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Transcript, Interview With Cardinal Raymond Burke

The interview can be found here: The idea that Protestants on regular occasions receive Communion "is absurd"

Prof Thomas Stark: Your Eminence, I want to thank you that you take time to give us this interview. What I would like to ask you first is - There’s a lot of talk about understanding the signs of the time for quiet a while. How does this concentration on the signs of the time match with the everlasting effort of the church to submit everything and all of the times to the kingship of Christ?


Cardinal Raymond Burke: Well, this is the point. People imagine today that for the first time in her history the Church is reading the signs of the times. This is ridiculous. The Church has always read the signs of the time. The Church has always encountered the culture in which it lives. Our Lord himself told us to read the signs of the times and to be attentive. But exactly, the Church reads the signs of the times sub specie aeternitatis, under the aspect of eternity, of our eternal salvation - by the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And so we go out to the culture, we encounter the culture, we encounter the culture with a very definite identity. The Church is not going to the culture to try to find its identity. The Church is going to the culture to offer it the word of life, to offer it Christ. This means that as we read - it is very clear in the Gospels - the Church will be a sign of contradiction. Especially in times like our own in which there is this attack on Divine law, this implicit atheism, as Pope Saint John Paul II called it. The church has to be very strong in meeting the culture - full of charity, full of concern, desiring to bring souls to Christ, but the only way we can bring souls to Christ is by serving the truth - the word of Christ as it comes to us in the Church.

Prof Thomas Stark: A very necessary thing in the life of the Church is canon law. You are a Canon lawyer, so I would like to address some canonical questions. In the face of the fact that human life and human conditions are always complex,Do you think as a canon lawyer that the abbreviated annulation processes of marriages are sufficient to recognize this complexity of human life and human living conditions? Or do you think that these, these changes maybe ignore this complexity?

Cardinal Raymond Burke: Well, I think that it's important to keep in mind, as I pointed out in the chapter, which I contributed to the book "Remaining in the Truth of Christ. Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church". The process is not of Divine origin as Cardinal Kasper pointed out. The individual elements are not of Divine origin, but that - to be an adequate process in order to examine the truth of an accusation of nullity of marriage - that is of Divine law. The Church could never declare a marriage null with a process that wouldn't permit the judge to arrive at moral certitude with regard to the claim of nullity. I'm very concerned about the new process for the declaration of nullity and I'm not the only one. There are several excellent candidates who have written about it. I'm very concerned about the loss of the mandatory second instance.

Since the time of Pope Benedict XIV, the Church has considered the importance of marriage so great that they wouldn't leave the judgment with regard to the nullity of marriage to a single hearing, but that hearing had to be reviewed in the second instance and either confirmed or reversed. This is further complicated; In the past, all marriage nullity cases were heard by a college of judges, at least three judges. Now in many places with the permission of the conference of bishops, marriage nullity cases are decided by a single judge. So that leaves us with a situation that a marriage can be declared null on the judgment of a single man and that goes against a very serious judicial process.

Another thing that concerns me is, this question of the so called easy cases or the cases that are obvious or clear. You said it yourself in your question. Marriage nullity cases are as a rule very complicated and complex even as human situations are. I remember when I was studying procedure, our professor, telling us about how to examine parties and witnesses, how to take their depositions and their testimonies. Question does not to express surprise at anything because it would make people then hesitate to tell the whole truth. He said in metaphysics you study more possible things than are real, but he said, in the tribunal, you will study more real things than are possible. And it simply is true that these marriage nullity cases tend sometimes... one can hardly believe all of the complexity involved.

And so, a number of bishops have told me that simply the cases that are coming to their tribunal don't permit them to make a rapid judgment, but rather they have remand the case to the tribunals. But let's hope that this careful judgment is being made in every case.

Now, also this process claims to have discovered for the first time that the bishop is the first judge in the diocese. The church has always taught that the bishop is the first judge in his diocese. But normally speaking, and this makes sense also, even to the people in the world, the bishop, the highest authority in the diocese doesn't act in the first person in these cases. But he prepares and deputes a judicial vicar and other officers in the tribunal to hear these cases for him. I believe that there is needed today a complete representation of the marriage nullity process and a new appreciation. Especially we've come out of this period of antinomianism, the period immediately before the Council and after the Coucil when there was this attack on Canon law and especially on the process for the declaration of nullity of marriage. And I, for my part in my judgment, the present legislation is not adequate and will need to be revised.

Prof Thomas Stark: Let me ask you one more question about juridical issues. How can it be that the ecclesiastical legislator causes a situation in which bishops conferences of different countries introduced contradictory regulations with regard to receiving Communion? I mean, this hasn't been the case in canon law before.

Cardinal Raymond Burke: This is not possible. The Roman Pontiff is the principle of unity in the Church, unity of the bishops and of the faithful. The Roman Pontiff can't permit that a conference of bishops or an individual bishop do anything which is contrary to the doctrine and practice of the faith. This idea that people who are not in full communion with the Church, but on some regular occasions present themselves for Holy Communion: This is absurd. I don't know how this can be permitted and - God-willing it - will be corrected. This is the office of the Roman Pontiff. Otherwise, the Church ends up, the Roman Catholic Church ends up in a situation like the ever multiplying Protestant denominations. Every time a bishop or a group of faithful have a different idea, they create a new ecclesial community and the divisions multiply and multiply. This is not the will of Christ.

Prof Thomas Stark: Your answer leads to my next question, a question, which addresses I think an underlying problem of what we're talking here about. The logical rule of non-contradiction has been valid always and everywhere. The Church has always insisted on the fact that our Creed, the Creed of the Church is reasonable -that we accept, for example, the non-contradiction rule or every other logical rule. Now we face a situation in which we receive contradictory answers on important issues from Church authorities. Does that mean that faith and reason are falling apart in the current times and the current situation of the Church.

Cardinal Raymond Burke: In fact, that is what's happening and it's causing a tremendous amount of suffering among bishops, priests, faithful. I travel a great deal into various parts of the world. And everywhere I go people are saying to me: What is the Church really teaching now about marriage, about the indissolubility of marriage? What is the Church really teaching now about the proper dispositions to receive Holy Communion, and now there are rumors of calling into question the teaching on contraception in "Humanae Vitae" - that the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical would be the occasion to in some way to deny the constant teaching of the Church, which Pope Paul VI in a very noble and heroic way defended.

We have also situations where a well known news reporter [Eugenio Scalfari] in Rome claims from personnel conversations with the Roman Pontiff that he understands that there is no hell and that the human soul is not immortal, that the souls of people who do evil simply vanish into the atmosphere.

And then there is no proper correction on the part of the Holy See. The correction on the part of the press office stated that the words of the reporter were not the exact words of the Roman Pontiff. Well, what's needed in a situation like this is to say the Roman Pontiff reaffirms what the Church has always taught about the Last Things. This is something that is a cause of very grave concern, and it simply, it cannot go on because it's inflicting tremendous wounds in the Church and a division and risks, even a greater tragedy of a schism.

Prof Thomas Stark: As man is an animal rationale, a rational being - being irrational is against human nature. Can we take people, bishops for example, serious who explain to us that black is white or 2 + 2 = 5. Is a situation in the Church that is increasingly irrational not inhuman as a consequence?

Cardinal Raymond Burke: It is. This is the type of approach that is used by totalitarian states. People become disoriented. Because what is reasonable, they’re now told is not reasonable. They're asked to accept contradictions which are against the truth, against justice. God made us with an intellect and a free will and his revelation never contradicts reason. It can go beyond reason in the sense that we have great mysteries of the faith, but those very mysteries of the faith reason is able to enter into an ever deeper understanding and this is the whole history of theology, faith seeking understanding. But it's never that reason says, that faith denies what reason teaches me. There is some strange form of thinking going on in the Church right now even among teachers of the faith, that denies this. It is inhuman. It causes people terrible distress. And I mean, ultimately that kind of situation can lead people to a kind of a mental fatigue because it goes against their very being. So it's something the Church has never in its heart been this way. There have been great crisis with regard to denials of teachings of the faith and so forth that had to be corrected. I think of the terrible crisis of Arianism in the fourth century and other crises as well. But we desperately need now in the Church restoration of the Church's teaching authority.

There was an excellent review written in an American journal called "First Things” by Professor Richard Rex of Cambridge University. He commented on this question about the change of the teaching on indissolubility of marriage. And he told me if in fact the Church has changed its position and there are cases when individuals who are bound to a marriage union may receive the sacraments, then the Church has unnecessarily tortured souls for 20 centuries. and she now no longer merits the trust of the faithful to have been so wrong about something so fundamental and so important for the welfare of not only the Church but the world - makes the Church not even seen to be a decent institution, let alone a just and truthful institution.

Thomas Stark : Your Eminence, thank you very much for this interview.

Cardinal Raymond Burke: You're welcome.

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