On Saturday the Holy See announced that Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis has been appointed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. The Archbishop will undertake his new duties while remaining Archbishop of St. Louis.
While the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is often labeled the “Supreme Court” of the Catholic Church, the Tribunal’s cases are generally more rare than those of the U.S. Supreme Court. Most judicial appeals, which come to Rome from dioceses around the world, are decided by the Roman Rota. The Supreme Tribunal’s duties include responsibility for any appeals to rulings of the Roman Rota, in addition to oversight of the Roman Rota itself.
The Tribunal is currently being asked to consider the appeal of a group of parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, which have been closed due to restructuring in the archdiocese. The parishes are appealing to the Tribunal after their initial appeals to Rome were denied earlier this month.
The Tribunal also oversees the administration of justice within the Church, examining administrative matters referred to it by the Congregations of the Roman Curia as well as questions committed to it by the Holy Father.
Archbishop Burke is known as an accomplished Canon Lawyer. Having completed his graduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Burke was named Moderator of the Curia and Vice Chancellor of the Diocese of La Cross, Wisconsin. Prior to being named Bishop of La Crosse in 1994, Burke served as Defender of the Bond of the Supreme Tribunal for five years - the first American to hold such a post.
Burke has been one of the strongest voices in the American Church in recent years, speaking boldly against pro-abortion politicians who also claim to profess the Catholic faith.
Burke, who attempts to meet one-on-one with Catholic politicians in his dioceses in order to explain and encourage them to follow Church teaching, is not afraid to take a public stance. In 2004 Burke, then Bishop of La Crosse, issued a directive to his priests to refrain from giving Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion.
Burke was then named Archbishop of St. Louis and publicly criticized presidential candidate John Kerry for his pro-abortion stance, suggesting that Kerry should not be allowed to receive communion.
Burke was also involved in a difficult legal battle with a schismatic parish in his current archdiocese. In 2004, while Archbishop Justin Rigali was still Archbishop of St. Louis, Stanislaus Kostka Parish, an ethnically Polish congregation, altered its by-laws to eliminate any recognition of the authority due to the archbishop and pastor - making it a self-governing church. When Archbishop Rigali and then Burke attempted to talk the parish into returning to the governance of the Church, they refused.
Archbishop Burke placed the parish under interdict and brought consulters from Poland to speak to the parish, but the parish decided to appeal to Rome for help. When the ruling came back and the Congregation for the Clergy found in favor of Burke, the parish further distanced itself and appointed its own priest. At that point, Burke declared that the parish had completed the break from Rome and excommunicated itself. In 2005 Burke suppressed the parish and began taking action to encourage the growth of another Polish parish in St. Louis.
Appointed with Archbishop Burke were Archbishop Luis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain and Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education who has previously served as Secretary and Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal.