Cardinal Burke appears to be in Schism

A “Statement on the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes” by Cardinal Raymond L Burke deprives the Roman Pontiff of his full authority as a successor of Saint Peter. And the way that he does it is without theological argument; he simply states that the authority of the Roman Pontiff, not only Francis but each and all of them, is substantially more limited than the dogma of the Church.

Burke: “A schismatic spirit or actual schism are always gravely evil, but there is nothing about the UA which fosters schism.”

The UA, in Burke’s terminology, is the TLM. It is true that nothing about the TLM in itself fosters schism. It is a form of the sacred liturgy used by the Church, with changes from time to time, for centuries. But a schismatic group has grown up around the TLM, claimed that form as their own, used it to attract new members to their schism, and refused to obey the Roman Pontiff regarding doctrine or discipline. Restricting or eventually banning the TLM makes it clear to all that this group is not in communion with Rome.

Pope Martin V called an Ecumenical Council at Basil. Then he died before the Council could begin. The Bishops gathered and began to issue documents anyway. They decided that Ecumenical Councils are above the Roman Pontiffs. This false teaching was never approved by the Roman Pontiff, and the First Vatican Council defined the opposite.

While the Bishops were gathered at Basil, writing heretical false doctrines, Pope Eugene IV was elected. Some of the Bishops rejected him, and others accepted him as Pope. So the holy Pontiff Eugene had a problem, in that a Council authorized by his predecessor was underway, and there were schismatics and heretics mixed with faithful Bishops. He needed to separate the wheat from the chaff, the wheat from the tare (weeds). So he ordered the Bishops to move to Ferrara. The schismatic Bishops refused to obey, and remained at Basil. The faithful Bishops obeyed, and the wheat was separated from the chaff. Then the Council happened to move again to Florence, where the Pope met with them and they defined many dogmas.

Pope Francis has a problem of faithful Catholics as well as schismatic and heretical Catholics gathering at the TLM. So he ordered restrictions on the TLM, and those who disobey are schismatics and heretics. Once they are removed from the Church, the TLM can resume for the Catholics who were faithful and obedient.

Burke: “For myself and for others who have received so many powerful graces through participation in the Sacred Liturgy, according to the UA, it is inconceivable that it could now be characterized as something detrimental to the unity of the Church and to its very life.”

The problem is not the TLM (or “UA,” more ancient usage). It is not the TLM that is detrimental to unity. Rather, it is persons like Burke and other leaders, who have exalted themselves above the Roman Pontiff to decide every questions of doctrine and discipline. If the Pope teaches or decides contrary to their understanding, they do not obey; they do not submit their minds and hearts to the obedience of faith by religious assent or the full assent of faith. They cry out against the Pope, gather in groups online, and attempt to “correct” him.

Burke: “But can the Roman Pontiff juridically abrogate the UA? The fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) of the Roman Pontiff is the power necessary to defend and promote the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is not “absolute power” which would include the power to change doctrine or to eradicate a liturgical discipline which has been alive in the Church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and even earlier. “

Cardinal Burke is contradicting the dogma of the Faith on the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff. First he states a purpose to that power, defending and promoting doctrine and discipline. There is much more to the purpose of the Roman Pontiff: defining new dogmas; teaching new insights into the deposit of faith; correcting heretics and condemning heresies; maintaining unity; governing dioceses, parishes, religious orders; changing Canon Law moto proprio; issuing teachings under Papal Infallibility; approving of Ecumenical Councils; overseeing the entire body of Bishops worldwide. The Roman Pontiff has FULL authority over the whole Church, and to whatever extent the universal Church has any authority, it can be exercised by the Roman Pontiff. He can intervene in religious orders and change their Rule of Life. He can fire the Prefect of the CDF and his three favorite staff. He can request the resignations from every Bishop in a nation, and accept as many as he likes. He can demand letters of apology from every priest in a diocese, and laicize them if they refuse. The authority of the Roman Pontiff is supreme, full, immediate, universal, and ordinary.

Burke uses the trick of reducing the purpose of papal authority, so he can next draw the conclusion of a reduced power by the Pope, so that he can then exclude the TLM from papal authority. And that is contrary to the words of our Lord, Canon Law, and Vatican I and II.

“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound, even in heaven. And whatever you shall release on earth shall be released, even in heaven.” [Mt 16:18]

Canon 331: “By virtue of his office he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church, which he is always able to exercise freely.” [CJC 1983]

Vatican I: “So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.”

Vatican II: “The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.”

The above Canon and the quotes from Vatican I and II summarize the powers given to the Pope. The power of the Roman Pontiff is supreme, as he is the highest authority in the Church. It is full, as there is no authority given to the Church that is not also given to him, individually. His power is immediate, as he is not required to give orders or issue teachings through any other persons; nor does the exercise of his power require consultation with, nor approval from, anyone. The authority of the Pope affects each person directly, as if the Pope were standing right in front of them, speaking directly to them. It is universal, as the Pope can teach and give orders to everyone and anyone in the entire Church on earth. He governs the entire Church, as a whole, and he governs each of its parts and members individually. And this power is ordinary to the Pope; he needs no special circumstances or dire emergency in order to exercise his full power. Then he is always able to exercise his power, as he sees fit, freely — at any time, in any place, in any manner that he wishes.

The teaching of Vatican I is particularly sharp in regard to the authority of the Roman Pontiff. The attached anathema means that the teaching is a dogma. If Burke rejects this teaching, he would then be automatically excommunicated. One cannot deny the fullness of the authority of the Roman Pontiff, since that authority is Christ’s own authority.

Cardinal Burke begins his Letter by saying:

Burke: “As a Bishop of the Church and as a Cardinal, in communion with the Roman Pontiff and with a particular responsibility to assist him in his pastoral care and governance of the universal Church, I offer the following observations”

But the Bishops and Cardinals have absolutely no authority, except with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. Here is what Vatican II says:

“But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church,(156) and made him shepherd of the whole flock”

So Cardinal Burke has “no authority” except with Pope Francis has his Head. And the Pope has authority over Burke that is supreme, full, immediate, and ordinary. Then Burke can only exercise whatever authority he has “with the consent of the Roman Pontiff” and “never without this head”. So when opposing Pope Francis, Burke has no ground on which to stand. The Pope can remove him from the College of Cardinals, suspend him a divinis (as archbishop Lefebvre was), or excommunicate him. Whereas Burke can do nothing to the Roman Pontiff but speak words. Let’s look again at the problematic claims of Cardinal Burke:

Burke: “But can the Roman Pontiff juridically abrogate the UA? The fullness of power (plenitudo potestatis) of the Roman Pontiff is the power necessary to defend and promote the doctrine and discipline of the Church. It is not “absolute power” which would include the power to change doctrine or to eradicate a liturgical discipline which has been alive in the Church since the time of Pope Gregory the Great and even earlier. “

The Cardinal is substantially limiting the authority of the Roman Pontiff. Not only is the Pope’s authority over doctrine more extensive, as he can clarify, develop, and even define doctrines; but also, his authority over discipline certainly does extend beyond defending and promoting what already exists. The Pope can reform a non-infallible doctrine. The Pope can certainly change discipline, including suppressing religious Orders and changing the form of the Mass. The Mass was established by Christ, but not in immutable specifics.

There is a clear hypocrisy here. Cardinal Burke wishes the Mass of Pope Saint Pius V to remain unchanged, but it was changed repeatedly before and after that point in time. The 1962 Mass of Pope Saint John XXIII is not literally the Mass of all times. And the Church existed for about 1500 years before Pope Saint Pius V (1566-72). If Pius V can institute a form of the Mass after 1500 years, Pope Saint Paul VI and Pope Francis can suppress that Mass and institute the Novus Ordo Mass in its place. The hypocrisy is in admitting that Pius V has power over the discipline of the Mass, but claiming that Pope Francis does not have the same authority, even though both are successors of Peter.

Burke tries to hide this problem with his argument by claiming that the Mass of Pius V goes back to Pope Saint Gregory I (590-604) or earlier. But if he holds this despite the many changes over the centuries, then this simply supports the statement of Pope Francis that the Novus Ordo Mass is a continuation of the Mass of all times. And Francis is right. The Mass of the Last Supper is continuous with all the Masses in every form throughout the history of the Church. This over-emphasis on form is pharisaical.

But the denial by Burke that the Pope has authority over the form of the Mass — while at the same time asserting that past Popes had that same authority — is schismatic and heretical. Burke is denying the dogma of Vatican I on the fullness of the authority of every Roman Pontiff. You cannot give one Pope, whom you prefer, the fullness of papal authority, and then try to deny that same fullness to the Pope whose decisions you dislike.

Burke: “16. It must be remembered that, from a theological point of view, every valid celebration of a sacrament, by the very fact that it is a sacrament, is also, beyond any ecclesiastical legislation, an act of worship and, therefore, also a profession of faith. In that sense, it is not possible to exclude the Roman Missal, according to the UA, as a valid expression of the lex orandi and, therefore, of the lex credendi of the Church. It is a question of an objective reality of divine grace which cannot be changed by a mere act of the will of even the highest ecclesiastical authority.”

This next assertion by Burke, denying papal authority over the celebration of a sacrament — not over the essential elements of the Sacrament that are unchangeable, but over the form of the Sacrament — is heretical. He is denying the supremacy and fullness of papal authority. The Pope does have the authority to regulate the exterior elements of the form of the Mass, especially because it is an act of worship and is important to the path of salvation. And to take these exterior elements in the form of the Mass and try to make them into a profession of unchanging faith is patently absurd.

The Roman Pontiff can exercise his supreme and full authority over the form of the sacred liturgy, and he has done so. Then notice that the body of Bishops has accepted this exercise of authority. And again, it is simply false for Burke to claim that the exterior form of the Mass is “an objective reality of divine grace” which would then be beyond papal authority. Also, the Pope can issue new plenary indulgences, which provide divine grace; he can add conditions for Sacraments to be valid; he can exclude certain persons from the Sacraments, by excommunication. So he has authority to some extent over grace as well.

Saint Newman on the Roman Pontiff:

“I have said that, like St. Peter, he is the Vicar of his Lord. He can judge, and he can acquit; he can pardon, and he can condemn; he can command and he can permit; he can forbid, and he can punish. He has a Supreme jurisdiction over the people of God. He can stop the ordinary course of sacramental mercies; he can excommunicate from the ordinary grace of redemption; and he can remove again the ban which he has inflicted. It is the rule of Christ’s providence, that what His Vicar does in severity or in mercy upon earth, He Himself confirms in heaven.

“in his administration of Christ’s kingdom, in his religious acts, we must never oppose his will, or dispute his word, or criticize his policy, or shrink from his side… We must never suffer ourselves to doubt, that, in his government of the Church, he is guided by an intelligence more than human. His yoke is the yoke of Christ, he has the responsibility of his own acts, not we; and to his Lord must he render account, not to us. Even in secular matters it is ever safe to be on his side, dangerous to be on the side of his enemies.”

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke has issued a public statement which is schismatic and heretical, as it denies the fullness of papal authority, and stands against the recent exercise of papal authority over the Mass by Pope Francis. By claiming that Pope Francis has exercised an authority that he supposedly lacks, Burke has committed an act of schism and heresy.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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1 Response to Cardinal Burke appears to be in Schism

  1. Robert L Fastiggi says:

    I think Cardinal Burke should consider what is taught by Pope Pius XII in his November 20, 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei, no. 58:

    “It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.”

    Cardinal Burke should also consider what was taught by the Council of Trent on July 16, 1562 in its “Doctrine and Canons on Communion under Both Species and the Communion of Young Children”:

    “Furthermore, [the holy council] declares that, in the administration of the sacraments—provided their substance is preserved—there has always been in the Church that power to determine or modify what she judged more expedient for the benefit of those receiving the sacraments or for the reverence due to the sacraments themselves—according to the diversity of circumstances, times, and places” (Denz.-H, 1728).

    The Roman Missal of St. Paul VI clearly preserves the substance of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Moreover, it also preserves (with very minor changes) the Roman Canon, which is now Eucharistic Prayer no. I.

    Cardinal Burke claims that there are problems in the English translation from the Italian of Traditionis Custodes. He notes that in Article 1, the important Italian adjective, “unica,” is translated into English as “unique,” instead of “only.” He also notes that in Article 4, the important Italian verb, “devono,” is translated into English as “should,” instead of “must.” There are various ways, though, of translating these Italian words. In Mondadori’s Italian-English Dictionary “unico/unica” is translated as “unique, only, sole, single, one.” If “only” were intended, the better Italian adjective would have been “solo/sola,” which is derived from the Latin “solus.” The Italian verb, “devono” is the third person indicative present plural of “dovere,” for which Mondadori offers several possible translations, including “must,” “ought to,’ and “should.”

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