In the latest in a series of attempts by German bishops to align Church teaching with secular values, a sub-committee of the German episcopal conference is planning to amend Church labor law to allow Church employees who are homosexual or divorced and civilly remarried to work in ecclesiastical institutions.
Until now, those employed in the German Church – the second largest employer in the country – are required to adhere to lifestyles consistent with Church teaching.
But on Nov. 24th, a majority of bishops are expected to vote to introduce changes to Church rules to allow such employees to continue working in administrative positions or as heads of departments, or to employ them in the future. The move has been devised in secret and will have important ramifications if enacted, Church observers say.
Given that many homosexuals and divorced and civilly remarried Catholics are already working for the Church, and that the German Church is such a vast operation, proponents argue that these employees must be retained if the Church is continue functioning and offering the services people need.
But opponents dismiss this, saying the proposed changes are part of a highly skilled, secretive and finely tuned plan, devised by some members within the German bishops’ conference to circumvent Church teaching.
A key factor is the notorious Church tax in Germany which has led to complacency. Many dissenting bishops say “it’s simply enough to pay the tax,” said a German Church source. “They feel there’s no need to scrutinize people’s private lives.”
Opponents also dismiss the argument about requiring manpower for services: with a Catholic population of 23 million, it is surely not so difficult to find suitable employees who could adhere to Church teaching on these matters, they say.
The pastoral consequences of changing the Church’s rules on this issue would be significant. Those living in what the Church has always viewed as sinful relationships would henceforth have those lifestyles implicitly affirmed. Furthermore, it would be difficult to say to someone they must confess such sins when their colleagues, who might even be in positions of authority in the Church, are known to be living sinful private lives.
“It would send the message that we don’t really care about the background of new employees and how they live, so we can essentially employ everyone,” said an opponent of the new law.
The proposed changes, allegedly being spearheaded by Jesuit Father Hans Langendörfer, Secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, have been considered in secret for a relatively long time, possibly the past 18 months, according to sources. “It’s like a hidden bombshell”, one informed source close to the German Church says.
The language they will also use will be purposefully nebulous, presenting formulations that are “like jelly, not very concrete and therefore open to interpretations.” This could be used, opponents fear, to dismiss those employees who are upholding Church teaching and being “too Catholic” on the grounds that they are the ones causing scandal by creating a “negative atmosphere.”
Sources say the proposed law is expected to achieve the requisite two thirds majority. Only a few bishops are likely to try to obstruct it.
Ironically, in contrast to German bishops pushing for change, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled this week that a Catholic hospital in Düsseldorf had the right to dismiss a senior doctor who was divorced and remarried.
The judges overturned a prior judgment of the Federal Labor Court which had declared the dismissal of the doctor invalid. The constitutional court ruled that the labor court had not “sufficiently taken into account” the meaning and scope of the Church’s autonomy.
German bishops have publicly welcomed the constitutional court’s ruling, but played it down and are expected to spin their new law as “more merciful”. The court ruling has shown, however, the country’s judges to be arguably more Catholic (even though some are not Catholic) than many of the country’s bishops.
The timing of the ruling is also interesting as many of the bishops hoped the court would have given the ruling after they had met and decided on the new changes to the Church’s labor law.
The motives behind the court’s decision are said to be a willingness among Germany’s judiciary to uphold religious freedom in the face of Islamist threats and riots in Germany involving supporters of the Islamic State militant group. Realizing the Islamist threat is increasing, they have reportedly opted for a way that strengthens the Church and religious freedom. The ruling also follows a similar decision taken in June this year by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold Church autonomy.
If the German Church goes ahead with its proposed adaptation to labor law, it will be just the latest in a series of efforts on the part of the German Church to accommodate the Church’s teaching to secularist trends.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the country’s episcopal conference, told reporters during the synod on the family last month that a strong majority of German bishops supported Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion.
“They’re trying to change doctrine through these subtle means,” a source in the German Church said. “It’s therefore important these efforts are exposed as this year, ahead of the next synod, will be decisive.”
This general attitude of many of Germany’s bishops also runs contrary to what Benedict XVI said during his famous “Entweltlichung” speech when visiting his homeland in 2011. In that address to ecclesiastical and civic leaders in Freiburg im Breisgau, he said the Church “must constantly renew the effort to detach herself from her tendency towards worldliness and once again to become open towards God.”
The Church’s charitable activity “needs to be constantly exposed to the demands of due detachment from worldliness, if it is not to wither away at the roots in the face of increasing erosion of its ecclesial character,” he added.
“History has shown that, when the Church becomes less worldly, her missionary witness shines more brightly,” he said.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was the main sponsor of the three-day international and interreligious Humanum colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage.
The congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, sat down with the Register Nov. 18 near the end of the conference to share his assessment on how the meeting had gone, discuss what more can be done to defend marriage and assess how the colloquium will complement the synod of bishops on the family.
How has this colloquium gone? Has it matched your expectations?
It’s gone very well up to now. All our expectations have been fulfilled and even exceeded! It’s an extraordinary thing that so many Christian communities and 14 world religions could come together to give witness to basic convictions about matrimony. Even coming from different traditions, understandings, categories and conceptions, there has been remarkable unity about the nature of marriage.
Certainly, a large number of the Christian traditions are here, each having the Bible as a basic reference point, much of which would also be held in common with the Jewish representatives. What we all share is a common point of reference in human nature, the essentials of human existence and the relationship between man and woman, as a cell, as an origin for the good of the married couple and also of children.
The family is not an isolated thing. It belongs to the wider family, to its own people, history, region and culture. This underlines that we are not isolated individuals, but created by God as beings who live together; and we have responsibility for the other by taking responsibility for the lives of future generations. I cannot say I have an autonomous personality — I must give thanks for all these people who gave so much of themselves for me: my parents, my brothers and sisters, relatives, teachers and pastors. One theme to which many testified during the colloquium was a clear emphasis that we have received and we must, in turn, give back to the other generations, to other people.
It seems strange this conference hasn’t happened before, that there hasn’t been this emphasis on marriage, given that it has been so much under attack over the past 50 years. Would you have liked to have seen such an event as this happen earlier?
Indeed! During the more than a year we have been planning for the colloquium, we at the CDF have heard many times: “This is new” or “We have not done something like this before!” Perhaps it should have happened before, but now the crisis facing the family has sharpened our sense of how much this kind of international and interreligious witness is needed.
The way the family is undervalued or threatened in many places is akin to standing on a precipice; we must stop and not make that final step from which there is no return. In attacks against marriage as a complementary union of man and woman, we are seeing a kind of suicide of humanity itself, especially in the secularized West — in Europe, the United States, North America. The difference between man and woman is a positive reality because it reflects the will of God in creation, and the will of God is good and aimed at human flourishing!
What can be done, apart from a conference like this, to get the silent majority to be heard — what can be done to counteract the very vocal minority trying to redefine marriage?
This is key. So many people focus on struggles to redefine marriage or focus on problems in the family. Many think the relationship between men and women is discussed all the time … but it is not. The discussion is about sex or failed relationships, but not about why men and women are drawn together, how they complement and fulfill one another. This is what the vast majority of people are interested in: how to make marriage better, stronger, more fulfilling and life-giving.
The silent majority up to now didn’t understand what was happening in society or have been silenced by the use of the word “discrimination” applied to those who want to defend the traditional family. But we cannot say the basic relation of man and woman is only a cultural or social product, a “gift” of a government or a construct of man, but it is, rather, a basis. Similarly, personal dignity and freedom are not cultural and social products, but are written into our very nature as men and women created in God’s image, as is the existence of man and woman in matrimony.
Children, too, are not a product of society or only an object of the state, of government. Governments cannot supplant the primordial responsibility of parents for their children nor deny children their right to grow up with a mother and a father.
In your address, you talked about man and woman giving a pathway to the divine through marriage. Can you expand on that a little?
In the Catholic tradition, matrimony is based on creation, and that creation expresses the will of God. In the history of salvation, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, which is the will of God incarnate for our salvation. In Christ, the natural state of marriage, the natural link between man and woman in matrimony, is elevated to a sacrament, to a sign and instrument of his grace and his very relationship with the Church.
The link of unity of man and woman in love, in matrimony, is expressed by the love of Jesus Christ towards his Church. And that is a self-giving love, a crucified love: What power there is in the holy matrimony of spouses to truly realize that they are experiencing a means, an instrument, for not only their own sanctification, but for the divinization of all people who come into contact with the divine love of the Trinity through their married life.
Those from other religions have been very pleased to come together for this colloquium. What are your reflections on this?
If matrimony is a common good for mankind (we have our theory of natural law, which is given by God), it’s helpful to have contact with other Christian confessions, other denominations and other religions. Together we can demonstrate that matrimony is not only a preoccupation of the Catholic Church, but a profoundly human project, a great gift for all mankind.
Nuptial love is also a sign of hope for mankind in a world so in need of such signs. Witnessing to this together, we can show that we are brothers and sisters and not enemies.
How could this colloquium complement the synod? Will it have any impact or bearing on it?
We have been working on the colloquium for well over a year, so in a formal sense, it is independent from the synod. But, certainly, the level of discussion at the colloquium has been very high, and we see people from various traditions who are personally engaged and committed.
In this sense, it can only be a contribution to the discussions under way in the Catholic Church and others, bearing witness to the sublime beauty of marriage as a complementary union, which must be nurtured, protected and allowed to thrive.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Pastor Rick Warren is one of the speakers at a major international and interreligious colloquium taking place at the Vatican Nov. 17-19 on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” The evangelical founder of Saddleback Church in California, Warren is best known as the bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold 30 million copies worldwide and is the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible.
The Register’s Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, spoke briefly with Pastor Warren Nov. 17 at the colloquium, which is taking place in the synod hall and being hosted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other Vatican dicasteries. Before the interview began, the evangelical preacher said he was hoping to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “His books really influenced me, particularly his series on the life of Christ,” he said. “He’s got a brilliant mind.”
What are your expectations for this colloquium?
Well, first of all, I’m honored and humbled to be invited to be a part of this. I think the idea is a great idea, showing that the concept and definition of marriage is pretty universal. It’s not just a Christian concept — Catholics, evangelical Christians and others — but around the world, there’s only a very small minority that wants to change the definition. Billions and billions and billions of people say: “It’s one man and one woman.”
What will you be addressing at the conference?
What I’m going to talk about is that it’s important not simply to defend the concept of marriage, but it’s important to celebrate it. One of the problems we have today in Western culture is that all of the negative things about marriage dominate the media. It’s almost rare that you see a husband and wife in love with each other in a TV show or even in a movie. Almost all sex is between singles or adulterous sex. You don’t see families that love each other and work through hard problems and things like that. It’s a very rare thing, and I think part of that is because people who make movies oftentimes don’t have that in their own backgrounds.
Would you say this event is giving a voice to the silent majority?
It really is. This is something that, as I said, literally billions of people agree on. It’s not a minor issue. It’s only made a big issue because in Western culture the media makes it a big issue; and you would think, if you watched television or you read magazines, that the majority of even Americans are against marriage. Of course they’re not. Even the first speakers this morning talked about it, saying there’s not just a theological position: There’s a sociological position; there’s a psychological position, biological position; there’s a natural position. So even if you don’t believe the Bible, you simply look at human bodies: Men and women are different, parts match, they are made for each other, and they’re made for a purpose. And the purpose is to create life, and we’re all here because of that. It’s really illogical to say there are no differences. Of course, there’re differences. Look at how everybody got here.
Pope Francis, in his opening address to the colloquium, talked about being slow to recognize the crisis in marriage. Do you agree with this?
I do. The Bible says overcome evil with good, and one of the things I’m going to talk about is practical things we can do at the parish level and give a list. I’m going to talk about the six biblical purposes for marriage, and I’m going to give the Scriptures. Most people don’t know these. A generation ago, you could say: “What’s the purpose of marriage?” And they’d get maybe four or five of the six things. I’m going to share that and then make some comments on those purposes and then talk about some practical things we can do.
One of the things we can do is have more testimonies of good marriages in our parishes. For example, last month, my wife and I sat on stage as part of a worship service and for 30 minutes talked about our 40 years of marriage. We need to give people models, so people say: “I’d like my marriage to be like that.” Right now, in our society, there aren’t many models that say: “I’d like to be like that.” So sharing the testimonies and, of course, celebrating those testimonies.
The title of your most famous book is The Purpose-Driven Life. How would this connect with that?
Well, if I’m going to talk about these six purposes, I suppose you could call it: “The Purpose-Driven Marriage.”
Confirmation of the appointment was widely awaited: rumors had been circulating for some time, and Cardinal Burke disclosed the Pope’s decision himself in an interview last month.
The move means that Cardinal Burke, 66, is completely removed from the Curia and holds a purely honorary position without any influence in the governance of the universal Church. Given his age and seniority, such a move is unprecedented and many therefore view it as a demotion.
He will be replaced by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States – effectively the Holy See’s foreign minister.
Some have speculated whether Cardinal Burke’s appointment is a result of his outspoken criticisms during the synod. But rumors of the transfer, first circulated by veteran Vatican watcher Sandro Magister, began in mid-September, considerably earlier than the meeting.
Although he has criticised how the synod was run, the cardinal has insisted he supports the Pope, saying he remains at Francis’ service and has no personal animosity towards him.
Last year, Pope Francis removed Cardinal Burke from a committee of the Congregation for Bishops that advises the Pope on episcopal appointments. It’s widely known that a small group of cardinals advised Francis to remove him from the committee because of his tendency to block candidates who were considered not sufficiently orthodox or capable of serving as bishops.
His position as patron of the Knights of Malta is Rome-based and mostly ceremonial. He is nevertheless likely to continue and perhaps even step up his defense of the Church’s teaching in the face of continued efforts to radically alter pastoral practice in the run-up to next year’s second synod on the family.
Archbishop Mamberti will be replaced by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, a native of Liverpool, England, who is currently the apostolic nuncio to Australia. Gallagher notably succeeded Archbishop Michael Courtney as apostolic nuncio to Burundi after Courtney was murdered in the country in December 2003.
VATICAN CITY — The English translation of the final report of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family was published Oct. 30, nearly two weeks after the synod’s conclusion.
Although many have expressed satisfaction with the document, from which most of the controversial aspects of the interim report have been removed, a couple of contentious paragraphs reached a synodal consensus of a two-thirds majority and remain in the text. As well, other contentious paragraphs that failed to get the required two-thirds consensus will remain in discussion as the synodal process continues, according to the Vatican.
Questions were also raised as to why the report, published in Italian on Oct. 18, took so long to translate when the controversial interim report was translated into several languages only 48 hours while the synod was continuing, and published without most of the participants reading it beforehand.
The synod with the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization,” took place at the Vatican from Oct. 5-19. The final report, called a relatio synodi, is divided into three parts: listening to the context and challenges facing of the family; looking at Christ, the Gospel of the family; and offering pastoral perspectives to the current situation.
The report begins by noting that the synod reflected on the family in “all its complexities,” with a perspective “fixed on Christ” to reevaluate “with renewed freshness and enthusiasm” what revelation teaches about the “beauty and dignity of the family.”
The family, it underlines, is “uniquely important to the Church in these times” and needs to be “rediscovered” as the “essential agent” in evangelization.
The first part begins by recommending an “analytic and diversified approach” to the cultural and anthropological changes affecting all aspects of life. It holds up positive developments such as greater rights for women and children in some parts of the world, but criticizes the “growing danger” of “troubling individualism” which “deforms family bonds.”
The “crisis of faith” often underlies the crisis in marriage and the family, it says, and pinpoints symptoms of this: loneliness, powerlessness, poverty, financial hardship, the demographic crisis, and families who feel abandoned by institutions.
The document further singles out polygamy, which is still practiced in some countries, arranged marriages, the challenges of interreligious marriages, relativism and indifference. It notes the increase in cohabitation, divorce and violence against women, as well as the “scandalous and perverse reality” of sexual exploitation of children, the scourge of war, terrorism, organized crime, the phenomenon of street children and challenges associated with migration.
In the face of these challenges, the report highlights how some cultures are coping with them, and recalls the Church’s purpose of assisting couples. Nowadays, it says, a person’s moods and feelings are “very fragile, narcissistic, unstable” and do not always allow a person to mature. Pornography, fostered by a “misuse of the Internet,” and forced prostitution are partly to blame, it adds, and this context causes many to remain “in the early stages of their affective and sexual life.” It further warns that this is weakening social bonds, leading to declining populations that result in economic impoverishment.
The first part ends discussing “pastoral challenges” and the need for hope based on the “convictions that the human person comes from God.” In these times of “individualism and hedonism,” it says people “need to be accepted in the concrete circumstances of life.” They need to be encouraged in their “hunger for God” and their wish to feel “fully part of the Church, also including those who have experienced failure or find themselves in a variety of situations.”
The Christian message, it adds, “always contains in itself the reality and the dynamic of mercy and truth which meet in Christ.”
Part two of the final report is largely Christocentric. “Every time we return to the source of the Christian experience, new paths and undreamed of possibilities open up,” it states, quoting Pope Francis’s vigil discourse on Oct. 4. It underlines that all things were “made through Christ and for him,” reaffirms Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and stresses the true meaning of mercy: “By looking at the sinner with love, Jesus leads the person to repentance and conversion (“Go and sin no more”) which is the basis for forgiveness.”
It then explains how Moses granted to fallen man the possibility of divorce, but subsequently Jesus restored marriage and the family “to their original form” by reconciling all things to himself.
“Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary” to witness to the love of God in a life of communion, it states. The report then takes the reader through various documents of the Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on marriage and the family.
Turning to the truth and beauty of the family, it holds up faithful marriages and highlights the Holy Family as a “wondrous model.” It reiterates that any breach of sacramental marriage is “against the will of God,” but says the Church “turns with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner,” recognizing that the grace of God works in their lives “by giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community.”
The report says it looks with “concern” at young people’s distrust of marriage and the haste at which others break the marital bond. They need pastoral attention that is “merciful and encouraging, so they might adequately determine their situation,” it says.
The second part ends by comparing the Church to a lighthouse or a torch carried among people to enlighten those who have “lost their way” or “in the midst of a storm.” It then goes on to say that the “most merciful thing is to tell the truth in love” and that merciful love is a call to conversion. The Lord, the synod fathers recall, doesn’t condemn the adulterous women, “but asks her to sin no more.”
The final part of the document looks at various pastoral perspectives and proclaiming the Gospel of the family in various contexts. It doesn’t give examples, but argues that language is important in conversion and that it should be “effectively meaningful.”
“This does not consist in merely presenting a set of rules but in espousing values, which respond to the needs of those who find themselves today, even in the most secularized of countries,” it says.
The synod fathers insist on a “more positive approach” to the richness of “various religious experiences” without overlooking difficulties, and the report highlights two areas of particular importance: a clear denunciation of “excessive importance given to market logic,” and better formation before marriage.
The report notes in Paragraph 41 “sensitivity to the positive aspects” of civil marriages and, “with obvious differences, cohabitation.” The Church, it says, “needs to indicate the constructive elements in these situations” — a point of contention in the interim relatio.
This passed with the requisite two-thirds majority, as did the following paragraph that notes that “simply to live together is often a choice based on a general attitude opposed to anything institutional or definitive.”
Rather than mention the dangers of mortal sin in such situations, the synod fathers give reasons for their existence such as poverty and say these relationships “require a constructive response” in the hope they lead to marriage in conformity with the Gospel. “These couples need to be provided for and guided patiently and discreetly,” it says.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and a synod participant, said he found the acceptance of this document “disturbing.”
The language used in the report “is at best confused,” he told the Register Nov. 4, and he was afraid “some of the synod fathers may not have reflected sufficiently on the implications of that” and perhaps “didn’t understand what was being said.”
The document frequently underlines the importance of respect for all individuals and families, especially those who suffering from separation, divorce or abandonment, and their need for the accompaniment of the Church.
More than two-thirds of synod fathers voted for streamlining the annulments process to make them “less time-consuming,” although the report mentions that some synod fathers were opposed to the proposal as they doubted any new system would “guarantee a reliable judgment.” They stressed the need to ascertain the “truth about the validity of the marriage bond.”
Three out of a total of 62 paragraphs failed to get a two-thirds majority: Paragraph 52, which explores possibilities of admitting divorced and remarried to holy Communion; Paragraph 53, which calls for “further theological study” into why people who are divorced and remarried cannot have access to the sacraments if they have recourse to “spiritual communion”; and Paragraph 55, which calls for homosexual persons to be “received with respect and sensitivity.”
Although they were unable to receive a synodal consensus, the Vatican says they will remain part of the discussions going into the next synod in 2015.
Cardinal Burke said he found their inclusion also disturbing.
“What’s the point of voting paragraph by paragraph except to either accept a paragraph or have it removed?” He added this was “just one more disturbing aspect in which this synod of bishops was conducted.”
The third part of the document urges a return to the message of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth). The final paragraphs highlight the challenges of raising children, their education, which parents should be free to choose, and the valuable role of the Church in supporting families by being “welcoming communities.”
In conclusion, the report says the synod took place “in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening.” Noting that no decisions had been taken, it says “the Holy Spirit will guide us in finding the road to truth and mercy for all.”
Despite a number of criticisms, many have welcomed the content of the final report and are pleased with the overall result. The synod has gotten the whole world “talking about marriage, communion, forgiveness,” said Opus Dei Father Robert Gahl, professor of moral philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Through his docility to the Holy Spirit, “Pope Francis has effected a media reframing of religion, the priesthood, and the Catholic Church,” he added.
Critics, however, point to a cursory reference to sin (it is mentioned just four times) in the document, while mortal sin, heaven, hell, and the eschatological dimension are not mentioned at all.
Furthermore, as with the interim relatio, an error has been found in the translation. Father Robert Imbelli of Commonweal has noticed that paragraph 3 (number 4 in Italian) says that the synod fathers came together to “discern how the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.” In the Italian, however, it says “…renew their commitment to the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman.”
But these criticisms aside, Father Gahl believes the final document incorporates the Church’s “rich tradition” into the synod discussions of the “difficult pastoral problems of real people in today’s world.”
Compared to the interim document, he said it “is more Christian and Catholic” and “based more on the Bible and on the preaching of Jesus, especially his preaching of conversion.”
“The Church now goes further under the guidance of Pope Francis to find new ways of addressing the complex pastoral problems, for instance of how to help couples to be faithful to one another, to avoid the pitfalls of divorce, to remain generously open to new life,” Father Gahl said.
“We have all been inspired by Pope Francis’s courage and his desire to stay faithful to the tradition,” he said. The synod, he added, “is about promoting the beauty of marital fidelity in such a way that Christian couples can more effectively pass on the faith to their children and grandchildren and be a light in the world imaging the beauty of the Holy Family.”
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.
Cardinal Raymond Burke has said he is at the service of Pope Francis, has no personal animosity towards him, and those who claim the American cardinal is an opponent of the Pontiff are trying to discredit him.
The head of the Vatican’s highest court also told Breitbart Tuesday the Catholic Church risks schism if bishops are seen to “go contrary” to the Church’s established and unchangeable dogmas in the months ahead.
The Vatican prelate was speaking in Vienna Tuesday, at the launch of the German translation of Remaining in the Truth of Christ, a book to which he contributed. The work is a response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow some remarried divorcees to have access to holy Communion. The Catholic Church has always barred such a possibility, based on Christ’s teaching that remarrying after divorce constitutes adultery.
“Certain media simply want to keep portraying me as living my life as an opponent to Pope Francis,” he said. “I am not at all. I’ve been serving him in the Apostolic Signatura and in other ways I continue to serve him.”
The Wisconsin-born prelate was responding to comments he made in an interview he gave the Spanish weekly Vida Nueva last week. The article misconstrued him as criticizing the Pope–despite his stressing in the interview that he was not at odds with Francis.
He told the Spanish publication there is a “strong sense” the Church is like a “ship without a helm, whatever the reason for this may be.” But he made it clear in the interview he was not “speaking out” against the Pontiff. He said the Pope is right to call on Catholics to “go out to the peripheries” but added “we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed.”
“I wasn’t saying that the Holy Father’s idea is this,” he explained, “but I’ve seen other people using his words to justify a kind of ‘accommodation’ of the faith to the culture which can never be so.”
Burke told Breitbart his wish is “to present the Church’s teaching around which there’s been a great deal of confusion.” He pointed to last month’s synod on the family in Rome as partly to blame, and said those who identify with a “so-called reformist agenda” of Pope Francis are now trying “to discredit what I say by attributing it to some personal animosity toward the Holy Father, and that’s not right.”
Asked about the singer Elton John’s recent praise of Pope Francis as a hero of gay rights, Burke said the Church needs to be “diligent” in explaining “very carefully” her teaching, making proper distinctions between the sinner and the sin. He also reasserted the Pope’s concern for people with same-sex attraction, one which “understands that even though they have this attraction, it is an attraction to disordered acts” and that they need to seek God’s “healing and grace” to deal with their “very profound suffering.”
Burke has been one of the most outspoken opponents of Kasper’s proposal, saying it is not Catholic, threatens the indissolubility of marriage, and is therefore unacceptable. “The Church must do everything she can when, once again, the integrity of marriage is under attack,” he told the Viennese audience.
He said he “often heard” prelates at last month’s two-week Synod on the Family in Rome say that because the culture has changed “so radically,” the Church “cannot teach as we had in the past.” But Burke responded by saying such a view betrays a “loss of hope in Jesus Christ, Who alone is the salvation of the world.” He acknowledged that the culture is “very corrupt” but added that doesn’t mean “we go chasing after it, but rather bring to the culture that which will save it and be full of hope.”
Talk of possible schism has increased in the Catholic Church after the recent synod appeared to be leading the Church in a more “progressive” direction on moral issues. A controversial document issued by bishops midway through the meeting (which Burke called a “total disaster”) pointed to radical changes in the area of homosexuals, divorce, and remarriage among other things, but the proposals were largely toned down or failed to reach a consensus in the final report.
Questioned about whether there is a genuine risk the Church might split, Burke said if, in the runup to a second synod on the family next October, bishops are seen to move “contrary to the constant teaching and practice of the Church, there is a risk because these are unchanging and unchangeable truths.” He also pointed out that the head of the synod of bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, has “identified himself very strongly” with Kasper’s thesis and “subscribes to that school.”
Warning that this battle will continue, he called on Catholics to “speak up and act.”
As the Synod on the Family was in full swing last week, an organization defending the family and life at the UN presented retired Cardinal Renato Martino with the Maximilian Kolbe Medal for his “unwavering bravery” in defense of life.
Cardinal Martino served from 1986 to 2002 as Pope St. John Paul II’s representative to the United Nations in New York.
“I’m very honored to receive this Maximilian Kolbe medal,” the Italian cardinal said, “which recognizes the work I did during 16 years as the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.”
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which monitors and defends life at the United Nations and other international institutions, presented the award in the cardinal’s Vatican apartment on Oct. 16. Also present was C-FAM board member, Robert Royal, and the founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Benjamin Harnwell, who organised the presentation.
Ruse said the medal “honors the fight Cardinal Martino fought from the day he arrived” at the United Nations.
The Maximilian Kolbe medal is the highest honor awarded by C-FAM and has only previously been awarded once before, to the President of Costa Rica for his defense of life. The award was first announced in May, after which the medal was then crafted, showing an embossed scene of St. Maximilian in Auschwitz, the extermination camp where the Polish Franciscan gave his life in place of a fellow prisoner.
Cardinal Martino, 81, played an instrumental role at two UN conferences in the 1990s — in Cairo and Beijing – during which he led resistance to pressure to approve abortion as a method of family planning. The efforts resulted in the UN adopting Article 8.25 that banned abortion on such grounds.
“It is still in the documents of the United Nations,” Cardinal Martino pointed out, adding that he was simply inspired by the “fight to defend life”.
Ruse, noting that opponents “have tried up to this very day to get rid of 8.25,” said there’s “never been a stronger nuncio on these issues at the United Nations than this man. He never gave up, not just in Cairo but Beijing, Rio and all the small meetings – always.”
Unlike his predecessors, who tended to make “general statements, nice statements,” Cardinal Martino “got into the nitty-gritty of the documents and actually began negotiating, which shocked a lot of people and made a lot of people mad,” Ruse said.
He observed that despite spending “hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours”, the pro-abortion lobby “haven’t got anything more into the documents than they got in Cairo.”
“So the battle you won at Cairo has been maintained,” Ruse told the cardinal. “It’s phenomenal.”
Ruse revealed that the very idea to create C-FAM originated with Cardinal Martino. Pro-life NGOs would lobby at conferences such as those in Cairo and Beijing and then go home after each of them ended. This prompted the cardinal to say there needed to be a “permanent office of laymen at the UN, doing this full time,” Ruse recalled. “We did it, but it was his idea.”
Asked what advice he would now give, Cardinal Martino, who now serves as honorary president of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, simply said: “To continue the battle.”
On the NET: