Donald Wuerl, the cardinal of Washington, D.C., prides himself on his “pastoral” practice of distributing the Holy Eucharist to Democratic pols no matter how many unborn children they vote to kill. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the head of the Vatican’s top court, which made him the foremost authority on canon law, has said that Wuerl’s practice blatantly violates it.
In light of this conflict, the decision of Pope Francis this week to boot Burke from the Congregation for Bishops and replace him with Wuerl deserves a special place in the annals of in-your-face papal politics. The liberal media is naturally ecstatic, seeing Wuerl’s plum as yet another proof that Francis is the pope they have been waiting for.
The New York Times found the news very exciting indeed, assigning two reporters to the story. “Pope Francis moved on Monday against a conservative American cardinal who has been an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, by replacing him on a powerful Vatican committee with another American who is less identified with the culture wars within the Roman Catholic Church,” they reported.
It is clear from the story that the reporters had been anxiously awaiting Burke’s demotion for days. Last week in an interview with them, Wuerl had already hinted that they needn’t fret over Burkean Catholics gumming up Francis’s plans:
In an interview in Washington last week, Cardinal Wuerl suggested that the pope was altering the way the bishops’ congregation functioned. For example, Francis is already surveying a broader range of bishops than those in the congregation, the cardinal said.
“When it comes to future bishops, he is asking a number of sources,” he said.
Asked whether all of the pope’s changes mattered if Cardinal Burke still had such influence in appointing bishops, Cardinal Wuerl smiled.
“Don’t we have to give this pope time?” he said.
Under Benedict XVI, pressure on bishops to follow canon law and withhold Communion from Nancy Pelosi and company had been growing. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had stalled on the issue for years, with Wuerl’s friend and predecessor, Theodore McCarrick, even going so far as to conceal a letter from Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) telling the U.S. bishops that if a pro-abortion pol, “with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.”
McCarrick, who was in the tank for John Kerry, didn’t think his brother bishops needed to see the letter, which left Burke, among others, dismayed. Speaking to the press, Burke noted that McCarrick had not only withheld Ratzinger’s letter from the bishops but distorted it. (McCarrick had mumbled something to them about having received a “memorandum” from Ratzinger in which he said that the matter was left to the prudence of individual bishops.)
Wuerl’s promotion confirms that the bad guys have won this dispute, which means, among other things, that the Democrats won’t think twice about sticking a phony Catholic on the ticket with Hillary. “Pope Francis Catholics” will hit the campaign trail with confidence in 2014 and 2016, quoting his half-baked “who am I to judge?” musings and pointing to Wuerl's disavowal of canon law.
It was clear from day one that Francis never took canon law all that seriously, seeing it as one of those awful relics of “rule-bound” pre-Vatican II Catholicism. In fact, he had been violating it down in Buenos Aires long before he washed the feet of a Muslim woman on Holy Thursday days after his pontificate began. (The sycophantic Catholic press said that he had the “right” to do that as the supreme legislator of canon law while conveniently ignoring that he had done the same as archbishop of Buenos Aires when he enjoyed no such right.) So it makes perfect sense that he would make the antinomian Wuerl one of his chief bishop-makers.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs,” Jesus Christ instructed his disciples. That was his Communion policy. But Wuerl and Francis strike a different tone, one that they flatter with the name “pastoral,” as if laxity and indifference to sacrilege have ever been good for souls.
Anyone familiar with the dismal statistics of the post-Vatican II period knows that nothing has been more destructive of souls than self-consciously “pastoral” Catholicism. Year after year it has yielded bad shepherds who do not guard the flock’s gate but throw it open and let the wolves eat them. With Wuerl replacing Burke at the Congregation for Bishops, expect many more.