Saturday, November 15, 2014


In a time of great upheaval and change in the Church in the immediate aftermath of Vatican II there arose a polarizing figure of  Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. While not a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, he was present at the Second Vatican Council. While he was not originally opposed to Sacrosanctum Concilium he did reject what Pope Paul VI's Consilium (committee that invented the new form of the Mass and its calendar) developed after Vatican II. He eventually also rejected Vatican II's openness to dialogue with other religions, non believers and the world in general. He rejected the document on religious liberty. He eventually defied Pope St. John Paul II and ordained bishops illicitly and thus incurred public excommunication as did the bishops he ordained. His priests were suspended by the pope also. Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the bishops, but not the suspension ad divinis.

Is Cardinal Burke a new Archbishop Lefebvre? Will he lead a schismatic group or join the bishops of the SSPX? Is there any likelihood in this happening. Is Cardinal Burke an extremist or a prophet or both.

While both might hunger for another period in time, Lefebvre for a France and Church prior to the French Revolution and Burke for the Church in the USA and the world prior to Vatican II, 1950's splendor and acceptance, they both in their different but similar extremes call the mainline Church and her leaders to consider their own extremes and to return to the center.

While more organized, more orthodox and more fanatical about their positions, the template of the Lefebvre/Burke ideologies is radical fidelity to God and Holy Mother Church centered on Divine Truth that is immutable and that humans, clergy and laity are servants of this truth, not Divine Truth's masters.

The Huffington Post has the following article for our elucidation:

Post Card From the Fringe: Right-Wing Dissidents Against Pope Francis

Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas
Posted: Updated:

The Catholic Church at this moment in history is faced with a rising chorus of right-wing dissent. This movement poses a threat to Pope Francis's reforms, but the threat should not be overblown. The self-proclaimed leader of the resistance movement has become Cardinal Raymond Burke. To understand both the nature of the threat, and its limits, a closer look at Cardinal Burke is warranted.

Born in 1948 in small-town Wisconsin, Burke is a man of obvious intelligence. Up to now, he has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Church's hierarchy. He was made bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1994, at the youthful age of forty-six and eight years later was promoted to Archbishop of St. Louis. And in 2008, he was named Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, essentially the Chief Justice of the most important of the Vatican courts.

Burke built his career on highly public confrontations. In 2004, he declared that he would not give Holy Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Four years later, he called on St. Louis University, a Jesuit college, to dismiss its basketball coach, Rick Majerus, for endorsing Hillary Clinton and announcing that he was "personally pro-choice." (The college refused to follow Burke's advice). And in 2009, he attacked Catholics who voted for Barack Obama. No Catholic, he said, who knew of the President's positions on the family or on same-sex marriage "could have voted for him with a clear conscience."

And if in public Burke climbed the ladder of ecclesial success through increasingly hysterical attacks not just on politicians but on ordinary Catholics who did not share his political priorities, away from the limelight he was busy helping to construct a dense network of "traditionalists."

The traditionalist movement is not widely known. It is centered around devotion to the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass and a restoration of the elaborate liturgical rituals of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. During his time in La Crosse, Burke's most direct contribution to this movement was to found a traditionalist men's religious order, the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem.

The Order is entirely pre-Vatican II. Now headquartered in West Virginia, the Canons celebrate the old pre-Vatican II Latin Mass and follow the pre-Vatican liturgical calendar. To take one small example: Even though the rest of the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King in mid-November, Cardinal Burke's Order prefers to do it in late October, the way it was done before 1965.

Nor is this the only traditionalist movement Burke has supported. In St. Louis, according to one priest, he brought in "hermits . . . or consecrated virgins" who were "just not psychologically equipped" for the lives they vowed to lead, but who shared Burke's hostility and suspicions about the larger world.

Almost from the beginning of Pope Francis's pontificate, Cardinal Burke has used his position as Prefect of the Signatura to issue ever more incendiary, if not openly insubordinate attacks on the Pope and the whole modern Church. In July, 2013, he argued for a return to the old Latin liturgy, while denouncing contemporary liturgy as "strictly correlated with a lot of moral corruption." In December, 2013, he attacked Pope Francis for advocating the wrong agenda: "He thinks we're talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman." "But we can never talk enough about that."

In that same interview, he attacked the Pope for a second reason, suggesting that it was constitutionally impossible for the Pope to reform the Roman Curia, a sixteenth-century bureaucratic invention: "The service of the Roman Curia is part of the very nature of the Church, and so that has to be respected." In March, 2014, he denounced the Pope for wishing to simply the annulment process. The Pope, he cautioned, was falling prey to "false mercy."

This crescendo of insubordination peaked at the Synod on the Family this past October. Making himself the public "face of the opposition to Pope Francis's reformist agenda," Cardinal Burke assailed the Pope's leadership as "like a ship without a rudder." One is legitimately entitled to ask: Just how loyal is Cardinal Burke to the Church of the last fifty years?

Pope Francis responded in the only way he could, by dismissing Burke from his position as Prefect. This was absolutely the correct decision, even though it was met with the predictable screams of discontent from right-wing websites like Rorate Caeli. On November 12, 2014, Rorate Caeli gave prominent place to an essay by the former Italian academic Roberto de Mattei. Five years ago, de Mattei became the center of controversy in Italy when he helped to obtain governmental funding for the publication of a book that denounced the theory of evolution. It was a flawed project that even drew the condemnation of Pope Benedict's Vatican.

This same de Mattei was now leading the charge for Cardinal Burke. The Pope, de Mattei alleged in histrionic language, has severed Burke's head like John the Baptist and served it on a platter to reform-minded cardinals. The implication is clear: Burke is the martyred prophet, the Pope is King Herod, and the reformers collectively are Salome. Nor is de Mattei alone. The right-wing American Catholic writer James Schall speculated just the other day about the best ways to deal with a heretical pope.

The circle gathered around Burke is a fringe movement. They are dissidents in the truest sense of that word. Cardinal Burke blames the modern liturgy for "moral corruption?" Really. Such allegations are best treated as a kind of bad joke. He has waged an eighteenth-month long campaign of vilification directed at the sitting Pope. It is unthinkable that a Cardinal should attempt to sow such discord in the Church.

In a misguided column in late October, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat warned Pope Francis against "reassign[ing] potential critics in the hierarchy." This was clearly a veiled reference to Burke's impending dismissal from the Signatura. Douthat's concern was that the Pope might thereby prompt a schism.

A schism is not going to happen. Raymond Burke and his tiny band of followers are not about to march into that wilderness. What is happening, however, is that Pope Francis is not indulging the traditionalists in the way Pope Benedict once did. The Pope knows well how few the traditionalists are in numbers and how self-referential is their focus. There are not many Catholics who are moved to tears at the sight of Renaissance vestments; or who long for a return to liturgies in a foreign tongue; or who wish to repudiate fifty years of development since Vatican II.

Not many Catholic women want to return to the days of wearing scarves or head coverings at Mass. I can appreciate nostalgia within limits, but the Burkean project is nostalgia for a golden age, a romanticized past that never was and that cannot be recreated now.

Pope Francis, in contrast, wishes to have a Catholic Church that looks more like Jesus's earthly ministry. He wants the Church to reach out to the poor and the marginalized, a Church that shows love and solidarity with those whom society despises or discards. Pope Francis knows that Jesus did not retreat from the world behind a cloud of incense and lace, but engaged with it, in all its messiness.

This is the trumpet sound that Catholics should follow. For in the end, Burke's way is a dead end, a retreat into a clericalized grandeur, Catholicism transformed into grand opera, perhaps, or a museum exhibit. It is, in the end, spectacle, not a living faith.


Rood Screen said...

"There are not many Catholics who wish to repudiate fifty years of development since Vatican II." True. I would guess that the percentage of Catholics in the Western world who believe salvation is only by Jesus Christ and only through the Catholic Church is only in the lower single digits, perhaps one or two percent.

Of that small number, those who believe the liturgical, catechetical and canonical changes made over the past five decades have mostly failed to accomplished the four goals of Vatican II would be in the majority, but still a tiny fraction of all Western Catholics.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I agree and disagree. Pope Francis has had it with Burke since the beginning prior to Cardinal Burke becoming more strident in his public criticisms. I suspect Burke may have alienated Pope Francis during the conclave. We do not know of the private interventions Burke had with the pope but I am sure these preceded any public criticisms and were even more direct.

Pope Francis dislikes the trappings of the imperial papacy and that of cardinals and bishops. Cardinal Burke is a symbol of a return to the past that he and Pope Benedict tried to revive and restore. This really pushed liberal buttons and revenge is now happening!

Daniel said...

Bishop Lefebvre was an anti-Semite (by his own admission), and a Holocaust denier who collaborated with France's Nazi occupiers. He was trying to return the church to its old extremes, not return it to "the center." God save us from any "new Lefebvre."

George said...

Charles J Reid is Cardinal Burke's philosophical opposite, so his contrarian discourse about him is no surprise. What has Cardinal Burke ever wrote or said that is contrary to Church teaching? Or that is not clear and understandable to anyone with a modicum of comprehension? Reading Prof. Reid's previous posts one finds that he is supportive of the "Nuns on the Bus", while neglecting to mention those issues where they are not in accord with major areas of Church teaching. He also has a problem with a Catholic school terminating a teacher who has publicly defied Magisterial teaching by wedding his/her same sex partner. In one case he writes about, the woman claimed she had her employment terminated because as he writes ,she became pregnant by "nontraditional" means. One could go on ans on. Professor Reid is typical of much of academia today, even most unfortunately within Catholic institutions of higher learning. His opinion to me is not worth the computer memory it is stored on, especially when you cannot blame Cardinal Burke and his like for the precipitous decline in Church attendance and membership over the last forty years. Given his apparent love for the Church, it cannot be that easy for the Cardinal to publicly confront the Holy Father. Let us pray for Pope Francis and the rest of the hierarchy that the Church makes it through this troublesome period of her history.

Anonymous said...

There are MANY people here who, if they would first pull their heads out of the sand...or whatever unlikely place they may be, and then thoughtfully read this piece, might, realize that the Church is not going to Hell in a hand basket, that Pope Francis is not the enemy and that this blog could move on with many positive, creative discussions that don't need to have a them versus us or a me versus you slant.

Marc said...

Daniel, Abp. Lefebvre's father died in a concentration camp...

George said...

Bishop Lefebre is symptomatic of what has transpired within the Catholic Church over the past number of decades. He and his group represent one reaction to some of the disturbing changes, such as the diminution of reverence and the loss of belief, which have occurred within the Church over the past number of decades. No one is proposing him for sainthood and it should also be recognized that not all the orthodox faithful align themselves with his solution to what has transpired since Vatican II.

Rood Screen said...


Wasn't Lefebvre's father a member of the French Resistance, and didn't he die in a Nazi concentration camp?

Tevye said...

Anon, without us versus them and me versus you, there would be no point in this blog. People would have nothing to say.

The purpose of the blog, it seems, is to denigrate VII.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually to properly interpret the pastoral council of Vatican II as Pope Benedict desired!

Unknown said...

ArchBishop Lefebvre's father was with the French underground and DIED IN A NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP. Pro Nazi, huh? Shame on Father McDonald for posting an inaccurate story from a liberal rag. Shame on Father McDonald for stating that because Cardinal Burke is "traditional" and disobeyed Pope Francis that he was demoted. It was rumored long before the SinNod that Cardinal Burke was on his way out. I guess ecumenism doesn't apply to traditional Catholics?

Rood Screen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 2 said...

Perhaps Daniel is confusing Archbishop Lefebre with the former SSPX bishop, Williamson, who is well known for his extremist anti-Semitic views and Holocaust denial and who has now been expelled from SSPX for various acts of disobedience.

Marc said...

Can anyone substantiate the allegations that either Lefebvre or Williamson are anti-semetic?

George said...

In my previous post I wrote:'Let us pray for Pope Francis and the rest of the hierarchy that the Church makes it through this troublesome period of her history." I don't want any one to take from that any doubt on my part that Church will survive to the end of time. I should have added " without another schism occurring."

Rood Screen said...

I think we can respectfully discuss the religious tenants of modern Judaism, but there should be no room in our conversations for attacks against Jews as an ethnic group, or for dismissal of Semitic suffering at the hands of Nazis.

Templar said...

Is Francis still Bishop of Rome? Oh, well, back to sleep. Wake me up when the nightmare is over.

Unknown said...

Is this is where we are as a Church? That someone like Cardinal Burke, who actually holds to the doctrines and magesterium of the Church, believes that discussion should be based on actual Catholic Theology and rationality is an extremist? Cardinal Burke is moderate in his tone, and everything he brings up is actual Church teaching and truth. Wow. I've had enough. Between this article and the USCCB trying to pass off the Synod as not controversial, and the constant chatter and over analysis of the situation I think I need to step away from paying attention to this stuff, or my soul will be injured. I want this craziness to end so badly. It's bad enough the world has turned in to moral quick sand, but this going on in the Church, which I need to be Rock to hold on to is worse. I am very disappointed with Pope Francis for creating this mess...not everything needs to be stirred up and debated. WE DID THAT ALREADY. 50 years, nearly my entire life, this has been going on. Hey, how about we take Jesus at his word and the Church fathers at theirs too. How about we stop trying to find the loop holes and actually be Catholics!!!

Sorry about the rant, but I've had enough. I miss Pope Benedict...he was actually sorting out what Vatican II meant, instead of just continuing the Chaos.

God bless.

Unknown said...

One more thing...I noticed the source of this Article..The Huffington Post? That progressive, relative secularist, house of questionable journalistic ability...who cares what they think? They surely don't understand what the Catholic Church is, was, or should be, nor are they interested in our well being. I'm Disappointed Father, you normally have better standards. I'm certainly not going to worry over their analysis.

Anonymous said...

I believe there will be a schism. I think that is God's way of removing the liberal element out of the Church. The orthodox will go one way and the liberals, Kasper et al, the other way and the majority will follow.

The upheaval that we are going through now is widely reported in the prophecies of numerous Catholic saints that there would be a great apostasy in the Church and for a short time the Church would go underground but will emerge to be restored to her former splendor.

The Church is suffering because of the horrific child abuse scandal among other things.

Much like St Thomas More before him, Cardinal Burke is a holy, good and just man who is following the Way, the Truth and the Light which is the only way for those who wish to remain Catholic.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I try to present differing perspectives and how the world reports and manipulates Pope Francis compared to Pope Benedict !

Unknown said...

Well Father it explains why my blood pressure shot off the scale and smoke was shooting out my ears! Vile website. It is good to know What the enemy is up to, (and they are tools of the Evil one as far as I am concerned). I pray that St Thomas More and Venerable Fulton Sheen watch over you when you go there and other places in enemy territory! +JMJ+

Paul said...

The "right" would seem to be getting more and more "extreme" if the "left" kept going left and the right hadn't moved at all.

I don't think anyone on the right is proposing anything that wasn't considered "normal" in the 1950's.

What has happened since then? More legalized and legislated forms of slavery disguised as freedoms. The left cannot get "left enough" to satisfy their desires so they will always want more -- gluttony.

I hope there is no schism. Even if all the present stewards were wrong in one way or another, it is no excuse to break away from Christ's Church.

When/If Christ cleans out His Church will He clean out the schisms? Or will the schisms have already made their choice and have to lie in it? Maybe we need to wander for forty years so that people can make up their minds.

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of Athanasius contra Mundum, it should be Burke contra Mundum.

Like Athanasius had to do during the time the church embraced Arianism, Burke needs to stay the course for the Gospel while the Church continues in this time of confusion.

And pray God gives us another set of Cappadocian Fathers.

The Anglican Priest

Tevye said...

Us versus them.....The righteous versus the Pope..."And the beat goes on....and the beat goes on."

Come, let me give you a hug...and let's sing "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love".

Православный физик said...

Time for another glass of wine, this pontificate is a headache for me.

Charles G said...

This Reid fellow is sure intolerant. If there are people that value the long rich tradition of the Church and find spiritual value in that and a way to Christ, why shouldn't they be allowed to exist and have their say in the Church. Surely, a more traditional Western spirituality has as much right to be in the Church as any Eastern rite.

John Nolan said...

Archbishop Lefebvre's father worked for British Intelligence which led to his arrest and death in a concentration camp.

I refuse to call Hitler's genocidal 'Final Solution' the Holocaust. In the Old Law a holocaust is a burnt offering - are people suggesting that the Nazis sacrificed the Jews in order to appease God?

To deny the existence of the mass-murder of Jews is historically perverse but should not in itself be a criminal offence. To argue about the numbers involved, or to question whether (say) Auschwitz-Birkenau had the capacity to process the numbers 'officially' claimed is a legitimate historical enquiry. The number of victims of Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot is still disputed but certainly exceeds the number of Jews liquidated by Hitler.

Nor is it anti-Semitic to question the activities of the ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Wiesenthal himself has been posthumously exposed as a fraud, and history is too important to be allowed to be manipulated and re-written by any particular group, whatever its political and financial clout.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for those filthy remarks about Archbishop Marcel Lefebve Daniel. He is the one who saved the Mass of All Times from the destruction of the modernists and your Novus Ordo service will die out soon. He was no supporter of the "Vichy" regime or the German occupation forces get your facts right!!! He was a son of the Church who will be raised up on our altars one day!

Anonymous said...

I would rather follow His Grace Cardinal Burke who I know will lead my soul to heaven, not the Jesuit who only calls himself Bishop of Rome and not Pope. Enough of this farce already confusion reigns all over, Pope Benedict please come back!!!