Pope Francis punished one of his most vocal conservative critics in the Catholic hierarchy, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke. The Pope has decided to revoke his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary. This punishment, according to reports, is the second action against a conservative American prelate this month.
According to an anonymous source, Francis revealed during a meeting with the heads of Vatican officials that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the church. While some concluded that Burke’s punishment was baseless, another anonymous source from the meeting revealed the pope had his reasons.
According to the source, Francis said he was revoking Burke’s privileges as a retired cardinal because he was using the privileges against the church. In a text message to the Associated Press, Burke’s secretary revealed that the U.S Cardinal had not received any notification of measures taken.
Burke, a 75-year-old canon lawyer, is one of the most outspoken critics of the pope. Consequently, Francis fired him as the Vatican’s high court justice in 2014. In addition, his outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics and his reform project has him at loggerheads with the Pope.
The punishment of Burke, who opposed the pope’s leniency on divorce and his approach to LGBTQ+ people, comes on the heels of the pope’s firing of another conservative critic. Before this second punishment, Burke joined other conservative cardinals twice in issuing formal questions to the ‘pontiff,’ known as ‘dubia.’
They asked him to clarify questions of doctrine that upset conservatives and traditionalists. First, they requested Francis to explain his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. However, Francis never replied. In the second, they asked whether same-sex couples could receive church blessings. This time, they received a conditional “maybe” in response.
Afterward, on the eve of Francis’ big meeting of bishops last month, known as a synod, Burke presided over a counter-synod of sorts just steps away from St. Peter’s Square. There, Burke delivered a stinging rebuke of Francis’ vision of “synodality” and his overall reform project for the church.
“It’s unfortunately obvious that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has the aim of bringing forward an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke told the conference.
Aside from the clash at the synod, Burke and Francis have had their differences over the years. After Pope Benedict XVI appointed Burke a cardinal in 2010, Francis removed him from that position in 2014. Afterward, he made Burke the cardinal patron of the Knights of Malta, a prestigious but limited role.
But there, too, Burke and Francis clashed over Burke’s involvement in a governance crisis at the chivalric order. Consequently, Francis pushed Burke aside and essentially named two subsequent envoys to replace him.
More recently, the two seemingly were at odds over COVID-19 vaccines. Francis had been a big proponent of the vaccines. Hence, he lashed out at vaccine skeptics, who included some conservative Catholics, including Burke.
However, Burke has consistently defended his actions as serving the church and the papacy. He said his obligation as a cardinal and bishop was to uphold church teaching and correct errors.
“The sheep depend on the courage of pastors who must protect them from the poison of confusion, error, and division,” he said in a conference, prompting applause from the crowd.
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