Reality check: Burke’s star will shine on

The knives are out for Cardinal Burke this morning. He’s on the next plane out of Rome after Pope Francis sacked him and summarily ended all of his duties this morning.

Oh wait, that’s not what happened. Actually, Pope Francis simply chose not to renew his membership on the Congregation for Bishops, the body that helps select bishops for the United States and around the world. Still, this was enough for noted Burke-haters here in America to proclaim this is the end of Burke’s episcopal career.

Even the normally sober-minded John Allen cited this recent EWTN interview given by Cardinal Burke on “The World Over” where the cardinal said “we can never talk enough about the defense of human life” as some sort of example that Pope Francis wants to move away from the Cardinal’s “aggressive line” on the culture wars — please! As if Pope Francis has nothing better to do than monitor what gets said on EWTN every night.

Let me pour some cold water on this hyperventilating speculation.

First, Pope Francis has not hid his intention of making the curia more efficient. He appointed Cardinal Wuerl as a new addition to the Congregation for Bishops, someone whom Pope Benedict had already placed trust in when he appointed Cardinal Wuerl as the U.S. guardian of the Anglican Ordinariate. If you asked me to pick who has a better working knowledge of the makeup, demands and expectations of the American episcopate right now I would say the state-side Cardinal Wuerl, not Cardinal Burke who has been in Rome for half a decade at this point. So from one aspect, this is a move towards efficiency.


And poor Cardinal Burke, after today’s move, he will have so little to occupy himself. In addition to being the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a member of the College of Cardinals, a member of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, a member of the Congregation for Clergy, a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and President of the Commission for Advocates, and a frequent speaker to select Catholic causes and organizations, I’m not sure what he’ll be doing with all of this new free time.

Back to the anti-Burke speculation: the real reason some are trying to make a big deal of this news is because a) they are trying to create the perception that there is a rift between Pope Francis and conservatives, and b) because they hope Burke’s absence from the congregation will yield more liberal episcopal appointments here in America.

Let me pour more cold water on both of these futile hopes.

There is absolutely no sign the Congregation for Bishops is about to reverse the 70 or 80 streak of conservative Episcopal appointments to U.S. dioceses we witnessed under the reign of Pope Benedict.  This massive swell of young conservative bishops is already having a huge impact on the Catholic Church in America.

It was these bishops who upset precedent and elected Cardinal Dolan over Bishop Kicanas for USCCB President, and just elected Archbishop Kurtz.

If we want to see anything significant in today’s news, it should be that Pope Francis confirmed Cardinal Marc Oullet as the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops! A more conservative Cardinal you couldn’t ask for.

If liberal Vatican-watchers want to read tea leaves, they should wake up and smell what’s brewing!

And as for this false meme that Pope Francis doesn’t like conservatives, well, the pope’s interview with La Stampa just poured more cold water on that than I could ever hope to.

So let nothing you dismay. Cardinal Burke’s star will shine on in the Eternal City for another 10 years at least. American liberal Catholics should go take a cold bath. Orthodoxy is here to stay.


Categories:American Papist Church News Pope Francis Vatican

  • Cheryl

    If, as the author suggests, the Catholic Church continues on its anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-Democrat agenda and pursuing it’s SOLE issue …. it will INDEED continue to bleed out and lose more and more parishioners. I am one of the “disenchanted” these days, but have had renewed hope due to Pope Francis. I am watching closely to see how the individual parishes (and Pastors) react and what we’ll hear out of Bishops, Cardinals, Archbishops, etc. This may come down to the type of DIVISION we have seen all over the country between the radical religious right and the left. The Church may just split and half the Catholics will form their own “Catholic” church … the one that follows what the Pope is preaching … and the Conservative branch with their rich followers who will dictate what women & families and American citizens can do or not do … and how they must think.

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  • Slats

    Just curious – among folks who don’t care for Pope Francis – who do you think he is?

    a) The validly-elected Vicar of Christ on earth who might have a handful of good things to teach us, but also frequently acts as a mild-to-moderate ecclesiological irritant who just needs to be offered up at those points?

    b) The validly-elected Vicar of Christ on earth who is mistaken about a great many more things than his two predecessors and is going to cause problems from which it will take the Church years to recover and on behalf of whom many penances of reparation need to be offered?

    c) An anti-pope (not consulting pre-Francis sedevacantists about this, only those who accepted Blessed JPII and Pope Benedict XVI as valid popes)?

    d) The anti-Christ?

    I don’t like a great number of things that Pope Francis does and says, but I would be in the a) category. He’s the Vicar of Christ on earth, and when I pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, I’m praying for his intentions – at least insofar as they gibe with His intentions, if you take my meaning. It’s just helpful to know where others are coming from when they gripe.

  • Slats

    I would like for Cardinal Burke’s light to continue to shine… as Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.

  • Wendell

    A much needed perspective.
    Thank you!

    P.S.—glad to see you in print! Peace, and Merry Christmas.

  • Debbie Lawson

    This article made my heart sink and once again made me feel disappointed and jaded by the Catholic Church. I just wrote a wonderful piece on my experience at Mass on Christmas Eve, going back to the church of my youth, how my mother’s remarriage into Church of Christ was terrible and I ended up an atheist/Buddhist. Pope Francis has inspired me, the priest echoed his philosophy and his actions are bringing me back to church.

    I have always been a servant, through the military, Americorps, civil rights, the poor, LGBT, disability rights, and I have housed 3 homeless mentally ill people in my home. I have lived more Christ-like than most Christians I have encountered (including family).

    The heavy tilt to the Right of all Christians pushed people like me AWAY from the church and Jesus and God for the last 30 years.

    I sincerely hope Francis changes all this and brings healing to us all, and that the conservatives see the real purpose of Christ on earth, not to condemn or make us prosperous, but to bring love and comfort.



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