Was Cardinal Burke referring to us?

In an interview with an Italian media outlet, translated by Diane Montagne, LifeSite’s Rome correspondent, Cardinal Burke speaks about the latest Scalfari interview in which the ex-Catholic atheist friend of the Pope Francis says the Pope told him souls who have chosen evil do not go to hell but are extinguished after death.

News of this interview broke on Maundy Thursday, one of the holiest days of the year, headlining The Drudge Report, which wrote in bold letters something to the effect of “The Pope has abolished hell.”  Mainstream news outlets carried the story around the world.

Well, I’m reminded of something my spiritual director said to me a couple of years ago, when I came to him with my concerns  the Pope was trying to change Catholic teaching on marriage and Holy Communion.   “Let him try,” said my spiritual director.

He also would ask me, when I tried to prove how much reason I had to worry,  “How’s your prayer life?”   Finally, I think I’ve got the message:  To pray more and “fret not.”

Back to Cardinal Burke. In this remark, was Cardinal Burke referring to us?

Many people who were baptized in a Protestant ecclesial communion, but then entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church because their original ecclesial communities abandoned the Apostolic Faith, are suffering intensely at this situation — they perceive that the Catholic Church is going down the same road of abandoning the faith.

I did suffer intensely.  And the fact we had seen the effects of undermining doctrine in the Anglican world, it was like a preview of coming attractions of a movie it would be agonizing to live through again.

Eugenio Scalfari is the 93-year old ex-Catholic, atheist socialist co-founder of La Repubblica, a left-leaning Italian newspaper.  He has done five interviews with Pope Francis in which he relies solely on his memory—he takes no notes, and does not record—and then reconstructs the conversation.  Every Scalfari interview has put words in the Pope’s mouth that seem contrary to Catholic teaching and I remember how scandalized I used to be in reading them.

No longer.  I refuse to be scandalized.   Once a week at least, I used to be scandalized by something or other that seemed to contradict what we had recently had drummed into our heads we had to believe in order to become Catholic.  I am done.

When we joined the Catholic Church, we were taught the definition of papal infallibility that came from the First Vatican Council.  

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”[60]

7. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

8. But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.

9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

Thus, whatever Scalfari writes about Pope Francis’ personal opinions, whether his descriptions are accurate or not, those opinions have no bearing on what I am obliged to believe as a Catholic.  We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and many, many online resources in addition to that which show us what the Catholic faith is that we chose to embrace and follow once we became Catholic.  I choose not to be confused. Mary helps me to keep my eyes on Jesus and His promises.

The Catholic Church cannot go down the road the Anglican Church has gone down, as much as many within its ranks, even in its highest ranks, would like it to do so.

Let them try.  I choose to trust in the promises of Jesus Christ regarding his Church and no matter what news comes from Rome, my heart is settled.  Jesus, I trust in You!

6 thoughts on “Was Cardinal Burke referring to us?

  1. Amen!
    When Pope Sixtus V, against repeated warnings of St. Robert Bellarmine, tried to impose his own version of Vulgate, full of factual and theological errors, upon the whole Church under anathema, he… died prematurely. And his Vulgata Sixtina was replaced by properly edited Vulgata Clementina.
    So, absolutely, “Let him try!”


  2. “Let him try?” I wouldn’t so cavalierly tempt Providence, guys. If he tries (one could argue about whether we’re not already in the midst of such trying; even if we were, “we ain’t seen nothing yet”), at what cost? The Church as such will survive, but how many souls will be lost to the wolves?


    • Do we have any choice about whether or not we “let” him try?
      1. The Pope, like each of us, has free will.
      2. The Pope, like each of us, is not guaranteed another day.
      3. Our hope is not based on any of the fallible men who assume the chair of Peter, some of whom are saints and some of whom are not. Our hope is based on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe all the truths which the holy Catholic Church teaches, because God has revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.


      • It is also imperative, in this context, to note the clear distinction between a magisterial document such as an apostolic constitution or a motu proprio, by which the Pope exercises his legislative authority, and a document such as an encyclical by which the pope expresses his personal opinion on a theological or moral matter.



  3. Pingback: MONDAY AFTERNOON EDITION – Big Pulpit

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