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The dubia of Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner (see DICI no. 345 dated 11/25/16 and no. 346 dated 12/09/16) still have not received a response from Pope Francis, but the statements in support of them are proliferating. In Rome it is general knowledge that these dubia were published in the name of four cardinals but that there were originally six of them.

To date, three bishops and three cardinals have announced their approval: Bp. Jozef Wrobel, Auxiliary Bishop of Lublin, Poland, in an interview with La Fede Quotidiana (November 21); Bp. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, in The Remnant (November 23) (see DICI no. 346 dated 12/09/16); Bp. Jan Wątroba, President of the Council for the Family of the Polish Episcopal Conference in a statement reported by Die Tagespost (November 23). Also, Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, in remarks made in London and reported by the Catholic Herald (November 29); Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, in an interview granted to the Austrian news agency Kath.net (December 13); and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, former President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, responding to questions in La Fede Quotidiana (December 16).

“Like a ship without a rudder”

In addition to this support from bishops and cardinals, a forceful statement by 23 priests and university professors appeared on the website Chiesa on December 8: “As Catholic scholars and pastors of souls, we wish to express our profound gratitude and full support for the courageous initiative of four members of the College of Cardinals, Their Eminences Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner….

“[A] number of commentators, notably Professor Claudio Pierantoni in an extensive new historical-theological study (see DICI no. 346 dated 12/09/16), have argued that as a result of the widespread confusion and disunity following the promulgation of Amoris laetitia, the universal Church is now entering a gravely critical moment in her history that shows alarming similarities with the great Arian crisis of the fourth century. During that catastrophic conflict the great majority of bishops, including even the Successor of Peter, vacillated over the very divinity of Christ. Many did not fully lapse into heresy; however, disarmed by confusion or weakened by timidity, they sought convenient compromise formulae in the interests of ‘peace’ and ‘unity’.

“Today we are witnessing a similar metastasizing crisis, this time over fundamental aspects of Christian living. Continued lip service is given to the indissolubility of marriage, the grave objective sinfulness of fornication, adultery and sodomy, the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist, and the terrible reality of mortal sin. But in practice, increasing numbers of highly placed prelates and theologians are undermining or effectively denying these dogmas—and indeed, the very existence of exceptionless [i.e. absolute] negative prohibitions in the divine law governing sexual conduct—by virtue of their exaggerated or one-sided emphasis on ‘mercy’, ‘pastoral accompaniment’, and ‘mitigating circumstances’.

“With the reigning Pontiff now sounding a very uncertain trumpet in this battle against the ‘principalities and powers’ of the Enemy, the barque of Peter is drifting perilously like a ship without a rudder, and indeed, shows symptoms of incipient disintegration.

“In such a situation, we believe that all Successors of the Apostles have a grave and pressing duty to speak out clearly and strongly in confirmation of the moral teachings clearly expounded in the magisterial teachings of previous popes and the Council of Trent.”

Among the signatories of this statement are several priests and university professors who on June 29, 2016, had published a critique of Amoris laetitia (available in its entirety at the DICI website, posted on August 9, 2016)

It too has gone without any response.

“Towards an unknown conclusion”

This silence about the doubts raised by Amoris laetitia runs the risk of having unforeseen consequences. The Vaticanist Edward Pentin, answering questions at the website Regina on December 8, declares: “I think if the Pope continues not to respond and demand persists for an answer, a growing number of the College [of Cardinals] will move towards favoring the four cardinals, and probably publicly so. We are then likely to see a fairly rapid unraveling of this pontificate towards an unknown conclusion.”

Shortly before that in the interview, the journalist had declared that “The reaction has been interesting so far: almost all the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia have remained silent, neither supporting the cardinals, nor, more importantly, coming out in support of the Pope and his decision not to respond. If silence is taken to mean consent for the dubia, then one could therefore argue that the vast majority are in favor of the four cardinals. That can only be speculative of course, but it could conceivably be true as for months one has heard from one significant part of the Curia that they feel great unease about what is happening.”

In the December 16 issue of Correspondance européenne, the historian Roberto de Mattei spells out: “This is the impasse that Pope Bergoglio faces today.  The dubia presented by the four cardinals (Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner) to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have put him in a blind alley. Confronted with the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, the cardinals are asking the Pope to respond clearly, yes or no, to the following question: Can divorced persons who have remarried civilly but are unwilling to abandon the objective state of sin they find themselves in, legitimately receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist? And more generally: is the Divine and natural law still absolute, or does it allow for exceptions in some cases?

“The answer concerns the foundations of morality and the Catholic faith. If what was valid yesterday is not so today, what is valid today might not be tomorrow.  But if it is admitted that morality can change, according to the times and circumstances, the Church is destined to sink in the relativism of contemporary, fluid society. If this is not so,  Cardinal Vallini, needs to be removed, for in his speech given at the pastoral congress of the diocese of Rome on November 19, he asserted that divorced-and-remarried persons can be admitted to Communion, according to a ‘discernment that distinguishes in a suitable way, on a case by case basis’.  His position was adopted on December 2 by the daily newspaper Avvenire, the mouthpiece of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, according to which Amoris laetitia expressed “very clear words to which the Pope gave his imprimatur”.  Yet, can a pope assign to the ‘discernment’ of pastors the faculty of breaking the divine and natural law of which the Church is the guardian?”

Cardinal Burke answered this question in 2015, in his book, Hope for the World: To Unite All Things in Christ (Ignatius Press): “It is impossible for the Church to change her teaching in matters concerning the indissolubility of marriage. The Church, the Bride of Christ, obeys his words in chapter 19 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, which are very clear insofar as they concern the nature of marriage. No one disputes the fact that these are the words of Christ himself, and after the response of the apostles, the import of these words for those who are called to married life is quite clear. In his teaching on marriage, Christ explains that he is presenting the truth about marriage as it was from the beginning, as God willed it since the creation of man and woman. In other words, the indissolubility of marriage is a matter pertaining to natural law, to the law that God wrote on the heart of every human being. The Holy Father, as the successor of Saint Peter in his pastoral responsibility for the Universal Church, is the first among Christians to be bound to obey Christ’s word.”

(Sources: FedeQuot / Cath.Herald / Remnant / Kath.net / Tagespost / Ignatius.com / chiesa / OnePeterFive / Corresp.europ. – DICI no. 347 dated December 23, 2016)