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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In the past few years, Cdl. Raymond Burke has often been characterized by the mainstream media as Pope Francis' nemesis — a characterization he is rejecting.
Burke, one of the four dubia signees, has spoken out on issues during this pontificate that sometimes appears to pit him against Pope Francis and his agenda.
"I've never had the impression that he thinks I'm his enemy," Burke said in a recent interview with the New York Times. "He's never said that to me. I don't meet him frequently, but in the encounters I've had he's never reprimanded me or accused me of having inimical thoughts or attitudes toward him."
But, Burke concedes, Francis appears to take issue with his leadership on theological issues.
"It's clear that the pope doesn't want me in any leadership position, that he doesn't see me as the kind of person he wants to be giving any strong direction to things," said Burke. Still, he insists, "I've never had the impression that he thinks I'm his enemy."
In December of 2013, Pope Francis removed Burke from the congregation of bishops, and then he removed him from the Apostolic Signatura to name him Cardinal Patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta. Then in 2016, Francis took that away. The cardinal notes that Francis "left me with a title," but admits "I don't have a function."
In spite of his relegation under Francis, Burke continues to teach the Faith, pure and unblemished, even when this includes criticizing the words and actions of the pope or other bishops.
"You won't find me ever criticizing the pope personally," he clarified. "I tried to always communicate directly with the pope. … I don't like to play games with people, to pretend that I'm thinking one thing while I'm thinking the opposite."
Burke had some specific thoughts about the 2014 Synod of the Family. He could not remain silent in the face of authoritative voices within the synod suggesting changes to basic moral doctrines.
"I saw what I judged to be harmful directions in the church," Burke said. "When I saw this whole discussion in the synod on the family calling into question the foundations of the church's teaching on human sexuality, I had to speak up because it was my duty."
He also made it known that he had problems with the recent Amazon synod, particularly its preliminary working document, which he believed was laced with pantheism and universalism. He made a point to praise Alexander Tschugguel, the Austrian man who took the pachamama statues from the church of Santa Maria del Traspontina and threw them into the Tiber River.
"I can only express my respect for him and my gratitude for his courageous witness to the faith," said Burke.
Burke also could not remain silent on the damage that has come from the papal encyclical Laudato Si. Not only have some individual bishops conferences used footnote 351 to allow the reception of Communion for those who are civilly divorced and "remarried," but Germany has gone even further.
On this, Burke remarked, "The Catholic Church in Germany is on the way to becoming a national church with practices that are not in accord with the universal church."
"Calling for a special rite for people of the same sex who want to marry. Permitting the non-Catholic party in a mixed marriage to regularly receive the Holy Eucharist. These are very serious matters, and they've basically gone unchecked," he continued. "The successor of St. Peter exercises an essential office of teaching and discipline, and Pope Francis, in many respects, has refused to exercise that office."
Despite his misgivings, Burke insisted he believes that Francis is a legitimate pope. "I name him every time I offer the Holy Mass, I call him Pope Francis, it's not an empty speech on my part," he explained.
On being accused of being "old-fashioned" and "out of touch," Burke contended:
If the Catholic Church were simply a political institution, I think your description would be quite accurate… But the church is always governed by the living tradition, which is a question of grace, of divine grace in the church. So I trust that somehow the Lord will bring all of this to a good conclusion. But I think there's a lot of suffering to be endured going forward.
Many faithful observers affirm that Cdl. Burke is not the enemy of Pope Francis, but instead the enemy of falsehood and unorthodoxy. They note that he has consistently spoken out in defense of Catholic truths now under attack from within, and suggest this may be the reason he is often portrayed Francis' adversary.