Cdl. Burke Repeats: ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Not Magisterial

by Christine Niles  •  •  November 16, 2016   

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich paints faithful bishops as enemies of the Pope

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VATICAN CITY ( - The former chief of the Vatican Supreme Court is re-affirming that "Amoris Laetitia" is not magisterial.

In an interview published Tuesday, Cdl. Raymond Burke repeated his point that Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation is not part of the infallible magisterium "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 continued.

The interview was offered to clarify a letter sent to Pope Francis in September from Burke and three other cardinals seeking clarity on "Amoris Laetitia." Titled "Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in 'Amoris Laetitia,'" the cardinals' letter notes "a grave disorientation and great confusion" among the faithful over "contrasting interpretations" of the exhortation.

The letter had been sent privately to the Holy Father in September, but after no response, the cardinals went public with their plea. His Eminence explained that the Pope's longstanding silence on multiple occasions forced their hand.

In the summer of 2016, 45 academics, including some prelates, wrote to the Holy Father and to the College of Cardinals, asking the Pope to repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that can be drawn from portions of "Amoris Laetitia." This received no public response.

On 29 August 2016, I joined many bishops, priests and lay faithful in signing a Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline. This also has received no public response.

Bishops around the world have weighed in with varying interpretations of the papal exhortation, some using it to push a liberal agenda to relax teaching and discipline on the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, marriage and penance, as well as to dilute Church teaching on intrinsic evil and mortal sin. Such problematic language in "Amoris Laetitia" led Burke to say:

My position is 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. Because that is the case, the Church needs absolute clarity regarding what Pope Francis is teaching and encouraging.

His Eminence first publicly declared in April that the apostolic exhortation lacks magisterial authority. "[T]he Catholic Church, while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine Office as instituted by Our Lord Himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium," Burke clarified.

He also characterized as "absurd" the notion that every utterance of the Pope should be taken as doctrine. "The Church has historically been sensitive to the erroneous tendency to interpret every word of the Pope as binding in conscience, which, of course, is absurd."

He affirmed that "a personal reflection of the Pope ... is not [to be] confused with the binding faith owed to the exercise of the magisterium."

In another interview published Tuesday, Burke said he and the other cardinals may take the extraordinary step of seeking a formal correction from the Pope if he continues in his silence.

"There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff," he commented. "It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error."

Meanwhile, Abp. Blase Cupich of Chicago is portraying as enemies of the Pope faithful bishops who seek clarity in Church teaching. In an interview published Monday, November 14, in America magazine, Cupich said:

Surely, there are some who are struggling with the vision offered by the pope, and, yes, sadly, there are some who are opposed to him and do not like him, as Cardinal Wuerl said. I use the word sadly, not in terms of it being sad for the pope, but for those who oppose him or working against him because in reality they lack an understanding of what it means to be a bishop in the Catholic Church.

His reference to Wuerl involved statements made after last year's Synod on the Family. earlier reported on Wuerl:

His cunning was evident at the 2015 Synod on the Family, where Wuerl painted those who opposed his progressive agenda as enemies of the Pope. After several Synod Fathers expressed concern over possible liberal manipulation at the Synod, Wuerl — instead of addressing the substance of their claims — did what any shrewd politician would do when caught: He impugned his opponents' integrity. In an interview with America magazine, Wuerl said:

I wonder if some of these people who are speaking, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes half-way implying, then backing off and then twisting around, I wonder if it is really that they find they just don't like this pope. I wonder if that isn't part of it.

The comments put orthodox prelates on the defensive, who scrambled to go on record to deny the charges — but the damage had been done. Now any bishop who breathed a word of criticism against Synod procedure or potential Synod hijacking would be immediately suspect. Creating a distraction, the focus would no longer be on addressing their legitimate concerns but rather on their personal character and trustworthiness. For Cdl. Wuerl, it was mission accomplished.

Cupich, seeming to follow the same tack, is also claiming that bishops who question the confusion engendered by the Pope's actions or silence "are opposed to him and do not like him" — a charge Burke and the other cardinals who issued their recent letter strongly deny.

We hope that no one will judge us unjustly, as adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy. What we have done and are doing derives from the deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope, and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, once a prominent Vatican cardinal under Pope Benedict, has been among the most vocal prelates pleading for clarity from Pope Francis, insisting that he alone, as Supreme Pontiff, can dispel confusion and settle matters.


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