Did the Pope himself wonder whether Amoris Laetitia was orthodox?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 17, 2017

Pope Francis has referred to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as the “authoritative interpreter” of Amoris Laetitia. So when the Austrian cardinal spoke to an Irish audience about the controversial papal document, people naturally paid careful attention.

According to Austen Ivereigh’s account:

Schönborn revealed that when he met the Pope shortly after the presentation of Amoris, Francis thanked him, and asked him if the document was orthodox.

“I said, ‘Holy Father, it is fully orthodox’,” Schönborn told us he told the pope, adding that a few days later he received from Francis a little note that said: “Thank you for that word. That gave me comfort.”

Assuming that it is accurate—and we have no reason to doubt that it is—Cardinal Schönborn’s anecdote presents us with an astonishing picture: The successor to St. Peter—the man whose solemn duty it is to guard the deposit of the faith—is asking another prelate whether his own teaching is orthodox. And he is comforted to hear an affirmative answer.

More: Pope Francis consults with Cardinal Schönborn—one of his close advisers, and a respected theologian—and looks for assurance that his teaching is orthodox, after the document has been issued.

It is ordinary procedure for a Pope to draft a document and then circulate it privately among respected cardinals and theologians, asking them if they could detect any difficulties, so that inaccuracies can be corrected before promulgating the document. According to a rumor that is too widespread to be dismissed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith submitted dozens of suggested amendments to Amoris Laetitia, and they were all ignored. Of course the Holy Father has every right to accept or reject suggestions from his staff.

Cardinal Schönborn’s account leads toward the stunning possibility that Pope Francis was not entirely sure about the orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia even after he released it. At the very least the fact that he could take “comfort” in Cardinal Schönborn’s reassurance tells us the Pope knew some influential prelates would find the document unsound.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jul. 19, 2017 9:11 PM ET USA

    Shoot first, aim later, and shoot while ignoring the aiming instructions from the CDF. Moreover, search for justification for your action from someone who apparently likes where the bullet hit.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - Jul. 19, 2017 4:21 PM ET USA

    To put a fine point on it, here's another instance of how Francis "dialogues". He seeks out only those who'll give the answer for which he's looking. Another example is the group of Laudato Si "advisors" brought in on the topic of global warming. No expert was invited who would articulate the science demonstrating that man has little effect. And when he's involved in Church activities where he unavoidably hears truths he wishes suppressed, he throws a verbal tantrum (Family Synod final address).

  • Posted by: wojo425627 - Jul. 19, 2017 2:14 PM ET USA

    Schonborn says "much more difficult is discernment..." isn't that what marriage tribunals are for to discern whether or not a marriage exists? and Didn't Francis make it much easier to get an annulment through his streamlining of the process? All I see here is subterfuge. Francis' actions don't agree with each other.

  • Posted by: Monserrat - Jul. 18, 2017 11:56 AM ET USA

    As the Church seems to grower ever closer to outright schism (for example, the July 15 attack by Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica on Church teachings and Cardinal Chaput), it is vital that you continue bringing to light the truth of what is happening in this current papacy. May God continue to give you (Phil) the courage and wisdom needed to persevere, and to know that you are not alone, and that you are in very good company indeed.

  • Posted by: fenton1015153 - Jul. 17, 2017 6:08 PM ET USA

    The Pope had doubts that is clear. If Cardinal Schönborn had doubts would he have told the Pope after the document was released? If the Pope had doubts then why did he release it? Who is the ghost writer of Amoris Laetitia?

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 17, 2017 11:55 AM ET USA

    Veritatis Splendor