“Our Defense Of Marriage Must Be Heroic”

cardinal burkeCardinal Burke On The Upcoming Synod . . . 


( Editor’s Note: Karl Maurer is a financial advisor in Chicago and member of the Advisory Board of Catholic Citizens of Illinois.)

CHICAGO — Catholic Citizens of Illinois held their annual awards banquet on September 22 with special guest Raymond Cardinal Burke. The event drew nearly 600 guests, who were treated to a powerful and intellectual defense of marriage and the family by one of most highly regarded canon lawyers and Catholic leaders in the world.

The Pro-Life Action League’s longtime leader Joe Scheidler received the St. Thomas More award for outstanding Catholic citizenship and defense of the faith.

Catholic Citizens of Illinois was founded in 1996 with the mission of bringing the Catholic faith into the public square. Since then, its leaders have appeared on national and local TV news, in newspapers, and on the Internet defending the traditional, commonsense teachings of the Catholic Church. The group has hosted a monthly luncheon forum featuring leading Catholic thinkers and writers for over 15 years.

The website at www.catholiccitizens.org and weekly e-newsletters have won awards and accolades for high quality content and fidelity to the faith.

Cardinal Burke’s presentation drew heavily from Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press), edited by Fr. Robert Dodaro, OSA, and including essays submitted by Burke and other bishops. The motivation for the book was liberal German Cardinal Walter Kasper and his appeals to early Church practices in order to support the view that greater toler­ance should be extended to divorced and homosexual Catholics in the name of mercy and compassion.

Kasper aired his views at a consistory in February 2014.

They reappeared at the 2014 Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which was called by Pope Francis to better prepare for the October 2015 full synod. During the 2014 synod the bishops were asked to examine “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” as they formulated the agenda and submitted written documents to prepare for the 2015 synod.

Remaining in the Truth of Christ traces the long history of Catholic resistance to divorce, also revealing the serious theological and pastoral difficulties divorce poses in past and current practices of the Orthodox Churches. The scholarly essays demonstrate that traditional Catholic doctrine and current pastoral practices are not at all at odds with genuine mercy and compassion.

Cardinal Burke opened his remarks noting that there is no greater issue than the fundamental truth of marriage, which is under constant attack today. And there is no greater defender of the truth in marriage than the Catholic Church.

The cardinal observed that under pressure from a secularized culture, confusion and error have entered into the Church. The Synod of Bishops in October 2014 was an example of this, where certain participants seemingly condemned and condoned divorce, cohabitation, and homosexuality at the same time.

Liberal views on moral issues became prominent and public halfway through the synod.

Cardinal Kasper and his allies specifically called into question the indissolubility of marriage, and challenged the Church to examine and discuss the issue with greater latitude to the sinners. Cardinal Burke observed that this was “ revolutionary and detached from Church teachings” and created a media bombshell.

Cardinal Burke and his fellow essayists have responded to this confusion with an intellectually strong and morally coherent argument that the authentic “ Gospel of mercy” is available through a closer examination of the Church’s teachings. The purpose of the essays, noted Cardinal Burke, is “ to present the truth of Christ in the Scriptures and as taught and practiced in the early Church…. The beauty of the truth of Christ is presented in these essays on the defense of marriage.”

Cardinal Burke qualified his remarks, noting that it was impossible to do justice to the depth of scholarship in the book during a brief lecture, but encouraged all in attendance to use the book for evangelization and defense of marriage. In addition to the essays, the book includes an appendix prepared by Fr. Dodaro.

Regarding the current challenges facing the Church, Cardinal Burke advised that it’s important to understand and appreciate the relationship between faith and culture. He noted that critics of the Church claim the Vatican must update and modernize its tone and speaking.

These critics claim that descriptions of homosexual acts as “ disordered” or “ intrinsically evil” can no longer be used because they are at odds with modern culture. Not so, says Cardinal Burke. “ The Church must always speak the truth with love, but secure in her identity.” The response to a culture that is confused and in error is not to accommodate those errors, “ but to confidently bring it the light and order of Catholic doctrine and truth.”

The Gospels are full of encounters in which Christ specifically confronts sinner with love, but at every turn, challenges them to “ go and sin no more.” Christ understands their situation, He pardons them, but under no circumstances does He tolerate the intolerable, or validate the sinner in his sinfulness. For Cardinal Burke, “ the ultimate uncharitable act is to encounter the errors of culture without speaking the truth.”

Cardinal Burke noted that confusion over the function of a Synod of Bishops has led to confusion surrounding the controversial statements issued by Cardinal Kasper. Unlike a “Council,” Church teaching cannot be changed at a Synod of Bishops. According the Canon Code 342: “ The Synod of Bishops is a group of bishops who have been chosen from different regions of the world and meet together at fixed times to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel in the preservation and growth of faith and morals and in the observance and strengthening of ecclesiastical discipline, and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world.”

Cardinal Burke did not specifically reference the Vatican guidelines for the 2014 Synod of Bishops in his discussion, but they are instructive in the context of the revolutionary proposals that were presented by Cardinal Kasper and others. The first sign of trouble prior to the October 2014 Synod of Bishops was in part II of the guidelines: Part I, “Communicating the Gospel of the Family in Today’s World,” is entirely concerned with the beautiful teaching of the Church on God’s gift of marriage and family life, and how this message is communicated in a world that in many ways is either ignorant of that teaching or has rejected it altogether.

Part II, “ The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges,” looks at the realities: such as difficulties in marriage and family life, “ breakups” and “ breakdowns” of families, violence and abuse, work and poverty, cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and same- sex unions.

Part III, “ An Openness to Life and Parental Responsibility in Upbringing,” looks more specifically at marriages being open to children, but also how Catholic families can raise their children in the knowledge of what is real and true and beautiful in marriage and family life.

Cardinal Burke warned amidst these calls for mercy and compassion, there is a great risk for damage caused by sentimentalism and false compassion. It may seem compassionate to pity those who have chosen lives outside of the Church’s teachings, but such sympathies block the sinner from abandoning his sins. And it doesn’t just hurt the sinner; it hurts his family and friends. Sentimentalism ends up bringing about injustice for the individual and everyone around them.

Arguments that Church regulations dealing with divorce are administrative and not divine are misleading, said Cardinal Burke. In regard to recent proposals, those who favor a shorter and easier nullification process claim their suggestions do not alter the divine truth, only streamline existing administrative processes.

However, when dealing with the nullification of the sacramental bond of marriage, Cardinal Burke reminds us that the current process of nullification is the product of centuries of experience. All the elements in the process are oriented toward discovering the truth, and determining if there are adequate grounds for nullification. To dramatically alter and compress the process risks taking away the Church’s ability to discover the truth.

Cardinal Kasper has claimed that his proposals do not change the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage. However, express divorces and annulments by definition reduce respect for the indissolubility of marriage. Cardinal Burke observes that the new process is nothing less than “ Catholic divorce.” In some cases, Catholics are being allowed to remarry without having to show that their prior marriage has been annulled.

Burke noted that even in cases where there are legitimate grounds for annulment, tribunals presenting the case to the Vatican are sometimes poorly prepared or lack proper training. Even with a fully prepared tribunal and staff, there are challenges in rendering a judgement with moral certitude. However, shortening and shortcutting the process is not the appropriate response to difficulties caused by poor preparation.

Be More Faithful

Instead of revolutionary deviations from tradition, Cardinal Burke was adamant that the synod should be suggesting ways for members of the Catholic Church to be more faithful to Catholic teachings related to marriage and the family, not less faithful. He referenced the frequent statements of John Paul II that the Christian family is the first community ordered toward transferring the Gospel message and growing in faith, and that evangelization is at the heart of the mission of the family.

Commenting on evangelization and faith, Cardinal Burke referenced statements by Paul VI that evangelization starts in the family, with Catholic truth and faith being passed from parents to children, and from children to parents. If evangelization is not found in families, it will not be found in society.

With that in mind, it is no surprise that attacks on the family are coming fast and furious. But rather than caving in to the secular culture, “ the Church must respond by showing the beauty of the family” and by stressing “ the benefits and inspiration of marriage,” said Cardinal Burke.

“ The synod ought to help Christian families.” It is critical for faithful Catholics living in a difficult marriage that they have the encouragement and support of the Church to remain faithful to each other to the end. The Catholic Church should not be giving them an easy way out.

Faithfulness in marriage is a commitment. Cardinal Burke referenced St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: “ Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

Cardinal Burke warned that the Church must not lose confidence in the Natural Law. “ In our society, there is confusion about the purpose of sexuality that breaks up marriages, corrupts children and leads to unhappiness . . . there is a need to witness to the unique gifts of men and women. . . . Without a sound family life, culture cannot be transformed.”

When Christ was challenge by the Pharisees on the indissolubility of marriage, He responded, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” ( Matt. 19: 6). There is no question that Natural Law and the Gospel message fully support traditional Catholic doctrine as it relates to marriage and the family.

The Wisdom Of Solomon

An essential element in defending the family is an understanding of the relationship of Natural Law and the formation of conscience in the family. Cardinal Burke noted that the “ tolerance” of today is not grounded in moral thinking, but in a relativistic subjectivism.

It is incoherent to suggest that certain actions or behaviors can be true and untrue at the same time in the context of moral law. Specifically, charity requires that we hate the sin, but love the sinner. Amidst all the political correctness and false tolerance, “ there is a loss of a sense of nature and of conscience.”

What is really missing, observed Cardinal Burke, is the Wisdom of Solomon among our political and cultural leaders. When asked by God what he wanted if God were to grant him his wishes, Solomon asks God for a “ listening heart” so he can discern between good and evil.

In an address to the German Bundestag while he was Pope, Benedict XVI stated that politics must strive for justice, to serve right and fight wrong. But how do we know what is right? Can this be left to majority rule? It is not sufficient for laws to protect the dignity of men. Law must align itself with nature and reason to be just. Our politicians and leaders must have “ listening hearts.” Creating “ listening hearts” is the challenge in education today, said Cardinal Burke. “Education must be oriented toward bringing children to human and Christian fulfillment. . . . Teaching must be coherent and allow for the growth and development of children in Christ.”

Cardinal Burke sadly observed, “ Pervasive mass media confuses hearts and minds and dulls the conscience.”

“We must build a new culture of life,” said His Eminence. To do this, there must be a serious dialogue among all parties, but that discussion must be rooted in the Church’s mission of evangelization. Mobilization of Christian conscience to defend life must be the priority to confront the challenges of modern culture. “ The Church today cannot tolerate subjectivism,” insisted Cardinal Burke.

“ Marriage is under furious and diabolical attack,” he added. We know as Catholics that divorce and contraception are affronts to God, yet modern culture embraces them, and now demands that homosexuals be allowed to marry. Even within our own Church there are those who see annulments as merciful and allowing contraception as being more practical given the behavior of modern society.

Heroes Of The Faith

“ Our defense of marriage must be heroic,” stressed Cardinal Burke, who referenced St. John the Baptist, St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, and others who defended the Catholic faith to their deaths. “Let us follow their example so that marriage will be more revered in society.”

The 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held from October 4 to October 25, 2015, with the theme, “ The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.”

Pope Francis provided this prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family in his angelus address on the Feast of the Holy Family on December 29, 2013: “ Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.

“Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

“ Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

“ Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.

“ Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.”

Please pray for the participants at the synod, that they will be inspired to protect and defend the Catholic faith.


The Wanderer, Volume 148, No 40 – October 8, 2015.