(LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Raymond Burke has openly criticized Pope Francis for his recent endorsement of the pro-LGBT group New Ways Ministry, clarifying that his words are merely the “opinions of a man” and have “nothing to do with the Magisterium of the Church.”
In a wide-ranging interview Thursday on EWTN’s The World Over, the American cardinal discussed his “miraculous” recovery from COVID-19, the attacks launched against the Traditional Latin Mass from the Vatican and high-ranking prelates, and the Pope’s letters of gratitude to pro-LGBT advocate Sr. Jeannine Gramick of the controversial New Ways Ministry.
Alongside his criticisms of Francis’ personal musings, Burke has defended the right of Catholics not to receive the COVID jabs, citing “Catholic teaching” as the basis for rejecting shot mandates while criticizing Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin for implementing a jab requirement.
He added that “forced vaccination is a violation of human rights.”
The former head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, also defended the Latin Mass, explaining that its use has “absolutely not” been a cause of disunity in the Church, and that there is nothing “in the documents of the Second Vatican Council that would lead to a banning of the traditional way, of the traditional posture or position of the priest during the celebration of the Mass.”
Regarding the Pope’s praise of the work of New Ways Ministry, Burke maintained that the position taken by previous popes and entered into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis in 1999 still stands, that Gramick’s teaching on homosexuality does “not faithfully convey the clear and constant teaching of the Catholic Church.”
Burke added that Pope Francis’ personal opinions on the matter have “have nothing to do with the Church’s teaching.”
Below follows a full transcript of the interview:
Raymond Arroyo: First of all, how are you feeling? And are you having any lingering effects from the COVID recovery?
Cardinal Raymond Burke: In general I’m feeling very well and I’m returning more or less to a normal pace of life. The lingering effect has been on my lungs. The virus attacked in a very vicious way my lungs and so there’s some healing yet that has to take place and the doctors tell me that they don’t know a lot about this; how long it takes, but that it could take upwards of a year or so. I’m getting stronger all the time, but that’s the one lingering effect. Of course I was on a ventilator for nine days which were nine days lost for me – I don’t have any recollection at all of that –and so when I came out from the from that intubation I couldn’t even stand up and I had to regain all of my ability to stand, to walk, to negotiate stairs, and thanks be to God that has gone well, and that was part of the reason for the long recovery. And then as people who’ve had this will tell you that there was this terrible fatigue that I had. I left the hospital on September 3rd and for about a month I was just tired all the time: it didn’t matter how many hours I slept at night, I would wake up in the morning tired. It’s a terrible thing but that passed too, thanks be to God and yeah, I’m tired a little earlier in the day than I used to but during the day I’m quite fine.
I became ill quite suddenly and then I was very quickly put on the ventilator, but when I came out from that, I think it was on the 20th of August, and I began to read these messages and to learn about all the people who were praying for me, I was really overwhelmed with it and just filled with a profound gratitude. I have to say that when they took the tubing out and I was conscious again, that I had an immediate sense that our Blessed Mother had been taking care of me all the time, and I say this very sincerely. The doctors had informed my good sister Mary that there was really not any hope that I was going to survive this, and that she should put my things in order, and I have no question in my mind that it was all these prayers that were raised up to Our Lord and the prayers that He heard, and saved me for some work now that He has for me to do. But I had immediately that very strong sense and it has remained with me; it really was miraculous, and we should never doubt the power of prayer. But in this instance, I have experienced it in a remarkable way because I knew I was dying and I really wasn’t at all certain that I would survive. When I then gained my consciousness again, I learned about all these prayers that were offered, I understood what had happened.
In many reports of your illness you were portrayed, Your Eminence, as a vaccine denier and skeptic. Even the pope made reference to you as a denier on the papal plane returning on his trip from Slovakia in September. He said: “Even in the college of cardinals there are some deniers and one of those, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus: the irony of life.” What did you think when you heard those comments that you were a denier and a skeptic of vaccines? Are you?
Well, no, I have never said to anyone that he or she should not be vaccinated. I have insisted that the question of having the vaccination is a personal decision, it’s an exercise of a fundamental human right, and that I’m absolutely opposed to forced vaccination, to these mandates. But I have not taken a position of being against the vaccine. On the other hand, we have only one Savior, Our Lord Jesus Christ: we put ourselves in His hands, and vaccinating the whole world is not going to save the world. and that there is this kind of rhetoric today where people think that if that if everyone were vaccinated everything would be just fine; that isn’t correct thinking for a Christian.
And scientifically invalid I might add as events have proven particularly with this omicron variant. The Vatican however, Your Eminence, is currently mandating vaccines for all employees. It’s been encouraging that everyone, including children, be vaccinated. Several members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard have lost their jobs for not receiving the jab. There are no numbers of reporting on other jobs that have been lost so far, we just don’t know. Your reaction to the Vatican’s vaccine mandate especially now, when as we mentioned it’s been widely reported the vaccine’s not effective against omicron, and several European countries have now – namely England and Spain – have lifted their vaccine mandates?
The Vatican’s position on this is very severe, there’s no question about it. You cannot enter for instance the apostolic palace or other offices of the Vatican unless you can demonstrate that that you are vaccinated and this is a very severe policy. I understand – I don’t know personally but I understand – that that there are a number of people who cannot come to work because they’re not vaccinated, and of course their absence from work is classified as unjustified and therefore they aren’t paid: and also, I have heard that a number of the Swiss Guards had to leave the service of the Guards because they chose not to be vaccinated. As I said before I believe that the forced vaccination is a violation of human rights, and also there are normal precautions which can be taken with regard to the spreading of any kind of illness and those precautions should be taken; but it’s correct: there are a lot of people who have been vaccinated who now have contracted seemingly this omicron variation. To me the bottom line is that the vaccination, as it is, is an experiment. We don’t have the necessary experience with the vaccine, and so people who take the vaccine are accepting to be part of an experiment.
Yes, and as you mentioned there have even been Vatican officials who’ve now contracted COVID, many of them triple vaxxed in some cases. Tell me how this squares though with Catholic teaching because the CDF document of last year, of last December, said you can in good conscience and as a good Catholic decide not to take these vaccines, and that’s perfectly licit, but now we seem to be getting a different message, at least in word, from the Vatican, to say nothing of these mandates they’ve dropped on employees.
What the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith said is Catholic teaching. A forced vaccination of people is no part of Catholic teaching and that’s all I can say: this has never been in the Church’s teaching, in the document of the Congregation. The CDF was clear about that and I thought that it was understood. But then the Vatican itself has taken this position which really doesn’t square with that teaching and it’s causing a great deal of suffering.
Your Eminence, I want to move on to another topic: the continued support of and attacks upon the traditional Latin Mass since Pope Francis’ motu proprio “Guardians of Tradition” that was released in July. In the archdiocese of Chicago where the Latin Mass has practically been banned – Cardinal Blase Cupich issued rules last month on Christmas day that banned the use of the traditional liturgy on Christmas, Easter Sunday, and the first Sunday of each month and other holy days; now Cardinal Cupich explains his reasoning for these new rules is the following: “To foster and make manifest the unity of this local church as well as to provide all Catholics in the archdiocese an opportunity to offer a concrete manifestation of the acceptance of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical books.” Cardinal Burke, what is the fear of the Old Rite based upon, and is the ongoing celebration of the Latin Mass a challenge in your mind to the Second Vatican Council or the liturgical books that came out of it?
Absolutely not. In many dioceses now for many years, some of the faithful have been assisting at the celebration of the Holy Mass, especially on feast days, according to the more ancient usage, the usus antiquior, the extraordinary form as it’s called today. That hasn’t been any cause of disunity. In fact I served in two dioceses and it was a great blessing to have these communities who were following those ancient rites as they’ve been handed down to us from the time of pope Gregory the Great and even before, and I don’t want to talk about them as if they’re simply antiquities, not at all! The sacred liturgy is a living reality: it’s Christ himself acting in our midst to sanctify us, and the Holy Mass in the most wonderful way possible by His renewing His sacrifice on calvary sacramentally, and then nourishing us with His own Body and Blood. And this remains the reality, so that the form of the Mass as it was set forth after the Council of Trent but as it had existed for centuries before is a living reality, and you can’t deny that. With regard to the Second Vatican Council many things that happened after the Council with regard to the sacred liturgy have no foundation whatsoever in the in the documents on the sacred liturgy, and intelligent people who have studied these matters know well that there were many abuses following the Council – the so-called spirit of the council, and the whole way in which the liturgy was reformed, the rites were reformed. So there are legitimate questions. Some of them have been addressed, some need yet to be addressed. But Pope Saint John Paul II for instance, in the last years of his pontificate, was continually insisting on the need to address the sacred liturgy and to restore the transcendence of the liturgical action: namely that it’s Jesus Christ Himself who acts in our midst, comes into our midst through the sacred liturgy. And, of course, Pope Benedict XVI was a wonderful teacher in that regard, and Summorum Pontificum, his motu proprio by which he made more accessible the celebration of the extraordinary form, as he called it, was a great gift and was proceeding in the exercise of that gift. The use of that gift was a great gift in the church. I don’t understand this. I have a lot of contact with the oratories and parishes that celebrate the extraordinary form, and with priests, and it’s all positive. They don’t think of themselves as being the real Church or better Catholics than anyone else: they simply find a tremendous spiritual nourishment through these ancient rites, the traditional form of the mass. And why should that be denied to them?
Your Eminence, a priest in the Chicago diocese asked to be allowed to use the ad orientem posture, facing the East during mass: he was denied. When he protested, he was charged with inciting disobedience against the diocesan bishop. Has the ad orientem posture been abrogated, forbidden by the Council or the Church and what does the all of that have to do with the Latin Mass?
Any mass can be celebrated facing the Lord or facing the east ad orientem versus Dominum, and in fact many people tell me, and it makes perfect sense, that it’s a very beautiful thing to have the priest at the head of the congregation offering the Mass when everyone is facing Our Lord, so this makes it clear that the sacrifice is Our Lord’s sacrifice. We worship in spirit and truth in Our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s true that that the more ancient usage was certainly to celebrate Mass facing the Lord, facing the east, but I don’t find anything in the documents of the Second Vatican Council that would lead to a banning of the traditional way, of the traditional posture or position of the priest during the celebration of the Mass; and why this is now being brought forward I don’t understand.
Your Eminence, the practical effect of this, I think people haven’t given due consideration in Rome, what I’m hearing is so many of these Catholic communities – and again these are small groups of Catholics but they’re fervent, the church is packed for these traditional Latin Masses – many of them are now going over to these Society of Saint Pius X chapels. Is the intention here on the part of some in Rome to drive those Catholics attached to this rite to the Society of Saint Pius X and then declare them all schismatics at some later date? Why create this division while talking of accompaniment?
I don’t know. I’ve been told that too, that the thinking of some is that that anyone who is attracted to the more ancient usage should simply go over to the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, but that’s absolutely wrong because the more ancient usage is an integral part of the life of the Church it has been along all the centuries. Even after the introduction of the Novus Ordo, as it’s called in the more recent usage, the Church has always permitted to individuals and to groups the possibility of the use of following the more ancient usage. And so this idea that somehow if you are attracted to the usus antiquior you’re a schismatic, I mean this is simply wrong and it’s wrong to drive people in that direction. But Our Lord is with us in the Church: He told us he would remain with us always in the Church, and so we have to stay in the Church and fight to preserve and to promote and cultivate the liturgical life of the Church, also through the extraordinary form. And so I tell people we don’t have a choice. Saint Athanasius was exiled, he was excommunicated, he suffered so many humiliations for defending the truth of the faith, but he never left the Church. Padre Pio is another example more recent: he suffered a great deal at the hands of the Vatican and yet he remained faithfully in the Church, and this is what we have to do. Our lord isn’t going to permit – I know this – Our Lord is not going to permit that this beautiful gift of the more ancient usage, the beautiful gift of these rites will be lost. It’s clear that He hasn’t permitted it and since the time of the Council there’s been a continual growth and interest in the more ancient usage. I know so many lay faithful and also priests who have told me that being able to assist at the Holy Mass according to the usus antiquior has so helped them to deepen their understanding and their appreciation and their participation in the Holy Mass.
I’ve had a number of priests tell me it wasn’t until they either assisted or celebrated the old rite that they fully understood and then brought a new sacrality and devotion to the new one, because one feeds the other, it stands on the back of the other. But it is as you mentioned, Your Eminence – and I would add Mother Angelica’s name to that list of martyrs for the faith fighting and being abused by authorities at times over the liturgy, let’s face it – it is curious and bizarre to me that at the same time that the Vatican is inviting protestants and Anglicans to walk with the Roman Catholic Church in this synod, we are basically treating very faithful Catholics of a living beautiful tradition of the church as if they’re lepers and saying there’s no room for you at the inn. George Weigel called Traditionis custodes “theologically incoherent, pastorally divisive and unnecessary.” Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence is calling on the Church to support those attached to the old rite. Do you think this is going to be an ongoing struggle here, and how best to fight it?
It will be, and my counsel to people is: continue to do what you’ve been doing. This is nurturing your faith, this is nurturing your closeness to your bishop and your closeness to the whole Church, and that is the way that we can best fight this battle, and then to vindicate our rights in the Church, to make recourses when injustices are done to legitimate communities of the faithful. And, of course, there are also institutes of the consecrated life or societies of apostolic life whose particular charism is the celebration of the liturgy according to the roman rite according to the more ancient usage, and to promote that. It’s their right to do that. So I believe that there will continue to be a very strong response to the situation and God willing – and I’m sure that Our Lord will bless it – that we will return to a regular free usage of the more ancient usage of the Roman rite.
In the meantime, it’s going to be very difficult when many of these priests are not allowed to celebrate the Latin Mass in a parish setting, so I guess this goes underground like as it was in days gone by and in Communist China, I guess that’s where the whole world is now.
Your Eminence, in December pope Francis wrote a letter praising the work of sister Jeannine Gramick, the head of the very controversial New Ways Ministry, a group condemned by the Bishops’ Conference in the US and two previous pontificates. The Pope praised her work for her outreach to LGBTQ Catholics. His letter fully contradicts John Paul II and Ratzinger’s 1999 admonition against her work. What are your thoughts on this letter and the message it sends to the Church and the wider world?
Well, the church’s response to the New Ways Ministry, and at that time he was still alive, father Nugent, and sister Jeanine Gramick is found in a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official organ of communication of the of the Church, in 1999, and you can read it there, and what’s written there is as true today as when it was written. What these personal acts of the pope are, are exactly that: these are acts that he is taking on personally, but they have nothing to do with the Church’s teaching as far as I’m concerned. What I read that was quoted in the media of the letter – or letters, I’m not sure – which is written to Sister Jeanine, these are simply the opinions of a man, but they have nothing to do with the Magisterium of the Church. That’s found very carefully set forth in that document: when a document is published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis this is very significant: it indicates to us that it is in a particular way an expression of the Church’s doctrine and discipline.