Two of the Four Dubia Cardinals Have Died

Here’s what that means.

The dubia is a set of 5 querulous questions which challenge the authority of Pope Francis, assume that he taught grave errors in Amoris Laetitia, and demand that he answer the dubia by retracting his teaching in Amoris Laetitia and replacing it with their teaching. (Well, at least that’s my interpretation of the document.)

Here’s the full text of the dubia.
My posts on the dubia are here.

The dubia was signed by four Cardinals:

1. Cardinal Joachim Meisner (Germany)
2. Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (Italy)
3. Cardinal Walter Brandmuller (Germany)
4. Cardinal Raymond Burke (U.S.)

Cardinal Meisner died on July 5th of 2017. Cardinal Caffarra died this week on Tuesday or Wednesday (September 5th or 6th) — sources disagree on the date of his death.

With only two Cardinals left of the four, there is a risk that the dubia will go unanswered and be forgotten. For now only two Cardinals are asking for an answer to their questions. The result will perhaps be a greater urgency by the remaining Cardinals to press for a response — or to issue a formal correction. In my view, the death of Caffarra makes a formal correction more likely to be issued, and more likely to be issued sooner.

I know some commentators think that the Pope must reply to the dubia, but nothing compels him to do so. Nothing in Canon Law. Nothing in Church doctrine. And the Cardinals do not have the authority to demand a reply. The controversy over Amoris Laetitia might seem like a big deal, but the controversy over grace between Augustine and Pelagius was not decided authoritatively for many years, not until the Council of Orange over a 100 years later.

So if the remaining two Cardinals want to force the issue, they will have to formulate and issue a formal correction. And soon.

God’s providence governs the life and death of us all. We don’t know the reason that God decided or permitted the deaths of two of the four Cardinals so soon after the dubia. But I am certain that whatever happens next is also encompasses by providence. The papal critics cannot outrun the providence of God. They cannot take control of the Church away from the Holy Spirit. So their efforts to force the Vicar of Christ to say what they wish him to say will fail. And then the schism will occur.

{11:16} But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace,
{11:17} who, calling out to their companions, say: ‘We played music for you, and you did not dance. We lamented, and you did not mourn.’

The papal critics play music and demand that the Pope dance to their songs. They lament loudly and demand that the Pope mourn with them. And when he refuses to reply, they excoriate him:

{11:18} For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
{11:19} The Son of man came eating and drinking; and they say, ‘Behold, a man who eats voraciously and who drinks wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is justified by her sons.”

But the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels is not on their side.

{8:3} Now the scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman caught in adultery, and they stood her in front of them.
{8:4} And they said to him: “Teacher, this woman was just now caught in adultery.
{8:5} And in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such a one. Therefore, what do you say?”
{8:6} But they were saying this to test him, so that they might be able to accuse him. Then Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the earth.
{8:7} And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, “Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”
{8:8} And bending down again, he wrote on the earth.
{8:9} But upon hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, with the woman standing in front of him.
{8:10} Then Jesus, raising himself up, said to her: “Woman, where are those who accused you? Has no one condemned you?”
{8:11} And she said, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said: “Neither will I condemn you. Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.”

The Formal Correction will be issued very soon, perhaps in September or October. And then you will all have to choose a side, with the Roman Pontiff or against him.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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8 Responses to Two of the Four Dubia Cardinals Have Died

  1. Jackisback says:

    At least you saved the best for last:

    “…Go, and now do not choose to sin anymore.”

    This is the crux of the Dubia #1. Is it now possible (due to what is written in Amoris Laetitia 300-305) to grant absolution without this component as a required condition – without the penitent committing to not simply go right back to their current “more uxorio” lifestyle with a person who is not their spouse (while their actual spouse still lives)?

    This is a question that should never have needed to be asked, but clearly, given the reactions of clergy in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Illinois, Germany, etc, not to mention Cardinal Farrell, etc., it is a completely legitimate question. This is especially so, given the informal written response (strongly implying the answer is “yes”) of His Holiness to the innocent-minded Monsignor in Buenos Aires (which appeared in print prior to the Dubia being published).

    With respect to the question of whether Pope Francis’ silence (viz the four Cardinals) is problematic, we could consider the canon law maxims that go back at least to Pope Boniface VIII (circa 1298, when he issued the Liber Sextus) with the tandem principles of law (the 43rd and 44th, of 88, rules of law):

    (1) Qui tacet consentire videtur;
    (2) Is qui tacet non fatetur, sed nec utique negare videtur

    I am certainly no expert in translation, but the first is usually claimed to be “he who is silent appears to give consent.” The second is “he who is silent does not confess, nor is he seen to deny.”

    The first concept applies to Dubia #1, in my humble opinion, thusly: because Pope Francis has been formally silent with respect to Dubia #1, he is consenting (i.e.,saying “yes” or assenting) to the possibility of absolution being granted, absent a pledge by the penitent to “sin no more” (at least with respect to civilly divorced Catholics who do not have an annulment).

    The second seems contradictory – in that it seems to say that Pope Francis’ silence in response to Dubia #1 is neither saying “yes” nor “no.” However, the point is moot, because, by virtue of Francis’ informal actual consent to the new practices of the Bishops of Buenos Aires, and his silence with respect the newer follow-on publications of similar practices in Los Angeles, etc., it can be legitimately inferred that his silence to Dubia #1 is conferring his assent.

    I would point out that Pope Francis is also silent with respect to Bishops in places like Philadelphia and Phoenix, where the they have published guidelines establishing that penitents in their diocese will not be receiving absolution in these circumstances – and claim that Amoris Laetitia affirms this harsher, historical, practice. And here is where the true problematic nature of the Pope’s silence viz Dubia #1 is most acute. By informally consenting to the newer more lenient practice and being silent with respect to the older, harsher, practice, he, as Pope, by his silence, assents to both. So if there is true schism, it cannot be said to be caused by the Dubia Cardinals, because the new practice and the historical practice pre-dates the Dubia publication. Schism began by divergent practice and divergent written documents of the Bishops. The newer, divergent practice and written guidance from places like Buenos Aires came about from inferences made about what Amoris Laetitia says, and the Pope informally affirmed those inferences in writing. By remaining silent viz the Bishops of Philadelphia and Phoenix, whose written guidance contravenes this, the schism deepens and widens. The Dubia Cardinals are blameless of these facts on the ground.

  2. Alessandro Arsuffi says:

    Dear Ron,
    I have a strange question for you. As your rightly noticed, none in the Church has the power to judge the Pope, to declare him heretical or even correct him formally. That’s a point I fully subscribe. Now I wonder: could a Pope in the future, via canon law, decide to confer more power to some other individual or commission, transferring a part or the entirety of his authority to this entity? I wonder this because it is more or less what happened when Peter appointed Linus not only as bishop of Rome, but also as his successor as Vicar of Christ; similarly, the Pope can also grant the power of the keys to the bishops on some issues (e.g. to institute new indulgences) or even the power to declare the nullity of a marriage (a power that would certainly be fallible if granted to a tribunal without the specific authority granted by the Pope). I may be wrong in some of my reasonings, so I’m interested to know your opinion, because in the recent past (2 years ago) Pope Francis mentioned the possibility to change the way the Primacy of Peter is exercised in the Church, especially in order to reconcile the Catholics with the Orthodox, in the form of sinodality.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Each Roman Pontiff has the full authority Christ gave to Saint Peter. A Pope can appoint a Bishop or Cardinal to a position assisting him in exercising his own authority. But no Pope can diminish the authority of the office by moving a part of his power to another office or group. So any attempt to do so, if it would diminish the papal authority of subsequent Popes, would be void. For example, Pope Sixtus V forbid anyone to make any changes to his Latin edition of the Bible. But a subsequent Pope Clement VII did make thousands of changes. Pope Paul IV (4th) tried to nullify the papal office of any future Pope who at any time (prior to becoming Pope) had adhered to heresy, but that declaration is null and void because it would take power away from subsequent Popes (such as a Pope who had converted from Protestantism).

  3. Marco says:

    Ron, regardless of Amoris Laetitia (which is basically correct, doctrinally, because even if adultery is objective mortal sin in can be only an actual venial sin, sometimes, due to mitigating factors, but I think that many pastors are modernists and they don’t apply a correct discerniment, and so people are going to make sacrilegious Communion) don’t you think that what this Pope is doing in the Church is highly problematic?

    Have you read his statements in the new book?

    And what about all the Bishops blatantly heretic that he is appointing?

    • Ron Conte says:

      You lack the theological expertise to determine if a bishop is a heretic. This attitude that we are each competent to judge all persons and all cases is a grave error arising from sinful secular society. Errors are possible in the decisions of discipline, non-infallible teachings, and theological opinions of any Pope. Also, I think that Pope Francis is guided by the grace and providence of God. It only seems problematic from the point of view of us fallen sinners. God is at work here.

  4. Maurilio says:

    None of the 5 dubia is legitimate, or indeed licit, as each one of them implies that a Pope is capable of violating definitive truths (intrinsically evil acts and other necessarily connected doctrines). This contradicts the “fidei numquam deficientis” (“never-failing faith”) taught by Vatican I (Pastor Aeternus, IV), which is the necessary logical foundation of not only the ex cathedra infallibiity of the Roman Pontiff, but also, and most biblically so, the very indefectibility of the Church. Since Pope Francis has been formally asked to give a mere yes/no answer to questions which implicitly rely on such a doctrinal violation, he couldn’t answer them without logically implying that he agrees with the violation, which would falsify the Council’s teaching and Jesus’ very promise to Peter – such a falsifying event is just a counterfactual hypothesis, a mere imagination impossible under Church dogma. The fact that Pope Francis hasn’t answered the dubia, i.e. in the mere yes/no terms required by their formal approach, shows that the Petrine charism of never-failing faith has been effective in protecting Francis from a subtle but deadly temptation against his personal indefectibility.

    Furthermore, from a merely logical standpoint:

    – implying that a Pope is capable of violating definitive truths makes it pointless for the Cardinals to ask Francis, for then they could never be guaranteed that any answer by him be true – in other words, it causes an antinomy between the impossibility for them to rely on the Pope’s answers in view of the Pope’s supposed defectibility and the necessity for them to rely on his answers as postulated by their recourse to him as the Church’s supreme guarantor and confirmer of the faith;

    – dubium #1 is equivocally formulated, thus making it impossible to obtain a univocal answer, for it is impossible to determine whether a mere “yes” answer would mean “in certain instances of civilly remarried divorcees not complying with Familiaris Consortio” (orthodox) or “in all instances thereof” (heretical);

    – dubium #3 is, in and of itself, a tautology with a question mark – it’s like asking: “Is one who is sleeping one who is asleep?”, therefore it is pointless to answer, for it is pointless to ask. (Had the distinction been applied between “objective” and “actual” mortal sin, the tautology would have been avoided – and the silly question, too.)

    It is clear form the above that such 5 dubia are irreceivable, on account of both their substance and their form. It is also clear that those asking the Pope such questions and those supporting them have been blind to their inherent erroneousness and are confused as to what exactly they are supposed to be confused about. On the other hand, how many among the Cardinals’ opponents have noticed or pointed out what exactly is wrong with those 5 questions? Therefore, the dubia constitute, to date, a very dangerous collective illusion and deception.

    The surviving Cardinals should publicly profess the “fidei numquam deficientis” and at the same time withdraw the dubia, asking pardon for tempting the Pope – albeit unwittingly – and for causing scadal by damaging his credibility among the faithful, and then strive to reframe any difficulties they may have about Amoris Laetitia in a manner which is both logically sensible and free from denial of any definitive truths on the part of both the askers and the Pope.

    • Jackisback says:

      Murilio, respectfully, can the terms of administration of absolution in the sacrament of Reconciliation be modified such that some penitents need not make a heartfelt pledge to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin?

      If not, then we have a problem, because there are now whole dioceses that have modified it for certain individual cases to the extent that some of these individuals need not make such a pledge (where the penitents wish to continue to live more uxorio with their new civil law spouse), and they have done so with the blessing of Pope Francis.

      The most acute problem is not that such individuals then present themselves for communion while still in a state of sin (for as Ron notes, this happens all the time). Instead we have something worse – that such individuals present themselves for communion fully believing that their sin has been forgiven completely, and that the Pope, in his never failing faith, agrees with that.

      This problem will not go away by critique of the Dubia Cardinals.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t agree with your assessment. The Pope is not approving of continuing in grave sin. He is considering different situations of conscience, as when a person sins, repents, and falls into that same sin again. Or when a person is having difficulty giving up a sinful situation, but is trying to change.

      But many of these persons, unfortunately, do not go to Confession at all — just like so many other communicants.

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