POPE Francis has come under attack from a cardinal who claims that the Catholic Church has become "a ship without a rudder" under his leadership.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, who is the former archbishop of St Louis, has spearheaded opposition to Pope Francis.
The hardline traditionalist has strenuously resisted the Pope's reformist agenda. In an interview with the Spanish Catholic weekly 'Vida Nueva', Cardinal Burke insisted he was not speaking out against the Pope personally but raising concern about the pontiff's leadership.
"Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder," Cardinal Burke said.
"Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith," he added.
Cardinal Burke is the current head of the Vatican's highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, but he said recently he is about to be demoted. There is speculation he will be made patron of the Order of Malta, a largely ceremonial post.
"I have all the respect for the Petrine ministry and I do not want to seem like I am speaking out against the Pope," he said in the interview.
"I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive.
"They are feeling a bit seasick because they feel the church's ship has lost its way," he added.
It's the latest salvo from the conservative firebrand, who is increasingly dismissive of his infallible leader. The 66-year-old, a Wisconsin native with Tipperary roots, said he was not speaking out against the Pope personally, but rather "raising concerns" about the quality of his leadership.
Having emerged as the voice of conservative Catholicism in the US, he has expressed an uncompromising stance on keeping the ban on Communion for Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment, and is one of five conservative cardinals who aired their views in a new book, "Remaining in the Truth of Christ," released on the eve of the bishops' blockbuster synod in early October.
Cardinal Burke has said that Catholic families should not expose children to the "evil" of homosexuality by inviting a gay son home for Christmas with his partner.