ROME, February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The acting head of the Knights of Malta is alleging that Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Order, personally asked for the resignation of a top Order official who had overseen a condom distribution program in the developing world.
That the Cardinal would have made this request himself is being treated as some sort of scandal by his opponents.
But as a prince of the Church with moral responsibility for the Order’s fidelity to Catholic teaching, why shouldn’t he have done so?
No faithful Catholic leader who loves the life-giving truth of the faith would stand idly by when indisputable evidence arises that a high-ranking official in his organization has been handing spiritual poison to others.
And remember that Cardinal Burke only acted after Pope Francis’ express request that he deal with the condom scandal involving Albrecht von Boeselager.
Knights of Malta acting Grand Master Ludwig Hoffmann-Rumerstein has claimed in an interview that he personally witnessed a “conversation” in which Burke asked Boeselager to resign.
And, brace yourself for the absolutely shocking part in this entire matter: Asking a Knight to resign is only something the Grand Master is supposed to be able to do, not the Order’s patron. Gasp.
Never mind the fact that it was Pope Francis who demanded the order’s now-former Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing, resign when this matter came to a head last month, thereby stripping from the “sovereign” order any sense of it being a self-governing body.
Remember it was Pope Francis who last month urged the Grand Master whom he had just made resign to implicate Burke in his letter of resignation as the one who had pushed for Boeselager’s dismissal. This small technicality that Burke may have asked the official to resign in what appears to be an unofficial “conversation” might give the Cardinal’s opponents an advantage to have him punished.
Burke, a thoroughly faithful and compassionate Catholic prelate, is among the world’s foremost canon lawyers, as well as a prolific speaker. He has been humbly and simply urging Catholics around the world to hold fast to Catholic teaching on sexuality, marriage, family, life, and the sacraments.
While Burke has been faithfully preaching this message for years, his words have suddenly taken on special prominence since Pope Francis’ election in 2013. In a pontificate of repeated ambiguity and confusion, with erroneous teaching and practices springing up in diocese after diocese, Cardinal Burke’s clarity and fidelity stands out starkly. It has been welcomed with joy by the faithful the world over.
When Burke perceives that something other than the Catholic Faith — as taught by Jesus Christ and handed faithfully down through the Church — is being propounded from the highest places, he is willing to calmly speak the truth with reverence and serenity without concern for the negative ramifications to his person or position.
For example, Burke criticized the Synod on the Family, stating that it was not possible to offer civilly-divorced-and remarried Catholics living in adultery Holy Communion. He called the final synod report “deceptive in a serious way,” especially for its treatment of the sacraments and of parental responsibility for education. When Francis released his exhortation Amoris Laetitia last year that gave bishops license to allow Communion for adulterers, Burke called the document “not an act of the magisterium,” but a “personal reflection of the Pope” and therefore not “binding in conscience.” He was one of the four cardinals who asked the pope to answer five yes-or-no questions (Dubia) on whether or not Amoris conformed to Catholic teaching on marriage, the sacraments, and conscience.
Burke’s simple and faithful preaching of the perennial teachings of the Church has often been perceived by the faithful as a desperately needed trumpet blast of orthodoxy, even though Burke himself comes across more as a gentle harpist than a loud trumpeter.
The aristocracy may not like him, but the simple faithful just love this humble and smiling cardinal.
To those championing radical reform in the name of Pope Francis, Burke comes across as the socratic pesky “gadfly” of the Vatican. He is constantly getting in the way of their agenda for a “progressive” Church and needs to be squashed.
As Washington post writer Emma-Kate Symons said in an article last week, Burke is a “renegade cleric” whom Francis should “cleanse” as “rot” from the Catholic Church.
“Francis, who has full authority over his cardinals, could fully remove Burke from his remaining sinecure with Knights of Malta, call him in for a pastoral correction on the issue of his unacceptable political interventions,” she wrote.
Pope Francis has indeed been swatting at this gadfly cardinal since becoming pope in 2013.
In 2013, Burke was removed by Francis from the Congregation for Bishops, the influential department that oversees the selection of new bishops. Burke was then demoted by Francis the following year from being the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, to his current role as Patron of the Knights of Malta. If this was not enough, Burke was then removed from the Congregation for Divine Worship last year after submitting the “Dubia” to the Pope.
Now, even Burke’s official position as Patron of the Knights is tenuous with Pope Francis effectively handing over his duties to a new special delegate, Archbishop Angelo Becciu.
The real scandal here is not if Burke partially stepped outside his jurisdiction if, in fact, he actually asked a condom-distributing official to resign from the order of which the Cardinal is Patron. The real scandal is that the official was forcibly reinstated despite solid evidence against him. And even more scandalous is the fact that Pope Francis forced the “sovereign” order’s Grand Master to resign for expelling the one responsible for the contraceptive-distribution.
For the Vatican hierarchy to use this situation as pretext to remove Burke would not only be ludicrous, but it would smack of the most vile hypocrisy imaginable.
The irony of this bizarre drama couldn’t be greater: A pope punishes a faithful cardinal for asking a dissident Catholic official to resign while that same pope forces the chief of that same order to resign for firing the dissident Catholic official. In order to comprehend the bitterness of this irony, it should be noted that a censure of a dissident Catholic is considered an act of mercy to call him back to a sincere practice of faith and save his soul, while to confirm him in his error is considered an act of hatred.
It sounds like a badly crafted Catholic soap opera. But this, unfortunately, is the sorry state the Church finds herself in today. Pray for the Church. Pray for the pope.