Is Cardinal Burke the Next Victim of Parrhesia?

Source: FSSPX News

On December 29, 2023, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke was received by Pope Francis in a private audience. Nothing was leaked of their interview; the American prelate refused to make any statement when he left the papal residence, St. Martha’s House. Will he keep his official residence in Rome, and will he retain his salary? No one knows at the moment.

On November 27, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana revealed, by the pen of Riccardo Cascioli, that during the meeting of the Heads of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, which was held on November 20, the Pope had declared: “Cardinal Burke is my enemy, so I am taking away his flat and salary.”

The Italian Vaticanist comments: “The alleged enmity of Cardinal Burke has become a real obsession for Pope Francis in recent times, but in reality the American cardinal has been in the crosshairs since the beginning of his pontificate, probably because he encapsulates some of the elements that most annoy him: he is American and is a constant reminder of the doctrine and Tradition of the Church; and in addition he resides in Rome, a stone's throw from St Peter's Square, from where - the Pope will think - he can 'plot' against him.”

And to detail the previous humiliations imposed on the prelate by Francis: “In December 2013, the Pope had already removed him as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, replacing him with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is decidedly liberal and, as it happens, linked to former serial abuser Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

“And after his participation in the book 'Remaining in the Truth of Christ' (which also featured contributions from Cardinals Caffarra, Brandmüller, Müller and De Paolis) Burke, who is a talented canonist, was also removed in November 2014 from the post of Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to which he had been called by Benedict XVI in 2008.

“Instead, he was entrusted with the post of Patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta, a minor position for a still young and active cardinal. Yet, after the signing of the Dubia following the post-synodal Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016), the 'reprisal' against Cardinal Burke continued, and in 2017 he was effectively deprived of his office as Patron of the Order of Malta, with the appointment of a special delegate of the Pope:

“First Cardinal Angelo Becciu [editor’s note: since then condemned to five and a half years of prison for fraud in the “London building” case] and then in 2020 Cardinal Tomasi. Although he no longer had any contact with the Order's members and no role in the whole troubled renewal of the Statutes, Cardinal Burke formally resigned in June this year, on reaching the fateful age of 75, and was immediately replaced by the 81-year-old Cardinal Ghirlanda: just to add insult to injury.”

Frankness Has a Price

“Certainly Burke has been very clear in his criticism of the concept of synodality, [...] and at the conference 'The Synodal Babel' on 3 October last, organised in Rome by La Bussola precisely on the eve of the opening of the Synod on Synodality, his arguments and his direct polemic with the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Victor "Tucho" Fernandez, who had called Cardinal Burke a heretic and schismatic and those who ask the Pope to "safeguard and promote the depositum fidei", had made a lot of noise.”

Nevertheless, “Cardinal Burke has always strongly rejected the label of ‘enemy of the Pope’ that they have wanted to stick on him since the beginning of the pontificate, especially since he criticised the position of Cardinal Walter Kasper who, in preparation for the 2014 Synod on the Family, explicitly called for access to communion for remarried divorcees. Burke was in good company, yet especially against him a real campaign of demonisation was focused, painted as the director of occult plots against Pope Francis.”

“The second round of Dubia, presented last July together with Cardinals Brandmüller, Sarah, Zen and Sandoval, but only made public on 2 October, will undoubtedly have irritated the Pope even more.”

The tragedy is that Francis publicly asks his colleagues to be very frank with him, and he even employs the Greek word parrhesia. Unfortunately, those who demonstrate this freedom of speech are punished, like Bishop Joseph Strickland, dismissed Bishop of Tyler, Texas.

Will Cardinal Burke be the next victim of parrhesia, paradoxically lauded and punished by Francis? According to Franca Giansoldati in Il Messaggero republished in Il Sismografo on November 28, “Certain colleagues would have pointed out to the Pope that to thus strike and humiliate a cardinal of this importance could have negative consequences on the collection of St. Peter’s Pence, knowing that it is in part fed by the generosity of conservative benefactors.”

Expulsion Is a Weapon Against Opponents

It is always this anger that expresses itself in a privileged way, with Francis, in the domain of real estate, as Luis Badilla remarks in Il Sismografo on November 30: “The allocation of housing within the Vatican has become an obsession for the Pope, and in many cases of dismissal or termination of service, he always personally took care of sending his ex-employees--including some very important ones--the appropriate injunction that they quickly vacate their apartments. The most well-known case, because it was made public, is that of Bishop Georg Gänswein [editor’s note: former secretary of Benedict XVI, disgraced then dismissed to Germany].” 

Conversely, for the prelates in good standing, “The apartment is one of the elements that enter into discussions on major appointments, a privilege that the Pope knows very well how to use. The most recent case to date is that of the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Manuel Fernández, who has more than once spoken of his apartment in Vatican City as an extraordinary ‘gift.’

“In a note published on Facebook after his appointment, the new Prefect Fernández wrote something surprising: ‘These days, in Rome, the Pope himself took care to find me a place to live inside the Vatican, with plants and a view of greenery, because he knows that I come from the countryside and that I need that. Look at his thoughtfulness.’”

Here, “it is worth recalling that on September 23, 2020, when the Pope asked Cardinal Angelo Becciu to submit his resignation [due to his involvement in the London building case], he told him--to show a gesture of mercy--that the suspension of rights and prerogatives of the cardinalate did not include housing, and that he could therefore continue to live in the palace of the old Holy Office.”

What Is Really At Stake

But as Luisella Scrosati in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana on November 30 recalls: “What is at stake is not the opposition between 'political' alignments, or cultural currents; it is not even the settling of personal scores, but is the very identity of the Church and Catholicism. [...] the Catholic Church matters, faith matters, fidelity to Jesus Christ matters. [...]

“It is not only a right, but a grave duty of a bishop to take a public stand to ask questions and provide clarity. That the Pope confirms the faith is not the irreverent demand of Burke, Strickland or Zen: it is the constitutive sense of his office as Jesus Christ instituted it.”

And to explain in detail: “In the last ten years of his pontificate, fixed points of Church discipline, rooted in dogma, have been blown up either directly by the Pope or by people he has placed in key positions and who he has been very careful not to rebuke. What was clear has become confused, what was certain has become questionable, what was sacred has been desecrated. Let us recall some:

  • the possibility for those who continue to live more uxorio to receive sacramental absolution and Holy Communion;
  • same possibility for those who publicly support abortion and other serious sins;
  • insistence that priests always absolve, without verifying sincere repentance; [...]
  • possibility of blessing unmarried couples and even homosexuals;
  • affirmation that God wills the plurality of religions;
  • revision of compulsory celibacy;
  • possibility of an ordained female diaconate and openness to the female priesthood;
  • reversal of Church teaching on the death penalty;
  • possibility of revising Church teaching on homosexuality;
  • possibility for Protestants to receive Holy Communion;
  • revolutionizing the hierarchical structure of the Church by introducing lay people with voting rights at a synod of bishops.

“To oppose these serious drifts is not to be an enemy of the papacy or to divide the Church; the tragedy is that there is a pope who proposes them, supports them and considers an enemy who instead is doing nothing more than his duty.”

In a text entrusted to the website of Vaticanist Aldo Maria Valli, on December 10, Héctor Aguer, Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata (Argentina), writes: “The expulsion is a reaction of the Supreme Pontiff against one of his most steadfast critics, Cardinal Burke. The instigator of this sanction would be the Cardinal Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Argentinian Víctor Manuel Fernández.

“Rome does not tolerate criticism, considers those who criticize enemies and applies the Peronist principle against them: ‘No  justice for the enemy.’ This is how Bishop Joseph Strickland was removed from his position in the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. [...]

“[Since then, it is important to understand that] the unfortunate measure of expulsion is a measure which expresses the generalized suspicion regarding bishops who seem to be ‘traditionalists.’ We do not trust them because in reality we are not at ease with Tradition.”