Pope Francis reportedly plans on removing Cardinal Raymond Burke from head of the Apostolic Signatura (Vatican “Supreme Court”) and relegating him to the largely ceremonial role as head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The new role would see Burke removed from the Roman Curia altogether. The Curia is the body of Vatican-based Cardinals who are close advisers to the Pope and who can be said to “run” the Church, or at least powerful organs of the Church.
Burke has been controversial for most of his priestly career, a hero to conservatives and a bane to the left. He was first made a bishop in Milwaukee by Pope John Paul II, who later moved him to be Archbishop of St. Louis and later to the Roman curia as head of the body that determines legal aspects of Canon law. While in the Curia, Burke served on a number of important committees, including the one that chooses bishops. He had a direct hand in choosing many of the conservative “JP II” bishops who have changed the landscape of Catholicism in the United States and elsewhere. An early indicator that Burke might not be in the good graces of Francis was when the Pope removed Burke from the committee that chooses bishops.
Burke has been something of a lightning rod, however. In St. Louis, he tried to take control of a run-away Polish parish that became a beacon of Catholic dissent. Also, he announced that then-presidential candidate John Kerry would not be allowed to receive communion for his pro-abortion stance. Then Archbishop Burke also excommunicated two women who claimed to have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood by a third woman claiming to be a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. The document of excommunication reads like something from another age.
Burke is also a liturgical conservative, having presided over the ordination of priests dedicated to saying the Traditional Latin Mass and also dressed in what some would consider old-fashioned vestments the left thought they had done away with years ago, capes and birettas that would have been common in the 1950s.
Since the elevation of Francis to the Papacy, Burke has sought to clarify some of the confusing things Francis has tended to say. When Francis seemed to say that abortion was no longer an important issue, Cardinal Burke said nothing in the Church teaching had changed. As some of his colleagues, including those in papal favor, have announced that Church teaching may change with regard to divorced and unsacramentally remarried Catholics, Burke has said that cannot happen. In fact, he is the co-author with three other Cardinals of a new book making the case for why Church teaching on this subject cannot change. The book has been released ahead of the Synod of Bishops to take place next month in Rome that will deal with this question.
There is ample precedent of Curial Cardinals to be made head of the Order of Malta. However it is unprecedented, according to ace Vatican watcher Sandro Magister, for someone so young to be removed from the Curia altogether and only given this relatively minor role to play. Magister calls the move a “decapitation.”
Cardinal Burke was Stephen K. Bannon’s guest on Breitbart News Sunday on the SiriusXM Patriot Channel during the Canonization of John Paul the Great earlier this year.