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Breaking: Cardinal Burke: “Formal correction” to follow if no response from Francis.
A turning point in Church history.
by Christopher A. Ferrara
Belying the claims of the “normalists” that the Pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia does not propose any change of the Church’s doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage or sexual morality generally, four eminent cardinals have finally given public voice to what was apparent from the moment of the document’s promulgation: that it purports to change everything, and indeed constitutes an unprecedented crisis for the integrity of the Magisterium and the universal discipline of the Church.
The entire problem with Amoris is encapsulated in ¶ 303, which states a veritable theme of the document enunciated explicitly in Chapter 8 (¶¶ 300-305):
“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.”
Incredibly, a Roman Pontiff has promulgated a document that reduces universally applicable, exceptionless negative precepts of the natural law enshrined in the Ten Commandments, (including “Thou shalt not commit adultery”) to mere “ideals” with which God does not expect strict conformity. Amoris even dares to assert that God approves of departures from these “ideals” based on “the concrete complexity of one’s limits.” This is nothing short of an apparent papal condonation of situation ethics and, with this, the collapse of the Church’s entire moral edifice.
Francis having refused to answer a private petition for “clarification” of Amoris which they submitted in September, Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmuller, Joachim Meisner and Raymond Burke have taken the historic step of making their petition public. EWTN’s National Catholic Register and The Catholic Herald, among other outlets, have published the entire text.
The four cardinals have presented to Francis — now publicly — five questions or dubia (doubts) concerning Amoris. Demonstrating the absolute gravity of their intervention, 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.” That is, they declare that Francis’ “apostolic exhortation” strikes at the foundations of the Faith!
The five questions presented, which call for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from the Pope, in themselves constitute an indictment of Francis’ apparent teaching in Amoris:
1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (nn. 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, n.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, n.34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, n.29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (n.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 (n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, n.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 (n.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 (n.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, n.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 (n.303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, n.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 questions reduce to one essential and explosive query: Is Francis proposing in Amoris to contradict “Sacred Scripture… the Tradition of the Church” and “absolute moral norms”? Even more essentially: Is Francis espousing heresy?
Now, it is clear that the cardinals do not seriously expect Francis to answer their dubia. In fact, it is clear that they expect no answer beyond the one Francis has already given in his letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires: that there is “no other interpretation” of Amoris than that divorced and “remarried” persons can be admitted to Holy Communion after being “absolved” of their continuing adultery following “discernment” of individual cases. That, of course, is a moral disaster for the Church as it would simultaneously undermine the indissolubility of marriage, the Sacrament of Confession, the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament, the very idea of mortal sin, and thus the moral order as a whole. As the papal mouthpiece Antonio Spadaro, SJ retorted via Twitter: “The Pope has ‘clarified’. Those who don’t like what they hear pretend not to hear it…. don’t keep asking the same question until you get the answer you want!”
What, then, is the point of the cardinals’ intervention? The answer is that it would not make any sense unless it was done with the next step in mind: a public correction of Francis’ grievous errors following his inevitable silence. And that indeed is the breaking news in this astonishing affair. In an interview with Edward Pentin, Cardinal Burke confirmed the rationale behind the intervention:
“What happens if the Holy Father does not respond to your act of justice and charity and fails to give the clarification of the Church’s teaching that you hope to achieve?
“Then we would have to address that situation. There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”
If Francis continues to observe his studious silence, and his errors are then publicly corrected by four Princes of the Church, we will have reached a turning point in Church history. Is the stage being set for the formal condemnation of a Pope as either a heretic or an aider and abettor of heresy? One is reminded of the 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.”
What besides “profane treachery” and the pollution of the purity of Church teaching is involved in Francis’ astounding drive to admit public adulterers to Holy Communion and his reduction of Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery to an “ideal” from which one may be exempted based on “the concrete complexity of one’s limits”? Honorius was anathematized merely for appearing to condone in a letter the rather obscure Monothelite heresy (that there is only a divine will, not a human will, in Christ). With Amoris, however — as the four cardinals clearly recognize — the Church is confronted with a papal attack on morality itself involving, therefore, “fundamental issues of the Christian life.”
As this incredible story unfolds in the days to come, remember the prophetic warning of Sister Lucia of Fatima to Cardinal Caffarra in light of the Third Secret: “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” Most tellingly, Cardinal Caffarra is one of only four cardinals who have had the courage to come forward to defend — against a Pope — the infallible moral teaching and related discipline of the Holy Catholic Church.
Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us!