In a December 21st interview with the newspaper of the Diocese of Macau (China), Cardinal Raymond Burke was asked to comment on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
It was an action that took me by surprise. It is clear that Pope Benedict has reached a certain age, but certainly he was in full possession of his faculties. Someone said that “he was not longer able to travel or bear many audiences.” But I ask myself: who says that the pope has to travel or that he has to receive so many people? I think it is necessary to re-examine the substance of the Petrine office. I would also say that it was not a good thing for the Church to lose its universal shepherd: there is a certain feeling among many Catholics that their father abandoned them. I hope it does not become a common practice …
Cardinal Burke further stated in response to a follow-up question:
But this [travel] is not part of the Petrine ministry per se, whose mission is to safeguard the unity and the practice of the faith, and especially the liturgy.
Let’s break this down, shall we.
Certainly he was in full possession of his faculties.
Cardinal Burke is plainly saying that he does not believe that Pope Benedict lacked the “strength of mind” necessary “to adequately fulfill the [Petrine] ministry entrusted to me;” one of the reasons he gave in his Declaratio of 10 February 2013 announcing his intent to resign; the other being that he lacked the “strength of body” to continue.
Someone said that “he was not longer able to travel or bear many audiences.”
That “someone” was Pope Benedict XVI himself, who in an August 2016 interview with La Repubblica cited as the primary factor (“above all”) in his decision to resign:
Above all, I realized that I was no longer able to face the future in transoceanic flights due to the problem of time zones …
About this claim concerning his “strength of body,” Cardinal Burke also cried foul:
Who says that the pope has to travel? This is not part of the Petrine ministry.
In short, Cardinal Burke is telling us that neither of the two reasons given by Benedict in the Declaratio were, in his estimation, true statements.
Unless he means to suggest that Benedict had simply erred in assessing his own condition – something that would plainly contradict the idea that he was in full possession of his faculties – it is evident that Cardinal Burke believes that Benedict acted for reasons that he chose not to disclose.
As some commentators would have it, Cardinal Burke is guilty of setting up “straw men” simply by stating the obvious; namely, when it comes to the events surrounding Benedict’s so-called resignation, all is not what it appears to be.
As I’ve stated many times, no one other than Benedict (and perhaps a relatively small number of others) knows all of the details concerning this unprecedented situation, but what we do know more than justifies calling into question the validity of his resignation and, therefore, the conclave that followed.
Whether he intended to do so or not, Cardinal Burke has done precisely this.