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Cardinal Pell defends four cardinals for asking ‘significant’ questions

November 29, 2016

Cardinal George Pell has come to the support of the four cardinals who have submitted dubia about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.

Following an address to an audience in London, the Australian cardinal was asked whether he agreed with the questions the cardinals had asked Pope Francis. He replied: “How can you disagree with a question?” He added, however, that the questions were “significant.”

During his talk, Cardinal Pell had spoken at length about the proper understanding of conscience in relation to moral law. While acknowledging the primacy of conscience, he cited the concern of Blessed John Henry Newman about a “miserable counterfeit” of conscience that promotes “the right of self-will.”

A conscience must be properly informed, the cardinal said. “When a priest and a penitent are trying to discern the best way forward in what is known as the internal forum,” he said, they should always refer to the moral laws set forth by the Church. “The idea that you can somehow discern that moral truths should not be followed or should not be recognized is absurd,” he said.

Cardinal Pell pointedly remarked that Catholics are sometimes advised to follow their own consciences on questions involving sexual morality. It is telling, he said, that the same advice is not given to those who harbor racist attitudes, or who deny an obligation to assist the poor.

For those who are interested in understanding the Church’s teachings on moral issues, Cardinal Pell strongly recommended Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, two “great encyclicals” of St. John Paul II. Critics of Pope Francis have observed that those two encyclicals were largely overlooked in Amoris Laetitia.

Cardinal Pell said that many faithful Catholics have been “unnerved” by recent developments within the Church. He said this was a result of the widespread confusion about the authority of moral law.


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  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Nov. 29, 2016 7:52 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Pell nails it and certainly draws the obvious extension to the conscience thing. Another lesson for the dean of Roman Rota: the 4 Cardinals followed what is to be done in such cases perfectly. Perhaps your noting of "punishment" is click bait for His Eminence? Is it too much to ask of the Pope to simply affirm sound theological statements? Or is he too rigid?

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Nov. 29, 2016 7:47 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis memorably asked Catholics to "make a mess," but now we're told that doesn't include asking him for clear teaching? Even if he thought the four prelates were misguided, wouldn't it have been more pastoral and merciful to issue a prompt answer to them as soon as they asked, rather than insult them with silence?

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 29, 2016 6:47 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Pell in the cited article said that "Jesus’s words, such as 'Many are called, but few are chosen,' suggest a lot of people will go to hell. The cardinal said that while he did not relish this idea, 'Jesus knew more about this than we did.'...A sinful life made it hard to perceive truth, he said, including moral truths--and so not understanding the moral law might itself be a result of sin. 'The idea, now, of culpable moral blindness is discussed as infrequently as the pains of hell.'"

  • Posted by: filioque - Nov. 29, 2016 6:47 PM ET USA

    Good for Cardinal Pell. Five on board, 200 to go (cardinals).