December 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – When Catholics who seek to remain faithful to the Church’s perennial teachings hear a Pope calling them “rigid” or “fundamentalist” or “self-absorbed,” they must not become intimidated or discouraged, but adhere even more strongly to the teachings of the faith, said Cardinal Raymond Burke in an exclusive telephone interview with LifeSiteNews over the weekend.
“We believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ [who is] alive in His Church, in her teachings, in her sacred liturgy, in her life of prayer, and in her discipline, as those have been handed down to us in an unbroken line from apostolic times. And so, even though these statements are very hurtful, and I understand that, we have to rise above those feelings of hurt and adhere ever more strongly to what the Church teaches, to her sacred liturgy, to our life of prayer and devotion, and to that discipline, which safeguards and promotes our life in Christ,” he said.
Pope Francis’ frequent and strong criticisms of the faithful have resulted in a compilation called “The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults,” a project with well over a 100 entries and growing weekly.
The frequent comments led First Things editor Matthew Schmitz to write in October in the New York Times that the Pope “has built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads.”
“Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return,” he wrote at the time.
Burke, who is the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said that faithful Catholics should not be discouraged by name-calling.
“I just encourage the faithful not to become discouraged, not to let themselves in some way be intimidated by these kinds of statements, for they know Our Lord in His Church and they have good spiritual guides to keep them close to Our Lord. And therefore studying the faith and entering as fully as possible into the liturgical life of the Church, and striving to lead a life disciplined by the faith, they will remain strong,” he said.
When asked what parents should do when their children hear a Pope saying something that seems at odds with what the Church teaches, Burke said they must intervene by simply affirming what the Church has always taught and practiced.
“We have to make a distinction between two voices or two bodies of the person who is Pope. The one voice, the one body, is that of the Vicar of Christ on earth. And that voice we hear when the Pope announces what the Church has always taught and practiced, promotes, or helps us to understand and apply it in our daily lives. The other voice, the other body, is that of the man, who can have many thoughts and make many statements, which are not related at all to the exercise of the Office of Peter.”
“And so when the Pope seems to say things that are contrary to the teaching of the Church, then it’s not reasonable, neither is it an expression of faith, to cling to those kind of statements as if they were an exercise of the papal magisterium. And this way, parents can help their children to sift out what is the heart of the faith, what is that one teaching-one sacraments-one discipline, which is our life in Christ — from other statements or writings that aren’t an expression of that faith and sacramental life and discipline,” he said.
The Cardinal stressed that Catholics must learn and live out “secure teachings” as found in Church documents such as Familiaris Consortio or Veritatis Splendor.
“It’s important then to give witness to those teachings, to express them, to know them ourselves, and then simply to say, ‘But this is what the Church teaches,’ no matter what the media or others are saying, or even if some quote from the Pope himself seems to say otherwise,” he said.
When asked if a climate of fear in Rome is intimidating other prelates from supporting the dubia that he and three other cardinals submitted to the Pope to ask if Amoris Laetitia conforms to Catholic moral teaching, Burke replied that numbers are not important, but truth.
“I can’t speak for others with regard to a possible atmosphere of fear, all I can say is this, that for me, I know what my duty is as a bishop and above all as a cardinal, who is one of the principle advisors of the Holy Father in his office of preserving and promoting the great tradition of the faith, and that such fear and such intimidation, as it may exist from time to time, simply can’t be a consideration with regard to what I need to do.”
The Cardinal related the example of St. John Fisher in England during the reign of Henry VIII who was the only bishop who upheld the truth of the faith regarding marriage.
“Some obviously tried to discourage him from doing that, pointing out that he was the only one. And he rightly responded that even if he was the only one, the important thing could only be that he is speaking for Christ and fulfilling his duty as bishop,” he said.
Cardinal Burke urged Catholics to not only study the faith but to enter as fully as possible into the liturgical life of the Church, saying that with these they will remain strong.
He said that, though these are very troubled times, the upcoming celebration of the Nativity of the Lord “should give us a new joy and a new courage in being faithful witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alone our salvation,” and expressed wishes that the Lord’s coming would assure the faithful in His love.
“We know that our salvation is found alone in Jesus Christ, who is alive for us in His Holy Church,” said Cardinal Burke. “And so, we ought to rejoice in that objective reality.”
“It’s not an idea, it’s not an ideal; it’s a reality,” he added. “And so I wish for all the faithful a most blessed celebration of the Nativity of the Lord and may this annual celebration confirm all the faithful in their knowledge and love and service of Our Savior Our Lord Jesus Christ in his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
Read the full text of LifeSiteNews' interview with Cardinal Burke here.
Editor's note: Pete Baklinski also contributed to this report.