UPDATE On the Annulment issue: According to fellow Catholics John Allen and Ed Morrissey, the issues that plagued last years Synod on Family and threatened to rear again at this year’s, were rendered moot by His Holiness’s annulment move today. In doing this, he circumvented the liberal modernists. This will have no impact in the USA, but is meant to bring the rest of the world in line with developed nations. Interesting point.
Some days being an informed Catholic with low friends in high places and knowing insider information that isn’t made public for a lot of reasons results in teeth gnashing. When this writer opened up Drudge this morning and saw that there was a red headline claiming conservative dissent was building at the Vatican against Pope Francis, she got a bad feeling she knew what it was about.
Yep. Just like I thought, Raymond Burke is shooting his mouth off again.
To give the reader some perspective as to why this conservative and fairly orthodox Catholic rolls her eyes at Burke drawing attention to himself, the man was once her archbishop. It just so happens that she was a member of the Cathedral choir at the time, and so was subjected to fifty minute sermons on a regular basis. (7-15 minutes should be the limit. In the choir, when Burke was talking, this was known as the bathroom break.) To give this some perspective, technically, other than specific liturgies during the year, Mass is not supposed to be more than an hour unless the pope says it. This writer, due to connections and friendships made during this time of her life, also knows some unpublished background on why Burke was sent to high court at the Vatican in addition to just how bad an administrator he was. To be honest, we all figured the next American metropolitan cathedra open was going to be his if he played his cards right (which he didn’t). That’s an automatic red hat. Sending him to the high court was a necessity at the time, and as it’s been explained to me, more a demotion than not, even if it wasn’t reported that way. Sitting archbishop is higher in the pecking order than a court judge, even at the top. When Francis demoted Burke again, and shipped him to Malta, it was partially to shut him up, just like the first demotion was.
Yeah, if there is one thing Catholics who aren’t bamboozled by a prelate saying what they want to hear know about Raymond Burke, it’s that Raymond Burke is good for a quote sure to stoke the conservative vs. liberal fires in which the enemies of the Church revel and stirs the hardline liturgists who can’t explain just why a bishop needs to wear gloves while carrying his gold Crosier (they just know that he is supposed to, which is a carryover from another time). With the headline in today’s Washington Post, it was a “here we go again” moment.
See, the problem comes in that the world – and the media – wants the Church to change. The Church cannot change. Procedures can – which is what Francis is all about, not that the media is reporting it correctly – but the reality never does. It wasn’t that priests could suddenly give absolution for abortion (they’ve always been able to do this) that Francis changed, but that they could lift the excommunication incurred by the act without going through a bishop’s office which is necessary before absolution is given. In US, this is the way it has been for decades. Today, with marriage annulment, the changes are that it is to be free all over the world, the appeal is not automatic, and to bring all 23 rites into the same process. It is an effort to expedite the process, not really change annulment or the valid grounds for it, in order to keep souls in the fold. And Francis does have his reservations about doing this and risking misunderstanding, but the reality is we were not all on the same page.
How can conservatives really be upset with that? If anything, they should be upset with the media for trying to get the Church to bend to its will…which is why they report everything that Walter Cardinal Kasper, a retired German cardinal, has to say. Kasper is 82. He’s no longer a member of the Consistory, and has been put out to pasture. (At 80, all cardinals are.) Yet, he challenges Church teaching at every turn with the authority of wearing scarlett and being a prince of the Church even if he is a heretic. By reporting what he has to say specifically on marriage and family sows the seeds of confusion among the faithful, especially when done against the ignorance of real Church teaching.
Kaspar has done some pre-emptive seeding of the media ahead of the upcoming Sydod on Marriage and the Family where one of the big bugaboos for Americans is going to be discussed: sacraments for divorced and remarried people. Not just taking Eucharist, but Penance (Confession) and Last Rights as well. (This is where the bad reporting and ignorance comes in.) Last year, when all the fireworks happened at the pre-meeting for this Synod, it was never reported that Francis brought the hammer down on the last day, and there were no changes. Francis wants discussion, but nothing is on the table for change. Because it can’t be changed.
That is why this conservatives vs. liberals war is patently manufactured by competing attention lovers. Nothing fundamental has changed and nothing will. It cannot. A union between two members of the same sex is not marriage. Marriage is indissoluble. An annulment says a marriage was not valid for reason, usually, of some sort of dishonesty prior to the vows being said. No sin is unforgivable. None of that has changed. Francis just does things with a lack of caution about how the western media will twist what he says.
When it comes down to it, the big problem shining through in the Washington Post article quotes from various prelates is that Francis’ style tends to be hands off and far less formal than some people would prefer, and it is creating confusion where there should be none. All of us have had disappointments in Francis during his papacy. Sometimes it’s form, sometimes it’s not being cautious in what he says and sometimes it’s eschewing tradition (with a small t) that piled on over the years. The man is a street priest who believes in the basics. He’s a Jesuit, a servant (and is demonstrating why Jesuits serve and don’t lead). But, other than the science stuff and having misplaced faith in the United Nations, he really hasn’t made any heretical moves. Several that have been severely misinterpreted, but nothing heretical.
So to say that there is a growing backlash against him from conservatives is to stir a pot that is really quite empty whether it is reported that way or not…even if we Catholics thrive on Vatican intrigue.