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.