RELIGION
02/19/2017 02:24 am ET Updated Feb 19, 2017

Steve Bannon's Cardinal Pal Denies Being Posted To Guam Is Punishment From Pope

A political battle is simmering in the Vatican, with arch-conservatives waiting in the wings.

An arch-conservative American cardinal has denied that his sudden posting to Guam is a punishment from Pope Francis for a satirical publication released last week to skewer the pontiff’s liberal views.

In a fake paper designed to look like the official Vatican newspaper, conservative Catholics mocked the pope, even including a phony interview with him.

In the wake of the incident, the Vatican dispatched Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to Guam to be the judge at a trial of an archbishop who was removed from office last year after several allegations of child sex abuse. Burke insisted the trial will likely be finished by the summer and told Mediaset in Italy that the posting was normal and not a punishment from the pope, though the two men have clashed in the past.

Burke is friends with Donald Trump’s top aide Steve Bannon, the New York Times reported earlier this month. They’re both members of an emboldened Catholic power base — self-described “rad trads,” or radical traditionalists — pushing for a stricter interpretation of church teachings, according to the Times. The pope, on the other hand, is one of the more liberal pontiffs of the last several decades. He preaches compassion, has encouraged protesting to achieve justice, is concerned about climate change and has attacked policies of the Trump administration without mentioning the president’s name.

Burke recently angered the pope after reportedly demanding the suspension of a leader of a traditionally conservative Catholic charity organization, the Knights of Malta, for arranging the distribution of free condoms in Myanmar. He was also one of four cardinals who issued a written challenge to Pope Francis asking him to further explain his teaching on family life, “Amoris Laetitia” ― which the fake Vatican paper ridiculed as well.

The trial Burke is set to preside over in Guam is already experiencing trouble. An altar boy who had accused the local archbishop of sex abuse has refused to take the stand, the Catholic News Agency reported.

His lawyer complained that the boy would be intimidated at the hearing because he would be surrounded and questioned by Catholic priests acting as the defense attorney, the prosecutor and the judge — yet the boy’s lawyer would not be allowed to be present to advise his client.  

Advocates for victims of priest sex abuse complained about the choice of Burke for the case. They said the conservative cardinal has in other cases “consistently defended accused clergy and played hardball with victims,” Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-director of BishopAccountability.org told the Pacific Daily News.

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