Does Cardinal Burke Think Pope Francis is an Antipope?

This is a news story gaining traction, as more people are learning of the website Where Peter Is. Read Mike Lewis’s careful analysis here.


  1. Oh please, this is the exact sort of bad faith conspiracy mongering that I have come to expect of places like Lifesite and OnePeterFive, not respectable blogs such as this. It doesn’t take a theologian to realize that there’s a big difference between criticizing specific statements and policies by a reigning Pontiff (some of Burke’s criticisms are more passable than others) and suggesting his reign is illegitimate, and even liberally read Burke’s comments fall well short of that. To suggest this is evidence of actual sedevacantism is insulting not only to the Cardinal but also to the Holy Father, who isn’t helped by his self appointed defenders imitating the most un-Christian tactics of his worst critics, this on the very day that Pope Francis denounced slander as a “diabolic cancer” on the Church at his general audience this morning. I hope we’re better than this.

    1. I don’t think so, Patrick. I think the evidence suggests the very strong possibility that Burke believes both that the pope is heretical and that this removes him from office.

      1. With all due respect, merely suggesting that a pope who hypothetically espouses heretical beliefs invalidates his own papacy is not the same as saying that Pope Francis specifically is a heretic who has ipso facto invalidated his papacy. Maybe Cardinal Burke really does believe that, but that’s an awfully huge jump to make taken against the totality of his statements and his present work in Francis’ own Curia. I’ve never been a real fan of Burke for several reasons, but other than serving him a taste of his own medicine vis a vis the Amoris Laetitia controversy I really don’t see what purpose these Pharasaical accusations of sedevacantism serve, which have the same bad faith and lack of theological efficacy.

      2. Patrick, thank you for your well thought-out comments. I had an editorial decision to make in whether to highlight this story, and I did because I thought it was carefully argued, and did not make huge leaps in arriving at an extreme conclusion. So I guess we differ on that judgment. My editorial decision could be mistaken. But Burke is offering a quite a bit of intriguing evidence that at least seems to lend credence to the conclusion of Mike Lewis.

      3. I agree with Patrick. A lot of these “proofs” come from interviews. I am not real sure how much of the Pope’s own teachings you would want to draw out from his own interviews if you would apply the same criteria of proof in the Pope’s own case. Suggesting that the Pope did not intend for his own exhortations to be authoritative is a shaky argument but it is hardly a suggestion that the Pope is not the Pope. The one place where I think the author has a point is with Burke’s statement that the development of the teaching of the death penalty “is an opinion.” It is an authoritative teaching. Although I will be honest I wish the change had went hand in hand with a larger commentary on the need to reform our criminal justice systems. Also, I do not like that he did not respond to Lewis’s request for clarification. I guess I could understand given Lewis’ does appear to have it out for him but if that is the case he and the other dubia cardinal’s should be a little more understanding of the Holy Father’s silence in the face of critics who have been harsh from the get-go.

        Finally disagreeing with Popes is hardly new, just because traditionalists are up in arms does not mean that they deny the Pope is Pope. Instead of shakily arguing they are declaring Pope Francis an Anti-Pope (some do but not all.) Deal with the arguments themselves which should be easy to overcome (many of them are.) Even me a Douthatian style Catholic-conservative took issue with some of St. John Paul II’s actions and yes, even Pope Benedict the Great. Do I believe in the doctrine of the Church and its continuity through the ages yes, but disagreement between believers has its own historical continuity. Let’s learn from that so we can have a good argument and still come out friends on the other side. Which by the both Patrick and Fr. Ruff do well, just want to remind myself and others that disagreement does not have to turn to into animosity.

      4. Pete, you’re speaking here of “traditionalists” and their right to critique the pope. But the post isn’t about what “traditionalists in general” do or don’t think. It is about one particular person – Cardinal Burke – and only him. The post looks carefully at what he has said and draws its conclusion based on the evidence.

      5. Fr. Ruff, then you missed the entire first paragraph of my argument where I speak directly to Lewis’ argument against Burke. The second paragraph is a larger criticism of the way in which we use one person to define a group. The article speaks about Cardinal Burke leading traditionalists against the Pope, so it does criticize those who follow Burke by extension.

        The article even names Patrick Coffin as in league with Burke and speaks about those (as in plural) when it details the different ways that certain traditionalists argue that the Pope is not the Pope. You ignore my primary point which is the article uses quotes from interviews that can be edited in a certain way. If you want to condemn someone with snippets from interviews one could put out how out of step Pope Francis’ mum suggestions towards female deacons is with comments he has made about abortion being akin to hiring a hitman, that women are not images of Jesus Christ but the Church, or when asked about naming a woman head of a Vatican congregation the Pope responded with a side step: “Well, pastors often wind up under the authority of their housekeepers.” How funny and woke! Simply put my argument is that trying to mount an argument based on suggestion is not a route liberals should be entertaining when they claim conservatives put words in the mouth of Fr. Jame Martin. As I see this article in the same vein from the other side of the spectrum either the blade cuts both ways or we are locked in a meaningless ideological struggle, in which each side simply uses logic as they see fit and throw it out the window when it could be used against their camp.

        I took the article in its totality and not just the parts that pertain to Burke alone. Thanks for the response!

      6. Dear Pete, thanks for this clarification and explanation of your position. It’s always tricky and difficult to interpret peoples’ comments. In this case I find the argument compelling because it is a fair and reasonable way to understand the several comments Burke has made. But I respect that others look at it differently.

  2. Consistency, please! Whether on the “Left” or the “Right.” If nearly everything Francis says is quasi-infallible, the same was true of Benedict; of John Paul.

    1. “Consistency, please! Whether on the “Left” or the “Right.” If nearly everything Francis says is quasi-infallible, the same was true of Benedict; of John Paul.”

      Then the reverse applies as well.

  3. I have a lot of time for Mike and he has done some good work (he and I were both included amongst the acknowledgements in Stephen Walford’s recent book defending Amoris laetitia for example).

    However this article is problematic. The issue with his piece is that the evidence for dissent he notes in the first half, actually undermines rather than supports a conclusion of Sedevacantism. Sedes generally come from an ultramontanist view of virtual papal inerrancy, so any (mistakenly) perceived papal error forces them to decide there is no Pope.

    Burke’s rather, umm, flexible definition of magisterial teaching means he avoids that issue, so Sedevacantism becomes less logical from his vantage point, even if he wrongly believes the Pope is spreading heresy. Thus like the SSPX before him, who managed to literally break Communion for decades without embracing Sedevacantism, it seems a long bow to attribute Sedevacantism to Burke.

    This, together with the fact it is never really a good idea to attribute views to a person when it is fairly obvious they would publicly deny it, means we should not pursue this line of inquiry in my view. It is an uncharitable approach when applied by Trads to people like Fr James Martin on other issues, and the same is true here when the approach is reversed.

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