On the same day that Pope Francis introduced new procedures to speed up the annulment process, Cardinal Raymond Burke told an audience at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio that marriage is under “diabolical attack” by both modern culture and church insiders.
In discussing the history of church law regarding marriage, Burke — a Rome-based American who is seen as a leader of the opposition against Francis’ reform push — toggled between blaming secular culture for the breakdown of marriage and insisting that a similar attack was coming from within the walls of the church.
In discussing next month’s highly anticipated Vatican summit on the modern family, called a synod, Burke noted that there was a “lack of consensus” within the Vatican about potential changes regarding marriage. For example, there was disagreement about allowing remarried Catholics without an annulment to receive Communion.
In one of several snipes directed toward Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German churchman and Francis ally who is associated with the more liberal wing of the church, Burke insisted that the desire to ease the annulment process or welcome the divorced to Communion was based on “sentimentalism or false compassion.”
Burke has said that he will “resist” liberal changes to the church, and his address at Steubenville — a bastion of traditional orthodoxy and a friendly audience for the American prelate — confirmed this.
In the runup to the synod, he said, some have argued that the church “must update practice and language to effectively address a secularized culture,” and added that this included a desire for the church to drop terms such as “intrinsically disordered” to describe LGBT individuals.
“The church,” declared Burke, who is never shy about voicing strong opinions, “has to call things by their proper name in order not to risk contributing to confusion and error.”
Burke noted that “distorted” sexual activity and “false” ideas about male and female identity showed the need for a “new evangelization about the distinct gifts of man and woman.”
Any marriage that is not “exclusive, permanent and open to life,” according to Burke, “is not a true marriage.”
But Burke’s battle for “true marriage” will be an uphill one even among Catholics.
The most recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that by a substantial margin Catholics feel unmarried couples and gay and lesbian couples are both acceptable alternatives to male/female marriage. A much larger majority agreed that couples who choose not to have children have marriages that are as good as ones with children.
In the same year when marriage equality became the law in America, Burke declared that “society has (claimed) the name of marriage for liaisons between persons of the same sex.”
He added that “even in the church there are those who in the name of tolerance would remain silent about the attack on the validity of marriage.”
Francis has struck a decidedly different tone even if he hasn’t changed traditional church teachings. While the pope does not show signs of changing the Vatican stance on marriage equality, his focus on compassion and mercy is a huge contrast to Burke’s.
“The synod fathers,” Burke continued, referring to the hundreds of bishops who will debate such matters for three weeks in October, “must be ready to suffer to honor and foster holy matrimony.”
He named several saints who had been “martyrs for marriage,” and suggested that the synod fathers pray to these saints “before the confusion and error that Satan is sowing in society and the church.”
Burke’s audience gave him a standing ovation. But whether the majority of Catholics would do the same seems unlikely.
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