30 September 2017, The Tablet

Pope Francis reappoints Cardinal Burke to Vatican's Top Court

Appointment comes three years after Pope removed Cardinal from the job of prefect

Pope Francis reappoints Cardinal Burke to Vatican's Top Court

Pope Francis has named Cardinal Raymond Burke as a member of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s supreme court which the cardinal used to lead.

The appointment came as a surprise given the cardinal has been a prominent critic of Francis who is threatening to issue the Pope with a “fraternal correction” over the papal family life document, “Amoris Laetitia”.

The Pope’s decision to give the cardinal a seat on the board of the Church’s top justice body will be read as a peace offering, and comes after the Holy See’s most senior diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, called for more dialogue in the Church.

It also has the effect of drawing Cardinal Burke closer into the Francis administration and therefore upping the stakes should the cardinal issue a correction. A correction by Burke would be divisive, yet the Pope's move today signals the papacy wants reconciliation. 

In November 2014, Francis moved Cardinal Burke out of his job as prefect of the signatura, allegedly for the cardinal’s blocking of reforms to simplify - and speed up - the marriage annulment process.

Since then the 69-year-old former Archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, has become the leading traditionalist critic of the Francis papacy. Last November he and three other cardinals submitted the Pope with a series of questions - known as “dubia” - about “Amoris Laetitia” calling into doubt the openings it made to give some remarried divorcees communion.

After Francis offered no reply Cardinal Burke said he would issue the Pope with a correction: well-placed traditionalist sources in Rome say the cardinal is now intent on issuing one. This would follow last weekend's “filial correction” of Francis made by a group of priests and scholars who accuse the Pope of allowing the spread of heresy.

According to Canon Law and Catholic teaching, there is no process by which any individual in the Church - including a cardinal - can judge a Pope, which leaves open the question about what effects, if any, a correction might have. Criticisms of a Pope by any cardinal have traditionally been made behind closed doors. 

Along with his new role, the Cardinal is currently the Patron of the Order of Malta and is a member of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. He was named as a member of the supreme court today along with Cardinals Edoardo Menichelli, former Archbishop of Ancona, Agostino Vallini, former Vicar-General of the Diocese of Rome, Archbishop Archbishop Frans Daneels, former secretary to the signatura, and Bishop Jan Hendricks, leader of the Diocese of Arsacal, in the Netherlands.


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