The National Catholic Review
Burke appeared out of step with the current pontificate.
Cardinal Burke seen in 2012.

Pope Francis removed U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, 66, as head of the Vatican's highest court and named him to a largely ceremonial post for a chivalric religious order.

Cardinal Burke, formerly prefect of the Apostolic Signature, will now serve as cardinal patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, the Vatican announced on Nov. 8.

The move had been widely expected since an Italian journalist reported it in September, and the cardinal himself confirmed it to reporters the following month.

It is highly unusual for a pope to remove an official of Cardinal Burke's stature and age without assigning him comparable responsibilities elsewhere. By church law, cardinals in the Vatican must offer to resign at 75, but often continue in office for several more years. As usual when announcing personnel changes other than retirements for reasons of age, the Vatican did not give a reason for the cardinal's reassignment.

A prominent devotee of the traditional liturgy and outspoken defender of traditional doctrine on controversial moral issues, Cardinal Burke had appeared increasingly out of step with the current pontificate.

In December 2013, Pope Francis did not reappoint him to his position on the Congregation for Bishops, which advises the pope on episcopal appointments.

Cardinal Burke expressed frustration, in a February 2014 article in the Vatican newspaper, that many Americans thought Pope Francis intended to change Catholic teaching on certain "critical moral issues of our time," including abortion and same-sex marriage, because of the pope's stated belief that "it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

Insisting that the pope had "clearly affirmed the church's moral teaching, in accord with her unbroken tradition," Cardinal Burke blamed perceptions to the contrary on "false praise" of Pope Francis by "persons whose hearts are hardened against the truth."

After Pope Francis invited German Cardinal Walter Kasper to address a meeting of the world's cardinals in February, Cardinal Burke emerged as a leading opponent of Cardinal Kasper's proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.

Cardinal Burke also warned that efforts to streamline the marriage annulment process -- the mandate of a commission that the pope established in August -- should not undermine the process' rigor.

During the Oct. 5-19 Synod of Bishops on the family, Cardinal Burke was one of the most vocal critics of a midterm report that used remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions and other non-marital relationships. The day the report was released, the cardinal told an American reporter that a statement from Pope Francis reaffirming traditional doctrine on those matters was "long overdue."

Cardinal Burke made the news again late in October when he told a Spanish journalist that many Catholics "feel a bit of seasickness, because it seems to them that the ship of the church has lost its compass. The cause of this disorientation must be put aside. We have the constant tradition of the church, the teachings, the liturgy, morals. The catechism does not change."

A former archbishop of St. Louis, Cardinal Burke was named by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Apostolic Signature in June 2008. At the time of his dismissal, he was the highest-ranking U.S. bishop at the Vatican. That distinction now belongs to Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new head of the Apostolic Signature is French Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, formerly secretary for relations with states, the Vatican's equivalent of a foreign minister.

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Michael Barberi | 11/12/2014 - 5:20pm


Cardinal Dolan says that the Church and Bishops must propose and proclaim the truth and transform culture and not be transformed by culture. I agree. However, the question over many centuries is: what is the moral truth? This has been demonstrated by many past teachings that were taught as truth for centuries but were eventually changed. Sometimes we see more clearly what is moral truth and at other times we do not. Not every proposed change, in a teaching or in the pastoral application of moral norms, is a moral evil as some claim.

Respectful disagreement and debate has served the Church well, and will continue to serve it well in the future. We will have to wait until after the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family to see what Pope Francis says in his much anticipated Apostolic Exhortation. Nevertheless, there is no certainly that every issue will be completely addressed, as the only word or the last word.

It is not surprising that some bishops think the proposals of others are erroneous. Let's pray that the Bishops will be guided by the Holy Spirit but will also be open to listening to the voices of faithful married people, the laity, and scholarly theologians about the many issues facing families today. Keeping an open mind will not be easy, but anything is possible with God.

Beth Cioffoletti | 11/11/2014 - 4:28am

Some people should not be given a soapbox. Like Cardinal Burke.

The cult of clericalism and religiosity has run its course in the Catholic Church and it's long since time for it to fade away.

It's one thing for those at the closed door synod (which included Burke) to be encouraged to speak freely and bluntly. It's another for His Eminence to come out of that synod seeking to speak to the microphones and TVs of the world. His gig is up.

Tim O'Leary | 11/11/2014 - 2:18pm

Beth - he might inadvertently have been given a bigger soapbox now. In any case, I think Cardinal Kasper's extra-synodal statements suffer from a similar criticism.

As I said below, I support Pope Francis's decision, and major Curial reform in general. And I agree with his criticisms of clericalism. He even used this criticism for those who were advocating for women priests, in that the very advocacy, not only goes against settled doctrine (as Pope Francis insists), but also betrays a hyperclericalism in itself, as if the lay state was somehow inferior, when it is really a different charism.

I do hope Cardinal Burke gets invited to the 2015 synod, both for his contribution but also to avoid any perception of retribution for speaking freely, per Michael's comment that there would not be any.

Beth Cioffoletti | 11/11/2014 - 3:10pm

Oh gosh. I hope not. Burke's twisted and belabored rhetoric, all to make sure he looks "humble", makes me nuts. Being out there will only make him look even more ridiculous.

The clerical cult has been exposed, found wanting (corrupt) and rejected.

Take a look at this Fellini video:

The mockery will only get worse for Cardinal Burke. He should lay low.

Tim O'Leary | 11/11/2014 - 5:49pm

Wow! what extreme judgmentalism? Beth. I didn't think you had it in you.

Beth Cioffoletti | 11/11/2014 - 6:33pm

Who am I judging? Just giving my opinion on the best course for Burke, all things considering.

Beth Cioffoletti | 11/11/2014 - 6:42pm

I actually feel sorry for Burke, being caught as he is in such a position of power and supposed influence. His flaws are transparent and almost comically exaggerated. Most all of us would look equally ridiculous with the spot light on us. He really could use some down time and I hope he takes it.

Tim O'Leary | 11/11/2014 - 9:47pm

Right. No judging going on here. Just laughing at his flaws and excluding a Cardinal Bishop from the worldwide synod of bishops. I have read many of your opinions, Beth, and this is the saddest.

Beth Cioffoletti | 11/12/2014 - 4:59am

Sorry that my perspective saddens you, Tim. Maybe you are reading too much into it or something. As a public figure who makes public statements, Cardinal Burke is open to perspective and commentary. I'm giving mine; you are welcome to yours. I do find the expensive clothing that some of these men dress up in ridiculous and funny, and am relieved that Francis doesn't go in for it. Maybe that is not a "flaw" but something else that I don't understand. The flaw that I see in Burke is his inability to hold tension and balance himself in a state of uncertainty (not having the "answers"). I'm not sure that one can learn that while being on a soapbox. It's an inner kind of wisdom.

Just curious, when/where did I exclude Burke from the synod of bishops?

Michael Barberi | 11/10/2014 - 7:39pm

During the papacy of JP II, the authority of the Church was greatly increased and centered in Rome. The Conferences of Bishops saw their authority greatly diminished where any formal announcement to the laity had to have Vatical approval. JP II had little patience with those bishops who even whispered that certain moral teachings should be the subject of a rethinking. During his papacy, many bishops were removed from their ecclesial responsibilities and many Catholic theologians were investigated because of their views. Some theologians lost their license to teach. Even at the 1980 Synod on the Family, the voices of many bishops who argued for a change in Humanae Vitae fell on deaf ears.

Now, Pope Francis has removed a Cardinal from his present duties who has been a severe critic of his leadership…to the point of saying that under Pope Francis the Church is like a ship without a rudder.

We should welcome and thank Pope Francis for ushering in the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family where all voices are requested to be heard under no fear of retribution or silencing. This includes the voices of Cardinal Burke and those who have a similar viewpoint. The Holy Spirit leads us all to the moral truth in agreement and disagreement.

Tim O'Leary | 11/11/2014 - 1:33pm

Regarding the rudder comment, supposedly made in an interview, the Register says Cardinal Burke responded that Vida Nueva, a left-of-center media outlet, had “gravely distorted” his statement. So, it might be an unjust calumny.
Read more:

in all the video interviews I have seen, Cardinal Burke has never criticized Pope Francis, but stressed his loyalty. The same distortion occurred with the words of Archbishop Chaput, and USA Today has apologized for misrepresenting +Chaput. I am still waiting to see if the NCR does that, if they have such journalistic ethical standards.

Michael Barberi | 11/11/2014 - 8:28pm


There were similar reported comments from the Catholic News Service, U.S. Catholic and many other news services.

From U.S. Catholic:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis who has emerged as the face of the opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda, likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder” in a fresh attack on the pope’s leadership.

In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, published Thursday (Oct. 30), Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the pope personally but raising concern about his leadership.

“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke said.

- See more at:

If Cardinal Burke said the media had "gravely distorted" his statement, then it will be up to Cardinal Burke to explain what he said and what he meant before the media will likely issue retractions.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Cardinal Burke is a critic of potential pastoral changes regarding many issues under consideration by the 2014-2015 Synod on the Family.

Nevertheless, all voices should be heard without fear of retribution. This is what Pope Francis has called for. During the past two papacies, this was not the case.

Bill Mazzella | 11/10/2014 - 5:11pm

Francis is returning to the church of the Beatitudes. Which is scripturally sound. Burke represents the empire church with flowing gowns and worldly interests.

Tim O'Leary | 11/10/2014 - 5:39pm

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Charles Erlinger | 11/10/2014 - 3:43pm

The cardinals and archbishops accusing the Pope of sowing confusion seem oblivious to the possibility that their own vociferous criticism, not to mention their obvious intention to preemptively cause the eventual outcome of the synod to be regarded as irrelevant and inauthentic, may be confusing. Thankfully, irony contains humor. Otherwise, the situation would be unrelievedly sad.

Charles Erlinger | 11/10/2014 - 3:46pm

see above.

Tim O'Leary | 11/9/2014 - 4:12pm

I was very impressed with Cardinal Burke's humble acceptance of his new role. I wonder if we will be seeing a reappointment of Cardinal Kasper after the 2015 synod, possibly to a spot in Africa?

While headquartered in Rome, the Military order also has St. Angelo's Fort across the water from the beautiful Valletta in Malta. The fort could be very inspirational for Cardinal Burke, who should have considerably more time to devote to writing and lecturing, now that he is freed from the arduous work of the Apostolic Signature. I expect we will be hearing a lot from him over the coming year.

Sandi Sinor | 11/10/2014 - 6:15pm

Please, Tim. Try to be real at least now and then. Self-delusion can become a dangerous habit.

Burke leaked the news himself some time ago and spent the next few weeks offering extreme (some might say borderline vicious) criticisms of Francis. Nothing gracious about it at all.

He has two choices - accept the new assignment or resign. He is not showing even the slightest humility in all this, but extreme pique, talking to the press to tear down Francis and the Synod at every chance he gets.

Tim O'Leary | 11/10/2014 - 8:45pm

Sandi - Pope Francis asked every bishop to speak their mind and not be afraid of doing so. Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Kasper took his advice and I think the latter has been even more outspoken and careless (esp. when he put the Africans down and then claimed he didn't, until the tape became public, or when he makes predictions of future decisions when he can't really know it).

I don't know Cardinal Burke, but in every interview I've seen, he is humble and honest and really believes what he says. He didn't leak any news as it was already out. He just confirmed that the rumor was true. He is a little too cautious for my taste, and too set in his ways. While he and the Holy Father are very much in agreement on doctrine, they do differ a lot on how the doctrine should be expressed and applied and on what should be emphasized. Recall that Cardinal Burke is an eminent theologian, philosopher and lawyer and Pope Francis is not expert in those areas (as he says himself - his strengths are in human psychology and pastoral concerns) and this must color their approach. Lawyers tend to focus on the downside in decisions and are very averse to confusion and know how easily words can be taken out of context.

However, I think Pope Francis' approach might be right for the Church at this time. And while it is early and the jury is out on whether this will strengthen the Church's evangelical mission, I hope and pray that it will. I do not at all dispute his decision to reshape the Curia as he sees fit. It was in great need of a shakeup. I like his team of eight cardinals and his choice of Cardinal Pell to fix the financials is already bearing fruits. But, there have been mistakes, and the interim report was one of them, particularly when the translations into English had errors that needed correction. And there is confusion in the media, which is more wishful thinking that will surely disappoint in the end.

These style and tactical differences do not necessarily impinge on doctrine and are therefore not at all protected from missteps and bad choices. I just hope the Pope is wise enough to govern well and manage the message to the media, who are not at all on his side when it comes to evangelizing the full Gospel.

Carlos Orozco | 11/9/2014 - 2:37am

Not good when a voice of common sense is trying to be silenced. Cardinal Burke has given an example of courage and coherence, accepting the consequences for them. Cardinal Kasper should be the one getting sacked after the near disaster of the Synod on the Family.

Tim Carey | 11/8/2014 - 10:32pm

About time. Cardinal Burke has been a voice of intolerance for a long time. This will help bring the flock back together.

ALICE MARX | 11/10/2014 - 10:23am

I agree with the move that Pope Francis has made. I hope that this move does not bar Cardinal Burke from the 2015 synod.

I do not agree with his and his colleague's position, ".... even discussing subjects like Communion for the divorced and remarried would confuse the faithful and lead the church down a slippery slope to heresy. Burke reportedly told the synod there could be no change in doctrine, no change in canon law, and no change in pastoral practice. Instead, he urged the pope to issue a statement affirming Catholic doctrine on marriage. By failing to do so, he alleged, Francis had “done a lot of harm” to the church." (as reported in an article Commonweal Magazine 10/28/2014) in which he seems to question the maturity of the faithful. I do believe that barring him from the 2015 synod would only be an echo of his seeming intolerance.
(written by Paul Marx)

William Rydberg | 11/8/2014 - 3:55pm

To start, I would like to thank him for his contribution over the years. Perhaps he can put some new energy behind the Cause for Fr. John A. Hardon S.J. As I recollect, even Fr Hardon was shunned by his own Jesuit brothers to the extent that he took his meals with the Capuchins at the request of his Superiors. Point being, its not always a bad thing to be temporarily on the "outs" with prominent Jesuits, no matter how how exalted. After all, Jesus can work through anything. And frankly, Fr John A. Hardon S.J.'s cause (though it may take a long time) is inevitable. Which is all I have to say about this news event...

Jack O'Shea | 11/11/2014 - 5:30pm

I do wish the church leaders & the laity would reffer more to the Scriptures than to human opinion when discussing &/or disagreeing w/ so much of Catholic doctrine. The Scriptures are the Word of God & should always have precedence over world opinion or Papl Infallibility. On these 2 issues before us, why not take a look at marriage & divorce re/ Matt: 19:3-9; Matt:5:32; & 1 Cor: 7:1-15. On the subject of Marriage between a man & woman c.f. Genesis 2:21-25. The answers to both discussion questions seem very clear to me. We all must decide, but I choose to use the Bible as my guide. Jack O'Shea

ALICE MARX | 11/11/2014 - 9:26pm

Please discuss the consequences for us all of parenthetical expression in MT 5 and MT 19 (lewd conduct is a separate case).