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Retired bishop Frangiskos Papamanolis

GREECE, November 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — A Roman Catholic Greek bishop, who, during the Synod on the Family stated “it is not easy to sin,” has accused four Cardinals of “two very serious sins” for presenting Pope Francis with a set of yes-or-no questions that seek to clarify his recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Retired Bishop Frangiskos Papamanolis, who serves as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Greece, wrote in a scathing open-letter dated Nov. 20 to the Cardinals that they should have renounced their title as “Cardinal” before presenting the Pope with their “dubia,” and thereby committing the sins of “apostasy” and “scandal.”

Following a standard, but little used, procedure within the Church, Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner wrote to the Pope asking him to answer five questions that would dispel what they called the “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful” stemming from Amoris Laetitia.

RELATED: Who are these four cardinals who wrote the ‘dubia’ to the Pope?

The exhortation continues to be a hotbed of controversy since its publication in April. It has been criticized for its ambiguity on the issues of the indissolubility of marriage and whether couples in adulterous relationships can receive Holy Communion.

The four cardinals stated when they went public with their “dubia” last week, after the Pope failed to give them a response, that Amoris Laetitia “implies different, contrasting approaches to the Christian way of life,” and thus their questions touch “on fundamental issues of the Christian life.”

The five yes-or-no questions they ask are: 1) whether adulterers can receive Holy Communion; 2) whether there are absolute moral norms that must be followed “without exceptions;” 3) if habitual adultery is an “objective situation of grave habitual sin;” 4) whether an intrinsically evil act can be turned into a “‘subjectively’ good” act based on “circumstances or intentions;” and 5) if, based on “conscience,” one can act contrary to known “absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts.”

IMPORTANT: To respectfully express your support for the cardinals' letter, sign the petition to Pope Francis. Click here.

The cardinals explain that they were “compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility” to call on the pope “with profound respect” to give answer to the questions posed, reminding him that, as Pope, he is “called by the Risen One to confirm his brothers in the faith” and to “resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity.”

During his pontificate, Pope Francis has stressed “dialogue” and “openness” to those with whom one disagrees. In 2013 Francis personally phoned a Catholic journalist — who had been fired by a Catholic news organization after writing a piece critical of the pope — to tell him that the pope considers it “important” to receive “criticism.” On another occasion that same year, the pope wrote to conservative Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, thanking him for offering him correction on an undisclosed theological matter.

Instead of addressing the specific concerns raised by the Cardinals in their letter to the pope,  Bishop Papamanolis accused them of heresy for questioning the pope, even claiming that as a result of their intervention, their Masses are sacrilegious.

“I fear your mental categories will find sophisticated arguments to justify what you are doing, so that you will not even consider it a sin to be dealt with in the sacrament of penance, and you will continue to celebrate Holy Mass each day and receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist sacrilegiously, while you claim you are scandalised if, in specific cases, a divorced person receives the Eucharist and you accuse the Holy Father Francis of heresy,” wrote the Bishop Emeritus of Syros, Santorini and Crete.

Last year Pope Francis broke away from standard practice by inviting two retired bishops, Papamanolis being one of them, to partake in the Synod on the Family. Prior to this, emeritus bishops were not permitted to attend such events.

Papamanolis concluded his letter this way: “Dearest brothers, may the Lord enlighten you to recognise your sin as soon as possible, and to make good the scandal you have given. With the love of Christ, I greet you fraternally.”

The four Cardinals have been the objects of derision for raising their concerns to Francis.

Last week Jesuit priest Fr. Antonio Spadaro took to Twitter to criticize the cardinals, at one point comparing them to a “witless worm.” Newly minted Cardinal Joseph Tobin has called the four “troublesome,” while Cardinal Blase Cupich, also newly minted, stated that Catholics who have “doubts or questions” about the exhortation need to have “conversion in their lives.”

Despite the backlash, the cardinals are holding fast to the course they have set, with Cardinal Burke stating last week that should the pope not clarify his meaning in the exhortation, they will consider making a “formal act of correction of a serious error.”

A translation of Bishop Papamanolis' letter (original here):