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Weighty words from Carlo Cardinal Caffarra

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Readers are of course free draw their own conclusions of the interview Carlo Cardinal Caffara gave to Matteo Matzuzzi as published in the Italian newspaper Il Foglio on January 14, 2017.

In sum, this is what is happening: the root of the crisis is beginning to show still more, as the tearing at Her stock intensifies.

What is at the root of the crisis? The separation of doctrine, liturgy, and Christian life — or piety, morality. (Read more about that, here.)

So long as modernists continue to stretch & test the limits of separating Christ’s own doctrine from the morality of His people, there will continue the crisis, the tension, the confusion.

This instance of controversy, however, seems to bode of a turning point. (Which we leave for another day, for further discussion, and another post.)

“Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.” An interview with Carlo Cardinal Caffarra

“Solo un cieco può negare che nella Chiesa ci sia grande confusione”. Intervista al cardinale Caffarra

But is not the crux of His Eminence’s assessment, and the purpose of submitting the dubiato His Holiness, Pope Francis, clear?

His Eminence and the eminent co-signers of the letter to His Holiness wish to be obedient to the magisterium (teaching office) of Pope Francis, and for that reason their Eminences ask the Pope to clarify the meaning of his teaching in Amoris Laetitia in those points [paragraphs 300 -305] precisely which are receiving contradictory interpretations by bishops throughout the world.

Here is how His Eminence explained that to the Italian reporter.

“Concerning [the consideration] of a more contingent nature, moreover, it is a fact – which only a blind man can deny – that there exists in the Church, a great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia. 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.” And “this is an undeniable fact, because facts are stubborn things, as David Hume said. 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 thatAmoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio. Personally, in public meetings with laity and priests, I have always followed this method.” This is not enough, observes the archbishop emeritus of Bologna. “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.”

[ … ]

“Some individuals continue to say that we are not being docile to the magisterium of the Pope. This is false and calumnious. We wrote to the Pope precisely because we did not want to be indocile. I can be docile to the magisterium of the Pope if I know what the Pope is teaching in a matter of faith and of the Christian life. But this is exactly the problem: what the Pope is teaching on the fundamental points simply cannot be well understood, as the conflict of interpretations among bishops shows. We want to be docile to the magisterium of the Pope, but the magisterium of the Pope must be clear. None of us – says the archbishop emeritus of Bologna – wanted ‘to oblige’ the Holy Father to respond: in the letter, we spoke of [his] sovereign judgment. We simply and respectfully asked questions. In short, the accusations of [us] wanting to divide the Church do not deserve attention. The division, already existing in the Church, is the cause of the letter, not its effect. The things unworthy within the Church, however, above all in a context such as this, are the insults and threats of canonical sanctions.” [emphasis added in bold]

The problem, adds the cardinal, “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. According to many bishops, it is in contradiction. According to many other bishops, it is not a contradiction, but a development. And it is because of this that we asked the Pope for a response.” So, one arrives at the most contested point and that so animated the synodal discussions: the possibility of granting to divorced and civilly remarried re-admittance to the Eucharist. A matter that does not explicitly find space in Amoris laetitia, but which in the judgment of many is an implicit fact that constitutes nothing more than an evolution compared to n. 84 of the exhortation Familiaris Consortio of John Paul II.

[ … ]

The second postulate that the archbishop of Bologna makes regarding “the great topic of the evolution of doctrine, which has always accompanied Christian thought. And we know that it was taken up in a splendid manner by Blessed John Henry Newman. If there is a clear point [in his writing], 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. In the end, if wanted to define the logic of the Christian life, I would use the expression of Kierkegaard: ‘Always keep moving, always remaining planted in the same place.’”  [emphasis in bold added]

“The problem in the footnote [351] is the following,” argues Caffara: “Can a minister of the Eucharist (usually a priest) 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]. Has Amoris laetitia taught that, given certain circumstances and having undertaken a certain journey, the faithful may be able to approach the Eucharist without committing themselves to continence? There are bishops who have taught that one can. As a simple question of logic, one must then also teach that adultery is not in and of itself evil. It is not relevant to appeal to ignorance or to error regarding the indissolubility of marriage, a fact [that is] unfortunately very widespread. This appeal has an interpretative value, not a [pastoral] policy one. It should be used as a method to discern the imputability of acts already committed, but it cannot be a principle for acts to be committed [in the future]. A priest – said the Cardinal – has the duty to enlighten the ignorant and to correct the errant.”

“However, what Amoris laetitia has brought back to this question, is the call for the shepherds of souls not to content themselves with answering No (not contenting themselves, however, does not mean answering Yes), but to take the person by the hand and to help him to grow, up to the point that he understands that he finds himself in such a condition that it he cannot receive the Eucharist, unless he ceases from the intimacy proper to spouses. But it is not that a priest can say “the help [on] his path [can include] even giving him the sacraments’. And it is on this [point] that the text of footnote 351 is ambiguous. If I say to the person who cannot have sexual relations with him who is not her husband or his wife, but in the meantime, seeing that it takes such effort, one may have [sexual relations] … only once instead of three times per week, it make no sense; and I do not show mercy to this person. Because in order to put an end to a habitual behavior – a habitus [a habit], as the theologians say – it must be that there is a firm resolution not to do any act proper to that behavior. In the good, there is a [gradual] progress, but between leaving the evil and beginning to do the good, there is an instantaneous choice, even though long prepared. For a certain period, Augustine prayed: ‘Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.’ ”  [emphasis in bold added]

What do you think?  Add your comments below,  Or send NCCL an e-mail.

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