(LifeSiteNews) — Cardinals Raymond Burke and Gerhard Müller denounced Pope Francis’ apparent endorsement of same-sex “blessings” and support for allowing the divorced and “remarried” to receive the Eucharist while living in adultery in interviews with Raymond Arroyo on EWTN’s The World Over last night.
The eminent cardinals reaffirmed Catholic doctrine and emphasized that the pope does not have authority to contradict the truths of the faith. “Even if the pope himself is announcing things that are false, we defend the truth,” Cardinal Burke declared. “As St. Paul did with St. Peter, we also address the the pope himself with our concerns.”
“You can’t reconcile these positions with Catholic faith and practice, and that has to be made clear to everyone,” he said.
Cardinal Müller accused Pope Francis of “going directly against the Word of God” by endorsing Communion for the divorced and illicitly “remarried” who reject chastity.
“The pope and nobody in the Church has the authority to relativize the Commandments of God,” the German prelate and theologian said, noting that the Magisterium “is not superior to the Word of God but is under the Word of God.”
“Surely, the pope has a special authority in the Church, according to our Catholic faith, but he is not a person who receives a new revelation.”
Pope Francis sent shockwaves through the Church on Monday with a letter that appeared to authorize priests to “bless” homosexual unions based on “pastoral prudence.”
“We cannot become judges who only deny, reject, exclude,” Francis wrote in response to a dubia question submitted by Cardinal Burke and four other cardinals. The question, one of five related to concerns about the Synod on Synodality, asked the pope to clarify whether the Church could accept homosexual and other sinful relationships as “a possible good.”
“For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage,” Francis said. He added that canon law and bishops’ conferences “should not and cannot cover everything” because “the life of the Church flows through many channels other than normative ones.”
Francis’ letter immediately set off a firestorm, with LGBT activists celebrating his remarks and media outlets claiming that the pope “softened” Church teaching against same-sex “blessings” or “opened the door” to changing it, which he has not denied.
On Monday, the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) also released a document signed by Francis stating that his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia allows “remarried” divorcees to receive the Eucharist without refraining from sexual intimacy.
Cardinal Burke: ‘You cannot bless sinful acts’
Responding to Pope Francis’ apparent assent to homosexual “blessings,” Cardinal Burke stressed, “You cannot bless sinful acts.”
“You cannot bless a relationship which, in itself, is involved with intrinsically evil acts, and therefore, it’s not possible to bless these unions in any way,” he told Arroyo.
“Yes, we are judges,” he added. “We have to judge between what is right and what is wrong, and we know on the authority of divine revelation that genital acts between people of the same sex are intrinsically evil.”
Reiterating Catholic teaching, Cardinal Burke explained that sexuality exists “for marriage and for the procreation of children, and sexual acts outside of the marital union are sinful. That’s the long and the short of it.”
“We say it with charity, we try to help people to understand this, but we don’t give blessings that cannot be interpreted otherwise, that somehow we think that this is good,” he said.
Indeed, the DDF declared in a 2021 statement that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex,” as God “does not and cannot bless sin.” The text, which Pope Francis approved but allegedly resents, states that it is illicit to bless relationships that “involve sexual activity outside of marriage,” in accordance with Sacred Scripture and the constant teaching of the Church.
But Arroyo lamented a growing “schism” between pastoral practice “being blessed, and indeed, advanced by the Vatican” and Catholic doctrine. “Is this the beginning of something that we’ve seen in the Anglican Communion, which has torn it apart?” he asked Cardinal Burke. “Are we going to see that in Catholicism?”
“Well, our Lord has promised us that He would remain with us in the Church until the last day, till the end of the age, and our Lord doesn’t lie. We trust Him,” the prelate replied.
He called on Catholics to defend the faith, warning that those who depart from it, including on same-sex “blessings,” “are going into schism.”
“We have simply to be His faithful co-workers, soldiers, if I may say, and defend the truths of the faith,” the cardinal stated. “And if there are those who are denying those truths of the faith, they are the ones who are going into schism.”
“This is very sad, but it has to be declared. You can’t reconcile these positions with Catholic faith and practice, and that has to be made clear to everyone,” he said.
“And if there are those who are denying those truths of the faith, they are the ones who are going into schism.”
“We stay with Christ in the Church,” Cardinal Burke continued. “And even if the pope himself is announcing things that are false, we defend the truth.”
Just as St. Paul confronted St. Peter, “we also address the pope himself with our concerns and seek from him the exercise of his Petrine Office, and we keep seeking it, like the widow in the Gospel, we keep insisting on it,” Cardinal Burke added.
“The answer is not going somewhere else. No, we are in the Church,” he insisted, pointing to the example of St. Athanasius, who “was sent into exile and suffered all kinds of terrible punishments for defending the faith.”
“We have to be ready to do that too.”
Cardinal Müller: DDF approval of Communion for adulterers is ‘going against the Word of God’
Cardinal Müller also defended Catholic teaching in his interview with Arroyo, taking aim at Pope Francis’ affirmation that he views Amoris Laetitia as giving unrepentant adulterers access to the sacraments.
On Monday, the same day that the Vatican released Pope Francis’ letter to the five dubia cardinals, the DDF published a response to another dubia submitted by Czech Cardinal Dominik Duka, O.P., about Communion for the divorced and “remarried.”
The DDF’s response, signed by Pope Francis and his new doctrine chief, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, states that Amoris Laetitia “opens the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist” for Catholics in illicit “remarriages” who refuse to renounce adultery.
With Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis allows “the administration of the sacrament of Reconciliation even when one cannot be faithful to the continence proposed by the Church,” the document adds.
The Church, however, teaches that God’s commandments are never impossible to observe, as the Council of Trent declared and several popes, including St. John Paul II and Pius XI, have reaffirmed. John Paul II explicitly taught on several occasions that the divorced and “remarried” may not receive the Eucharist without sexual continence, which Pope Benedict XVI confirmed.
Speaking with Arroyo, Cardinal Müller, the former prefect of the DDF, slammed Monday’s document as not only violating previous magisterial teaching but also “the Word of God.”
“These declarations, in this sense, interpretations, are not only against the documents of the former popes and the councils but are going directly against the Word of God,” he charged.
“It’s very clear in the Old Testament, the Commandments, and the New Testament” that sexual activity outside of marriage “is a mortal sin,” he said. “Nobody can change it. It is the Word of God.”
“The Second Vatican Council,” the cardinal pointed out, “said the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God but is under the Word of God.”
“The pope and nobody in the Church has the authority to relativize the Commandments of God.”
“The pope and nobody in the Church has the authority to relativize the Commandments of God.”
Denying Communion to the divorced and “remarried” who reject chastity is “based upon Sacred Scripture,” Pope John Paul II taught in Familiaris Consortio, and is a “constant and universal practice” that “cannot be modified because of different situations,” according to a 1994 letter of the Dicastery (then Congregation) for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by then-prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, and approved by John Paul II.
Practicing sexual intimacy in an illicit “remarriage” is “an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion,” the 1994 letter states.
Referring to Francis and Fernández’s position on Communion for the divorced and “remarried,” Cardinal Müller said, “If you are asking them what is the truth, they will repeat the doctrine of the Church, but then they make exceptions. But in some cases, there are no exceptions, and we cannot relativize the Word of God with a so-called ‘ethics of the situation.’”
Individual situations pertain to “our subjective condition but not to the objective conditions for the sacraments,” he said.
Cardinal Müller has also condemned same-sex “blessings” as “gravely sinful blasphemy” and stated that if the Synodal Assembly approved them, “every ecclesiastical official would have lost his authority and no Catholic would be obliged any longer to religiously obey a heretical or schismatic bishop.”
Cardinal Müller corrects Fernández: Popes don’t have their ‘own doctrine’
The cardinal stressed the limits of papal authority on The World Over, noting that the pope “is not a ‘super bishop’” with his “own doctrine.”
He refuted Fernández’ claims in a recent interview that bishops risk “heresy and schism” if they “judge” what he called the “doctrine of the Holy Father.” Fernández, who has publicly contradicted Catholic teaching on various subjects, including contraception, also said that there is a “unique charism” and a “living and active gift” that is “at work in the person of the Holy Father.”
Cardinal Müller strongly denied that the person of the pope “has a doctrine or magisterium unique to himself” or a special “gift,” as Fernández described.
A so-called “doctrine of the popes,” he said, “doesn’t exist.”
Rather, there is “only the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Apostles, and the Church’s official confession of our faith. And the pope and the bishop are the promoters of this doctrine, but they don’t have [their] own doctrine,” he explained.
“Surely, the pope has a special authority in the Church, according to our Catholic faith, but he is not a person who receives a new revelation,” the prelate added.
“Revelation is once and forever given in Jesus Christ. Therefore, this idea formulated by the new prefect is a very new idea, special idea,” he said, chuckling.
“I was 16 years professor of dogmatics,” Cardinal Müller attested, “and I know all the documents about the papacy and all the councils, but I never read anything about this special charism or gift of the pope, only given to Pope Francis and not to the former popes.”
As the First Vatican Council declared, God does not give the pope authority to “make known some new doctrine,” but to “religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.” The Second Vatican Council’s Dei Verbum likewise teaches that the Magisterium “is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully,” as Cardinal Müller alluded.