Action Alert!

making people squirm

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 19, 2009

Saturday's announcement that the Pope has appointed two new members to the Congregation for Bishops is worth unpacking. The two new members are Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, the Spanish prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and Archbishop Raymond Burke, the American head of the Apostolic Signatura. 

The Congregation for Bishops, which oversees the process of episcopal appointments, is among the most powerful dicasteries in Rome. All appointments to this congregation are significant. When there are two, and both are outspoken defenders of Catholic orthodoxy, that's a sign of a shift in the winds around the Vatican.

The case of Archbishop Burke is particularly instructive. He's in the news today, of course. On the day after his appointment was announced, he celebrated Mass in the extraordinary form in the Vatican basilica. It seems that priests who favor the traditional liturgy will have a friend in court if they're ever recommended for an episcopal appointment. (In Cardinal Canizares, by the way, they'll have another friend.) 

Back in September he traveled to Washington, DC, and-- brushing aside the advice of other prelates who urged him not to court controversy-- delivered a powerful argument against providing Catholic funerals for public figures who opposed key Church teachings. Although the archbishop did not name names, he was speaking shortly after the very visible public funeral for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Archbishop Burke must have realized that his words would make a few American cardinals squirm. He must have known that there would be complaints about his speech, and those complaints would be delivered to Rome. He delivered the speech anyway. And still more significant, the complaints did not dissuade the Holy Father from appointing Burke to the Congregation for Bishops.

It's not illogical to conclude that the Pope decided he wants this sort of man-- a man who sometimes makes people squirm-- involved in the process of appointing bishops. As a matter of fact, it's illogical to conclude anything else. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: adamah - Oct. 21, 2009 8:44 PM ET USA

    I pray that this will help Scranton to get a holy bishop! We miss Bishop Martino.

  • Posted by: TonyLCR - Oct. 21, 2009 5:04 AM ET USA

    This is wonderful news! It seems as though Rome is headed in a good direction, and with it, will follow the entire Church! It's time for liberal Bishops and liberal faithful to step aside and give in to the Truth of catholic teaching. Truth that must be applied here and now, in public and private life.

  • Posted by: ltluca7192 - Oct. 20, 2009 5:26 PM ET USA

    Lord God, it's about time. I was wondering when the Holy Father was going to stem the tide of the embarrasing Bishops and Cardinals in America who have have unashamedly defied the Magisterium of Christ's Church. How is it possible that an avowed Apostle could honor a man who publicly stood for Abortion. I realize that only God can judge, but to have repentance, there must be public repentance, of which, there was not. God have mercy on their souls.

  • Posted by: Mack - Oct. 20, 2009 2:18 PM ET USA

    Yes AB Burke is a man of deep faith and this is good for the Church. We have to pray that this congregation gets a good prefect as Card. Re is over retirement age already.