This weekend, word started getting around that the much anticipated reforms of the Roman Curia were finally ready for delivery – at least a number of them.
Pope Francis met with the dicastery heads this morning to give them a preview of changes, though no official word yet on what they all will be.
What has been announced is that there is a new prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has been vacant since Cardinal Canizares Llovera was appointed as Archbishop of Valencia at the end of August. The new top liturgist of the Roman curia is Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea. Cardinal Sarah has been working in the Curia since 2001, first as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and since 2010 as President of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”. The new prefect, like most of his predecessors, has no formal education in Liturgy.
The rest is a bit of informed speculation, and nothing is ever official until it is announced:
Among the long awaited and predicted reforms to the curia will likely be the establishment of a Congregation for the Laity – raising the dicastery dealing with 99.9% of the Church’s population to the same level as the two (Bishops and Clergy) that deal with the other 0.1%. The new Congregation would have, it seems, five sections: Marriage and Families; Women; Youth; Associations and Movements; and one other. Too much to hope it would be for Lay Ecclesial Ministry? The current Council has a section on sport, so perhaps that would be maintained, but I suspect not.
No one would be terribly surprised to see the new prefect of such a congregation turn out to be Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, since he suggested the move publicly last year. What would be a true sign of reform would be to appoint a lay person or couple with degrees and work experience in lay spirituality, lay ministry, or something related. Then make the first lay cardinal we have seen in a century and a half.
The new congregation would certainly combine and replace the Councils for Laity and for Family, but could possibly also incorporate New Evangelization or Culture, which are directly related to the apostolate of the laity in the secular world.
If you read Evangelii Gaudium, though, it is clear that Pope Francis sees the “new Evangelization” as an aspect simply of Evangelization proper, and I would be less surprised to see this Council incorporated into the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Culture would be appropriately aggregated to Laity.
The other big combination long anticipated would be a Congregation for Peace and Justice – or something similarly named. It would combine the Councils of Peace and Justice, Cor Unum, Health Care Workers, and the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, and possibly the Academy for Life. It would have sections corresponding to these priorities: Life; Migrants; Health Care; Charity; and Peace and Justice in the World. Presumably, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana would continue from the current homonymous council as the prefect of the new Congregation.
Finally, a revamp of the Vatican Communications apparatus has been underway for a couple of years, and we could expect to see something formal announced much like the Secretariat for the Economy. Perhaps a Congregation for Communications, or at least a stronger Council, with direct responsibility all communications in the Vatican: L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Radio, CTV, the websites, various social media, the publishing house, etc.
Now, a couple of ideas that would be welcome, but are not expected:
The combination of the Congregations for Bishops and Clergy – have a single congregation with three or four sections: Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and Other Ministers/Lay Ecclesial Ministy. This would be especially possible if the responsibility for electing bishops – only in the modern era reserved to the pope – could be carefully restored to the local churches in most cases.
The creation of a Congregation for Dialogue, replacing the Councils for Promoting Christian Unity, Interreligious Dialogue, and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. It would accordingly have several sections: Western Christians; Eastern Christians; Jews; Other Religions. Perhaps the whole Courtyard of the Gentiles effort could be folded into this as well.
Alternatively, leaving Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue in separate dicasteries but with more influence, like requiring every document coming out of the CDF and other congregations to be vetted before publication, to make sure they incorporate ecumenical agreements and principles as a sign of reception.
Formalization of the separation out from the Secretariat of State for responsibilities relating to moderating the curia. The Secretariat should be dealing with diplomatic issues. The rest could be reorganized in a number of different ways.
Streamlining of the judicial dicasteries, including removing the judicial aspects out from CDF and into a stand-alone tribunal. Granted, it is thanks to then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF that any movement on abuser priests happened, but it is still anomalous to have. (Still need to work out what this would look like though).
A consistory which creates no new Italian cardinals - lets get the numbers down to a reasonable amount. Like five. If there are any (North) Americans, they would be the likes of Bishop Gerald Kicanas from Tucson, Archbishop Joe Tobin of Indianapolis, or Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle – but nobody else from east of the Mississippi. Maybe a bishop from Wyoming or Alaska, the real “peripheries” of American Catholicism. At least five Brazilians and another Filippino. Maybe an Iranian.
Above all, nobody would be appointed to serve in a dicastery without a doctorate in the relevant field, and experience in that area of ministry.
 The last being Teodolfo Martello, who was created cardinal while still a lay man, though he was ordained deacon two months later. At his death in 1899, he was last cardinal not to be either a presbyter or bishop. Since 1917 all cardinals were required to be ordained presbyters; since 1968 all were normally required to be ordained bishops.
Unofficial Translation provided by The Byzantine Forum
This is the document to which i referred in Friday’s post, Married Catholic Priests Coming to a Parish Near You.
ACTS OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE EASTERN CHURCHES
Pontifical Ruling Regarding Married Eastern Clergy
A) Introductory Note
Canon 758 §3 [of the] CCEO (Oriental Code of Canon Law) states that: “Regarding the admission to holy orders of married [men], the particular law of [each] Church sui iuris or special norms established by the Apostolic See are to be observed.”
That allows that each Church sui iuris can decide on the admission of married [men] to holy orders.
At present, all Eastern Catholic Churches may allow married men to the diaconate and the priesthood, except the Syro-Malabarese and Syro-Malankara Churches.
Thus, the Canon provides that the Apostolic See can enact special rules in this regard.
The Holy Father Benedict XVI, in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente (Churches in the Middle East) of 14 September 2012, after having stated that “priestly celibacy is an inestimable gift of God to His Church, which must be accepted with gratitude, both in the East and in the West because it is a prophetic, timeless sign,” reminded that “the ministry of married priests is a component of the ancient Eastern traditions,” and encouraged them because “with their families, [they] are called to holiness in the faithful exercise of their ministry and in their living conditions in difficult times.”
The issue of the ministry of married priests outside the traditional eastern territories dates back to the final decades of the nineteenth century, especially since 1880, when thousands of Ruthenian Catholics emigrated from Sub-Carpathia, as well as western Ukraine, to the United States of America. The presence of their married clergy aroused protests by the Latin Bishops that their presence would cause gravissium scandalum[grave scandal] to the Latin faithful. Thus, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, by decree of October 1, 1890, forbade married Ruthenian clergy to reside in the US.
In 1913, the Holy See decreed that only celibates could be ordained as priests in Canada.
In the years 1929-1930, the then-Congregation for the Eastern Church (CCO) issued three decrees, which prohibited the exercise of ministry by married Eastern priests in certain regions:
1) the Decree Cum Data Fuerit of March 1, 1929, by which [the Congregation] forbade the exercise of ministry by married Ruthenian clergy who emigrated to North America.
2) the Decree Qua Sollerti of 23 December 1929, by which [the Congregation] extended its prohibition of ministry to all married Eastern clergy who emigrated to North or South America, to Canada, or to Australia.
3) the Decree Graeci-Rutheni of 24 May 1930, by which [the Congregation] stated that only celibate men could be admitted to the seminary and promoted to holy orders.
Deprived of ministers of their own rite, a number, estimated at about 200,000, of the Ruthenian faithful passed into Orthodoxy.
The referenced legislation was extended to other territories not considered ‘eastern regions'; exceptions were granted only after hearing from the local Episcopal Conference and receiving permission from the Holy See.
Since the problem persisted, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches involved the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. On 20 February 2008, having reviewed the entire matter in Ordinary Session, [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] rendered the following decision: “Considering the existing rule – which binds Eastern priests in pastoral service to the faithful in the diaspora to obligatory celibacy, similarly to Latin priests – in specific and exceptional cases, the possibility of a dispensation exists, [which is] reserved to the Holy See.” The above was approved by the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
It should be noted that, even in the West, in recent times, with the [issuance of the] motu proprio Anglicanorum Coetibus, although not written for the Eastern clergy, a discipline was adopted, [which] considered specific situations of [married] priests and their families coming into Catholic communion.
B) Provisions approved by the Holy Father
The Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, held 19 to 22 November 2013 at the Apostolic Palace, discussed the issue extensively and subsequently presented to the Holy Father a request to concede to their Ecclesiastical Authority the faculty to allow pastoral service by married Eastern clergy outside of the traditional eastern territories.
The Holy Father, in the audience granted to the Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, December 23, 2013, approved that request
contrariis quibuslibet minimum ostantibus, (all considerations to the contrary notwithstanding)
according to the following guidelines:
- in the Eastern Administrative Constituencies (Metropolia, Eparchies, Exarchates) constituted outside of the traditional territories, these faculties are conferred on the Eastern Hierarchs, to exercise according to the traditions of their respective Churches. Also, the Ordinary, possessing faculties to ordain married Eastern candidates from a respective region, [has] an obligation to give prior notice, in writing, to the Latin Bishop of the candidate’s place of residence, so as to obtain his opinion and any relevant information [regarding the candidate].
- in Ordinariates for the Eastern faithful who are deprived of their own Hierarchs, the faculty [to ordain married men to the priesthood] is conferred on the Ordinary, and he shall inform the respective Episcopal Conference and this Dicastry of the specific cases in which he exercises [the faculty].
- in territories in which the Eastern faithful are deprived of a specific administrative structure and are entrusted to the care of the Latin Bishops of the place, the faculty [to ordain married men to the priesthood] will continue to be reserved to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, which will pursue specific and exceptional cases after hearing the opinion of the respective Episcopal Conference.
Given at the Seat of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, 14 June 2014
Leonardo Cardinal Sandri
Pope Francis has moved to allow more married Catholic priests.
It is just that they are not Roman Catholic priests.
This, according to a document of the Pontifical Congregation for Oriental Churches, leaked today by Sandro Magister, the well-known Italian Vaticanist of La Repubblica.
The Congregation has issued a precept, “Pontificia Praecepta de clero Uxorato Orientali” – signed back in June and with papal approval– which allows the Eastern Churches to ordain married men wherever the Church is found, and to bring in already married priests to serve as needed, throughout the world. [6/106 Acta Apostolica Sedes, 496-99]
Most people know that Catholic priests of the Latin Church (the Roman Catholic Church) must be celibate. The exceptions being, since the 1980’s, former Lutheran or Anglican clergy who come into full communion, who may continue their presbyteral ministry while married.
Most Catholics are at least vaguely aware that this medieval discipline does not apply to most of the 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, who do in fact allow married men to become presbyters – it is only their bishops who are necessarily monastic, and therefore celibate. (Deacons are universally allowed to be either married or celibate).
Fewer people are aware of the embarrassing history that has restricted these churches from either ordaining married men “outside their traditional ritual territory” or, in some cases, even sending married priests to serve in these countries. Starting with migrations of Ruthenians in 1880 to the U.S., the Latin bishops (almost entirely Irish) of the States were so scandalized by the idea of married presbyters that they convinced the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to restrict married clergy from following their flocks to the new world. By 1929-30, these limitations were repeated and even expanded to other “Latin territories”.
This move so effectively undercut the sacramental ministry and infrastructure of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the States, that about 200,000 Catholics and their married clergy left communion with Rome, and effectively populated the Orthodox Church of America and other Orthodox jurisdictions.
This is one of many examples of a kind of aggressive Latinization – forcing Eastern Churches to take on Latin/Roman practices – that has occurred over the centuries. The whole idea that Eastern Churches could only follow their own practices within their “traditional territory” is dubious in any case – do we say the same for the Roman Catholics? Is celibacy of diocesan clergy – a particularity of being “Roman” not of being “Catholic” – limited only to the “traditional territory” of the western Roman empire? What sense does it mean in an era when there are more Eastern Catholics outside “traditional territory” than within?
What it really shows is a flawed ecclesiology and a lack of due respect to the autonomy of the diverse practices and patrimony of ancient and apostolic churches in communion with Rome. How, our Orthodox sister churches would ask, is it possible to take Rome seriously on proposals for reunion when she treats Eastern Catholic Churches so inappropriately – flexing her muscles and forcing them to follow her whims (or those of too-easily-scandalized Irish-American bishops). Rome has to show that it remembers that unity does not mean uniformity.
After Vatican II, it was thought this would change. After all, the Eastern Churches were encouraged to return to their proper patrimony and cleanse themselves of any inappropriate Latin influences. Pope Paul VI took the proposal under advisement… and there it remained, sadly, until our own time. The Congregation for Oriental Churches proposed some change in 2008, but with the objection of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to reversing the ban, exceptions were allowed only on a case-by-case basis. You started to see priests ordained back in the “traditional territory” being allowed to serve in the west. Under these “exceptional” situations, it was just this year that the U.S. saw its first married Maronite priest ordained there.
In 2010 the Synod on the Middle East again raised the issue.
Now, finally, we have the restoration of at least this one right to rites.
The Eastern Churches find themselves in three jurisdictional situations, basically, which have different practical consequences:
- First, where there is a regular hierarchy, it is up to the competent ecclesiastical authority – the metropolitan, eparch, or exarch – to ordain according to the traditions of their churches, without restriction from the Latin church.
- Second, where there is an Ordinariate without a bishop or heirarch, such ordinations would be carried out by the ordinary, but while informing the Latin hierarchy. (there are less than a half-dozen countries where this is the case)
- Third, where there are groups of the faithful of an Eastern Church under the pastoral care of a Latin ordinary – such as the Italo-Albanians here in Italy – it continues to be a case-by-case basis.
Still, one more reform on the long list of “no-brainers” that could have been done ages ago without actually challenging either doctrine or even its articulation. It is simply the correction of an historical mistake that ought never have happened in the first place – and certainly ought not to have taken 135 years. It is this kind of thing, no matter how small, that demonstrates real “concrete progress” that the ecumenically minded – both “at home and abroad” are looking for.
Seems a strange question to ask in the middle of November, but I have already seen signs on social media that, back in the States at least, the encroachment of Christmas on other holidays is already in full swing.
One of the great things I have loved about living in Italy is that they still know when Christmas is, and neither start celebrating/decorating/commercializing too early, nor do they quit before it is finished.
However, in the last few days, I have heard people playing Christmas music, I have seen stores start displaying gingerbread houses (!), and one colleague has already put up a Christmas tree.
Personally, I have only just gone shopping at Castroni to get pureed pumpkin so I can bake a pie, since I am somewhere between Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving (which is a big Italian holiday, you know, with turkey cacciatore, sweet potato parmesan, and cranberry cannoli.)
To be honest, I am not sure which end is worse – seeing signs of Christmas before Thanksgiving (or Veteran’s Day, or Hallowe’en) or seeing them disappear just as Christmas really gets started because people are tired of having heard Jingle Bells since August.
Christmas Day – 25 December – marks the beginning of Christmas season. The traditional 12 Days of Christmas run from Christmas Day to Epiphany (6 January). In part, this ties together the differences between Christmas on the Gregorian calendar and Christmas on the Julian calendar. (for more on that)
In Italy, the decorating begins, customarily, no earlier than around 6 December (St. Nicholas Day) or 8 December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary). The Christmas tree at St. Peter’s arrives around then, but is only lit on or about 17 December – which happily coincides both with the beginning of the intensification of Advent with the O Antiphons and with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia. In fact is only by that point in mid-December that Christmas season really feels to be upon us.
Who would think of stopping the Christmas music or tearing down the lights or throwing out the tree just as the holiday begins? Nobody takes anything down until after 6 January (feast of the Epiphany) at the earliest. At the Vatican, the Nativity scene (usually unveiled only on Christmas Eve) remains on display until 2 February (Candlemas), the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord as a child in the temple. (This is the source of the Nunc Dimittis, the Canticle of Simeon, who sings praise for being allowed to live long enough to see the messiah). A fitting end to the Christmas periphery.
A practical guide?
- Remember Advent
- The traditional season of preparation and hopeful anticipation preceding Christmas starts with the Sunday nearest November 30.
- Celebrate Advent. Let Advent be Advent, and save Christmas until Christmas. Create or buy an advent calendar, and advent wreath
- Sing advent songs before you sing Christmas songs. Abstain from Christmas music if you have to, early in December, so you are not sick of it by the time Christmas actually starts.
- At the earliest, start with St. Nicholas Day – the original Santa Claus – on 6 December. A hint of “Christmas is coming”. Get some clogs and some chocolate coins and discover the traditions of this patron saint of children.
- Celebrate Christmas from 24 December to 6 January.
- Keep your tree, your decorations, your lights, and your holiday goodies throughout
- Petition your local radio stations – at least the Christian ones – to keep the Christmas music going during this period, even if it means not starting it until later in December than they used to
- Tell the malls, the shops, the community – No Santa appearances until, say, St Nicholas Day. Certainly not before Thanksgiving!
- Keep up your “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” this entire period.
- Celebrate Epiphany
- whether as the visit of the magi or as theophany, mark the day as the end of the Christmas holiday
- Save some of the goodies, presents, and parties for Epiphany – everybody seems to try to cram their “Christmas” parties in before Christmas even begins. Throw a Christmas party in early January. Throw an epiphany party.
- At the latest, close it up by 2 February.
- Even if you do not keep Christ in Christmas* at least honor the integrity of the holiday
and keep Christmas in Christmas – and not in Advent, Thanksgiving, or the Fourth of July.
- *that is, if you are not a Christian
- I am not Jewish, but I would not presume to start wishing people a Happy Hanukkah during Sukkot or Yom Kippur;
- I am not Muslim, but I would not throw an Eid al-Fitr banquet in the middle of Ramadan.
- I am not a secularist, but I would not throw a Super Bowl party during the World Series (or the World Cup, as it may be). Or start talking about the campaign 18 months before the election. Or apply for preschools while my kid was still in the womb. Or, well, you get the idea…
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Recently, I met with a visiting friend (who happens to be a canon lawyer) and we decided to sit in on Rome’s Theology on Tap, offered by some of the seminarians of the North American College to some of the study abroad programs that they work with for their “apostolates” (volunteer service giving them practice in some forms of ministry).
It is an interesting experience, to a professor of both U.S. undergrads and seminarians in Rome, because although neither the seminarians nor most of the undergrads present are in my classes, it still felt a little like I was listening to an oral presentation by one student that needed grading. I could not help myself.
The topic was “The Laity”. In fairness, my seat was in the back, so there were times it was hard to catch everything. But these are the points I heard:
- The Church teaches that priesthood and religious life (no mention of diaconate) are objectively a higher state than the laity. Subjectively, however, the universal call to holiness is equal for everyone in the Church.
- There is a difference between ministry and service. [Could not hear the definition]. Ministry is exercised only by the ordained. Lay people can only offer service. When you hear people talk about liturgical “ministry”, like a lector, this is really a service.
- The Lay Vocations are Marriage and Consecrated Life. Just as priests are committed to the Church, consecrated are committed to their communities, and married people are committed to each other.
- The Mission of the laity is exactly the mission of the whole church: Evangelization.
- [Missed something] You have the duty to correct your priests, professors, other leaders if you hear something wrong.
My canonist friend and I come from different cultures of Catholicism, but both have an ecclesial vocation, as lay people, in ministry and service to the Church. And while we had different objections to some of the points, we were in accord that, unfortunately, not everything represented well the Church’s teaching. The Church itself, of course, is not always consistently clear on this topic, which occasionally adds to the confusion.
First, he’s right on his penultimate point about the mission of the laity, which is the mission fo the Church. The laity are the vanguard of the Church’s mission, the clergy and other ecclesial ministers are there for support and leadership, but it is the laity whose first role is to go out into the world and get the real work of the Church done.
The final point might have been a reference to canon 212, by which all the faithful have the right, and are even obligated, to make their needs and concerns known to the Church according to their expertise. Consider this an exercise thereof to avoid similar mistakes by others.
Now the problematic points.Taken with a grain of salt, as i said, there was occasional cross-noise, so if i missed any clarifying comments or explanations to the points, the fault is mine.
The Church itself does not make use of this “objective”/”subjective” distinction in terms of a person’s state. All are equal in baptism. All are equally called to holiness, as he pointed out. Where there might be some confusion is in distinguishing the ways we participate in the One Priesthood of Christ. All who are Initiated (Baptized, Confirmed, Eucharist-ed) have a share in Christ’s priesthood. This is the universal priesthood, the priesthood of all believers. As priests, we are still equal. Lumen Gentium 10 says that these two kinds of participation in Christ’s priesthood “differ from one another in essence and not only in degree.” This seems to lend credence to the idea that one is higher. Avery Dulles, however, repeatedly pointed out it was better understood as “differing from one another in essence and not in degree,” that is, that they are different kinds of participation, but one is not higher than the other. Plus, we have only to look at scripture to see Jesus’ idea of leaders clamoring for a “higher status” – and it is not well received. Those called to leadership are called as servants.
Which goes to the distinction between ministry and service. As I missed something, its entirely possible he hit something right on, but the follow up was insufficient. The two words, in a Christian context, are both translations of diakonia. All ministry is service. Fair enough to say that not all service is ministry, but the distinction is not about ordained and lay, but about the nature of the service. Rather like the distinction between skills and charisms, wherein the later are always for the building up of the Body of Christ. Possible confusion comes from an infamous interdicasterial instruction that attempted to limit the term “ministry” to the ordained back in 1997, wherein this dichotomy was presented – yet every pope since (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis) have referred to lay ministry, as have most bishops conferences and other documents of the curia.
Finally on vocations. Put simply, everyone has a vocation. There are hardly only two options for lay people, and in fact, the two mentioned were only one kind of vocation – relationship – which is also called a state of life. Everyone also has a vocation to ministry/mission and to spirituality, at least. Some of the faithful are called to marriage, consecrated life, celibacy or single life. Some of the faithful are called to serve the church’s mission in the world, some as ecclesial ministers. Some of the former take vows, some enter into a sacramental relationship, though not all. Some of the later are ordained, though not all. Not all celibates are priests, not all priests are celibate. Not all lay people are married, and not all married people are lay. When talking vocations, it is confusing to try and force the square peg of relationship into the round hole of ministry.
But, that is one of the services offered by seminary, correction to mistaken ideas about the people you are called to serve.
Since September, it seems nothing has been bigger news in the circles of ecclesiastical gossip and intrigue, especially for the aficionados of the Tridentine liturgy, than the rumored “demotion” of Raymond Cardinal Burke, a Wisconson native and former Archbishop of St. Louis, who has been serving as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura since 2008.
Radical Traditionalists, already no fans of Pope Francis, immediately went into hyperbolic fits of indignation: Never has a cardinal been treated so badly! What disrespect! How ham-fisted! It’s a junta! You might as well decapitate him! Where is Pope Benedict? Or Pius X, better yet? This is all Kasper’s fault! Woe is us! The modernists are coming!
Naturally, the secular media picks this up from the conservative Catholic blogosphere and puts their own spin on it: Burke is demoted for opposing reforms in the Synod; Burke is demoted for calling the Church rudderless under Pope Francis; Burke is demoted for disagreeing with Pope Francis on LGBT issues, etc.
Though he confirmed the rumor himself in the midst of the Synod on the Family, the official appointment was only made on 8 November, when Burke was appointed as Cardinal Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta – a crusader-era hospitaller order that continues its millennium-long tradition of service and chivalry from its headquarters on Rome’s Aventine hill.
But the truth is, if Pope Francis were really interested in ungraciously demoting Burke, he could remove him from the College of Cardinals altogether, send him into cloistered retirement permanently, or appoint him as bishop of some small diocese somewhere (I hear Spokane is open).
The fact is that nearly all the cardinals working in the Roman Curia as heads of dicasteries lose their office when the pope that appointed them dies or resigns. The new bishop of Rome has complete freedom to either confirm them in their appointments, reappoint them anew, give them a temporary appointment, or let them go altogether. All cardinals are basically at-will employees of the Pope – more so than any other office in the Church, the Sacred College is tied directly to the personal prerogative of the bishop of Rome.
Cardinal Burke was never confirmed in his office as prefect, but was simply left there on an interim basis – even for longer, at 18 months, than several others in the curia. This happens with every single new pope. All the time.
Far more dramatic moves are common. Some quick examples:
- About ten months after his election, Pope Benedict XVI effectively combined two Pontifical Councils – Culture and Interreligious Dialogue – under the leadership of a single president, and sent the former president from Interreligious Dialogue out to the nunciature in Cairo, without the dignity of the red hat that usually goes with his former office.
- Pope St. John Paul II was known to be heavy-handed with bishops in a way that neither Francis nor Benedict can be said to emulate. In the 80’s he placed the Archbishop of Seattle in a bizarre power-sharing arrangement with a freshly minted auxiliary bishop (not a coadjutor) for a year. In the 90’s he appointed a French bishop to a diocese that has not existed for fifteen centuries, just to force him out of any pastoral responsibility.
- Pope Bl. Paul VI transferred one bishop who opposed reform efforts from being ordinary of a diocese to serving as auxiliary of another.
- Pope St. Pius X, of course, is rumored to have simply pulled the zucchetto off the head of a bishop he did not like, sending him off with a “Goodbye, Father” to indicate his demotion to presbyteral status. (which flies in the face of Catholic ecclesiology, after all: ordination leaves an indelible character, no?)
By comparison, Burke is being given a plum assignment. He gets a cushy residence, gets fêted and fed, gets to dress up in his beloved baroque wardrobe, and never has to worry about his livelihood. On top of that, he actually gets to work with an established and internationally respected humanitarian organization. I would not mind being “demoted” like this. Not at all. (Except for the garb, i suppose).
Cardinal Burke served for just over six years as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura – longer than any of his seven predecessors going back to the days of Paul VI.
It is true that he has become the poster-bishop for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite – the Tridentine Mass. He is more widely known for his watered silk and lace ensembles than for his various canonical accomplishments. He is outspoken in his criticism of even the slightest suggestions at reform in the church, a voice for the status quo and the fortress-against-the-world approach to ecclesiology.
This is not the message the Church should be sending. Noble simplicity does not call for acting simply like nobility. The Church does not need princes in renaissance and baroque regalia, it needs shepherds and servants garbed like Christ the Deacon, ready to wash the feet of the disciples of God.
It seems somehow fitting to match Burke with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. An affinity for flashy capes is perhaps not their primary charism, but it is a starting point that they share with their new patron. It can be done in context, not as an historical recreation or an exercise in liturgical nostalgia.
Does anybody think he would be better suited at Cor Unum or Christian Unity? Archpriest of Mary Major? Or perhaps as a diocesan ordinary back in the States somewhere? Personally, I wonder why there is not just a personal prelature for the devotees of the Extraordinary Form; make Burke the prelate. Or perhaps personal ordinariates might be more fitting; make him one of the ordinaries. If there is one bishop (in this case a cardinal) representing that movement in the church, it would be enough. If it is that ministry which gives him the most joy, and for which he gets the most support, would not that be just the place to put him?