Q9 What mistake do the four cardinals make?
A9 The mistake that the four cardinals make is that they insulate themselves from the spiritual suffering imposed by the laws of the Church. Some even imagine that the suffering of an abandoned wife is the natural result of her unwillingness to be an obedient and submissive wife. The husband becomes frustrated with her resistance and leaves. Thus, her spiritual suffering can be seen as “entirely justified,” and, when accepted willingly could lead to a cultivation of the submission that a man has the right to expect. When asked therefore how they admonished wives who complained of being physically abused and bruised by their husbands, one can expect that they replied, “You provoked your husband and brought this upon yourself. Learn obedience and return to your husband as a repentant woman. This will restore perfect harmony.”
Modern pastors know this approach “blames the victim” and only serves to stimulate the “abusive husband” to expand his pattern of abuse, to attack more often, not only his wife but his children as well. Bullying is a learned addiction, and it can only be slowly and painfully unlearned through “rage control” and “rage addiction groups.”
The Guardian contains a brief and hard-hitting analysis of why Cardinal Burke and other Catholic Fundamentalists have set their sights on correcting Pope Francis for his “heresy” regarding the impossibility of giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. Here are the key steps in this battle:
Why Pope Francis is Hated so Fiercely
In 2015 and 2016, Francis convened two large conferences (or synods) of bishops from all around the world to discuss all this. He knew he could not move without broad agreement. He kept silent himself, and encouraged the bishops to wrangle. But it was soon apparent that he favoured a considerable loosening of the discipline around communion after remarriage. Since this is what goes on in practice anyway, it is difficult for an outsider to understand the passions it arouses. [So true!]
“What I care about is the theory,” said the English priest who confessed his hatred of Francis. “In my parish there are lots of divorced and remarried couples, but many of them, if they heard the first spouse had died, would rush to get a church wedding. I know lots of homosexuals who are doing all sorts of things that are wrong, but they know they should not be. We’re all sinners. But we’ve got to maintain the intellectual integrity of the Catholic faith.”
With this mindset, the fact that the world rejects your teaching merely proves how right it is. “The Catholic Church ought to be countercultural in the wake of the sexual revolution,” says Ross Douthat. “The Catholic church is the last remaining place in the western world that says divorce is bad.”
For Francis and his supporters, all this is irrelevant. The church, says Francis, should be a [field] hospital, or a first-aid station. People who have been divorced don’t need to be told it’s a bad thing. They need to recover and to piece their lives together again. The church should stand beside them, and show mercy.
At the first synod of the bishops in 2015, this was still a minority view. A liberal document was prepared, but rejected by a majority. A year later, the conservatives were in a clear minority, but a very determined one. Francis himself wrote a summary of the deliberations in The Joy of Love [Amoris Laetitia]. It is a long, reflective and carefully ambiguous document. The dynamite is buried in footnote 351 of chapter eight, and has taken on immense importance in the subsequent convulsions.
The footnote appends a passage worth quoting both for what it says and how it says it. What it says is clear: some people living in second marriages (or civil partnerships) “can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end”.
Even the [additional] footnote, which says that such couples may receive communion if they have confessed their sins, approaches the matter with circumspection: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.” Hence, [citing Pope Francis speaking informally] “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.” And: “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’.”
“By thinking that everything is black and white,” Francis adds, “we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth.”
It is this tiny passage that has united all the other rebellions against his authority. No one has consulted laypeople to find out what they think about it, and in any case their opinions are of no interest to the introvert party. But among the bishops, between a quarter and a third are passively resisting the change, and a small minority are doing so actively.
How Did Cardinal Burke Become the Ring-leader?
The leader of that faction is Francis’s great enemy, Cardinal Burke. Sacked first from his position on the Vatican court, and then from the liturgy commission, he ended up on the supervisory board of the Knights of Malta – a charitable body run by the old Catholic aristocracies of Europe. In Autumn 2016, he sacked the head of the order for supposedly allowing nuns to distribute condoms in Burma. This is something that nuns do quite widely in the developing world to protect vulnerable women. The man who had been sacked appealed to the pope.
The outcome was that Francis reinstated the man Burke had sacked, and appointed another man to take over most of Burke’s duties. This was punishment for Burke’s quite untrue claim that the pope had been on his side in the original row.
Cardinal Burke Takes his Revenge
Meanwhile, Burke had opened a new front, which came as close as he could to accusing the pope of heresy. Along with three other cardinals, two of whom have since died, Burke produced a list of four questions designed to establish whether or not Amoris Laetitia contravened previous teaching. These were sent as a formal letter to Francis, who ignored it. After he was sacked, Burke made the questions public, and said he was prepared to issue a formal declaration that the pope was a heretic if he would not answer them to Burke’s satisfaction.
Of course, Amoris Laetitia does represent a break with previous teaching. It is an example of the church learning from experience. But that is hard for conservatives to assimilate: historically, these bursts of learning have only happened in convulsions, centuries apart. This one has come only 60 years after the last burst of extroversion, with Vatican II, and only 16 years after John Paul II reiterated the old, hard line.
“What does it mean for a pope to contradict a previous pope?” asks Douthat. “It is remarkable how close Francis has come to arguing with his immediate predecessors. It was only 30 years ago that John Paul II laid down in Veritatis Splendor the line which it seems that Amoris Laetitia is contradicting.” [full article in the Guardian]
##Have you made any discoveries here? Do you now understand why Cardinal Burke and his allies hate Pope Francis so fiercely? Have you been unsettled by what has been said? In any case, your comments and reflections are welcome.
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