Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Brandmüller:
Do What You Promised to Do!
by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 19, 2017
As the important traditional Catholic news aggregation site Canon 212 informs us by a running tally, it has been 456 days since Cardinals Burke, Brandmüller, Caffarra and Meisner presented to Pope Francis their five dubia respecting the disastrous Amoris Laetita (AL). The Pope has refused to answer the dubia and has even denied the courtesy of an audience to the dubia cardinals, now two in number (Caffarra and Meisner having left this vale of tears).
Over the past 456 days, Cardinal Burke, the perceived spokesman for the dubia initiative, has averred repeatedly that, failing any reply from Pope Francis, the dubia cardinals will have no choice but to assume that his answers to the dubia would be contrary to the Church’s constant teaching and that it would be necessary to publish a formal correction of the errors of AL. In September, Cardinal Burke explained the nature of the promised correction thus: “Since a formal correction would treat a fundamental teaching or fundamental teachings of the Catholic faith, it would require the Pope to fulfill his solemn duty to teach what the Catholic Church has always taught and practiced.”
But now the dubia have been superseded by Francis’ maneuver back in June, coming to light only this month: publishing in the AAS his letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires approving of precisely that interpretation of AL which would, in the amorphous category of “certain cases” involving “complex circumstances,” admit public adulterers in “second marriages” to Holy Communion without ceasing their adulterous relations. The Pope has further declared that his approval of this outrage is “authentic Magisterium.” The obvious intent was to forestall the formal correction whose appearance seemed imminent.
Thus, Pope Francis now doubles down on the errors of AL respecting the indissolubility of marriage, the exceptionless character of the negative precept of the natural law forbidding adultery, the impossibility of absolution without true repentance and a firm purpose of amendment, and the infinite sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. From Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller, however, we have since had only silence. A silence that, with each passing day, threatens to expose their initiative as nothing but an empty bluff the Pope has called.
And here is the problem from which the two remaining dubia cardinals cannot escape: They have promised, for the good of the Church and the welfare of souls, to correct publicly the very errors a wayward Roman Pontiff now attempts to pass off as “authentic Magisterium” even though they flatly contradict the teaching of every one of his predecessors, including John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
At this point, therefore, the cardinals’ continued silence will inevitably be construed as consent to the proposition — with all of its moral and doctrinal implications — that toleration of public adultery in the sacramental life of the Church in “certain cases” is now to be considered “authentic Magisterium.” This means that the cardinals’ silence will result in a worse outcome than if they had never spoken out at all. For if the very Princes of the Church who rightly raised objection to the apparent errors of AL now fall silent as Pope Francis attempts to pass off those errors as authentic Church teaching, their very silence becomes a weapon to be wielded against those members of the faithful, both clergy and laity, who are still willing to defend the Church’s true teaching in public discourse.
Of course, every cardinal is obliged to withstand the successor of Peter “to his face” (Gal. 2:11) in opposing the errors of AL, just as Saint Paul did when Saint Peter’s error threatened the very mission of the Church to the Gentiles. But Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller have affirmed and taken on that duty in a particular and very public way. Their continuing silence is, therefore, actually worse than mere consent. Should it continue, it will amount to positive approbation of the very errors they first set out to correct.
The history of the Church and indeed the world may well turn upon what Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller do now. Surely, they know this. And surely, as Princes of the Church, they know the consequences of the oath they took when they were elevated to their high offices in the Church.
May Our Lady of Fatima intercede to obtain for them the grace of fortitude to do what must be done for the welfare of souls and the integrity of Holy Mother Church.