Play by Play: Card. Burke’s video interview recap!

Ed Peters, canonist extraordinaire, has a useful recap of Card. Burke’s video interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN.   Peters points to the minute and second mark of certain of the Cardinal’s comments and then adds his own helpful commentary.

This is the video interview that has sent a few of the catholic Left to swoon upon their feinting couches, others to beat the air vainly as so many windmills, others to erupt in spittle-flecked nutties.

Some notes on Cdl. Burke’s EWTN interview

by Dr. Edward Peters

There are too many important passages in Raymond Cdl. Burke’s recent 29 minute interview with EWTN to quote and comment upon here. The entire interview should be seen by those wanting to understand better what is happening in and around the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Even so, a few parts warrant underscoring.

At approx. 11:45, Burke talks about helping couples in irregular unions (Catholics civilly remarried after divorce) to “lead a chaste life”. Burke is referring to the brother-sister relationship long recognized by moralists and canonists as a viable way for such couples to stay together (say, for the sake of children), cease taking for themselves the prerogatives of the married, and access holy Communion.

At approx. 12:45, I wish Burke had been allowed to respond to Cdl. Kasper’s astounding claim that sacramental Confession is possible for someone who does not express firm purpose of amendment. Instead the discussion went down another interesting path. Oh well. [Ditto.  I caught that too.]

At approx. 15:58, Burke rejects with the bluntness it deserved Kasper’s claim that the annulment process itself is nothing more than Catholic divorce. The 1944 address of Pius XII mentioned by Burke is available in English at Canon Law Digest III: 612-622 or in Italian here.

At approx. 17:08, Burke makes a subtle but vital point that is of divine law that the Church ha[s] a process for assessing (among other things) the validity of marriage. It must be understood that, whatever else it is, marriage is, by Christ’s decision, a relationship rooted in contract (though this contract is raised to the level of sacrament between the baptized, c. 1055) and therefore the ecclesial society needs a legal process to assess the binding character of those contracts apparently entered into by its members. While the Church can, and does, make use of both judicial and administrative procedures to attain justice (annulment cases being among those matters treated judicially, c. 1671), the notion of hearing marriage nullity cases “administratively” has become code for deciding such cases “pastorally” or “mercifully” or in some way or another that is not “legal” in nature. [Exactly!] Burke’s comment is an urgent call not to abandon the idea that some legal process be employed to satisfy certain aspects of divine law.

At approx. 18:50, Burke makes an important observation on the “complexity” of the annulment process, namely, that the process is, for the most part, only as a complex as are the situations that the process is meant to assess. If life (including its legal aspects) were simple, then living life (and settling its legal questions) would also be simple. He makes the same point at approx. 19:30, calling for more people to be trained in canon law.

At approx. 21:10, Burke concedes the oddity of the pope’s naming a commission to revise tribunal procedures before it was even settled that tribunal procedures needed to be revised, [Yes.  That was strange, to say the least.] let alone agreed in regard to the manner in which they should be revised. For my part I too was surprised to learn that such a commission had been appointed so quickly, and then struck by, among other things, how few of the members seem to have extensive first instance experience or come from nations wherein tribunals function on significant scales. [As in, for example, these USA, where tribunals are being cleaned up?]

At approx. 21:20, Burke says he would make very few and very small changes to the current annulment process. “Very few” because, as I and others have argued, the tribunal process already is a bare-bones legal process, that is, almost nothing that tribunals do is not directly required by natural law for the achievement of justice. Things like citation of parties, use of witnesses, settled grounds for investigation, moral certitude of decision, and so on—to eliminate any of these aspects of an annulment case would be to deprive the process of something required by natural law itself for justice. “Very small” because Burke strongly supports, among other things, maintaining mandatory second instance review of affirmative sentences (c. 1682). Now, this is one of the few points on which reasonable Catholic minds can differ with Burke (and still make sense while doing so). [That could be an interesting debate.  But that would require clear thinking and terms.]

All informed discussants recognize that mandatory review of trial court sentences is not required by divine law for the attainment of justice, so in that regard it is a matter left to human genius for decision. Precisely because it is a matter for human determination, I am comfortable leaving the continuation or abandonment of mandatory second instance to the wisdom of ecclesiastical authority. Personally, I prefer its abrogation—but I grant that my experience in tribunal work colors my view: I served in tribunals where qualified first instance judges took their duties seriously [ehem… not all tribunals are equal] and (I’d like to think as a result thereof) second instance courts rarely failed to ratify first instance decisions. Too, perhaps one incentive to the good work being done in first instance is knowing that second instance is going to examine it. Removing mandatory review is a risky way to test that hypothesis.

In any event, Burke in his office regularly sees tribunal cases from around the world: he might therefore appreciate second instance as being a much more important practical, if admittedly optional, check on faulty first instance processes or decisions and, as a prudential matter, favor retention of second instance on those grounds. If that’s the case, well, let’s just say that Burke’s prudential judgment on such things is worth considerably more than mine.

At approx. 22:30, I wish the discussion on the “nature of the Synod” had turned first to the incredibly bad ecclesiology that allows such nonsense as “Synod 2014 is like a new Vatican Council II” even to be uttered. [Yes.  That was ridiculous.] How does such nonsense get said at all? Compare Canons 336-341 on ecumenical councils (subjects of “supreme and full power over the universal Church”) with Canons 342-348 on synod (groups of bishops that foster unity and advise). Good grief.

At approx. 26:20, Burke makes the kind of comment that resonates with every good lawyer: when asked how he felt about being removed from the Congregation of Bishops, Burke replies that No one has a right to be on such a body. Brilliant, go right to the heart of the law (cc. 331, 360-361, and ap. con. Pastor bonus) and defend the pope’s authority over his own dicastery. [But WAIT!  I thought the Synod of the Media had already decided that everyone who defends traditional practice is actually attacking the Pope!] Whether Burke’s is a voice that Pope Francis wants to hear is entirely the pope’s call to make. Opinions may differ on the wisdom of such a removal, but it is not for this group or that, for the media, or for any one else to impose their preferences in such matters on the pope. [The Pope can remove a Cardinal from a Congregation if he doesn’t think that he can work easily with him. If a Pope doesn’t like the aftershave which Lou Card. Gehrig habitually wears, that could be reason enough.]

Burke the lawyer upholds that papal authority.

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23 Responses to Play by Play: Card. Burke’s video interview recap!

  1. A.D. says:

    I went to Dr. Peters’ article. He has “closed comments”. Is there another way to access the comments?

  2. truthfinder says:

    A.D., Dr. Peter’s doesn’t have a comment box at all – the “closed comments” means he’s disabled the function on his blog.

    My favourite bit about the “Catholic divorce” is when he just came out and said that’s “offensive.” I could see he was carefully picking his words up until that point. I’m really glad I watched the interview when you first posted it, Father.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    With apologies if I am being obtuse, could someone help me with the sentence: “Burke makes a subtle but vital point that is of divine law that the Church ha[s] a process for assessing (among other things) the validity of marriage”? Fr. Z has altered Dr. Peter’s subjunctive “have” to indicative “h[as]” (which seems fair enough and more a matter of style than substance). But, while I think that I get the general sense, what is going on in: “that is of divine law”? Did something get lost in the process of putting it online? (Should it read something like ‘that it is of divine law’?) Or does it mean something like ‘a subtle but vital point which is one of divine law: that the Church must have…’ Again, I think I follow the sense, but the details make me wonder.

  4. Mike says:

    My goodness, why isn’t this man Pope?

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Typo of my own: for “Peter’s”read “Peters’s”!

  6. HighMass says:

    Mike says:
    12 October 2014 at 7:40 pm

    My goodness, why isn’t this man Pope?

    Mike, in support of your statement how often I have wondered the same thing…….Cardinal Burke is one of the Orthodox Cardinals in the Vatican, or so it seems, we prayed for his election to Supreme Pontiff last year, but the Holy Spirit knows whats best……still I am will you, I have had the Honor of meeting His Eminence where Pope Benedict was still on the Chair of St. Peter….Humble Man???? Wow, one cannot Describe how sincere and Holy a Priest Card. Burke is…..to finish here I am with you….HE WOULD MAKE A WONDERFUL POPE!

  7. Jacob says:

    If anyone knows of a transcript of the interview, please post here! The video has no captioning and The World Over never does either when live. Thank you!

  8. New Sister says:

    @ Mike – do we deserve such a Pope…

    The speech His Eminence mentions, 1944 Pius XII to the Roman Rota is here, but in Italian only. :-(
    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/speeches/1944/documents/hf_p-xii_spe_19441002_roman-rota_it.html

  9. Ygnacia says:

    Thank you Father, what an excellent interview – we have it posted on our parish Facebook now
    https://www.facebook.com/MontereyLatinMass
    I hope this somehow goes viral~

  10. amenamen says:

    Take my wife, please

    An Episcopalian woman (call her Sheila) married a baptized Catholic (call him Joe). Joe wanted to marry someone else, and he petitioned for a declaration of nullity. The declaration would have been granted by the court of first instance, and Sheila felt shattered, but the court of second instance (call it the Rota) upheld the validity.

    Should this process have been simplified? Someone should write a book about this.

  11. joecct77 says:

    Try this one. A baptized Protestant women named Jane was married in a religious service to an unbaptized man named Bill who was unfaithful to Jane while they were married. Jane obtains a civil divorce and subsequently marries Mike a practicing Catholic in a Protestant wedding ceremony. Mike knows he is in an irregular marriage and asks Jane to get an annulment for marriage to Bill. Jane says no.

    Mike is stuck. He can’t go to confession, He can’t receive communion. What can Mike do? Divorce is not an option.

  12. kpoterack says:

    joecct77,

    Because Jane married an unbaptized man, it would not be a sacramental marriage. That would be a (relatively) simple administrative process to declare and wouldn’t require any annulment proceedings. It’s called the “Petrine Privilege” or “Favor of the Faith.” The pope can dissolve a non-sacramental marriage. Would Jane say no to that? Furthermore, since Mike married her outside of the Church then that would be a canonical defect of form. Although rather drastic, you are wrong because he could civilly divorce her since the marriage is not considered valid.

    I must ask, though, what on earth is a (presumably serious) practicing Catholic man doing marrying a protestant divorcee outside of the Church? How much does Mike really practice the faith that he wouldn’t want to have a wife with whom he could share it – or to try to straighten things out before they get married? If she really loved and respected him, why would she be that unwilling to go through an administrative procedure (or an annulment if need be)? Perhaps there are much deeper problems when this sort of thing happens.

  13. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    HighMass: the Holy Spirit does not elect the pope, the cardinal electors do. We must pray that they will respond to any promptings of the Spirit but the act is theirs, subject to human foibles and errors. It is not protected by infallibility. So if we find it hard to recognize the workings of the Holy Spirit in the result of any election, we must pray and sacrifice all the more.

    amenamen: I love it. Great description of what happened. And she did write a very good book.

  14. I must ask, though, what on earth is a (presumably serious) practicing Catholic man doing marrying a protestant divorcee outside of the Church? How much does Mike really practice the faith that he wouldn’t want to have a wife with whom he could share it – or to try to straighten things out before they get married? If she really loved and respected him, why would she be that unwilling to go through an administrative procedure (or an annulment if need be)? Perhaps there are much deeper problems when this sort of thing happens.

    Yes. I think the same things. What on earth is going through someone’s head at a time like this? I know being in love is a huge rush, but gosh, you DON’T make life-changing decisions in a hurry.

    It really pays to step back, clear the head, and think before you even get involved. I’m 45, and that means that just about every man I meet is on his second time around now. This means that I’ll be staying single – which I had sort of figured out anyway – because it’s simply not worth it.

    I’ve met men who have been divorced with no chance of an annulment – some of them very attractive to me, and good company. While it’s been sad, I have found that a brief bit of (public) clarification of the issues with the man in question, very early on in an acquaintanceship, followed by a brief bit of (entirely private) heartache and regret, has saved me a lifetime of misery, over and over again.

  15. dawnmaria says:

    The truly great thing about the Synod is that the heretical Abps and Bps have outed themselves! Isn’t this a wonderful result? Likewise, the defenders of the faith have risen to the occasion.

  16. Martlet says:

    dawnmaria – I wish I shared your optimism, but I think “How can we speak truth when the bishops pull the rug from under us?” I think of my grandchildren, confused by the world and now confused by the Church. The bishops keep saying they must act like a loving mother, but what mother among us tells our children, “Don’t do that – but if you do, there are no consequences”???

  17. mrshopey says:

    There is something Cardinal Burke, and others, have mentioned, bad catechesis, that I wanted to comment on.
    My husband and I are in the group where we received horrible catechesis. But, I would hope they would treat us like adults. Meaning, now that we are adults, have assessed the situation (accepted apology from Pope Benedict XVI) we are doing the work on our own. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do, forever growing closer to Christ and amending our lives?
    When they mention the horrible catechesis although it is true in most places here, we, adults, are still responsible. If they want adults, they need to start treating us like adults.
    Most of the erroneous things we were taught could be cleared up in homilies also. Pushing us in RCIA classes isn’t the right place for us either.

  18. Mike says:

    HighMass,

    I concur. The geo-politics alone probably prevent us from ever having an American Pope.

    Of course, one could argue that since America is an immigrant country, it’s actually more representative than first meets the eye, but I don’t that argument has much sway in the Vatican.

    Do we deserve such a Pope? No. We don’t deserve the Petrine Office, period. But God is good, so we have it!

  19. Allan S. says:

    How is it that no one has recognized the irony of the big picture parallel here? A nail is being hammered into the foundation of Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage by a remarried “spouse” of the bride of Christ!

    Marriage is by the words of our Lord forever – you may only have that one spouse while both bride and bridegroom live. The papacy has always been viewed the same way; Celestine was an aberration and his magisterium was (I read) nullified by his successor. Benedict “divorced” his bride, the Church, and while he still lives Francis is…well, I choose not to complete that thought here in Father’s living room. This is enough to note the parallel.

    Surely there is a whiff of Divine justice or wrath here though? The fruits of abdication for the Church?

  20. LarryW2LJ says:

    This part of Fr. Z’s article is worrisome to me:

    “At approx. 21:10, Burke concedes the oddity of the pope’s naming a commission to revise tribunal procedures before it was even settled that tribunal procedures needed to be revised, [Yes. That was strange, to say the least.] let alone agreed in regard to the manner in which they should be revised. For my part I too was surprised to learn that such a commission had been appointed so quickly, and then struck by, among other things, how few of the members seem to have extensive first instance experience or come from nations wherein tribunals function on significant scales. ”

    This reminds me of President Reagan’s quote: “It’s not that our Liberal friends are not intelligent, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

    Why on earth would you give someone a job to do, where they don’t have an intimate awareness of the in’s and out’s of the procedures and circumstance involved? Having someone reform a process on the basis of how they “think” it works, as opposed to how it truly works is a disaster waiting to happen. There’s a difference between introducing a fresh perspective and a blind eye.

  21. momoften says:

    Loved this interview, love Cardinal Burke. Thanks for the insight posted by you and Dr Peters.
    I happened to go to the only interview spoken in English by the then Cardinal Ratzinger by Raymond Arroyo. It really struck me how, in some odd way they both are very much alike. Here is the link,
    if for nothing else, it is a good interview, and how I miss Pope Benedict.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKVO_v2FbtE

  22. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    There are several things that have happened that come straight out of the Fascist/Communist/Liberal manual:
    1. Unprecedented suppression of full information of what is said in the Synod and silencing of the participants with respect to their own statements;
    2. Pre-Synodal appointment of a commission of inexperienced prelates to reform the tribunal processes when whether they needed reform was supposedly an open question for the Synod; and
    3. Ad hoc and unprecedented appointment of six liberal prelates to the reporting committee elected by the Synod fathers, thus packing it and creating something very different from what the fathers chose.

    The role of the Synod is being preempted, suppressed, and manipulated.

    Just sayin’.

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