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 Next Pope — The Leading Cardinal Candidates” to be published August 2020 by Sophia Institute Press, and “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published in 2015 by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
“The Holy Father alone has the power to resolve the current confusion, and must urgently do so for the good of souls,” said Professor Joseph Shaw, a signatory to a new statement expressing support for four cardinals who have asked for clarification on his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Shaw, one of 23 Catholic scholars and priests who published the statement yesterday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, expressed their “profound gratitude and full support” for the four cardinals who submitted 5 dubia to the Pope, and said they “ardently hope” that more cardinals and bishops will also give their backing.
On Nov. 14, Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner made public that they had submitted the dubia two months earlier, asking the Pope to clarify five fundamental points of Catholic doctrine and sacramental discipline in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
In their Dec. 8 statement, the scholars said the 5 points, as they appear in Amoris Laetitia, seem to be in “conflict with Scripture and/or Tradition and the teaching of previous papal documents – notably Pope St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor and his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio.”
In view of the fact that the Pope has declined to clarify if this is, or is not, the case, the academics expressed concern that “the Holy Father’s continued silence may open him to the charge of negligence in the exercise of the Petrine duty of confirming his brethren in the faith.”
They further noted that prominent critics of the cardinals have failed to shed “any light” on the “pertinent and searching” questions in the dubia. Moreover, they argued that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn and Professor Rocco Buttiglione, who have attempted to show that these passages in Amoris Laetitia are in continuity with previous Church teaching, “fail to demonstrate their central claim that the novel elements found in AL do not endanger divine law, but merely envisage legitimate changes in pastoral practice and ecclesiastical discipline.”
Referring to the work of an Italian professor, the signatories of the statement also asserted that the current crisis is comparable to the Arian crisis of the 4th century, and warned that “increasing numbers of highly placed prelates and theologians are undermining or effectively denying” the dogmas in question by offering an “exaggerated or one-sided emphasis on ‘mercy’, ‘pastoral accompaniment’, and ‘mitigating circumstances’.”
The Holy Father, they added, is sounding “a very uncertain trumpet in this battle against the ‘principalities and powers’ of the Enemy,” and believe the barque of Peter is “drifting perilously like a ship without a rudder, and indeed, shows symptoms of incipient disintegration.”
They said they “ardently hope, and fervently pray” that many bishops and cardinals will endorse the four cardinals’ respectful request, and also that if the Holy Father fails to respond, will “collectively approach him with some form of fraternal correction, in the spirit of Paul’s admonition to his fellow apostle Peter at Antioch.”
In Dec. 9 comments to the Register, Professor Shaw noted that it had fallen to the four cardinals to send the dubia to the Pope “while many prominent prelates and academics feel obliged to remain silent during this time of crisis. “ The cardinals are seeking “paternal guidance from the Holy Father, asking him to exercise the central charism of the Papacy, and 'confirm the brethren' in the faith (Luke 22:32).”
“I and the other signatories wish to support that request,” he added.
He also addressed the nub of the issue: that some of those who claim to support Pope Francis' position appear to be sending the message that Catholics “should simultaneously believe that the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II — and all his predecessors — remains correct, and also that it is no longer applicable in concrete situations.”
But to “demand that people undertake this doublethink is not the action of a good father; it is an abuse of ordinary Catholics and of the truth," he said. "To reject this kind of defense of Amoris Laetitia is required not only by the Faith but by our sanity.”
Shaw said that since it was published yesterday, the signatories have been receiving “a number of messages of support.”
Statement of Support for the Four Cardinals’ Dubia
As Catholic scholars and pastors of souls, we wish to express our profound gratitude and full support for the courageous initiative of four members of the College of Cardinals, Their Eminences Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner. As has been widely publicized, these cardinals have formally submitted five dubia to Pope Francis, asking him to clarify five fundamental points of Catholic doctrine and sacramental discipline, the treatment of which in Chapter 8 of the recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (AL) appears to conflict with Scripture and/or Tradition and the teaching of previous papal documents – notably Pope St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor and his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. Pope Francis has so far declined to answer the four cardinals; but since they are in effect asking him whether the above weighty magisterial documents still require our full assent, we think that the Holy Father’s continued silence may open him to the charge of negligence in the exercise of the Petrine duty of confirming his brethren in the faith.
Several prominent prelates have been sharply critical of the four cardinals’ submission, but without shedding any light on their pertinent and searching questions. We have read attempts to interpret the apostolic exhortation within a ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ by Christoph Cardinal Schӧnborn and Professor Rocco Buttiglione; but we find that they fail to demonstrate their central claim that the novel elements found in AL do not endanger divine law, but merely envisage legitimate changes in pastoral practice and ecclesiastical discipline.
Indeed, a number of commentators, notably Professor Claudio Pierantoni in an extensive new historical-theological study, have argued that as a result of the widespread confusion and disunity following the promulgation of AL, the universal Church is now entering a gravely critical moment in her history that shows alarming similarities with the great Arian crisis of the fourth century. During that catastrophic conflict the great majority of bishops, including even the Successor of Peter, vacillated over the very divinity of Christ. Many did not fully lapse into heresy; however, disarmed by confusion or weakened by timidity, they sought convenient compromise formulae in the interests of “peace” and “unity”.
Today we are witnessing a similar metastasizing crisis, this time over fundamental aspects of Christian living. Continued lip service is given to the indissolubility of marriage, the grave objective sinfulness of fornication, adultery and sodomy, the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist, and the terrible reality of mortal sin. But in practice, increasing numbers of highly placed prelates and theologians are undermining or effectively denying these dogmas – and indeed, the very existence of exceptionless negative prohibitions in the divine law governing sexual conduct – by virtue of their exaggerated or one-sided emphasis on “mercy”, “pastoral accompaniment”, and “mitigating circumstances”.
With the reigning Pontiff now sounding a very uncertain trumpet in this battle against the ‘principalities and powers’ of the Enemy, the barque of Peter is drifting perilously like a ship without a rudder, and indeed, shows symptoms of incipient disintegration. In such a situation, we believe that all Successors of the Apostles have a grave and pressing duty to speak out clearly and strongly in confirmation of the moral teachings clearly expounded in the magisterial teachings of previous popes and the Council of Trent. Several bishops and another cardinal have already said they find the five dubia opportune and appropriate. We ardently hope, and fervently pray, that many more of them will now endorse publicly not only the four cardinals’ respectful request that Peter’s Successor confirm his brethren in these five points of the faith “delivered once and for all to the saints” (Jude 3), but also Cardinal Burke’s recommendation that if the Holy Father fails to do so, the cardinals then collectively approach him with some form of fraternal correction, in the spirit of Paul’s admonition to his fellow apostle Peter at Antioch (cf. Gal. 2:11).
We entrust this grave problem to the care and heavenly intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church and Vanquisher of all heresies.
December 8, 2016, Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, STD, JD
Chaplain and Faculty Member of the Roman Forum
Rev. Claude Barthe,
Dr. Robert Beddard, MA (Oxon et Cantab), D.Phil (Oxon)
Fellow emeritus and former Vice Provost of Oriel College Oxford.
Carlos A. Casanova Guerra
Doctor of Philosophy, Full Professor,
Universidad Santo Tomás, Santiago de Chile
Salvatore J. Ciresi MA
Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College
Director of the St. Jerome Biblical Guild
Luke Gormally, PhL
Director Emeritus, The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics (1981-2000)
Sometime Research Professor, Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, Michigan (2001-2007)
Ordinary Member, The Pontifical Academy for Life
Rev. Brian W. Harrison OS, MA, STD
Associate Professor of Theology (retired), Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico; Scholar-in-Residence, Oblates of Wisdom Study Center, St. Louis, Missouri
Rev. John Hunwicke, MA (Oxon.)
Former Senior Research Fellow, Pusey House, Oxford; Priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; Member, Roman Forum
Peter A. Kwasniewski PhD (Philosophy)
Professor, Wyoming Catholic College
Rev. Dr. Dr Stephen Morgan DPhil (Oxon)
Academies Conversion Project Leader & Oeconomus
Diocese of Portsmouth
Don Alfredo Morselli STL
Parish priest of the Archdiocese of Bologna
Rev. Richard A. Munkelt PhD (Philosophy)
Chaplain and Faculty Member, Roman Forum
Rev. John Osman MA, STL
Parish priest in the archdiocese of Birmingham,
former Catholic chaplain to the University of Cambridge
Dr Paolo Pasqualucci
Professor of Philosophy (retired),
University of Perugia
Dr Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy in the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Chile
Former Professor of Church History and Patrology at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Member of the International Association of Patristic Studies
Dr John C. Rao D.Phil (Oxon.)
Associate Professor of History, St. John's University (NYC)
Chairman, Roman Forum
Dr Nicholas Richardson. MA, DPhil (Oxon.)
Fellow emeritus and Sub-Warden of Merton College, Oxford
and former Warden of Greyfriars, Oxford.
Dr Joseph Shaw MA, DPhil (Oxon.) FRSA
Senior Research Fellow (Philosophy) at St Benet's Hall,
Dr Anna M. Silvas FAHA,
Adjunct research fellow, University of New England,
Armidale, NSW, Australia.
Michael G. Sirilla PhD
Director of Graduate Theology,
Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio
Professor Dr Thomas Stark
Phil.-Theol. Hochschule Benedikt XVI, Heiligenkreuz
Rev. Glen Tattersall
Parish Priest, Parish of Bl. John Henry Newman, Archdiocese of Melbourne
Rector, St Aloysius' Church, Melbourne
Rev. Dr David Watt STL, PhD (Cantab.)
Priest of the Archdiocese of Perth
Chaplain, St Philomena’s chapel, Malaga