In a lengthy interview granted to the Italian Catholic online journal La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Cardinal Raymond Burke rejects attempts to paint him as opposed to Pope Francis, insisting rather that he is a faithful servant of the Church who has only sought to uphold the truth.
“I’m not against the Pope. I have never spoken against the Pope. I always conceived my activities as a support to the Petrine ministry. I would only serve the truth,” said Burke in the April 1 interview.
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, is a Canon lawyer and former Prefect of the Vatican’s Supreme Court.
Burke says that his statements have been continually taken out of context in an effort to pit him against Pope Francis, a position that the Cardinal opposes.
For example, Burke has stated that a bishop should stand up to the pope if the latter were to teach something contrary to Catholic doctrine, but he insists that this is not the case with Pope Francis.
The Cardinal clarified that he was asked by a journalist what he would do, “hypothetically and not referring to Pope Francis,” if a pontiff were to make decisions against the doctrine and practice of the Church. “I said that I would resist, because we are all in the service of truth, starting with the Pope,” Burke said, then added:
But in my case I’m not opposing Pope Francis in any way, because he has done nothing contrary to doctrine. And I do not see myself at all in a struggle against the Pope, as they want to portray me. I am not pursuing the interests of a group or a party; as a cardinal I just try to be a teacher of the faith.
In the interview, Cardinal Burke also rejects the caricature of him as a reactionary traditionalist, out of line with the Second Vatican Council.
He said, rather, that “all my theological education in the major seminary was based on the documents of Vatican II,” and “if anyone reads my writings he will find that I quote the documents of Vatican II many times.”
What Burke does oppose, however, is the so-called “spirit of the Council,” which he sees as a misinterpretation of Vatican II that is “unfaithful to the text of the documents.” Those who embrace this “spirit,” Burke said, purport “to create something totally new, a new Church that has nothing to do with all the supposed aberrations of the past.”
On the contrary, in understanding the Second Vatican Council, Burke endorses what Pope Benedict XVI called a “hermeneutics of reform” in continuity, as opposed to a “hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture.” The discourse of Benedict XVI “is brilliant and explains everything,” Burke said.
Asked about a “witch hunt” carried out by those convinced there is a conservative “plot against the Pope,” Burke responded that “surely there is a group that wants to impose on the Church not only this thesis of Cardinal Kasper on communion for divorced and remarried, or for people in irregular situations, but also other positions on issues related to the themes of the Synod.”
“I refer to the idea of finding the positive elements in sexual relations outside of marriage or homosexual relations. It is evident that there are forces pushing in this direction, and for that they want to discredit us who are trying to defend the Church’s teaching,” he said.
With regard to a “gay lobby” trying to exert pressure within the Church, Burke said he sees “more and more that there is a force pushing in this direction. I see people who, consciously or unconsciously, are promoting a homosexual agenda. How this is organized I do not know, but it is evident that there is a force of this kind,” he said.
The Pope, said Cardinal Burke, has denounced the use of the law or doctrine “to dominate people,” which does not mean “that there is a problem with the doctrine and discipline,” but rather that they can be misused by “applying the law without love” or “insisting on the truth of the situation of the person but without love.”
“Even when a person is in serious sin we must love the person,” Burke said.
What we must avoid is the behavior of the Pharisees, said the Cardinal, which revealed “a cruel legalism.” They denounced the violation of the law, “but without giving any help to the person to exit from sin, so as to find peace in his life,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.