For the first time in his papacy, Pope Francis met with clerical sex abuse victims at the Vatican on July 7, 2014.

Conservatives insist Vatican isn't changing teaching on gays or divorced Catholics

VATICAN CITY (RNS) A day after signaling a warmer embrace of gays and lesbians and divorced Catholics, conservative cardinals hit back strongly Tuesday (Oct. 14), with one insisting that an abrupt about-face on church teaching is "not what we are saying at all."

Pope Francis during a homily he delivered in Sibari, Italy, on June 21, 2014.

Pope Francis during a homily he delivered in Sibari, Italy, on June 21, 2014.

After Monday's release of a document with a softer tone on issues such as “welcoming homosexuals,” American Cardinal Raymond Burke and German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller complained the media was getting a biased view of the bishops’ debate.

“It seems to me that information is being manipulated in a way that gives comment to only one theory instead of faithfully reporting the various positions expressed,” Burke said in a full-page interview published in Italian by the conservative daily Il Foglio.

“This worries me very much because a significant number of bishops do not accept the ideas of an opening, but few (people) know that.”

In a separate interview published Tuesday, Burke told the conservative U.S. outlet Catholic World Report that the bishops "cannot accept" any changes because they are not based in Scripture or church teaching.

Monday's midpoint report was released as the nearly 200 bishops and lay delegates to the Synod on the Family called by Pope Francis broke into discussion groups.

The summary document, presented to the media by Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, immediately provoked the fury of conservatives about how he and his colleagues were interpreting the spectrum of views aired on the synod floor.

In what looked like strenuous damage control, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, told a packed media conference Tuesday that this was a “working document, not a final document.”

South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier told journalists the document had been misunderstood and that’s why it had caused “such an upset” among participants because the synod had not yet ended.

“The message has gone out, it is not what we are saying at all, ” Napier said of the media coverage. “Once it is out there there’s no way of retrieving it. It is not a true position. Whatever goes out after looks like damage control.”

Media reports claimed that the controversial summary document provoked 41 responses inside the synod from bishops, including staunch conservatives like Burke, who heads the Vatican’s highest court; Mueller, the Vatican’s doctrine czar; and Australian Cardinal George Pell, the powerful finance minister.

“The phrasing may lead people to believe that the document reflects the views of the synod,” Napier said. “We couldn’t have possibly agreed on it.”

Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, widely seen as a moderate and one of the cardinals charged with writing the synod’s final report to be released Saturday, declined to comment on the complaints but insisted the document was a “big step forward” in addressing issues concerning marriage and the family.

“What we saw in the document … was the first effort of this synod to present the issues in a way that expressed that we understand what the concerns are, what the issues are,” he said outside the Paul VI hall Tuesday.

Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York, for right, Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, center, and Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, far left, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 14). Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Left to right, Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; and Raymond L. Burke, prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature, arrive for the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 14). Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

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New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, too, rejected claims the document’s views were an “earthquake” in the church’s approach.

“It’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it,” Dolan said in a radio interview. “And there were some that said we probably in our final statement need to be much more assertive about the timeless teaching of the church.”

Much of the attention has now turned to Pope Francis himself, and whether or how he will work to ensure that the the synod’s final report matches his own inclusive, pastoral approach.

Marco Tosatti, from the Italian daily La Stampa, said he would pay anything to know what the pope is scribbling on the many notes he passes to the synod's secretary-general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, throughout the synod sessions.

In his daily homily on Monday, Francis said "God has often reserved surprises for his people." Burke, in his interview with Catholic World Report, said a statement by Francis "is long overdue."

Whatever comes out of this week's synod is simply a prelude to a follow-up synod in October 2015. Or, as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from the Philippines put it: "The drama continues."



  1. Sorry, Cardinal Dolan. Mr. Francis is in charge now. It’s too late.

    The Gay Marriage Cult now owns the clergy and the laity of the U.S. Catholic Church. It’s over. Do you want Mr. Francis to publicly take YOU down like he did to Cardinal Burke?

    Your job, from now on, is to do NOTHING to publicly oppose legalized gay marriage in the U.S. Your job is to do NOTHING, never again, to inspire Catholic bishops, clergy and laity to form a brave and united public front against legalized gay marriage, (such as the historic example of California’s Proposition 8.)

    You will talk as if, and ACT as if, the only existing Catholic teaching on gay marriage is “Who am I to judge?” Just like Mr. Francis has de facto commanded. That’s all.

    Otherwise YOU will pay the price too !!!!!!!!

  2. 2 weeks ago you were calling Cardinal Dolan a traitor to the faith for letting gays march in the St. Patricks Day Parade. Now suddenly you become his biggest fan.

    My, you are so fickle. Haters got to hate.

  3. Actually, the Pope said “Who am I to judge?” regarding Catholics who are gay but celibate.

    His response to same-sex marriage was that he is here to wage a “war of God” against it.

  4. Don’t believe the hype about “progressive” Pope Francis.

    This debate is about whether to welcome gay Catholics in order to butter them up and “convert” them to celibacy, or simply turn them away at the gates. For instance, they have been talking about whether Catholics should ban gay relatives from attending family dinners.

    The Church is not going to accept gay marriage or teach that homosexuality isn’t a sin. Don’t fall for the theatrics.

  5. I haven’t retracted anything Larry, and the above post is clearly NOT a 5-star endorsement of Cardinal Dolan.

    You use the word “fickle”, but that’s a totally apt word to describe Dolan. As you alluded to, Dolan ENDORSED (not merely allowed under pressure, not merely tolerated under durees, but actually **endorsed**) the Gay Marriage Cult’s marching in a parade that’s supposed to honor the great Christian evangelist St. Patrick. Very fickle behavior by Dolan.

    But he’s absolutely not fickle enough for Mr. Francis and his Vatican henchmen, heh! Oh no no Larry, it’s more than clear that they want MORE kow-tows from Dolan. MORE concessions from Dolan. MORE acts of slavish obedience to the Gay Marriage Cult.

    That’s why I wrote what I wrote. What I wrote is exactly what Mr. Francis, and the Gay Marrige Cult, is demanding from Dolan and all the other leaders. Everybody knows it.

  6. Anyone in the world who has kept pace with religion and the Catholic Church will not be surprised that Cardinal Burke or Cardinal Mueller continue to consider homosexuality “an intrinsic disorder.” Their problem is that they speak too much. Hamlet had something to say about that.

    Another problem is that Francis has not yet had the moral courage to replace Mueller at CDF as he dumped Burke as chief justice. Francis’ big mistake was a wrongly placed respect for Benedict by allowing Mueller and many other cardinals to remain as prefects of their Vatican congregations. If Mueller had any self-respect, he would resign on his own, not just pro-forma, but actually.

    Another example of Mueller’s Ratzinger/Levada brazenness is his continuation and even his strengthening of the investigation of nuns in the U.S. A quick solution for those nuns would be to separate from the Vatican, declare themselves independent lay communities, and cut the Vatican off from all intrusion into their affairs. They could show the Vatican and the world that they are totally capable of being Catholic on their own and govern themselves.

    It is Burke-Mueller madness to demonstrate their archaic mentalities in today’s church world.

  7. One step at a time, but those first steps must be taken without any input from ancient thinkers like Burke or Mueller. Dolan in only safe because he is a rank politician. When Benedict was in charge, Dolan was a mirror image of Benedict. Now that Francis is seemingly in charge, it has been obvious that Dolan has been moderating his political tune. At least he has been replaced as the numero uno archbishop in the United States.

  8. This controversy, like the divisions after Vatican Council II and those going all the way back through Christian history to the non-Christian Emperor Constantine’s council at Nicaea in 325, demonstrates that the problem is the erroneous presumption that identical beliefs can be required of people. In the Catholic Church today, estimated to have billions of members, that is still a contradiction of human nature. It is unrealistic.

    The problem has its source in the management style of the church, the appointment of bishops from a central headquarters even after they have been presumably vetted by nuncios to national branches of the church like the United States. They have been recommended and selected in a process that leaves out the masses, the people in the pews, on the basis that they will be totally submissive to headquarters, the Vatican, the pope.

    You don’t hear any challenge from the people in the pews about the selection process because they are ignored throughout that process even though they are the ones the managers are supposed to manage, even though they are the ones who recite the creeds and pay all the bills.

    Even after the system would be corrected, even after the people in the pews and the clergy in every local diocese would select their own bishop, you still would not have a faith that is “one” and “catholic,” so-called “holy and apostolic,” because of the impossibility of having large numbers of people thinking and believing alike. It is a contradiction of human nature.

    To top off all this problem is the practice of popes, out of tradition or with advice from a close group of advisors, appointing the top managers, the cardinals, who continue the faulty, impossible system by forming the yet smaller group who select successive popes. As you move along the system of management, the people who really count, the bill-paying people in the pews, have less and less to say about who is going to form their cadre of bosses.

    History has proven this does not work. The Reformation should have been a convincing experience. The Counter-Reformation another. Vatican Councils I and II the latest. And now we have Cardinals Burke and Mueller and those like them, the trio of bishops appointed by Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, investigating the faith and practices of U.S. nuns to determine how well they conform to the wishes of headquarters.

    It is unrealistic. It is a contradiction of human nature. It is ignorant and cruel. It is downright unchristian to even presume that councils or synods or creeds can result in common beliefs or common practices. What this current synod should do is abolish the practice of all common creeds because they have never meant what they have been presumed to mean.

    After that, let the people in the pews and their clergy select from among themselves, their own bishop. Democracy can also be holy. It was in the early church.

  9. Magic that you could understand that Francis had celibacy in mind when he said, “Who am I to judge,” about gay Catholics. Besides, though celibacy in official Catholic doctrine and presumed to include chastity, the two practices are very different as we have witnessed for many centuries since celibacy was mandated for priestly ordination in the Western rite. The continuing sex scandal of pedophilia and ephebophilia is only the latest display of the problem of attempting to enforce a contradiction of nature. God created human nature, also.

  10. I am no fan of Dolan. I always thought he was self-promoting scum.

    I just find it funny that as long as people act like raging d-bags towards gays, you are sympathetic. Haters got to hate. 🙂

  11. Posted on ‎10‎/‎20‎/‎2013‎ ‎9‎:‎41‎:‎47‎ ‎PM by Conservaliberty

    For those who have never heard of it, Lutheran Satire is a YouTube channel of informative and funny videos by a Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene.

    This video is his reaction to Pope Francis’ antics. Just remember it is satire–and Fiene has a rather cutting sense of humor.

    Frank the Hippie Pope

    by Rob for those who want to view the video the person told about. do a simple search
    using words———— Lutheran satire you tube video Frank the Hippie pope..

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