We visit Cardinal Burke in his apartment, very close to the Vatican City. One of the first things the guest sees entering the house is a portrait of Pope Francis, who presides over the hall.
We were able to interview him to talk about the dubia, the crisis in the Order of Malta, the first three months of Trump’s presidency, and some more issues. The interview is presided over by three images: A photo of him with Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, the relic of Saint Raimundo of Peñafort, his patron saint, and a Neapolitan carving of the resting of St. Joseph, which someone recently gave it to the cardinal
How do you value the first months of Donald Trump at the White House?
It is clearly a really very difficult time because the citizens at the United States have indicated that they want their country to take a new direction and President Trump is trying to fulfill the desire that people expresed by electing him. But it is not that easy because there are many forces that are opposed, and also he is a new president and has to find the way in which best to accomplish the good things that he wants to do. So I think that things will be fine, but the first hundred days have been difficult. There is no question about it. I do not know him personally. I have never spoken to him personally, but I believe he is very determined to fulfill the mandate that he received from the people of the United States.
Do you think now there is more hope for the prolife movement to win more battles, as Mike Pence said during the prolife march?
Absolutely, President Trump is very clear on that, even if in the past he wasn’t so clear. He now makes it very clear that he understands the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless human life and that the laws in the United States should protect the unborn.
So do you think the new government is really committed in the defense of life?
Absolutely, Vice-President Pence for a very long time has been one of the leaders among politicians in the prolife movement.
Altright: Do you think that the rise of the alternative right and the curb of globalism are good news for freedom?
I think the important thing is that the Church engage these political leaders who have many good ideas and speak with them in order to offer to them the direction which Catholic social teaching provides, which is always respecting the common good, because in any political program there can be aspects that are very good, but also there can be aspects which are not good or need to be improved or perfected.
The most important thing for us, for the Church, is not to become politicized ourselves and to take part in one party or another, but to speak with these leaders who show many positive signs and to assist them, so that their vision and their programs may serve as best as possible the common good.
Is the Vatican building bridges with Trump’s Administration or is it building a wall?
I do not have any knowledge about that because I do not have the communication with the Secretary of State, which would be involved with that. I must say that I find the Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, quite consistently negative about President Trump, and I don’t think that is helpful.
-The journalist Jason Horowitz said at the News York Times that you held a meeting with Stephen K. Bannon. Did it really existed or is it “fake news”?
They tell me that I was introduced to him years ago, but we certainly did not have a meeting at that time. In fact, I do not remember meeting him. But they tell me that I was introduced to him, but to be very honest with you, I cannot remember exactly what he looks like… I have never had a meeting with him.
So you don’t have a link with Trump’s administration…
No, I do not.
Dubia: What was the main reason you the four cardinals made the dubia public?
Because there is so much confusion in the Church about fundamental questions which are defined with regard to intrinsic moral evil, with regard to Holy Communion and the right disposition to receive Holy Communion and regarding the indissolubility of marriage.
There is so much confusion that we, first of all, asked the Holy Father to clarify please these questions, these fundamental questions. We limited our request to those four questions in the dubia. When there was no response, because so many people were saying to us: “But why do you cardinals not do you duty and teach clearly about this matters?”, we knew that we had to let the people know about the dubia. Yes, we are trying our best, we are trying to receive from the Holy Father the direction which the Church needs right now. Because there is a very dangerous confusion and also, with the confusion, come divisions.
Priests against priests, and disagreements among fellow catholics about whether you are able to receive the Sacraments, if you live in an unvalid marriage union. We even find disagreements among the Bishops, and this should not be…This is not for the good of the Church.
Why only four cardinals signed the dubia?
I can tell you there are more than four cardinals who support the dubia, but for various reasons they do not want to say so publicly. The four cardinals who signed the dubia, simply knew that it was our duty, not thinking that we needed to have a certain number of cardinals with us. We four knew we had to do this, and so we did it.
So you have private support from other cardinals?
What would you say to those who said that you were challenging the Pope?
There is no challenge whatsoever to the Pope. In fact, the practice of bringing dubia or questions to the Pope is a very ancient practice in the Church, and the document showed respect for the Pope who is leading the Church in a critical moment or in a time of confusion or in a time even of error. So if you read the dubia, we are very respectful. We don’t accuse the Holy Father of anything. We simply ask him for the benefit of the Church to make these matters clear.
You spoke about some precedents of formal correction to the Pope in the history of the Church…
I think, for example, of Pope John XXII who was teaching wrongly about the Beatific Vision. Certain bishops and theologians pointed this out to him. At first he resisted their correction, but then, before he died, he did retract what he had said that was in error.
There are other cases that are similar in the history of the Church. Some are about major practical matters, even the administration of temporal goods. For example, the Cardinals have gone to the Holy Father and said to him, “in our judgement you are not administering well the goods of the Church”, and then the Pope corrected himself.
Do you think there will be a formal public correction to Pope Francis?
That it is not clear yet. Normally speaking, before taking that step, the Cardinals would approach once again the Holy Father personally to say: Holy Father, the matter is so grave that we must correct it, and I trust that the Holy Father will respond at that moment.
But you don’t think that the Cardinal Müller’s interview in Il Timone was an answer to Dubia?
I believe so. It certainly pertains very much to the whole discussion, and it makes very clear what the Church is teaching regarding such matters. I believe, but I do not know, since I have not talked to Cardinal Müller, that the interview, is a pastoral effort, on his part, to present the Church’s teaching clearly.
But the Pope hasn’t answered yet…
To my knowledge, not to me and I don’t think to the others three cardinals. I don’t think he has given any answer.
What about the date of the formal correction?
I really cannot speak about that because it is a matter which has to be approached with great respect and delicacy. And I do not want to suggest a date that would in any way affect negatively the handling of the matter or would show disrespect to anyone involved.
In the previous moments and after you published the dubia, have you kept in contact wih the Emeritus Pope?
No, I have never spoken with him about the dubia.
Has the crisis of the Order of Malta finally ended?
That is a difficult question to answer. For the moment, I am completely removed from any involvement with the Order of Malta. While I retain the title of the Cardinal Patron, the Pope has made clear that the only person who can treat questions of the Order of Malta in the name of the Holy Father is Archbishop Becciu. So I don’t know.
In April there should be an election of a new Grand Master, and it is my hope that an outstanding leader would be chosen from among the professed Knights who could begin to reconcile things and lead the Order in a correct direction. The Holy Father made clear to me in his letter of December 1st of last year the very serious concerns he has for the Order of Malta. Those concerns are certainly justified in my judgement, and the new leadership will have to address those concerns.
Did the Pope ask you to expel the Freemasons from the Order of Malta?
The Pope was very clear with me about that, that a Freemason cannot be a member of the Order of Malta. And so he told me that, if there are Knights who are persisting in being members of the Freemasons, then they must be expelled. So I was working on it, yes.
– Was there a conflict of interests between the members of the commission designed by the Holy See as some vaticanists and even the Grand Master said?
That is something important for the crisis of the Order of Malta and that matter has to be made very clear. Because to any person with common sense there is something very strange going on. Regarding this large bequest, a part of which at least was left to the Order of Malta, there is no clear knowledge about who the donor is, what is the exact nature of the bequest, how it is being administered, and that is not right. Those things have to be clear.
And then it was very strange that three people who where directly involved in the matter of that bequest given to the Order should be on the so-called “group” who investigated the whole question of the dismissal of the Grand Chancellor and recommended that he should be reinstated.
The brother of Von Boeselager was appointed to the IOR
Albrecht von Boeselager, the Grand Chancellor, was asked to resign and then, when he refused, he was dismissed. Then a very few days later his brother Georg von Boeslager was named to the Commission of Control of the Institute for the Works of Religion, what we call the Vatican Bank. It does seem strange.
After the nomination of Becciu, what is your role at the organization?
I have no role right now. I have a title, but I have no function.
You had your hands tied….
Yes. I respect the order of the Holy Father, and I have nothing to do at the Order right now.
Were you the main objective of the crisis?
I don’t know that. The whole development is so strange to me that it is difficult for me to understand what the ultimate goal was. Certainly, one thing is clear, that the reinstatement of the Grand Chancellor was a principal objective. Whether it also involved me being removed as Cardinal Patron, that I don’t know.
It has been said that being sent to the island of Guam was a punishment of the Pope because of the dubia. However, the visit had been planned for months, even before the publication of the dubia. Is this another sample of the “fake news” that the new President Trump so much denounces?
It is false or fake news. I think it was in October that I was asked to be the president of the tribunal of five judges to judge what the Archbishop Apuron case in the Church. In other words, the tribunal is to judge the truth regarding the accusations that are made against the Archbishop of Guam, and so this trip to Guam was planned completely independently of the difficulties regarding the dubia or the difficulties in the Order of Malta. Then the fact of the matter is that I went there for very specific reasons, and I was there three days. So it was hardly an exile.
How is your relationship with the Holy Father?
I haven’t spoken with him since the meeting with him in November of last year. I greeted him after the meeting for the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia before Christmas, but I have not spoken to him, and he has not granted me an audience. So, I don’t know what he is thinking.
So you have asked him for an Audience?
And in between all the crisis of Order of Malta?
I had no opportunity, no occasion to speak with him about it.
What do you think about the recent statements of the General Jesuit Father, in which he questioned the rigor of the Saint Evangelists?
This is completely wrong. In fact, I find it incredible that he could make these kind of statements. They also need to be corrected. It is unreasonable to think that words in the Gospels, which are words that, after centuries of studies, have been understood to be the direct words of Our Lord, are now not the words of Our Lord because they were not tape recorded. I can’t understand it.
But it is not a simple mistake…
It is a serious mistake that needs to be corrected.
And who can correct those statements?
I would say the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pope’s organ for safeguarding the truth of the faith and morals.
– Valileaks: The leaks spoke of 1.000 flats of the Holy See throughout Rome. Do you believe that being the Church the biggest landowner of the caput mundi takes away the credibility of its evangelical message?
First of all, I don’t know the truth about that. What I would say is this: I don’t think that, if Church owns the land, it takes away credibility, but the way the land is administered will affect very much the credibility of Church. In fact, having all these properties, the Church could use them for many good purposes, but the administration has to be strictly according to Church law. I am not saying it is not, but for my part, the only scandal would be if that in some way these properties are not being correctly managed.
Vatican diplomacy has changed so much in the last years. How do you value that the Holy See treated as a “consort” the homosexual lover of the President of Luxemburg?
I think something has to be done to address the public image that is given by such acts. In the past, the Holy See simply, in a very discreet and respectful way, refused to permit such a thing. We have to return to that because by openly permitting this, the very strong impression is given that now the Holy See approves such situations. So that has to be made clear. I think too the terms for choosing those who are invited officially to come and to speak to the conferences at the Holy See have to be clear. I don’t understand how people who have openly opposed the Church and her teachings can be invited to this kind of conference.
Like Paul Ehrlich…
Exactly, Paul Ehrlich…A prime example.
Yes but the one that was responsible for that invitation was Cardinal Ravasi who wrote “Cari fratelli masoni” in Il Sole 24…
Yes, I haven’t read that book yet (Alberto Bárcena: Masonería, religión y política) but whoever is responsible, is also responsible to give an answer for that.
The letter of Cardinal Ravasi?
I haven’t read that letter. I didn’t read it, but I heard about it.
Islam: Cardinal Sarah warned of two threats, Islam and gender: Do you believe that Islam is suitable with the coexistence in the Western World?
I share Cardinal Sarah’s concern. These are the two great threats of the present time. I am also very strong in my conviction that one of the prime ways to address them is through education. We have to make sure that in our schools and our universities the truth is been taught.
Both about human nature itself and the whole question of gender which is a completely artificial creation of a certain ideology. And also that the truth be taught about Islam. The nature of Islam is a form of goverment. By its own beliefs or principles it intends to govern the world. And also about Allah. The figure of Allah in the Coran and in other Islamic writings is completely different from the God of the Judaeo-Christian faith.
What reasons for hope does a Catholic family have in today’s world, marked by a culture of death and where gender ideology is considered as the only truth about the human being?
Of course, there is reason for hope because Christ is always giving his grace to individuals and to families. And this whole situation can be transformed through individuals and families. I travel a great deal now to various parts of the world. In America and everywhere I go I find good young people and good young families and other families who maybe are not young but are very committed Catholic families. This gives me hope, because the more that we can encourage one another to be faithful in Jesus Christ, then the world can be transformed.
What advice would you give to these Catholic families who want their children to grow in freedom?
My advice would be to make prayer, especially the Holy Eucarist and regular confession, the center of family life, to pay very careful attention to educate their children clearly in the teachings of the Church and in the moral law, and thirdly to work together with other families to encourage one another and to become a great force for good in the world.
The Pope made a statement that from now on, the weddings celebrated by the priests from the FSSPX are going to be recognised
I did not read that yet. That is a very significant action of the Holy Father, and it also indicates that in someway there must be a reconciliation of the FSSPX because basically what the Pope is saying is that the priests in this society, when they witness marriages, are exercising jurisdiction in the Roman Catholic Church. So that is very interesting.
Do you think the personal prelature is a good way for the reconciliation?
I believe it could be a very effective way for the reconciliation.
Would it be great news?
Yes. I pray for it, and I hope that it will come about. But the reconciliation of course has to be based on a common understanding. We cannot just simply will it. In other words, if there is not a common understanding, what we reconcile will result in all sort of conflicts and difficulties. We have to make sure that there it is a common understanding in regard to all the questions which, in the past, the FSPPX has had about the Church, the Holy See and the direction of the Catholic Church.