ROME, March 25, 2014 ( – While the secular media around the world has fallen in love with Pope Francis, the continual claims that he wants to steer the Church away from its traditional teaching on life and family is flatly “false,” one of the Vatican’s highest ranking prelates said in an interview this weekend.

Instead, said Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the pope has made a strategic decision to focus on making the Church appealing, which means that bishops and priests “are even more compelled to underline these teachings and make them clear for the faithful.”

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the head of the Vatican’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, told EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, “The Holy Father has said on different occasions that he expects that bishops and priests are doing this teaching while he’s trying to draw people closer and not have them use [these doctrines] as their immediate excuse for not coming to the faith.”


“At the same time these truths must be taught,” he added, which task remains as always in the hands of the clergy and episcopate, as well as lay Catholics. Burke corrected the impression given by the secular media that Pope Francis is about to change Catholic doctrine or practice on the secular world’s favourite topics of abortion, contraception or homosexuality. The media is supposing “a kind of ‘new evangelization’ which would involve an abandonment of the Church’s unchangeable teachings,” he said.

Instead, by reaching out and making the Church appear more accessible, the pope is in reality undertaking what Burke called the “radical call” to encourage people, the “lost sheep,” to overcome psychological or emotional “barriers to accepting the faith.” He called “false” the media-generated “perception being given in the media that we’re in for a time of radical change in the Church, even the figure of the Roman Pontiff, will no longer be as important.”

“As I said before, they make a mockery of the papal office, because he, above all, is held to the tradition of the faith as it’s come down to us in an unbroken line from the time of Christ himself and the apostles.”

“But at the same time,” Pope Francis has on many occasions “made very clear” Church teaching on such matters as the indissolubility of marriage, the cardinal added. 

He described an exchange with a lay religion teacher who had asked whether it was wrong to continue to teach students Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, against artificial contraception. He said that he had replied that this teaching “is always needed in the Church and if the Holy Father is telling us that he’s devoting his efforts to try to draw close to everyone, then we above all have to make sure that we’re doing that teaching so that it not be lost.” 

Burke’s comments are an expansion of an article he wrote, published by EWTN, in which he quotes Francis in an address to the Apostolic Signatura saying, “It is always necessary to keep in mind the effective connection between the action of the Church which evangelizes and the action of the Church which administers justice. The service of justice is an undertaking of the apostolic life.”

The people drawn to the Church by their attraction to Francis, Burke said, “are in need of hearing what is the truth with regard to the inviolable dignity of defenseless human life, what is the truth about the relationship of man and woman in marriage.”

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This is the “radical new evangelization” that he said Pope Francis is hoping will inspire people “to put aside whatever barriers there have been in their lives.” 

They look “upon the face of Christ, who clearly is alive for us in His Church … and in that moment, if they can look at the compassion of Christ towards them, they will be drawn to the Church and then understand the full meaning of that compassion …which is also a radical call to conversion.”

Burke said this call to conversion of life is the basic requirement for acceptance by the Church, without which the compassion of Christ would be rendered ineffective. “When we turn to Christ … he says ‘repent and believe in the Gospel’.” This, he said is the real “mercy” that comes from Christ through the Church.

Cardinal Burke also said that the controversy will continue to grow in the Church over the recent recommendation by Cardinal Walter Kasper, the former head of the Vatican’s ecumenical office, to allow people in this situation to return to the reception of Communion after a “period of penance” but without altering their lives.

Burke said Kasper’s proposal to readmit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion is “an error.”

At the same time it remains necessary to understand the situation of those who are divorced and remarried, he said, and “to welcome them to the Church to the degree that they’re able to live that life, and for the Church to help them lead the best possible life they can.”

“That’s the mercy,” Burke added, “not to tell them something that’s not true, namely that you can enter another marriage.”

Persons who are divorced and have remarried are “living in a state contradictory to one of the most fundamental teachings” of the Catholic Church, and are therefore barred from receiving Holy Communion. “There are many difficulties with the text of Cardinal Kasper, I say that openly, and I have said it.”

“And I trust that in coming days, as that text is becoming more and more used and is becoming a kind of a rallying point for people who falsely believe that the Church’s practice in this regard could change, I trust that the error of his approach will become ever clearer.”

Asked whether immediately during the consistory there was disagreement with Kasper’s proposal, Burke said, “Clearly there was.” Although the meeting had been “under secrecy,” the document had since been leaked and entered the public domain. Burke said he therefore felt “obliged” to point out that because the text had been given to the College of Cardinals “does not in any way signify that it was well-received by all the cardinals.”

He said that he anticipated “a very strong debate” at the upcoming Synod on the Family, set for Rome in October.

Burke is not alone in making strong public objections to the proposal by Cardinal Kasper. A searing critique has been issued by a prominent Italian cardinal, Carlo Caffarra, the archbishop of Bologna. In the Italian Catholic newspaper Il Foglio, Caffarra said Kasper’s plan, apparently backed by two members of the pope’s advisory “council of eight,” is directly contradictory not only to the words of Christ in the Gospel, the traditional teaching of the Church but of the more recent development of it by the soon-to-be canonized Pope John Paul II.

Cardinal Caffarra said he had consulted on the indissolubility of marriage in John Paul’s document Familiaris Consortio following the last Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in 1980.

Burke said that he counted on the Synod to put a stop to the movement, based in the German episcopate but found in the US, Italy and elsewhere, “of those who, in my judgment falsely, believe that the Church’s practice in this matter can change.”

He agreed “absolutely” with Arroyo that the subject “has the feel of a political campaign” by those who continue to press for a change. “I have the same sense in that there’s this approach that’s being taken that’s very much ‘of the world’ and has no place in the Church,” said Burke.

He spoke of the popularity of a paperback edition of Kasper’s address that has been published and disseminated in Italy. Against this kind of propaganda, he said, “faithful Catholics” have “an obligation” to make a concerted effort to make the Church’s real teaching more widely known “in as clear and as forceful a manner as possible.”

The “position of the Church, the truth about the matter” must “also be diffused in this way so that people can read something solid and good.”

“There will have to be a very strong effort made to present the Church’s teaching and practice in all of its richness and its fidelity to the tradition, in order to combat a kind of popular movement which is actually contrary to the Faith.”

He warned of the power of Kasper’s proposal to influence those who do not know the faith well, saying, “because he is a noted theologian, one could have the impression that this is a very authoritative work, but it’s not.” 

He singled out Kasper’s suggestion for a “penitential way” which would allow people to abandon their previous marriage and have their current liaisons “tolerated” by the Church. This proposal, he said, “is taken from the [Eastern] Orthodox [Churches], and “is very problematic, even for them.” Even the Orthodox, he said, do not claim that these second liaisons are genuine marriages, “which even they recognize can’t possibly be. This is a contradiction to our life in Christ.”

Arroyo asked Cardinal Burke whether he agreed with some headlines in the secular media that had claimed recently that Burke’s removal from the Congregation for Bishops meant Pope Francis is purging “conservative” bishops and cardinals from his administration.

The cardinal replied that he meets “regularly” with Pope Francis who has never indicated he is displeased with his work or activities. It was suggested by some mainstream news outlets that Burke’s frequent interviews and public defenses of Church teaching on life and family were embarrassing the pope, who has chosen to take a different road for his pontificate.

“I take it that if he was [displeased], he would tell me so,” Burke said. About his removal from the Congregation for Bishops, the cardinal said Pope Francis is “renewing all the appointments to the various congregations” of the Vatican apparatus.

“As far as I can see, and as far as the Holy Father has said to me, it was not intended to be a ‘purge’ or an indication that he’s displeased with what I’m doing.”