VATICAN CITY, December 16, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – This morning the Vatican announced confirmations and new appointments to the important Congregation for Bishops leaving Cardinal Burke off the list. The news has shocked pro-life leaders for whom Burke has been the top ally in the Vatican curia in the work to restore a culture of life.
Burke has been known for his outspoken championing of the high priority that Popes Benedict and John Paul II gave to the Church’s pro-life and pro-family teachings. He has especially been both praised and criticized for his frequent insistence that persistently pro-abortion Catholic politicians must be denied Holy Communion according to Canon law requirements which Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became pope, directed the US bishops to follow.
The Vatican release confirmed Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the head of the Congregation of Bishops and also appointed Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and Westminster UK Cardinal Vincent Nichols among others as new members to the Congregation. Another American Cardinal who was retained on the Congregation is Cardinal William Levada.
Virginia Nunziante, the head of Italy’s March for Life has a special place in her heart for Cardinal Burke since he is the only Bishop in Italy to march in the March for Life, even though he’s at the Vatican rather than in Italy. The news of Burke’s being removed from the Congregation of Bishops, she described as “a tragedy.”
“Cardinal Burke has been for us an inspiration,” Nunziate told LifeSiteNews. While other Vatican and Italian bishops send statements, only Cardinal Burke has thus far joined the march. Nunziate hoped that the surprise appearance of Pope Francis at the march in May this year would encourage other bishops to participate publicly.
“We hope that Pope Francis will appoint some other very good pro-life bishops or cardinals in key positions in the Vatican because what we really need today is men who are courageous like Cardinal Burke has been in going into the public square,” she said. “We hope there will be others who will follow in his path.”
John Smeaton, President of the UK Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told LifeSiteNews, "Cardinal Raymond Burke is a giant man of the Catholic Church and a fearless defender of unborn children, whom Mother Teresa rightly called the poorest of the poor.”
“While other leading churchmen downplay or dismiss the priority to be given to the right to life of babies before birth, billions of whom have been killed in recent years, Cardinal Burke stands strong and says such an attitude is wrong,” Smeaton added. “We need churchmen like Cardinal Burke to become bishops and so it's puzzling and disappointing to see him lost to the Congregation for Bishops which has the responsibility for appointing good bishops and to see other men appointed who don't have Cardinal Burke's clear commitment to the greatest human rights issue of the day and the gravest crisis facing the Catholic Church today.”
Cardinal Burke at the Rome March for Life
Jim Hughes, President of Campaign Life Coalition Canada told LifeSiteNews Cardinal Burke, “is a fine guy, and we think the world of him.” “We’re sorry he won’t be (on the Congregation for Bishops) and hope Pope Francis has a good reason for the move. I hope it’s not because of (Burke’s) strong conservative views.”
US Catholic pro-life leader Deal Hudson called the removal of Cardinal Burke from the Congregation “a very disappointing decision.” Cardinal Burke, said Hudson, “is looked upon by Catholics in America as one of our most important spiritual leaders. He is the top ranking American member of the curia. To be removed from this congregation can send only one message. And that being that Cardinal Burke should have less influence and that is not good news to us here in the United States.”
Austin Ruse, President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute which does pro-life and pro-family lobbying at the United Nations, told LifeSiteNews, I am heartbroken that Cardinal Burke is being shunted aside.” Ruse added, “This is the worst Church news I have heard in many a long while. He is such a good and kind man and he has made a strong impression on the American episcopacy. He will be sorely missed in that role.”
Ave Maria School of Law’s pro-life activist priest Fr. Michael Orsi was awed by Cardinal Burke who visited the Law School to make a presentation. Fr. Orsi called Burke a preeminent scholar and one of the few who step up to support canon 915 which is the basis in Church law for denying pro-abortion politicians Holy Communion.
Fr. Orsi told LifeSiteNews he was actually hoping Cardinal Burke would have been elected Pope. He sees in the move to remove Cardinal Burke a “tone from the top filtering down.” He said, “I think the tone from the top is to downplay the abortion debate. The present Pope seems to be someone who wants to turn down the volume.
Burke was moved out, said Fr. Orsi, because of his pro-life stance that pro-abortion politicians should be excommunicated.
That opinion is similar to the appraisal of Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., who, speaking on the selection of bishops under Pope Francis, told the New York Times last month: “Pope Francis doesn’t want cultural warriors, he doesn’t want ideologues.”
Pro-life leaders in Latin America were incredulous at the news of Burke’s ouster. Christine Vollmer, President of the Latin American Alliance for the Family told LifeSiteNews that there must be some mistake. “We all know that there is a struggle going on within the Curia and certainly a lot of disinformation,” she said. “The Holy Father is new to this amazing situation and evidently was given the wrong brief.”
Vollmer concluded, “We must all pray that Cardinal Burke will be reestablished where he can be a real help to our Pope.”
Cardinal Burke, a world renowned expert in canon law, remains the head of the Apostolic Signitura, a type of final appeals court in the Vatican.