Cardinal Burke’s excellent Maltese adventure

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Coat of Arms of the Knights of Malta


Coat of Arms of the Knights of Malta

Coat of Arms of the Knights of Malta

Coat of Arms of the Knights of Malta

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, sometime archbishop of St. Louis, once bestrode the Vatican like a bedecked colossus. Trailing his cappa magna behind him, he presided over the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s highest court, and, as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, had a major hand in deciding who would rise to the top of the American church and who would not.

But that was then, under Pope Benedict XVI. Under Pope Francis, Burke was first kicked off the bishops congregation and has now been removed from the Signatura. His new position is Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, with the task of promoting the Maltese knights’ spiritual interests.

The appointment has a certain appropriateness, if you have a taste for Jesuitical irony. Although originally established to care for sick pilgrims to the Holy Land, the Knights Hospitallers (as they were called) soon became a major crusader militia, and through the centuries served the Church as one of its fiercer fighting forces.

In recent years, Roman Catholicism has had no fiercer culture warrior than Raymond Burke. He led the way in arguing that Catholic politicians who supported abortion rights should be denied Communion, going so far as to allow himself to be videotaped criticizing fellow bishops who failed to do so as “weakening the faith of everyone.” Recently, he’s called the Church under Pope Francis “a ship without a rudder” and attacked the pope’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family for sowing confusion.

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, Michael Sean Winters worries that, with little else to occupy his time, the cardinal “will be free to make more speeches and give more interviews.” No doubt, but every time he opens his mouth it will remind his fellow traditionalists of the consequences of crossing the present pontiff.

Since the U.S. Senate rejected the late Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987, rejected nominees are said to be borked. In the future, when the pope demotes a high-ranking prelate, we’ll say he’s been burked.

  • Rolando Rodriguez

    “In the future, when the pope demotes a high-ranking prelate, we’ll say he’s been burked.”
    Schadenfreude is a sin, so I’ll just thank you for the play on words.

  • If I’m not mistaken, Burke’s new job does not require him to move to Malta. He will remain in Rome where he will continue to wine and dine with the rich powerful. His influence will continue even if muted.

  • Ulricii

    With all this borking and burking taking place, I’m due for a dose of Pepto-Bismol. [Burp]

  • Deacon John . Bresnahan

    Whatever happened to Pope Francis’ urging that Church leaders state their opinions openly???

  • William Barnett

    He did. Sometimes exercising one’s right to speak has consequences.

  • Doc Anthony

    Don’t take a public stand against the Gay Marriage Cult, or their new enforcer Pope Francis will bork/burk you.

    Catholics, you picked the wrong pontiff, THAT’s for sure.

  • Joseph Styles

    Okay–I’ll sin.
    [Rolling in Schadenfreude.]

    Where!–that was fun!

  • sharon

    It was the cardinals who picked Pope Francis, and most are probably glad they did, as are millions of Catholics and non-Catholics. He is the best antidote to the mean-spirited likes of Burke.

  • Jan

    Deo gratias for Cardinal Burke, a loyal son of the Church.

  • It’s not at all clear that his opinions were the reason for his new assignment. His legacy in St Louis was to turn a dispute over a bank account into a full-blown schism. The man may have a command of canon law, and who knows: he may well have been right in his tussle with St Stanislaus. But it was a battle he couldn’t win with threats alone. The end result: he didn’t get the money, and he got the Church a high-profile pushback from Polish-American laity, a renegade priest, and the judicial system.

    In a phrase, the man lacks prudence. I think we need prudent and effective bishops. Not culture warriors.

  • Francis shows no evidence of valuing anyone beneficial to the Church. Mark Silk and Todd are happy.

  • ben in oakland

    and Doc Anthony. He seems to have some serious issues around gay people.

  • ben in oakland

    or the kind of man who would happily have been burning heretics and witches 400 years ago.

  • Fr. J

    I have met Cardinal Burke many times. He is friendly, kind, and actually quite humble. He is easy to talk to and one can’t say that about all Cardinals. He also is an excellent canonist which is necessary for his former job. I think Francis had made a mistake. This could lead traditional Catholics to conclude that he wants them gone and that he does not value them. Where did the idea that one could state ones views and not be punished for it go? Did he not mean it? This will only harden those who support orthodoxy. They will fight tooth and nail. We are back to the former battles of yesteryear. However, it is the conservatives who produce vocations and have stuck with the Church. They will win, but I think we face tough times as a Church. Francis has made a huge mistake and revealed a rather dictatorial tendency that he decries in others. Such a pity.

  • HRH

    And he has all those billions of the minicult KofM to shore up the Vatikkkan’s diminishing income. Always, ALWAYS, follow the money.

  • HRH

    All the while attired in his $30,000 outfit, cappa magna included.

    How’s that for himility?!?!

  • HRH

    Was he wearing his $30,000 outfit, cappa magna included?

  • Gloria. Sullivan

    It looks like to me, that the Pope has come into the 21 st. Century.
    No one in the universe knows what God knows , so to be tolerant of one another, like CHRIST IS, is the best way to follow. IN HIS FOOTSTEPS!

  • Doc Anthony

    The late Pope John Paul II was already 21st century. Likewise Pope Benedict XVI.

    Mr. Francis is taking a trajectory (support of legalized gay marriage) that clearly contradicts the strong standards set by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

    Tolerance is okay, but gay marriage is NOT okay. Catholics have picked the wrong pontiff, and It promises to be damaging to both Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians.

  • Doc Anthony

    You seem to have serious issues wtih Cardinal Burke.

  • John Duffin

    You have just been burked!
    The rappers need to make a song about that!

  • Rev. Richard A. Bucci

    You are absolutely correct. The Knights have a magnificent property on the Aventine Hill and one near Piazza di Spagna, And I hope that his eminence continues to remin the Pontiff of the day that the Petrine charism is to proclaim the APOSTOLIC faith even to death quam primum, oremus) and UNITE the faithful in that same faith.

  • Gloria Sullivan

    As the Pope said ,” who am I to judge”? Who are we? What’s the point.? All sin is objectionable to GOD ! What is in our hearts is what. counts and HE KNOWS THAT! So let go & LET GOD!

  • Michael Skiendzielewski

    Such events come under the heading of “what goes around comes around.”
    Hey, we all have been “kicked to the curb” on various occasions during our lifetime so the Cardinal will just have to suffer through life the rest of us.

    Of course, I would recommend picking up on some old rock and roll tunes. For example, Little Anthony and the Imperials had hits that just might sooth the wounded spirit. (1) “On the Outside Looking In” and (2) “Tears on My Pillow”.

    Of course, of more recent vintage, Paul ” Rhymin’ ” Simon may provide a more realistic and gritty sense of just what Cardinal Burke is going through with his song “Slip Slidin’ Away”. (…..the nearer your destination, the more you keep slidin’ away….)

    Let us not forget……………”Confusion is of the devil”……Archbishop Chaput.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Oddly enough Cardinal Burke may now feel free to speak more openly—as the pope said he wants in the Church. Time will tell.
    Sometimes the pope seems right on the mark–by emphasizing mercy. Other times he sounds like he has fallen for secular hogwash that has been infiltrating parts of the Church ( like equating defense of orthodoxy with hardness of heart and implying that we can’t judge clearly immoral acts and their affect on our society.

  • Rolando Rodriguez

    Deacon, do you really think that an 80 year old Jesuit pope is susceptible to “secular hogwash” at the expense of orthodoxy?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I said “sounds like.” Even some of his strongest supporters have cringed at the seeming shooting from the hip he does. Sometimes it seems he has no regard for how his words can be grossly misused.

  • Rolando Rodriguez

    “shooting from the hip”, or perhaps open to the Spirit?

  • Rick Scott

    Doc: Could you give me a sentence or two explaining how two men or two women marrying is damaging to both Catholic and non-Catholic Christians? Specify the damaging you’re talking about.

    I’m ready to be enlightened, but alas, none the same-sex marriage opponents ever get around to explaining the damages they claim will inevitably follow gay/lesbian marriages.

    This is a serious question. You obviously feel strongly about the issue. So if you will, explain how all Christians suffer damage from gay/lesbian marriages.

  • Rick P

    With all due respect, your posting is more than a little histrionic. Should Pope Francis not have his people in as prefects? Haven’t other popes done as much, or is Francis to be an exception? Cardinal Burke has served his term and a pope different from the one who appointed him did not reappoint him. That’s about the extent of it. A conservative Spanish Cardinal who had been prefect at Worship & Sacraments was named to an archdiocese in Spain this year. The fact that Burke did not get Chicago, or some other position, may say more about Burke than Francis.

  • Betty Clermont

    It was Chaput who led the US bishops’ attacks against Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012, not Burke. And Chaput has been invited to the Vatican to attend the largely-unreported Nov. 17-19 conference where “religious leaders from across the religious spectrum…are expected to defend traditional marriage as between a man and a woman.” Not to mention Chaput’s 2015 pope-attended conference on the family.
    Not only is Chaput in very good graces but also Pell and others who wear the “cappa magna.”

  • Joe

    Pope Francis did the right thing. Cardinal Burke may be a nice guy and all in person, but he is not operating in the spirit of Jesus Christ. If it is true his “costume” costs 30 K, that is almost all you need to know, isn’t it: “parading around in their fineries, placing burdens that are too high…” Sound familiar?

    It is very good that he is removed from the center of action. It would have been a disaster for him to return to the US and to lead a diocese. Make no mistake, leaders like Burke are destructive forces, deniers of the science of human psychology, obstructionists to any change, in love with the Council of Trent to the point of idolatry. Pope Francis is so very right. This is not the Renaissance. It is time for the church to get rid of its centuries’ worth of encrustations that are not of Jesus Christ. One more thing: NO ONE can point to others and say they are in mortal sin. To do so is a dead giveaway that the spirit of Christ is lacking.

  • Michael Skiendzielewski

    Betty, let us not forget that “Confusion is of the devil.” (Archbishop Chaput in reference to the recently concluded Vatican Synod).

    Wow, it sure must be wonderful never to have (or have had) any difficulty, uncertainty, turmoil and struggles during one’s life of faith.

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  • Linda Daily

    It’s Pope Francis, Miss Anthony.

  • cminus

    “Burked” is not a good choice for a term for the demotion of a Catholic cardinal, as it already has a meaning — “murdered for the purpose of using the corpse for medical study”. See and for details.

  • That’s pretty analogous, don’t you think?

  • Ryan

    Burke’s cult of personality doesn’t seem to realize that confrontation primarily for the sake of proving one’s righteousness aren’t the same as being righteous.

  • Michael Skiendzielewski

    Okay, Smooth as Silk, how about a new word that just might “fit the bill” here while trying to capture the essence of King Burke……

    Watching these British TV mysteries and the word appeared like magic:

    JACKANAPE………(1) a saucy or mischievous child
    (2) an impudent or conceited fellow

  • Ryan

    I don’t understand the implicit assumption that many seem to have that encouraging people to speak freely means that Pope Francis has to keep everyone appointed by Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Whenever radicals want to change Church teaching we hear it is the “work of the Spirit.: It reminds me of the saying in politics that the last refuge of rascals is patriotism.

  • kris

    Like what??

  • kris

    And you with the Pope in favor of a mini-pope. The one stance is obviously with the Church; the other is tempting to apostasy.

  • kris

    Finally, some sanity.

  • Ryan

    It seems like Pope Francis’s biggest crime is not being Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. People who were extremely happy with his two predecessors have forgotten (or never knew) what it is like to have a pope who isn’t mostly just like them.

  • kris

    If you actually look at his fight against the authorities of Argentina, even to endangering his own life, it was due to his NOT accepting gay marriage.

    As usual, lots of sharing of misinformation when it comes to this quite legitimate Pope via the action of the Holy Spirit (as testified to by Cardinals after the vote in the conclave).

    I would stack his entire life of truly following in Christ’s footsteps with sufferings and service to the poor; choosing to live among them…and willingness of those unto death….against any of the blabbermouth narcissistic opposing Cardinals/Bishops and they couldn’t hold a candle to his living out Christ’s commands for His followers. Rather the lack of support or even compassion for such a one taking on the monumental tasks of these times like no other, esp. with his own age and the frailties he’s suffered for decades….esp. when venturing by choice right into the lion’s mouth in his travels with complete trust is a model… nothing near even the most minimal of Christian. Such horrible calumny against him by sycophantic lemmings for some favored example of the Peter Principle is probably where any prophesied apostasy will originate.

  • kris

    Just where is there the “changing of Church teaching”? Such hysterics are what is causing the projected “seasickness” in reality. Aren’t Deacons supposed to keep up on things so they don’t teach or infer falsehoods to the vulnerable? Mustn’t go off on tangents of desire that can destroy rather than taking the other choice of just simply sticking to the facts.

  • Ryan

    Cardinal Burke gets too much credit for stridently placing heavy burdens on others. People point to the criticism he gets for this, but it has given him a cult following and (until now) been very advantageous for his career. It is easy to shrug off the criticisms of strangers when one has a chorus singing one’s praises. Even this setback in his career leaves him one of the most powerful men in the Church.

  • Arnold

    You have zero evidence for that assertion, which is uncharitable in the extreme.

  • Arnold

    Francis has NOT expressed any support for gay marriage. In fact, as archbishop in Buenos Aires he referred to it as the word of Satan (I paraphrase).

  • Arnold

    I meant to write “work” not “word.”

  • Arnold

    Because gay “marriage” is a total contradiction of what Christ himself taught us about marriage as intended by God, any deviation from that among Christians is harmful to the entire body of Christ. A society that approves of same sex marriage quickly punishes those who publicly disagree with the new order even to the point of causing them to lose their jobs or businesses. That’s in part why. There are other reasons that require a lot more time and space than a combox provides.


    Pay back’s a hard kick in the butt, isn’t it?

  • JamestheElder

    Smarta$$ writer with no class, either. Yuk! Yuk!

  • Peggy Trivilino

    Um . . . you can’t be Catholic, otherwise you’d KNOW that the pope is chosen by the Holy Spirit, working through the participants of a papal conclave.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Mr. Silk, you wrote, “Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, sometime archbishop of St. Louis, once bestrode the Vatican like a bedecked colossus. Trailing his cappa magna behind him, he presided over the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura…” Um, no. He did not wear the cappa magna at the Vatican. He wore regular clerical clothing to the office. He only wore the cappa when he visited communities like the Friars of the Immaculate or the Fraternal Society of St. Peter, or other groups which celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He has never even worn it at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe which he established in La Crosse.

    As for the claim that he “bestrode the Vatican like a bedecked colossus,” His Eminence is maybe 5’6″ — and that might be generous. But no, there can be no comparisons to Napoleon made here. Like Fr. J, I can also attest to his humility.

  • Patricia

    Yes, I agree. And what a gift Cardinal Burke is to the Church! He is faithful, loyal, courageous, has clarity of thought and a deep love for Jesus Christ and His teachings.

  • Peggy Trivilino

    Fr. J: Hmmmmm . . . “fight”, “battle”, “win”–interesting choice of words for someone who purports to represent the Prince of Peace. You apparently assume that your “side” in your perceived “battle” is a priori on the side of the angels and the point of view explicated by Pope Francis is . . . . well, your opinion is pretty obvious. Might I observe that your faith in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit is somewhat lacking? Isn’t it possible that the Lord is attempting to convey a message to Catholics–indeed to all Christians–through His choice of Jorge Bergoglio for Pontiff? Are you even remotely willing to listen? That proudly brandished metaphorical sword of yours would probably make a dandy plowshare if your were amenable to getting your intellectual hands dirty and doing a little theological blacksmithing.

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  • Artaban7

    If you’ve ever met Burke or known him personally, you would know it’s nonsense to connect “mean-spirited” and his name in the same sentence. He is one of the kindest, warmest men you’ll speak to personally. He has been painted as intolerant by people who don’t like moral boundaries or rules.