Cardinal Raymond Burke has denied conspiracy theories alleging any sort of alliance between him and President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
In an interview published Monday with Gabriel Ariza of Infovaticana, Burke denied allegations brought by New York Times journalist Jason Horowitz that he had held a meeting with Bannon in 2014.
In his Feb. 17, 2017 article, Horowitz referred to Bannon’s “efforts to cultivate strategic alliances with those in Rome who share his interpretation of a right-wing ‘church militant’ theology,” principally with Cardinal Burke, at the time the head of the Vatican’s highest court.
“In one of the cardinal’s antechambers, amid religious statues and book-lined walls,” Horowitz wrote, Cardinal Burke and Mr. Bannon “bonded over their shared worldview.”
Asked whether the meeting really happened or was “fake news,” Burke responded that he had no recollection of ever meeting Bannon.
“They tell me that I was introduced to him years ago, but we certainly did not have a meeting at that time,” Burke said. “In fact, I do not remember meeting him. But they tell me that I was introduced to him, but to be very honest with you, I cannot remember exactly what he looks like.”
“I have never had a meeting with him,” he said.
Burke’s distinction between possibly having met Bannon but never having a “meeting” with him would suggest that the two may have been introduced, but have not carried on anything like a friendship, much less a “strategic alliance.”
Pressed on whether he has a link with the Trump administration, Burke replied flatly, “No, I do not.”
In Monday’s interview, Burke said it was essential that the Catholic Church not become embroiled in partisan politics.
“The most important thing for us, for the Church, is not to become politicized ourselves and to take part in one party or another,” Burke said, “but to speak with these leaders who show many positive signs and to assist them, so that their vision and their programs may serve as best as possible the common good.”
In this regard, Burke also criticized the anti-Trump line adopted by the Vatican newspaper.
“I must say that I find the Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, quite consistently negative about President Trump, and I don’t think that is helpful,” he said, adding:
I think the important thing is that the Church engage these political leaders who have many good ideas and speak with them in order to offer to them the direction which Catholic social teaching provides, which is always respecting the common good, because in any political program there can be aspects that are very good, but also there can be aspects which are not good or need to be improved or perfected.
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