Among the four cardinals who have asked Pope Francis to bring clarity to the five “dubia” generated by “Amoris Laetitia,” Carlo Caffarra is the one for whom Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself has repeatedly shown his esteem, among other ways by calling him to participate in the two synods on the family.
This makes it all the more striking how frankly, with what “parrhesia” Caffarra expresses himself in regard to the pope – albeit with full respect for him – in the first big interview he has given since the publication of the “dubia.”
The interview, conducted by Matteo Matzuzzi, came out on Saturday, January 14 in the newspaper “Il Foglio”:
Cardinal Caffarra, 78, is archbishop emeritus of Bologna and a theologian of acknowledged expertise, who has specialized precisely in the questions raised by the “dubia.” From 1981 to 1995, he was head of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.
The whole interview is a must-read. In part because it could signal a turning point in the controversy underway in the Church between the different and opposing interpretations of “Amoris Laetitia,” perhaps to the point of inducing Pope Francis to break the silence he has maintained so far.
The following is an overview of what the cardinal said in the interview, which is five times as long.
CAFFARRA: “WHY WE WROTE TO THE POPE”
We cardinals have the grave duty of advising the pope in the governance of the Church. It is a duty, and duties are obligatory.
Only a blind man could deny that in the Church there is great confusion, uncertainty, insecurity caused by some paragraphs of “Amoris Laetitia.” In recent months it has been happening that on the same fundamental questions concerning the sacramental economy – marriage, confession, and Eucharist – and Christian life, some bishops have said A, and others have said the opposite of A. With the intention of giving a good interpretation of the same texts.
There is only one way to get to the bottom of this: to ask the author of the text that has been interpreted in two contradictory ways what is the correct interpretation. There is no other way. Next came the problem of the way in which to approach the pope. We chose a way that is very traditional in the Church, what are called “dubia.” […] This was done in a private manner, and only when we were certain that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publish.
The problem is precisely this: that on fundamental points there is not a good understanding of what the pope is teaching, as demonstrated by the conflict of interpretations among bishops. We want to be docile to the pope’s magisterium, but the pope’s magisterium must be clear.
The division already existing in the Church is the cause of the letter [of the four cardinals to the pope – editor’s note], not its effect.
To conceive a pastoral practice not founded and rooted in doctrine means founding and rooting pastoral practice on inclination. A Church that pays little attention to doctrine is not a more pastoral Church, but a more ignorant Church.
The evolution of doctrine has always accompanied Christian thought. [But} if there is one clear point, it is that there is no evolution where there is 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, but contradicts it. Already Aristotle had correctly taught that enunciating a universal affirmative principle (for example: all adultery is wrong) and at the same time a particular negative proposition having the same subject and predicate (for example: some adultery is not wrong), this is not making an exception to the former. It is contradicting it.
Can the minister of the Eucharist (usually the priest) give the Eucharist to a person who lives “more uxorio” with a woman or a man who is not the wife or husband, and does not intend to live in continence? […] Has “Amoris Laetitia” taught that, given certain specific circumstances and after going through a certain process, the faithful could receive the Eucharist without resolving to live in continence? There are bishops who have taught that this is possible. By a simple deduction of logic, one must therefore also teach that adultery is not evil in itself and of itself.
Conscience is the place where we come up against the central pillar of modernity. […] One who saw this in the most lucid manner imaginable was Blessed John Henry Newman. In the famous letter to the duke of Norfolk, he says: “All through my day there has been a resolute warfare, I had almost said conspiracy against the rights of conscience.” Further ahead he adds that in the name of conscience, true conscience is destroyed.
This is why among the five “dubia” doubt number five [the one on conscience – editor’s note] is the most important. There is a passage in “Amoris Laetitia,” at no. 303, that is not clear; it seems – I repeat: it seems – to admit the possibility that there may be a true judgment of conscience (not invincibly erroneous; this has always been admitted by the Church) in contradiction with that which the Church teaches as having to do with the deposit of divine Revelation. It seems. And that is why we raised the doubt with the pope.
Newman says that “did the Pope 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 breathtaking gravity. Private judgment would be raised up as the ultimate criterion of moral truth. Never say to a person: “Always follow your conscience,” without always and immediately adding: “Love and seek the truth about the good.” You would be putting into his hands the weapon most destructive of his humanity.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)