ROME — Cardinal Raymond Burke once again has promised to “correct the situation” over confusion surrounding Pope Francis’s controversial 2016 document on marriage and the family, Amoris Laetitia.
The American cardinal was speaking March 24 during a Q&A session after a presentation at Saint Raymond of Peñafort parish in Springfield, Virginia. A video of the talk was published on the Facebook page of LifeSiteNews.
Burke, formerly the head of the Vatican’s highest appellate court until removed by Francis, currently serves as the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, although that position is largely nominal at the moment given the pope’s appointment of a personal delegate to the order.
Four cardinals — Burke, Italian Carlo Caffarra, and Germans Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner — sent five “dubia” [yes-or-no questions] asking clarification on Amoris Laetitia, particularly on the matter of divorced-and-remarried persons receiving Communion, to Francis and Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office.
After Francis didn’t respond, the cardinals made their questions public, and Burke said the they would present a “formal correction” of the pontiff if the questions remained unanswered.
In Virginia, Burke reiterated he “sincerely hoped” the pope would eventually respond to the dubia.
“Until these questions are answered, there continues to spread a very harmful confusion in the Church, and one of the fundamental questions is in regards to the truth that there are some acts that are always and everywhere wrong, what we call intrinsically evil acts, and so, we cardinals, will continue to insist that we get a response to these honest questions,” Burke said.
The cardinal said he wanted to make “very clear” he and the other three cardinals did not mean to be disrespectful or arrogant, but said presenting dubia to a pope “is a traditional way in the Church of seeking clarification in times of confusion.”
Burke reiterated that if an answer does not come, he and the other cardinals “simply will have to correct the situation.”
“Again, in a respectful way, that simply can say that, to draw the response to the questions from the constant teachings of the Church, and to make that known for the good of souls,” he said.
The publication by the cardinals of their private letter to the pope last November caused controversy, and Müller said he was “amazed that this became public, essentially constraining the pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I don’t like this.”
Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto,the head of the Roman Rota – the Vatican’s main court which handles marriage annulment appeals – called it a “grave scandal,” adding the cardinals’ actions could lead to them losing their red hats.
Francis himself, soon after the dubia were published, said critics of Amoris Laetitia suffered from “a certain legalism, which can be ideological.”
Yet it is difficult not to acknowledge the confusion in the Church caused by the publication of the document.
Some bishops – including in Germany, Malta, and the pope’s native Argentina – have said it allows those who are divorced-and-remarried to receive communion without having to abstain from sexual relations.
While other bishops – including most in Africa and Archbishop Charles Chaput, who hosted last year’s World Meeting of Families, as well as others in the United States and Canada – have been adamant it allows no such thing.
Even within the Vatican, there is a strong difference of opinion.
Müller has said there are “no circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin,” while Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio – the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which advises on Church law – said certain “concrete situations” might exist where a couple might continue to have sexual relations, even if the Church does not recognize their marriage.
In an interview earlier this month with Crux, Chaput said, when asked if the pope should respond to the dubia, he thinks “it’s always good to answer questions, clearly.”
Burke himself has also been involved in another controversy since the publication of the dubia. While serving in his current position at the Knights of Malta, he was seen as a key player in the attempted ouster of the order’s Grand Chancellor, Albrecht Von Boeselager.
The move backfired, and led to the resignation of the order’s Grand Master, Fra’ Matthew Festing – a key Burke ally – and the appointment of a papal delegate, which reduces Burke’s role to a mere figurehead position.
During his talk in Virginia on March 24, Burke insisted the publication of the dubia was done with “great respect,” and happened only because of the questions he and other cardinals were receiving from ordinary laypeople.
“Many people because of this confusion are becoming very upset, and understandably so,” Burke said, “I have become upset myself at times, but must always remember that Christ…has promised us that forces of evil will not prevail over the Church.”