Card. Burke: “It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect truth.”

His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke, still Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has been interviewed by Catholic World Report.  HERE

The first part reminded me of one of the very last things Pope Benedict said in public.  During an audience just before he abdicated, Benedict described how the mass media created a shadow Council and interposed a distorted interpretive lens.

Now Card. Burke.  I’ll just post a few bits that popped out at me?

Vatican City, Sep 23, 2014 / 04:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Next month’s Synod on the Family has undergone an attempted hijacking by some media sources, which are fueling expectations that impossible changes will be made to Church doctrine, said the head of the Church’s highest court.

“I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this Synod,”


In particular, he told CNA in a recent interview, the media has been presenting Pope Francis as being in favor of allowing Holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried, and other such propositions, even though this is not the case.

The danger, Cardinal Burke continued, is that “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible.”


The Church’s teaching on the matter, the cardinal said, is merciful, “because it respects the truth that the person is indeed bound by a prior union which the person, for whatever reason, is no longer living.”

“The Church holds the person to the truth of that marriage,” Cardinal Burke continued, “while at the same time, being compassionate, understanding the situation of the person, welcoming them into the parish community in ways that are appropriate, and trying to help them to lead as holy a life as they can, but without betraying the truth about their marriage.”

This, he said, is mercy.

“It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect truth. How can that be merciful?”


“It’s very important at this time,” the prelate continued, “to show the splendor of the truth of the Church’s teaching about marriage, which is foundational, obviously, for society, and for the Church itself.”

“If we don’t get it correct about marriage, there’s very little else that we’re going to be clear about.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  This is what I have been saying for years. If we are not clear in our own minds and hearts about our Faith, if we don’t know our Faith, we can’t articulate anything of interest in the public square.  Why should anyone listen to us if we are incoherent?]


“Bishops who regularly visits us at the Apostolic Signatura say that many couples today who are divorced, they don’t care anymore about the question of nullity,” he said. “They simply make a decision to live with another person, if that’s in fact what they are doing.” [My fear is that the way the question is being handled now will exacerbate this problem.]


For those seeking to claim nullity of their marriage, he said, “the Church has to have an apt process to arrive at the truth about that claim,” whereby it can be established whether or not a marriage has been null. “But to simply have people come before what’s called an administrative process, or a so-called ‘pastoral process,’” one in which “people simply tell their story to a priest,” who then makes the decision with regard to their reception of the Sacraments – “how does that respect the truth of our Lord’s teaching about marriage?”

“The marriage nullity process is the fruit of centuries of development, and by various expert canonists, one of the great ones being Pope Benedict XIV,” [Lambertini] the cardinal said. “For us now simply to say we don’t need that anymore is the height of pride and therefore foolishness.”


As current prelate of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Burke’s role at the synod will particularly pertain to the marriage nullity process, specifically in light of the suggestion to streamline the process of annulments, making it faster and easier.

“I wouldn’t be at all opposed to any changes,” he said, “except that a certain amount of complexity is required by the complexity of a claim that a marriage is null. And you cannot simply deal with these kinds of questions by some kind of easy and light-hearted process.”


You can read the whole thing over there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in New Evangelization, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. LarryW2LJ says:

    I have to agree with Cardinal Burke, either that, or I am just a bit naive. It seemed sensible to me that this upcoming Synod on the Family was called in order to build up the family – not tear it down. Yet all we hear from the press is about annulment and Communion for those who are divorced and remarried. Yes, those ARE problems that need to be dealt with, but isn’t the purpose of this synod supposed to be about finding ways to make sure that annulments and divorce don’t happen in the first place? Priorities?!?

  2. Stephen McMullen says:

    This is what I LOVE about Cdl Burke (and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)……when he speaks or writes there is NO confusion about what he means and does not mean. Clarity, claritas, perfectus!

  3. It seems that Card. Burke is ready to lose everyting and remain faithful to the truth. This attitude shows that he has no problem with beeing kicked off the Roman Curia…
    Is it possible to lose also the red biretta ?
    In all cases Card. Burke has no fear of anything. He really trust in Jesus Christ.

  4. HighMass says:

    Two Men (One a Cardinal/One the Pope Emeritus) who stand out for the teachings of the Church Cardinal Burke and Pope Benedict…..
    God Bless Them!

  5. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I love Cardinal Burke. I agree with Cardinal Burke. It just seems that out here in the trenches, where the Faith is practiced or rather not practiced, the average lukewarm Catholic and even some of the warm ones who sit in the pews each Sunday do not see our religion as a stable edifice of tradition. They view ecclesiology with the modern lens of rupture. Things change in the Church, even things that for 1500 years hadn’t changed. The liturgy changed, we now have dramatic vernacular institution narratives where we once had a silent canon, we used to say rosaries and now we have prayer labyrinths and Sister Urma leads yoga after mass, we have girl servers, the Popes aren’t so special, no crowns, follow your own conscience.

    “The [traditional Roman Liturgy] is the fruit of centuries of development, and by various expert [Popes, Saints, etc], one of the great ones being Pope [“Gregory the Great, Pius V, etc,] the cardinal said. “For us now simply to say we don’t need that anymore is the height of pride and therefore foolishness.”

    It disturbs me that this quote from Cardinal Burke above originally about marital nullity process could have been said about the Roman Liturgy in 1962 and everyone would have agreed that it would have been the height of pride and foolishness to abandon it, but then look at what happened within a decade. I think out here in the trenches, very few people have a 1962 view of the Sacrament of Marriage just like very few have a 1962 view of liturgy and worship. That’s how things used to be, but this is now. Modern man has modern needs, the spirit of the times (referenced in Inter Oecumenici) demand something simpler and more merciful.

  6. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Good to hear Cardinal Burke: such sound common sense on a heated topic, and stated with such admirably calm assurance.
    The Sacraments are not some abstract ‘human right’ – ie an automatic entitlement to be claimed via a UN charter.

  7. anna 6 says:

    This is good news from Cardinal Burke, however we keep getting mixed messages. Shouldn’t the Holy Father himself help to clarify the situation rather than cause greater confusion and anxiety in the faithful?

  8. Dialogos says:

    First let me stipulate my thoughts on our current situation: we (Church, society, Church in society) are in deep doo doo. Something has to change and the people of God need to destroy their idols and return to the Lord. But all this wailing and gnashing of teeth over marriage, sacraments, reverence, etc. needs to jettison any and all longing for some perceived golden age when things were better and we were only a hair’s breadth from heaven. No such time ever existed. Adam and Eve fell. The patriarchs messed up. Israel never lived up to its promise. There were dissensions in the Church from the beginning. Christendom has split due to schism. And many heretics arose in the centuries before the Novus Ordo. Our problems will not be solved by magical thinking, as in: “if only my parish would reinstate the 1962 Mass everything would be great.” Or: “if the Vatican could just declare the LCWR in heresy we’d get our great American Church back.” Or even: “if Cardinal Burke were Pope we’d never have to hear about clown Masses.” It’s the same kind of American thinking that said after 9/11: ” we need to identify and destroy those terrorists, then we’ll be safe.” No. The answer was to work hard, invest, and build up the foundations again. The rot is coming mostly from the inside, not from without. We can blame “society” or or whomever regarding marriage or lack of reverence toward Our Lord in the Eucharist or any other issue, but the problem is still us. How can we be a credible witness to the world indeed? In all of this Vatican II was right: we need to engage the world as it is, not as we fantasize it to be.

  9. TomG says:

    Is Cardinal Burke’s position (on the “process”) necessarily at odds with that of Cardinal Scola?

  10. McCall1981 says:

    So, what are we to make of this statement?

    “In particular, he told CNA in a recent interview, the media has been presenting Pope Francis as being in favor of allowing Holy Communion to be distributed to those who are divorced and remarried, and other such propositions, even though this is not the case.”

  11. Gerard Plourde says:

    @ Dialogos,

    I agree fully with what you say. I’d go further and say that we have no evidence that the result of the Synod on the Family will lead to the abandonment or even the dilution of the annulment process.

    The church’s marriage preparation program has not watered down its orthodox beliefs. It certainly stresses the Sacramental nature and the indissolubility of the marriage bond and the identity of the persons who can perform the sacrament. That said, the Church has long recognized that invalid marriages can exist. Whether those entering the marriage understood and made a full, free and intelligent (to use a legal term) commitment and thus contracted a valid marriage is the issue that must be determined in the annulment process whose existence predates the Council of Trent. After all, it was Henry VIII’s inability to obtain an annulment from Catherine that led to his creation of the Church of England.

  12. Cantor says:

    Sadly, the hijacking His Excellency mentions comes from both sides.

    If the Pope felt that there was no need for a thorough reevaluation of the Church’s stance on marriage, he would not have called for the Synod in the first place. The fact that a group of Cardinals et al decides to publish a book on the subject mere days before the Synod’s convocation seems the height of impertinence.

    Now, the Synod will either
    (1) effectively photocopy The Book as its findings, in which case the Church will be accused (rightly) of wasting time and money on something already settled or
    (2) disagree with so much as the placement of a comma in The Book and be accused (rightly) of dithering in what the Church really means to say.

    In either case, the press will have a field day with the fact that ALL of the voting members of the Synod and all but one of The Book’s contributors are lifelong unmarried celibate men — perhaps not the best qualified group of people to make decisions on the life of married persons.

    Cardinal Burke cites the “centuries of development” and “expert canonists” such as Pope Benedict XIV that established the marriage nullity process. It would be helpful if he and other critics on both sides would consider the additional centuries of development since the time of Benedict XIV, and changes in both Church and society, and sideline themselves until after the Synod has spoken.

  13. Thorfinn says:

    Disregarding the judgments on marriage by “lifelong unmarried celibate men” would certainly be one way around the demanding teaching of Jesus Christ in this area. Unless we were to cite the Gospel according to Dan Brown as authoritative?

  14. Adam Welp says:

    Lest we all forget, this is not a synod on marriage; this is a Synod on the Family. This whole marriage row started when Cardinal Kasper threw out the idea that the Church take the same stance as the Orthodox Church in relation to second, third, fourth….marriages. The authors of this book are only responding to the errors in Cardinal Kasper’s idea. There are going to be many points discussed, and most of them are going to cause a lot of heated debate. I’m sure there was the same kind of debate in the run up to the Second Vatican Council (I wouldn’t know since I wasn’t around then).

  15. TWF says:

    Adam Welp: There is no such thing as a fourth marriage among the Orthodox. The canons which allow second and third marriages, under certain circumstances, predate the Great Schism and have never allowed fourth marriages – not even in the case of the death of a spouse. From what Orthodox Christians have told me this has, since ancient times, been strictly enforced in the East – whether single as a result of divorce OR the death of one’s spouse, a fourth marriage is NEVER tolerated – without exception. Third marriages are very rarely granted. While I am a faithful Catholic and agree that adopting the Orthodox approach would be problematic, I think Catholics need to look in the mirror and recognize this fact: far fewer Orthodox Christians divorce and remarry than do Catholics. Orthodoxy doesn’t have the same rampant problem we do even if they allow it under certain strict circumstances. Just because the Orthodox practice is being APPROPRIATED by Liberals, doesn’t mean the Orthodox practice itself is “liberal”. It may be problematic, from a Latin theological perspective, but they still take it very, very seriously.

  16. codefro says:

    Doesn’t the fact that he is still giving interviews now (and essentially sticking to his guns on interpreting information on the synod on the family in a way that will not be changing any church teaching) seem to indicate that he may not be in danger of losing his post? It seems if he was going to be losing his post, the Holy Father may have asked him to remain silent on the issue at hand and let the synod handle it.

  17. Tom Piatak says:


    I would be interested in any evidence showing that there is far less divorce and remarriage among the Orthodox than among Catholics. I assmue you are aware that, in this country at least, the divorce rate among Catholics is lower than in the general population:

  18. frjim4321 says:

    They could easily roll back some of the more draconian requirements of Dignitas connubi without negatively impacting long-standing teachings on marriage. Its only (nearly) ten years old and this would be a great time for some corrections to be made.

  19. Mojoron says:

    As one who has gone through the lengthy process of Annulment that took three years, the only potential process that could possibly change would be to increase the manpower associated with data documentation. My ex-wife refused to participate in the process, which I did not understand, but that was her decision. Many of my witnesses were very difficult to get hold of since It was 35 years and six states removed from the people that both knew me and my ex. I know that is not the Tribunal’s fault, but the problems we had were almost insurmountable. Again, Fr. Z has it right, sometimes you can’t make chicken salad out of a bad marriage.

  20. frjim4321 says:

    . . . to increase the manpower (sic) associated with data documentation . . .

    I’m guessing that most Tribunals are not self-sufficient and are huge drains on the diocesan budget. So frankly I don’t think increasing staff is very realistic.

  21. robtbrown says:

    It’s hard for me to sympathize with someone who wants a short annulment process. It’s not as like ordering a book from

    I have to wonder whether they would want it shorter if the tribunal didn’t grant an annulment.

  22. Bea says:

    “Times change”
    “Modern Times”
    “Modern solutions to modern problems”
    “In the context of our times”
    These phrases drive me up the wall.

    Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:
    “That’s how things used to be, but this is now. Modern man has modern needs, the spirit of the times (referenced in Inter Oecumenici) demand something simpler and more merciful.”

    Nothing could be more simple: “To do the Will of the Father” “Thy Will be done”
    Nothing could be more merciful: “Repent”—John the Baptist— and Christ’s death on the Cross for our sins. (actually Inter Oecumenici had to do with Liturgy: Liturgiam Authenticam, not with the subject of which we speak here).

    God’s Word never changes.
    Man’s sinfulness never changes.
    If the world changes, if times change;
    Does that mean that we must change to accommodate ourselves to the world?
    Does that mean that Christ’s teachings must change?
    No Way!
    Times should not change us.
    We must change the “Times”
    In my view the upcoming Synod is superfluous.
    Just teach those contracting marriage the seriousness of their vows.
    Teach, teach, teach, from childhood on.
    No more dialogues, just God’s Word. That’s enough dialogue to guide us for a lifetime.
    Synods just add more smoke to a smoke-filled room and cloud the issues even more.

  23. Pingback: Synod Must Address Family Disintegration -

  24. dans0622 says:

    frjim4321: “the more draconian requirements” such as?

  25. Pingback: The Family Synod and Practical Atheism : Oriens

Comments are closed.