The modest Vatican shake-up announced today is striking for a couple of reasons. The first is that the arch-conservative American, Raymond Burke, is no longer a member of the Congregation of Bishops, which has great influence on finding the future leaders of the church. Burke is, after Dolan, the most reactionary of the American bishops, and an architect of the very Benedict XVI policy of putting social and sexual issues at the obsessive forefront of the church’s mission. Only last week, he gave an interview to the hardline Catholic EWTN television channel, saying of the new Pope:
“One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that he thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman. But we can never talk enough about that.”
Oh yes you can, as the Pope has explicitly said. Burke is, like Benedict, a fan of ornate vestments and has aired the possibility of denying communion to politicians who do not follow to the letter the hierarchy’s views on faith and morals. It seems to me that the latter is one reason for his being sidelined. If you want to know why, read Evangelii Gaudium, section 47:
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
The second reason for this shake-up being notable is an absence. Where is Cardinal Dolan? How odd is it that the Cardinal of New York is basically a non-entity in Francis’ church. Francis has picked another American, Seán Patrick O’Malley, to be part of his new council of eight global cardinals, and has also picked Archbishop Wuerl, a pragmatist in Washington DC, for the Congregation of Bishops. Dolan? Nowhere to be seen.