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Cardinal Burke and Catholic historian Professor Roberto de Mattei at the 2019 Rome March for Life.Stephen Kokx / LifeSiteNews

March 12, 2015 ( – Two cardinals active at October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family offered strikingly contrasted messages on the hot-button issues from the Synod in talks to crowds in England on the weekend.

While American Cardinal Raymond Burke urged Christians to be prepared to face martyrdom if need be in defense of marriage, Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle’s remarks on the issue focused on the need to avoid “harsh” and “severe” language about homosexuals and Catholics who ‘remarry’ without an annulment.

In a speech in northern England at a conference organized by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Voice of the Family, Cardinal Burke said that our societies can “no longer be called Christian” and called for a movement of re-evangelization, starting from scratch.

“In our day, our witness to the splendor of the truth about marriage must be limpid and heroic,” he said. “We must be ready to suffer, as Christians have suffered down the ages, to honor and foster Holy Matrimony.”

He recommended taking the martyrs St. John Fisher, St. Thomas More and St. John the Baptist, as models, three men who “were martyrs in defending the integrity of the fidelity and indissolubility of marriage.”

“The Christian faith and its practice must be imparted anew, as if for the first time, as it was during the first Christian centuries and at the time of the evangelization of our native lands,” Burke said.

“The Christian character of the culture is no longer a given, even though it may have been for centuries.” Christians undertaking this crucial mission, he said, “must give special attention to the sanctity of marriage, to the fidelity, indissolubility and procreativity of the marital union.”

The current situation throughout the world, he said, has grown out of the systematic separation of procreation from the sexual union. “One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our world by the multi-billion dollar industry of pornography, or the incredibly aggressive homosexual agenda which can only result in the profound unhappiness and even despair of those affected by it and in the destruction of society, as it has always done historically.”

“Fundamental to the transformation of Western culture is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union in its fullness and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.”

This evangelization, he added, must start within the Church itself. “If a new evangelization is not taking place in marriages, in the family, then it will not take place in the Church or in society, in general.”

Cardinal Burke warned that western cultures are “profoundly confused and in error about the fundamental truth of marriage and the family,” and that this confusion has entered the Church.

The Church, he said, “under pressure from a totally secularized culture,” has seen “a growing confusion and even error” entering it, “which would weaken seriously, if not totally compromise, the Church’s witness to the detriment of the whole of society.”

This “confusion and error became evident for the world” at the Synod, he said. Burke commented that the notorious mid-term Relatio, which suggested the Church should “accept and value” the “homosexual orientation,” was “a manifesto, a kind of incitement” to bishops to press for abandonment of the Church’s “constant teaching.”

Burke identified the first appearance of this “confusion and error” at the official level with the speech given a year ago at the February 2014 consistory of cardinals by Walter Cardinal Kasper, the German theologian who has been well known for decades as a leading voice in the “progressivist” faction in the Church. Although that consistory was reportedly in an uproar over the speech in which Kasper proposed to drop the Church’s Eucharistic discipline and set aside its moral teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, Pope Francis the following day praised the cardinal for his “serene” theology.

This weekend, at a different UK venue, Cardinal Tagle of Manila decried the use of “harsh” and “severe” language to describe the sins of adultery and homosexual behavior. Following the Flame 2 Youth Congress at London’s Wembley Arena this weekend, he told the Daily Telegraph that the Church needs to relearn its teaching on “mercy.”

The cardinal, who has just been appointed by the pope to head the Catholic Biblical Federation, is starting to be tagged by some observers as a potential candidate for the next conclave. He told the Telegraph that the Church needs to take into account recent social trends and psychology in its discussion on sexuality.

“We have to admit that this whole spirituality, this growth in mercy and the implementation of the virtue of mercy is something that we need to learn over and over again,” Cardinal Tagle said.

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“Part of it is also the shifts in cultural and social sensibilities such that what constituted in the past an acceptable way of showing mercy, … now, given our contemporary mindset, may not be any more viewed as that.”

“I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe,” the cardinal continued.

“Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society. I don’t know whether this is true but I heard that in some circles, Christian circles, the suffering that these people underwent was even considered as a rightful consequence of their mistakes, so spiritualised in that sense.”

“But we are glad to see and hear shifts in that.”

He reiterated the oft-repeated insistence by the churchmen seeking to change the Church’s “pastoral practice” to allow people in “irregular” sexual unions to receive Holy Communion, saying that it was not about changing the Church’s doctrine. He repeated the proposal of Cardinal Kasper and his followers, saying that it should be a matter of determining “individual cases.”

“Here, at least for the Catholic Church, there is a pastoral approach which happens in counselling, in the sacrament of reconciliation where individual persons and individual cases are taken uniquely or individually so that a help, a pastoral response, could be given adequately to the person.”

The cardinal continued, “Every situation for those who are divorced and remarried is quite unique. To have a general rule might be counterproductive in the end. My position at the moment is to ask, ‘Can we take every case seriously and is there, in the tradition of the Church, paths towards addressing each case individually?’ This is one issue that I hope people will appreciate is not easy to say ‘no’ or to say ‘yes’ to. We cannot give one formula for all.”