August 16, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Catholic Church in the U.S. is undergoing “possibly the worst crisis that it’s ever experienced” right now, Cardinal Burke said tonight of the ongoing sex abuse scandals and the laity’s distrust for bishops who play a part in it.
“That has to be recognized and it has to be dealt with in a thorough manner which is faithful to the Church’s moral law and to the Church herself and to the office of the bishops,” Burke, the former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and one of orthodox Catholics’ most beloved cardinals, told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo.
“I have just completed practically a month’s visit to the United States and I’ve never heard so much anger, so much disappointment, so much frustration from good Catholic faithful,” the cardinal said.
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On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a much-awaited grand jury report on decades of sex abuse and Church cover-up across six different dioceses. The report names 301 priests accused of horrific sex abuse and the various bishops who were involved in keeping the cases quiet.
The grand jury report “needs to be studied carefully,” said Burke, “but it would seem to indicate too, that there was a…failure on [the] part of certain bishops.”
The Pennsylvania report was released in the wake of revelations that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., had sexually harassed and abused seminarians and priests over decades. This came to light alongside revelations that he sexually abused children, including the first person he ever baptized.
Pope Francis accepted the disgraced prelate’s resignation from the College of Cardinals on June 27.
“It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to think that other prelates didn’t know about” McCarrick’s pederasty, Burke said.
Commenting on the Dioceses of Newark and Metuchen giving McCarrick victims settlement money and having them sign confidentiality agreements, Burke said he thinks those who have “made such arrangements” should be included in investigations into the abuse.
“Certainly the investigation would have to include those who’ve made such arrangements and the ascertainment of their culpability in the matter,” he said. “We have to get to the bottom of this matter and this has to stop.”
Cardinal Burke said he “simply listened” as American Catholics shared their anger over these scandals with him.
“It was justified,” he said. “They were expressing my own sentiments. We are in the face of a very grave crisis which is touching at the very heart of the Church because Our Lord acts on behalf of the flock through those shepherds who are ordained to act in His person, teaching, celebrating the sacraments, and governing the Church. There is a serious loss of confidence in our shepherds and that simply has to be restored if we’re true to our Catholic faith. To restore that is to get to the bottom of this whole matter.”
“The faithful, and rightly so, are looking to hear from the shepherd of the universal church, the pope, and also from their own bishops,” said Burke, responding to a question from Arroyo about the Vatican’s silence on McCarrick and its “terse” statement on the Pennsylvania report.
Arroyo also brought up recent comments from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and former bishop of Pittsburgh. His name appears more than 200 times in the grand jury report, and he is now facing demands that he resign. The Washington Post and the Washington Examiner have both run opinion pieces saying Wuerl should step down. The latter article was published with Washington Examiner as the byline, suggesting it represents the opinion of the entire editorial board.
“I don’t think this is some massive, massive crisis,” Wuerl said of the McCarrick scandal. “It was a terrible disappointment.”
“Let’s be honest: we’re dealing here with the gravest of sins and ecclesiastical crimes,” responded Burke.
“We have to focus our attention on that and on doing what is just with regard to all parties involved and for [a] bishop [like McCarrick] who has failed grievously in this area, the Church’s penal remedies…are for his good also,” he continued. “For the bishop to prey upon the flock in…committing mortal sins – this is simply unacceptable.”
Commenting on the U.S. bishops’ newly-rolled out plan to deal with the mounting scandal, Burke reminded viewers, “it’s the responsibility of the Holy Father, the pontiff” to investigate bishops.
‘There’s been a practical apostasy from the faith’
Although the 884-page Pennsylvania grand jury report addressed only priests abusing minors, the McCarrick scandal and new questions about a homosexual network in a Honduras seminary have brought to light the problem of priests preying on other adult men.
“Our Lady warned us at Fatima about an apostasy from the faith,” said Burke. “I believe there’s been a practical apostasy from the faith with regard to all the questions involving human sexuality and principally, it starts with the idea that there can be legitimate sexual activity outside of marriage, which of course is false, completely false.”
“This perversion of sexual mores which is so pervasive in society – we have to admit that it’s also in the Church,” he said somberly. “I’ve seen people suggesting…that now Church discipline doesn’t regard consensual activity between adults as crimes – with persons of the same sex – this is completely false. The Church has always taught… that this is among the gravest of sins a cleric could commit and normally led to his reduction from clerical state.”
“I believe that we need to return to the more explicit and detailed language” of the 1917 Code of Canon Law on predator priests, Burke told Arroyo. “I don’t believe that the 1983 Code intended to change the discipline or to be more relaxed about it, but I think that the language is not adequate.”
The 1917 Code of Canon Law stipulates tough punishment for clerics who have “committed acts of impurity with persons under sixteen years of age, adultery, attack on women, bestality, sodomy, bawdry, incest with blood relations or relations by marriage in the first degree.”
“They are to be suspended, punished with infamy of law, and deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, and in more serious cases they are to be deposed,” it says.
The current Code of Canon Law, updated in 1983, says: “A cleric who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”
The cardinal said that there are cases when priests who have sex with other adults “should certainly be removed from office,” provided such accusations “have been carefully investigated and a proper canonical process has been conducted.”
He and Arroyo also discussed the need for financial accountability, and how sexual and financial misdeeds go hand-in-hand in Church entities.
“The devil is very active” right now, Burke said toward the end of the interview, and that prayer, fasting, and “serious acts of reparation” are needed.
“The sacred liturgy needs to be offered in these times with the greatest sense of the presence of God in our midst and calling upon his help with the greatest seriousness,” he said.
Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley, who faces criticism for fundraising and traveling with McCarrick after his office was warned about the prelate’s predation, announced this week that he is cancelling his appearance at the upcoming Vatican-run World Meeting of Families in Dublin. He is also dealing with accusations that the rector of his St. John’s Seminary sexually harassed seminarians. O’Malley runs a new papal commission on child sex abuse.
Another high-ranking cardinal, Cardinal Kevin Farrell of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, is slated to appear at the World Meeting of Families. He lived with McCarrick for six years but says he didn’t know anything about his roommate’s proclivities for younger men and boys. Farrell formerly belonged to the Legionaries of Christ, founded by sex abuser Marcial Maciel, and denies he knew anything about Maciel’s nefarious activities.
“I never knew anything back then…I never suspected anything,” he said in 2016.
Two other cardinals who will be at the World Meeting of Families, Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Oscar Maradiaga, are also facing tough questions over recent revelations of sex abuse.
Catholics concerned about the World Meeting of Families’ promotion of the LGBT cause organized an orthodox alternative called the Conference of Catholic Families, to be held August 22-23 in Dublin.
Some are calling this the “Summer of Shame” for the Catholic Church.