Catholic Culture Overview
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Cardinal Burke: anti-canonical priestly culture devastated Church after Vatican II

August 31, 2012

Lamenting a clerical culture dismissive of canon law in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Raymond Burke addressed a Kenyan canon law convention on August 28 about “the essential service of canon law in the work of the new evangelization.”

“After I began my studies of Canon Law in September of 1980, I soon learned how much the Church’s discipline was disdained by her priests, in general,” he recounted. “Institutes of the Church’s law, which, in her wisdom, she had developed down the Christian centuries, were set aside without consideration of their organic relationship to the life of the Church or of the chaos which would necessarily result from their neglect or abandonment.”

“The ‘hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,’ which has tried to hijack the renewal mandated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, is marked by a pervasively antinomian culture, epitomized by the Paris student riots of 1968, and has had a particularly devastating effect on the Church’s discipline,” he continued. “It is profoundly sad to note, for instance, how the failure of knowledge and application of the canon law, which was indeed still in force, contributed significantly to the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy in our some parts of the world.”

The prefect of the Apostolic Signatura continued:

The years of a lack of knowledge of the Church’s discipline and even of a presumption that such discipline was no longer fitting to the nature of the Church indeed reaped gravely harmful fruits in the Church. For example, I think of the pervasive violation of the liturgical law of the Church, of the revolution in catechesis which often rendered the teaching of the faith vacuous and confused, if not erroneous; of the breakdown of the discipline of priestly formation and priestly life, of the abandonment of the essential elements of religious life and the devastating loss of fundamental direction in many congregations of religious Sisters, Brothers and priests; of the loss of the identity of charitable, educational and healthcare institutions bearing the name of Catholic; and the failure of respect for the nature of marriage and the time-proven process for judging claims of nullity of marriage in ecclesiastical tribunals.

“From the above considerations, it should be clear that the knowledge of and respect for canonical discipline is indispensable to the Church’s response to the call to a new evangelization,” he added. “Liturgical law must enjoy the primacy among canonical norms, for it safeguards the most sacred realities in the Church.”


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  • Posted by: impossible - Sep. 01, 2012 4:27 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Burke must feel like St. John the Baptist - a voice crying in the wilderness. Even too many of the "good" Bishops are too cowardly to enforce Canon Law Sec 915. The "good" Bishops could really have a huge impact on the 2012 election by following Archbishop Lori's example and issuing brief, honest voting guides or simply endorsing and distributing Catholic Answer's Voting Guide for Serious Catholics. They have to undo the harm of the USCCB's Unfaithful Citizenship doc.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Sep. 01, 2012 8:17 AM ET USA

    What's the point to lament the past - "What if...", "If only..."? There is nothing we can do about that now but only move forward and rebuild what is lost or broken. Is it possible, just possible, to see God at work in all of this - somehow see how He may be using all of this to accomplish His will?

  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Aug. 31, 2012 11:12 PM ET USA

    If, as Cardinal Burke says, there has been a pervasive violation of the liturgical law of the Church and a breakdown of the discipline of priestly formation and priestly life the fault must lie with the bishops since they are the appointed custodians of the canon law in their own diocese. "Since he must protect the unity of the universal Church, a bishop is bound to promote the common discipline of the whole Church and therefore to urge the observance of all its ecclesiastical laws." Canon 1389

  • Posted by: pauper servus et humilis - Aug. 31, 2012 10:29 PM ET USA

    Perhaps if we could get 1 Cor. 11:27-29 right, the Holy Spirit would not be so severely impeded from settings things aright.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 31, 2012 7:51 PM ET USA

    Exactly. The reality must be recognized, addressed amd corrected. Cardinal Burke is among the most realistic prelates, anchored in Catholic realism. Thank you Cardinal Burke. You are simply repeating the words of ancient Catholic wisdom, as you freely admit, but these are words that must be said openly. The Church is all about the love of God. It is through her traditional discipline that this love is optimally shared by her members and directed in unity and charity to our Savior.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 31, 2012 4:13 PM ET USA

    Would that somebody who believed so had been in Cardinal Burke's position during those years. And that the man above him had been one who belileved so.