By Jonathan Ekene Ifeanyi
Speaking on Tuesday at the ultra-conservative Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Cardinal Raymond Burke gave prepared remarks designed to dissuade next month’s Synod of Bishops from doing what Francis had already done. Burke expressed grave reservations about the very proposals that were released the same day in Francis’ Motu Proprio concerning annulments in the Catholic Church. Francis announced his plans to make it “easier” for Roman Catholics to get divorced, though they use the term ‘annulment’. Catholic doctrine does not recognize divorce, and members who divorce and re-marry are considered to be living in sin and are banned from receiving communion and other church sacraments.
It should be recalled that last June, the Vatican released an evil working document for the Synod, called an Instrumentum Laboris. In it are a couple of sections (114 and 115) dealing with streamlining “annulment”, including recommendations by some of the participants in last year’s Synod that diocesan bishops be permitted to carry out the procedure on their own and that the automatic review process be done away with. There was every reason to suppose that these would be on the table for a vote by the Synod in October.
However, apparently realizing that he would not succeed if such a vote is allowed, Francis took matters into his own hands, not only doing away with the automatic review, for which there was widespread support at last year’s Synod, but also allowing local bishops to grant uncontested annulments within 45 days, about which, according to the Instrumentum, there was “no agreement.” Francis thereby served notice that he is prepared to make radical changes in ecclesiastical rules whether or not the upcoming Synod votes for them — as in, certainly, “permitting” a “penitential path” to Communion for those living in the sin of adultery, for the divorced and remarried.
Burke began by declaring that the Synod cannot decide such matters, which would involve amending canon law. “The Synod of Bishops has no authority to change doctrine and discipline,” he said. Burke then proceeded to dump on both recommendations, saying they effectively violated the church’s doctrinal obligation to determine that a given marriage is truly a “nullity.” The whole enterprise, he said, reveals the dangers of “sentimentalism” and “a false compassion,” reflecting a “post-canonical antinomianism” that has afflicted the church since the end of the Second Vatican Council.
Why did Burke go ahead with his speech when, as even the folks in Steubenville cannot have failed to notice, the “pope” had just, on his own authority, promulgated new canon law (here and here) incorporating both recommendations? As the saying goes, Roma locuta est, causa finita est (“Rome has spoken, the case is closed”).
Pontiffs have been laying down canon law on their own say-so since the 11th century, so Burke, traditionalist that he is, can hardly claim that Francis I has no warrant for doing likewise. But as the Washington Post reported Monday, he went so far as to declare in a recent television interview that Francis “does not have the power to change teaching [or] doctrine.”
Thus the cardinal certainly believes this “pope” has acted beyond his authority in changing the annulment procedure as he has done. However, Burke noted that the Vatican already attempted a lessening of the procedures for the United States in the 70s and early 80s, leading to an impression of “Catholic divorce.” Burke firmly rejected the notion that people could be too weak to conform to God’s law on marriage, saying that Our Lord has assured us that He gives to us all the grace we need to live our lives in His will.
“In the present moment when the attacks on matrimony and on the family even within the Church seem the most ferocious,” he said, “it is the Church who must show to the whole of society the truth in all its richness and thus the beauty and the richness of the truth about marriage.”
“The Synod Fathers and all faithful Christians must be willing to suffer,” he added, “to honour and foster Holy matrimony.”
He warned that “confusion and error on holy matrimony” are being “sown by Satan in society and in the Church.” Marriage, he said, is “under a ferocious and diabolical attack.”
Responding to Church leaders who have called for false accommodation with the world, even for silence in the face of homosexual liaisons being accepted as “marriage,” he said we must “call things by their proper name in order not to risk contributing to confusion and error.” That, “according to Divine wisdom, the Church must always speak the truth with love.”
Nominal Catholics will of course ignore Cardinal Burke's warning; for, indeed, the serious challenge to our Faith as Catholics posed by Francis' "pontificate" is what many are even yet to realize. As Kelly Bowring, a theologian, wrote just recently in his piece, ‘Taking Offense at Pope Francis… Just the Beginning’:
“It is not a question as to whether Pope Francis is just a liberal pope, a misunderstood pope, a Jesuit pope, a pastoral pope, or even possibly a heretical pope and an anti-pope...What we do now know is that, as prophecy rightly warned, Pope Francis has begun to wage a campaign against the traditional Church. He is engaging in subtly and even cunningly moving the Church from a concern for revelation, conversion and salvation to one that focuses almost exclusively on humanism, socialism and the environment. The reality of sin and Hell are by effect being undermined. Compassion for the sinner is being emphasized, without equal emphasis on repentance. The problem is that this leads to people choosing hell who refuse to turn their backs on mortal sin. Pope Francis is leading the Church into the greatest crisis in her history, as prophecy said he would and as many commentators are now admitting he is doing.
“Does not the Holy Spirit speak through the prophets, and thus should we not listen to solid divine prophecy, especially as it begins to prove true over time?...Prophecy is clear about what is unfolding and coming, and looking at what is going on in the world and in the Church today confirms the writing is on the wall. Prophecy tells us that the Church is about to be torn asunder and split into two camps, and this by her own ministers, where the visible Church will become the false counterfeit Church and the true Church will have to go underground. It won’t be long now before the divide within the Church becomes formalized and truly colossal. It seems more and more apparent that plans are already underway to form a new church in league with the world; one that by effect becomes more and more opposed to Christ and His Law of truth...
“The last 3 years shows us that as the power of Pope Francis rises, anyone who dares to challenge him is being ignored or removed, even in the highest places within the Church. The offenses we have received from him are already so many it’s hard to keep up. Thus, blessed is he who sees what is going on and thus rightly takes offense at him and courageously stands up for the true Faith in these times...
“I would even say that taking offense at Pope Francis is now the only right and reasonable response. Under his leadership, it seems the Catholic Church is entering the Great Deceit, as he leads the Church to embrace the secular world where sin is no longer being acknowledged as sin. It is becoming clear that he is turning the Church’s teachings upside down. And it seems clear he is camouflaging his real intentions, especially with double talk, so that they are so easily justified in the minds of the innocent, many of who unfortunately are accepting his apparent veiled deceit without compunction”.
Listen to Cardinal Burke’s speech at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=32&v=R7jxS5-wJ8c