ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - An American cardinal is cutting ties with Steve Bannon following a report from LifeSiteNews.
He announced his resignation from the DHI after a report from LifeSiteNews claimed that the cardinal was involved in arranging a meeting between Bannon and Frédéric Martel — author of the book In the Closet of the Vatican.
Martel, a gay man, wrote the book about allegedly rampant homosexuality among clergy at the Vatican. But some critics say the book is marred by gossip and hearsay. Bannon was apparently interested in making a documentary film modeled after Martel's book.
In his statement, Cdl. Burke noted that LifeSiteNews did not confirm with him whether he was involved in the meeting between Bannon and Martel, saying, "LifeSiteNews made no contact with me to verify my possible involvement."
He also said that he would not support the idea of making a film version of the book.
Cardinal Burke stated that he objects to a number of statements by Bannon featured in the LifeSiteNews article, statements that apparently cast doubt on Catholic teachings and priestly celibacy.
The cardinal said, "Above all, I find objectionable his statement calling into question the Church's discipline of perpetual continence for the clergy, in accord with the example and desire of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church."
He went on to say:
I have never worked with Mr. Bannon in his organization and am not presently doing so. I have met with him on occasion to discuss Catholic social teaching regarding certain political questions, but I have no part in his organization. In meeting with him, as in meeting with other political leaders, I have tried to fulfill my mission as a priest to teach the faith and morals for the common good.
Cardinal Burke said he had been involved with the DHI over the years "because of its work to support Christians in public life who act with respect for the moral law and, therefore, promote the common good."
"Some weeks ago," he remarked in the statement, "I was named the Honorary President of the Institute."
The cardinal argued that the DHI has recently taken a sharply political bent, becoming "more and more identified with the political program of Mr. Bannon."
He continued, "While I have urged the Institute to return to its original purpose, it has not done so, as is evident in its involvement with the latest initiative of Mr. Bannon. I have, therefore, effective immediately, terminated any relationship with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute."
Bannon is a patron and board member of the institute. Bannon and the DHI have been trying to establish an academy in Italy for training future conservative populist leaders. But they are facing difficulty after the country's Ministry for Culture revoked the rental agreement for the former Carthusian monastery where the institute was setting up the academy.
LifeSiteNews responded to Cdl. Burke's statement with an apology on Tuesday, which said in part:
Cardinal Burke issued a statement today critiquing an article LifeSite published on Monday which was up for about an hour before being pulled.
The article was about a meeting Steve Bannon held with French author Frederic Martel, the homosexual activist and author of the highly controversial book In the Closet of the Vatican. LifeSite revealed that the two met to discuss Bannon making a film based on Martel's book. We confirmed the details of the meeting with both Bannon and Martel before publishing.
However, the article also indicated Cardinal Burke's work with Benjamin Harnwell, who set up the meeting with Bannon and Martel. And a clumsily worded sentence may have been read by some as indicating that Cardinal Burke had something to do with the meeting between Bannon and Martel.
We did not intend to convey that at all and pulled the story based on concerns over lack of clarity. We did not think to contact Cardinal Burke to verify the story because it had nothing to do with him.
We regret any harm to His Eminence that may have come from our mentioning his name.
Cardinal Burke's statement made mention of Benjamin Harnwell, a founding member of the DHI.
Harnwell himself addressed the controversial LifeSiteNews article in a statement of his own, saying, "The respected Catholic news portal LifeSiteNews recently published an inaccurate report with views attributed to Steve Bannon that erroneously claimed to have been approved by him. In recognition of this fact, LifeSiteNews withdrew the article immediately upon request."
He continued, "Neither the DHI nor Cardinal Burke were involved in setting up the meeting between Steve Bannon and Dr. Martel in regard to buying the film rights to his book; this was done directly by me in my personal capacity."
Harnwell's statement was shared on Twitter on Tuesday by Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for National Catholic Register. Pentin shared it alongside Cdl. Burke's statement.
His full statement appeared in Inside the Vatican on Tuesday, in a piece by Robert Moynihan.