Cardinal Burke: Synod’s Mid-term Report “Lacks a Solid Foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium”

by Alessandro Gnocchi, Il Foglio, October 13, 2014 (Excerpts of the interview granted by Cardinal Burke to Il Foglio)

Q: What do we see happening at the Synod on the other side of the “media curtain”?

A: We see a worrisome skewing of the discussions, because there are some who support the possibility of adopting a practice that departs from the truth of the faith. Even if it should be evident that one cannot go down that path, many still encourage, for example, a dangerous openness to change with respect to the question of giving Holy Communion to those divorced and remarried. I do not see how it is possible to reconcile the irreformable understanding of the indissolubility of marriage with the possibility of admitting to Communion those who are living in an irregular situation. To do this is to act as if our Lord’s words were up for discussion when he taught that whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Q: According to the “reformers” this teaching has become too harsh.

A: They forget that the Lord assures us of the help of his grace to those who are called to live in marriage. This does not mean that there will not be difficulties and suffering, but that there will always be divine assistance to face them and to be faithful to the end.

Q: But what you say is not coming out of the daily briefing from the Vatican Press Office. Cardinal Müller has also complained about this.

A: I do not know how this “briefing” works, but it seems to me that something is not working well if the information is manipulated in a way so as to stress only one position instead of reporting faithfully the various positions that were expressed. This worries me very much, because a consistent number of bishops do not accept the idea of a break with traditional Church teaching, but few know this. They speak only of the necessity for the Church to open herself up to the clamorous urging of the world as Cardinal Kasper propounded in February. In reality, his thesis on the theme of the family and on a new form of discipline with respect to the divorced and remarried is not new. It was already discussed thirty years ago. Then from this February on it took on a new life, and it has been allowed to grow in a not innocent way. But this must stop, because it is provoking the possibility of great damage to the faith. Bishops and priests say to me that now that so many divorced and remarried men and women are asking to be admitted to Holy Communion because this is what Pope Francis wants. In reality, I take note that, to the contrary, he has not expressed himself on this subject.

Q: But it seems evident that Cardinal Kasper and those who speak in agreement with him claim that they have the support of the Pope.

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are made in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

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