The cardinals have taken the unusual step of publicly requesting clarification on Communion and the moral law
By Dan Hitchens
(Catholic Herald) Pope Francis has declined to answer an official appeal from four
cardinals to clarify his recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner sent a request for clarification
to the Pope in September. They received an acknowledgment but no reply,
which they said they have taken as “an invitation to continue … the
discussion, calmly, and with respect”, by making the appeal public. It
is highly unusual for cardinals to take such a step.
The letter takes the traditional form of asking theological “dubia” –
questions to the Holy See which ask for a yes/no ruling on doctrinal
matters. The cardinals’ dubia relate to the sacraments, and to absolute
The first of the dubia asks whether “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 husband and wife] without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio”.
In Familiaris Consortio St John Paul II reaffirmed the Church’s
practice of not admitting the remarried to Communion if they are still
in a sexual relationship with their new partner.
The other four dubia relate to actions which Catholic teaching
considers “intrinsically evil”. The cardinals ask whether there are
still “absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and
that are binding without exceptions”, and whether those who habitually
commit these acts are “in an objective situation of grave habitual sin”.
It also asks whether St John Paul II’s teaching in the encyclical
Veritatis Splendor is still valid: that, in the words of the encyclical,
“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”.
Finally, the cardinals ask whether Catholics should still follow
Veritatis Splendor’s teaching on conscience: that, as the cardinals
paraphrase it, “conscience can never be authorised to legitimate
exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts
by virtue of their object”.
The cardinals say that the letter should not be seen as a
“conservative” attack on “progressives”. They say they are motivated by
their concern for “the true good of souls” and their “deep collegial
affection that unites us to the Pope”.
The cardinals refer to “grave disorientation and great confusion”
among Catholics, including bishops, about “extremely important matters”... (continued)