@DouthatNYT interviews Card. Burke

May I preface this by saying that I am still angry at the way former-cardinal-bishop-priest Theodore McCarrick was handled?  For his punishment he was made again a lay person?!?  REALLY?  Most of you reading this are lay people.  THAT’s a punishment?  And if the powers that be say that, “Well, we don’t intend laicization as ‘punishment’, per se…”, then that means he hasn’t been punished at all!   So, I am angry about that.

I think the Rite of Degradation of a Bishop should be applied to him, all the down through all the orders he ever received…. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

That said…

Ross Douthat of the NYT had an interview with Raymond Leo Card. Burke.

He asked some good questions.

For example:

Douthat: But what if it’s in the nature of a hierarchy to allow people in positions of authority to suspend the rules? What if you need more democratic accountability somewhere or the law won’t be enforced?

Burke: Well, clearly Christ constituted the church as a hierarchical communion. His public ministry immediately took these 12 men aside and prepared them. They weren’t all angels either, as we know. But there is always a temptation to infidelity to the pastoral office, to permit things that are evil when it comes to a friend. This, by the way, is “clericalism.” Clericalism has nothing to do with being interested in the liturgy or wanting to wear a cassock. No, clericalism is the abuse of the office of cleric for sinful purposes.

So, yes, there have to be controls and they actually existed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Up until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council there were a whole series of rites for the degradation of a cleric who betrayed the holiness of his office.

Douthat: Some of them very vivid rites.

Burke: Very vivid. For instance, if it was an archbishop or bishop, they’d dress him in the full vestments and then take them off one by one, with these very severe declarations, and then at the end, scrape the hands that had been anointed at ordination with a knife [or with a shard of glass!] to signify that this person had completely betrayed the office.

Douthat: Would you like to see such a rite applied to, for instance, the now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick?

Burke: I would say that it’s the proper way to go.


Do I hear an “Amen!”?

And he’s not the only one.

In public.  Prominently, to repair something of the scandal.

To read more about the Rite of Degradation of a Bishop.  HERE

For the Degradation of a Priest.  HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    It could make for great TV sport. “Guess the reaction of the following”:

    McCarrick, Coccopalmerio, Spadaro, Maradiaga, Marx, Kasper, Wuerl, Tobin, Cupich, Bransfeld, Dolan, Dew, McElroy, Mahony, Williams…..

    Good Lord. That’s just series 1.

  2. Fern says:

    Thank you, Father!
    Finally, someone said what I thought right away. So the “Cardinal” was reduced to the lay state! What are we, some rif raf class of sub humans that the ner-do-wells are sent to? I also suspect that he is living out retirement in a higher standard than many, if not most, of his “sheep” are. We are obliged to pray for the fallen but gosh, is this justice?

  3. guatadopt says:

    When all of the Teddy stuff really started breaking and the Holy See was considering punishment, all I could think of was a scene from Thor when Odin stripped him of his power and banished him. It is like what the church used to do just dramatized a bit. A little drama would do us well.


  4. ArthurH says:

    What is described is absolutely fitting– sorta a more dramatic, meaningful version of breaking the sword of a disgraced army man (per the old opening scene of every “Branded” episode on old TV).

    But, it will never happen today, esp not in a world where there are no substantive visible consequences for public moral iniquity, right down to so many–incl priests and prelates– believing that ALL go to heaven: Hell may be real, but no one really goes there, as they say. Except that aint what HE said.

  5. Gaetano says:

    An auto de fé pour encourager les autres every few decades would do wonders for the episcopacy. No more daily $100 cut flower habits, either.

  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Amen, Amen!!

  7. Grabski says:

    Reminds me of the opening of Branded on TV….

  8. rbbadger says:

    Father Mark White, a priest of the Diocese of Richmond (formerly of Washington, DC and who was ordained a priest by McCarrick), memorably described what was done to McCarrick as the Mafia trying to just get him out of the way in his blog. There’s also a memorable open letter to Theodore McCarrick which I pray someone has read him.

    The powers that be didn’t really want to have to punish him, but after his case started attracting too much attention, they had to get rid of him. We couldn’t have a public canonical trial, as too many people are implicated. So, they just did an abbreviated canonical process and that was that.

    It was just business. Nothing personal.

  9. The Cobbler says:

    The reality of Hell is the subject of a rant of my own.

    Your concept of a tree doesn’t just apply to particular trees, it is knowledge about all trees universally. (It must be so, and not merely an amalgam, for deductive logic to work. And if you reject logic itself you don’t really have any way to reason against me, so…) Universals don’t decay and die. Niether, ultimately, can a mind that contains them. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can infer the immortality of the soul easily.

    And have you never seen someone who wallows in his or her own misery on purpose? (They are all over the internet these days.) Who, in a self-defeating attempt at justifying themselves by shifting the blame onto others, deliberately construes any attempt at helping or advising them out of it as controlling or as an attack? How long do you think they can keep it up? Well, until it conflicts with self-preservation – or until it kills them.

    And if even death doesn’t end them?

    Imagine someone wallowing in their own misery forever.

    And who needs to imagine it? I already know people in that state! I know they could keep it up forever, because they’ve chosen to rationalize the misery itself as justification for their self-dentructive behavior. It’s the most tragic thing I’ve ever seen; and I’m not mad at them for it (well, maybe mad about other things they’ve done, but that’s another story) – I’m heartbroken for them… but they won’t let me help them. They might never let anyone help them. Forever.

    The fact so few people fear this, even though it is all around us and requires no religious insight to see, speaks to the sheer level of wilful blindness among human beings.

  10. Gab says:

    “Up until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council there were a whole series of rites for the degradation of a cleric who betrayed the holiness of his office”.

    The “reforms” of Vat II just keep on coming. What they did back then was heinous and will be visited upon generations to come.

  11. OssaSola says:

    I like it. I don’t think we should underestimate the salutary effects on those victims who get to witness it. It of course doesn’t cure their pain but they deserve to see the Church divesting herself from such monsters.

    But I wonder—since McCarrick seemed to have no honor, could he actually feel shame if this were done with him?

  12. Tom Kaye says:

    Since the Bishop of Rome has outlawed capital punishment what’s wrong with a life sentence for Uncle Teddy in Regina Coeli prison? He’d make a great subject for students of forensics and criminal anthropology.

  13. Filiolus says:

    The rest of that interview is pretty interesting, too.

  14. robtbrown says:

    Rome didn’t only want McCarrick out of the way. He was old, had no position, and his power was waning. After the conclave he was of no use.

    Laicizing him was a PR move, a distraction from doing nothing about Papal favorites Maradiaga and Farrell.

  15. dplentini says:

    Interesting that the Second Vatican Council removed these penalties. It’s like they were getting ready to let the clericalism and other abuses begin. Perhaps it’s no wonder that the Council was used repeatedly as a crutch by the bishops to undermine the Popes since then.

  16. mo7 says:

    -To permit things that are evil when it comes to a friend-
    Mr. McCarrick knows too much best we keep him quiet, says his friends.

  17. LeeGilbert says:

    As great as these degradation rites sound, it’s hard to imagine their ever having been implemented. “Bishop, you are being ritually degraded tomorrow morning in the cathedral. Be there by 11:00 am.” Who would ever show up unless brought by gendarmes of the papal states, when such existed? In short, it seems an exercise in fantasy.

    The rite of excommunication, on the other hand, as in the movie Becket, does not require the co-operation of the excommunicated, say, for example, Joe Biden., et al.

    [I am sure they were used.]

  18. OssaSola says: But I wonder—since McCarrick seemed to have no honor, could he actually feel shame if this were done with him?

    Don’t forget, these rituals are not only for the benefit of the one being degraded. They are for the benefit of all onlookers, as well as for the satisfaction of justice and the reaffirmation of clerical dignity. It is edifying to see the authorities taking the law seriously and meting out proportionate punishments for violations of the law. To see the opposite is disedifying, as we should be able to attest after 50+ years of seeing canonical criminals escape visible punishment, and having punishment instead visited upon faithful Catholics.

    It’s also necessary, for the good of souls, for there to be absolutely no doubt about the status of an offending cleric who has been deposed, so that he is prevented from exercising a “ministry.” These old rites would certainly remove any doubt.

  19. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    Here’s what I imagine would be perfect for McCarrick: an inhospitable, rubble-y, island monastery in the middle of the South Atlantic, with a perpetual breeze, and perpetual silence for the prisoner, and the prisoner not allowed off-island except for medical care. Prisoner allowed no access to computer, typewriter, internet, phones, TV, radio, walkie-talkie, or carrier pigeon, mail, packages, not even postcards. More or less Bird Man of Alcatraz, except no birds; and not locked up, (after all, you can’t simply lock a man up, and throw away the key; for the sake of human decency, that kind of confinement would require more monitoring and maintenance on the part of the monks than they should have to be bothered with.).

    No magazines, no newspapers, no dictionary, no nothing. The Bible. And one Lives of the Saints type book every three months, which is then taken away and replaced with another.

    5 x 8 scratch lined pad; pencils and a hand-held sharpener. And paper clips. That’s it.

    Prisoner must launder own clothes in a bucket. Prisoner showers; no bath. No electricity.

    For this man, who had once been Cardinal-Archbishop of the archdiocese in which I live, these living arrangements would be acute torture.

  20. Lunchbox catholic says:

    Funny how no one mentions Cardinal George Pell, someone who’s actually been convited of child sex abuse.

    I thought the Douthat interview was excellent and Card Burke did himself a great service in his even handed answers. More of this type of dialgue from traditionalist and less rabble rousing would help further the cause…just not sure the social media age allows for that.

  21. JustaSinner says:

    Two seconds after Teddy’s soul passes on, the REAL punishments begin…

    [Therefore, my I strongly suggest that you adopt a regimen of prayer and penance for him? For the sake of his conversion and salvation?]

  22. Something is wrong with a world where Cardinal Pell is in jail and McCarrick is simply in seclusion. As for Cardinal Burke’s observations, he’s spot on as usual, and it is interesting to see him suggest what has been suggested by Fr. Z for quite some time now.

  23. Felipe says:

    Burke is awesome. May God bless His Church with more clerics as strong as him. May our Lady of Guadalupe intercede for us.

  24. JonPatrick says:

    @Lunchbox Catholic, that Cardinal Pell could be convicted on such flimsy evidence makes me wonder about the state of the justice system down under. Isn’t it interesting that Pell was investigating the shenanigans in the Vatican finances and then suddenly this charge comes out of nowhere?

  25. hwriggles4 says:

    Since Bransfield was mentioned here, hasn’t he been ordered to make reparations for diocesan funding he used to support his luxurious lifestyle?

    One former auxiliary bishop who seems to have been given a “pass ” is Zavala. He was the other Los Angeles bishop. About seven years ago, Zavala resigned and his “secret life” (married with two teenagers) was revealed. I do recall that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had planned to help Zavala financially to support his family. IMHO, I think Zavala should have been removed from public ministry much earlier – with a teenager, that probably would have been late 1990s – uh, we can guess who was at the helm in Los Angeles back then.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Although McCarrick was a dirtbag whose life was a lie, to keep bringing him up distracts from contemporary situations, e.g., Maradiaga and Farrell. This, IMHO, was why the Vatican used McCarrick as a tethered goat–he was too old to be of any use*. It was a PR move, a diversionary tactic.

    There are other questions that need to be answered. How was McC able to rise to his position? There were people in authority who knew. Why didn’t they stop him? Is Cupich in Chicago because of the influence of McC and Wuerl? Why do so many of the bishops named by JPII ad BXVI endorse Amoris Laetitia and the Amazonian Synod?

    Why do good priests still leave the priesthood?

    I have read more than once that there is buyers’ remorse among many Cardinals of the 2013 conclave. Why would they have elected a 1970s Jesuit without knowing something about him? (Answer: Neo-con complacency.) Didn’t they know that Bergoglio was tied to Daneels and others of post VatII perfidy?

    * Who knows? Maybe McC would have objected to Pack yo’ mama. Perhaps he would have preferred a statue of a naked male adolescent.

  27. Lunchbox catholic says:

    Isn’t that the issue? Corruption is so deepseated at the heart of the Vatican and church that once anyones does anything that might expose it, the skeletons come out and people’s past/current exploits are exposed. You might not agree with Frédéric Martel’s book or his motivation, but it does make you wonder how many in the church heirarchy are caught up in a game of mutual assured destruction.

  28. Grabski says:

    Pope Benedict, pray for us

  29. PostCatholic says:

    Msgr Kevin Farrell was already a Very Big Wig in the Pastoral Center in the 1980’s when I was seminarian, ten-plus years before McCarrick ever got off the train in Washington DC. I only knew him well enough to say hello and practice some Irish language greetings then; he was way higher than my orbit as a seminarian. I think at various times before his consecration he was Director of Finance and Moderator of the Curia when the late Cardinal Hickey was Archbishop. To hear people describe him as a protégé of Theodore Mister McCarrick as he has been in various Catholic media seems strange to me. Perhaps someone knows more about his career than I do, but my memory is that he and the late Cardinal’s secretary, Father Lori, were always on the “up and out” trajectory. What, besides proximity to McCarrick, gives him that label? Worth noting too that McCarrick’s abuses of power for which he was punished were committed in NY & NJ, not while Archbishop of Washington.

  30. matt from az says:

    Few things would help restore public faith in the Church as public degradation of reprobate clergy.
    “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.”
    If the public, Catholic and non-Catholic alike were to see a reprobate Cardinal get stripped of his vestments, the spot where consecrated oil was applied to his hands scrapped off, and see him cast out into the world without a comfy retirement, we would see many weak Catholics strengthened and many non-Catholics convert

  31. matt from az says:

    An additional thought. Everyone—Catholic or not—is tired of the Vatican running PR campaigns and avoiding responsibility. The hierarchy is worse than a poorly raised teenager when it comes to accepting responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof).
    What people want is justice. Real justice, because that is a virtue upon which so much more hinges. If the Church were just, it would be merciful to the victims and the public who suffer seeing clergy get away with being inveterate sinners.

  32. oledocfarmer says:

    I think Teddy Mac is the key to many, many locks. My prayer is that he will repent and make a clean, clear declaration of everything he knows.

  33. RLseven says:

    matt fr az: “If the public, Catholic and non-Catholic alike were to see a reprobate Cardinal get stripped of his vestments, the spot where consecrated oil was applied to his hands scrapped off, and see him cast out into the world without a comfy retirement, we would see many weak Catholics strengthened and many non-Catholics convert.”

    Agreed! And I think Cardinal Law should have been treated this way, as well. None of our popes have handled the crisis well.

    [It’s too easy to target him.]

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