Promotions, Demotions, and Prudence

Ines San Martin at Crux reports on the “Demotion.”archbishop burke

The commentary from various sources can be interesting, and is certainly illustrative. For Cardinal Burke’s fandom, it’s something of a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword thing. Or like applause in church. One openly cheers when one’s hero is promoted. That’s okay, in isolation. Or in sports. Maybe politics. But in the context of the Church, it sets up the faith as a contest–popularity, political, beauty, or whatever. Instead of cheering Christ and his mission, one cheers the supporting aspects of it. Applauding Raymond Burke and glomming on to his accomplishments is rather like attending a sporting event and watching the cheerleaders. Really: are people there for the purpose, or have they been distracted by a side show.

I see this in parish life all the time. Especially when the fundraising event, the dinner, the pageant, the staff member, and even the pastor become more important than Jesus Christ and his mission.

Cardinal Burke’s new assignment isn’t a demotion for him so much as it is a litmus test for his followers. The prelate assures his listeners he will be fine. But other Catholics are confronted with a lesson in 1 Corinthians 1:12.

Cardinal Burke is quoted:

(Many Catholics) feel a bit of seasickness, because it seems to them that the ship of the Church has lost its compass. The cause of this disorientation must be put aside. We have the constant tradition of the Church, the teachings, the liturgy, morals. The catechism does not change.

Catholics have many reasons for disorientation. I recall not so much pastoral concern over the past two decades for those loyal Catholics put to the test by abuse and cover-up scandals, by bishops missing the mark on moral and social concerns, by the repeated overtures to schismatics, or how so many prelates had so little to say about those suffering and struggling persons battered by the economy, the culture, or the uncertainty of a world at eternal war.

The commentariat at Crux seems to have learned its lesson well, with the lamentable (and seemingly inevitable) invitation out the door:

Then leave the church

Feel free to follow your own advise. The episcoplians will gladly ordain you, your wife, your boyfriend, and even your dog.

Staying on message, as they say.

In my view, Raymond Burke’s cardinal sin is imprudence. While in St Louis, he helped escalate a family squabble over money into outright schism. While in St Louis, he was a bishop, a shepherd. No longer a canon lawyer–sorry about that. When someone puts on a mitre and sits in a cathedra, there is a higher office caretaken there. As a disciple of the apostles, a bishop is charged with unity. Not being right. Not upholding the letter of the law. With his wayward Polish Catholic parish, the archbishop may well have been right to demand the money. But the people had civil law on their side. Not only did he lose the legal battle, but he failed in his mission to keep the unity. He was no Peter. And while it may be easy–and equally right–to say the people were stubborn, wrong, ignorant, schismatic, the responsibility falls to the bishop. And he failed in his primary responsibility, which, by the way, wasn’t about money. Nor was it about canons in the law.

Was this the main reason the man was assigned to Rome in 2008? We don’t know. Was something else going on in St Louis and the shift to the Apostolic Signatura a solution for it? We don’t know. Is the shift to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta a solution for something? Don’t know that either.

Is it imprudence to speak out and so be identified as part of a group perceived to be in opposition to the pope? Not under this pope, I don’t think. At least not to the degree it may have been in the past twenty years or so.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Promotions, Demotions, and Prudence

  1. FrMichael says:

    I’m surprisingly somewhat in agreement with you. While guilt for the St. Stanislaus situation was more the fault of the schismatics, who by their subsequent actions have proven that the Holy Spirit has departed from their church, one could think of other bishops who could have dealt with that ambiguous situation until a more opportune time arose to regularize the situation.

    I don’t know that the move to the Signatura was occasioned by the St. Louis incident or not. The Church is huge, and I don’t know if Rome was tracking that closely or not. But the Cardinal is a master canonist and having him in that position made good use of his talents.

  2. Todd says:

    A few things. My critique of the archbishop is not because he was at fault, but because he was irresponsible. The “fault” you mention is sort of a post facto justification. I don’t think the Holy Spirit pays much attention to union with Rome as a condition of presence. Certainly Christian baptismal theology would suggest you are in error to suggest they’ve lost the Spirit.

    St Stanislaus has certainly lost something. It was Archbishop Burke’s responsibility to see they didn’t. He failed. Period. He’s been given a lot, in the Gospel sense, and the expectations and responsibilities weigh rather more heavily on him than it does for people who were fired up to make sure he didn’t get his hands on “their” money. Any number of bishops would have done far better.

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