Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Faithful Cardinal Burke Not On Benedict's Wave Length? Oh My

Raymond Burke being 'created'  a faithful Cardinal. He's already got some respinning to do, because he is not on Benedict's wave length on the issue of HIV and condoms.

A couple of days ago I ended a post on Fr. Lombardi's clarification of Pope Benedict's statements on condoms/HIV with the following little bit of cynicism: OK truthfully, I would also love to see the expression on "Cardinal" Burke's face if he had to teach it. We'd find out how loyal he was to the papacy." 

Well, today I get the answer to this question.  The following is from the National Catholic Register, a Legion of Christ publication.  It's an excerpt of a phone interview with Cardinal Burke.  (I did notice though, that the article states the interview will happen tomorrow, November 24. I feel really mystical to be able to comment on it before it's even held.)

.......As it became clearer what the Pope actually said in Light of the World, Cardinal Burke discussed the issue by phone Nov. 24 with Register news editor John Burger.

........Is he saying that in some cases condoms can be permitted?
Seewald asks for a clarification: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?” The Pope answers, “She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”
What is the Pope saying here?

No, it’s not. I don’t see any change in the Church’s teaching. What he’s commenting on — in fact, he makes the statement very clearly that the Church does not regard the use of condoms as a real or a moral solution — but what he’s talking about in the point he makes about the male prostitute is about a certain conversion process taking place in an individual’s life. He’s simply making the comment that a person who is given to prostitution, at least considers using a condom to prevent giving the disease to another person — even though the effectiveness of this is very questionable — this could be a sign of someone who is having a certain moral awakening. But in no way does it mean that prostitution is morally acceptable, nor does it mean that the use of condoms is morally acceptable. The point the Pope is making is about a certain growth in freedom, an overcoming of an enslavement to a sexual activity that is morally repugnant so that this concern to use a condom in order not to infect a sexual partner could at least be a sign of some moral awakening in the individual, which one hopes would lead the individual to understand that his activity is a trivialization of human sexuality and needs to be changed. (Enslavement to a sexual activity more properly describes the john, not the prostitute.  But in any event, I sense that Burke is really thinking about homosexual male prostitutes.)

Is “the world” assuming too quickly that the Pope all of a sudden is open to “compromising” on condoms, that this may be a small yet significant opening toward “enlightenment” for the Catholic Church? For example: In rare cases, Pope justifies use of condoms (New York Times). “Condoms OK” in some cases — Pope (BBC). Boston Herald quoting male prostitutes saying “too little too late, but it may encourage condom use, and that’s a good thing.”

From what I’ve seeing of the coverage in the media, I think that’s correct, that that’s what they’re trying to suggest. But if you read the text there’s no suggestion of that at all. It’s clear that the Pope is holding to what the Church has always taught in these matters. He starts out — the context of the question — he starts out by saying that when he was asked this question on the plane on his way to his pastoral visit to Africa, he felt that he was being provoked, and he wanted to draw attention to all that the Church is doing to care for AIDS victims. In Africa, the Church is the main agent of care for the AIDS victims, and so he was trying to draw some attention to that.

The text itself makes it very clear that he says the Church does not regard it as a real or moral solution. And when he says that it could be a first step in a movement toward a different, more human way of living sexuality, that doesn’t mean in any sense that he’s saying the use of condoms is a good thing. (Actually, he is, just not in a birth control context.)

If the media has misunderstood it, is this perhaps a failure of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican to communicate effectively? Is there a need to “dumb things down” so the media gets it?

I hope now the fact that the media has interpreted this in a way, at least from what I can gather from the communications that I’ve received, this false interpretation is rather widespread, that it will be rather important for the Holy See now to clarify the matter. [The Vatican Press Office did indeed issue a clarification Nov. 22, saying, “The Pope again makes it clear that his intention was not to take up a position on the problem of condoms in general; his aim, rather, was to reaffirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention, education, help, advice, accompaniment, both to prevent people from falling ill and to help them if they do.]
That’s what’s going to have to happen now because even some of the commentators who might be in general well disposed to the Holy See could misinterpret this and take it that indeed the Holy Father is making some change in the Church’s position in regards to the use of condoms, and that would be very sad. (But it most certainly is a change in position with regards to condoms, although not birth control in general.)

Did you see any Catholic commentary on this, e.g., Janet Smith, who holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit? Do you agree with her interpretation? (See yesterday's post for her take.  As of today and the Vatican's new clarification, her analysis is not exactly correct--not very close at all.)

I did. I thought it was a good commentary. It’s quite accurate. She goes into it quite in depth. She might have underlined a little bit more the words of the Holy Father himself, although she does: When she was asked if the Pope is indicating whether heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by condoms, she says No. “In his second answer, he says the Church does not find condoms to be a real or a moral solution.” Again, she repeats, “the intention to reduce the transmission of an infection is a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” That is, the intention is the first step, but that doesn’t mean that the Holy Father is justifying the means by which the person wants to fulfill that intention. (Benedict is more or less justifying the means.)

So, if nothing has changed in Catholic teaching on sexuality or the use of condoms, has this conversation changed anything?

I don’t see it at all. What I see is the Holy Father is presenting a classical position of the Church from her moral theology. I imagine that self-mastery and self-discipline is not an immediate accomplishment, so we have to understand that it may take people time to reform their lives, but that doesn’t suggest that he’s diminishing the moral analysis of the immoral actions of the male prostitute, for instance........

What kind of cardinal do you hope to be or will strive to be?

Simply one who is 100% with the Holy Father, using whatever gifts God has given me to help the Holy Father, to give him any counsel he asks me. Also in daily activities, simply to be supporting and promoting what he wishes and desires. I would hope to keep that focus always before me. That’s what being a cardinal is all about.  (OK Cardinal Burke, I am going to hold your feet to the fire, especially on your uber fidelity to the Pope.)


Had Cardinal Burke not jump shifted time, and given this interview today, instead of tomorrow, he might have had this information from Fr. Lombardi and it might have made a difference in his take:

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said. (It seems intent does supersede the means as the more important issue.)

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship." (This is a green light for the use of condoms in HIV marriages. Trying to spin it any other way will not show 100% allegiance to the Holy Father.
"This is if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual. We're at the same point. The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said.

I hate to point this out to the Cardinal, but he is not 100% on the same wavelength as his Pope. Maybe he needs to get in the same time zone, or at least on the same day. I can understand why Burke wants to say nothing has changed, or that the Pope didn't mean anything like condoms can be condoned to combat the spread of AIDS, or that harm reduction superseded openness to procreation, or desperately believe this is all a gay thing. Sorry, none of that is correct.

In fact, if any of that was correct the Pope would have made another horrific blunder when it comes to the value of women and children relative to the sexual potential of heterosexual intercourse.  As it stands, he is finally correcting a grave injustice that has been perpetrated on women and children for far too long and has been the direct cause of far too many deaths.  He has finally taken a pro life stance when it comes to condoms. 

One thing about this condom issue which has driven me crazy, is the world's military have been actively advocating for the use of condoms since they were invented. They pass them out like candy. They demand  that all soldiers and sailors carry them on week end passes and during military leave.  Not one peep from any bishop about this practice.  Yet when it came to HIV marriages, our bishops couldn't condemn them strongly enough. Burke was no exception.  Let the hypocrisy end now, finally, and let a real conversation about sexual morality begin, now, finally,  and for God's sake, as well as ours, let's not be afraid of where such a conversation might lead.


  1. Wow.

    That's quite the development. I'm glad to hear the Pope's reasoned thinking as clarified by Fr. Lombardi.

    Burke should be ashamed to proclaim himself the ultimate "YES" man.

    Simply one who is 100% with the Holy Father, using whatever gifts God has given me to help the Holy Father, to give him any counsel he asks me. Also in daily activities, simply to be supporting and promoting what he wishes and desires.

    That's not a leadership role, not even in a "servant leader" sense.

    The church is desperately in need of leadership. The whole lot of them need to:
    * Challenge the clerical status quo that has brought the church into disrepute and financial ruin.

    * Inspire!

    * Empower every single member of the church. Engage us. Use all of our talents. All of us! But particularly women who have been systematically excluded.

    * Set a personal example of humility and service in addressing the concerns of this world. Begin with the beatitudes.

    * Encourage and support us, pilgrims on our spiritual journey.


  2. p2p don't you love it. Cardinal Burke, amongst others, has given himself absolutely no wiggle room. That's the trouble with that kind of obedient mentality. What happens when the leader you are obedient too begins to look at things differently than you do. Perhaps Burke should reflect on the pain, angst, and cognitive dissonance the Legion itself has gone through over 'Nuestro Padre'. It appears it's his turn to experience the same kind of thing, and not 24 hours after he grabbed the great gold ring.

    Karma is a bith ain't she?

  3. Minion:

    " n.
    1. An obsequious follower or dependent; a sycophant.
    2. A subordinate official, especially a servile one.
    3. One who is highly esteemed or favored; a darling."

    from the Free Online Dictionary


  4. Mrs. p2p reminds me that such a person is either at your throat or at your feet.


  5. As you say, Colleen - end the hypocrisy. (The excitement over this interview has rather drowned out all other topics. One such important, neglected commentary was at America magazine, on the highly selective church interventions in politics.)

    I rather think that Burke is right - there is not a major shift here in the teaching , in that there is no approval, just a rather grudging recognition of a moral shift occurring.

    But he is dead wrong in thinking that nothing will change. Perceptions are everything, and the perception has been created that there has been a shift. It is also important that a discussion has been opened up - some say that this was part of the deliberate intention. I also like the recognition that context matters.

    Burke may not like it, but this genie is not going back into the bottle.

  6. Terence I agree whole heartedly that this can only open up a dialogue, and I don't think Benedict was oblivious to that fact.

    No the teaching on condoms with regards to birth control hasn't changed, but the teaching regarding the primacy of birth control in realtionship to harming another has changed. That is not a little step.

    Just as an aside, a commenter on America mentioned that in Lombardi's explanation he mentioned the T in LGBT, and this might just be the first time Benedict has recognized T's exist.

  7. Another secular link:


    Let the discussion begin!

  8. It's been a joyful experience for me to read some of the newspapers and blogs in Africa. This is seen as a huge break through in curbing the spread of HIV amongst married couples and in the more conservative religious traditions. Hopefully, like the statement the Russian Orthodox church released this afternoon, more sexually conservative religious traditions will get on board---like some Islamic traditions.

    This may not seem to be a big deal to Americans, but it is huge in the third world.

  9. do u think bene has worked things this way intentially? His way of manipulating the rapid right? He has made them cardinals, let them run with it, let them run with power, and now he has them under his thumb? Any thing along these lines?? Think he is more like Kung than he has let on for a long time? or am i getting too carried away and too hopeful?

  10. Anon, if it wasn't intentional at first, it surely works to his advantage now.

    I have been just as taken with Benedict's comments about the right of a Pope to retire. In my best case delusional hope, I see him retiring in favor of Schonboerg, who will then really test out the oft stated loyalty to the Papacy of way too many yes men.

    I also find it encouraging that in Dolan's New York Times interview today, Dolan states the exodus of Catholics from the pews is number one on his list of concerns. Haven't heard anything like that before either.

  11. Colkoch, I'm not impressed by Dolan's saying his number one priority is getting people back in the pews. Card. George here in Chicago has made a "Back to Church" campaign a centerpiece of his adminstration for the past few years...with little if any effect. These guys won't even entertain the notion of actually dialoguing with disgruntled, disengaged Catholics. WE are supposed to come to them. They aint taking one step in our direction.

  12. On the retirement, or abdication of a pope:

    B16 is probably more aware than most of how JP2's declining health hurt the Church over the last decade of his life. Ratzinger was unable to move against Maciel until he became pope. There are probably many reasons, some noted by JP2 himself, that a pope should abdicate if unable to fulfill the obligations of his office due to poor health.

    Hmmm, Cardinal Schönborn eh?


  13. Yes, Schonboern's been part of Benedict's inner theological circle for eons.

    Kevin57, I didn't know George had any specific program for trolling for lost Catholics. Trouble with trolling is you have to have the right bait. George doesn't come across as much of a fisherman.

    As to Dolan, he too will get no where if the USCCB continues to shill for the Republican party instead of act with some sort of pastoral sensitivity.

  14. Lombardi sounds like a sane voice sounding amid the hubbub of Bedlam -- the Church has been so nutty on sex issues for so long that something mildly reasonable comes as a shock.

  15. Another great article. I agree with your observations here, Colleen. The comments are good too. I note especially the comments about Cardinal Burke. Good to know that he supports the Holy Father 100%. My Holy Father right or wrong, is that his motto?