Rarely do Roman Catholic Cardinals engage in as much public sparring as they have in recent weeks over the upcoming summit on marriage and family, set to begin this coming Sunday, Oct. 5.
The latest in a series of public statements came yesterday from Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the equivalent of the Vatican supreme court and a darling of Catholic conservatives for his strong doctrinal stands and unabashed traditionalism. In a conference call organized by Ignatius Press, Burke openly criticized German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has been pushing for relaxation of Church discipline regarding holy communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Burke took particular issue with Kasper’s implication that his position is shared by the Pope.
“I find it amazing that Cardinal Kasper claims to speak on behalf of the Pope. The Pope does not have laryngitis,” said Burke, according to the Italian Newspaper, La Stampa.
Burke was referring to a Sept 18 interview with Kasper in the Italian daily Il Mattino. In it, Kasper said: “I… have spoken twice with the Holy Father. I arranged everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do but stand with the pope? I am not the target, the target is another.”
Burke called Kasper’s insinuation that he was attacking Pope Francis “outrageous.” He also said outright that Cardinal Kasper “erred” in his opinions, because the indissolubility of marriage “is based on the clear words of Jesus Christ and cannot be changed.”
In response to Kasper’s assertion that his proposal only calls for a change in discipline, not in doctrine, Burke replied that this is a “very deceptive line of argument” and added: “There can be no discipline in the Church that is not at the service of doctrine.”
Earlier this month, a group of five conservative cardinals, including Burke, released a book reaffirming traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce, which he called “an effective response” to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal.
Burke is rumored to be soon sidelined by Pope Francis to a largely ceremonial post as head of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a global Catholic organization based in Rome, though for the moment he is still scheduled to take part in the upcoming marriage summit.
Meanwhile, a group of 48 prominent marriage advocates, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have signed an open letter to Francis and the synod fathers urging them not to dilute church teaching on marriage.