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Church teaching is ‘liberating’ for those in irregular unions: Cardinal Burke

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ROME – U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, has challenged families to be “counter-cultural” and stand up to the secularized culture, in an interview with Vatican Radio. Burke identified several key areas that the bishops at the ongoing Synod on the Family must focus on.

Asked what the proper way is to approach those who are in “irregular” situations after having divorced and civilly remarried, Cardinal Burke, the head of the Vatican’s Apostolic Tribunal, said that such people “have a very particular need of the Church’s care.” The Church holds that even in an irregular situation, “they can convert themselves more and more to Christ and conform themselves more to Him.”

“It is not easy; it is one of the more particularly challenging situations in which a Christian can find him or herself, but nevertheless there is grace to respond in a way that is true to the teaching of Christ and therefore liberating.”

The cardinal said that “defective catechesis” on marriage over the last “forty or fifty years” has undermined the ability of families to defend themselves from “secularization,” and raised concerns about the incursions of “gender theory” into schools and the “homosexual agenda.”

“It is only in the family that the true sense of who we are as man and woman is taught effectively both by the example of the father and mother, but also in catechesis to amplify that and assist the parents in the fuller teaching of the faith,” he said.

“When God is no longer taken into account, and His plan for creation is no longer considered, we have the pretense to decide for ourselves the meaning of our own lives and the meaning and destiny of our world, the family suffers first and foremost.”

The cardinal warned that the “subtle influence” of the secularized culture invades the family through television and the internet and “above all” through the “horrible reality” of internet pornography.

Burke, as the highest authority on canon law in the Church besides the pope, has been at the centre of the controversies surrounding the Synod. He is the co-author of a book outlining the Church’s teaching on marriage, particularly on its indissolubility, that he said is offered as a guide and assistance to the Synod bishops.

Cardinal Burke said that the book was intended as a response to the speech by Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals on February 20, where Kasper offered the “suggestion” that the Church offer Holy Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

“A group of us decided to ponder [Kasper’s argument] more deeply,” and respond “in a systematic way,” Burke said. He defended the teaching of the Church, saying that it can be known through the use of reason. “Marriage is part of our human nature and therefore it is taught by natural law,” he said. Marriage is “a beautiful call, a way to eternal salvation—not only to … happiness now on earth.”

He said that it is “a big mistake” to approach the problem of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics “simply from the point of view of trying to figure out how to admit persons in irregular unions to the sacraments.”

This would “miss the point of the authentic pastoral care that these couples need.” The Church has always helped people who cannot get out of “irregular unions” to “live chastely” and “as justly as they can in that situation.”

As to the enormous media hype surrounding the Synod, largely generated by Cardinal Kasper and his supporters in the Church and in the secular media, Burke said it is good that the message has got out about the Synod, but decried the misrepresentation.

He denounced the creation of “expectations which are unrealistic and actually not true to the nature of the Synod” and “in a more serious way, not true to the doctrine of the faith.”

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“That part is very sad,” he said. “It has been going on now for several months, which is not a good situation. The Church’s teaching needs to be made clear now and her fidelity to Christ needs to be very clear in the Synod.”

He concluded, saying, “Fundamentally, what I hope will emerge from the Synod is this beautiful truth about the human person, who has written into his nature the call to union and communion between man and one woman, which is faithful, which is indissoluble, and which by its very nature is procreative.”

Burke’s comments are in line with those of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who said that “for the first time in history” the union of marriage, family and life “is being torn apart.” Archbishop Paglia, in an interview with the National Catholic Register last week, said that in the modern world, we are “in a sort of delirium of omnipotence,” in which each person “recomposes this unity in a way pleasing to himself.”

“We are going towards a ‘de-familied’ society and therefore weaker and less solid.”

The Church and society must this trend “confront head-on,” Paglia said. He also mentioned the threat of the “demographic crash,” caused by the decreased birth rates produced by a global reliance on artificial contraceptives. Added to this is the huge increase in the number of people who live alone or who are in single-parent families.

“What does this mean? It means that the future is cut in half. It means that the economy and attention to the future is weaker. It means that the crisis of society is grave because the pyramid is turned upside down: many elderly and few young people. To this is added the crisis of relationships between the generations."

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