Dated September 19, 2016, the letter asked the pope 5 short questions which call for ‘yes or no’ answers which would immediately clarify the meaning of the confusion-plagued document on precisely those points where theologians, priests and even bishops have offered contradicting interpretations.
See related article, *Updated: Who are these four cardinals who wrote the ‘dubia’ to the Pope?
After nearly two months of the pope’s refusal to respond, the Cardinals have released their letter with an explanatory note giving the faithful the opportunity to see their grave concerns, which touch directly on the integrity of the Catholic faith.
The timing of the letter to the pope is notable. It comes ten days after the release of the first public indication that Pope Francis approved an interpretation of Amoris Laetitia that had been previously described as ‘heretical’ by one of the Cardinal signatories – one that would permit remarried divorcees who could not get an annulment to receive communion without forgoing sexual relations. That public revelation was a letter from Pope Francis to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region in Argentina approving of their interpretation of the controversial eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia as the only valid one.
The questions and an explanatory note about them are reproduced below by LifeSiteNews. Other than the practical question on the availability of confession and communion to divorced and remarried Catholics who refuse continence, the questions concern the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on absolute moral norms, on intrinsically evil acts that are binding without exceptions, on the objective situation of grave habitual sin and on conscience.
Signed by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner, the letter tells the Pope of the “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful” stemming from Amoris Laetitia. The cardinals explain that they are “compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility” to call on Pope Francis “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.”
In a note explaining to the faithful their release of the letter, the cardinals reveal the letter had its “origin in a deep pastoral concern,” about the “grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the Church.”
As cardinals, they wrote, they “are entrusted with the task of helping the Pope to care for the universal Church.” The four Cardinals interpreted the Pope’s decision not to respond “as an invitation to continue the reflection, and the discussion, calmly and with respect” and thus chose to inform “the entire people of God about our initiative, offering all of the documentation.”
They expressed their hope that it would not be interpreted as “any form of politics in the Church” nor lead to their being unjustly accused as “adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy.” Rather, they said, “What we have done and are doing has its origin in the deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope, and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful.”
The gravity of the present situation in the Church is underlined by the rarity of the intervention of the four cardinals now made public.
As the cardinals state in an explanatory note, “the interpretation of (Amoris Laetitia) also implies different, contrasting approaches to the Christian way of life,” and thus the questions touch “on fundamental issues of the Christian life.”
It is noteworthy that of the four signatories, three are retired cardinals, thus unable to be removed from offices by a pope who has demonstrated a willingness to remove from office those who do not share his vision. Cardinal Burke is the only one not retired.
Moreover, while the cardinals surely undertook the measure to make the letter public for the good of the Church and in the spirit of the pope’s oft repeated call for synodality, the publication of the letter also serves to reveal to the faithful not only the grave disorientation and confusion caused by Pope Francis, but also his knowledge of its gravity and his choice not to end the confusion.
See the full text of the letter and accompanying explanatory notes and the five questions here.