Pope Francis Reportedly Punishes Cardinal Burke—A Frequent Critic And The Second American Conservative Church Leader He’s Rebuked



Pope Francis punished Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has frequently blasted the pope and his policies, the Associated Press reported, citing anonymous sources—the second time this month Pope Francis has disciplined one of his critics on the church’s conservative American flank.

Key Facts

Pope Francis reportedly revoked Burke’s right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary.

The pope reportedly told fellow church leaders he was doing so because Burke had become a source of “disunity” in the church and was using these privileges against the church.

He also reportedly called Burke “my enemy,” according to the Catholic News Agency, also citing anonymous sources.

Burke told the AP he hadn’t been notified of this punishment Tuesday morning.

Forbes has reached out to the Vatican press office for comment.

Key Background

Burke is seen by some as the de facto leader of a conservative wing of the Catholic Church in the U.S. that has frequently criticized Pope Francis. When Pope Francis held an official meeting of church officials called a synod in October, Burke and several other cardinals issued a formal list of questions called dubia, the AP reported. That synod was convened for church leaders to discuss making the church more welcoming to LGBTQ worshippers and allowing women and lay people (non-priests) to play a more active role in the church, among other things. Burke and other American church leaders have been outspoken against those two efforts. During that synod, Burke held a counter-synod steps away from St. Peter’s Basilica where he gave a harshly critical address, the AP reported. The two have a history of clashing. Burke was appointed to the Congregation of Bishops in 2009 by Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. However, in 2013, when Pope Francis was leading the church, he removed Burke as well as 13 other of the 18 bishops from the group, a move Burke criticized and alleged was because he was “talking too much about abortion” and “the integrity of marriage as between one man and one woman,” the Guardian reported.


Burke is now the second conservative American church leader to be disciplined by Pope Francis recently. Earlier this month, Pope Francis ousted Bishop Joseph Strickland, who oversaw a diocese in east Texas. Strickland, a firebrand conservative, was also vocal about his opposition to Pope Francis and efforts to make the church more welcoming to LGBTQ worshippers and to give additional responsibility to lay people. Strickland called Pope Francis’ synod “garbage” and once shared a video on social media calling Pope Francis a “diabolically disoriented clown.” Strickland also waded into politics, including one instance in December 2020 when he spoke at a rally in Washington, D.C. organized by then-President Donald Trump’s supporters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Surprising Fact

Despite his differences with Pope Francis, Burke has at times also been seen as a candidate for the papacy. The Catholic Herald described him as “a dark horse candidate to succeed Pope Francis in the event of an imminent resignation.” The Catholic publication noted that Pope Francis’ recent appointments make it unlikely the church would choose someone as radically different as Burke, though. Eighty-three of the 132 cardinal leaders that would be tasked with electing the next pope were appointed by Pope Francis.

Further Reading

Pope Francis Ousts Conservative Texas Bishop After Frequent Attacks (Forbes)

The Vatican Says Transgender Catholics Can Be Baptized — Following Years Of Critical Statements About Trans People By Pope Francis (Forbes)

Pope Francis Said Homosexuality Isn’t A Crime—Here’s What Else He’s Said About LGBTQ Issues (Forbes)

Pope punishes leading critic Cardinal Burke in second action against conservative American prelates (The Associated Press)

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