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Cardinal Raymond L. Burke (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Late last week, Cardinal Raymond Burke took to the pages of L’Osservatore Romano to respond to “a certain questioning” he has encountered when discussing the pontificate of Pope Francis with some of his fellow Americans. While noting that, on the whole, the Holy Father’s approach has “resonated strongly” with many of the Catholics he encountered on a recent visit to the United States, Cardinal Burke—who serves as head of the Vatican’s “supreme court,” the Apostolic Signatura—also came across those who are concerned “about whether Pope Francis has altered or is about to alter the Church’s teaching on a number of the critical moral issues of our time, for example, the teaching on the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, and the integrity of marriage and the family.”

Those who questioned me in the matter were surprised to learn that the Holy Father has in fact affirmed the unchanging and unchangeable truths of the Church’s teaching on these very questions. They had developed a quite different impression as a result of the popular presentation of Pope Francis and his views. …

With regard to his manner of addressing the critical issues, the Holy Father himself has described his approach, when he stated: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time” (“The Pope’s Interview”, ore, 25 September 2013, p. 14). In other words, the Holy Father wants, first, to convey his love of all people so that his teaching on the critical moral questions may be received in that context. But his approach cannot change the duty of the Church and her shepherds to teach clearly and insistently about the most fundamental moral questions of our time. I think, for instance, of the Holy Father’s words to the participants in the second annual March for Life in Rome on 12 May of last year, or of his Twitter message to the participants in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on 22 January. …

The Holy Father, it seems to me, wishes to pare back every conceivable obstacle people may have invented to prevent themselves from responding to Jesus Christ’s universal call to holiness. We all know individuals who say things like: “Oh, I stopped going to Church because of the Church’s teaching on divorce”, or “I could never be Catholic because of the Church’s teaching on abortion or on homosexuality”. The Holy Father is asking them to put aside these obstacles and to welcome Christ, without any excuse, into their lives. Once they come to understand the immeasurable love of Christ, alive for us in the Church, they will be able to resolve whatever has been troubling them about the Church, His Mystical Body, and her teaching.

Surely, persons whose hearts are hardened against the truth will read something very different into the approach of Pope Francis, claiming that, in fact, he intends to abandon certain teachings of the Church which our totally secularized culture rejects. Their false praise of the Holy Father’s approach mocks the fact that he is the Successor of Saint Peter, totally grounded in the Beatitudes, and that, therefore, with humble trust in God alone, he rejects the acceptance and praise of the world. …

The Pontificate of Pope Francis should therefore be seen as a radical call to redouble our efforts for the new evangelization. Radical in the sense that, in our dialogue with others and with the world, we must start with the beginning, Christ’s call to life in Him. This call of Christ is the good news of God’s love and mercy which our world so badly longs for. At the same time, as Simeon foretold to Our Blessed Mother when Our Lord was presented in the temple, it is also “a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk 2:34), in every age and particularly in our “post-Christian” society. This is because the proclamation of Jesus Christ can never be authentic without the proclamation of his Cross. Pope Francis reminded us of this most eloquently in his homily to the cardinal electors on the afternoon following his election: When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord. 

You will want to read the whole thing, here.
 
About the Author
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
 
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