The pope may have famously wondered who was he to judge, but America’s Cardinal Raymond Burke is clearly under no such restraints himself.
In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva this week Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, compared the Roman Catholic Church under Francis to “a ship without a rudder.”
It’s the latest shocking salvo from the conservative firebrand, who is increasingly dismissive of his infallible leader.
Burke, 66, said he was not speaking out against the pope personally, but rather “raising concerns” about the quality of his leadership.
“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,” Burke, a Wisconsin native with Tipperary roots said.
Having emerged as the voice of conservative Catholicism in the US, the outspoken cardinal is increasingly positioning himself as the biggest roadblock to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda.
But Burke has reasons other than spiritual ones to have soured on Francis’ leadership. The head of the Vatican’s highest court, he has confirmed to the press that he will soon be demoted by Francis to the ceremonial job of patron of the Order of Malta, a position without influence.
“I have all the respect for the Petrine ministry and I do not want to seem like I am speaking out against the pope,” Burke said in the interview, whilst suggesting he has no respect for Francis’ leadership and speaking out against him.
Burke has been especially contemptuous of the historic olive branch the pope has recently offered to divorcees who remarry without an annulment and gays, saying that to offer anything other than traditional condemnation is a breach of the faith.
Not only does Burke not support gay equality, he has warned Catholic families not to expose their children to the “evil” of gay relatives, suggesting they refuse to invite a gay son or brother home for Christmas with his partner.
We are correct to judge gays he suggested, contradicting the pope. “The acts must be judged; I do not think that the pope thinks differently. They are sinful and unnatural. The pope never said we can find positive elements in them. It is impossible to find positive elements in an evil act.”
85% of self-identified Catholics ages 18-29 in the United States said in a 2014 Pew Research Center survey that homosexuality should be accepted by society, but Burke – a far right traditionalist – has no interest in acknowledging their views.
Instead its is the minority of conservative Catholics who need to be listened to by the Vatican, he suggested. They are at the root of the church and they are feeling nauseated by Francis’ liberal sounding pronouncements.
“They are feeling a bit seasick because they feel the church’s ship has lost its way,” Burke said.