Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Church’s most outspoken defenders of perennial Catholic teaching, suggested that Pope Francis could be leading a “schism” if he were to put his “stamp” of approval on the Amazon Synod’s controversial working document that has been criticized by top-ranking prelates, including Burke, as constituting apostasy, heresy, and “false teaching”.
The Cardinal made this comment in a wide-ranging interview with Ross Douthat that was published November 9 in the New York Times. Douthat conducted the interview with the Cardinal between mid-October and early November.
It was while discussing the Amazonian Synod that the Cardinal mentioned the possibility of a schism in the church.
“While the final document [from the Amazon Synod which concluded Oct. 27] is less explicit in the embrace of pantheism, it does not repudiate the statements in the working document which constitute an apostasy from the Catholic faith,” stated Burke.
“The working document doesn’t have doctrinal value. But what if the pope were to put his stamp on that document? People say if you don’t accept that, you’ll be in schism — and I maintain that I would not be in schism because the document contains elements that defect from the apostolic tradition. So my point would be the document is schismatic. I’m not.”
Douthat then pressed Burke to explain the implications of the Pope backing a document that is schismatic, stating: “But how can that be possible? You’re effectively implying that the pope would be leading a schism.”
To which Burke replied: “Yes.”
Douthat then asked: “Isn’t that a deep contradiction of how Catholics think about the office of the papacy?”
Burke responded: “Of course. Exactly. It’s a total contradiction. And I pray that this wouldn’t happen. And to be honest with you, I don’t know how to address such a situation. As far as I can see, there’s no mechanism in the universal law of the church to deal with such a situation.”
The Cardinal, who was one of the signers of the dubia submitted to Pope Francis that asked for clarity regarding the Pope’s moral teachings in his 2016 exhortation Amoris Laetitia, spoke about “schism” elsewhere in the interview, making it clear that faithful Catholics who are dismayed over the current crisis within the Catholic Church cannot “go into schism” as a way of solving the problems.
“Schism, that can never be the will of Christ. Christ can never will a division in his body. People come to me and say, look, cardinal, it’s time, we have to go into schism. And I say no, it’s not possible. Our Lord can’t want that, and I’m not going to be part of any schism,” he said.
When asked elsewhere in the interview if he believes Pope Francis to be a legitimate pope, Burke replied: “Yes, yes. I’ve had people present to me all kinds of arguments calling into question the election of Pope Francis. But I name him every time I offer the Holy Mass, I call him Pope Francis, it’s not an empty speech on my part. I believe that he is the pope. And I try to say that consistently to people, because you’re correct — according to my perception also, people are getting more and more extreme in their response to what’s going on in the church.”
The interview comes about two weeks after the closing of the Amazon Synod that took place in Rome. The event was plagued with controversy from the beginning after an October 4 ceremony in the Vatican Gardens involving the pagan goddess “Pachamama” was held in the presence of Pope Francis and top-ranking prelates. The October 4 ritual, captured on video, shows Pope Francis blessing the pagan statue before receiving it as a gift.
Several replicas of the statues were seized from Santa Maria in Traspontina Church near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Oct. 21 and thrown into the Tiber River. On Oct. 25, Pope Francis asked “pardon of the people who were offended by this act” and referred to the wooden artifacts as “Pachamama statues.”
Eight prominent cardinals and bishops have condemned the pagan “Pachamama” rituals at the Vatican, calling them “appalling idolatrous profanations,” “demonic sacrilege,” and “alien to Christianity.”
The Amazon Synod’s working document was criticized for stating that the Amazon territory was a “particular source of God’s Revelation” and then using this, along with the so-called needs of the indigenous peoples, to push for the relaxation of priestly celibacy and for ministries for women. The final document produced at the synod’s conclusion called for married men who are already deacons to be admitted to the priesthood and for “ministries” to be “developed” for women.
Cardinal Burke told a Catholic conference in Detroit on Oct. 26 that “there is no question that the Church is currently experiencing one of the greatest crises which she has ever known.”
“Today perhaps as at no time in the past there is an ever more diffuse phenomenon of general confusion and error regarding doctrine and morals within the Body of Christ,” he said.
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