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Cardinal Burke Did Not Slam Pope Francis, Says Group That Set Up Interview With BuzzFeed

Phil Roussin

John Burger - published on 10/27/14

Media outlet runs verbatim interview in which cardinal confirmed reassignment

Does Cardinal Raymond Burke have sour grapes for the man who is exiling him from his Vatican post?

In today’s media environment, when digital news outlets are rushing to beat one another to the punch and generate the most buzz, that may be the impression readers walked away with after reading BuzzFeed’s interview with Cardinal Burke.

The very headline on the original article was enough to give readers that impression, without having to read further: “Conservative Cardinal Who Clashed With Pope Francis Confirms He Has Been Ousted.”

But the organization that helped BuzzFeed score the interview in the first place is stepping into the fray to clarify one thing: the American cardinal, hailed by many as a traditionalist striving to keep the Church under Pope Francis from drifting toward heterodoxy, did not do a slap-down of the Bishop of Rome.

The Dignitatis Humanae Institute is a think-tank whose goal is to protect and promote human dignity based on the fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Cardinal Burke is president of its advisory board. Today, the organization issued a statement claiming that BuzzFeed committed an “injustice” against the cardinal by sloppy editing.

“The DHI was approached by BuzzFeed to arrange an interview with Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signature, which it willingly did,” said the statement. “This is the now-notorious interview in which Cardinal Burke accused Pope Francis of having harmed the Church. Only, the cardinal never said any such thing.”

(It’s also the interview in which Cardinal Burke, a canon law expert, confirmed that he is about to be transferred as head of the Church’s highest court to a more ceremonial position as patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which is headquartered in Rome.)

The DHI clarified that Cardinal Burke said in the interview: “I can’t speak for the Pope and I can’t say what his position is on this, but the lack of clarity about the matter has certainly done a lot of harm,” while BuzzFeed reported him saying that the Pope himself had “done a lot of harm” by not stating “openly what his position is.”

“Cardinal Burke was clear, in what he actually said, that in his opinion a general lack of clarity regarding the Pope’s position had caused harm to the Church,” the statement said. “BuzzFeed’s more sensationalist rearrangement of this text identifies the Pope himself as the cause of the harm. The difference is of course important.”

Benjamin Harnwell, fouunder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, said that BuzzFeed management had declined “repeated requests” to run a correction.

Accompanying DHI’s statement today was one by Cardinal Burke:

As a priest, bishop and finally a cardinal, I have only ever sought to serve Our Lord’s Church in humble obedience to the Magisterium and to the Holy Father. Needless confusion regarding my motives does not help me in this service, especially when substantial questions of principle are at stake.  I very strongly believe that one also serves loyally by expressing a contrary judgment, in accord with the pursuit of the truth, and that one only serves faithfully when one has dutifully and clearly spoken, in obedience to one’s conscience.

I did not state that Pope Francis has harmed the Church.  Rather, as the now published verbatim interview reveals, I was perfectly clear that it was a lack of clarity about where the Holy Father stands on issues related to marriage and Holy Communion that had caused the harm.  It is precisely for this reason that I subsequently said that only a statement from the Holy Father himself could now remove this lack of clarity.

Responding to a request for comment, BuzzFeed’s senior publicist, Augusta Mellon, said, "I’d point you to the full transcript BuzzFeed News published, where our readers can view the interview in its entirety."

According to DHI, the media outlet “acknowledges the ambiguous phrasing of the originally published interview, which gives the impression that Cardinal Burke was severely criticizing Pope Francis, an impression which is not present in the original interview

John Burger
is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.

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