Card. Burke’s respectful criticism

Now that I am back on the ground, I see that His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke gave an interview to a Spanish Catholic news source, Vida Nueva, in which he offered respectful criticism of Pope Francis.

The Vatican Insider version:

Burke: “There is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm” [brújula – compass]

After his criticisms about the Synod being manipulated and censored, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, is continuing to raise concerns – in an increasingly distressed tone – about the direction the Church is taking, criticising the Pope, whilst at the same time claiming he does not wish it seem like he is speaking out against he Pope.” His latest interview with Darío Menor Torres was published by Spanish religious news weekly Vida Nueva.

“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 helm, whatever the reason for this may be; now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”

I fully respect the Petrine ministry and I do not wish it to seem like I am speaking out against the Pope. I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive. They are feeling a bit sea sick because they feel the Church’s ship has lost its bearings. We need to set aside the reason for this disorientation because we have not lost our bearings. [OORAH!  There it is!] We have the enduring tradition of the Church, its teachings, the liturgy, its morality. The catechism remains the same.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

The Pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries,” the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura said. “The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed. We go with the Word of God, with the Sacraments, with the virtuous life of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the Pope does this, but there is a risk of the encounter with culture being misinterpreted. Faith cannot adapt to culture but , must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.

I track back in my mind to Joseph Card. Ratzinger’s 2005 9th Station:

Lord, your Church often seems like a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. In your field we see more weeds than wheat. The soiled garments and face of your Church throw us into confusion. Yet it is we ourselves who have soiled them! It is we who betray you time and time again, after all our lofty words and grand gestures. Have mercy on your Church; within her too, Adam continues to fall. When we fall, we drag you down to earth, and Satan laughs, for he hopes that you will not be able to rise from that fall; he hopes that being dragged down in the fall of your Church, you will remain prostrate and overpowered. But you will rise again. You stood up, you arose and you can also raise us up. Save and sanctify your Church. Save and sanctify us all.

The 9th Station in 2005 had its own context, but I believe that the image applies today more than ever.

Look at how the liberal RNS spins this.

What happens when the modern world takes over.  It’s off to the breaker’s yard with a broom tied to the bowsprit.

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    When I taught logic and other things to college students, I would point out that confusion is never necessary, that clarity comes from facts and objective reflection, that only those with hidden agendas create confusion or chaos on purpose. But, inexperience and a certain naivete can create confusion as well. Not being careful with words and definitions makes one fall into error as well. One of my priest friends who worked with Muslims in Africa until two years ago told me that working with those who do not believe makes one much more aware of the use of words, of how important clarity in speech actually is. He found his own faith changing for the better because he had to defend and define terms of faith clearly, without confusion.

    Not facing that some cardinals simply have chosen positions as against Christ may be something the Pope does not want to face. Thank God for the clarity and real simplicity of both the Pope Emeritus and Cardinal Burke. But, simplicity and clarity come from humility, and humility comes from a rich prayer life, not from politicking.

    Interesting that the ship imagery applies so often to the Church. I used fishermen and ships for imagery just the other day.

  2. marcelus says:

    With all due respect, and I’m nobody, my opinion is the good Cardinal has already made his view on the Pope and his leadership clear. No need to keep on giving interviews about that.Unless he wants to be in the spotlight constantly and targeted as the main opposition. I believe he should refuse to even mention PF since he will be misunderstood or quoted wrongly.

    He indeed has a lot to teach us, but as PF need s to stop or limithimself when speaking of certain things, I believe CB may have to do the same when speaking about his superior.

    He may have the right approach but I’m afraid libs are shooting up fireworks right now.

    Crdl Burke came out correctly days ago with a message that left “I did not critizise the Pope” on people’s minds and a welcomed relief after all.

    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 – See more at:

    This is not how thre Liberals see it Fr. It is how the world is looking at it now !!

    I’m in Latin America, where half of the catholic Chuch resides and honestly, I can see tomorrows headlines ” The Ultra consevative Crdl Burke challenges PF again….” and so on.

    THis is what sticks in the mind of the common church going fellow who has no idea who Kasper , Forte, and the rest of the gang is. He is now familiar with Crdl Burke and not in a good ligh I’m afraid

    I said it before, we may be handing the libs victory on a silverplate

    It will be a hard time coming back from that. This willl demand more and more clarification from the Cardinal…

  3. LUCILIUS says:

    “I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive.”

    I could not find this line in the Spanish text to which you linked. In any case, I strongly suspect that “master of the faith” is a mistranslation of “maestro de la Fé”, meaning “teacher of the Faith”.

  4. marcelus says:

    here we go:

    ANd more..

    It is in spanish; “La iglesia es una nave sin timon” this is what is being reported

    When you say this is spanish automatically you refer to the leader of the ship

    In any case it implies there is no skipper or it is somehow drifting

    One thing.HELM stands for timon in spanish Fr.if I may, not compass

  5. Cantor says:

    Nautically, the translation of the Cardinal’s “brujula” can be problematic. Knowing where you’ve been and how you got here is not always enough.

    If it means “helm”, as in the rudder cable has been shot away, you need your midshipmen belowdecks now to manually steer until you rig a repair

    If it means “compass” then you need a navigator who knows how to use his sextant.

    But if it means the captain is off chasing quarts of strawberries, then your ship is in grave distress.

  6. ghp95134 says:

    AHOY Fr. Z: What happens when the modern world takes over. It’s off to the breaker’s yard with a broom tied to the bowsprit.

    Well, I had to look that reference up, because I thought the broom meant a “clean sweep” and mission successfully completed.” But with a little research I found this explanation:
    When we see a Broom Tied to the Masthead, we are given to understand that the vessel bearing it is for sale.

    Now, for the US Navy:
    From Wiki
    A “clean sweep” for a naval vessel refers to having “swept the enemy from the seas,” a completely successful mission. It is traditionally indicated by hanging a broom from a mast or lashing it to the periscope of a submarine.
    “A broom on the USS Wahoo, Pearl Harbor, 1943”

    It is said the use of brooms in this respect originated during the 1650s, when the Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp, after a decisive victory in the First Anglo-Dutch War, hung a broom from his mast to indicate he had “swept the British from the seas” – his opponent Admiral Blake is said to have responded with the hoisting of a whip, indicating he would whip the Dutch into submission.

    The United States Submarine Service during World War II generally considered a patrol a “clean sweep” if the sub sank every target she engaged.[1] (Individual torpedoes might miss, and convoys usually had far too many ships for all to be sunk by a single boat, but these unavoidable inefficiencies did not mar a “clean sweep.”)

    If I’ve made any nautical mistakes, please forgive this Infantry landlubber.


    [Good research!]

  7. Kerry says:

    If the liberal-progressive press really believe Pope Francis is the most wonderfulest Pope ‘evah’, shouldn’t they also then say, “But who are we to judge?”

  8. SaintJude6 says:

    I have to disagree with Marcelus. Right is right, even is no one is doing it. Even if it doesn’t win him popularity among the masses, Cardinal Burke has a sacred duty to speak out, to make a mess, if necessary. He’s been pretty clear that he isn’t going to hell for anybody. I am very comforted knowing that he is standing watch.

  9. marcelus says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks like this:

    From Crdl Pell’s speech (not that I can compare to his shoe):

    “We all have an important task during the next twelve months (synod conclusion)i.e. to explain and build a consensus out of the present divisions. We will be counter productive if we have anger or hate in our hearts, if we lapse into sterile polemics against a surprisingly small number of Catholic opponents”

    if we lapse into sterile polemics against a surprisingly small number of Catholic opponents”!!!

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    The nautical imagery (as provided in the little linked Vida Neuva article) includes both “sin timón” and “perdido la brújula”.

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What more is known about this interview? Did Cardinal Burke give it in Spanish? Was it written (e.g., an e-mail exchange), or spoken? Whether he gave it in Spanish or English, does he have the right to publish the text/audio/audio transcription, and, if necessary, translation? It would be good if he were able and willing to make it fully and readily available to English speakers, himself.

  12. IoannesPetrus says:

    There’s one line in the English which has me wondering (and, at worst, a little worried) about the “original” words:

    I am not saying the Pope does this… (“this” being presumably to go to the peripheries with the word of God, et al.).

    Translated at face value into Spanish, it may read: No digo que el Papa haga esto…. This may well have been the “original”, but – presuming the interview was in English or at least that Cardinal Burke answered in English – the Spanish wouldn’t translate into the above.

    Rather, in English the line would read: I am not talking about (from digo) whether the Pope does this (from haga, which is subjunctive).

    Maybe this is much ado about nothing – I don’t know what others may (not) say of it – but, again, I am wondering if this is significant.

  13. IoannesPetrus says:

    Then again, I could be wrong even about the “face value” translation of the “original” words, even though I’ve studied Spanish (long enough, I think, to even consider this possibility).

    Obviously the best thing would be to see the original, i.e. the interview (transcription), and have a proper translation. Gee, what a novel idea!

  14. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    The little linked Darío Menor Vida Neuva article includes this quotation: “Dijo que no puede juzgar a la persona frente a Dios, sea cual sea su culpabilidad. Pero deben juzgarse los actos; no creo que el Papa piense de forma diversa. Son pecaminosos y contranaturales. El Papa nunca dijo que podemos encontrar elementos positivos en ellos. Es imposible encontrar elementos positivos en un acto malo”.

    The linked Josephine McKenna article provides this translation of most of it: “The acts must be judged; I do not think that the pope thinks differently. They are sinful and unnatural. The pope never said we can find positive elements in them. It is impossible to find positive elements in an evil act.”

    For the first sentence of it, which she leaves untranslated, Google gives me: “He said you can not judge a person before God, regardless of their guilt.”

    I was thinking along LUCILIUS’s lines about what must lie behind that word “master”, which must mean ‘teacher’, as (for example) in the Douay-Rheims translation of St. Matthew 10:24 – “Non est discipulus super magistrum…” – as “The disciple is not above the master…”.

    It seems to me, from the quotations provided (such as “I do not think that the pope thinks differently” and “I do not wish it to seem like I am speaking out against the Pope”* and “we have not lost our bearings” and “I am not saying the Pope does this”) that Cardinal Burke thinks something like ‘we “have a healthy spiritual leader and [he] give[s] powerful witness to the faith”, but it were prudentially better if he did so even more emphatically and more clearly’.

    *For the source of this clause, given by Menor – “no quiero que parezca que soy una voz contraria al Papa” – Google gives “I do not want it to seem that I am a voice contrary to the Pope”, while for “no quiero que parezca” alone, it gives “I do not want to appear”, which I presume corrects any possible false impression that Cardinal Burke might be saying he ‘does not “wish it to seem that” he is that which in fact he is indeed’, when the real fact is, he is not intending to be “a voice contrary to the Pope” in substance, but a voice questioning the Pope’s prudential method.

  15. marcelus says:

    SaintJude6 says:
    1 November 2014 at 5:42 pm
    I have to disagree with Marcelus. Right is right, even is no one is doing it. Even if it doesn’t win him popularity among the masses, Cardinal Burke has a sacred duty to speak out, to make a mess, if necessary. He’s been pretty clear that he isn’t going to hell for anybody. I am very comforted knowing that he is standing watch.

    No problem.,not the only one who has disagreed with me in the past 2 hours.

  16. oldcanon2257 says:

    I hope that in the next conclave, Matthew 21:42 will apply.

    “Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes.”

    As for the current events, we could relate to the situation in the 14th century: even Pope Gregory XI needed persistent persuasion from Saint Catherine of Siena.

    Whatever respectful criticism Cardinal Burke had offered regarding Papa Francesco, based on the perceived tone of what I have read, my impression is that it is based entirely on filial devotion. It appears that the only objective of Cardinal Burke is to plead that the Holy Father would assert, maintain, re-affirm, teach the doctrines of the Faith as they had been handed down.

    Chapter 4 of the Dogmatic Constitution “Pastor aeternus” of the First Vatican Council:

    For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the Apostles.

    It seems to me that is all Cardinal Burke is urging Pope Francis to do.

    On the other hand, most of the attacks unleashed on Cardinal Burke by many of his opponents had been mostly ad hominem. So what if Cardinal Burke was wearing the cappa magna, or the mitra auriphrygiata, or the mitra pretiosa on occasions which called for it? They attacked the good cardinal for… looking like a cardinal? I seem to remember that the very same people viciously attacked Pope Benedict XVI for using papal vestments proper to the Pope.

  17. GopherPhD says:

    I must agree with Marcelus, though liberals or those with an agenda are spinning this as they wish, CB is handing this to them on a silver platter. But to go even further, I do not think this is simply bad tactics, I think CB is forgetting himself, as it were. To air his grievances like this in the press I think is unbecoming of him. And I say this as a long time staunch supporter of CB. He started losing me during the synod when some of his comments just seemed completely tone deaf and unwilling to bend on even simple ways the Church could emphasize her teachings in a different way. He seems to be ascribing to the “ivory tower” method of evangelization, all of you down there must come up to us up here. Again I speak nothing of changing teachings of the Church, simply of evangelistic approach. And the last disappointment for me is the manner of which he is approaching his move from the Apostolic Signatura. What would a saint do in this situation? He would completely accept this as if it came from the hand of God directly, he would accept it joyfully as a mortification, as an opportunity for further humility, knowing this life is but a shadow. But instead CB speaks openly of his disappointment, in the press even. I previously thought him so much better than his recent actions have shown him to be. He is now at a point where he can either be the tip of the blade sowing division in the Church, or he can, hopefully, change course and be someone who aids in maintaining unity within the Church. I so much hope he chooses the latter.

  18. kiwiinamerica says:

    The irony here is that the confusion comes from too much talk. Words, actions, celebrations all lose their impact and gravitas the more frequently they occur. Christmas wouldn’t be as special if it was Christmas every day. A once in a lifetime experience is special for just that reason.

    The more the Pope chatters, the less he’s listened to. The blizzard of words, off-the-cuff remarks, airborne press conferences and daily homilies have become like wall-paper; you see it all the time but don’t really pay attention to it. Is it all to be ingested and digested? Is some of it more important than the rest?

    Ironically, when he really needed to say something (during the Synod), he allowed the confusion to rage unchecked.

  19. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    As a bishop, Cardinal Burke has an obligation: to protect his sheep from ravenous wolves. As a Cardinal, his flock isn’t limited to a single diocese. Would you urge him to allow a rewriting of annulment procedures (as has been seriously proposed), given that he is, still, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura? Perhaps he has in mind (and I can’t swear to this, because I’m not in his inner circle) that he can’t deny Christ before men, since he wishes not to have Christ deny Raymond Leo Burke before His Father?

    As to the question, “What would a saint do in this situation?” Let’s look at this properly. He has said that until he receives his letter of transfer, he hasn’t been transferred. He acknowledged that rumors of his transfer exist. He has said (and our host has even commented on this) that no one has a right to a particular post in the Curia, and so he will go when and where His Holiness sends him. In these areas, he is being docile and humble — and rightly so. When it comes to protecting the flock, he is being anything but quiet — but this is because he’s not defending his own territory but the truth of Christ. He’s also being loyal to His Holiness because the same asked for the bishops to speak frankly, and to smell like the sheep. This he has done.

    If Cardinal Burke had said, “San Francisco won the World Series”, the media would report this as being yet another example of his dogmatic intransigence.

  20. Kathleen10 says:

    Life has many lessons to teach, and while I admit I may be incorrect, it does not seem to me that when someone is in a clash, however polite, with those in power, that it does any good to retreat and adopt passivity, even under the deceptive guise of “humility”. Humility seems to have been redefined and that isn’t surprising today with all the confusion in general.
    Cardinal Burke is the lone voice right now that is openly speaking truth and getting the attention of the press. He is already on the radar of those in power. He has already been transferred to a figurative Siberia. It seems his status as persona non grata is established. He is openly insulted by “someone” in Germany. I’m not sure what else they can do to him except take him out to a field. Thank God for Cardinal Burke. Whatever he does from here on in doesn’t really matter. He spoke the truth despite it costing him a great deal. I doubt very much he did this for any other reason than to serve Jesus Christ and His people, but people are going to think what they want. The liberal camp has many who speak for their cause and many cheerleaders. When traditionalists have one, the liberal camp or the fearful say they have too many. We cannot continue to operate in fear. Fear is going to bring about a situation where it is too late to be courageous.

  21. chantgirl says:

    Cardinal Kasper chose the media as the battleground for this fight. The response will necessarily be public. Faithful Cardinals will have to publicly address the confusion for the sake of the faithful, and because error must not be left unchallenged.

    I sense that we are being sifted. To be honest, there is a void left by the Pope’s silence on this issue. A great many people are confused and many of the faithful are demoralized. Someone needs to speak up. Thank God some of the Cardinals are starting to do so. To speak the truth with love is to be Christ’s and the Pope’s good servant.

    On a side note, doesn’t the media usually praise someone who speaks truth to power?

  22. Juergensen says:

    I could be (and probably am) wrong, but it seems to me that Cardinal Burke’s courageous defense of the Faith before, during, and after the synod makes it all the more difficult to demote him as was reportedly planned. The heretics messed up in not forcing his demotion before the synod. Now if he gets demoted it will be seen as simply retribution for proclaiming the Faith. How’s that going to make the merciful Church look?

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  24. AnnTherese says:

    It doesn’t seem to me that Cardinal Burke’s is a “lone voice.” I have read and heard many critical and, frankly, disrespectful commentaries about Pope Francis. What I observe is a “2-party Church,”– almost American-ized. (Indeed, an un-0fficial schism exists, doesn’t it?) Liberal Catholics didn’t have much good to say about Pope Benedict, but orthodox Catholics loved him and hung on his every word. Now we have a more progressive-leaning pope who the liberals love and the conservatives can’t stomach. Same old, same old… politics. Next pope might turn everything around again, and make one party happy and the other hoppin’ mad.

    What I’m wondering is–have we lost faith in the Holy Spirit? Or in the process of choosing a pope? Is that just a political game, too? Or is it real?

    Personally, I’m deeply saddened by the way both “conservative” AND “liberal” Catholics, ministers, organizations, newspapers, etc. are judged as practically evil by some of their opposition. I guess I’m a believer that most Catholics, on both sides of the “schism” are doing their best to be faithful to God, the mission of Jesus, and the Church– quite in their own perfectly imperfect way.

    And yes, I do believe we should speak out when we are concerned. But let’s do it with respect and love. Let’s really listen to each other, and not assume the worst in each other. Let’s listen deeply for the voice of God. Even from someone on “the other side.”

    Thank you. Amen. (God bless us, everyone!)

  25. chantgirl says:

    AnnTherese- I don’t think the American 2-party political system is a good analogy. Politics usually operates in the domain of prudential decisions (with the clear exceptions of things like abortion and euthanasia), areas in which people of goodwill can disagree. The everything-sex-schism in the church is bringing out a division of belief- those who believe what the church teaches and those who disagree with the teaching of the church, and ultimately the teaching of Christ. We aren’t arguing over stylistic differences; we are arguing over the faith itself. To put the current conflict into political terms trivializes the very real dispute over belief that is occurring.

    We have a year to defend our belief to our fellow Catholics, the media, and society before the next synod. Now is not the time to remain silent; it is the time to engage. I believe that Cardinal Burke and others are trying to defend the faith with sincerity and charity.

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