Interview of Cardinal Burke on the so-called process of “synodality”

Par Philippe Maxence

Français, italiano

With the kind permission of French magazine L’Homme nouveau, we publish this interview given by Cardinal Burke to Philippe Maxence. On the same topic, we recommend the Cardinal’s remarks at the Symposium organized in Rome, on October 3rd, at the Ghione Theatre, by the review the Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, of Riccardo Cascioli, on the topic of the “The Synodal Babel”.

Philippe Maxence – In an interview given to ACN, on 10 August last, you said that a great part of the present turmoil is associated to a populist rhetoric on the Church, including its discipline. What do you mean by that?

Cardinal Burke – Unfortunately we observe that numerous members of the Church (some with very high responsibilities in the ecclesiastic hierarchy, and as such particularly responsible for the conversion and the propagation of the dogma of the Faith) no longer clearly proclaim the Faith but, on the contrary, affirm in an ambiguous way what a fringe of society and media would like to hear. It is precisely a form of populism, in the sense that the objective is to please this minority and no longer to proclaim the Faith – meaning the Credo, the commandments, the constant discipline of the Church since the Apostles, etc. – and to explain it.

In the preface you gave to the book by Julio Loredo and Jose Antonio Ureta, Synodal Process: a Pandora’s box (TFP, 2023), you say that synodality and the adjective “synodal” have become plain slogans. Isn’t it a process typically revolutionary to apply a doctrine of the Church: to put forward slogans in lieu and place of theological concepts in order to advance  an ecclesiological change?

The confusion in matters of theology, moral and even elementary philosophy in which we live is fueled by a great lack of clarity in the vocabulary used, and this is probably intentional on the part of some. We witness a semantic slippage of certain words or expressions, which makes the Church’s teaching on some points incomprehensible. I could mention the expression mercy of God for example. But sometimes new words are introduced or exaggerated without a clear definition, as in the case of the word synodality.

The moment these concepts become central and are not clearly defined, the door opens to anyone who wants to interpret them in a way that breaks with the Church’s constant teaching on these issues.

Church history teaches us that the resolution of the worst crisis, such as the Arian crisis for example, always begins with great precision in the vocabulary and in the concepts used.

Many of the laities are disconcerted by the method used which consists in asking questions that seem to pre-determine the type of response and which strangely reminds us of methods of assembly manipulation. Is it a biased perception, overly political, too mundane, of this text?

Indeed, it seems that the results of the Synod are known in advance, despite all that was said to the contrary. It is clear that a biased and political perception is in the making in a thinly disguised manner. The ones responsible for the Synod have indicated in an interview given to the newspapers that the work would take place in small linguistic groups, and that all of the works will most likely not be put to the vote of the participants, at least in this first session. It was also announced that the pontifical secrecy will cover all of the debates. The members of this assembly will not be able to know whether the content of the summary report is faithful to what has been said in the linguistic groups. As a result, it would be extremely easy to manipulate such assembly, indeed.

One point in particular has marked the simple faithful, it is the manifest desire to welcome all sexual deviances as such and not to welcome the persons with the intention to invite them to conversion to Christ and His Church. What is your take on this?

Moral theology has lost all its bearings. It is urgent to consider the moral act in its entirety, and not only in its subjective aspect. The soon to come anniversary of the publication of Veritatis Splendor can help us with this. I salute the initiatives that I was able to see on this topic, and encourage them. The commandments of the Decalogue are valid, and will remain valid as they have always been in different times, simply because they are indissociable from human nature.

At a time when welcoming without discerning is part of the watchword of the document, Catholics who strive to live according to the requirements of the faith, in the respect of the law of the Church and moral law, do not seem to be taken into consideration. Young couples and young families who want to built a Christian home with children, in an environment today more and more hostile, are simply written off. And yet, are they not one of the aspects of the future of the Church?

We ought to look at this injustice with a supernatural eye. We know that the Good is taken into account in the eye of God and will be justly rewarded, in the same way that the evil will be punished. A great number of young people are aware of this, and seek to live with the support of the sacraments, an authentic life of Faith, Hope and Charity. It is evidently the true future of the Church, the only one which will bear real fruits (cf. Mt 7, 15-17). Today, good Christians must be ready to suffer white martyrdom of incomprehension, rejection, and persecution, and sometimes suffer red martyrdom of bloodshed to be a faithful witness and cooperator of Christ.

What analysis do you make regarding the fact that some laities will have the right to vote in a synod of bishops? Do the synods of the Eastern Church from which supposedly come the inspiration give such a role to the laities?

I have very regular contacts with Eastern bishops and priests, Catholics and Orthodox, who have all told me that the way the Synod is organized has nothing to do with the Eastern synods. This is true for the role of the laities in these assemblies, but also in a more general way in the manner in which it functions and even in the topics it addresses. There is a confusion kept around the word synodality, that is being artificially linked to an eastern practice, but who in reality has all the characteristics of a recent invention, among others for what concerns the laities.

Something awkward comes up from reading the document, the strong desire to built a “synodal Church” which gives the impression to go all the way to the toppling down of the hierarchy of the Church though established by Christ? Is this perception right?

Indeed, we are told that the Church we profess, in communion with our ancestors in the faith since the time of the Apostles, is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, must now be defined by synodality, a term that has no history in the doctrine of the Church and for which there is no reasonable definition. It is evidently an artificial construction which resembles more a human construction than the Church built on Peter who was the Christ (cf. 1 Co 10, 4).

In this respect, does the Instrumentum laboris for the next assembly of the Synod not contain true heresies with the avenues it opens (for example: to turn the listening of the people of God into the usual form of making decisions in the Church; the convergence of particular Churches would force the pope to take it into account). How could the protestation of faith from the pars sanior of the College of Cardinals and the Episcopate unfold?

The Instrumentum laboris definitly contains affirmations moving away in an impressive and terrible way from the lasting teaching of the Church. We first must publicly reaffirm our Faith. In this regard, the bishops have the duty to confirm their brothers. The Bishops and Cardinals need much courage today to confront grave errors coming from inside the Church Herself. The sheep depends on the courage of the shepherds who are to protect them from the poison of confusion, error, and division. It is for this reason that with other Cardinals, all originating from different continents, we have presented this summer the Sovereign Pontiff with the dubia to clarify some of the issues belonging to the Doctrine of the Faith which are being challenged today. Many brothers in the episcopate and even in the College of Cardinals support this initiative even if they are not on the official list of signatories. But everyone can and even must, according to its competence, always respecting and praying for the legitimate authorities, (cf. CIC 1983, 212 §3) make a profession of Faith, specially in these times when this seems growing cloudy.

We have the impression that this pontificate takes decision meant to create an irreversible situation of confusion. Do you still believe there’s hope for a response?

Although the present confusion is particularly large, even important historically, I don’t believe it is irreversible. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church (Mt.16, 18). The Lord promised to rest with us in the Church until the end of the age (Mt 28, 20). We can always trust in the Lord through the Church. And certainly, we must never abandon the Lord and therefore stay in the Church. Yet, we can’t but notice that many souls are going on the path of perdition because of this confusion, this is why we must pray a lot and act to clear this confusion as quickly as we can.

Traditionis custodes was misunderstood way beyond the attendees of the traditional liturgy. Would you be favorable to a pure and simple liberalization of this liturgy when it becomes possible?

Most certainly Traditionis custodes did not contribute to diminishing the confusion, on the contrary, a very large numbers of faithful sincerely attached to the Church have been troubled by this pontifical document perceived as harsh and unjustly severe. They must quickly recover the freedom of living the sacraments according to the Usus Antiquior which has nourished in their faith tens of generations of Christians.

I regret, among legal issues this text presents, that the results of the preliminary consultation of the Bishops was not published, at least as a summary. In that regard, I notice that a small group of persons can greatly influence the result of a large consultation, this recalls sadly also the experience of the Synod on the Family.

To those who would not be convinced by the importance of the liturgical question, it is important to remind them Gamaliel’s advice in the Act of the Apostles (5, 38-39): Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.