Cardinal speaks about ‘keeping faith in a time of confusion’ during Call to Holiness conference, calls for clarity after Amazon synod

ROSEVILLE — Despite persistent confusion regarding the truths of the Catholic faith in modern times, Christ will never abandon his flock, U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke told Detroit-area Catholics on Oct. 26.

Speaking during the Call to Holiness conference at Athena Hall in Roseville, Cardinal Burke sought to reassure the 800 Catholics in attendance that while some in the Church today might call for doctrinal change in certain areas, “Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever.”

The former archbishop of St. Louis and patron of the worldwide Order of Malta was the keynote speaker during the near-annual conference, whose purpose, according to its website, is “to defend and support the magisterium, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, through prayer, education and evangelization.”

Since its first conference in 1996, Call to Holiness has gathered many of Metro Detroit’s most influential Catholics together to discuss pertinent issues of faith.

Cardinal Burke, who also serves as an episcopal adviser to the conference, outlined several points of modern confusion during his 45-minute talk and subsequent question-and-answer session, which preceded a holy hour and pontifical extraordinary-form Mass at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Grotto) Parish in northeast Detroit.

Conference-goers pray before Cardinal Burke's talk Oct. 26 during the Call to Holiness conference at Athena Hall in Roseville.

“There is no question that the Church is currently facing one of the greatest crises she has ever known,” Cardinal Burke said. “Today, perhaps as at no time in the past, there is an ever-more diffuse phenomenon of general confusion and error regarding doctrine and morals within the body of Christ.”

Many of those errors, the cardinal said, stem from misunderstandings about the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. While some would like to see the Church change its teachings on topics such as abortion, same-sex attraction or contraception, it’s impossible for God to contradict Himself, Cardinal Burke said.

“Oftentimes, one hears the term ‘development of doctrine’ used in contradictory ways,” Cardinal Burke said. “For some, it is rightly understood as the development of the Church’s understanding of a doctrine, which itself remains necessarily unchanged.”

Others, however, erroneously believe that “development of doctrine means a change in that doctrine,” Cardinal Burke said, “in contradiction to the constant teaching of the Church.”

As an example, Cardinal Burke said, the Church’s doctrine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has developed over the centuries as Catholics came to better appreciate the fullness of the teaching, including Eucharistic adoration, exposition and the emergence of the word “transubstantiation” to describe the miraculous changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.

Cardinal Burke addresses more than 800 local Catholics during the annual Call to Holiness conference in Roseville. Cardinal Burke serves as an episcopal adviser to the Call to Holiness apostolate, which held its first conference in Metro Detroit in 1996.

“These developments did not change the Church’s teaching on the holy Eucharist, but provided a development in the understanding of the same teaching,” Cardinal Burke said.

Cardinal Burke said there is a “great hunger” among the people of God to know the truth “set forward in the official teaching of the magisterium of the Church.”

In May, the cardinal and four other bishops and cardinals published a declaration clarifying more than 40 points of Catholic doctrine they say have come under fire or have been the subject of confusion and division in recent decades.

Cardinal Burke outlined many of those points during his talk, referencing key Church teachings on topics such as marriage, the Eucharist and the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions.

On each of the points, Cardinal Burke said there are “authoritative documents which present the tradition, the constant teaching of the Church, so that the faithful and other rightly disposed persons of good will know that we are not setting forth our own ideas or our own personal agenda, but rather, we are striving to fulfill our responsibility as true teachers of the faith.”

Cardinal Burke, who has been outspokenly critical of the proceedings of the recently completed Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region in Rome, urged Catholics to pray that God preserve the synod fathers from the “error and heresy” he said were contained in some of the assembly’s working documents.

Cardinal Burke greets and prays with conference-goers after his talk, “Keeping Faith in a Time of Confusion,” during the Call to Holiness conference on Oct. 26.

In response to the synod’s instrumentum laboris, Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, in September published a document calling for a 40-day “Crusade of Prayer and Fasting” to preserve the Church from six particular errors they say are contained in the synod documents, including language they say promotes “alternative pathways to salvation” for the Amazon people.

Cardinal Burke said he rejects notions that his objections to some of the synod’s language constitutes “disloyalty to the Roman pontiff,” responding instead that it is all bishops’ duty to protect the flock from false teachings.

“As a result of so many decades of poor catechesis and poor preaching, many Catholics do not know well their faith, and they do not have the capacity to give an account of their faith in a thoroughly secular society,” Cardinal Burke said. “Yet, they know, as all honest people know, that only the truth makes possible a virtuous life.”

“Let me make clear,” Cardinal Burke added: “Confusion is never a good. Confusion is the work of the devil. It always has been and it always will be. Only the truth in our Lord Jesus Christ, alive for us in his holy Church, permits us to grow in holiness in life.”

After the cardinal’s address, he took questions from those in the audience on a variety of topics, including the role of adoration and the rosary, the condition of the U.S. Church compared with other countries, and his thoughts on St. John Henry Newman and fellow 19th century English Catholic author G.K. Chesterton.

Cardinal Burke smiles as he greets conference-goers at Athena Hall in Roseville. The cardinal also celebrated an extraordinary form Mass at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Grotto) Parish during his visit. 

Responding to a question about the challenges facing pro-life and pro-family movements worldwide, Cardinal Burke said the American laity are leading the world in many ways.

“There are a lot of wonderful things about the Church in the United States,” Cardinal Burke said. “Some people are getting very discouraged, and I always say to them, ‘Look around: how many young Catholic families are practicing their faith?’ Look at the number of seminarians. Look at the pro-life movement and the strength that it has.

“After many years, I believe that the principal temptation of Satan is discouragement,” the cardinal added. “The minute he has someone discouraged, thinking, ‘I can’t do this; I can’t lead a good life; I can’t avoid this sin,’ that’s what he wants. Don’t give way to discouragement.”

Invoking the protection of St. Paul for the modern Church, Cardinal Burke urged Catholics to take up their crosses and remain faithful to Christ’s teachings, no matter the cost.

“We’re going to be with St. Paul. We’re going to fight the good fight to be with our Lord,” Cardinal Burke said. “Read his passion. He was profoundly anguished, but he never lost his courage to proclaim the truth and the saving mission.”