ROME – Cardinal Raymond Burke, the soon-to-be-former head of the Vatican’s highest court, has again lamented the “confusion” generated by last month’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family, saying he is praying “very fervently” that it will be ended in the coming year leading up to the second session next October.
The publication of the controversial midterm report, Burke told CNSNews.com in an interview published Thursday, caused “a scandal” in the Church.
“The secular media, not without reason, referred to it as an earthquake in the church,” he said. “While some bishops and others excused it saying well this wasn’t a doctrinal statement, it was just a report of what was being discussed in the synod, the very fact that these matters were being discussed and questioned by the presidents of the conferences of bishops, by the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and by other special appointees of the Holy Father to the synod caused a tremendous confusion and could even induce the faithful into error with regard to the teaching about marriage and other teachings.”
“And so to me this was a very serious responsibility to try to correct as quickly and as effectively as possible the scandal caused by the midterm report,” he added.
Burke was one of a handful of bishops who spoke out strongly against the mid-term relatio, calling it deficient in its foundations both in its relation to Scripture and the church’s theological tradition, the two pillars of Catholic theology.
He said the issue of the nature of marriage is at the center of Catholic identity: “The very foundation of the life of the church, the first cell of our life, in the marital union and the formation of the family.”
If the Church’s leadership tries to abandon that teaching, “if we don’t uphold the sanctity of the marital bond, we have really not only abandoned the Catholic faith but really abandoned the Christian faith in the sense that we are abandoning the natural law itself.”
Burke was one of the principle promoters of the now-infamous “book of five cardinals,” published in English by Ignatius Press, titled “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” that reiterated the Church’s teaching on marriage. Rumours continue to circulate around Rome that the book’s distribution to the Synod bishops was actively blocked by the Synod’s administrator, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri.
In the CNSNews interview, reporter Terence P. Jeffrey asked the cardinal bluntly, “Can any priest or bishop overrule or change what Jesus declared about marriage?”
“No, absolutely not,” Burke replied. “The priests and bishops are called to be faithful to the truth. Our office is to teach this truth and to assist the faithful to live it, but we can never even under some supposed pastoral approach either alter or deny the truth about marriage.”
And this applies to the pope too, he said: “It’s not within his power, and this is very clear in the teaching of the Church that if a marriage has been validly celebrated and consummated it cannot be separated. It cannot be ended by anything except death itself.”
Meanwhile Cardinal Burke is not the only one expressing his hopes for the coming year. Archbishop Bruno Forte, the principal author and defender of the notorious mid-term relatio, is quoted by America magazine saying, “We hope that in this year the laity will make their voices heard, and that the bishops listen.”
Forte, appointed by Pope Francis as special secretary of the Synod, said in an October 28 speech at the University of Social & Medial Culture in Toruń, Poland, “During the debate on the divorced and remarried, a minority of the bishops voiced the opinion that we should keep the Church doctrine as it always was, that remarried people should not get Communion.”
“We all of course hold this view until the pope will decide otherwise,” he added.
In comments translated by Gloria TV News, Forte said, “The other part of the bishops pleaded for the path of mercy. Holy Communion is not bread for perfect people, but for those who are on the way.”
Read the full text of Cardinal Burke’s interview here.