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Card. Caffarra’s Comments on The Dubia

January 18, 2017

We present here some interesting remarks that Cardinal Caffara gave in an interview to Matteo Matzuzzi in Il Foglio on January 14.

On November 14, four cardinals published a letter entitled “Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia,” by which they make public five questions or “dubia” which they sent to Pope Francis on September 19, in which they ask the Pope to give simple and definitive answers to five questions about the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, on marriage and the family.

One of the Cardinals was Italian Carlo Caffarra, who recently spoke with Italian newsmagazine Il Foglio:

Interview with Cardinal Caffara

Confusion demands clarification

I believe that some things must be clarified. The letter - and the attached dubia - were reflected on at length, for months, and were discussed at length among ourselves. For my part, they were prayed about at length before the Blessed Sacrament.

[O]nly a blind man can deny – that there exists in the Church, a great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia.

A Duty as Cardinal

There exists for us cardinals a grave obligation to advise the Pope in the government of the Church. It is an obligation, and obligations oblige.

. . . .

In recent months, it is happening that on these fundamental questions regarding the sacramental economy (matrimony, confession and Eucharist) and the Christian life, some bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A, with the intention of interpreting well the same texts.

. . . .

The way out of this ‘conflict of interpretations’ was recourse to fundamental theological interpretative criteria, using those by which, I think, one can reasonably demonstrate that Amoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio. [We disagree with Cal Caffara here, editor’s note]

The Dubia: A Traditional Way of Clarification

We realized that this epistemological model was not sufficient. The conflict between these two interpretations continued. There was only one way to bring it to an end: to ask the author of the text which is interpreted in two contradictory ways, which [of them] is the correct interpretation. There is no other way. Subsequently, the problem arose of the way by which to appeal to the Pontiff. We chose a way that is very traditional in the Church, the so-called dubia.

The Dubia: A Simple Way to Answer

Because it was an instrument, in the case wherein, according to his sovereign judgment, the Holy Father wanted to respond, which did not require him [to do so] in elaborate or long responses. He only had to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and to defer, as popes have often done, to trusted scholars (in [official] parlance: probati auctores) or to ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue a joint declaration with which to explain the Yes or No. It seemed to us the simplest way.

First Privately, then Publicly

The other question which arose was whether to do it in private or in public. We reasoned and agreed that it would be a lack of respect to make everything public right away. So it was done in private, and only once we had obtained certainty that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publicize it.

We interpreted the silence [of Pope Francis] as authorization to continue the theological dispute. And, furthermore, the problem so profoundly involves both the magisterium of the bishops (which, let us not forget, they exercise not by the delegation of the Pope, but by virtue of the sacrament which they have received) and [it involves] the life of the faithful. Both the one and the other have the right to know. Many [lay] faithful and priests were saying, ‘But you cardinals in a situation like this one have the obligation to intervene with the Holy Father. Otherwise why do you exist if not to assist the Pope in questions so grave as this?’ A scandal on the part of many of the faithful was beginning to grow, as though we cardinals were behaving like the dogs who did not bark about whom the prophet speaks. This is what is behind those two pages.

Pastoral or Doctrinal Change?

When I hear it said that it is only a pastoral change, and not doctrinal, or it is thought that that the commandment which forbids adultery is a purely positive law which can be changed (and I think that no righteous person can believe this), instead, it means to admit that yes, generally a triangle has three sides, but there is the possibility of constructing one of them with four sides. This is, I say, an absurdity.

During his creation as cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006

Evolution of Doctrine

If there is a clear point, it is that there is no evolution, where there is a contradiction. If I say that S is P and then I say that S is not P, the second proposition does not develop the first one, but contradicts it. Aristotle had already rightly taught that to state a universal affirmative proposition (e.g. every [act of] adultery is wrongful), and at the same time a particular negative proposition having the same subject and predicate (e.g. some [acts of] adultery are not wrongful), does not establish an exception to the first. It contradicts it.

Contradiction with the Previous Magisterium?

The problem is to see whether the famous paragraphs nos. 300-305 of Amoris laetitia and the famous footnote n. 351 are or are not in contradiction with the previous magisterium of the Pontiffs who have addressed the same question.

Heart of the problem

The problem in the footnote (351) is the following: "Can a minister of the Eucharist give the Eucharist to a person who lives more uxorio [as husband and wife] with a woman or man who is not his wife or her husband, and does not intend to live in continence? There are only two answers: Yes or No.

Anything else calls into question that Familiaris Consortio, Sacramentum unitatis, the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church answer No to the aforementioned question. A No [is] valid so long as the faithful does not resolve to leave the state of cohabitation more uxorio [as husband and wife].

About Veritatis Splendor

One of the fundamental teachings of the document is that there exist acts which can in and of themselves be considered wrongful, regardless of the circumstances in which they are committed and the purpose which the agent intends.

'Intrinsically Evil' Does Not Mean 'Unforgivable'

Jesus, however, does not content himself to say to the adulteress: 'Neither do I condemn'. He also tells her: 'Go, and from now on, sin no more' (Jn. 8:10). St. Thomas, inspired by St. Augustine, makes a most beautiful comment, when he writes that ‘He could have said: go and live as you want and be certain of my forgiveness. In spite of all your sins, I will deliver you from the torments of hell. But the Lord does not love sin and does not favor wrongdoing, and so he condemned her sin . . . saying, and from now on, sin no more. It shows, therefore, how the Lord is tender in his mercy and just in his Truth' (cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John, 1139). We are truly, in a manner of speaking, free before the Lord. And therefore, the Lord does not force his forgiveness upon us. There must be a wondrous and mysterious marriage between the infinite mercy of God and the freedom of man, who must be converted if he wants to be forgiven.

Good and Evil: Up to the individual's Conscience?

“I retain that this is the most important point of all,” he responds. “It is where we meet and clash with the central pillar of modernity. … Now, this concept of moral conscience is opposed to the concept which erects one’s own subjectivity as an unappealable tribunal of the goodness or the evil of one’s own actions. Here, for me is the decisive clash between the vision of life that belongs to the Church (because it belongs to divine Revelation) and the concept of conscience that belongs to modernity.

Newman’s Right Explanation of Conscience

He who saw this in the most lucid way, was Blessed [John Henry] Newman. In his famous Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he said, ‘Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway. Words such as these are idle empty verbiage to the great world of philosophy now. All through my day there has been a resolute warfare, I had almost said conspiracy against the rights of conscience, as I have described it.’ Further on, he adds that ‘in the name of conscience true conscience is being destroyed.’

The Most Important of the Five Dubia

That is why among the five dubia, dubium number five is the most important. There is a passage of Amoris laetitia, at n. 303, which is not clear; it seems – I repeat: it seems – to admit the possibility that there is a true judgment of conscience (not invincibly erroneous; this has always been acknowledged by the Church) in contradiction to that which the Church teaches as pertaining to the deposit of divine Revelation. It seems. And so, we put the dubium to the Pope.

Newman’s Prophecy -Suicidal Act- Realized?

Newman says that ‘if the Pope were to speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet.’ These are matters of a disturbing gravity. It would elevate private judgment to the ultimate criterion of moral truth. Never say to a person: ‘Always follow your conscience’, without adding immediately and always: ‘Love and seek the truth about the good.’ You would be putting into his hands the weapon most destructive of his own humanity.

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