“Confusion, division, and error” within the Catholic Church coming from “shepherds” even at the highest levels indicate that we “may be” in the end times, said U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke in an address in Kentucky.
The Cardinal, who spoke at the July 22 “Church Teaches Forum” in Louisville, said that, in his opinion, the times “realistically seem to be apocalyptic.”
“We are living in most troubled times in the world and also in the Church,” he said.
Burke, one of the Church’s leading canon law experts, outlined how evils now commonly accepted in the West’s “ravaged” culture have now managed to infiltrate the Church, passing from the shepherds to the sheep.
“But, in a diabolical way, the confusion and error which has led human culture in the way of death and destruction has also entered into the Church, so that she draws near to the culture without seeming to know her own identity and mission, without seeming to have the clarity and the courage to announce the Gospel of Life and Divine Love to the radically secularized culture,” he said.
He cited as one example the recent remarks from the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said that the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in Germany was not a major concern for the Church. Instead, Marx said that the Church should be more concerned about what he called intolerance towards persons suffering from same-sex attraction.
Burke, who is one of the four Cardinals who signed the dubia asking Pope Francis to clarify ambiguities in his teaching, said there are “many shepherds” who are no longer truly shepherding the faithful entrusted to them.
“For whatever reason, many shepherds are silent about the situation in which the Church finds herself or have abandoned the clarity of the Church’s teaching for the confusion and error which is wrongly thought to address more effectively the total collapse of Christian culture,” he said.
Burke said that one clear sign to him that the Church is “failing badly” in her mission is that she is no longer facing hostile attacks from secular media.
“Some time ago, a Cardinal in Rome commented on how good it is that the secular media are no longer attacking the Church, as they did so fiercely during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI,” he said. “My response was that the approval of the secular media is, on the contrary, for me a sign that the Church is failing badly in her clear and courageous witness to the world for the salvation of the world,” he added.
He specifically noted how secular media has pitted those who are being faithful to perennial Catholic teaching against Pope Francis and his “pastoral” agenda for the Church.
Cardinal Burke accused “secular voices” of promoting Pope Francis as a “reformer who is a revolutionary, that is, as one who undertakes the reform of the Church by breaking from the Tradition, the rule of the faith (regula fidei) and the corresponding rule of law (regula iuris).”
“Regarding the frequent statements of Pope Francis, there has developed a popular understanding that every statement of the Holy Father must be accepted as papal teaching or magisterium. The mass media has certainly wanted to pick and choose among the declarations of Pope Francis, in order to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is undergoing a revolution and is changing radically its teaching on certain key questions of faith and especially of morals,” he said.
The Cardinal noted how the Pope does not help the situation by regularly choosing to “speak in a colloquial manner, whether during interviews given on airplanes or to news outlets, or in spontaneous remarks to various groups.”
He said that Catholics seeking to remain true to Christ and the Church he founded must learn to discern between the “words of the man who is Pope and the words of the Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth.”
“Pope Francis has chosen to speak often in his first body, the body of the man who is Pope. In fact, even in documents which, in the past, have represented more solemn teaching, he states clearly that he is not offering magisterial teaching but his own thinking,” the Cardinal said.
“But those who are accustomed to a different manner of Papal speaking want to make his every statement somehow part of the Magisterium. To do so is contrary to reason and to what the Church has always understood. It is simply wrong and harmful to the Church to receive every declaration of the Holy Father as an expression of papal teaching or magisterium,” he added.
Burke has previously called the Pope’s controversial 2016 Amoris Laetitia “not an act of the magisterium” but a “personal reflection of the Pope.” The Apostolic Exhortation has been interpreted by various bishops and cardinals as allowing civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics living in adultery to receive Holy Communion. Such an interpretation contradicts previous Catholic teaching.
The Cardinal said that making the distinction between “words of the man who is Pope and the words of the Pope as Vicar of Christ on earth” is crucial for showing “ultimate respect” for the Petrine Office while staying true to the perennial teachings of the Catholic faith.
“Without the distinction, we would easily lose respect for the Papacy or be led to think that, if we do not agree with the personal opinions of the man who is Roman Pontiff, then we must break communion with the Church,” he said.
He warned Catholics about falling into an “idolatry of the papacy” where every word spoken by the Pope is treated as if it were doctrine, “even if it is construed to be contrary to the very word of Christ, for example, regarding the indissolubility of marriage.”
Any declaration of the Pope, said Burke, must be understood “within the context of the constant teaching and practice of the Church, lest confusion and division about the teaching and practice of the Church enter into her body to the great harm of souls and to the great harm of the evangelization of the world.”
“The faithful are not free to follow theological opinions which contradict the doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, and confirmed by the ordinary Magisterium, even if these opinions are finding a wide hearing in the Church and are not being corrected by the Church’s pastors as the pastors are obliged to do,” he added.
The Cardinal warned Catholics in anguish over the current situation within the Church against even thinking about schism, that is, separating themselves from the Catholic Church headed by the Pope in the hope of creating a better Church.
“There can be no place in our thinking or acting for schism which is always and everywhere wrong,” he said.
“Schism is the fruit of a worldly way of thinking, of thinking that the Church is in our hands, instead of in the hands of Christ. The Church in our time has great need of the purification of any kind of worldly thinking,” he added.
Burke laid out a number of practical ways Catholics striving to be faithful can respond to the current crisis within the Church. They must:
Pray for an increase of faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ “Who is alive for us in the Church and Who never fails to teach sanctify and guide us in the Church” and whose “teaching does not change.”
“Study more attentively the teachings of the faith contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and be prepared to defend those teachings against any falsehood which would erode the faith and thus the unity of the Church.”
Gather together to “deepen their faith and to encourage one another.”
Go to the Blessed Virgin Mary…in order to seek her maternal intercession.
Invoke frequently throughout the day the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel
Pray daily to St. Joseph, especially under the title of “Terror of Demons” for the “peace of the Church, for her protection against all forms of confusion and division which are always the work of Satan.”
Pray for the Pope, especially through the intercession of St. Peter.
Pray for the Cardinals of the Church that they be of “true assistance to the Holy Father in exercising his office.”
“Remain serene because of our faith in Christ who will not permit the ‘gates of hell’ to prevail against his Church.”
“Safeguard especially our faith in the Petrine Office and our love for the Successor of Saint Peter, Pope Francis.”
Cardinal Burke urged Catholics to not “worry whether these times are apocalyptic or not, but to remain faithful, generous and courageous in serving Christ in His Mystical Body, the Church.”
“For we know that the final chapter of the story of these times is already written. It is the story of the victory of Christ over sin and its most deadly fruit, eternal death,” he said.
“It remains for us to write, with Christ, the intervening chapters by our fidelity, courage, and generosity as His true co-workers, as true soldiers of Christ. It remains for us to be the good and faithful servants who await to open the door for the Master at His Coming,” he added.