INTERVIEW with Card. Burke about their plea to Pope Francis “Seeking Clarity”

Yesterday we all read about the Bombshell.  HERE  Four Cardinals presented formal “Yes/No” questions (dubia) to Pope Francis and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about confusing points which were stirred up by the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.  The dubia were originally submitted privately.  When, after a congruent time of waiting, the dubia received no response, The Four went public with the dubia, including some explanatory paragraphs.  This they did in the spirit of Matthew 18:16-17 (“If your brother will not listen to you, take with you two or three witnesses. If then he will not listen even to them, tell it to the assembly.”)

Today I see at LifeSite an interview with one of The Four Cardinals, His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke.  Card. Burke explains what The Four did and why they did it.  He explains their motivations and their attitudes.

Burke describes the difficulties roused up by Amoria laetitia like…

knots that cannot be easily untied and are causing great confusion. Sharing the Pope’s devotion to Our Lady, Untier of Knots, we are asking him to clarify these ambiguous statements and, with the help of God, to untie some of the knotty statements of the document for the good of souls.

In the interview Card. Burke provides a bit of a time-line of what lead up to the crafting of the dubia and their submission.  In this way he provides some context.   He also puts to rest direct questions from the interviewer about their motives, whether or not they are being defiant towards the Roman Pontiff.   He also explains and doubles down on his view that Amoris laetitia isn’t a Magisterial document:

My position is that Amoris Laetitia is not Magisterial because it contains serious ambiguities that confuse people and can lead them into error and grave sin. A document with these defects cannot be part of the Church’s perennial teaching. Because that is the case, the Church needs absolute clarity regarding what Pope Francis is teaching and encouraging.

It is important to understand that The Four are seeking clarity from Pope Francis not only about the thorny issue of whether or not the divorced and civilly remarried can be admitted to Holy Communion.  What is at stake are far deeper, more fundamental moral and doctrinal positions which had been explained carefully in the Magisterium of St John Paul II, especially in Familiaris consortio but also in Veritatis splendor.  Burke says in the interview:

I would also like to point out that only the first of our questions to the Holy Father focuses on Holy Matrimony and the Holy Eucharist. Questions two, three, and four are about fundamental issues regarding the moral life: whether intrinsically evil acts exist, whether a person who habitually commits grave evil is in a state of “grave sin”, and whether a grave sin can ever become a good choice because of circumstances or intentions.

If the answer to that question is No, there are consequences for how we are to read the rest of Amoris laetitia.  If Yes…

Also, Card. Burke delves a bit into what is truly “pastoral” (a word tossed about often and casually these days).   As you might imagine, Card. Burke does not omit connecting what is truly “pastoral” to “truth spoken with charity”.

Take a little time with your morning coffee and toast to read the interview.  It isn’t overly long.  It will dispel in advance the Smear Machine’s approach from lib catholics who will attack The Four and try to discredit them.  The last thing that lib catholics want is clarity (or charity).   For lib catholics, ambiguity and fog is advantageous: all the better to continue in immoral behavior and in doctrinal error.


ANOTHER interview at National Catholic Register:

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mshepard85 says:

    I am puzzled regarding the HE’s statement regarding the effect on the magisterial effect of a document that serious ambiguity, that can confuse people and lead them into sin. I can’t be the only person to respond … what about VII?

    I am not trying to be flippant or harsh, as I realize this is an interview, and not a scholarly work produced upon much reflection, but HE has had time to reflect on Amoris laetitia, and this has been his consistent position.

    Perhaps he would answer that such a comparison is inapposite as one document is a post synodal exhortation, while Dignitatis humanae was a declaration (or unitatis redintegratio is a decree) produced at an ecumenical council, and thus, any apparent ambiguities, even if unsolved in 50 years, must be given deference.

    Nevertheless, I think it beyond dispute that at present serious ambiguities exist in some of those documents as well, which can lead to sin and error (e.g. indifferentism, relativism, personal opposed, but…)

  2. Traductora says:

    I just saw a post on another blog that said that the pope’s mouthpiece Spadero had tweeted the “papal response” yesterday: “#AmorisLaetitia: The Pope has “clarified”. Those who don’t like what they hear pretend not to hear it! Just read… ” at which point he links to the Pope’s letter to the Argentinian bishops. Check out Spadaro’s tweets – it’s there.

    So I suppose it’s possible that Francis won’t respond at all and that once again he will hand it off to a surrogate and blame and sneer at the mean, rigid people who dared to question him. It would also be typical of him to give a frivolous non-answer to a serious factual question.

    He also just had a special meeting with the entire Curia. I shudder to think what he’s preparing for the consistory. But one thing it doesn’t sound like he’s preparing is a response to the dubia – I hope I’m wrong on this.

  3. momofmany says:

    In this interview, Cardinal Burke says that he wants to open up this discussion so that all the faithful may participate. I was one of the 790,000 who signed the petition a while back, but how can we participate in this discussion now, Father Z? How can we let the Holy Father know that we care and that we want clarification too? (Besides prayer, sacraments, sacrifices, personal holiness, etc.)

  4. OldProfK says:

    You’d think someone would read Luke 17:2, reflect…and shudder.

  5. jhayes says:

    Robert Mickens writes that Pope Francis has charged the John-Paul II institute (they have branches around the world) with developing the guidelines given in Amoris laetitia.

    But Pope Francis shook up the institute’s most loyal supporters last August when he appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia the grand chancellor of its main center in Rome. They were not happy that he also named Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri as the institute’s president. Both Italians are known to be more flexible and less hard-line on sexual anthropology than their predecessors.

    Francis made it clear that he wanted the two men to renew the John Paul II Institute by further developing the guidelines in his exhortation on marriage and family, Amoris Laetitia. A number of more traditional-minded bishops and theologians linked to the institute have openly and strongly criticized the document.

    [Aaaaaand…. so?]

  6. robtbrown says:

    mshepard85 says:

    I am puzzled regarding the HE’s statement regarding the effect on the magisterial effect of a document that serious ambiguity, that can confuse people and lead them into sin. I can’t be the only person to respond … what about VII?

    You’re referring to which specific text?

  7. jhayes says:

    Traductora, Fr. Spadaro’s tweet was “#AmorisLaetitia is an act of the Magisterium (card. Schönborn) so don’t keep asking the same question until you get the answer *you* want…” He was referring to his interview with Cardinal Schönbrun which, among other things, explains why simple yes or no answers as requested by the four cardinals don’t work. You can read it (in English) here:

    Q. What does “in some cases” mean? Someone will ask, “Why should we not get a kind of inventory to explain what this means?”

    A. Because otherwise there is a risk of falling into abstract casuistry. Even more seriously, we would risk creating, even by means of a norm that spoke of exceptions, a right to receive the Eucharist in an objective situation of sin. I believe that the pope is requiring us here, for the love of the truth, to discern the individual cases both in the internal forum and in the external forum.

    Fr. Spadaro’s reference to the Pope’s letter to Bishop Fenoy was in reply to a combox comment.

    [You are clearly onto sometime! Thanks for providing targets.]

  8. jhayes says:

    When questioned by a reporter, Francis recommended reading Cardinal Schönbrun to find the answer:

    Q. For a Catholic who wants to know: are there new, concrete possibilities that didn’t exist before the publication of the exhortation or not?

    A. [Pope Francis]: I can say yes, period. But it would be an answer that is too small. I recommend that you read the presentation of Cardinal Schonborn, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will find an answer.


    [Yesssssss. And, in the long run, that’s not going to go well.]

  9. DonL says:

    My question is, in all seriousness, can there be such an animal as a ‘liberal catholic?”
    I assume it is related to a “heretical Catholic.”

  10. mshepard85 says:


    I specifically referenced Dignitatis Humanae and Unitatis Redintegratio above.

    Perhaps this is a better example: the phrase, subsistit in from Lumen Gentium is open to more than one reasonable interpretation (the technical definition of ambiguity). Some have interpreted subsistit in to mean the same thing as the traditional phraseology, est. Others have interpreted it to have a broader meaning, with less clear delineations between the Catholic Church and “separated brethren.” This has led to indifferentism. I remember a visiting Paulist priest years ago give a homily in which he told us to leave the protestants alone and not worry about them. There have been numerous other anecdotes we’ve all heard about protestants being told not to convert after having expressed a desire to.

    If addition, the fact that subsistit in was later clarified by the CDF shows that it was ambiguous, otherwise, no clarification was needed. He stated, before any clarification, that Amoris Laetitia isn’t magisterial because of its ambiguity, which can lead people to error and grave sin. In fact, the existence of a clarification is itself evidence of ambiguity.

    I’m not saying that the documents of VII, wholly or partially, aren’t part of the Magisterium. I’m just pointing out that a blanket statement such as that from HE Burke would seem to do just that, which is an opinion that I don’t think HE has ever voiced before regarding VII.

  11. JMody says:

    I was puzzled by this exchange in the Lifesite text:
    CA: Some Catholics may be concerned that your current publication is an act of disloyalty.

    I … Every baptized person should be concerned about doctrine and moral practices regarding the Holy Eucharist and Holy Matrimony, and about how we are to identify good and evil actions. These matters affect all of us.

    Rather than being a matter of disloyalty to the Pope, our action is deeply loyal to everything that the Pope represents and is obliged to defend in his official capacity.
    Is this not the precise argument that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre made, and to which the SSPX still holds? Is Burke now to be thrown into the outer darkness, worse than a heretic/cannibal/pervert, a – >shudder< LEFEBVRIST?

  12. chantgirl says:

    Fr. Spadaro’s tweet is pretty rich considering that the liberal M.O. is to keep asking questions, especially about settled issues until they get a response they like. Haven’t we seen this over and over with women’s ordination?

    Burke for Pope.

  13. robtbrown says:

    mshepard85 says

    I specifically referenced Dignitatis Humanae and Unitatis Redintegratio above.

    Neither document is a dogmatic constitution, and neither pertains to the liturgy.

    Perhaps this is a better example: the phrase, subsistit in from Lumen Gentium is open to more than one reasonable interpretation (the technical definition of ambiguity). \

    Actually, that’s a poor definition of ambiguity because it could also refer to analogy, which is the soul of theology. There has been much misunderstanding of this, party because so many think–wrongly–that theology is univocal.

    Ambiguity means at the very least that the definitions have nothing to do each other. There is, however, a better example of ambiguity, which is found in Rahner and those of his ilk. That is when the word or phrase can accomodate contradictory definitions, e.g., potus spiritalis (spiritual drink) in the Novus Ordo can be accepted also by those who deny Transubstantiation.

    I’ll address subsistit later. I’m watching basketball game right now.

  14. Daniel W says:

    Catholicism (and the pope) is clear. The answer to all five questions is NO, and at no stage has this been put into question (except by these four cardinals!!).

    The simple way to explain Amoris Laetitiae is to say that the pope has effectively added the phrase “as far as possible” (quantum fieri potest) to CCC1650 so that it now would read “If the divorced are remarried civilly,… Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence(…..quantum fieri potest…..)
    This would be a bit like Jesus saying to the adulterous woman “Go and sin no more …. as far as possible” and so the pope rightly wants to avoid saying this explicitly. He is getting the bishops to do this for him (Aregentina, Rome, etc). Jesus often avoided answering questions put to him by religious lawyers, so one can hardly blame the pope for doing the same.

  15. Gabriel Syme says:

    Daniel W,

    I understand your argument, but to add a caveat of “as far as possible” to any teaching is essentially to negate the teaching entirely.

    This is because if there is a loophole then (i) many (most?) people will only seek to use that from the start and (ii) those who were eager to try to live a genuine Christian life will be discouraged by those in (i) and (iii) probably the bulk of the modern clergy would be too weak to insist on anything other than use of the loophole.

    As for comparing Jorge with Jesus, well, both names start with J – I think that’s as far as the likeness goes.

    Jesus said what he meant and was up front with people. He was not too cowardly to speak frankly, nor did he patronise people, nor hide behind footnotes, supposed faulty memories or henchmen.

    Since returning to the Catholic faith some years ago, I have been greatly disappointed in so far as – outwith the relatively small traditional enclaves – the modern Catholic Church is only interested in the nonsense of ecumenism and in creating loopholes in its own doctrines.

    Instead of feeling guided/directed by the Catholic hierarchy, I often feel that my faith is chiefly about trying to shame modernist leaders into maintaining a pretence that they believe in doctrines which in fact they clearly do not subscribe to. Sometimes I wonder why I bother!

  16. Traductora says:

    Spadaro actually seems to have spent most of the day tweeting. Shortly after the first tweet began to circulate, he deleted it and tweeted again, this time in even more insulting terms, IMHO. In the course of the day, he referred to several different papal “clarifications,” including the letter to the Argentine bishops. And he kept up the comments about people refusing to hear it because they didn’t like it or questioning it because it wasn’t the answer they wanted, as if this were not a matter of truth but of disgruntled personal opinion.

    Leaving aside the fact that Pope Francis and his cohort seem to believe that a format of 140 characters is sufficient for attention to doctrine, to me it indicates that this will be their line. It’s somewhat Nixonian…”stonewall” the questioners and declare that they are acting out of ill will. Heck, even go so far as to make it look as if you’re the one being persecuted. But at all times, avoid a direct answer.

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  18. Daniel W says:

    Dear Gabriel,

    The “so far as possible” is not a loophole, it is just traditional Catholic moral theology.
    However, it has also been traditional not to overstate it, for precisely the reasons you have discussed. The change is that the Pope is emphasizing it, instead of leaving it to be explained when necessary, case by case, in the confessional.

    I think I am ‘trad’ in my moral theology, and I think the problematic loophole is elsewhere and began with the JPII “live as brother and sister” rule. That rule (loophole?) is fine, but there was no provision to ensure this decision to avoid adulterous acts was not restricted to the internal forum so that those who have a right to know of this decision can be informed of it (i.e the true spouse of a divorced person in a new union, etc). In certain situations, such as before the dissolution of a VALID, CONSUMMATED marriage with a non-Christian (talk about loopholes!), canon law provides that the answer to certain questions made to the non-baptized spouse must be at least available in the external forum. I believe this is an oversight, but it must be addressed.

    Thanks for sharing your difficulties on returning to our Most Holy and Glorious Faith. Hold on tight, we are not at the end of this roller-coaster yet, but I am convinced it is worth hanging till the end!

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  20. robtbrown says:


    Excuse the delay.

    Lumen Gentium no 8 (where subsistit is found) reflects the move away from the Church considered as a Perfect Society (cf Bellarmine and much of Counter Reformation theology) and the return to the Church considered as Mystical Body of Christ (cf.Sts Paul, John, Augustine, and Thomas), which can be said to have formally returned with Mystici Corporis by Pius XII.

    Although LG 8 begins with reference to the Mystical Body, unfortunately it reverts to certain concepts associated with the Church as Society. Thus, the reference to elements of truth and sanctification being outside the visible confines, but there are problems:

    1. The translation of compaginem (compago, compaginis–structure) as visible confines is more than a bit confusing.

    2. The translation of inveniantur as “are found” is simply wrong. It is the subjunctive.

    3. It can be said that the Church considered as Society can have elements of truth and sanctification outside its structure, i.e., Protestant Baptism or a pagan affirming the incorruptibility of the soul. As Mystical Body of Christ whose Head is Christ Himself, however, there is no element of truth or sanctification outside its structure

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