BOMBSHELL: The Four Cardinals Letter to Pope Francis – “Seeking Clarity”

From Father Z’s blog:

[UPDATE:  I’d be willing to bet that The Four are merely the tip of the spear.  I’d wager that they represent a large gang of quiet Cardinals who want answers, but because they are presently in curial or diocesan positions they are hesitant to raise their heads too high.]

Four Cardinals (aka The Four) who presently do not have a curial or diocesan role wrote a letter to Pope Francis in September.   The letter also went to Card. Müller, who is Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

 The Four asked five pointed questions in the classic form of “dubia… “doubts” … that needs only “Yes” or “No” answers.

They did not get a response.  Therefore, in the spirit of Matthew 18:16-17 (“If your brother will not listen to you, take with you two or three witnesses. If then he will not listen even to them, tell it to the assembly.”), they have gone public.

The questions are about the Pope’s Post-Synodal Exhortation Amoris laetitia!

Sandro Magister has it.  HERE

The basic structure of what you will read.

  • There is a forward, about the status quaestionis.
  • There is an introduction from the Cardinals about why they wrote the letter.
  • There are the questions themselves.
  • There are expansive paragraphs for each question.

It is thick reading, but rewarding.

The Letter from The Four was dated 19 September, which was some 10 days after Pope Francis sent a letter to Argentinian bishops giving his informal approval to a problematic document they wrote about how to implement Amoris laetitia.

The questions, or dubia, concern the concrete issue of sacraments (Penance and Eucharist) for the divorced divorced and civilly remarried who refuse continence as well as about absolute moral norms.

You should go to read the whole thing there…. but here is the introduction:

To His Holiness Pope Francis
and for the attention of His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller

Most Holy Father,

Following the publication of your Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting, above all in regard to Chapter VIII. Moreover, the media have emphasized this dispute, thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful.

Because of this, we the undersigned, but also many Bishops and Priests, have received numerous requests from the faithful of various social strata on the correct interpretation to give to Chapter VIII of the Exhortation.

Now, compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility and desiring to implement ever more that synodality to which Your Holiness urges us, we, with profound respect, we permit ourselves to ask you, Holy Father, as Supreme Teacher of the Faith, called by the Risen One to confirm his brothers in the faith, to resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to the “Dubia” that we attach to the present letter.

May Your Holiness wish to bless us, as we promise constantly to remember you in prayer.

Card. Walter Brandmüller
Card. Raymond L. Burke
Card. Carlo Caffarra
Card. Joachim Meisner

Rome, September 19, 2016

[…]

3. The “Dubia”

1.    It is asked whether, following the affirmations of “Amoris Laetitia” (nn. 300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person “more uxorio” (in a marital way) without fulfilling the conditions provided for by “Familiaris Consortio” n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” n. 34 and “Sacramentum Caritatis” n. 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live “more uxorio”?

2.    After the publication of the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (cf. n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 79, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?

3.    After “Amoris Laetitia” (n. 301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?

4.    After the affirmations of “Amoris Laetitia” (n. 302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 81, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?

5.    After “Amoris Laetitia” (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?

The letter of The Four is humble and respectful, but clear.   They clearly did not want to be adversarial in tone.  The Four merely want some clarity about “grave disorientation and great confusion” which has been provoked by now infamous elements of Amoris laetitia.

In particular, keep in mind that many people have wondered whether there is an ongoing effort to undermine the Magisterium of St. John Paul II.

You know what will happen next.

The Four will be pilloried by the liberal catholic smear machine, who will seek brow-furrowed quotes from their current darlings, their exemplars of pastoral sensitivity, their hopes for sweeping “change”.

The fact that The Four do not presently have curial or diocesan roles means that – short of having their red hats taken away – the Pope can’t remove them from offices that they don’t hold.

This, folks, is a big deal.

UPDATE:

The Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter… which, frankly, has no credibility until they start being honest and stop using the word “Catholic” in their title) has twisted the move of The Four.  Get this spin from Fishwrap“:

Four semi-retired cardinals [Card. Burke, 67, is not “semi-retired] have publicly questioned Pope Francis’ most recent teachings on family life, issuing an open letter to the pontiff with five yes or no questions about how he understands church teaching following the publication of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.  [It is not that they “publicly questioned” the Pope’s teachings.  They are asking questions so that they can have clarity about the Pope’s teachings.  There is a difference, at least in common English parlance.]

While the cardinals say they are writing the note in “an act of justice and charity” to allow the pope to “dispel all ambiguity” [There is no question that there is ambiguity in the Apostolic Exortation.  Reasonable people want ambiguity in important matters cleared up.] about his exhortation, they take a defiant tone [No. There is nothing defiant about the tone used by The Four.] and pit Francis’ document against others written by his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  [No. The Four did not “pit” Francis against John Paul II.  FRANCIS pitted Francis against John Paul II… or so it seems.  So, The Four have asked, giving Francis the benefit of the doubt, how does what we read in AL harmonize with what we read in the Magisterium of John Paul II.  They want to know if there only seems to be a conflict or if there really is a conflict.  That’s a reasonable thing to ask, even for the sake of lifting any suspicion from Pope Francis himself!]

Publication of such an open challenge to a Catholic pontiff from some of his cardinals, who normally act as the pope’s staunchest defenders, is exceedingly rare.  [They asked questions.  They didn’t issue challenges.]

[…]

Remember what I wrote, above, about how the lib catholic smear machine would paint The Four?

Thus beginneth The Smearing of The Four.

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13 Responses to BOMBSHELL: The Four Cardinals Letter to Pope Francis – “Seeking Clarity”

  1. ginnyfree says:

    It’s gonna take some prayerful thought, but I will come to my own conclusion. Thanks for the heads up. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  2. Toad says:

    “It’s gonna take some prayerful thought, but I will come to my own conclusion.”
    We would expect nothing less from you, Gin-Free.

    ..However, we appreciate being kept informed. And, when your thought has borne fruit – you can then tell us what we ought to think.

  3. mmvc says:

    From the Catholic Herald:

    The cardinals have taken the unusual step of publicly requesting clarification on Communion and the moral law

    Pope Francis has declined to answer an official appeal from four cardinals to clarify his recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

    Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner sent a request for clarification to the Pope in September. They received an acknowledgment but no reply, which they said they have taken as “an invitation to continue … the discussion, calmly, and with respect”, by making the appeal public. It is highly unusual for cardinals to take such a step.

    The letter takes the traditional form of asking theological “dubia” – questions to the Holy See which ask for a yes/no ruling on doctrinal matters. The cardinals’ dubia relate to the sacraments, and to absolute moral norms.

    The first of the dubia asks whether “it has now become possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio [as husband and wife] without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio”.

    In Familiaris Consortio St John Paul II reaffirmed the Church’s practice of not admitting the remarried to Communion if they are still in a sexual relationship with their new partner.

    The other four dubia relate to actions which Catholic teaching considers “intrinsically evil”. The cardinals ask whether there are still “absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions”, and whether those who habitually commit these acts are “in an objective situation of grave habitual sin”.

    It also asks whether St John Paul II’s teaching in the encyclical Veritatis Splendor is still valid: that, in the words of the encyclical, “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”.

    Finally, the cardinals ask whether Catholics should still follow Veritatis Splendor’s teaching on conscience: that, as the cardinals paraphrase it, “conscience can never be authorised to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object”.

    The cardinals say that the letter should not be seen as a “conservative” attack on “progressives”. They say they are motivated by their concern for “the true good of souls” and their “deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope”.

    The cardinals refer to “grave disorientation and great confusion” among Catholics, including bishops, about “extremely important matters”.

    Amoris Laetitia makes no direct reference to Communion for the remarried. But a footnote to the document has prompted a range of interpretations. Footnote 351, which Pope Francis told a journalist he could not remember, says those in in an objective situation of sin might “receive the help of the sacraments.”

    Several bishops have said this merely restates the Church teaching summed up by St John Paul. But a draft document issued by the bishops of Buenos Aires claimed the footnote meant that the teaching no longer stood. The draft document was praised by the Pope in a leaked communication.

    One of the four cardinals to have signed the letter, Cardinal Raymond Burke, had a private audience with the Pope last week. The subject of their discussion is unknown.

    The blogger Fr John Hunwicke said it was a cause for “sadness” that the Pope had not replied to the letter sent in September, adding: “If this pontificate was not already in crisis, it most certainly is now.”

    The letter is not the first appeal to Church authority. In September, six bishops – including Cardinals Burke and Caffarra – signed a “Declaration of Fidelity” to Church teaching which has since gained 7,000 signatures. In July, 45 priests and theologians wrote to the world’s cardinals asking them to request clarification from the Pope.

    One of those 45 signatories, Dr Michael Sirilla, Professor of Dogmatic and Systematic Theology, at Franciscan University of Steubenville, praised the cardinals’ letter, saying: “Faithful Catholics owe a debt of gratitude to these cardinals. The grave confusion that has followed Amoris Laetitia involves fundamental goods of the Eucharist, matrimony, and the objective standards of moral good and evil.

    “Historically, a hallmark of Catholic doctrine has been its beautiful precision, directing souls to eternal salvation. Error is found rarely in the ordinary magisterium. Clarification is needed soon since episcopal conferences are deliberating about how to implement AL.”

  4. Joe says:

    When I see all the fighting in the church, I am reminded of Mark 3:17

  5. kathleen says:

    Father Z, after his latest update from the “Fishwrap”:
    Thus beginneth The Smearing of The Four.

    Okay folks, so that is a call to us all to step up our loyalty and support for these courageous Cardinals, defenders and protectors of Catholic Truth. We had been deploring the lack of ‘knights for Truth’ among the hierarchy amid so much confusion and dissent; and now that we have them, we must rally round our faithful shepherds!

  6. ginnyfree says:

    Burke is called to Sainthood in this matter and by this manner. I’m convinced of it even though he was well on the way prior to all this having come to pass. Thank you for sharing this here. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  7. The end of my story over at Spero News shows a real life example of “Amoris Leatitia” being used as a reason for a diocesan staff person to fail to practice the spiritual work of mercy of admonishing the sinner. This admonishment could result in protecting children from being given scandal, or could result in reconciliation of a marriage breakup.
    http://www.speroforum.com/a/YUAHKEULPT21/79314-Pope-Francis-in-hot-seat-over-marriage-statements#.WCvK4qIrIWo

  8. kathleen says:

    @ BDM

    Thank you very much for this link.
    It is an excellent article giving a thorough explanation of the whole issue at stake. The example you include, describing one case of how the erroneous interpretations of Amoris Laetitia is already being implemented in some diocese, is another justification on the necessity of clearing up the confusion AL is causing once and for all.

  9. JabbaPapa says:

    A proper formal clarification from the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith could certainly help rid us at least partially of the current ideological tug of war between the extremes, although informally both Cardinal Müller and the Pope have already stated that no, there is no “new authorisation” of Holy Communion for those living in adultery.

  10. JabbaPapa says:

    The end of my story over at Spero News shows a real life example of “Amoris Leatitia” being used as a reason for a diocesan staff person to fail to practice the spiritual work of mercy of admonishing the sinner. This admonishment could result in protecting children from being given scandal, or could result in reconciliation of a marriage breakup.

    It’s extremely ironical that Amoris Laetitia 305 actually reprimands those like these Diocesan staff who are abusing the text of the Exhortation to throw moral “stones” at this poor abandoned husband, hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families” (AL).

  11. Young Tony says:

    I am so numb here. I think I wait for the pope to explain himself. The Four has done nothing wrong but opened a window for the vast misinterpretation of the media who are good in disuniting the church.

  12. Robert J. DiFulio says:

    Given the fact that Our Holy Father has done nothing to abrogate previous Church teaching, but has only called for mercy with regard to those who violate the objective norms of morality, I fail to see why this is such a big deal. I am also appalled at those who presume that couples in second marriages, without the benefit of annulments, are in fact living in a sexual relationship. How do the guardians of morality know this unless it is revealed to them by the couples themselves? It seems to me that the presumption of innocence should prevail, rather than the presumption of guilt. If guilt is admitted, then the confessors of the Church can apply the objective penalties that the Church prescribes. Otherwise, I do not understand how anyone can judge the state of a person’s soul. This must be left to God alone. Further, I am bothered by the assertion of the Four Cardinals regarding absolute norms of morality, and those acts considered intrinsically evil.I realize that the Cardinals are writing regarding objective moral norms that are essential to the life of the Church and the spiritual lives of her members. However, unless I am wrong and I could be, even the Cardinals would have to admit that absolute norms can yield to exceptions. For example, the taking of human life is considered to be absolutely immoral (Thou Shall Not Kill.) Nonetheless, down through the centuries the Church has allowed for the taking of human life in many instances, some of which are a scandal regarding the history of the Church. Capital punishment, self defense, so-called just wars, heresy, etc.The Church has not been consistent. The claim that Amoris Laetitia is ambiguous begs the question, “Are not many other pronouncements, decrees, rules and regulations also ambiguous?” Further, in all charity, I must ask, “Why is our Church so focused on issues of sexual morality?” On the face of it, the Cardinals seem to think that all the Catholic Faithful thinks about is sex. Why is so much energy given to this aspect of Christian life? I would like to give a “shout out” to the Four Cardinals and all bishops like them. Your faithful sheep are not just sexual beings. You do not have to keep watch over us in our bedrooms. Give us some credit! We know Church teaching and do not have to be constantly reminded about it, especially the “sex” part. I wonder, “Who has the hang-up here?”

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