At a conference in Rome on Saturday called to address perceived “confusion” in the Church, Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most prominent critics of this papacy, attempted to define the limits of papal power.
The authority of the Roman Pontiff, Burke emphasised, is not “magical” but comes from the Pope’s “obedience to the Lord” and there are even times where a “Pope must, as a duty, be disobeyed”. “The Pope must respect the deposit of faith,” Burke explained. “He has the authority to express the creed in a more adequate way but he can not act contrary to faith. He must respect each and every one of the sacraments; he cannot suppress or add anything that goes against the substance of the sacraments.”
The conference on the theme “Catholic Church: Where are you heading?” was organised by an Italian association called “The Friends of Cardinal Caffarra”. Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, who died in September last year, was one of four “dubia” cardinals, including Cardinal Burke, who wrote to the Pope asking for answers to five questions that requested clarification of parts of Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. Another signatory, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, died in July last year, while the fourth, Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, attended the Rome conference. Pope Francis has never replied to the dubia.
The final declaration of the conference made six points. It said a ratified and consummated marriage between two baptised persons can be dissolved only by death, and if Christians united by a valid marriage join with someone else while their spouse is still alive “they commit the grave sin of adultery”.
It insisted that there are “absolute moral commandments” that people are obliged to follow “without exception”, and that no “subjective judgment of conscience” can make an intrinsically evil act good and licit. It said if sacramental absolution is to be administered then the penitent must intend to abandon a way of life “contrary to the divine commandments”. And it said people who are divorced and civilly remarried, and who are unwilling to live “in continence”, are in a situation that is “objectively contrary to the law of God, and therefore cannot receive Eucharistic Communion”.