by Christopher A. Ferrara
April 4, 2017
In a just-published interview with the web-based chronicle “Thinking with the Church,” Cardinal Raymond Burke dropped a bombshell whose impact is of historic proportion.
It came when the interviewer complained rather mildly about the sophistical defenders of Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8, who claim that allowing public adulterers in “second marriages” to receive Holy Communion is merely a “development” of doctrine. As the interviewer put it, “the Holy Father’s appointed interpreters and mouthpieces” are in effect arguing that “It’s [the prior ban on Holy Communion for the divorced and “remarried”] developing from one doctrine into another, it would seem.”
And the Cardinal’s explosive reply:
“And that can’t be. In other words, doctrinal development means that we have come to a deeper understanding of what is the constant teaching of the Church, and are able to give fuller expression to it, but it does not mean that we change the doctrine or that we go away from it, and that’s the difficulty with the people who call this interpretation of the famous chapter 8 a ‘doctrinal development’. If the doctrinal development means that now, in the Church, those who are living in irregular matrimonial situations may receive the Sacraments, then this isn’t doctrinal development: this is a change in the Church’s teaching.
“In fact, there is a commentator in the United States, Ross Douthat… I believe he is a convert to Catholicism, but – he just simply said [that] from the point of view of reason, this is the end of the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage – and I believe that he’s correct.”
But what the Cardinal said “can’t happen,” and what he admits would mean “the end of the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage,” is precisely what Pope Bergoglio’s “appointed interpreters and mouthpieces” are claiming has happened.
As the Cardinal must know, there is no longer any reasonable doubt that Pope Bergoglio thinks he can change the Church’s teaching by purporting to develop one doctrine — that Holy Communion for public adulterers is “intrinsically impossible… without exception,” given their objective state in life — into its exact opposite: that Holy Communion for public adulterers is not intrinsically impossible but rather permissible and even laudable in “certain cases” following a never-defined “process of discernment.”
The Cardinal therefore admits to the existence of an ecclesial catastrophe in progress — indeed nothing less than the “final confrontation between the Lord and Satan” over “marriage and family” of which Sister Lucia warned Cardinal Burke’s fellow dubia-presenter, Cardinal Caffarra.
And now the question presents itself: What do Cardinal Burke and his fellow cardinals intend to do about this catastrophe? With all due respect, interviews with weblogs will not suffice. What is needed from the members of the upper hierarchy, above all the Princes of the Church, is open and active opposition to this catastrophic error and, indispensably, to the Pope who has conceived, fostered and insured its spread with his every utterance and key appointment over the past four years.
There is no escaping the duty of legitimate resistance to the Roman Pontiff on this point, for unless the error is opposed at its source, its disastrous spread will be impossible to arrest, much less reverse. As no less than Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, teaches: “just as it would be lawful to resist a Pope invading a body, so it is lawful to resist him invading souls… and much more if he should endeavor to destroy the Church.” [De Controversiis on the Roman Pontiff, trans. Ryan Grant (Mediatrix Press: 2015), Book II, Chapter 29, p. 303].
We must hope and pray that the cardinals, led by Cardinal Burke and the other three cardinals who have published their dubia, will do what none of us can do with any effect but which must be done for the good of the Church and the welfare of souls: stand up to a wayward Roman Pontiff, openly opposing him as the source of a pernicious error.
To recall the immortal words of Saint Paul concerning his public rebuke of the first Pope for the relatively minor scandal of refusing to eat with the Gentiles he was charged to convert: “But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (2 Gal. 11) As the Angelic Doctor teaches concerning this incident:
“Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Galatians 2:11, Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.”
If Pope Bergoglio has not caused “imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith,” then words have lost their meaning. Let the cardinals, then, do what must be done before the harm to the Church becomes irreparable. Pray for Cardinal Burke and for every Prince of the Church in this time of unparalleled crisis, that they might rise up and do what their oath requires of them. For as John-Henry Westen has so rightly observed concerning this situation: “Pope Francis is indeed playing with fire. Hell fire.”