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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Three years after removing him from the Vatican's top court, Pope Francis has re-appointed Cdl. Raymond Burke to the Apostolic Signatura. This time, he will serve not as prefect, but as a cardinal-member, still a full judge of the tribunal. Along with other prelatial judges seated with him on a panel, he will judge the highest level or hierarchical recourses (administrative appeals) in the Catholic Church.
The announcement of his appointment, along with five others, was made Saturday.
Burke had previously served as head of the Vatican supreme court until his unexpected removal in 2014, at the height of public disagreements over the direction of the Synod on the Family, which seemed to be pushing an agenda to open Holy Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried — a violation of longstanding Church teaching and practice.
Various media outfits have painted Burke as an "enemy" of the pope — a characterization Burke has repeatedly rejected. Even so, Pope Francis in the same year failed to reappoint Burke to other curial positions, including the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops as well as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
After his removal from the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy Father made Burke patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a position considered largely honorary in nature. After a condom scandal broke out in the order in 2016, during which Burke suggested that the man responsible — Grand Chancellor Albrecht Von Boeselager — be removed from his position, Pope Francis effectively sidelined Burke and reinstated von Boeselager.
"I find it profoundly saddening that the grave scandal of the distribution of contraceptives and the advancing secularization of the Order which this immoral action represents are now minimized and, effectively, forgotten," Burke said at the time.
Burke was among four cardinals who publicly signed the dubia, a set of questions submitted to Pope Francis in September seeking clarity on troubling aspects of Amoris Laetitia, the apostolic exhortation on marriage and the sacraments. Burke has made a point of clarifying that Amoris Laetitia is not magisterial "because it contains serious ambiguities that confuse people and can lead them into error and grave sin."
"A document with these defects cannot be part of the Church's perennial teaching," he explained.
So far, two dubia cardinals have passed away, and the Holy Father has yet to answer the set of questions. Burke has implied a formal correction will be made public soon.