Four Cardinals Throw Down Gauntlet Before Cunning Pope Featured
Written by Christopher A. Ferrara
For the past three-and-a-half years we have witnessed the bizarre, completely unprecedented spectacle of a wayward Roman Pontiff engaged in clever maneuvering to impose upon the Church a disastrous fracturing of her bimillenial moral and Eucharistic discipline respecting the divorced and “remarried”—and, even worse, via Amoris Laetitia (especially Ch. 8, ¶¶ 300-305), a form of situation ethics that would institutionalize admission to the sacraments of all manner of people living habitually in situations that are mortally sinful.
The entire sinister program, the centerpiece of Bergoglianism, is summed up in Francis’ shocking declaration at ¶ 303 of Amoris:
Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.
Francis here reveals nothing less than an insane attempt to conjure up exceptions to exceptionless, divinely imposed negative precepts of the natural law respecting intrinsically immoral conduct, such as adultery, reducing those precepts to mere “ideals” to which God does not expect strict conformity “amid the complexity of one’s limits.” This, of course, would represent the total destruction of the moral order in practice.
To accomplish this moral sedition, Francis, post-Amoris, has been winking and nodding to prelates who are now admitting divorced and “remarried” people to Holy Communion, purporting to “absolve” them of their continuing adultery in “certain cases.” At the same time, he observes a studious silence in the face of urgent entreaties from other prelates and large numbers of the laity that he “clarify” his position and retract the errors of Amoris.
Respecting that stonewall of silence, however, Francis’ cunning has finally caught up with him. Having refused to answer a private petition for clarification of Amoris submitted by four cardinals in September, these Princes of the Church—Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmuller, Joachim Meisner and Raymond Burke—have taken the extraordinary step of making the document public. EWTN’s National Catholic Register and The Catholic Herald are among the Catholic organs that have just published the entire text of the intervention, which presents five questions for the Pope to answer. The contents are explosive, to say the least. More than that, they constitute what will undoubtedly be a landmark in the history of the Church.
As even the resolutely mainstream Catholic Herald put it in the headlines of its story: “Pope Francis declines to answer four cardinals’ Amoris appeal. The cardinals have taken the unusual step of publicly requesting clarification on Communion and the moral law.” Let me stress the key phrase: “publicly requesting clarification on Communion and the moral law.” That is, the four cardinals recognize that Francis, who is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ, has called the moral law itself into question. Leaving no doubt of this, they note that “while the first question of the dubia is a practical question regarding the divorced and civilly remarried, the other four questions touch on fundamental issues of the Christian life.”
The five questions the cardinals presented to Francis, and now to the Church at large, express grave doubts about his teaching in Amoris:
1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio [as if they were married, including sexual relations] without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84 [ending the adulterous relationship by separating or living as brother and sister for grave reasons, such as caring for children], and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
2. After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?
3. After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?
4. After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
5. After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?
These five questions are a direct challenge to Francis to declare whether he purports to contradict infallible teachings of the Magisterium “based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church” as well as “absolute moral norms.” The polite language of petition aside (the reader may consult the document as a whole in that regard), the four cardinals are essentially demanding publicly that Francis declare whether he intends to teach heresy and undermine the entire moral edifice of the Church!
Further on in the document the cardinals provide an analysis of each question that has clearly been written to force Francis to declare himself. Respecting the first question, the cardinals write that admitting divorced and “remarried” people to Communion while they continue to engage in sexual relations would mean that, in practice, Amoris is teaching “one of the following affirmations about marriage, human sexuality and the nature of the sacraments”:
- …[That] people who are not married can under certain circumstances legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy.
- A divorce dissolves the marriage bond…. The divorced and remarried are legitimate spouses and their sexual acts are lawful marital acts.
- A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married… [but] the faithful can approach the Eucharistic table even with consciousness of grave sin, and receiving absolution in the sacrament of penance does not always require the purpose of amending one’s life. The sacraments, therefore, are detached from life: Christian rites and worship are on a completely different sphere than the Christian moral life.
Regarding the second question, the cardinals inquire whether Francis accepts the teaching of the very Pope he canonized, in Veritatis Splendor, that “that there are acts that are always evil, which are forbidden by moral norms that bind without exception (‘moral absolutes’),” including “‘Do not kill.’ ‘Do not commit adultery.’ Only negative norms can bind without exception.” Here the cardinals target Francis’s novel moral notion of “discernment” of “particular situations,” requesting to know whether Francis accepts that: “with intrinsically evil acts no discernment of circumstances or intentions is necessary. Uniting oneself to a woman who is married to another is and remains an act of adultery, that as such is never to be done… and that it is enough to know the species of the act (‘adultery’) to know that one must not do it.
Quite simply, the cardinals—incredibly enough—are asking a Pope to clarify whether he accepts the most basic moral teaching of the Church, which even a child can understand: that God’s commandment “thou shalt not” admits of no exceptions under any circumstances.
Respecting the third question, the cardinals further inquire whether Francis accepts the teaching of John Paul II, also the constant teaching of the Church, that “the question of the admission to the sacraments is about judging a person’s objective life situation and not about judging that this person is in a state of mortal sin.” The cardinals wish to know whether “even after Amoris Laetitia, it is still possible to say that persons who habitually live in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, such as the commandment against adultery, theft, murder or perjury, live in objective situations of grave habitual sin, even if, for whatever reasons, it is not certain that they are subjectively imputable for their habitual transgressions.”
That is, the cardinals wish to know if Francis has overthrown the bimillenial Eucharistic discipline of the Church respecting habitual public sinners!
Respecting the fourth question, the cardinals further inquire—rather archly, I must say—whether:
Amoris Laetitia,too, is agreed that any act that transgresses against God’s commandments, such as adultery, murder, theft or perjury, can never, on account of circumstances that mitigate personal responsibility, become excusable or even good.
Do these acts, which the Church’s Tradition has called bad in themselves and grave sins, continue to be destructive and harmful for anyone committing them in whatever subjective state of moral responsibility he may be?
Or could these acts, depending on a person’s subjective state and depending on the circumstances and intentions, cease to be injurious and become commendable or at least excusable?
That is, once again, the cardinals query whether Francis purports to undermine the entire moral order by condoning intrinsically evil acts as excusable or even commendable in certain situations!
Finally, respecting the fifth doubt, citing the astounding affirmation of ¶ 303 of Amoris, which I quote above, the cardinals wish to know if Francis is in accord with the teaching of John Paul II—once again, also the constant teaching of the Church—rejecting attempts “to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept.”
Here the cardinals note that if this “creative” pastoral approach were permitted “it will never be enough for moral conscience to know ‘this is adultery,’ or ‘this is murder,’ in order to know that this is something one cannot and must not do.” That is, the cardinals indicate that Amoris appears to condone situation ethics, and they ask Francis to “clarify” that this is not his intention—quite an astonishing public request to make of a Roman Pontiff.
To their eternal credit, the cardinals have politely demanded from Francis a simple yes or no answer to each of these five questions, noting that they have presented them in the form of dubia precisely to avoid further Bergoglian equivocation: “What is peculiar about these inquiries is that they are worded in a way that requires a “Yes” or “No” answer, without theological argumentation. This way of addressing the Apostolic See is not an invention of our own; it is an age-old practice.”
In sum, what the four cardinals have issued is, in essence, a politely worded indictment framed in such a way that Francis must, if he says anything at all, plead Guilty or Not Guilty—Guilty or Not Guilty, that is, of teaching objective heresy and engaging in ecclesiastical treason, no matter what his subjective culpability may be in the sight of God.
In the face of an accusation—which is what the cardinals’ document is—a common criminal can remain silent and his silence cannot be used against him in a court of law. But the Catholic Church is not a court of law. It is the Household of the Faith, and the head of that household now has a duty to speak clearly, for once, to the souls who inhabit it, for whose eternal welfare he is directly responsible. If Francis continues to refuse to speak, even when four of his cardinals publicly call upon him before the whole Church to give an answer, his silence will speak for him; the truth he refuses to affirm will convict him, and the bar of history will pass sentence on his disgraceful pontificate, just as it has done with other wayward Popes.
To recall the eerily apt condemnation of the infamous Pope Honorius I by his own successor, Leo II: “We anathematize… also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.” May the good God deliver us from the profane treachery of the current occupant of the Chair of Peter.
Catch Chris Ferrara’s regular column in the print/e-edition of The Remnant.