DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a packed room Saturday, Cdl. Raymond Burke warned against the growing confusion in the Church and emphasized the immutable truths of the Catholic faith.
Nearly a thousand attended the annual Call to Holiness Conference in Detroit, Michigan, where the former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura entered the room to a standing ovation.
The absence of one of the conference's co-founders, Fr. Eduard Perrone, was noted at the start of the event, the emcee, Fr. Aidan Logan, mentioning him by name and expressing regret over his absence — the first in the more than 20 years since the founding of Call to Holiness in 1996 by both Perrone and his mentor, the late Fr. John Hardon.
Perrone has been placed on a leave of absence ever since July 5, after a man accused him — based on a 40-year-old "repressed memory" — that he was abused by the traditional priest. Perrone has vigorously maintained his innocence and in August passed a polygraph test "with flying colors."
"Fr. Perrone tells me he is overwhelmed by all the love and support you have for him, and he wants you to know how very, very grateful he is for all you have done," Logan said at the conclusion of the conference.
From the first, Burke's speech struck an ominous tone.
"There is no question that the Church is currently experiencing one of the greatest crises She has ever known," began the cardinal in his 45-minute talk.
"The working document, the Instrumentum Laboris, that the special assembly of the synod of bishops for the Pan-Amazon is a frightening manifestation of the gravity of the situation," he continued.
"The document in question constitutes an apostasy from the apostolic faith by its denial of the unicity and universality of the redemptive incarnation of God the Son."
He explained the reasons for authoring "The Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time," written with co-author Bp. Athanasius Schneider, as their attempt to provide clarity in a time of grave confusion.
The purpose of the declaration was "to promote and defend the truth of our Catholic faith in the face of confusion and error and division."
As a result of the declaration, "We were accused of disloyalty to the pontiff," Burke told the audience.
He went point by point through the declaration, punctuating his speech with reflections on the "growing confusion" in the Church today fostered under the current pontiff.
"The See of Peter ... appears to favor the confusion, which daily increases," he lamented, going on to note that the mark of a good shepherd is "to protect the flock against error, confusion and division."
Quoting St. Boniface, Burke said, "The watchdog who does not bark when there is a threat to the flock is useless and harmful" — a remark met with applause.
"Confusion is never good," he later said. "Confusion is always the work of the devil. Always has been and always will be" — another comment greeted with applause.
Addressing the issue of homosexuality, Burke made clear that the declaration reiterates the teachings of the Catholic Church in the face of today's erroneous beliefs that active gay sexuality is a good.
"Now, homosexual acts in certain circumstances are considered to be good and loving," he said, criticizing the prevailing notion that contradicts Catholic teaching.
He also addressed the controversial Abu Dhabi Statement, signed by Pope Francis, which includes the claim, "The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings."
The Christian religion centered on Jesus Christ "is the only religion positively willed by God." The room erupted in loud clapping.
A Q&A session followed, where Burke answered questions about canon law, the magisterium, the purpose of synods, the power of adoration and the Rosary, and the future of the Traditional Latin Mass, among other things.
"It was Pope John Paul II, who was not a canon lawyer himself but saw that this confusion and disorder were causing a terrible suffering in the Church — and he brought this work to completion," said Burke, referring to the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
"You cannot have a peaceful, loving society unless you have good order," the cardinal said, going on to emphasize the need to protect "the sacred realities in the Church and among ourselves — that's the purpose of canon law in the Church. How can we protect the truths of the Church unless we protect sacramental law?"
In response to a question about the role of synods, Burke made clear that a synod "has nothing to do with changing doctrine."
He noted that the Amazon Synod is "one of the distressing things going on right now," that it's "being misused as a tool to advance a certain agenda. One obvious one right now is the perpetual continence of the clergy [and] a weakening of the Church's teaching on sexual morality."
He also had strong words to offer about the magisterium and papal infallibility.
"In the past, very seldom did popes make public statements because he didn't want to confuse the faithful," said Burke. "At present we have a pope who talks a lot" — earlier commenting that the magisterium only encompasses what the pope teaches in a formal way.
"He doesn't do this by interviews on airplanes," he noted. The remark was followed by laughter.
"It's ridiculous and it's absolutely contrary to what the Church has always understood to state that every word that comes out of the pope's mouth is part of the magisterium," he insisted. "That's just wrong."
He condemned this belief as "papalotry" and reiterated that "the Church has never taught that."
On the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, Burke expressed his delight that he had been raised to the altars, cautioning that his writing is often taken out of context by some, who twist his teaching on "conscience" to justify sin.
He also addressed fears that the Traditional Latin Mass might one day be "banned" by the Holy See, saying that Pope Benedict's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum "has a strong, a real foothold in this country, but also around the world, like in Germany and France."
"I can't imagine that would happen," he said, referring to its eventual prohibition.
He also dismissed claims that the Latin Mass would come to an end as soon as the elderly population died out.
"I can tell you as a bishop and a cardinal, when I celebrate the Traditional Mass in the Extraordinary Form, there are some old people like me, but I can tell you there are a greater number of young people" — another comment that was met with enthusiastic applause.
"There are enemies of the Extraordinary Form; we know that," he acknowledged, "but I don't think that they're going to prevail."
In response to a question about the current status of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), he said, "Pope Benedict was very well disposed toward them because he had worked with Abp. Marcel LeFebvre, because he had worked with them at the time the rupture took place, the schism."
"He wanted to reconcile them," he said. "It didn't happen."
"I know this, I've been told this," Burke continued. "Pope Francis would very much like to reconcile them. But a reconciliation has to be real ... and there are questions that have to be answered that haven't been answered yet."
"How would they be received into the Church? Would they have a status like the Anglicans?" he asked. He mentioned two Vatican II documents — Nostra Aetate and Dignitatis Humanae — which continue to be a stumbling block towards full reconciliation.
He also discussed the power and necessity of eucharistic adoration and the Rosary to change the world.
These are "two of the most powerful ways of helping ourselves and helping the whole Church," he emphasized. "I've seen this infallibly, that where there's eucharistic adoration, the life of the family and parish and vocations are coming."
The Rosary is intimately connected to the Eucharist, in that "in the Rosary we are meditating on the whole mysery of faith."
The session was followed by dinner and then an hour of eucharistic adoration at the parish of Assumption Grotto in Detroit, which sponsors Call to Holiness and where Fr. Perrone is pastor.
Past Call to Holiness conferences have included guests like Bp. Athanasius Schneider, Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz, Fr. Peter Stravinskas, Mother Angelica and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, among many others.