Demoted: Cardinal Raymond Burke

In a significant move, Pope Francis has demoted a senior American cardinal who’s been a vocal critic of his more welcoming stance towards gays and lesbians.

On Saturday, Francis removed 66-year-old Cardinal Raymond Burke from the position of Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the head of the Vatican’s most senior court of ecclesiastical judgement.

Burke has now been given the role of Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial charity position. The church did not explain the move.

Burke has been seen as one of the leading voices of conservative Catholicism in the Vatican and has openly clashed with the Pontiff and his more moderate views.

He recently spoke out against a short-lived interim report by the Church’s Synod on the Family that stated that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community” and that called for flexibility when dealing with divorce, homosexuality, and civil unions.

The final report saw this ground-breaking language removed from the text.

“The Pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith,” Burke recently told Buzzfeed.

Last month, Burke said in another interview with Life Site that homosexuality equated to “gravely sinful acts” and something “profoundly disordered and harmful.”

He also warned that accepting gay couples into a family or a parish “damages everybody, by serving to normalise the disorder of homosexuality.”

While Pope Francis has hinted at a willingness to be more accepting of gay people, the Catholic Church remains officially opposed to same-sex relationships and especially gay marriage.

According to Catholic dogma, while gay people are accepted, their sexuality is not. This is described as “acts of grave depravity” and as “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to the natural law”.

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