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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin, January 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― An American cardinal has stated that a new edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will not have the same authority as the original promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II.

In a December interview with The Wanderer, published in two parts this week, Cardinal Raymond Burke responded to questions regarding a “soon-to-be-published volume entitled Catechism of the Catholic Church with Theological Commentary.” Of particular interest to the cardinal’s interviewer, Don Fier, was the authority of the new text. 

“This new issue of the Catechism will not have the authority of the text that was approved for promulgation in 1994, which will continue to be the authoritative text,” Burke declared. 

“Whatever commentary (editor) Archbishop (Rino) Fisichella and other contributors offer in the new volume will have the worth of their fidelity to the unchanging doctrine of the Church,” the cardinal continued.  

“This is not some new Catechism of the Catholic Church and should not be viewed as such.”

The cardinal added that he asks people to study the official English-language Catechism promulgated in 1994 and underscored that authority is inextricably linked to the authentic teaching of the Church.

“Once again, I emphasize that whatever authority the new edition has will depend on the correctness of its fidelity to doctrine,” Burke said. 

During the interview, the cardinal also recommended a study of the authoritative Catechism in order to be truly transformed by Christ, not merely experience “good feelings.”

“Right now, typical of a modernist approach, it is all sentimentality, of people wanting to have ‘good feelings’ about how they are living and about the Church,” he told his interviewer. 

“But it is not a question about good feelings; it is a question about truth and love. We need to return to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, study it deeply, and conform our lives to what it teaches,” he continued. 

“In this way, our lives will be truly transformed by Christ Himself because the knowledge of Christ is not something that is abstract.” 

The Cardinal underscored that it is the perennial teaching of the Church, found in the Catechism, not the theological opinions of a pope, that must be Catholics’ “point of reference.”

“The only answer in the situation in which we find ourselves at present is to fall back on the constant teaching of the Church, which is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the official magisterial teaching of the Church,” he told his interviewer.  

“That has to be our point of reference. It is available to good priests and faithful members of the laity — and they must have recourse to it.”

Burke gave as his example the Arian Crisis:

“ … When the Arian heresy was rampant, and the heretical element was seemingly going to prevail because the majority of Catholics had become Arians, it was by the heroic insistence on what the Church had always taught about the two natures and one divine Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ that the truth prevailed,” the cardinal explained. 

He noted that St. Athanasius in particular suffered in this struggle to keep the faith. The saint was exiled and even excommunicated by Pope Liberius for the politically-motivated “sake of peace.”  

“St. Athanasius accepted all the suffering inflicted upon him and remained steadfast in fighting for the truth. That is precisely what needs to happen again today,” Burke declared. “Faithful priests and members of the laity must be prepared.”

He had impatient words for the concept of a “Pope Francis magisterium” that sweeps away perennial doctrine.  

“Recently, I talked to two young priests who conveyed a conversation they had with third young priest who was studying moral theology,” Burke recounted. 

“He said to them: ‘We have Pope Francis’ magisterium that is completely new; we now have to abandon all the old categories and develop a new theology to match this magisterium,’” the cardinal continued.

“This is simply preposterous — this is not the magisterium! Priests and the lay faithful must understand this.”

The revised theological commentary for the new edition of the Catechism will contain novel teachings proposed by Pope Francis, such as the condemnation of capital punishment as “intrinsically evil” and “against the Gospel.” In the online edition, a change to paragraph 2267 has already been made. It now reads: 


Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.


Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.


Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and the Catholic Church works with determination for its abolition worldwide. (CCC, 2267)


The new concept of “ecological sin” is also expected to be propounded in the new edition. In a speech he gave to the 20th World Congress of the International Association of Penal Law in Rome, Pope Francis said, “We have to introduce ― we are thinking about it ― to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, the 'ecological sin' against our common home, because a duty is at stake.”

According to the new volume’s editor, Archbishop Fisichella, Pope Francis has written the preface to this new edition himself.

Fisichella is the first president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, a post he received in 2010. This role followed a short stint (between 2008 and 2010) as a controversial president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. During his tenure, Fisichella responded to a notorious abortion case in Brazil by criticizing the bishop who excommunicated the abortionists and everyone else who encouraged the procedure on the unusually young mother. He has served as president of the International Council for Catechesis since 2013. 

In a 2019 interview with America magazine, Fisichella himself emphasized that the Theological Commentary is not itself a work of Magisterium and that each of the 42 commentators “takes personal responsibility for his or her own contribution.” The commentators included such left-wing luminaries as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, whose commitment to women’s ordination, blessings for same-sex couples, and other innovations are well documented.  

Different dates are often given for the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II. He approved the original text in 1992, but there was a delay regarding the English translation, and thus it was not approved until 1994. The official Latin edition was promulgated in 1997.