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Cardinal Burke rebuts 'outrageous' claim that Cardinal Kasper speaks for Pope

September 30, 2014

Cardinal Raymond Burke strongly defended his criticism of the “Kasper proposal,” and said it was “outrageous” for Cardinal Walter Kasper to suggest that such criticism was actually aimed at Pope Francis, during a teleconference with reporters on September 30.

“I find it amazing that the cardinal [Kasper] claims that he speaks for the Pope,” Cardinal Burke said. “The Pope doesn’t have laryngitis.”

Cardinal Burke joined several other participants in a teleconference on preparations for the Synod of Bishops. The teleconference was arranged by Ignatius Press, which will release four books on October 1 presenting arguments against the Kasper proposal and in defense of Church teaching on marriage.

Cardinal Burke said that he finds the books—and particularly Remaining in the Truth of Christ, to which he contributed—an “effective response” to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal that the Church might allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist. These works, the American cardinal said, reflect the “firm conviction of the authors and the firm conviction of the Church” that the Catholic understanding of the indissolubility of marriage is based on the clear words of Jesus Christ and cannot be altered. Saying that Cardinal Kasper “erred” in his proposal, Cardinal Burke said that the new works were “a positive contribution to get the discussion back on the right track.”

Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the publisher of Ignatius Press, said that he wondered whether Pope Francis has encouraged discussion of the Kasper proposal in order to focus attention on the question of marriage and thus to reaffirm the Church’s teaching. He questioned whether “the Holy Father shrewdly tried to stir up a hornets’ nest” in preparation for the Synod’s discussions.

James Hitchcock, a theologian and author who participated in the teleconference, said that one difficulty created by the debate leading into the Synod, and by the media coverage of that debate, has been the tendency to fixate on what he called “bottom-line theology.” He used that term, Hitchcock explained, to describe an urge to ignore deeper theological arguments and report exclusively on whether the Church would change her teaching.

Hitchcock declined, however, to blame the media for this tendency. He observed that vigorous debates were common in Church history. Reflecting on the debates of earlier Church councils, he said: “Had there been mass media at Trent, had there been mass media at Nicea, I think you would have seen the same thing.” Cardinal Burke agreed: “That there are discussions, that there are disagreements, this is nothing new in the Church.”

Responding to Cardinal Kasper’s claim that his proposal involves a change in Church discipline rather than doctrine, Cardinal Burke said that this was a “very deceptive line of argument.” He said: “There can’t be in the Church a discipline that is not at the service of doctrine.”

In the case of marriage, the cardinal explained, the constant Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is a matter of established doctrine. In order to uphold that doctrine, he continued, it is essential to determine, in cases of marital breakdown, whether a real marriage existed. Church tribunals, he observed, are designed to sift the evidence and arrive at the truth. Without a rigorous test of the evidence, the truth could not clearly be established and the Church’s defense of marriage would be weakened.


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  • Posted by: bruno - Oct. 01, 2014 9:31 PM ET USA

    Given the outright abandonment of the Church's rule on withholding communion from the remarried by many parishes, I think it is inevitable that this would emerge as an open argument. Better to settle it on the largest stage for all to see and hear than for us to be kept in the dark that our neighbors have been invited to the altar while previous marriage(s) are still not nullified by the tribunal. One can assume that Kasper is trying to confirm the pastoral practice of priests loyal to him.

  • Posted by: unum - Oct. 01, 2014 10:29 AM ET USA

    It is really inspiring to see two "princes" of Christ's Church trading verbal blows like a couple of politicians while the Catholic media uses their remarks for their own purposes. Christ called his followers to change the world, but big egos in the hierarchy are allowing the world to change his Church. ...and Jesus wept."

  • Posted by: koinonia - Oct. 01, 2014 7:21 AM ET USA

    “There can’t be in the Church a discipline that is not at the service of doctrine.” Of course he refers to the Church's - not one's personal- doctrine. This is an area (discipline) that has resulted in widespread problems in piety and in catechesis. With the very public and very pointed banter among cardinals it appears that there is going to be something of a collision later this month. Our Lord made things new; He elevated marriage to a sacrament- a sacrament with profound implications.

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Sep. 30, 2014 7:55 PM ET USA

    Bravo, Cardinal Burke!

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Sep. 30, 2014 6:24 PM ET USA

    I think Father Fessio is whistling past the grave yard if he think the Holy Father shrewdly stirred up a hornet's nest in preparation for the Synod for the synod's discussions. He is amazingly loyal to this Pope.