A conservative U.S. cardinal on the top-ranking Congregation for Bishops was removed by Pope Francis on Monday and replaced with a more moderate American.
Cardinal Raymond Burke has been an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage and abortion. His replacement is seen by experts to be a sign that Francis doesn’t care if inclusiveness disrupts the Vatican establishment, the New York Times reported.
“He is saying that you don’t need to be a conservative to become a bishop,” said Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Italy. “He wants good bishops, regardless of how conservative or liberal they are.”
Burke’s removal will mean a sharp decrease in his influence, especially over changes to American Catholic churches.
“The Congregation for Bishops is the most important congregation in the Vatican,” said Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest. “It decides who are going to be the bishops all over the world. This is what has the most direct impact on the life of the local church.”
Burke came to the Vatican in 2008 after serving as the archbishop of St. Louis. Despite the pope’s preference for humble attire, Burke was prone to wear the billowing red silk cape, the cappa magna.
Burke previously argued that Catholic politicians shouldn’t take communion is they support abortion rights.
“One gets the impression, or it’s interpreted this way in the media, that he thinks we’re talking too much about abortion, too much about the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” Cardinal Burke said of the pope in an interview with Catholic broadcaster EWTN. “But we can never talk enough about that.”
His replacement, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, 77, has served as the Archbishop of Washington since 2006. He doesn’t support the withholding of communion from pro-choice politicians.
“Our primary job is to teach and try to convince people,” he said in 2006. “The tradition in our country has not been in the direction of refusing Communion, and I think it's served us well.”