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Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

July 18, 2017 (Catholic Culture) — Pope Francis has referred to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn as the “authoritative interpreter” of Amoris Laetitia. So when the Austrian cardinal spoke to an Irish audience about the controversial papal document, people naturally paid careful attention.

According to Austen Ivereigh’s account:

Schönborn revealed that when he met the Pope shortly after the presentation of Amoris, Francis thanked him, and asked him if the document was orthodox.

“I said, ‘Holy Father, it is fully orthodox’,” Schönborn told us he told the pope, adding that a few days later he received from Francis a little note that said: “Thank you for that word. That gave me comfort.”

Assuming that it is accurate — and we have no reason to doubt that it is — Cardinal Schönborn’s anecdote presents us with an astonishing picture: The successor to St. Peter — the man whose solemn duty it is to guard the deposit of the faith — is asking another prelate whether his own teaching is orthodox. And he is comforted to hear an affirmative answer.

More: Pope Francis consults with Cardinal Schönborn — one of his close advisers, and a respected theologian — and looks for assurance that his teaching is orthodox, after the document has been issued.

It is ordinary procedure for a Pope to draft a document and then circulate it privately among respected cardinals and theologians, asking them if they could detect any difficulties, so that inaccuracies can be corrected before promulgating the document. According to a rumor that is too widespread to be dismissed, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith submitted dozens of suggested amendments to Amoris Laetitia, and they were all ignored. Of course, the Holy Father has every right to accept or reject suggestions from his staff.

Cardinal Schönborn’s account leads toward the stunning possibility that Pope Francis was not entirely sure about the orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia even after he released it. At the very least, the fact that he could take “comfort” in Cardinal Schönborn’s reassurance tells us the Pope knew some influential prelates would find the document unsound.

​Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.