Pope Francis Demotes Cardinal Who Denied John Kerry Communion December 18, 2013

Pope Francis Demotes Cardinal Who Denied John Kerry Communion

It’s a safe bet that Cardinal Raymond Burke never could’ve guessed his seat on an important Vatican committee was in jeopardy given his track record of criticizing celebrities, withholding communion from politicians, ousting feminist nuns, and being generally outspoken on conservative causes (including the persecution faced by American Christians).

But that was before Pope Francis took on the papal tiara.

Cardinal Raymond Burke

Cardinal Burke, best known in America for announcing that John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi were bad Catholics “in manifest grave sin” who should avoid presenting themselves for Communion, is being replaced by Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a moderate thinker who doesn’t consider it good pastoral practice to deny communion to anybody, and who better reflects the new attitude Francis seems to be bringing to papal politics.

The Congregation for Bishops is the Vatican department responsible for deciding who’s eligible to rise to the rank of Catholic bishop. By demoting Burke in favor of the more progressive, less intrusive Wuerl, Pope Francis is signalling a hope that the Church of the future might be less divisive and contrarian than ever before.

And unlike some of his past overtures, this inches beyond mere words. Changing the composition of the Congregation for Bishops can actually have an impact on the power structure of the Church hierarchy, allowing more liberal-thinking pastors to achieve greater power within the Church hierarchy.

Maybe.

There’s still cause to be wary; it would likely take more than just one high-profile switch to undo the impact of the previous popes’ retrograde views about women, contraception, and LGBTQ equality. And the Congregation will still be led by Canada’s Marc Ouellet, who maintains highly conservative views on same-sex marriage (“pseudo-marriage, a fiction”) and abortion (“a moral crime”). It’s not clear that replacing one fiercely conservative cardinal with a moderately liberal one will do much to change the composition of up-and-coming bishops. It’s like replacing a current Republican member of the U.S. House with a Democrat — it’s better for liberals but it really won’t change how the House acts.

Moreover, Burke will retain his position as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s version of the Supreme Court, which handles a variety of ecclesiastical law cases as well as marriage dissolutions under appeal from lower courts. (If I wanted an annulment, I can’t think of anyone I’d be less thrilled to have judging my marriage.)  Maybe Francis just thinks Burke needs to cut down his workload. Maybe he’s worried about stress.

But this one switch, whether tactical or merely coincidental, hardly constitutes a progressive coup. It will take a lot more evidence to prove that Francis is really aiming for change at the core of Catholicism.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • This is interesting and the first evidence I’ve seen for any real change, small though it is. Inertia is a powerful force on a large body, I’ll accept small changes and view them as hopeful signs of larger movements to come (unless proven otherwise!)

  • JA

    The conservative rage machine will go into overdrive soon, I predict.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but this guy is just begging to have an “accident”.

  • God’s Starship

    meh

  • Art_Vandelay

    In a rational society, the real story would be “Lunatics Fighting Over Who and Who Shouldn’t Get To Eat a 2000 Year Old Palestinian Carpenter.”

  • edgar ayala

    I’d like to hear the Pope say publicly that homosexuals should have the same civil right to matrimony as heterosexuals and that people should use condoms in areas where AIDS is prevalent. For starters.

  • Dekker Van Wyk

    Jesus! This popes seems to be sincerely trying to polish some of the tarnish off the RCC’s reputation. Let’s hope he keeps this up.

  • joey_in_NC

    It will take a lot more evidence to prove that Francis is really aiming for change at the core of Catholicism.

    That’s because he’s not aiming for “change at the core of Catholicism”.

  • sam

    Sounds like a wicked title for a porno, or maybe a John Waters film.

  • God’s Starship

    Depends what you consider the core. If Catholicism’s anti-gay, anti-woman policies are the core (and I honestly don’t believe it is), then it really doesn’t say much for the church.

  • Bernadette

    I wonder how much more conservative Catholics can take before their heads start to explode?

  • Matto the Hun

    I for one will only start taking the Catholic Church seriously when they start serving up Jesus tapas style.

  • Slipped on a bar of Pope.

    O_o

  • Does Cardinal Burke make the same statement about withholding communion fron Gingrich or Santorum?

    http://www.juancole.com/2012/02/top-ten-catholic-teachings-santorum-rejects-while-obsessing-about-birth-control.html

    .

  • But this one switch, whether tactical or merely coincidental, hardly constitutes a progressive coup. It will take a lot more evidence to prove that Francis is really aiming for change at the core of Catholicism.

  • Intelligent Donkey

    He’s still polishing a turd.

  • Alierias

    Mafia hit or poison in the coffee?

  • CanuckAmuck

    Sorry, I don’t get it. Is there some kind of pareidolia thing I’m missing?

  • Anymouse

    Funny how you don’t see Joe Klein where those arrows point.
    What *are* we supposed to see there?

  • joey_in_NC

    If Catholicism’s anti-gay, anti-woman policies are the core (and I honestly don’t believe it is)…

    Neither do I.

  • Pofarmer

    Oh their God. That was funnnnyyyyyy.

  • Pofarmer

    Just out of interest, what would you say the core doctrine is?

  • joey_in_NC

    You can find it here.

  • Window dressing. That’s what I think the Pope’s various remarks that have so many people excited amount to.

    It was an experiment. Sorry.

  • What kind of self-respecting whackjob wears an outfit like that?

  • Pofarmer

    Coward.

  • WillBell

    Abridged version:
    http://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm

    I’d say this is the ‘core of the core’. 🙂

  • Chakolate

    You know, if Francis does keep replacing hardliners with moderates, watch for him to get very, very sick and die.

    It’s happened before.

  • What I’ve pick up from Catholics I’ve talked is that the core doctrines are:

    *Jesus is god and man and the whole trinitarian thing
    *The Pope has a special line to god
    *Women can’t be priests ever, because penis (or lack thereof)
    *Contraception evil. Sex evil, except in marriage.
    *Gays can’t get married. Gay sex is evil. Because Jesus.
    *Helping people is nice. Give to your church, so that they can spend half the money on church upkeep instead of actual charity.
    *If you’re not Catholic, you’re going to Hell. Hell sucks. You won’t like it. You should be Catholic.

    Anti-gay and anti-woman aren’t the only core policies, but they are very much in the core of Catholic doctrine.