I’ve been avidly reading Pope Benedict’s books. …

  11. Aggghhh, I thought I proof read my comments –

    ‘My abject apologies for the parts in my comment above the disrespected Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke and the papacy” should say,

    My abject apologies for the parts in my [original] comment above for the disrespect I showed toward Pope Francis, Cardinal Burke and the papacy”.

    • Father George David Byers

      It is instead my ineptness at being good and kind. I’m writing a post about that.

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