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Quit talking and just do it already…

“Cardinal” Burke’s Latest on that “Formal Correction” of Francis

Great excitement is temporarily returning to conservative Novus Ordo Land as The Wanderer has just published its second installment of a three-part interview with “Cardinal” Raymond Burke. That “formal correction” of “Pope” Francis he first announced in November 2016 was one of the topics talked about.

Here is the full text of the interview as released so far:

Before we get to Mr. Burke’s latest on the formal correction, let’s review some background.

On Apr. 8, 2016, “Pope” Francis had issued his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, naturally riddled with errors, heresies, and blasphemy. On Sep. 19, 2016, Mr. Burke teamed up with “Cardinals” Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmuller, and Joachim Meisner (since deceased) to send five very specific questions (the so-called dubia, Latin for “doubts”) to Francis to have him explain how certain parts of Amoris Laetitia can be reconciled with prior church teaching they seem to (and do in fact) contradict.

Submitting dubia to the Vatican is a very common practice in the Catholic Church. The Holy See — the real one — responds by giving very clear answers, usually “Yes” or “No” but elaborating and drawing distinctions as necessary.

To take but one example from the 20th century: Some diocesan bishops submitted dubia to the Holy Office under Pope Benedict XV regarding the (im)permissibility of administering the sacraments of penance and extreme unction to dying schismatics. The Catholic dogmatic source book Enchiridion Symbolorum (aka “Denzinger”) presents the dubia and their answers as follows:

I. Whether when material schismatics at the point of death, in good faith seek either absolution or extreme unction, these sacraments can be conferred on them without their renouncing errors? –Reply: In the negative, but that it be required that they reject errors as best they can, and make a profession of faith.

II. Whether absolution and extreme unction can be conferred on schismatics at the point of death when unconscious? –Reply: Conditionally, in the affirmative, especially if from additional circumstances it can be conjectured that they at least implicitly reject their errors, yet effectually removing scandal, at least by manifesting to bystanders that they accept the Church and have returned at the last moment to unity.

(“On Dying and Dead Schismatics”, Reply of the Holy Office, May 17, 1916; Denz. 2181a)

This is how dubia work. Bishops ask, and the Holy See answers.

Since Francis is trying his darndest to cause as much confusion, scandal, and damage to souls as possible, he has stubbornly refused to answer the dubia of “Cardinals” Burke, Caffarra, Brandmuller, and Meisner. He has nothing to gain by answering them, and plenty to lose: No matter which way he answers them, he either (1) admits that Amoris Laetitia contradicts prior church teaching, in which case his goose is cooked, or he (2) insists there is no contradiction to prior church teaching, which would stop his “Communion-for-adulterers” revolution dead in its tracks.

It is clear that the four “dubia cardinals” are trying to rain on Francis’ parade, and if there’s one thing the Jesuit apostate doesn’t like, it’s that very thing. So what does he do? He refuses to answer. Since everyone believes he is the Pope, he can get away with it.

When it became apparent that Francis wasn’t going to answer them, the four Novus Ordo cardinals made the dubia public. The “Pope” reportedly hit the ceiling when he found out.

On Nov. 15, 2016, Vatican journalist Edward Pentin asked Mr. Burke what he would do if Francis should persist in his refusal to answer. The American “cardinal” responded:

Then we would have to address that situation. There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. 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.

(“Cardinal” Raymond Burke, in Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Burke on Amoris Laetitia Dubia: ‘Tremendous Division’ Warrants Action”, National Catholic Register, Nov. 15, 2016)

Since then, the world has eagerly awaited this very “formal act of correction” of the Argentinian antipope — to no avail. Innumerable articles, blog posts, tweets, etc. have been published on the topic. Will Burke really do it? What will it look like? When will it be issued? How will Francis react? What if there is a schism? etc., ad nauseam.

Almost a year has passed now since the dubia were first submitted. Every so often, the formal correction is brought up again as a topic of interest. But it still hasn’t happened. During Advent 2016, Mr. Burke announced that the correction “would probably take place sometime after” the Feast of the Epiphany, which was January 6. Now it is August. True enough, August is indeed after January, so in that respect, he was certainly correct.

In the meantime, there have been some other developments: On behalf of the group, “Cardinal” Caffarra has long requested a “papal” audience to discuss the dubia, but Francis refuses to grant them one. Then-CDF head “Cardinal” Gerhard Muller has offered to mediate between the two parties, and found himself dismissed from his post at the first innocuous-looking opportunity. At the last two consistories, Francis even canceled the customary meetings with all “cardinals” in order to avoid being confronted over the issue.

In other words: Francis knows fully well that his goose is cooked, so he’s going out of his way to at least keep other people from entering the kitchen. While constantly preaching sanctimoniously about the supposed need for dialogue and encounter, when it comes meeting with those who politely question his program, he has no words to offer, only a finger.

So now we have the umpteenth interview with “Cardinal” Burke, and he is asked about the issue again. The Wanderer published the following exchange:

[Questioner Don Fier:] This leads to another topic we spoke of in December of 2015. When I asked you a question about possible decentralization of the Church’s hierarchical structure of governance, you emphasized that there is nothing in “the Church’s tradition that would give Conferences of Bishops [or diocesan ordinaries] the authority to make decisions about pastoral practices which would involve a change in Church teaching.”
Yet, as so clearly evident in the previous question, that is exactly what appears to be taking place. With regard to marriage, are we reaching the point of having a Church where Catholics can literally shop around for a location that suits their desires? Is the Church in danger of schism unless universal doctrinal discipline is restored?

[“Cardinal” Raymond Burke:] This, in fact, is exactly what is going on. Bishops tell me that when they insist on authentic Church teaching with regard to irregular matrimonial unions, people are simply rejecting their teachings. They say that another bishop teaches differently and they choose to follow him.
The response of the Archbishop of Malta was shocking, who, when criticized about the troublesome document the Bishops of Malta published on Amoris Laetitia, said they follow the teaching of Pope Francis and not of other Popes. How can that be? The Popes are all to proclaim and be obedient to the one true Catholic Faith. If not, they have been deposed, as in the case of Pope Honorius. So then, this is simply not possible.
People talk about a de facto schism. I am absolutely in opposition to any kind of formal schism — a schism can never be correct. People can, however, be living in a schismatic situation if the teaching of Christ has been abandoned. The more appropriate word would be the one Our Lady used in her Message of Fatima: apostasy. There can be apostasy within the Church and this, in fact, is what is going on. In connection with the apostasy, Our Lady also referred to the failure of pastors to bring the Church to unity.

(Don Fier, “Interview With Cardinal Burke… (Part 2) Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love”, The Wanderer, Aug. 14, 2017)

We need to interrupt here for a minute and set some things straight.

First, true Popes are not simply supposed to teach the truth, they do teach the truth. That is one of the things that makes the Papacy so glorious and so special — and it is the main reason why Christ established it in the first place: “…the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren’ [Luke 22:32]” (First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus; Denz. 1836).

Second, Pope Honorius was never “deposed”, nor was he ever declared to have deposed himself — “Cardinal” Burke simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But just as yelling “Fake News!” is becoming a popular way for people to quickly dismiss what they don’t want to hear, so shouting “But Pope Honorius!” is becoming people’s one-size-fits-all excuse to justify their refusal of submission to the man they insist is the Vicar of Christ. For those who are interested in the truth about Pope Honorius, we recommend the following:

Third, Burke laments the apostasy in his church but without identifying the chief apostate of them all: “Pope” Francis. Instead, he recommends (elsewhere in the interview) the 1992 Novus Ordo Catechism of the Catholic Church of “Saint” John Paul II, revealing that he is clueless about what has brought on the apostasy and what constitutes it. (Hint: It’s not simply a departure from the truth about holy matrimony.)

We now return to the interview:

[Fier:] Setting aside the question of timing, please explain how the process for the execution of a “formal correction” would proceed should a response to the five dubia not be forthcoming? How is a formal correction officially submitted, how is it addressed within the Church’s hierarchal structure, etc.?

[Burke:] The process has not been frequently invoked in the Church, and not now for several centuries. There has been the correction of past Holy Fathers on significant points, but not in a doctrinal way. It seems to me that the essence of the correction is quite simple. On the one hand, one sets forth the clear teaching of the Church; on the other hand, what is actually being taught by the Roman Pontiff is stated. If there is a contradiction, the Roman Pontiff is called to conform his own teaching in obedience to Christ and the Magisterium of the Church.
The question is asked, “How would this be done?” It is done very simply by a formal declaration to which the Holy Father would be obliged to respond. Cardinals Brandmüller, Caffarra, Meisner, and I used an ancient institution in the Church of proposing dubia to the Pope.
This was done in a very respectful way and not in any way to be aggressive, in order to give him the occasion to set forth the Church’s unchanging teaching. Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the five dubia, so it is now necessary simply to state what the Church teaches about marriage, the family, acts that are intrinsically evil, and so forth. These are the points that are not clear in the current teachings of the Roman Pontiff; therefore, this situation must be corrected. The correction would then direct itself principally to those doctrinal points.
There have been cases, as I mentioned, of the correction of past Roman Pontiffs on non-doctrinal points where cardinals have gone to the Holy Father on one thing or the other such as, for example, matters dealing with administration of the Church.
Another question can also be raised. The Pope is the principle of unity of the bishops and all the faithful. However, the Church is being torn asunder right now by confusion and division. The Holy Father must be called on to exercise his office to put an end to this.
So then, the next step would be a formal declaration stating the clear teachings of the Church as set forth in the dubia. Furthermore, it would be stated that these truths of the Faith are not being clearly set forth by the Roman Pontiff. In other words, instead of asking the questions as was done in the dubia, the formal correction would be stating the answers as clearly taught by the Church.

Mr. Burke must be making things up as he goes along. He talks about a “formal declaration to which the Holy Father would be obliged to respond”. Oh? Precisely who or what will oblige him to respond? And if he can be so obliged, why was he not so obliged to respond to the dubia in the first place? Does Burke not realize that a “formal declaration” by cardinals is of no value if the Roman Pontiff condemns it?

As for the content of the formal correction, Burke says that it would essentially be a repeat of the dubia, except that this time the questioners would provide their own answers — which really exposes the dubia as having been insincere from the beginning. Burke and his gang knew quite well what the answers were and thus what would have to be the only answers they would accept. This is very interesting, considering that at the same time Burke is saying that Francis needs to “exercise his office to put an end to” confusion and division. Precisely how that is supposed to work when the “dubia cardinals” have already made clear that they will not accept certain answers or directives from him, will have to remain a mystery for now.

We return to the interview one last time:

[Fier:] During his tenure as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Gerhard Cardinal Mueller was a steadfast defender that confusing statements in Amoris Laetitia must be interpreted in line with the Church’s traditional teaching on reception of Holy Communion by civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. Do you foresee any possibility of a reversal in this teaching from the CDF in the aftermath of his non-renewal as Prefect?

[Burke:] It is not possible for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to declare otherwise. If it did, it would be out of communion with the Church. What Cardinal Mueller has set forth is exactly what has always been taught by the Church. In more recent times, paragraph 84 of Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio has pronounced the Church’s constant teaching. So then, that type of reversal is simply not possible.

Apparently Burke has not yet understood how things work now: The “god of surprises” reigns in Rome! How he can look at the last 4+ years of “Pope” Francis and think that there is anything in the Vatican today that is “simply not possible”, defies belief. And as for “Cardinal” Muller, perhaps Mr. Burke could address at some point why he thinks a man who denies the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation should be relied upon to defend any other dogma.

But enough of the interview already. It’s just more words about an issue that has been beaten to death. What’s more interesting to discuss is why some people think that when a few cardinals issue a formal correction of a Pope’s magisterial teaching, that this is going to be good for the Church. Even if it solved one problem, it would create hundreds more.

Frankly, the whole idea is absurd. The Pope teaches the Church, not the other way around. Not that Francis is actually the Pope, but that’s beside the point here, because all the people involved believe him to be. What they are proposing, therefore, does great damage to the Catholic teaching on the Papacy, as can be seen, for example, from the following quote by St. Robert Bellarmine:

The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.

Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.

On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.

(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; translated by Ryan Grant as On the Roman Pontiff [Mediatrix Press, 2016], vol. 2, p. 160; underlining added.)

Apparently St. Robert Bellarmine, the Doctor of the Papacy, knew nothing about correcting the Roman Pontiff’s Magisterium as put forward by Mr. Burke. It looks like Francis isn’t the only one who needs to have some errors corrected.

One has to wonder what the people who are excited about seeing Francis corrected by some of his own “cardinals” think this will accomplish. Do they think that a handful of cardinals can trump the Pope? What do they want people to do? Use their own private judgment as to whom to follow — Burke & the Gang or Francis?

Just like the perpetual SSPX-Rome drama, the dubia with their “formal correction” are turning into another never-ending Vatican saga that will ultimately only benefit the enemies of Christ as it reinforces in people’s minds that they are the legitimate authorities of the Roman Catholic Church when in fact they are but “false apostles [and] deceitful workmen, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13).

We have one request to make of Mr. Burke concerning this formal correction business: For Heaven’s sake, please quit talking about it and just do it already.