Pope strips conservative US cardinal of Vatican privileges, Vatican official says

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis has removed some of the Vatican privileges of conservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke, including a large subsidized apartment and his salary, a senior Vatican official said on Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, participated in a regular Vatican meeting when the pope made the announcement to senior aides last week.

He quoted the pope as saying that Burke, one of his fiercest critics, was “working against the Church and against the papacy” and that he had sown “disunity” in the Church.

Burke has had no senior Vatican job for years. His is a consultant to one of its tribunals, as are numerous cardinals who live outside Rome, and spends most of his time in his native state of Wisconsin.

The official who was at the meeting denied media reports that Francis had called the 75-year-old Burke “an enemy”.

Burke is a hero to traditionalists in the Church, particularly in the United States, where he is often a guest on conservative Catholic media outlets that have made criticism of the pope a mainstay of their operations.

The move by Francis was his second involving a conservative American prelate this month.

On Nov. 11, the pope dismissed another conservative critic, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, after Strickland refused to step down following a Vatican investigation.

While conservatives are a minority in the Church, they have significant clout in advanced countries such as the United States, in part because of their link to conservative politics.

Burke has been opposing the pope’s reforms almost from the start.

In 2014, a year after Francis was chosen, the pope removed Burke as head of a Vatican tribunal and moved him to a largely ceremonial post several days after Burke said the Church under Francis was “like a ship without a rudder”.

Most recently, in October, Burke was one of five cardinals who openly challenged a global month-long Vatican meeting, known as a synod.

Before the meeting began, Burke was the star quest of a gathering of conservative in a theatre just a few blocks from the Vatican.

There, he called for a defence against the “the poison of confusion, error and division” in the Church.

A person close to Burke said the cardinal had not yet been formerly informed of the pope’s decision, which was first reported by the conservative Italian outlet, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Berkrot)