Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’ll post this. I do not like the fact that Sandro Magister posted in this way, however. I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now. The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod. Or at all.
It’s not good news. At the time of this writing, it is still – officially – a rumor. I believe it, however. I have been trying to get myself into a mental and spiritual place to see it for what it is and, more importantly, for what it is not, and to plot my own reaction and subsequent course.
Vatican Insider has posted that His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke will soon be demoted by Pope Francis from being Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to the Patron of the Knights of Malta.
The move is not lateral. That position is usually entrusted to older Cardinals. The present Cardinal Patron is Card. Sardi, who is now 80. Before him was Pio Card. Laghi. The reassignment would be a demotion, for the Patron of the Knights is not nearly the equivalent of Prefect of a Roman dicastery.
I didn’t think that Card. Burke would be moved to Chicago, though I had a little fun with that idea. I thought he might be moved laterally to the Congregation for Causes of Saints to replace Card. Amato, who is over 75. More on Saints, below.
There are a few points to make here, before the trads blow arteries and quite simply die and before liberals and dissidents, who suffer from Burke Derangement Syndrome, start their Lord of the Flies Dance.
First, it is possible that the three Roman tribunals (Penitentiary, Signatura, Rota), might be collapsed into a single dicastery for justice. I don’t know how that would work. I think it would be a really bad idea, but they didn’t ask me. If that is the case, the Signatura and the Penitentiary will not both need a Cardinal.
Second, according to a couple sources I have heard from, there is talk of collapsing the Congregation for Causes of Saints back into Divine Worship where, historically, it once belonged. Once upon a time the powerful Sacred Congregation of Rites had the brief for beatification and canonization. That would eliminate another cardinalatial chair in the Curia.
Furthermore, there is talk of collapsing minor curial offices, Councils and the like, into a Congregation for Laity. That could eliminate several other Cardinals in the Curia.
If you eliminate a position that has required a Cardinal, and that Cardinal is not 75 or 80, that is, ready for retirement, the Pope has to do something with him. Burke is only 66. What can the Pope do if there are no longer enough cardinalatial slots in the curia because he plans on eliminating them? Well, you can send His Eminence off to be the bishop of some important see in his own country, right? What if the Pope can’t do that because the Cardinal’s own countrymen have been drenching the same Cardinal in contumely? Not enough curial chairs, not a good option back home? Don’t forget that the Archbishop Secretaries of eliminated offices have to go somewhere too! They might need those dioceses back in their native places.
So, what? You put the Cardinal in the best possible cardinalatial role you can find. Some Cardinals who hit 75 and are at the end of service in a Congregation, are still useful. They reside in Rome. They can be on other Congregations until they are 80. They could head up some office such as, once upon a time, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”. That’s been put under the CDF. There are still, for example, Archpriests at the Major Basilicas. But, there’s already an American at St. Paul’s outside-the-walls: Card. Harvey, 64, also from Wisconsin, just like Card. Burke. Two American sexagenarian Cardinals from Wisconsin as Archpriests of Papal Basilicas at the same time? Not likely. I suspect that if Francis eliminates a few offices, such as Cor Unum or Justice and Peace or the like which have men who are still of service age, one of them will go, say, to be Archpriest at St. Mary Major, where the present man, Card. Abril y Castelló, is about to turn 79. An Italian could wind up as the Delegate for the Basilica of St. Francis where Card. Nicora, 77, is now.
It is fair to imagine that Pope Francis – certainly at the instigation of a few close advisers – is purging the Curia of his predecessor’s influence.
It is also fair to imagine that Francis is pairing down the number of Cardinals and offices in the Curia. It could be more about that than about Burke himself. It could be a purge of Cardinals and not just of Burke.
It could be about both. After all, Cardinals Piacenza and Cañizares were moved.
What I am wondering about is what might happen at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Will Card. Müller be moved out of the Curia to Berlin?
We could know more when and if Francis appoints Burke’s successor at an existing, unreformed Signatura.
NB: with the removal of Burke from the Signatura, there will be zero US Cardinals in the Roman Curia. Is it likely that that is what Pope Francis wants? No American Cardinals in the Roman Curia? That’s a pretty big and influential country to snub.
QUAERITUR: Is Francis opening up a slot into which he would move another American Cardinal from these USA? An American (or other) Cardinal into a key position for any reform of the tribunals who may agree with Card. Kasper’s views or be on side if it comes to trimming down the annulment process?
And then there is this.
This news has been leaked a couple weeks before the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops which will tackle, inter alia, the question of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. However, Card. Burke will surely be a participant in the Synod. Moreover, days before the Synod begins, a book will be released in five languages – in English, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, by Ignatius Press HERE – UK link HERE – in which Card. Burke has an essay (along with those of four other Cardinals) in defense of the Church’s traditional teaching and discipline. Card. Burke has been a leading figure in the holding position against the really bad ideas of Walter Card. Kasper, the “tolerate but don’t accept” position that the liberals and dissidents are swooning over. You will have noticed – or maybe not, for how many people read it, after all – that at Amerika Magazine, its 24/7 Kasperism.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are asking, “How could something like this take place? Why would this take place?” Others are saying “Hah hah Fr. Z! You hate Vatican II! Next we’re coming for you!”
In addition to the scenario of cutting back the curia I outlined, above, I think that Card. Burke’s enemies, both in these USA and in Rome – at least occasionally, got the upper hand when advising Pope Francis. It would be naïve in the extreme to think that there are lacking near Francis’s elbows those who have been sharpening their knives for Card. Burke and for anyone else associated closely with Pope Benedict.
This is millennial, clerical blood sport.
Sacerdos sacerdoti lupissimus.
No surprises here. The sun rises at dawn. Dog bites man.
Is there an upside to this? Sure there is!
If this happens – and it is still not official yet – Card. Burke will not have so much on his plate. He is still young enough to have a good store of energy. This move, if true, would mean that he would not be tethered to a desk full of nearly as much paperwork. He will have more time to write. He will have more opportunities to raise his voice and express his views. He is already pretty forthright as a Prefect. When he is off the leash, he will still act with the Romanitas and the gravitas of a Cardinal, but I’ll bet he’ll be even more vocal.
Another upside? He will probably retain his membership in the Congregations to which he belongs. Those appointments change from time to time. We shall see.
Remember, this is not official until it is formally announced. However, it seems likely.
I know Card. Burke a little. I know him well enough to know that he is a man of deep spiritual resources. He will be fine. Do, however, say a prayer for him regularly. Every Cardinal needs prayers! Imagine how the Enemy targets Cardinals, especially real defenders of tradition. It’s a terrifying prospect.
And then there’s this. This is the part I direct at YOU, dear readers.
Many of you will be tempted to have a spittle-flecked nutty of sorrow and panic about this, directly proportioned to the spittle-flecked nutty of giddiness and schadenfreude that the catholic Left are about to throw.
Many of you will be tempted to run in circles squawking about Francis the Disaster, the cross between a Jesuit and South American Dictator. At the same time the catholic Left will be running in the opposite direction squawking about Francis The Unjudgmental, the first Pope ever to smile or to kiss a baby, the most wonderfullest fluffiest Pope ehvurrr. He’s the only Pope ever to think about mercy! In doing this, the Left will also manifest their trademark venom. Remember what foaming paroxysms they had when Burke was not reappointed as a member of the Congregation of Bishops? When he was moved from St. Louis to Rome? ”Demotion!”, they cried. (Benedict moved him to Rome, by the way, not Francis, and it was a promotion.) So too with the Right! Francis says something that is – admittedly – strange or impenetrable and trads freak out.
We have to breathe deeply and try to see this for what it is and what it isn’t. And to continue the respiratory metaphor, some of us – I include myself – are going to have to hold our noses and swallow this bitter dose as if it had all the asafoetida that Dr. Maturin was accustomed to add to his draughts. [That's a Patrick O'Brian reference.]
Every pontificate has its good days and its bad days. Which it ain’t always beer and skittles, is it, as Preserved Killick would put it? [That's another.]
There are many factors to consider in this move, consideration of which should take us beyond a simple and facile assumption that this is part of a Franciscan Night of the Long Knives.