Archbishop Burke appointed to 2 Vatican advisory groups

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, a trained church lawyer who's worked in Rome, has been named by Pope Benedict XVI to two groups that advise the Vatican.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis on Wednesday confirmed that Burke was appointed this week to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Congregation for the Clergy.

The first group advises the Vatican on interpreting church law and official church documents. The second deals with the life and ministry of priests including their training and formation.

For two years, Burke also has served on the Vatican's Supreme Court.

Burke was not available for comment Wednesday.

"Raymond Burke knows a lot about canon (church) law," said Lawrence Cunningham, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "He'll be a careful voice for that particular commission."

He said Roman authorities are simply calling on Burke's expertise as a highly trained church lawyer who is also a prominent bishop.

Cunningham said church law is technical and tends not to impinge on the life of Catholics except, for example, when it comes to interpreting grounds for annulling a marriage.

He was less certain why Burke was named to the group advising on clergy. Cunningham said Burke's group is separate from one that considers removing priests from the ministry over child sexual abuse allegations.

He said the clergy group might be asked to give an opinion, for example, on how much formal education the church should demand of ministers from other denominations who become Roman Catholic priests.

He said the Congregation for the Clergy would not take up ordination of women or married men. That would require a council of all bishops.

"Congregations are not in the business of starting new initiatives," Cunningham said. "They are about maintaining the integrity of the faith."

The Rev. Richard McBrien, who also teaches at Notre Dame, and whose new book, "The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism" will be published this summer, said the clergy advisory appointment is more important.

He said it indicates that Burke "has a few powerful friends in the Vatican who share his conservative approach to church-related issues."

New members to the Vatican advisory boards announced this week include bishops from throughout the world including three American bishops -- Burke, Archbishop John Joseph Myers of Newark, N.J., and William Joseph Cardinal Levada, who currently heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: