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Four cardinals make public plea to Pope to clarify Amoris Laetitia

November 14, 2016

Four cardinals have made public a message to Pope Francis in which they plead for clarification of Amoris Laetitia, pointing to tensions between the papal document and traditional Catholic teachings on marriage.

The four cardinals sent their request for clarification to Pope Francis on September 19. They have received no reply. The prelates explain that they have interpreted the Pontiff’s silence as “an invitation to continue the reflection, and the discussion, calmly and with respect.”

In a note explaining their decision to make their questions public, the cardinals observed that they had found “grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful” regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage. That confusion, they added, was evident in the fact that even among bishops there have been contradictory interpretations of the papal document, particularly the controversial Chapter 8. They explained that Church tradition suggests that such questions should be referred to the Pope “to resolve those doubts which are the cause of disorientation and confusion.”

The four—Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffara, and Joachim Meissner—had submitted five dubia, or questions needing clarification—to the Pope. They asked to state clearly whether, in the light of Amoris Laetitia, a Catholic who is married, divorced, and living with another partner can be granted sacramental absolution and admitted to Communion. They also asked him to clarify whether the Church still upholds the teaching of St. John Paul II, in Veritatis Splendor, that some acts are always and intrinsically evil, that no circumstances can justice an intrinsically evil act, and that an appeal to conscience cannot be sufficient to justify an intrinsically evil act.

The four prelates write that in raising these questions, they have fulfilled their duty as cardinals—set forth in #349 of the Code of Canon Law—to help the Pope care for the universal Church.

Because the Pontiff has chosen not to reply, the four cardinals say, they are presenting the questions to the universal Church for discussion—“informing the entire people of God about our initiative, offering all of the documentation.”


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  • Posted by: scotty - Nov. 15, 2016 10:40 PM ET USA

    I wonder if "informing the entire people of God about our initiative, offering all of the documentation" is also found in the Code of Canon Law? Or did they "inform the public" to try and force the Pope's answer?

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Nov. 15, 2016 5:36 PM ET USA

    How DARE the Pope not reply on demand, on the Cardinals' timetable! Who does he think he is? The Pope? (More to the actual point: who do they think THEY are?)

  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Nov. 15, 2016 3:32 PM ET USA

    The reasons for his silence are obvious. Francis is too narcissistic to tolerate anyone doubting his "new way" of looking at things, and the one thing narcissists constantly dismiss is the idea that there is no “new way” of looking at things. God is not a fool in giving us eternal immutable truths that impeach our vanities and remain true everywhere and for all time.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 15, 2016 1:14 PM ET USA

    "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' Anything else comes from the evil one." [Matthew 5:37]

  • Posted by: space15796 - Nov. 15, 2016 10:35 AM ET USA

    While I regret that Cardinal Burke has to endure all this, he is perfectly suited and the right man to deal with this situation. These are extraordinary times when the faithful have to ask a simple question to clarify an issue of great importance - and we go unanswered.

  • Posted by: AnnH - Nov. 15, 2016 3:09 AM ET USA

    What does "has chosen not to reply" mean? Could it be that he hasn't replied *yet*? Or might it meant that he said he's not going to answer their request? How long does it normally take for the Church to issue a response to "dubia"?

  • Posted by: eft945309797 - Nov. 15, 2016 12:53 AM ET USA

    I am personally opposed to xxx but yyy ...

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Nov. 15, 2016 12:50 AM ET USA

    The questions are clear and strike to the essence of fundamental teachings. The silence is deafening. The questions are, mildly put, not a challenge at all but...the silence is deafening and, perhaps, as show of rigidity. It is a brilliant strategic move, unfortunate, but necessary. Silence can easily be related to rigidity. Lengthy responses requiring yet more "interpretation" lead nowhere and would suggest evasion. Other possible responses would definitely give rise to real problems.

  • Posted by: Ken - Nov. 14, 2016 8:09 PM ET USA

    So sad. So very sad. Sewing the seeds of confusion.

  • Posted by: rickt26170 - Nov. 14, 2016 7:44 PM ET USA

    Pray for Cardinal Burke and his companions. The question is of great importance.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - Nov. 14, 2016 6:23 PM ET USA

    While I understand where Eric is coming from, he collaterally puts his finger on a reality which seems to be gravely present in the Church - private clerical opinions given in private vs the Church's real teaching. It does not seem unreasonable to suspect that the present Pope, while lower in the rank, dished out a lot of similar murky advice on other things like contraception, etc.

  • Posted by: ALC - Nov. 14, 2016 6:01 PM ET USA

    Since Pope Francis was so quick to tell the bishops from Argentina that they had interpreted the document correctly, the least he can do is respond to these questions with clarification. Confusion is the work of the Devil and I am afraid that there is a lot of confusion within the Church these days.

  • Posted by: Eric - Nov. 14, 2016 1:47 PM ET USA

    A noble effort, but sadly I suspect the Holy Father will not provide the yes/no answers that they have requested. He will most likely submit a multi-page response that, as usual, can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Our Holy Father is a good man, but he forgets that he is no longer a parish priest. The things you say to a person one-on-one are no longer appropriate now that you are in the Chair of Peter.