June 19, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – As reported on Canon212.com, Sandro Magister published on his Settimo Cielo site a letter written to Pope Francis by Cardinal Caffara (of dubia fame). In this letter, Cardinal Caffara respectively addresses the pope and requests – on behalf of all four “dubia cardinals” – an audience with him to discuss the dubia and the confusion caused by Amoris Laetitia since its publication. One can go to the link above and read the letter.
As an aside, there are number of points of minor interest in this letter, such as its proper rejection, in my view, of certain theories, current among some trying to make sense of these truly confusing times, that the See of Peter is currently unoccupied. Cardinal Caffara, on behalf of the four, also rejects the theory that the ministry of Peter could be divisible between Francis and another – obviously a reference to Benedict XVI. Thus, the cardinals reject the theory that Benedict XVI’s resignation could have been invalid on the supposed grounds he intended such a division in his resignation. I will not go into that theory in detail here, but it has always seemed weak and untenable to me on its face. It is improbable, to say the least, that a theologian such as Benedict XVI could ever have believed such a novel theory that would hold the unity represented in the Petrine office, intended by Christ, could be divisible. But, let us leave that aside and return to the dubia.
I have not seen any reporting accompanying Cardinal Caffara’s letter, which was dated April 25, 2017. Perhaps in the next few hours we will learn more background from Sandro Magister as to why it was published now. My initial take is: the Cardinal has published this letter publicly because his request for a papal audience has been either ignored or rejected by the Pope. The reader will remember that the cardinals first went public with the dubia in November 2016 after they were either notified or had concluded the Pope would not respond to them. The Pope has certainly not eased up on his attacks on “rigorists.” For example, in a May 2, 2017 homily (see also here: “Lighten Up, Francis“) the pope says in part, as if addressing his dubia critics:
“And this makes the Church suffer very, very much: closed hearts, hearts of stone, hearts that do not want to open themselves, that don’t want to feel; hearts that only know the language of condemnation: they know how to condemn. They don’t know how to say: “But, explain to me why you are saying this? Why this? Explain it to me…’. No: they are closed. They know everything. They don’t need any explanations.” (emphasis added)
The pope having refused to give a private audience to the cardinals, it seems a fair and obvious assumption that there will be no private correction or warning given to the pope. However, it is also clear, the cardinals – thank God – have not given up.
What is the next step? I have no inside knowledge. The timing of the release of Cardinal Caffara’s letter suggests to me the possibility that the “dubia cardinals” could press their points about the Amoris Laetitia and the dubia at next week’s consistory (on June 28, 2017). “Possibility?” Perhaps, too strong a word. Rather, I would say it seems an opportune moment for the cardinals to correct the pope – but, then again, the way things have been dragged out with the dubia, it might be another seven months until we hear of a next step. Prior reporting has suggested that other cardinals back the “dubia cardinals.” Now is time for these other, quiet-until-now cardinals to man up, to defend the Catholic Faith and finally be heard. If they would, this consistory could turn out to be something truly useful: a proverbial showdown at the O.K. Corral over Amoris Laetitia – something long overdue and absolutely necessary. On the other hand, I would not be surprised if Pope Francis avoids any setting next week wherein cardinals might have the opportunity to confront or question him – should any have the gumption to even try. Then again, I would not be surprised if we must wait yet seven more months for the next dubia moment. Let us pray that Pope Francis, in the end, will speak with the voice of Peter and bring an end to this confusion – and sooner rather than later.