Lying about Card. Burke

Both Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap and David Gibson of RNS posted intellectually dishonest hit pieces against Card. Burke. They purposely misread what Card. Burke said in order to put him in the worst light they could. At least I think this was purposeful. If not, then they would be just plain stupid, but we all know that that isn’t the case. Thus, they intentionally twisted what the Cardinal said to suit their ideological aims.

National Review noticed.  Here is Nicholas Frankovich’s take with my emphases and comments:

Dumbing Down Cardinal Burke

I appreciate a punchy headline as much as the next reader, but whoever wrote this one was trying too hard: “Cardinal Burke: Gays, remarried Catholics, and murderers are all the same.” It’s childish and not just overstated but false. It announces an article by David Gibson and was used verbatim by several outlets, suggesting that it originated with the Religion News Service (RNS), the agency that distributed the piece.

Gibson writes about the interview that Cardinal Raymond Burke gave to Jeanne Smits, the Paris correspondent of The published text is 4,800 words. The headline that LifeSiteNews gave it is “Cardinal Burke says confusion spreading among Catholics ‘in an alarming way.’” RNS has spread a little more. [And don’t forget the Wile E. Coyote of of contemporary liberal catholicism, MSW of Fishwrap.]

Let’s look at the primary source, the interview itself. Smits at one point asked Burke about the argument that Catholic teaching on homosexuality and the indissolubility of marriage should be discounted in light of the obvious kindness, generosity, and other virtues of many people who violate the Church’s understanding of the moral law:

LSN: Among the viewpoints of Cardinal Kasper and, more recently, Bishop Bonny of Antwerp, and others, was the consideration that “faithful” homosexuals, “remarried” divorcees and non-married couples show qualities of self-sacrifice, generosity and dedication that cannot be ignored. But through their choice of lifestyle, they are in what must be seen by outsiders as an objective state of mortal sin: a chosen and prolonged state of mortal sin. Could you remind us of the Church’s teaching [NB] on the value and merit of prayer and good actions in this state?

CB: If you are living publicly in a state of mortal sin [NB] there isn’t any good act that you can perform that justifies that situation: the person remains in grave sin. We believe that God created everyone good, and that God wants the salvation of all men, but that can only come about by conversion of life. And so we have to call people who are living in these gravely sinful situations to conversion. And to give the impression that somehow there’s something good about living in a state of grave sin is simply contrary to what the Church has always and everywhere taught.

LSN: So when the man in the street says, yes, it’s true these people are kind, they are dedicated, they are generous, that is not enough?

CB: Of course it’s not. It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people . . .

. . . like the oddly sympathetic character of Don Corleone, I immediately thought. But I hear the howls of protest already, so let me suggest another analogy.

Let’s say you work for Planned Parenthood and do so with great moral conviction. And let’s say I work for the pro-life movement. I recognize that you’re warm and well intentioned, but that doesn’t change my view that your work has the effect of promoting injustice. You’re wrong. You’re nice. Those two facts coexist.

Distinguishing between sinner and sin is usually easy: The sin doesn’t define the sinner, and neither does the sinner define the sin. The David who committed adultery with Bathsheba was still, after all, David the apple of God’s eye. But the adultery he committed was still adultery. [Another point: if you commit a mortal sin by, say, theft, you have lost God’s friendship.  If you die in this state, your judgment will go against you.  If you commit a mortal sin by, say, murder or adultery or lying or sacrilege, you have lost God’s friendship.  If you die in this state, your judgment will go against you.  If commit a mortal sin by omission rather than by commission, you have lost God’s friendship.  If you die in this state….]

Our ability to think both thoughts simultaneously may be waning, although some people only pretend that they don’t understand. Their aim is to dumb down the conversation to the point that thinking has no place in it anymore. If their opponent has won the debate intellectually, what can they do? Ignore his ideas, deplore ideas generally (oh, those “doctors of the law,” those “Pharisees”!), and push sentiments (cheap “mercy,” the Catholic version of cheap grace – [In the case of RNS and Fishwrap “cheap shots”.]) that they hope will appeal to the soft-headed child in us all.

Burke’s very point was to stress the importance of maintaining the sinner–sin distinction. The headline writer blurred it and ascribed the blurring to Burke.

No one even remotely familiar with Catholic culture would find credible the assertion that a cardinal said that “gays, remarried Catholics, and murderers are all the same,” and no one with reading comprehension above the Mendoza line would see in the interview any evidence that Burke said it. [Now consider the majority of people who subscribe to the Fishwrap.] He said that any virtues possessed by the person who violates moral laws pertaining to sex and marriage no more justify the violation of those laws than the virtues of a murderer justify the murder. It’s hardly click bait, but it’s what he said.

Those who, on the left and on the right, are accused of misrepresenting Pope Francis in the media might be doing so knowingly in many cases, but representing him in a way that is indisputably fair is hard because his words are so often ambiguous. Burke is a straight shooter, by contrast. His thought and speech are linear — and, to the minds of many, compelling. If his adversaries in the media were confident that we would think his message was outrageous if we only knew what it was, they would be content to quote him accurately.

Here is a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving…By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity.” (CCC 2482, 2485)


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Sliwka says:

    I was listening to an old episode of the podcast Hello Internet (run by two dudes talking) and one who does not follow the news highlighted that digital print outlets should almost have an obligation to hyperlink to a full interview text or recoding for both the interviewer and interviewee. The interviewer cannot be accused of taking things out of context, and the interviewee cannot claim as such. This would help the likes of Card. Burke.

  2. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think part of the difficulty lies in the confusion in the minds of many people of the terms “mortal sin” and “grave sin”. A grave sin is a sin that must be confessed because it can potentially be a mortal sin if the other conditions, i.e. full knowledge and deliberate consent are present. What Cardinal Burke describes are grave matters, but there are circumstances where even murder falls short of being a mortal sin because of the lack of full knowledge of the gravity of the matter or less than full consent. It is only through the act of confessing that the level of culpability can be determined by the priest and the sinner absolved.

  3. Sonshine135 says:

    I actually read the Lifesite interview and the MSW article. Overstated is perhaps the kindest word for it. It is obvious from anyone with even a small sense of fairness that Cardinal Burke was referring to the gravity of the sin committed. You really have to twist it to bring it to the level MSW and Gibson take it to. These two men have clearly demonstrated calumny, and towards a man of the cloth no less. They should correct their articles, and issue an apology to Cardinal Burke.

    What is most ironic at Fishwrap is there comments section which reads that you should not attack the author, but address the message. If only their authors took the same advice. [hypocrites] Also, do not read their comments section. The comments are often a wasteland and desolation of self-hating Catholics in the first place. I felt dirty just clicking on it.

  4. disco says:

    To be fair – Liberals have long advocated for the elimination of analogies from the SAT. It’s a remote possibility they don’t recognize them when they see them.

  5. Magash says:

    The real problem is that neither writer likely accepts the concept of mortal sin, probably not sin of any kind.
    In a way even the most blatant interpretation of the liberal left has merit. By that I mean that in the grand scheme of Salvation all three mortal sins ARE equivalent. The result of the sins are the same. Eternal damnation. The victim of the murder, if they be a righteous person, will be in God’s presence. Certainly not the worst of fates, unless you believe in neither God nor an afterlife.
    However the fate of the unrepentant murderer, adulterer and fornicator are all the same.
    This is not a very popular statement. It is however the teaching of the Church, and has been since the beginning.
    As said by father. No amount of worldly restitution, good works, or kindness, can make up for such deeds. Only Reconciliation and repentance can do that.
    Like I said not a popular message. Not in 30 AD. Not in 2015 AD

  6. frjim4321 says:

    I agree that misleading headlines are a problem. [It’s not just the headline. The whole article is a smear.] But honestly, Lifesite News is a prime offender. [That is IRRELEVANT. The LifeSite interview was just that: an interview. RNS and Fishwrap distorted the actual words in the interview.] Headlines there are often misleading exaggerations. [LifeSite’s headlines are NOT the issue here.] And then there’s FN’s fake headlines that end in a question mark. [I don’t care. FN’s headline is not the issue.] There are a lot of black kettles here. [No, there really are not.]

  7. jflare says:

    “But honestly, Lifesite News is a prime offender. Headlines there are often misleading exaggerations.”
    I wouldn’t say that. They don’t typically pull punches, but neither would I say they exaggerate.

    “Both Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap and David Gibson of RNS posted intellectually dishonest hit pieces against Card. Burke.”
    CruxMag’s Allen was about the same.

    Incidentally, I think I got myself halfway barred from posting at Crux. ..Or at least, when I tried posting something there last night, the system fought it for several moments. Then this morning, I noticed they deleted my comments entirely. It appears that this happened because I offered someone a personal challenge to repent of sins during Holy Week.
    They don’t seem to have much tolerance for differing views.

  8. says:

    A Chesterton quote seems quite appropriate for this situation:

    “The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.”

  9. Kerry says:

    Luke 18: 9-13 seems germane here.

    And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, he spoke also this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.

  10. Kerry says:

    Orde Wingate, (Wingate of Burma), in a letter wrote, (and I paraphrase somewhat):
    “If the failures of others are to be used to justify our own shortcomings, there is no hope for virtue”.
    Let he who has eyes to read, see.

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Magash’s comment reminded me of the repentant murderer, Len, and his victim, Jack, reconciled, and Len (not so unlike Jacob Marley in Dickens’ Christmas Carol) trying to move his comparatively clean-handed old boss to join them in repentence, too, in Lewis’s The Great Divorce: A Dream (1945), in which Len says, “You weren’t a decent man and you didn’t do your best. We none of us were and we none of us did” and “I haven’t got my rights or I shouldn’t be here. You will not get yours either. You’ll get something far better.”

    Or, as Cardinal Burke says to Jeanne Smits, “Our faith is not in individual persons, our faith is in Jesus Christ. He alone is our salvation, and He is alive for us in the Church through her teaching, through her sacraments, and through her discipline.”

  12. jameeka says:

    Mr Nicholas Frankovich, I thank you for your commentary and being an excellent writer–a much needed counterpoint to what passes for journalism today.

  13. St Donatus says:

    Tell me Father, will liberals go to heaven? I am saying this a bit tongue in cheek but when are we culpable for doing everything one can to destroy the Church, whether attacking those who stand up for the truths of the Church or trying to get those truths either removed or ignored. When are we working in line with Satan? Of course, I think of the attacks on Cardinal Burke and the Indiana law protecting religious freedom.

    I used to be an atheist and would attack religion and God at every opportunity. Was I culpable for my ‘belief’ in atheism? I look back and I know that if I had died at that point, I would today be in Hell. It was partially pure selfishness that drew me to Atheism, a desire for no restraints.

    But at the same time, the mass media helped draw me to that point (and the lack of any real Godly influence at Church or home). Everything I saw was against the Church, anti-God, anti-Christian but the mass media has gone to a whole new level of hatred for the Church. Even today, the auto-pilot in my mind doubts first. It is like demons in my mind constantly trying to tell me, ‘you are wasting your time, go out and have fun’. Of course, I remember how ‘fun’ being an atheist was.

    One thing I have learned for sure, the spirituality of most people who watch the Mass Media will be harmed. It stealthily promotes selfishness and atheism. God is dead in television. I mean, rarely will there be anything that either mentions God in any reality. It is like we are going to an Atheist Church 99% of the time and expect the one hour at Mass to make up for it. My warning to parents is, cut the cable, cut the antenna, buy good wholesome movies and play more games with the family.

    I know I got of the topic, but the root of the problem needs to be dealt with.

  14. Robert Doody says:

    One of the main problems is that our Church leaders like Cardinal Burke and even the Pope are not polished politicians. They are Church men who think like Church men and they often say things that can be easily twisted by the media and the contemporary world. Many of the organizations that oppose the Catholic Church are extremely well polished in “talking points”. No one is allowed to say anything publicly that hasn’t been “vetted” and tested with a Public Relations firm. I’m not kidding, I once worked for an organization that is dramatically opposed to the Catholic faith. This is how the opposition side gets ahead and begins to shape the discussion in the public forum. They and the media who supports them love comments that are well meaning but which can manipulated in a fashion to destroy the person and organization. Media is completely manipulated by “talking points” and people “staying on message” and woe to the person who doesn’t stick with “the message”.

  15. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Cardinal Burke’s latest (1 April) interview: is there an English version, anywhere, or is Dr. Williams simply making his own translation of what he quotes?

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