June 21, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – In a blog earlier this week, I commented on the publishing of Cardinal Caffara’s letter of April 25, 2017 to Pope Francis, wherein he requested an audience with the pope to discuss the five dubia previously sent to the Pope. The Cardinal went public with the letter earlier this week in June because the pope either ignored or expressly rejected that request made in April. I speculated in my recent blog that the upcoming consistory might be an opportune moment for the four dubia cardinals, and other cardinals man enough to join with them, to confront the Pope on the dubia and the confusion and division caused by Amoris Laetitia (I have discussed some of the issues here, here and here). However, I also speculated – even if the cardinals were so inclined to confront the Pope at the consistory, that the Pope would probably skip out on any meetings where such a confrontation might conceivably occur. Reporting by Edward Pentin in the National Catholic Register now suggests the Pope does in fact intend to skip out on the usual pre-consistory meeting with the College of Cardinals.
The thought that a Pope might behave in such a way – avoiding and denying meetings and audiences with his cardinals – is staggering and mind-boggling. I am beginning to picture a stealthy Pope, one who slinks down the hallways of the Vatican and Casa Santa Marta; peeking around corners, ducking in and out of closets and shadows, hiding behind curtains or beneath the linen cart, standing in a corner with a lamp shade on his head – all at the echoing sound of footsteps which he fears might signal the approach of a dubia cardinal. Good grief. I do not know what the dubia cardinals have planned next – if anything at all. I had assumed at the outset that the cardinals had ‘war gamed’ the various scenarios out and had developed an end-game strategy. The Pope won’t meet with them. Therefore, they can neither discuss the dubia with him nor issue a private correction or warning. What do you do now? Hire a plane to circle Vatican City daily with an “Answer the Dubia!” sign in tow? Maybe the laity should show up in St. Peter’s square at the Angelus with such signs?
At this point, if the Pope avoids potential confrontational settings at the consistory all together and avoids future audiences with cardinals non grata, I would hope the four dubia cardinals take advantage of his absence and conduct their own meeting with like-minded cardinals at the June consistory. To do what? Well, for one, hopefully more than enjoying a fine night out in an Italian ristorante and adding cardinals to their ‘those-who-agree-with-us-but-won’t-say-it-too-loud’ list I don’t have a red hat. . .but. . .for starters, how about getting as many cardinals as possible to publicly declare what are the specific correct answers expected from any Catholic and why given the Church’s received and unchanging magisterium. In addition, accompanying this, how about an explicit warning that continued papal non-responsiveness – in the face of repeated reasonable requests and growing confusion and division in the Church – at a minimum, favors heresy (e.g, The Case of Pope Honorius see here and here) and that the cardinals will explore the ‘Bellarmine option’ (i.e., the theoretical deposition of a pope for heresy). How about getting dozens of the attending cardinals (or as many who will) to issue and sign a public declaration requesting all bishops around the world to address a query to the pope asking him to answer the dubia within a specified time period? I don’t know. Just some thoughts. . .not saying they are the best. But this crisis has festered for far too long. At a minimum, the thought of getting cardinals and bishops on the record now with their own dubia answers appeals to me. The cardinal-electors at the next conclave need to know with moral certainty what future papabili believe on these questions. We don’t need any more St. Gallen surprises in the next conclave. Something needs to be done. Whatever it is. . .I hope it amounts to something more than finding out seven months from now in a news article that Pope Francis has refused persistent Facebook “friend requests” from the four dubia cardinals.