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Dubia Cardinal: It would be ‘suicidal’ if pope taught that conscience trumps Revelation

ROME, January 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — It would be equivalent to a “suicidal act” and “cutting the ground from under his feet” if the pope were to teach that conscience is the ultimate guide in moral matters, trumping even Catholic teaching as well as Divine Revelation, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, one of the dubia signers, said in an explosive new interview

“That is why among the five dubia, dubium number five is the most important,” Caffarra said in a January 14 wide-ranging interview with Il Foglio.

The cardinal discussed the reasons he, along with three other Cardinals, asked Francis in September to clarify the ambiguity in the Pope’s April Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Among the yes-or-no questions dealing with the indissolubility of marriage, the sacraments, and moral norms, question five asks if one can ever use “conscience” to justify engaging in intrinsically evil acts.”

The Cardinal's comments reflect those of Cardinal Burke, another Dubia signer, who said last month that a pope who commits formal heresy "would cease, by that act, to be the pope." 

In the interview, Cardinal Caffarra defended submitting the dubia, stating that “only a blind man can deny” that there “exists in the Church a great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia.

“The division among pastors is the cause of the letter we sent to Francis,” he said. 

He made it clear that it is the pope’s exhortation, not the dubia that caused the confusion. Much of the confusion is exemplified by various bishops interpreting the exhortation in contradictory ways, he said, with some allowing communion for adulterers, and others forbidding it. 

“There was only one way to bring it to an end: to ask the author of the text — which is interpreted in two contradictory ways — which [of them] is the correct interpretation. There is no other way,” he said. 

“It seemed to us the simplest way,” he added. 

Caffarra, who is the former president of the Pontifical Institute of John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and Family, described the ongoing confusion in the Church as a “great disorientation.” He shed light on it by quoting from a letter he had received from a parish priest that he said gives a “perfect snapshot of what is happening.” The priest's letter stated:

In spiritual direction and in confession I do not know what to say anymore. To the penitent who says to me, ‘I live in every respect as a husband with a woman who is divorced, and now I approach the Eucharist,’ I propose a path, in order to correct this situation. But the penitent stops me and responds immediately, ‘Listen, Father, the Pope said that I can receive the Eucharist, without the resolution to live in continence.'

I cannot bear this kind of situation any longer. The Church can ask me anything, but not to betray my conscience. And my conscience objects to a supposed papal teaching to admit to the Eucharist, under certain circumstances, those who live ‘more uxorio’ [as husband and wife] without being married.

Commented Caffarra: “Thus wrote a parish priest. The situation of many pastors of souls, and I mean, above all, parish priests, is this: They find themselves carrying a load on their shoulders that they cannot bear.”

He noted how the confusion is most tangible among bishops. Some, following traditional Catholic teaching, have interpreted Amoris as precluding adulterers from receiving Communion, while others such as San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy and the bishops of Malta have done the opposite. 

“These are most serious questions for the life of the Church and for the eternal salvation of the faithful. Never forget, this is the supreme law of the Church: the eternal salvation of the faithful, not other concerns. Jesus founded His Church so that the faithful would have eternal life and have it in abundance,” he said. 

The confusion shows how wrong it is to emphasize pastoral accompaniment that is not rooted in sound doctrine. 

"A Church with little attention to doctrine is not more pastoral but more ignorant,” he said. 

Earlier this month the Vatican’s doctrine chief Gerhard Ludwig Muller suggested in an interview that it was unwise for the Cardinals to go public with their dubia, stating that the Pope cannot be “forced to answer” yes-or-no questions. Critics could easily read his rebuke of the Cardinals’ dubia between the lines. 

But Caffarra called any such criticisms, such as wanting to attack the pope, of not being docile to his teachings, and of wanting to divide the Church, “false and calumnious.”

“It is exactly because we do not want to be indocile that we have written to the Pope. I can be faithful to the magisterium of the Pope if I know what the Pope teaches in matters of faith and of the Christian life,” he said. 

The main problem, he said, is trying to understand where exactly the pope stands. 

“There are fundamental points where what the Pope teaches cannot be well understood, as the conflicts of interpretation between bishops demonstrate. We want to be docile to the magisterium of the Pope, but the magisterium of the Pope must be clear. The publication of the letter following the silence of the Pope was intended to bring clarity,” he said. 

“None of us wanted to ‘oblige’ the Holy Father to respond. In the letter, we spoke of sovereign judgment. We have simply and respectfully presented some questions. The accusations that we wanted to divide the Church deserve no attention,” he added, stating that what has been “undignified” within the Church are the “insults and the threats of canonical sanctions” that the Cardinals have suffered for simply doing their job. 

“There exists for us cardinals a solemn obligation to advise the Pope in the government of the Church. It is a duty, and duties oblige,” he said, adding that in the face of a growing “scandal” caused by Amoris the Cardinals did not want to stand accused of behaving like the “dogs who did not bark” when danger approached the master’s house. 

Caffarra revealed a little of the vigorous process that resulted in the dubia being submitted to the pope. 

“The letter — and the attached dubia — were reflected on at length, for months, and were discussed at length among ourselves. For my part, they were prayed about at length before the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “The final text, therefore, is the fruit of quite a lot of revisions: texts [were] revised, rejected, corrected.”

He explained why the letter was first sent privately to Pope Francis before making it public two months later. 

“We reasoned and decided that it would not have been respectful to make the letter immediately public,” he said. 

“So it was done in private, and only once we had obtained certainty that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publicize it,” he added. 

The cardinals “interpreted the silence [of Pope Francis] as authorization to continue the theological dispute,” he said. 

“And, furthermore,” he continued, “the problem so profoundly involves both the magisterium of the bishops (which, let us not forget, they exercise not by the delegation of the Pope, but by virtue of the sacrament which they have received) and [it involves] the life of the faithful. Both the one and the other have the right to know.”

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