Pope Francis punishes another anti-LGBTQ+ cardinal

For the second time in a month, Pope Francis has taken harsh action against an American prelate. Francis has revoked Cardinal Raymond Burke’s subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as punishment for what Francis said is Burke spreading “disunity” in the church.

As PGN reported previously, Pope Francis has been expanding his perspective on LGBTQ+ Catholics and has made it clear this is a policy the church hierarchy should embrace.

According to sources who attended a Nov. 20 meeting with Francis, the Pope said he was canceling Burke’s privileges — a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as a retired cardinal — because Burke was using those privileges against the church. 

Burke is a 75-year-old canon lawyer with whom Pope Francis has had conflicts for much of his tenure as pope. He previously fired the Vatican’s high court justice in 2014. Burke has since become one of Francis’s most outspoken critics, focusing his critiques on Francis’s continued efforts to reform the church to be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ Catholics.

At issue for Francis is Burke issuing formal questions, known as “dubia,” asking Francis to clarify questions of doctrine that upset conservatives and traditionalists like himself and other conservative cardinals and bishops. Burke has done this twice.

In the two dubia, Burke asked Francis to clarify his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Francis did not respond. In the other dubia, Burke asked whether same-sex couples could receive church blessings and received a yes, depending on the circumstances. 

Burke has a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ stances, having previously called gay people “diabolical,” “tools of Satan” and “contrary to nature itself.”

But the most extreme action by Burke was prior to Pope Francis’s November synod. Burke set up a counter-synod where he railed against Francis’s vision and his reformation of the church — particularly with regard to LGBTQ+ issues.

“It’s unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has the aim of bringing forward an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke told the conference, titled “The Synodal Babel.”

Burke says his obligation as a cardinal and bishop is to uphold church teaching and correct errors.

“The sheep depend on the courage of pastors who must protect them from the poison of confusion, error and division,” he told his Oct. 3 counter synod.

Pope Francis also took issue with Burke’s anti-vaxxer stance. The Pope, a former scientist, is a staunch proponent of vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines. Francis has spoken out against what he called “vaccine skeptics,” including conservative Catholics.

AP reports that during a 2021 news conference, “Francis lamented the vaccine “negationists” in the College of Cardinals, an apparent reference to Burke, who had just been hospitalized in the U.S. and placed on a ventilator with a serious bout of the virus.”

In November, Pope Francis removed Joseph Strickland, the bishop of Tyler, Texas. Strickland is another anti-LGBTQ+ conservative and a staunch critic of Francis. There was an investigation into Bishop Strickland by the Vatican after complaints by priests and lay people in Tyler about Strickland. Pope Francis only removed Strickland after the investigation was completed. Strickland was fortunate he was not defrocked for his many violations of Church rules.

Strickland has voiced support for Burke on his Twitter account.

Strickland said, “If this is accurate it is an atrocity that must be opposed. If it is false information it needs to be corrected immediately.”

In an October interview, Strickland said that “if I get fired for not being politically correct, go ahead and fire me.”

Strickland also accused both the Vatican and the United States of having a “deep state,” saying the papacy lacks clarity and Pope Francis’s recent comments in support of civil unions for same sex-couples are “confusing and very dangerous.”

Asked about Francis’s decision, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni referred questions to Burke. Burke’s office told the AP the Pope had not yet notified them of the Pope’s actions.

Pope Francis’ recent moves against the two prominent conservative Americans have raised questions about the authority of the Pope, including whether he has the right to fire or remove a bishop.

A commentary for Religion News Service on Dec. 5 states that “The Vatican is a bureaucracy, not a court. As the Synod on Synodality suggested, it would be better if Vatican bureaucrats were not bishops and cardinals. This would not only open positions for laypersons but also make it easier to change top officials who are not working out. If they were not bishops, the Pope would not have to find another position for them when they are removed.”

The same day that Francis made the decision about Burke, Reuters reported “Italy’s transgender women thank Pope for making them feel ‘more human.’”

“We transgenders here in Italy feel a bit more human because the fact that Pope Francis brings us closer to the Church is a beautiful thing,” Carla Segovia, 46, a sex worker, said earlier this week on the deserted windy beach of Torvaianica.

“Because we need some love,” she said.

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