PopeWatch: Burke


Father Z gives us the latest bad news from Rome:

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I’ll post this. I do not like the fact that Sandro Magister posted in this way, however.  I’ve been biting the inside of my mouth for a while now.  The optimist in me was saying that the official announcement would not be made until after the Synod of Bishops, or at least the beginning of the Synod.  Or at all.

It’s not good news.  At the time of this writing, it is still – officially – a rumor.  I believe it, however. I have been trying to get myself into a mental and spiritual place to see it for what it is and, more importantly, for what it is not, and to plot my own reaction and subsequent course.

Vatican Insider has posted that His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke will soon be demoted by Pope Francis from being Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura to the Patron of the Knights of Malta.

The move is not lateral.  That position is usually entrusted to older Cardinals.  The present Cardinal Patron is Card. Sardi, who is now 80.  Before him was Pio Card. Laghi.  The reassignment would be a demotion, for the Patron of the Knights is not nearly the equivalent of Prefect of a Roman dicastery.

I didn’t think that Card. Burke would be moved to Chicago, though I had a little fun with that idea. I thought he might be moved laterally to the Congregation for Causes of Saints to replace Card. Amato, who is over 75.  More on Saints, below.

There are a few points to make here, before the trads blow arteries and quite simply die and before liberals and dissidents, who suffer from Burke Derangement Syndrome, start their Lord of the Flies Dance.

First, it is possible that the three Roman tribunals (Penitentiary, Signatura, Rota), might be collapsed into a single dicastery for justice. I don’t know how that would work. I think it would be a really bad idea, but they didn’t ask me. If that is the case, the Signatura and the Penitentiary will not both need a Cardinal.

Second, according to a couple sources I have heard from, there is talk of collapsing the Congregation for Causes of Saints back into Divine Worship where, historically, it once belonged. Once upon a time the powerful Sacred Congregation of Rites had the brief for beatification and canonization. That would eliminate another cardinalatial chair in the Curia.

Furthermore, there is talk of collapsing minor curial offices, Councils and the like, into a Congregation for Laity. That could eliminate several other Cardinals in the Curia.

If you eliminate a position that has required a Cardinal, and that Cardinal is not 75 or 80, that is, ready for retirement, the Pope has to do something with him.  Burke is only 66.  What can the Pope do if there are no longer enough cardinalatial slots in the curia because he plans on eliminating them?  Well, you can send His Eminence off to be the bishop of some important see in his own country, right?  What if the Pope can’t do that because the Cardinal’s own countrymen have been drenching the same Cardinal in contumely?  Not enough curial chairs, not a good option back home?  Don’t forget that the Archbishop Secretaries of eliminated offices have to go somewhere too!  They might need those dioceses back in their native places.

So, what? You put the Cardinal in the best possible cardinalatial role you can find.  Some Cardinals who hit 75 and are at the end of service in a Congregation, are still useful.  They reside in Rome.  They can be on other Congregations until they are 80.  They could head up some office such as, once upon a time, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.  That’s been put under the CDF.  There are still, for example, Archpriests at the Major Basilicas.  But, there’s already an American at St. Paul’s outside-the-walls: Card. Harvey, 64, also from Wisconsin, just like Card. Burke. Two American sexagenarian Cardinals from Wisconsin as Archpriests of Papal Basilicas at the same time? Not likely. I suspect that if Francis eliminates a few offices, such as Cor Unum or Justice and Peace or the like which have men who are still of service age, one of them will go, say, to be Archpriest at St. Mary Major, where the present man, Card. Abril y Castelló, is about to turn 79. An Italian could wind up as the Delegate for the Basilica of St. Francis where Card. Nicora, 77, is now.

It is fair to imagine that Pope Francis – certainly at the instigation of a few close advisers – is purging the Curia of his predecessor’s influence.

Go here to read the rest.  A firm committment to orthodox Catholic teaching may not be a detriment to a Cardinal in the current pontificate, but it is certainly not a guarantee of preferment in assignments apparently.  It apparently did not help that Cardinal Burke contributed an essay to a volume in defense of the teaching of the Church on marriage.  Pope Francis apparently was not amused.  Go here to read all about it.

More to explorer


  1. I came across this story two days ago and it was speculation at that time.
    Now? Still a rumor as you stated.

    In the very end the last word is the Lords. If the Pope demotes Cardinal Burke shame rests on Frankie…excuse me, Holy Father.

    Cardinal Burke and Fr. John Hardon ( d.2000) cut from the same Holy cloths.
    To detest their orthodoxy is to spit in Christs face.

  2. Simplifying and streamlining a bureaucracy is not just lopping off offices – but creating a task flow which is harmonic and sequential – good organizational management is a mysterious gift (to see that overview) a gift not listed by Isaiah, but a gift nonetheless.
    Observation of Francis movements and communication so far does not give me confidence that his view of running an organization will be practice able .
    Just crashing down the old structure is not a good way to build a better one. Not to speak of the loss of the influence of a great and holy man in Cardinal Burke.

  3. In the link following “Pope Francis apparently was not amused,” Rorate Cæli refers to La Croix as “the semi-official daily and Catholic paper of record of the French Episcopate.” That is a pretty accurate description of La Croix and it enjoys that position not least because of the diplomatic and nuanced style of its reporting; the liberal use of the subjunctive in the extract quoted is typical – the Pope “would have been irritated,” “would have requested.” (La Croix, by the by, would never use « demander » to mean “demand” or “require”; for that, they would use « exiger » ) Once, referring to a convicted murderer, they simply noted that “M. Blank is someone known to Police.” They can, however, be catty; a certain politician who had added the noble “de” to his name was referred to as « M. de Puispeu » (de puis peu = since recently)

    I cannot think of an English language equivalent to La Croix.

  4. One of the reasons Vatican bureaucracy moves at such a glacial pace is
    that both staff and budgets are fairly small with regard to the workload.
    A tribunal like the Apostolic Signatura has to handle cases referred to it
    from all over the world, for example. I sincerely hope that the combinations
    and rearrangements that are being considered are not done merely to sideline
    inconvenient Cardinals, but have the effect of truly improving efficiency in
    the Curia.

    That said, I’m reminded of the old chestnut about St. John XXIII, who was once
    asked how many people worked at the Vatican, to which the Saint replied
    “About half”.

  5. Without the Holy Spirit protecting the Church, She would have collapsed long ago with this king of political maneuvering.

  6. I think “more Catholic than the pope” was used to denigrate people who resisted some of the changes that swept the Church after Vatican II. I wonder if it was used even before the 1960’s as people became more aware of modernism and ecumenism.

  7. Lizzie Scalia and Mark Shea say we are reactionaries, more catholic than the pope.

    And they is right. Maybe she should go by the nom “Dizzie Lizzie” from all the spinning she has to do.

  8. My first comment is that Cardinal Burke is a very good and capable man, priest, bishop and Cardinal of the Church

    My second comment is that while apparently something is indeed ‘brewing’, nothing is official and until it is official, everything is speculative——-everything.

    It may very well be that the Signatura, Rota and the Penitientiary could/will be combined. Perhaps Card Burke will be head of all three.

    Perhaps there is another placement for him where he is needed, where he could bring his many gifts and talents etc which no one has noticed etc.—or even a whole new ‘position’ that has not been officially created yet.

    I do know that, more than likely, we soon will see.

  9. Phillip.

    Thank you for the link.

    So the truth shall set you free.
    For Cardinal Burke and the other contributors to this timely publication gratis!

  10. Anzlyne wrote, “I think “more Catholic than the pope” was used to denigrate people who resisted some of the changes that swept the Church after Vatican II.”

    It is much, much older than that. It was a common retort by those who defended the “liberties and immunities of the Gallican Church” against the “Ultramontanists.”

    In England, it was the common taunt by Catholics like Lord Acton, Baron von Hügel and others against Cardinal Manning, Fr Faber and W G Ward

    Nothing new under the sun:

    “The troubles of our proud and angry dust
    Are from eternity and shall not fail”

  11. This blog was received in my email at 0210 this morning, yet yesterday afternoon my conservative, pro-life Protestant neighbor asked me about the Pope firing a conservative cardinal. At the time I didn’t have a clue as to what she was talking about. I am reminded of the quote from the Aeneid about Rumour being swift to deliver her news.

  12. I had read a few years ago that the majority of Cardinals
    were appointed by Pope Benedict. The rest were appointed
    by Saint John Paul II. Because of this I was certain the Church
    would have a traditional pope well into the future. The days
    of the radical reformers were over, so I believed.

    Now I have the impression the radicals will control the Church
    for many years.

    How is that Pope Benedict appointed so many Cardinals who
    would select a radical reformer? Was Pope Benedict deceived?

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