The head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, has warned in an interview released by Catholic News Agency today that the secular media is attempting to “hijack” the meaning and the message of the forthcoming Synod On the Family by putting their own “spin” on what will happen at the synod, falsely making people believe that the doctrine of the Church on the nature of matrimony could or will change. “I don’t think you have to be brilliant to see that the media has, for months, been trying to hijack this Synod,” Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, which deals with cases of annulments, said. “the media has created a situation in which people expect that there are going to be these major changes which would, in fact, constitute a change in Church teaching, which is impossible. That’s why it’s very important for those who are in charge to be very clear,” the Cardinal pointed out.
Cardinal Burke said that the Church’s teaching on the nature of Holy Matrimony is a merciful teaching “because it respects the truth that the person is indeed bound by a prior union which the person, for whatever reason, is no longer living,” the Prefect explained. “The Church holds the person to the truth of that marriage, while at the same time, being compassionate, understanding the situation of the person, welcoming them into the parish community in ways that are appropriate, and trying to help them to lead as holy a life as they can, but without betraying the truth about their marriage. “It simply makes no sense to talk about mercy which doesn’t respect truth. How can that be merciful,” the Cardinal pointedly and rhetorically asked.
“Certainly, the culture is extremely confused and in great error,” the Cardinal explained, as it regards marriage. “It’s very important at this time to show the splendor of the truth of the Church’s teaching about marriage, which is foundational, obviously, for society, and for the Church itself. If we don’t get it correct about marriage, there’s very little else that we’re going to be clear about.”
Cardinal Burke said that many western bishops come to him with a very common situation that they see in their dioceses. “Bishops who regularly visit us at the Apostolic Signatura say that many couples today who are divorced, they don’t care anymore about the question of nullity, they simply make a decision to live with another person, if that’s in fact what they are doing,” he said. “We try to, as much as we can, to help people to understand that it’s gravely wrong to live as if married to someone, when in fact you’re not free to marry.” The Cardinal also said that the annulment process is important since it deals with “the very foundation of the life of the Church: the matrimonial union.”
Cardinal Burke said that he hoped that the Synod On the Family will underscore the teaching of Pope Paul VI. “I’m hoping that will be the occasion, especially highlighted by the beatification of Pope Paul VI at the conclusion of this Synod, to underline the teaching in his courageous and very wise Encyclical, Humanae Vitae,” Cardinal Burke said.