On the eve of the colloquium, “Quo vadis, Church?”, which was held in Rome on April 7, 2018, two of the participants—Cardinal Burke and Italian Senator Pera—granted interviews to the press in which they show what is really at stake in the current debate over the doctrinal confusion that prevails in the Church.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patronus of the Order of Malta, answered questions from Vaticanist Riccardo Cascioli in the April 5 issue of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana before giving a conference at the colloquium on the 7th on the topic: “The limits of papal authority in Church doctrine”. Here are his most significant responses:
The confusion and division in the Church about the most fundamental and most important questions—marriage and the family, the sacraments and the right disposition for approaching them, intrinsically evil actions, eternal life and the novissima (Last Things)—this confusion and division is spreading more and more. And the Pope not only refuses to clarify things by affirming the constant teaching and the sound discipline of the Church—which is however a responsibility inherent to the ministry of the successor of Saint Peter—but he even increases the confusion.
When asked about the deafening silence of many bishops, the American prelate responded:
No doubt whatsoever: the situation is made even worse by the silence of many bishops and cardinals who share (by law) with the Roman Pontiff a concern for the Universal Church. Some are quite simply silent. Others pretend that there is nothing serious going on. Still others spread the fiction about a new Church, a Church that is taking a direction totally different from the one in the past, imagining for example a “new paradigm” for the Church or a radical conversion of the Church’s pastoral practice, making it completely new. And then there are those who are the enthusiastic promoters of the so-called revolution in the Catholic Church. This lack of doctrinal and disciplinary guidance on the part of their pastors leaves the faithful who understand the gravity of the situation bewildered. This incompetence leaves the faithful who do not understand the gravity of the situation confused and may make them victims of errors that are harmful to the soul. Many who were baptized in a Protestant denomination but then entered into the communion of the Catholic Church because their communities had abandoned the apostolic faith—they suffer intensely in this situation, seeing the Catholic Church go down the same path of abandoning the faith.
Cardinal Burke compares the present state of the Church and the message of Fatima in 1917:
This situation leads me to reflect more and more on the message of Our Lady of Fatima, who warns us against the evil—one even more serious than the very serious evils suffered because of the propagation of atheistic Communism—of apostasy from the faith in the Church. Paragraph 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that ‘Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers,’ and that ‘the persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.’
In such a situation, the bishops and the cardinals have the duty to proclaim true doctrine. At the same time, they have the duty to lead the faithful to make reparation for offenses against Christ and for the wounds inflicted on His Mystical Body, the Church, when the faith and discipline are not preserved correctly and promoted by her pastors. The great 13th-century canonist, Henry of Susa/Segusio, confronted with the difficult question of how to correct a Roman Pontiff who acted contrary to his mission, declares that the College of Cardinals is a de facto check against papal error....
If the Pope does not perform his duty for the good of all souls, it is not only possible but also necessary to criticize the Pope. This criticism must follow Christ’s teaching about fraternal correction in the Gospel (Mt. 18:15-18). First, the lay person or the pastor must express his criticism privately, which will allow the Pope to correct himself. But if the Pope refuses to correct his seriously defective way of teaching or acting, the criticism must be made public, because the common good in the Church and in the world is at stake. Some have denounced those who have addressed their criticism to the Pope publicly, as though it were a display of rebellion or disobedience, but asking him—with due respect for his office—to correct confusion or error is not an act of disobedience but rather an act of obedience to Christ and therefore to His Vicar on earth.
On April 5, the former president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera was interviewed by Lorenzo Bertocchi for La Verità. He explained the remark by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra—a now-deceased signer of the dubia, which was taken as the motto for the colloquium: “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.”
With these words, the Cardinal meant that today the faith is vacillating, subjected as it is to interpretations that seemed to him contrary to the Traditional deposit of faith. In other words: he was worried that the Christian message was being interpreted not in the eschatological sense of salvation, but in the political sense of liberation. In my opinion, he was right: this is precisely what Pope Francis is doing, while masking it beneath a struggle against the Curia.
When asked, “What do you think about those who say that the Church leans too far to the ‘Left’?,” the Italian politician answered:
I think that the Church of Francis does not lean to the right or to the left; it is unbalanced, that is all. It is unbalanced in favor of secularism, social justice, human rights, the poor, the migrants and economic equality. The Church of Francis has loaded the present-day world on her shoulders and thinks that by carrying it, by appropriating it, she will bring about the kingdom of Christ on earth. That, in my opinion, is the principal rupture with doctrine and tradition. I have no technical competence and I am not expressing myself formally, but I think that we are talking about a Pelagian heresy: the world is not viewed as fallen and condemned, but as an exalted opportunity. Pope Francis is not the only one to think this. Besides some South American Jesuits, some liberation theologians in favor of social emancipation, some bishops and ‘street’ priests, John XXIII thought so too in his Encyclical Pacem in terris, and also, to a great extent, Vatican Council II, with Gaudium et spes.
This critique by Marcello Pera agrees with the one that Romano Amerio formulated in his book Iota Unum (Angelus Press 1996), denouncing a tragic “disregard for our heavenly final end, an oversight that disturbs religion from top to bottom and reverses its perspective: ‘We have here our lasting city and do not look for another in the future’ (turning Hebrews 13:14 upside down).”
For the Italian-speaking Swiss theologian, this reversal of perspective is characterized by what he calls a bleaching process: “The Church seems to fear being rejected (by the modern world), as she definitely is by a large part of the human race. So she seeks to bleach her own meritorious features and instead to highlight the traits that she has in common with the world” (ibid.). And she will try to tout her secondary, humanitarian and civilizing mission, but she will obscure her primary, essential, strictly salvific role. This is why he continues: “All the legal causes supported by the world have the Church’s support. She offers her services to the world and seeks to take the lead in human progress” (ibid.). Whether in the area of ecology, human rights, immigration, etc.
(Sources: NBQ/Verità/Iota – DICI no. 371, April 2018)