Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican
VATICAN CITY — On a sunny morning earlier this year, a camera crew entered a well-appointed apartment just outside the 9th-century gates of Vatican City. Pristinely dressed in the black robes and scarlet sash of the princes of the Roman Catholic Church, Wisconsin-born Cardinal Raymond Burke sat in his elaborately upholstered armchair and appeared to issue a warning to Pope Francis.
A staunch conservative and Vatican bureaucrat, Burke had been demoted by the pope a few months earlier, but it did not take the fight out of him. Francis had been backing a more inclusive era, giving space to progressive voices on divorced Catholics as well as gays and lesbians. In front of the camera, Burke said he would “resist” liberal changes — and seemed to caution Francis about the limits of his authority. “One must be very attentive regarding the power of the pope,” Burke told the French news crew.
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Papal power, Burke warned, “is not absolute.” He added, “The pope does not have the power to change teaching [or] doctrine.”
Burke’s words belied a growing sense of alarm among strict conservatives, exposing what is fast emerging as a culture war over Francis’s papacy and the powerful hierarchy that governs the Roman Catholic Church.