In better times — Pope Francis, 86 (left) with Cardinal Raymond Burke, 75 (right, link, link), some years ago. Burke has been critical of some of Francis’ decisions and actions, and now Pope Francis is contemplating actions against Burke, including taking away his Vatican apartment and his cardinal’s salary. Burke does not presently have any official job in the Roman curia (link and link)

    Letter #163, 2023, Tuesday, November 28: Confirmed

    A highly-placed Vatican source has confirmed to Inside the Vatican that Pope Francis on November 20 did tell a gathering of leading cardinals in the Roman Curia that he is planning to take away Cardinal Raymond Burke‘s Vatican apartment and his monthly cardinal’s stipend.

    “It is true,” the Vatican source confirmed to me earlier today. “The Pope did say he would do that.”

    The Pope was chairing a meeting of all the heads of the various Vatican offices, called an “interdicasterial” meeting — a regular meeting held so everyone in the Vatican receives some general idea of what everyone else is doing.

    The Pope’s words were reported yesterday in La Nuova Bussola (link).

    But there remained some doubt about the report, because no source was named.

    Now a trusted source has confirmed the report.

    This does not mean the this will actually happen, but it does mean that the words were spoken, and we will now have to wait and see what does happen…


    A cardinal’s salary

    A cardinal’s salary in Rome in past years was set at 5,000 euros per month, 60,000 euros per year (more than $65,800 per year at current exchange rates).

    However, during the past year, due to cost-cutting measures at the Vatican, many Vatican salaries (for some 2,000 workers, ranging from curial officials to repairmen and gardeners) have been capped (no raises whatsoever), and some have been cut. This includes cardinals’ salaries, which have been reduced from 5,000 euros to about 4,000 euros per month, equivalent to about $52,600 per year), one cardinal has advised.

    So the amount of salary Burke may lose may be calculated at about $52,600 annually.

    A cardinal’s apartment

    Regarding apartments, it is ordinary practice that all cardinals living in Rome are entitled to live in a Vatican-owned apartment without charge.

    Since these “cardinalatial” apartments in old Roman palaces are large and close to the Vatican (several are some distance away, in the Palazzo San Callisto in Trastevere), they have a high “prestige” value.

    They would be extremely expensive if placed on the open market in Rome — many thousands per month.

    So to lose such an apartment (which is also a place to meet with other in the shadow of St. Peter’s dome) means the loss of a prestigious place to live in Rome worth, arguably, as much as $100,000 per year (but such a figure is, of course, just an estimate, and, in fact, not too helpful, as many of the apartments could never be put on the “open market” because they are inside the Vatican itself).

    Still, the two measures that Pope Francis is evidently thinking of taking against Cardinal Burke might be characterized, in a rough estimate, as costing Cardinal Burke $52,600 in salary, and between $60,000 and$100,000+ per year in the value of a free apartment, so, a total loss to Burke of… between $112,000 and $152,000 per year.

    Cardinal Burke currently has no official job in the Roman Curia.

    Here below, an article today on this matter in Italy’s Corriere della Sera, one of the country’s most important papers. Many in Italy are discussing this case now, and see it as part of a larger struggle… —RM

    P.S. Since things in Rome seem to be heating up, it would be helpful to have support for this letter to prepare for the coming winter. A donation would be appreciated; click here.     

    Here is the article from today’s Corriere della Sera. This report also cites a “high prelate” as the source that confirms this story (link):

    The accusations against the Pope by conservative US cardinals and Francis’ reaction against Burke: what is happening in the Vatican?

    By Massimo Franco

    November 28, 2023

    Last week, Pope Francis made it clear to the heads of the Vatican ministries that the war unleashed against him by the US conservative front will have consequences: “measures of an economic nature and canonical penalties” are on the way for Cardinal Burke. But why now? And what may happen?

    Last week [November 20], receiving the heads of the Vatican departments, Pope Francis made it clear that the war against him by the conservative front in the United States cannot fail to have consequences.

    And this time the one to be sanctioned would not be the bishop of a minor diocese like Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, suspended at the beginning of November with an unusual initiative in its harshness after repeated attacks on the pontiff.

    Francis spoke of Cardinal Raymond Burke, indicated as the leader of that chain which in the United States, and not only, has for years directed criticism at him considered excessive even by Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s opponents.

    Without going into details, the pope would have announced against Burke “some measures of an economic nature, accompanied by canonical penalties,” reported a high prelate present at the meeting, referring to apartment and salary.

    Some in the Vatican believe it to be a sign that he has decided to no longer tolerate the aggressive attitude of the cardinal and his followers; others, that he just wants to issue a final warning.

    But what is happening confirms the conflictual drift that a part of the North American episcopate has chosen; and this reflects a growing rift between conservative and progressive Catholicism.

    Why is the Pope’s reaction coming now?

    The question is why the papal reaction is registered now.

    The American cardinal [Burke] is one of the five who expressed the famous “dubia,” doubts about the Synod [on Synodality] that has just ended and the previous one [in 2019] on the Amazon; one who in the past accused Francis of causing a schism in the Catholic Church; and who, while denying that he is an enemy of the Pope, accuses him of choices contrary to official doctrine.

    There are those who connect this change of pace by Francis compared to the very patient attitude he had in the past to the arrival at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his advisor and friend Victor Manuel Fernandez: an Argentinean appointed cardinal in the last consistory.

    Burke has not done much to disprove his reputation as an ultra-conservative hostile to the Pope.

    He no longer has any duties but remains a cumbersome character.

    At the beginning of October, in a conference entitled “The Synodal Babel,” which opened on the eve of the Synod, he attacked “the philosophical, canonical and theological errors” that in his opinion were being committed; and this after the Pope had responded to the cardinals’ “doubts.”

    Furthermore, Burke had prompted the support of many cardinals who did not join the initiative, suggesting there is a broader anti-papal coalition than the one led by him.

    Certainly, discontent towards Bergoglio is widespread beyond the noisy minority of which the American cardinal is considered the most prominent exponent.

    But the crudeness of their attacks leaves even those who have long criticized it perplexed and silent.

    The relationship between the Pope and the United States

    The unresolved and particularly thorny issue of the papacy’s relations with the United States remains.

    And not only because, from the Second World War (1939-1945) onwards, funding for the Vatican came primarily from there, as well as from Germany in recent decades.

    The question is whether the almost ostentatious hostility of large sectors of the American episcopate does not also reflect a limitation and a lack of knowledge of that Church and its culture on the part of the current papacy: a reality in which many parishes continue to disappear due to lack of faithful. The polls reveal a radicalization of religious positions, symmetrical to that of US society. The singularity is that young priests appear more traditionalist than older ones.

    Not only. There are bishops, like Christopher Coyne, in Connecticut, who ask Francis to “go away from Italy, away from Rome” (link) convinced that the Vatican is polluted by the mentality of the Italian capital.

    And there is a block of interests that observes “Southernism” and dialogue with China with distrust.

    Last September, Francis spoke of a “strong, organized and reactionary” approach in American Catholicism.

    With “ideology that replaces faith. ”

    And his words were not read only as a reference to the episcopate.

    Behind Burke and his “culture war” we can glimpse the profile of American, but also European, figures and institutions who consider Francis a danger.

    The cardinal has defended himself several times against the accusation of being part of the political organization of Steve Bannon, one of Donald Trump’s ideologues.

    But he met and frequented Bannon for a long time through the Dignitatis Humanae institute: “an association created to assist European parliamentarians to follow the precepts of moral law,” explained Burke himself in an interview with the New York Times in November 2019.

    Four years later, his criticisms still resonate as a “halt, stop there!” to the Pope; and as a signal sent to those who are already positioning themselves in view of a Conclave which in reality could be near or far away.

    But this time, the trouble will probably come from Francis: affecting Burke and his world.

    It remains to be seen whether it would be interpreted as a gesture of strength or weakness.

    [End, Corriere della Sera article from today]

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