Catholic News Agency reports: What Cardinal Burke really said about ‘resisting’ Pope Francis.
“I simply affirmed that it is always my sacred duty to defend the truth of the Church’s teaching and discipline regarding marriage,” Cardinal Burke told CNA Feb. 9.
“No authority can absolve me from that responsibility, and, therefore, if any authority, even the highest authority, were to deny that truth or act contrary to it, I would be obliged to resist, in fidelity to my responsibility before God.”
First error: discipline is not doctrine
Cardinal Burke errs by treating discipline as if it were the same as doctrine. Discipline is never irreformable. All disciplines are changeable and dispensable. The entire set of Old Testament disciplines, though they were established by divine revelation, have passed away (but the lessons they teach remain forever). The entire set of New Testament disciplines will eventually pass away, at the time of the general Resurrection. And for the time being, all disciplines are changeable.
Second error: who has authority over discipline?
The Church has the authority to change discipline. And Cardinal Burke does not have the role within the Church to decide whether or not discipline changes, and in what way it might change. The Roman Pontiff does have the authority to decide matters of discipline and to make changes. Vatican II changed the discipline of the Mass to the vernacular. Pope Saint John Paul II swept away the entire code of Canon Law (1917) and replaced it with the radically different 1983 Code of Canon law. Popes have the authority to change the discipline on who may receive Communion.
Cardinal Burke has no such authority over discipline. So his public assertion that he will resist any change to discipline with which he disagrees, “if any authority, even the highest authority,” that is, even the authority of the Pope, were to change it, such an assertion is schismatic. Burke is rebelling against the authority of the Roman Pontiff and substituting his own pretended authority.
His assertion that “No authority can absolve me from that responsibility” is false. Any Roman Pontiff can remove a Cardinal or Bishop from his authority in the Church. Again, this is a schismatic assertion. Burke does not have an authority directly from God to act according to his own preferences for discipline, apart from or in contradiction to the authority of the Pope.
Third error: personal infallibility
No human person on earth is personally infallible, not even the Roman Pontiff. Thus, any Pope’s personal theological opinions can err. But a Pope can teach infallibly, whenever his teaching as an act of the Magisterium meets all of the conditions for infallibility. But not so for Cardinals. Cardinal Burke is not able to teach infallibly. Yet he speaks as if his understanding of truth cannot be mistaken, and is not subject to correction by the higher authority of the Pope. This position taken by Burke contradicts the teaching of the Magisterium in Unam Sanctam.
Many conservative papal critics are making the same mistake. They assume that their understanding of the teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium cannot err. They assume that the majority opinion in the conservative Catholic subculture cannot err. They refuse to acknowledge the role of each and every Roman Pontiff, liberal or conservative, to teach and correct every other person in the Church on earth. It is as if they were infallible in their understanding of Catholic teaching.
Fourth error: responsibility before God
Cardinal Burke errs by implying that he has a duty and responsibility before God to resist “any authority, even the highest authority,” meaning the Roman Pontiff. Cardinals have the duty and responsibility before God to assist the Roman Pontiff in exercising his Apostolic authority. They do not have a separate authority, duty, or responsibility under which they would judge the decisions of the Roman Pontiff on doctrine and discipline, and resist or oppose him.
Faithful Roman Catholics may disagree with the decisions of any Roman Pontiff on discipline. They may disagree, to a limited extent, with his non-infallible teachings. But they are never permitted to resist or oppose the authority of the Pope, nor to substitute their judgment for his, as if they could not possibly err or be in need of correction.
Cardinal Burke is essentially already in a state of schism. He is conservative, but not faithful. He has sinned gravely and publicly through the above-stated errors. For my part, I will always defend and support the current Roman Pontiff, liberal or conservative, whether or not I agree with his personal opinions, decisions on discipline, or non-infallible teachings.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.