April 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Burke’s first reaction to Pope Francis’ controversial post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia takes aim at those who claim it is a “revolution” in the Church’s practices.
The most notable advocate of that view in the U.S. is Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, who called the exhortation a “game changer” that could relax the Church’s approach to Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried and those in same-sex relationships.
Cupich’s take was echoed by German Cardinal Walter Kasper, the leading proponent of the practice. “There are openings there, clearly,” for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, Kasper said, according to the German Bishops’ official website. He called the exhortation a “remarkable document.”
In his article for the National Catholic Register today, Cardinal Burke criticizes those who see the exhortation as “a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church, up to now, regarding marriage and the family.”
He continues: “Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful, and potentially a source of scandal not only for the faithful but for others of good will who look to Christ and his Church to teach and reflect in practice the truth regarding marriage and its fruit, family life, the first cell of the life of the Church and of every society.”
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on Friday, Cupich argued that Amoris Laetitia could normalize his approach to those living in what the Catholic Church considers to be objectively sinful situations, such as second marriages when a first marriage hasn’t been declared null and same-sex relationships.
Cupich told the Tribune, “There's not really any doctrine as such that's changed, but there is, I think, a very fresh way that will strike Catholic people in the pews and the priests about how we pastorally deal with people, especially those people whose lives are really very complicated.”
The Tribune reported that although Amoris Laetitia doesn’t grant comprehensive permission for the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion, “it invites them to a conversation and discernment process with their pastors that could lead them to communion one day.”
There is a mindset within the life of the church among Catholics that if in fact they do have marriage breakups and they get into a second marriage that [it’s] kind of over for them unless they can get an annulment. The pope is saying that's not the case. I do think that maybe some priests have been working with people in their own counseling. This is an official way in which we're being encouraged to stay close to those people and reach out to them.
Catholic doctrine specifically teaches that unless those who are divorced and re-married have had previous marriages annulled or are living as brother and sister with their second spouse, then they are committing adultery and should not receive Holy Communion.
The Tribune reported, “Cupich said he hopes the pope's guidelines show divorced and remarried Catholics that they do still belong in the church and give license to priests, like himself, who have been taking that approach for a while.”
Cupich implied that Amoris Laetitia should also open the door to the potential for Holy Communion for those in same-sex relationships. The Tribune writes:
Cupich said that although the pope clarifies that same-sex marriage is not analogous to the church’s definition for marriage, when it comes to inclusion in the life of the church, the same guidelines apply.
“You can’t have one particular approach for a certain group of people and not for everybody,” the archbishop said. “Everyone has the ability to form their conscience well.”
Cupich failed to clarify that the Catholic Church teaches that, “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed. This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man ‘takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.’ In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits” (CCC 1790 – 1791).
Cardinal Burke, the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, offered a sharp contrast to Kasper’s and Cupich’s claims.
In his article at the National Catholic Register, Burke wrote that Amoris Laetitia must be read through the lens of magisterial Catholic doctrine:
With the publication of Amoris Laetitia, the task of pastors and other teachers of the faith is to present it within the context of the Church’s teaching and discipline, so that it serves to build up the Body of Christ in its first cell of life, which is marriage and the family. In other words, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation can only be correctly interpreted, as a non-magisterial document, using the key of the Magisterium as it is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (85-87).
Burke argued that Pope Francis’s exhortation contains the pope’s thoughts but doesn’t change Church teaching or practice. “The Catholic Church…never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium,” he wrote.
“Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium (No. 3),” Burke wrote. “The very form of the document confirms the same. It is written as a reflection of the Holy Father on the work of the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops.”
Burke adds that the Church takes care that “a personal reflection of the Pope, while received with the respect owed to his person, is not confused with the binding faith owed to the exercise of the magisterium.”
“Certain commentators confuse such respect,” which is rightly due to the Pope, “with a supposed obligation to ‘believe with divine and Catholic faith’ (Canon 750, § 1) everything contained in the document,” says Burke. “But the Catholic Church, while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine Office as instituted by Our Lord Himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium.”