14 November 2017, The Tablet

Burke makes ‘final plea’ to Francis on dubia questions

Burke addresses Pope Francis again on Amoris Laetitia, calls for clear expression of teaching

Burke makes ‘final plea’ to Francis on dubia questions

Cardinal Raymond Burke, who just one year ago with four other cardinals made public a number of dubia, or questions, regarding the interpretation of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, has again addressed the Pope, in what he calls a “final plea”. Speaking to the National Catholic Register, Cardinal Burke said he wanted to emphasise “how urgent it is that, in exercising the ministry he has received from the Lord, the Pope should confirm his brothers in the faith with a clear expression of the teaching regarding both Christian morality and the meaning of the Church’s sacramental practice.”

Francis has not yet responded to the original five-question dubia, signed by Cardinal Burke, along with Cardinal Walter Brandmüller and recently deceased Cardinals Joachim Meisner and Carlo Caffarra. The cardinals sought to ascertain, among other matters, whether previous Church teaching forbidding civilly “remarried” divorcees engaging in sexual relations to receive the sacraments remained in force.

Ambiguity regarding a concrete point of the pastoral care of the family, Cardinal Burke claimed in the National Catholic Register interview, has led some to propose a “paradigm shift” regarding the Church’s entire moral practice. A process has been put into motion, he claimed, that is “subversive of essential parts of the Tradition.” Concerning Christian morality, he said, some claim that absolute moral norms need to be relativised and that a “subjective, self-referential conscience” needs to be given a kind of primacy in moral matters. “We are speaking about whether or not a person’s encounter with Christ can, by the grace of God, give form to the path of the Christian life so that it may be in harmony with the Creator’s wise design,” he said. To understand how far-reaching the proposed changes are, he said, “it is enough to think of what would happen if this [relativising] reasoning were to be applied to other cases, such as that of a medical doctor performing abortions, of a politician belonging to a ring of corruption, of a suffering person deciding to make a request for assisted suicide.”

Asked about the Pope’s letter to the Argentine bishops, in which the bishops asked whether their guidelines that left open the possibility of some sexually active unmarried couples receiving Communion were acceptable, Burke said the Pope’s letter to the bishops, written shortly before receiving the dubia and containing comments on the bishops’ pastoral guidelines, could not be considered an adequate response to the questions posed. “On the one hand, these guidelines can be interpreted in different ways; on the other, it is not clear that this letter is a magisterial text, in which the Pope intended to speak to the universal Church as the Successor of Peter,” he said. “The fact that the letter first became known because it had been leaked to the press — and was only later made public by the Holy See — raises a reasonable doubt about the Holy Father’s intention to direct it to the universal Church. In addition, it would turn out to be quite astonishing — and contrary to Pope Francis’ explicitly formulated desire to leave the concrete application of Amoris Laetitia to the bishops of each country (Amoris Laetitia, 3) — that now he should impose on the universal Church what are only the concrete directives of a particular region.” 

“The concern was and is to determine precisely what the Pope wanted to teach as Successor of Peter,” Cardinal Burke said. “Far from diminishing the importance of our questions,” the current situation only makes them “still more pressing.”

He added that in this latest interview he intends to honour the two deceased cardinals by underlining the position of the dubia signatories.

Picture: Cardinal Raymond Burke Credit: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/Reuters/PA Images

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