Asked if it were wrong to ask for Pope Francis’ resignation, as the former nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has done in his 11-page letter, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke responded, “I cannot say it is wrong.”
“I can only say that to arrive at this one must investigate and respond in this regard. The request for resignation is in any case licit; anyone can make it in the face of whatever pastor that errs greatly in the fulfillment of his office, but the facts need to be verified,” he said in an interview published this morning in La Repubblica, Italy’s highest circulation daily.
Cardinal Burke was among the first of a small number of bishops to come out publicly in support of Archbishop Viganò’s denunciation of the pope. It came as no surprise; he is widely considered one of the leaders of the traditionalist groups that oppose Francis, and the archbishop and Cardinal Burke both contest aspects of the pope’s exhortation on the family (“Amoris Laetitia”). The former nuncio publicly sided with the dissenters to “Amoris Laetitia” when, last January, he added his name to the Kazakh bishops’ “profession of immutable truths about sacramental marriage.”
“I was deeply shaken because the entire document is most grave,” Cardinal Burke said. “I had to read it several times because the first reading left me speechless. I believe that at this point there is need for a complete and objective report on the part of the pope and the Vatican.”
When it was pointed out that while Viganò’ contested Pope Francis’ handling of the McCarrick case he glossed over the way John Paul II and Benedict XVI had dealt with the allegations against the former cardinal during their pontificates, Cardinal Burke replied: “I cannot make a judgment on the merit. I can only say that here, too, it is necessary that there is clarity, by going through all the documents to arrive at the truth.”
Commenting on the fact that Archbishop Viganò’s letter states that there are cardinals and bishops who wish to change the church’s doctrine on homosexuality, Cardinal Burke said, “Yes, there are attempts to relativize the teaching of the church according to which a homosexual act is intrinsically bad.” He recalled the first session of the Synod of Bishops on the Family “where the idea was presented that the church should recognize the positive elements present in homosexual relations.” But, he added, “all this cannot have positive aspects.” Moreover, he described as “a problem” the “support that churchmen give to the Jesuit James Martin, who has an ‘open’ and wrong position on homosexuality.”
He went on to point out that “the data show that the major part of sexual abuse committed by priests are in reality homosexual acts committed with young people.”
Cardinal Burke stated: “I think a homosexual person cannot become a priest because he is not able to exercise in depth that paternity that is required. He must have all the characteristics to be a father.”
He insisted in the interview that he is not “an antagonist” of Francis and has “nothing personal against the pope.” He explained, “I try simply to defend the truth of the faith and the clarity of the presentation of the faith.” The U.S. cardinal was one of four cardinals—two now dead, Joachim Meisner (Germany) and Carlo Caffarra (Italy), the fourth being Walter Brandmuller (Germany)—who wrote a letter to Pope Francis, which they later made public, raising doubts (“dubia”) about aspects of his teaching on marriage in the exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” The doubts regarded the possibility for divorced and remarried people to receive the Eucharist under certain circumstances. In the interview, Cardinal Burke said that he did not know why the pope had not answered their questions.
He acknowledged in the interview that he contests Pope Francis’ magisterium, for example, “on the fact that persons in mortal sin can go to Communion. Or that non-Catholics can receive it in certain circumstances, beyond what is the present discipline of the church. It is not possible.”
Questioned about his relationship with Steve Bannon, the cardinal said the former advisor of President Trump had interviewed him once, at the time of the canonization of John Paul II, “and after that I have not seen him.”