Cardinal Raymond Burke Replaced by Pope Francis: Conservatives Out, Moderates In

Cardinal Raymond Burke, the very conservative former archbishop of St. Louis, was replaced with Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington Monday. Pope Francis decided not to reconfirm Burke to the powerful Congregation for Bishops council, which helps decide which bishops will be chosen in the future.

Cardinal Raymond Burke's departure from the Congregation of Bishops council and his subsequent replacement by the more moderate Wuerl is being viewed by some as Pope Francis moving the Catholic church away from combating hot-button social issues and focusing on a more pastoral approach. Burke is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion, and has in the past said that moderates like Wuerl were "weakening the faith."

"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," Burke said recently about the Pope to EWTN, a Catholic broadcaster. "But we can never talk enough about that."

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Burke also barred then-Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry from taking communion in 2004 because he supports abortion as a Roman Catholic. Wuerl, in contrast, does not agree with bans on sacraments for lawmakers who disagree on social issues, and wants to push the Catholic church away from "incrimination of others," he wrote in a 2009 editorial titled "Casting the First Stone."

Pope Francis also replaced Cardinal Justin Rigali, the former archbishop of Philadelphia who had to resign after mishandling a priest abuse scandal. Cardinal William J. Levada of San Francisco, another moderate, was reconfirmed to the council, however.

The Congregation of Bishops council will help lead the church into the future, and sooner rather than later. The Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, will be stepping down soon when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.

Cardinal Burke hasn't been completely ousted, though. He will retain his position as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican's high court.

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