The Corner

Cardinals Fight; Bishop Investigated

The Roman Catholic Church is in a fascinating period, with rival factions competing and serious questions being debated. This Catholic is thrilled to see open, genuine discussion. The topic receiving the most attention is whether divorced and remarried Catholics will be admitted to Holy Communion, and the steps it will take to get them there.

Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Kasper represent both sides of the argument.

Not only should Catholics who have divorced and remarried not expect permission to receive Communion following the upcoming synod of bishops, but any streamlining to make the annulment process easier is unlikely, too.

That was the message from Cardinal Raymond Burke earlier today, in which he blasted those who advocate for change to the church’s prohibition on divorce and the loosening of the annulment process. He said any changes would “only further encourage a defective view of marriage and the family.”


Kasper said earlier this month that Pope Francis shared his beliefs.

“They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops,” Kasper told the Italian daily Il Mattino. “None of my brother cardinals has ever spoken with me. I, on the other hand, have spoken twice with the Holy Father. I arranged everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do but stand with the pope? I am not the target, the target is another.”

Burke, who was removed from the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops last year by Pope Francis, bristled at this characterization.

“I find it amazing that the cardinal claims to speak for the pope,” Burke said. “The pope does not have laryngitis. The pope is not mute; he can speak for himself.”

Burke said proposals like Kasper’s are “disobedience to, or a non-adherence to, the words of the Lord himself.”

You can find an interview with Cardinal Kasper here. His Eminence:

But first of all we live in an open pluralistic society and it’s good for the church to have an open discussion as we had at the Second Vatican Council. It’s good for the image of the church too, because a closed church is not a healthy church and not inviting for the people of the day. On the other hand when we discuss marriage and family we have to listen to people who are living this reality. There’s a ‘sensus fidelium’ (‘sense of the faithful’). It cannot be decided only from above, from the church hierarchy, and especially you cannot just quote old texts of the last century, you have to look at the situation today, and then you make a discernment of the spirits and come to concrete results. I think this is the approach of Pope Francis, whereas many others start from doctrine and then use a mere deductive method.

In another sign that some things in the Church may be changing, it was reported yesterday that the bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert Finn, is under investigation by the Vatican. Bishop Finn was convicted in September 2012 “of a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of a now-former diocesan priest who was producing child pornography.”

A Canadian archbishop visited the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese last week on behalf of the Vatican to investigate the leadership of Bishop Robert Finn, the first Catholic prelate to be found criminally guilty of shielding a priest in the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Ottawa, Ontario, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast visited the Midwestern diocese for several days last week, interviewing more than a dozen people about Finn’s leadership, several of those interviewed told NCR.

According to those who spoke with Prendergast, the main question he asked was: “Do you think [Finn] is fit to be a leader?”

The correct answer, of course, is No.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar and economist at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at


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