Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago fielded about half a dozen questions from reporters after Pope Francis elevated him to the College of Cardinals on Saturday.
A question I asked him was about the Dubia, the five doubts about Amoris Laetitia that four cardinals have sent to the Pope to ascertain whether some of the most controversial passages are consistent with Church teaching.
Although the Dubia questions ask for a simple “yes” or “no” answer on whether previous magisterial teachings, particularly of Pope St. John Paul II, are still valid in light of these passages, the Holy Father has decided not to respond, nor requested to meet the cardinals to specifically discuss their concerns.
Here below is the question and answer:
Q: The Holy Father talked today [in his homily at the consistory for the new cardinals] about the importance of not excluding people. He talks a lot about the importance of dialogue and encounter. People, though, are wondering why, for example, he won’t reach out the four cardinals who wrote the Dubia. They say there’s a disconnect there: he talks a lot about inclusion but it doesn’t seem to relate to those who are perhaps critical of him, that he doesn’t encounter or dialogue with them. What do you say to that? Is that a concern of yours?
Cardinal Cupich: Well I guess that’s a question that the Holy Father would have to answer. All I know is that the doubts that are there, that are expressed, aren’t my doubts, and I think they’re not the doubts of the universal Church. The document that they’re having doubts about is the fruit of two synods, and the fruit of propositions that were voted on by two-thirds of the bishops who were there. It is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation and so it stands on the same level as all the other post-synodal apostolic exhortations as a magisterial document. I think that if you begin to question the legitimacy of what is being said in such a document, do you then throw into question then all of the other documents that have been issued before by the other popes? So I think really it’s not for the Pope to respond to that. I think it’s a moment for anyone who has doubts to examine how is it they have got to that position because it is a magisterial document of the Church. There are people who had trouble with various documents of the Holy See before and papal statements. I think it’s important, and the Holy Father said this at the beginning of the synod, it’s going to take conversion on the part of all of us, and to examine ourselves, to say: What is it that the Church is teaching here that maybe I need to change rather than saying that the Holy Father has to change, or that the Church has to change. So this isn’t just a document out of just the Pope by himself, it stands as part of a synodal process that has been going on for a number of years.
As a follow up, I said that, according to the Dubia authors, the issue is that its ambiguity is causing different interpretations of the text which they say is leading to confusion and disunity.
Cardinal Cupich, one of several synod fathers handpicked by Pope Francis to attend last year’s Synod on the Family rather than elected by their country’s bishops, answered by referring to the Pope’s recent interview with Avvenire in which Francis said: “Some — think about the responses to Amoris Laetitia — continue to not understand” and they think it’s “black and white, even if in the flux of life you must discern.”
“Life is full of ambiguity”, Cardinal Cupich said, but the “important thing is to bring an attitude of discernment to a situation.” He then referred to a “wonderful article” by Professor Rocco Buttiglione in L’Osservatore Romano some months ago, “who situated historically that document in terms of the ongoing development of the teaching of the Church.” (Professor Buttiglione’s essay has since been refuted).
He ended by saying “there are enough voices out there in which the Holy Father doesn’t have to in any way have to defend a teaching document of the Church. It’s up to those who have doubts and questions to have conversion in their lives.”
Controversial passages never passed
But defenders of the Dubia argue that Cardinal Cupich’s comment that the controversial propositions in question were “voted on by two-thirds of the bishops” is especially problematic.
It is often forgotten, they point out, that despite the strenuous efforts by the Synod secretariat and others to manipulate and jostle the synod fathers into accepting the most controversial propositions (allegations detailed in my book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?), none of the three most controversial propositions managed to obtain a two-thirds majority during the first, Extraordinary Synod on the Family, in October 2014.
One of them was a proposition relating to the “Kasper proposal” of admitting the divorced and remarried to holy Communion after a period of penitence. That failed to pass, and only a proposition calling for “careful reflection and respectful accompaniment” of remarried divorcees made it through.
Under such circumstances, they would normally therefore have been rejected.
In spite of this, the Pope controversially broke with custom, which he can do, and authoritatively insisted that all three rejected proposition be kept in the document, thereby enabling them to be carried over into the working document for the Ordinary Synod on the Family the following year.
Many other efforts were then made to steer the second synod, for example by purposely leaving out the words “mortal sin”, making the text intentionally ambiguous, and deliberately omitting the key passage (no. 84) in its integrity of John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, in particular the part which clearly rules out holy Communion for remarried divorcees unless the couple are living as brother and sister.
“We all voted according to the proposals we received,” one synod father told the Register on condition of anonymity earlier this year. “I understood that if the ‘yes’ would be interpreted in accord with Familiaris Consortio, one goes in the right direction. But you see that in those proposals they prepared, they mentioned Familiaris Consortio, but at the same time left it open to other interpretations… They neglected to mention some things.”
He added presciently: “Because of this, in a certain sense, the crisis that we wanted to analyze and to find solutions for regarding marriage and the family will be worse in the Church, because now there will be divisions in the understanding of the interpretation of the possibility of Communion for the divorced and remarried.”
“If we permit Communion for everyone, we then also lose the concept of sin,” he continued. “It will then be destructive for the entire morality of the Church.”
Today, therefore, despite not passing the initial two-thirds majority, and fervent warnings and opposition from the Dubia cardinals, bishops, theologians and philosophers, and even Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Walter Kasper, Cardinal Cupich and the Pope himself, have said admitting some remarried divorcees living in a de facto adulterous relationship to holy Communion after a period of discernment and accompaniment is possible.
"It’s a thesis that was rejected by the very Synod that Cardinal Cupich is now citing as sustaining the Pope’s Amoris Laetitia position," said a Vatican official. "To say that two-thirds of synod fathers supported it is therefore grossly misleading."