Contra Raymond Leo Burke on Civil Unions

Here is the statement of Raymond Leo Burke on Civil Unions. I remind the faithful of the teaching of the fathers and doctors of the Church that schismatic and heretical Bishops have no authority over the faithful, just as Bellarmine also taught. So even though Burke, Schneider, and Vigano all speak to the whole Church as if each were the head of the Church, i.e. they each act like competing antipopes, none has any magisterial authority. They have lost their authority by opposing the Roman Pontiff.

But let’s consider the content of what he is saying, as his errors are common among the weak in faith.

Burke: “Such declarations generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among Catholic faithful, inasmuch as they are contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and of the recent Magisterium by which the Church guards, protects and interprets the whole deposit of faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”

So, he’s referring to the “declaration” of Pope Francis that gay persons have rights, that they have a right to a family, the right not to be discarded merely because they are gay, and that they should have legal protections for their rights. This declaration is a teaching of the Roman Pontiff entirely in agreement with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Burke uses the same old canard as other critics, that the “faithful” have responded with confusion and bewilderment, therefore the teaching must be wrong. That is not an evaluation of a teaching based on Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. Instead, it is a case of treating a group of persons, in this case SOLELY the conservative Catholics, as the measure for the words of the Vicar of Christ.

Also, no error is generated among the faithful. What kind of person would be the least bit scandalized by being taught that gay persons have rights and are children of God?

Then there is the empty claim that this papal statement is “contrary to the teaching” of Scripture, Tradition, and the recent Magisterium. The only such magisterial teaching cited is a declaration of the CDF with the prudential judgment that civil unions should be opposed. Why accept one decision, from the lower Church authority, and reject the higher authority of the Roman Pontiff? It is because Burke is not really listening to the Magisterium, but only to his own opinion and that of the conservative Catholic subculture.

Recall the sayings of Jesus:

{21:28} But how does it seem to you? A certain man had two sons. And approaching the first, he said: ‘Son, go out today to work in my vineyard.’
{21:29} And responding, he said, ‘I am not willing.’ But afterwards, being moved by repentance, he went.
{21:30} And approaching the other, he spoke similarly. And answering, he said, ‘I am going, lord.’ And he did not go.
{21:31} Which of the two did the will of the father?” They said to him, “The first.” Jesus said to them: “Amen I say to you, that tax collectors and prostitutes shall precede you, into the kingdom of God.

The gay person who rejects Christianity as well, but who loves others is like the son who initially says No, but then does his father’s will. And the Pharisee who objects to gay persons being treated like children of God is, well, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And then remember that Jesus said the Centurion, and the woman of Canaan both had great faith, and were saved by faith — meaning they had all three theological virtues. But the leaders of the Pharisees and the scribes were not saved. For they rejected the teachings of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis is teaching in accord with Jesus’ teaching, whereas the opponents of Francis are the opponents of Christ and His Church.

Burke: “They cause wonderment and error regarding the Church’s teaching among people of good will, who sincerely wish to know what the Catholic Church teaches. They impose upon pastors of souls the duty of conscience to make fitting and necessary clarifications.”

What? “wonderment and error” That is nonsense. The words of the Pope are compassionate and faithful to the Gospel. I wonder at how holy this Pope is, and how much he resembles Saint Francis. And I have no doubt that Pope Francis is not only a valid Roman Pontiff, but a Saint. His words do not cause error. And those who have good will accept this teaching of love toward their neighbor.

If pastors of souls have a duty to clarify, then why does Burke undermine and contradict, instead of supporting and perhaps clarifying.

Burke: “First of all, the context and the occasion of such declarations make them devoid of any magisterial weight.”

No. The Pope is able to exercise the Magisterium at any time, in any way he might choose. He can do so verbally, just as Christ taught verbally. And the Pope clearly intended to assert a truth about the moral law, and the rights of human persons, as well as the fact that persons of good will are children of God by spiritual adoption (via the state of grace). I don’t consider this to be mere opinion.

Burke’s citation of the CDF on civil unions is dishonest. The authority of the Roman Pontiff over the Magisterium is higher than that of the CDF. But it is clear that Burke will not accept any teaching of the Pope with which he disagrees. Therefore, he is not really obeying the Magisterium of the CDF. He is obeying his own mind and heart.

Burke is speaking, next about the Pope, but he could be speaking about himself: “It is a source of deepest sadness and pressing pastoral concern that the private opinions reported with so much emphasis by the press and attributed to Pope Francis do not correspond to the constant teaching of the Church, as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and is guarded, protected and interpreted by the Magisterium. Equally sad and concerning is the turmoil, confusion, and error they cause among the Catholic faithful, as is the scandal they cause, in general, by giving the totally false impression that the Catholic Church has had a change of course, that is, has changed its perennial teaching regarding such fundamental and critical questions.”

It is sad and disconcerting when a Bishop speaks against the Roman Pontiff, and treats the Roman Pontiff as if he were beneath the authority of that (retired) Bishop. It is also not true that the Pope contradicted Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. The claim that any Pope has erred gravely on faith or morals, particularly to the extent of heresy (as Burke implies) is contrary to the perennial teaching of the Magisterium and contrary to the definition of Vatican I.

Burke, Vigano, and Schneider seem to be vying for attention from the mass media and the Catholic media. Every time there is an opportunity to get attention by contradicting the Pope, they jump at it. That is scandalous behavior.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

1. Bellarmine, Robert. On the Roman Pontiff (De Controversiis Book 1) . Mediatrix Press. Kindle Edition.

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3 Responses to Contra Raymond Leo Burke on Civil Unions

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks for your post, Ron. I initially was taken aback by what Pope Francis said, particularly about civil union laws, but how you explained it in light of scripture makes sense.

  2. Matt Z. says:

    I read Cardinal Burkes statement and he isnt attacking the Pope but saying, “this is how the media is interpreting it.” Cardinal does believe becuase of all the confusion the Vatican and Pope should come out with a formal statement and I agree with him there.

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