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Cdl. Burke: Pope Francis’ response to abuse crisis is ‘more confusing than anything’

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January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke told German TV in a January 8 interview that Pope Francis’ response to the abuse crisis is “confusing.” 

Cardinal Burke stated that Pope Benedict was “very clear on this [matter of abuse],” while “it is difficult now to say what exactly the approach” to the current abuse crisis is under Pope Francis. “It is more confusing than anything.” 

When discussing the recent statements of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and his own call for Pope Francis to resign, Burke said that “whether we should go so far as to demand his [Francis'] resignation, is another question.” “But it is true,” Burke continued, “that, for classical commentators, a pope who departs from his office in dogmatic questions, that is to say, who is guilty of heresy ceases to be the Pope, automatically.” 

This is not the first time Burke has made such a comment. In 2016, he stated that if a pope were to "formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope" and that there is a process within the Church for dealing with such a situation. 

Report München – a program of the official German TV channel ARD – was reporting on the current conflict within the Church concerning the ongoing sexual abuse crisis which has put Pope Francis increasingly under pressure (see here for a short written account). A segment of the January 8 show also included some comments from Cardinal Walter Kasper who put forward his opinion that opponents of Pope Francis are using the abuse crisis to bring about the removal of the Pope from his papal office.

“There are people,” he said, “who simply do not like this pontificate.” In his eyes, “they want to see it ended as soon as possible and then have, so to speak, a new Conclave. And they also wish to prepare it, so that it ends according to their own ideas.” 

For Cardinal Kasper these people are using the abuse scandal for their own objectives. 

“It seems to me inappropriate to make use of this abuse scandal for this goal [to use it against Pope Francis].” He called this approach of deflecting from the topic of abuse and of “turning it into a discussion about Pope Francis,” an “abuse of the abuse.” 

“This deflects from the real problem – and that is the bad part in it,” the Cardinal commented. This discussion about Pope Francis, said Kasper, “is distracting us from the real problem,” which is about better “prevention measures” in light of the abuse crisis. 

In a new January 10 interview given to the U.S. Catholic newspaper The Wanderer, Cardinal Burke made additional comments on the abuse crisis and the Vatican. 

He expressed his astonishment at the papal intervention with regard to the recent November 2018 meeting of the U.S. bishops, telling them not to vote on new measures to combat abuse. Burke called this decision “most unusual,” and explained that it is Pope Francis who “wants to give more authority to the Conference of Bishops.” 

While Burke pointed out that only the Pope can discipline bishops, he also suggested that the U.S. bishops “were correct, I believe, in saying that we need to address the situation in our Conference in order to assist the Holy Father in taking the action he needs to take.” For the U.S. cardinal, “simply to say this is not to be discussed seems to raise a lot of legitimate questions in people's minds about the seriousness of the Vatican to get to the bottom of the terrible scandal created by Theodore McCarrick.”

In Cardinal Burke's eyes, the McCarrick scandal lies in the fact that he abused “adolescents and also young adults in homosexual relations from the time he was a parish priest,” but also lies in the fact that he was then promoted “and even elevated to the office of a cardinal.” 

“We must get to the bottom of this,” Burke continued, for “those who were responsible for the scandal have to take responsibility and certainly cannot remain in authority. They must make reparation for the great harm they have inflicted upon the Church.” Burke does not mention explicitly which persons he was thinking of here.

Furthermore, the U.S. Cardinal showed himself in favor of the involvement of lay people in the investigation of abuse situations, saying “they should be employed.” But, finally, he added, it “is the Roman Pontiff who has to take the appropriate action.”

With regard to the Rome Summit on Abuse Matters happening next month, Cardinal Burke said that “I do not think that we should have any unusual expectations.” “What are they realistically going to be able to propose?” In Burke's eyes, the Pope needs to put together a commission giving him counsel on how to address the problem. 

Further discussing the November 2018 meeting of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, Cardinal Burke agreed with Bishop Joseph Strickland and others who said that homosexual acts are “disordered, not ordered. We are not made that way.” 

“God did not make us to engage in sexual relations between two people of the same sex,” Burke explained.

He said that the “majority of the U.S. bishops are not in favor of this kind of thing [homosexuality],” but added that “there is an element in the Conference of Bishops that is pushing for it very strongly.” There is a danger, he added, that “certain pressure groups” “who have power can drive a body to take positions that many individual bishops would find objectionable.”

“Prelates, for example, who promote Fr. James Martin, S.J. (who is not coherent with the Church's teaching on homosexuality), within their dioceses, are an indication to us that there is a serious difficulty within the hierarchy that must be addressed,” Burke stated.

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.