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Jeffrey Peters: Media distorted cardinal's stance

Over the past few years, there were many in the media who have championed the causes of the American left. However, they quickly overstretched themselves and were unable to deal with a backlash among voters in the past election. They found themselves on the unpopular side of economic issues, so they turned to social causes.

To compensate for a changing political landscape, they looked to Pope Francis to bolster their influence. Since his elevation last year, minor statements were exaggerated, matters of faith misinterpreted and policies twisted to match the media's ideology. The pro-life, pro-traditional marriage pope was transformed into a promoter of gay rights and abortion. Without a charismatic leader to rally behind, the media had to create one.

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This distortion now peaks with news that Cardinal Raymond Burke will be patron of the Order of Malta, depicted as a solely ceremonial position. The media has gone into a frenzy trying to say that Cardinal Burke, a well-known proponent of traditional values, was removed from positions of power as proof that Pope Francis will not tolerate "conservatives." There are many things wrong with this claim.

Since 2008, Cardinal Burke served as Prefect to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, a little-known group that handles the Vatican's top-level judicial and internal conflicts. The Prefects of the Signatura serve relatively short terms, with six years the majority. Those who sit on the tribunal often sit on many others, with Cardinal Burke sitting on five other important councils or congregations at the time.

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Although it was expected that Cardinal Burke would shift from serving as prefect of the Signatura to another position, the official announcement followed a recent Synod on Christian families. At the Synod, a tiny minority tried to claim that the Church would soon adopt a liberalized stance on gay marriage and divorce, and Burke publicly condemned their actions. Many in the media then claimed that Pope Francis removed Cardinal Burke from the Signatura as retaliation for preventing this dramatic shift to the left.

There is not enough room in this column to discuss the ridiculousness of that claim. Instead, look to Cardinal Burke's successor: Cardinal Dominique Mamberti. Cardinal Mamberti previously served as the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States, the chief ambassador of the Catholic Church. Like Cardinal Burke, his appointment came under Pope Benedict and he continued his term under Pope Francis. Also like Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Mamberti is an outspoken critic of gay marriage and a staunch supporter of pro-life causes.

In a 2012 speech before the United Nations, Cardinal Mamberti said "that the right to life of every human being ... from conception until natural death — be considered and protected as an absolute and inalienable value." Then he said that all people have "the right to a father and a mother" and "the right to grow up and to be educated in a natural family."

Theologically, there is no difference between the cardinals, and there is no way to claim that Cardinal Burke was "removed" because of his political beliefs. The only fight in the Catholic Church is in the media's imagination.

Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at 17peters@cardinalmail.cua.edu.

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