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Cardinal Joseph Zen offers a Solemn High Pontifical Mass in New York CityJim Hale / LifeSiteNews

HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) –– Cardinal Joseph Zen has issued a detailed critique of the Vatican’s July response to a series of dubia submitted by Zen and four other cardinals, suggesting that the Vatican’s reply had been pre-prepared by Synod organizers “to respond to the disturbers of their agenda.”

The emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen, published Thursday his own analysis of a Vatican document which was issued July 11 by way of a response to a series of dubia submitted to the pope on July 10. 

Zen prefaced his analysis by stating that it was not “presumptuous” to question the dubia answers which had come from the pope, adding that his analysis was a solo work, and thus not written in collaboration with his fellow dubia signatories.

READ: Five cardinals write Dubia to Pope Francis on concerns about Synod, Catholic doctrine

The five dubia cardinals – Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Robert Sarah, and Joseph Zen – publicly released their dubia October 2. They had first written a series of five questions to Pope Francis about the Synod on Synodality on July 10, and received on July 13 an answer dated July 11.

That answer, signed by the pope but written much in the style of Cardinal Victor Fernández, had been so “vague” and unsatisfactory that the cardinals issued their second, more precise dubia, which went unanswered.

The cardinals did not publish the Vatican’s July 11 answer, but on October 2 the Vatican itself issued the text, framing it as the response to the dubia and ignoring the second set of questions. 

Zen stated that consequently “it seems appropriate to me that we respond to those answers, so that the faithful understand why the five of us did not find them adequate as answers.”

Who actually wrote the response?

Zen defended himself from critics, stating that “no mature Catholic will believe that ‘anyone who contradicts the Holy Father is a heretic and schismatic,’ as His Eminence Víctor Manuel Fernández stated.” Fernández had previously argued that opposition to Francis risked becoming “heresy and schism.”

But Zen also weighed in on a question which has surrounded the July 11 dubia response – namely, its authorship. He expressed a “well-founded doubt that those answers do not come from the pen of the Supreme Pontiff, since this time I can quote in my favor what the Most Eminent Fernández said about a document signed with the authority of the Pope: ‘I can’t smell the Pope in it.’” 

READ: Vatican and Cardinal Fernández fire back at cardinals’ new dubia about the Synod on Synodality

He cited the “incredible promptness of the responses (July 11), especially in contrast to the case of the other famous 5 Dubia of 2016 that were simply ignored,” which led him to suspect that the dubia responses “are part of the arsenal of answers that the organizers of the Synod, probably with the help of the ‘Most Eminent,’ had already prepared to respond to the disturbers of their agenda.”

Zen is not alone in this argument. Veteran Vatican reporter Sandro Magister had previously argued that the July 11 response bore Francis’ signature but “the letter displayed the writing style of his trusted theologian, the Argentine Victor Manuel Fernández.”

Pope’s responses ‘confirm our dubia’

Hong Kong’s cardinal wrote that while he agreed with much of the pope’s response, although it did not in fact answer the dubia, some of the pope’s words actually “confirm our Dubia.”

Zen worked through the various passages of the July 11 letter from the pope, highlighting and responding to various issues he discerned. 

READ: Pope Francis to clergy: Decide for yourselves whether to ‘bless’ homosexual unions

Regarding Francis’ opening the door for individual pastors to offer same-sex “blessings” based on their “pastoral prudence,” Zen said that such a text “is pastorally untenable.”

“How can the Church, in such an important matter, leave the people without a clear rule and trust individual discernment?,” he queried. “Isn’t this how a chaos of casuistry very dangerous for souls will break out?”

The pope’s letter read that “no one can publicly contradict” the Church’s Tradition on the male priesthood, but then immediately pivoted, adding that “yet it can be a subject of study,” comparing the matter to “the case of the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”

READ: Pope Francis says ordination of women ‘can be the subject of study’

This Zen criticized strongly, saying that the answer left “a tail.” “So, despite the definitive declaration,” he added, “it will still be possible to discuss ‘ad infinitum’?!” Among other things, the comparison used here is not adequate, because the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Community is a historical problem, while our case is of a theological nature.”

The Catholic Church has already declared all Anglican orders “absolutely null and utterly void” in Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 apostolic letter Apostolicae curae.

Zen’s analysis not only finds issues with the pope’s answers on the issue of same-sex “blessings” and female “ordination,” but also regarding development of doctrine, synodality, and confession. 

“We, too, are convinced that we must learn to truly become messengers of God’s infinite mercy, which is capable of making saints even of us sinners,” Zen closed.