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Canonist: Bishops refusing to publicly associate with Cdl. Burke could be schismatic

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November 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The current demonization of those voicing criticism of Pope Francis – particularly Cardinal Raymond Burke – may fall under a category of schism, a noted canonist is saying.

“Schism comes in two varieties,” Dr. Ed Peters said, “‘vertical schism’ whereby one refuses submission to the Roman Pontiff and ‘horizontal schism’ whereby one refuses to extend that Christian unity owed to others who are, in fact, in union with the pope.” 

Catholics’ views of popes and prelates may vary a great deal, and canonical requirements for proving schism of either type are high, he said.

“But Catholics critical of Pope Francis and/or his governance of the Church – Catholics, mind, in full communion with the Church per Canon 205 – notwithstanding their demonstrable communion with the pope, are frequently disparaged these days,” Peters wrote at his blog, “sometimes by ranking bishops, as being adversaries, accusers, and gossip-mongers.” 

Some verbal insults can be written off and also come with the reminder that there are those who have suffered far worse for the Catholic faith, he said.

“But lately I wonder whether this demonizing of papal critics risks taking a canonical turn,” stated Peters.

The renowned canon lawyer referenced the recent report from veteran Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti that American bishops had been directed by the Vatican to not invite Cardinal Burke to their dioceses, and that if it’s not possible to prevent the cardinal from appearing in their jurisdiction, to not attend any event where he is present.

“If this report is true,” Peter said, “then understand: bishops working in close collaboration with the pope are instructing other bishops to avoid and, if necessary, to refuse manifestations of Christian unity due to a bishop who is, beyond any question, in full communion with him and them.”

Cardinal Burke has been at the forefront of the now two-year-old request for clarification from four cardinals to Pope Francis regarding ambiguities in the pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Whether concerning the pope’s document or other matters, Burke has consistently articulated and stood for the Church and her principles, netting scorn and ridicule for it from apologists for divergence from those principles.

Burke is often portrayed in the media as the pope’s adversary, something the cardinal and Francis have disputed – even as the pope has demoted Burke more than once.

While he has been either removed or sidelined by the pope from some official capacities, Cardinal Burke enjoys great demand worldwide as a speaker for Catholic events – and communion with Rome.

“That report,” Peters said of the Tosatti article, “if true, would suggest something well beyond mere verbal disparagement of a fellow bishop.”

Peters offered a description of the horizontal schismatic for readers.

“The horizontal schismatic is, I suggest, one whose devotion to the pope is so extreme that he regards as disloyal those who don’t share his opinions on all things papal and, for that reason, shuns them,” Peters wrote.

Burke is not alone in being assailed for speaking up about the Francis pontificate in the process of defending Church teaching, as countless others who have questioned or criticized the papacy for confusion and controversy have garnered disdain or rebuke as well.

Papal critics in recent years have been termed racist, accused of not being faithful to Tradition, threatened with excommunication, admonished to “go to confession,” ridiculed as having neurosis and other mental issues and deserving of interdict, and otherwise disparaged and rebuked by prelates close to the pope.

Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy was asked to resign as head of doctrine for the U.S. bishops last year after writing to Pope Francis in a letter that his pontificate is marked by “chronic confusion,” and that the pope teaches with “a seemingly intentional lack of clarity.”

The pope himself has reproved faithful Catholics to not be more Papist than the Pope, and derided them as incoherent, hypocritical, clericalist, lacking in real authority, and unlike Christ.

Critique of the Francis pontificate has been routinely dismissed as gossip as well.

Since release of testimonies from former U.S. apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò implicating the pope and other high-level prelates in covering for accused sexual predator Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Francis has criticized several times an unnamed “Great Accuser.”

A number of prelates close to the pope and others have condemned or mocked Viganò for his testimony.

Peters said that the measures against Burke alleged in Tosatti’s report “could even be plausibly alleged is a sign of the times and deeply troubling.”

Just as Catholics in the pews are to avoid sin and even near occasions of sin, he wrote, “So prelates should avoid schism and even actions suggestive of schismatic attitudes.”

“If such disgraceful directives were quietly issued may they be quietly and quickly withdrawn,” said Peters, “if they were even contemplated may be they be rejected lest they open the door to even deeper divisions than we already suffer.”

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