When American Cardinal Raymond Burke was recently dispatched to Guam to preside over a Church trial for an archbishop accused of abusing altar boys in the 1970s, some were inclined to interpret the move as a sort of exile.
Burke, a former president of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s Supreme Court, is well known as the perceived face of conservative opposition to Pope Francis, and also ran afoul of the pontiff in a recent controversy involving the leadership of the Knights of Malta, the group for which he serves as the ecclesiastical patron.
In an interview with an Italian TV outlet, however, Burke denies that the assignment in Guam is any sort of punishment. In fact, the outlet reports that it was the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not Pope Francis, who entrusted the assignment to Burke, and Francis didn’t even know about it until Burke was already in Guam.
Translated excerpts from that interview appear below, courtesy of TGCom 24.
How was this mission on the island of Guam born?
Burke: It was born with a request from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which I serve as president of its Apostolic Tribunal. I have to deal with a delicate ecclesiastical penal case.
Why were you chosen?
The pope entrusted the case to the congregation, and the congregation went ahead according to the just procedure to form members of the tribunal. In any case, I think I was selected on the basis of my studies in canon law and my long experience with ecclesiastical processes.
Therefore it wasn’t the Pope who asked you to go?
The pope has never spoken to me about this responsibility. I’ve communicated exclusively with the superiors at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the usual procedure in these cases.
How long will your duties on Guam last?
The part of my mission that has to take place in Guam will be completed soon. How much time it will take to wrap up all the documents on the case isn’t clear, but I hope to be able to finish the work before summer.
Many have said that this is a ‘punishment’ by the pope. Is that true?
No, I don’t see this mission as a punishment by the pope, and I’m certainly not experiencing it as a punishment! It’s normal for a cardinal, depending on his preparation and availability, to receive special assignments for the good of the Church.
I wasn’t surprised by the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and I accepted it, conscious of the grave responsibility it implied, but without any thought of other motivations on the part of Pope Francis or the congregation.