Earlier today, longtime papal critic Cardinal Raymond Burke had a private audience with the pope — his first in about seven years. Other than announcing that this meeting was on the pope’s schedule in the daily press bulletin, following standard protocol, the Vatican did not mention the purpose of the meeting or what was discussed. Reuters journalist Philip Pullella reported that the date of Burke’s last private meeting was November 10, 2016. Pullella wrote, “Asked by Reuters outside his residence in Rome if the meeting had gone well, Burke responded: ‘Well, I’m still alive.'” Burke declined to give any additional details about the meeting.

Later, Cindy Wooden wrote that Burke’s secretary told Catholic News Service (CNS), “His Eminence wishes to give no comment at this time.” Wooden noted that “Various reports say Burke is expected to find his own apartment in Rome and move out of the Vatican accommodations by the end of February.” In late November, it was reported that Pope Francis had decided to cancel Burke’s Vatican salary and to stop subsidizing the 75-year-old cardinal’s rent due to Burke’s decade-long campaign to undermine the unity of the Church.

Pullella summarized some of the highlights (or lowlights) of Cardinal Burke’s history with the pope:

He has had an antagonistic relationship with Francis from the early years of his papacy.

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”.

This past October, Burke was among a handful of cardinals who openly challenged a global month-long synod and asked for a clarification on whether the Church could offer any kind of blessings for same-sex couples, which he opposes.

In a response made public the same month, Francis hinted that the answer was a qualified ‘yes’. The Vatican formalized and explained its policy on blessings for same-sex couples in a major document from its doctrinal office on Dec. 18.

Before the synod began last October, Burke was the star guest of a gathering of conservative in a theatre near the Vatican, where he called for a defense against the “the poison of confusion, error and division” in the Church.

Burke was also one of four cardinals who publicly challenged the pope on doctrinal issues regarding the family in 2016.

In the past, high-profile figures whose relationships with Pope Francis have been seen as rocky or strained have emerged from private audiences and made positive comments about their encounters. For example, many observers were surprised that the retired bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen, emerged from a January meeting with the pope saying, “It was wonderful. He was so very warm!”

Based on Burke’s reaction, it seems likely that the meeting didn’t go quite so well.

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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