Surely the two men are taller than that

There is gossip in abundance in the small world of the Universal Church. American Cardinal Raymond Burke has been transferred from his powerful post of Prefect of the Apostolic Signing to an honorary post of Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The secular press is at its peak with this news, portraying Cardinal Burke as the arch-conservative and hateful opposite of gays to the brilliant, non-judgmental Pope Francis.

There can be no argument with the fact that Burke is a conservative. A supporter of the old Latin Mass, and known for wearing the traditional grand features of a cardinal, Cardinal Burke certainly seems to be the antithesis of the plain-spoken, clad Argentine Pope.

The fact that Burke was at the forefront of conservative reaction at the recent Synod on the Family, that he openly criticizes the liberal faction led by Cardinal Kasper, and that Pope Francis has already withdrawn him from there The influential Congregation for Bishops, everything fuels the frenzy that there is a quarrel between the two men.

The piece of resistance seems to be the apparent demotion of Burke by Pope Francis.

Those who are delighted to see a feud in the Vatican are both conservatives and liberals. Liberal commentators are delighted to see Burke’s back, as some conservatives fall back into victim mode, believing that there is a Vatican conspiracy against them that reaches all the way to St. Peter’s pulpit.

In my opinion, everyone should take a deep breath and put all the facts together.

Does Pope Francis favor a more liberal view on certain subjects? The answer must be yes. Are his views at odds with those of Cardinal Burke? It seems so. Does his style of teaching and celebrating the liturgy clash with the more conservative and “high church” style of Cardinal Burke? Absolutely. Are Pope Francis’ views on politics and economics at odds with those of Burke? It’s possible. Is there a culture clash between the North American cardinal of the suburbs and the South American of the slums? Probably.

Does this mean that there is a feud between the two men? Is Cardinal Burke ready to lead a traditionalist schism? Is there a plot led by Francis to purge the Church of conservatives?

No, and here’s why:

Those who dispute the feud theory point out that, while Cardinal Burke is transferred, this is not a reaction on Pope Francis’ part to Burke’s opposition to the synod. This Vatican reshuffle had been on the cards for months. This may be part of a larger and more intentional shift in focus on the part of the pontiff, as Reverend Mark Drew observes in an excellent article here in the Catholic Herald of the United Kingdom, but against this opinion is the fact that Burke has just completed the usual five-year term for Prefects of the Apostolic Signing.

Those who shrug their shoulders at the gossip about the quarrels say, “It’s okay. He had to be transferred.” In response to those who suggest that Burke’s transfer is a deliberate attempt by Francis to silence his enemies, the shoulder shrugs would say, “Silence Burke? His new post as Patron of the Order of Malta does not. gives virtually no responsibility, while providing him with a base in Rome and time to travel, lecture, write, direct and make his point. “Rather than silence Cardinal Burke, he could be may Pope Francis give it his voice and therefore encourage “loyal opposition” in a healthy way.

Another argument against the “purge of the conservatives” theory is that other notorious conservatives have not been sidelined. Cardinal Pell is a prime example. A key member of Pope Francis’ advisory group of eight cardinals, Pell was chosen by Francis to bring reforms to the Vatican Bank.

Cardinal Mueller, head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is another conservative voice close to the Pope. Mueller and Pell were also outspoken on behalf of the conservative faction at the synod. Those who suspect that a feud between Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke is part of a larger purge must recognize that the evidence is slim. It is true that Pope Francis is trying to advance his agenda for change, but it is not true that he is expelling all those who disagree with him.

While Pope Francis undoubtedly has progressive views on some issues and likes to make a mess, he understands the role of the Pope. He memorably said that he had to be “the pope of those who want to step on the accelerator and those who want to slam the brakes.”

His post-Synod address warned Church leaders frankly of the dangers of liberal and conservative schools of thought. He thanked the Synod Fathers for an open and frank debate, acknowledging that (although tense) this was the way to move forward. He affirmed the traditional role of the Pope and invited the Synod Fathers to move forward while not abandoning the timeless truths of the Gospel of Christ.

A quarrel between Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke?

Both men are surely bigger than that, and gossip, alarmists and journalists driven by secular ideologies should try to see the big picture and realize that it is through the different personalities, the clash of cultures and the opposition of opinions that we see. old truths in a new way and thus discover a new way forward.

Reverend Dwight Longenecker blogs at Standing on My Head. Visit his blog, browse his books and invite him to speak at your conference or parish by going to

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