Pope Removes Hard-Line Marriage Equality Opponent From Vatican Panel

Pope Francis's removal of Cardinal Raymond Burke from the Congregation for Bishops and appointment of a more moderate member may signal positive change.

BY Trudy Ring

December 17 2013 4:34 PM ET

Cardinal Raymond Burke (left); Pope Francis

In what may be a positive move for LGBT Catholics and their supporters, Pope Francis has removed an ultraconservative cardinal from the Congregation for Bishops, which makes recommendations for Roman Catholic bishops’ appointments worldwide, and added a more moderate member to the body.

Francis yesterday declined to confirm Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis, to continue as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, to which he was named in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. Among several new members of the panel confirmed by Francis was one American, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Wuerl “is no liberal, but he’s much more moderate than Cardinal Burke,” Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh before his Washington appointment. His successor in Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik, told the Post-Gazette, “I think Cardinal Wuerl demonstrates pastoral sensitivities that would be reflective of Pope Francis.”

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In its own article on the appointments, the Reporter noted, “The fact that Burke was not on the list may raise eyebrows, in part because some observers see him as representing a more aggressive line than the pope on the Western culture wars.”

Burke recently gave an interview to Catholic broadcaster EWTN in which he appeared to question Pope Francis’s recommendation that church leaders reduce their emphasis on opposition to abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. “One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that [the pope] thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Burke told the network. “But we can never talk enough about that.”

Burke continues to hold a position of power in the church, as head of the Vatican's highest court.

Another American cardinal that Francis removed from the panel was Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of Philadelphia. He resigned from the Philadelphia archdiocese in 2011 amid criticism that he had been slow to act on allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests. He had also been outspoken against same-sex marriage, telling LifeSite News in 2008 that it was an “aberration” that some Catholics were seeking to justify “homosexual conduct, and worse than that, homosexual marriage.”

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