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Posted on 10/2/2023 19:35 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 16:35 pm (CNA).
The prelates, who also issued a “Notification to Christ’s Faithful,” hail from the diverse ecclesiastical landscapes of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Cardinal Walter Brandmüller
The 94-year-old German-born cardinal, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, has engaged with Pope Francis in the past on the topic of Church doctrine; he was among the four cardinals who in 2016 issued a set of five dubia to Pope Francis regarding the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Those dubia sought to address several controversial passages in that document regarding divorced and remarried Catholics, with the prelates arguing that the document could be interpreted as “teach[ing] a change in the discipline of the Church” regarding marriage and the sacraments.
In August 2022, Brandmüller criticized Francis’ formation of an extraordinary consistory that month, arguing that the event had been organized in order to prevent full and open discussion among the cardinals participating in it.
Cardinal Raymond Burke
The 75-year-old Burke was born in Wisconsin and served as bishop of La Crosse from 1995–2004 and as archbishop of St. Louis from 2004–2008. From 2008 to 2014, he was prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He joined Brandmüller in writing the 2016 dubia; the two cardinals are the only remaining prelates of that group who are still alive. Burke in 2019 was critical of that year’s Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region, claiming that the meeting’s Instrumentum Laboris seemed “not only in dissonance with respect to the authentic teaching of the Church, but even contrary to it.”
Burke has further challenged Francis’ authority to eliminate the Latin rite in the Catholic Church. Earlier this year, he joined German Cardinal Gerhard Müller in rebuking the German Synodal Way, which has voted in favor of blessing same-sex unions and unions between divorced and “remarried” Catholics.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, SDB
The 91-year-old Zen, who previously served as the sixth bishop of Hong Kong from 2002–2009, has tangled with the Vatican by claiming that its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, “manipulates the pope” on Church policy in communist China.
Zen had unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome in late 2020, asking the Holy Father to appoint a new bishop to Hong Kong where the seat had been vacant since January 2019. In May 2021, Francis appointed Bishop Stephen Chow, who was elevated to a cardinal on Sept. 30, to serve in that role.
Pope Francis and Zen would finally meet in January of this year while the latter was in Rome for the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI. “It was wonderful. He was so very warm!” Zen told America magazine at the time.
Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez
The 90-year-old Mexican prelate served previously as archbishop of Guadalajara from 1994–2011. He participated in the papal conclaves that elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 and then Pope Francis in 2013. He has been known for controversial statements regarding homosexuality and Protestants.
Sandoval Íñiguez was also among the two Mexican cardinals found guilty of “proselytism” for allegedly encouraging Catholics to vote for particular candidates, which is forbidden under Mexican law.
The Mexican Episcopal Conference responded that the prelates had merely “made personal pronouncements on the social reality of the country” rather than advocate for a particular candidate.
Cardinal Robert Sarah
Well-known globally for his seven-year stint as the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Sarah, 78, has also served as the archbishop of Conakry from 1979–2001, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum under Pope Benedict XVI, and the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples under Pope John Paul II.
The Guinea-born prelate had stressed his fidelity to Francis upon retiring from his prefect post in 2021, stating that he has “tried to be a loyal, obedient, and humble servant of the truth of the Gospel” and that he has “never opposed the pope.”
Earlier this summer, in an apparent reference to concerns over this month’s synod and its rumored consideration of female ordination, Sarah spoke at a conference in Mexico City.
“No council, no synod, no ecclesiastical authority has the power to invent a female priesthood,” Sarah said, “without seriously damaging the perennial physiognomy of the priest, his sacramental identity, within the renewed ecclesiological vision of the Church, mystery, communion, and mission.”
The cardinal in June urged Catholics to utilize Scripture, prayer, and other spiritual endeavors to serve as “witnesses to the truth in a world in crisis.”
Posted on 10/2/2023 19:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2023 / 16:15 pm (CNA).
The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ original responses to a set of dubia on highly-charged doctrinal questions submitted by five cardinals earlier this summer — and criticized the cardinals for going public with the matter just days before the start of the Synod on Synodality.
The pope’s responses, originally issued July 11, responded to requests for doctrinal clarification on the nature of the development of doctrine, the Church’s inability to bless same-sex unions, the authority of the upcoming synod, the impossibility of sacramentally ordaining women, and the necessity of repentance to be sacramentally absolved. They were made available on the Vatican’s website earlier today, only hours after the cardinals publicly announced that the pope had not answered a revised set of questions meant to elicit more clear answers.
“While it doesn’t always seem to me to be prudent to respond to questions directed specifically to me, and it would be impossible to address them all, in this case, it seemed appropriate to do so due to the proximity of the synod,” the pope wrote in response to the cardinals’ July 10 dubia, addressing them as “dear brothers.”
The five cardinals — German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah — submitted a revised set of dubia to the pope on Aug. 21 because, as they said in a statement to the National Catholic Register earlier today, his original responses were not in the customary “yes” or “no” format, and “have not resolved the doubts we had raised, but have, if anything deepened them.” The cardinals went public with their dubia earlier today after the pope did not respond to their revised set of questions.
However, a high-ranking Vatican official sharply criticized the five cardinals for not simultaneously releasing the pope’s original responses, which he provided to them “despite his many occupations.”
“Instead of publishing those answers, they now make public new questions, as if the pope were their slaves for errands,” Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, the new head of the Vatican’s doctrine office, told the Spanish news agency ABC.
The five cardinals said they did not publish the pope’s responses because they were addressed specifically to them, and therefore itwould not be appropriate to share publicly.
The pope’s response
In his newly released July 11 responses, the pope provided lengthy, multi-part responses to each submitted question.
In response to the cardinals’ dubium regarding the blessings of same-sex sexual unions, the pope underscored that the Church “avoids any rite or sacramental that may contradict” its conviction in marriage as “an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation.”
“However,” the pope wrote, “in dealing with people, we must not lose pastoral charity,” going on to state that “pastoral prudence must discern properly if there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not convey a mistaken conception of marriage” and, citing his 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “do not necessarily have to become a norm.”
In addressing the cardinals’ question related to the development of doctrine and the possibility of contradiction, Pope Francis wrote that while “cultural changes and new challenges in history do not modify revelation,” the Church must always strive to interpret texts in a way that “allows us to distinguish their perennial substances from cultural conditioning,” with special attention to the interpreting texts in light of “the perennial truth of the inalienable dignity of the human person.”
Because there can be no change to “what has been revealed ‘for the salvation’ of all,” the Church must constantly discern what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or less directly connected to this goal,” which can inevitably “lead to a better expression of some past affirmations of the magisterium.”
On the topic of the upcoming synod’s authority, the pope reaffirmed his teaching that the Church is inherently synodal, implying “real participation” by all its members in ways that “must make their voice heard and feel part of the Church’s journey,” but he did not appear to directly address the cardinals’ question regarding the extent of the synod’s authority.
Regarding the Church’s ordination of only men to the priesthood, Pope Francis wrote that the Church’s established teaching on the matter “must be accepted by all,” despite the fact that a “dogmatic definition” on the issue has not been provided. However, while no one can publicly contradict this teaching, it can still be “the subject of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.”
The pope also added that failing to recognize that the priesthood is “wholly ordered to the holiness of the members of Christ” would make it “difficult to accept that the priesthood is reserved only for men.”
Finally, the pope affirmed the necessity of repentance for the validity of sacramental absolution but noted that “there are no mathematics here” and that ordained ministers must “make room in pastoral care for the unconditional love of God,” especially in cases where a penitent’s psychological state or “deeply wounded self-esteem” may inhibit their ability to follow typical practices in the confessional.
The public back-and-forth over the cardinals’ dubia and the pope’s response comes just two days before the start of the Synod on Synodality’s universal assembly, which runs from Oct. 4–29.
The cardinals expressly stated that they decided to submit their concerns “in view of various declarations of highly placed prelates” made in relation to the upcoming synod that have been “openly contrary to the constant doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
Vatican organizers have insisted that the synod — which includes an additional assembly in October 2024 — is not focused on doctrinal questions but on how the Church can enhance the participation of all its members in its communion and mission.
Posted on 10/2/2023 18:55 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2023 / 15:55 pm (CNA).
During a retreat for participants in the Synod on Synodality assembly this week, delegates were urged to listen to one another and to come together despite “different understandings of the Church.”
“We may be divided by different hopes,” Father Timothy Radcliffe said in a retreat meditation on Oct. 1. “But if we listen to the Lord and to each other, seeking to understand his will for the Church and the world, we shall be united in a hope that transcends all our disagreements.”
Hundreds of synod delegates are meeting in a retreat center in Sacrofano, 20 miles north of Rome, for the three-day retreat ahead of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican on Oct. 4.
In the livestreamed retreat meditations, delegates have been urged to embrace their differences, express their doubts, and cast away their fears — whether it is the fear that the synod will dramatically change the Church or the “fear that nothing will change.”
Radcliffe began the first meditation of the retreat on Oct. 1 by saying: “I’m deeply aware of my personal limitations. I’m old, white, western, and a man. And I don’t know which is worse. … All these aspects of my identity limit my understanding, so I ask your forgiveness for the inadequacy of my words.”
He urged the delegates to “journey towards a Church” where people who “do not yet feel at home in the Church” are placed at the center.
“Our lives are nourished by beloved traditions and devotions. If they are lost, we grieve. But also we remember those who do not yet feel at home in the Church: women who feel that they are unrecognized in a patriarchy of old white men like me! People who feel that the Church is too Western, too Latin, too colonial. We must journey towards a Church in which they are no longer at the margin but at the center,” Radcliffe said.
The retreat master spent the first two meditations looking at two “sources of division” in the Catholic Church, which he described as “conflicting hopes and different visions of the Church as home.”
“Different understandings of the Church as home tear us apart today. For some it is defined by its ancient traditions and devotions, its inherited structures and language, the Church we have grown up with and love. It gives us a clear Christian identity. For others, the present Church does not seem to be a safe home. It is experienced as exclusive, marginalizing many people, women: the divorced and remarried. For some it is too Western, too Eurocentric,” he said.
The retreat master, whose statements on homosexuality have previously sparked controversy, highlighted how the document guiding synod discussions, the Instrumentum Laboris, “mentions also gay people and people in polygamous marriages.” He said: “They long for a renewed Church in which they will feel fully at home, recognized, affirmed, and safe. For some the idea of a universal welcome, in which everyone is accepted regardless of who they are, is felt as destructive of the Church’s identity. … They believe that identity demands boundaries. But for others, it is the very heart of the Church’s identity to be open. Pope Francis said, ‘The Church is called on to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.’”
Radcliffe described how the 365 voting members have “different hopes” and fears for the three-week assembly on synodality.
“Some hope that the Church will change dramatically, that we shall take radical decisions, for example about the role of women in the Church. Others are afraid of exactly these same changes and fear that they will only lead to division, even schism,” he said.
“So let us begin by praying that the Lord will free our hearts from fear. For some this is the fear of change and for others the fear that nothing will change. But ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,’” he added.
Each day of the synod retreat at the Fraterna Domus retreat center Oct. 1–3 begins with morning prayer and concludes with Mass. Benedictine Mother Ignazia Angelini offers two daily meditations, as does Radcliffe, with the afternoons set aside for “group meetings for conversation in the Spirit.”
Australian Bishop Anthony Randazzo of Broken Bay gave the homily for the Mass on Oct. 2 and Canadian Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme–Mont-Laurier preached at the Oct. 1 Mass.
“The world is in need to see a Church thriving to be faithful to unity. Therefore, the search for unity must be put into practice on a daily basis,” Poisson said in his homily.
“The synod we are undertaking is like a school in which we learn to listen to one another … Let us be a Church with open arms like those of her Lord on the cross and let us become true witnesses of God’s love for the world.”
Radcliffe also underlined the need for unity in his meditations on the second day of the retreat, urging participants to “leap across the boundaries, not just of left and right, or cultural boundaries, but generational boundaries, too.”
The 78-year-old British priest reflected: “Many religious and priests of my generation grew up in strongly Catholic families. The faith deeply penetrated our everyday lives. The adventure of the Second Vatican Council was in reaching out to the secular world. French priests went to work in factories. We took off the habit and immersed ourselves in the world. One angry sister, seeing me wearing my habit, exploded: ‘Why are you still wearing that old thing?’”
“Today many young people — especially in the West but increasingly everywhere — grow up in a secular world, agnostic or even atheistic. Their adventure is the discovery of the Gospel, the Church, and the tradition. They joyfully put on the habit. Our journeys are contrary, but not contradictory. Like Jesus I must walk with them, and learn what excites their hearts,” he added.
He encouraged synod delegates to befriend one another and to openly “share their worries and doubts.”
“The foundation of all that we shall do in this synod should be the friendships we create. It does not look [like] much. It will not make headlines in the media. ‘They came all the way to Rome to make friendships! What a waste!’ But it is by friendship that we shall make the transition from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ Without it, we shall achieve nothing,” he said.
Radcliffe commented a few times on how he expects the media will interpret the synod. He said: “During our synodal journey, we may worry whether we are achieving anything. The media will probably decide that it was all a waste of time, just words. They will look for whether bold decisions are made on about four or five hot-button topics. But the disciples on that first synod, walking to Jerusalem, did not appear to achieve anything.”
The priest described the synod retreat as an experience like the Gospel experience of the Transfiguration, which he called “the retreat Jesus gives to his closest disciples before they embark on the first synod in the life of the Church when they walk together (syn-hodos) to Jerusalem.”
He said that the hope that the disciples glimpsed on the mountain in the transfigured Lord “makes the conflict between our hopes seem minor, almost absurd.”
“If we are truly on the way to the kingdom, does it really matter whether you align yourselves with so-called traditionalists or progressives?” he added.
“Let us ask the Lord to give us hope, too: the hope that this synod will lead to a renewal of the Church and not division; the hope that we shall draw closer to each as brothers and sisters,” he said.
Posted on 10/2/2023 17:46 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 14:46 pm (CNA).
Five cardinals have sent a set of questions known as “dubia” to Pope Francis to express their concerns and seek clarification on points of doctrine and discipline ahead of this week’s opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.
Dubia are questions brought before the pope and the appropriate Vatican office that seek a simple “yes” or “no” response in order to clarify disputed matters of Catholic teaching and practice.
The prelates — German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah — had submitted an earlier version of their dubia on July 10 and received a reply the following day.
Because the pope answered at length — and not with the customary “yes” or “no” — the group resubmitted their dubia in August in order to get clarification. The pope has not responded to the August set of dubia.
Below are the July dubia with Pope Francis’ response to each one:
1. Dubium about the claim that we should reinterpret divine revelation according to the cultural and anthropological changes in vogue.
After the statements of some bishops, which have been neither corrected nor retracted, it is asked whether in the Church divine revelation should be reinterpreted according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote; or whether divine revelation is binding forever, immutable and therefore not to be contradicted, according to the dictum of the Second Vatican Council, that to God who reveals is due “the obedience of faith” (Dei Verbum, 5); that what is revealed for the salvation of all must remain “in their entirety, throughout the ages” and alive, and be “transmitted to all generations” (7); and that the progress of understanding does not imply any change in the truth of things and words, because faith has been “handed on ... once and for all” (8), and the magisterium is not superior to the word of God, but teaches only what has been handed on (10).
Pope Francis’ response: a) The answer depends on the meaning you give to the word “reinterpret.” If it is understood as “to interpret better,” the expression is valid. In this sense the Second Vatican Council affirmed that it is necessary that with the work of the exegetes — I would add of the theologians — “the judgment of the Church may mature” (Cone. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. Dogm. Dei Verbum, 12).
b) Therefore, while it is true that divine revelation is immutable and always binding, the Church must be humble and recognize that she never exhausts its unfathomable richness and needs to grow in her understanding.
c) Therefore, she also matures in the understanding of what she herself has affirmed in her magisterium.
d) Cultural changes and the new challenges of history do not modify the revelation, but they can stimulate us to make more explicit some aspects of its overflowing richness, which always offers more.
e) It is inevitable that this may lead to a better expression of some past statements of the magisterium, and indeed it has happened throughout history.
f) On the other hand, it is true that the magisterium is not superior to the word of God, but it is also true that both the texts of Scripture and the testimonies of tradition need an interpretation that allows us to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning. It is evident, for example, in biblical texts (such as Ex 21:20-21) and in some magisterial interventions that tolerated slavery (cf. Nicholas V, Bull Oum Diversas, 1452). This is not a minor issue given its intimate connection with the perennial truth of the inalienable dignity of the human person. These texts are in need of interpretation. The same is true for some New Testament considerations on women (1 Cor 11:3-10; 1 Tim 2:11-14) and for other texts of Scripture and testimonies of tradition that cannot be repeated literally today.
g) It is important to emphasize that what cannot change is what has been revealed “for the salvation of all” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 7). For this reason the Church must constantly discern between what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or less directly connected with this goal. In this regard, I would like to recall what St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed: “the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects” (Summa Theologiae 1-11, q. 94, art. 4).
h) Finally, a single formulation of a truth can never be adequately understood if it is presented in isolation, isolated from the rich and harmonious context of the whole of revelation. The “hierarchy of truths” also implies situating each of them in adequate connection with the more central truths and with the totality of the Church’s teaching. This can ultimately give rise to different ways of expounding the same doctrine, although “for those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 49). Each theological line has its risks but also its opportunities.
2. Dubium about the claim that the widespread practice of the blessing of same-sex unions would be in accord with revelation and the magisterium (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357).
According to divine revelation, confirmed in sacred Scripture, which the Church “with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, … listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully” (Dei Verbum, 10): “In the beginning” God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful (cf. Gen. 1:27-28), whereby the apostle Paul teaches that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1:24-32). It is asked: Can the Church derogate from this “principle,” objectively sinful such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine?
Pope Francis’ response: a) The Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the begetting of children. It calls this union “marriage.” Other forms of union only realize it “in a partial and analogous way” (Amoris Laetitia, 292), and so they cannot be strictly called “marriage.”
b) It is not a mere question of names, but the reality that we call marriage has a unique essential constitution that demands an exclusive name, not applicable to other realities. It is undoubtedly much more than a mere “ideal.“
c) For this reason the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage.
d) In dealing with people, however, we must not lose the pastoral charity that must permeate all our decisions and attitudes. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness, and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot become judges who only deny, reject, exclude.
e) For this reason, pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. For when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea for a better life, a trust in a Father who can help us to live better.
f) On the other hand, although there are situations that from an objective point of view are not morally acceptable, pastoral charity itself demands that we do not simply treat as “sinners“ other people whose guilt or responsibility may be due to their own fault or responsibility attenuated by various factors that influence subjective imputability (cf. St. John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17).
g) Decisions which, in certain circumstances, can form part of pastoral prudence, should not necessarily become a norm. That is to say, it is not appropriate for a diocese, an episcopal conference or any other ecclesial structure to constantly and officially authorize procedures or rites for all kinds of matters, since everything “what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule,“ because this “would lead to an intolerable casuistry“ (Amoris Laetitia, 304). Canon law should not and cannot cover everything, nor should the episcopal conferences claim to do so with their various documents and protocols, because the life of the Church runs through many channels in addition to the normative ones.
3. Dubium about the assertion that synodality is a “constitutive element of the Church“ (Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio, 6), so that the Church would, by its very nature, be synodal.
Given that the Synod of Bishops does not represent the college of bishops but is merely a consultative organ of the pope, since the bishops, as witnesses of the faith, cannot delegate their confession of the truth, it is asked whether synodality can be the supreme regulative criterion of the permanent government of the Church without distorting her constitutive order willed by her Founder, whereby the supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised both by the pope by virtue of his office and by the college of bishops together with its head the Roman pontiff (Lumen Gentium, 22).
Pope Francis’ response: a) Although you recognize that the supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised either by the pope because of his office or by the college of bishops together with its head, the Roman pontiff (cf. Cone. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. Lumen Gentium, 22), nevertheless with these dubia you yourselves manifest your need to participate, to give your opinion freely and to collaborate, and you are claiming some form of “synodality” in the exercise of my ministry.
b) The Church is a “mystery of missionary communion,” but this communion is not only affective or eternal, but necessarily implies real participation: that not only the hierarchy but all the people of God in different ways and at different levels can make their voice heard and feel part of the Church’s journey. In this sense we can say that synodality, as a style and dynamism, is an essential dimension of the life of the Church. On this point St. John Paul II has said very beautiful things in Novo Millennio Ineunte.
c) It is quite another thing to sacralize or impose a particular synodal methodology that pleases one group, to make it the norm and obligatory channel for all, because this would only lead to “freezing” the synodal journey, ignoring the diverse characteristics of the different particular Churches and the varied richness of the universal Church.
4. Dubium about pastors’ and theologians’ support for the theory that “the theology of the Church has changed” and therefore that priestly ordination can be conferred on women.
After the statements of some prelates, which have been neither corrected nor retracted, according to which, with Vatican II, the theology of the Church and the meaning of the Mass has changed, it is asked whether the dictum of the Second Vatican Council is still valid, that “[the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood] differ from one another in essence and not only in degree” (Lumen Gentium, 10) and that presbyters by virtue of the “sacred power of orders, to offer sacrifice and forgive sins” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2), act in the name and in the person of Christ the Mediator, through whom the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect. It is furthermore asked whether the teaching of St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which teaches as a truth to be definitively held the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, is still valid, so that this teaching is no longer subject to change nor to the free discussion of pastors or theologians.
Pope Francis’ response: a) “The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood differ essentially” (Cone. Ecum. Vat. 11, Const. Dogm. Lumen Gentium, 10). It is not convenient to maintain a difference of degree that implies considering the common priesthood of the faithful as something of “second category” or of lesser value (“a lower degree”). Both forms of priesthood mutually enlighten and sustain each other.
b) When St. John Paul II taught that it is necessary to affirm “definitively“ the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, he was in no way belittling women and granting supreme power to men. St. John Paul II also affirmed other things. For example, that when we speak of priestly power “we are in the area of function, not of dignity or holiness“ (St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 51).
These are words that we have not sufficiently accepted. He also clearly maintained that while the priest alone presides at the Eucharist, the tasks “do not give rise to superiority of one over the other“ (St. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, note 190; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Inter Insigniores, VI). I likewise affirm that if the priestly function is “hierarchical,“ it should not be understood as a form of domination, but “this structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members.“ (St. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, 27). If this is not understood and the practical consequences of these distinctions are not drawn, it will be difficult to accept that the priesthood is reserved only to men and we will not be able to recognize the rights of women or the need for them to participate, in various ways, in the leadership of the Church.
c) On the other hand, to be rigorous, let us recognize that a clear and authoritative doctrine has not yet been exhaustively developed about the exact nature of a “definitive statement.“ It is not a dogmatic definition, and yet it must be observed by all. No one can publicly contradict it and yet it can be the object of study, as is the case with the validity of ordinations in the Anglican Communion.
5. Dubium about the statement “forgiveness is a human right“ and the Holy Father’s insistence on the duty to absolve everyone and always, so that repentance would not be a necessary condition for sacramental absolution.
It is asked whether the teaching of the Council of Trent, according to which the contrition of the penitent, which consists in detesting the sin committed with the intention of sinning no more (Session XIV, Chapter IV: DH 1676), is necessary for the validity of sacramental confession, is still in force, so that the priest must postpone absolution when it is clear that this condition is not fulfilled.
Pope Francis’ response: a) Repentance is necessary for the validity of sacramental absolution, and implies the intention not to sin. But there is no mathematics here, and once again I must remind you that the confessional is not a customs house. We are not owners but humble stewards of the sacraments that nourish the faithful, because these gifts of the Lord, more than relics to be guarded, are aids of the Holy Spirit for the life of the people.
b) There are many ways to express regret. Often, in people who have a very wounded self-esteem, pleading guilty is a cruel torture, but the very act of approaching confession is a symbolic expression of repentance and seeking divine help.
c) I would also like to recall that “at times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity” (Amoris Laetitia, 311), but we must learn to do so. Following St. John Paul II, I maintain that we should not demand from the faithful overly precise and certain proposals for amendment, which in the end end up being abstract or even egotistic, but that even the predictability of a new fall “does not compromise the authenticity of the intention” (St. John Paul II, Letter to Cardinal William W. Baum and the participants in the meeting of the cardinal’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. William W. Baum and the participants of the annual course of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 22 March 1996, 5).
d) Finally, it should be clear that all the conditions that are usually placed on the confession are generally not applicable when the person is in a situation of agony, or with very limited mental and psychological capacities.
Posted on 10/2/2023 15:10 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 12:10 pm (CNA).
The Archdiocese of Rosario in Argentina issued a statement on its website Sept. 26 regarding the ecclesial ministry of Leda Bergonzi, 44, who receives numerous Catholics every week and to whom a “charism of healing” is attributed.
The activity of Bergonzi, who belongs to the Catholic charismatic group “Breath of the Living God” in Rosario, drew national attention a few weeks ago when the mother and brother of soccer player Lionel Messi participated in one of the meetings during which she lays hands on those seeking prayer.
Every week, the meetings draw crowds, and due to the growing attendance, the site of the prayer meeting had to be relocated from the parish, where it was being held, to Independence Park Fairgrounds in Rosario.
As a result of these events, the Archdiocese of Rosario stated that “this religious phenomenon that has expanded in recent months is a phenomenon that occurs within the Catholic Church.”
In the Church, the statement explained, “there are various expressions, groups, etc. One of these groups, of a charismatic nature, is the ‘Breath of the Living God’ community.”
The community “is configured as a group of prayer and evangelization” that “has been developing its activities for about eight years; always accompanied by a priest of the diocesan clergy of Rosario.”
“Within the Breath of the Living God community, some of these charisms began to be experienced, particularly in the person of Mrs. Leda Bergonzi,” the archdiocese stated, adding that “the Church of Rosario, seeing the good fruits it produces in many people, accompanies this phenomenon to discern its depth and solidity.”
In its statement, the archdiocese also referred to the purpose for which the Lord endows a community with gifts and charisms: “The portentous signs are given to corroborate the power of the proclamation of the Gospel, to attest to the presence of the risen Lord in his Church. The power to heal is given in a missionary context, not to exalt the people who have the gift, but to confirm the mission.”
The archdiocese also explained that in the specific case of the gift of healing it is “a tangible manifestation of the always merciful and compassionate love of the Father in heaven, who, through his Son, Jesus, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, heals the poor and needy.”
Regarding the charism of “prayer for deliverance,” the communiqué explained that “it consists of the supplication addressed to the Lord Jesus to free the person from the influences and snares of the devil.” Regarding the gift of tongues, “it is fundamentally a charism to glorify and praise God.”
In addition, in prayer meetings there is an atmosphere of “fraternal communion” and therefore the person who has the “charism of healing” does not act alone, but rather it is a community action: “the community assists and accompanies,” the archdiocese noted.
Currently, the archdiocese emphasized, “there is a group of priests who accompany the experience. At this time, given the magnitude of the event, it has been arranged that each meeting begins with holy Mass, followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.”
“Given the large number of people attending, the assistance of several priests is being sought to hear confessions. In this way, the ecclesial dimension of blessings to the sick and people seeking spiritual relief is strengthened through the service provided by Mrs. Leda Bergonzi,” the statement explained.
In the event that healings take place, “any testimonies must be taken down with simplicity and precision and the occurrence submitted to the ecclesiastical authority,” the note stated.
“The Church of Rosario accompanies this event so that in an appropriate channel it produces many fruits, not only in healings, but through them, spiritual healings and other graces, people would glorify God, begin or grow deeper in the Christian life, especially in prayer and in the experience of the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist,” the message to the faithful concluded.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 10/2/2023 14:50 PM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Newsroom, Oct 2, 2023 / 11:50 am (CNA).
The publication of a new set of questions addressed to Pope Francis by five longtime cardinals has once again turned the focus of Catholics to the place of “dubia” in the life of the Church.
What are dubia?
The word “dubia” — plural for a “dubium” — literally means, from the Latin, “doubts.” But another way of translating it is to see the word meaning “questions that seek clarification.” A dubium, then, is a request for clarity from a dicastery or office of the Roman Curia or even of the Holy Father himself on a matter of Church teaching, a liturgical issue, or a fine point of interpreting canon law. The questions most often arise from the daily issues of Church governance and liturgical and sacramental practice. In fact, dubia are a regular feature of the interaction between the Vatican’s various dicasteries and Catholic dioceses around the globe.
What questions are submitted?
A dubium is most often sent to one of three Vatican offices: the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and especially the Dicastery for Legislative Texts, which is asked to interpret the meaning or applicability of a canon in the Code of Canon Law.
Dubia can cover almost every imaginable topic. A few of the questions asked in recent decades include: “Can the title of minor basilica be granted to a cathedral?”, submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship; “Are Mormon baptisms valid?”, sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and “Are already-married candidates for the permanent diaconate required with their wives to practice perfect and perpetual continence after ordination?”, submitted to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Most often, dubia are submitted by bishops, bishops’ conferences, or religious communities, but any Catholic may send them, as was shown in 2021 when three German lay Catholics from the Diocese of Essen submitted a dubium to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asking if the Church in Germany is in a state of schism as a result of the German Synodal Way.
Who responds to dubia?
The three German Catholics expressed at the time a realistic expectation about hearing back from the Vatican dicastery, saying to EWTN News’ German-language news agency CNA Deutsch that they had “no sense of entitlement” to a reply. The laypeople were correct in their expectation, as the Vatican offices are not required to respond to any dubium sent for consideration. Certainly, the submission of dubia by bishops and bishops’ conferences is more likely to elicit a response, as are questions that emerge out of matters of grave importance to the Church. Members of the College of Cardinals, such as the so-called dubia cardinals of 2016 and now 2023, can also have some anticipation of a response given they are by tradition considered close advisers to the pope. Nevertheless, the Holy Father is not required to respond and might also reply in a manner or through a representative of his choosing.
By custom, when a Vatican dicastery does answer a dubium, it is through a “Responsum ad dubium” (literally, a response to the doubt), and customarily, the response can be answered in the affirmative or the negative, “yes” or “no.” Almost always, the terse reaction is accompanied by a fuller explanation or commentary.
Very often as well, the answer from a dicastery is considered a “private response,” meaning it is not universally applicable nor can it be applied to address a situation in some other forum, even if the facts or circumstances are similar. How the response is issued matters as well, as a private reply by way of a letter has far less weight and far narrower applicability than a formal instruction or notification. Traditionally, the Dicastery for Divine Worship has published its “responsa” in the Notitiae, a publication issued bimonthly that until recently contained all important statements, documents, and responses pertaining to the liturgy and the sacraments. For those questions that require a formal statement, dicasteries will issue them publicly.
What are some of the most notable dubia?
Over the decades, there have been several controversial or important dubia and responsa. In 1995, for example, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered a significant dubium with a resounding yes: “Whether the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women, which is presented in the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis to be held definitively, is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith.” Its prefect, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, included a brief explanatory note affirming further that the “teaching requires definitive assent” by the faithful.
Similarly, in early 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made public its negative responsum to a dubium, asking: “Does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex?” The declaration and accompanying explanatory note were widely criticized by Catholic progressives, but included in that explanatory note by the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, was the line: “The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, at the audience granted to the undersigned secretary of this congregation, was informed and gave his assent to the publication of the above-mentioned Responsum ad dubium, with the annexed explanatory note.”
That same year, following the publication of Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Traditionis Custodes that limited the use of the so-called Traditional Latin Mass, the Congregation for Divine Worship received several requests for clarification on how it should be applied. The response, which was posted on the congregation’s website, noted that questions had been raised “from several quarters and with greater frequency,” and so it was deemed necessary to give a response to the 11 most-asked questions. Like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith earlier that year, the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Arthur Roche, declared that the responses were published after “having informed the Holy Father and having received his assent.” Notably, the “responsa ad dubia” were addressed to the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences.
Finally, there were the now famous dubia submitted to Pope Francis in 2016 by four cardinals who asked five questions about the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ controversial apostolic exhortation on love and its approach to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. To this date, as is his right, Pope Francis has chosen not to respond. The Holy Father did choose to answer the latest dubia from the cardinals.
Posted on 10/2/2023 14:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
ACI Prensa Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).
Wednesday, Sept. 27, marked the beginning of the 40 Days for Life fall campaign, which will run through Nov. 5, and abortion supporters in Spain were quick to react.
Pro-lifers in the country are praying near abortion clinics in about 20 cities. At one center in Madrid, Clinica Isadora, located in the university district, abortion advocates put signs on the lampposts reading: “Attention: Dangerous religious fundamentalists on the loose,” “STOP fanaticism,” “40 Days of hating women” and “40 days against human rights.”
An Instagram post from 40 Days for Life Madrid has a banner at the top reading “Warning!” and shows a woman standing next to one such lamppost holding a sign reading “You are not alone, we can help you.” The text that follows says “Day 1 of the campaign: Danger!! Religious fundamentalist on the loose… armed with a rosary. ‘If God is with us, who can be against us?’ Today we entrust [to God] all the volunteers participating in the 40-day campaign so that God may give them the strength to stand firm even during persecution!“…Courage… I have overcome the world.”
In recent years, actions have multiplied to try to criminalize the efforts of pro-lifers. In 2022, the government approved changes to the Penal Code that seek to strongly curtail pro-life activism at abortion clinics such as the 40 Days for Life prayer and fasting campaign.
The Penal Code establishes prison sentences for anyone who “in order to hinder the exercise of the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy, harasses a woman through annoying, offensive, intimidating, or coercive acts that undermine her freedom.”
Similar penalties are also provided for those who interact with “doctors or directors of centers authorized to terminate a pregnancy with the aim of hindering the exercise of their profession or position.”
Given these circumstances, 40 Days for Life reworked the instructions it gave to volunteers in March in order to avoid any circumstance that could be taken advantage of to make an accusation of harassment. Guidelines include making a full electronic recording of the entire time slot during which the volunteers are praying.
During the second 40 Days for Life conference in Spain, held in mid-September, the bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, presented the book “Qué Decir Cuándo” (“What to Say When”), a complete guide to discussing and offering arguments for the right to life.
The book is based on the personal experience of its authors, Shawn Carney, co-founder and president of 40 Days for Life, and Steve Karlen, campaign director of the prayer movement.
The coordinator for Ibero-America, Lourdes Varela, writes in the introduction that it’s “a practical manual that all defenders of life should have.” The book seeks to understand “the international dialectic positioned by the abortion industry and at the same time order our ideas regarding the fundamental value of human life.”
In the prologue to “Qué Decir Cuándo,” Munilla emphasizes that “in the pro-life cause it’s important to show the confluence between science, reason, and faith.”
According to the Spanish bishop, this is even more relevant because religious faith “does nothing but give clearer insights” to what we can apprehend by pure reason. However, “the relativism of our time has led to obscuring one’s conscience and common sense itself to unexpected limits,” he added.
The book can be ordered in English or Spanish here:
98,316 abortions in 2022
Spain’s Ministry of Health published on Sept. 28 the official statistics for the year 2022, recording a total of 98,316 abortions, which represents an increase of 9.01% compared with 2021.
More than 75% were carried out in private non-hospital centers — businesses where pro-life volunteers pray nearby and offer help to the mothers. According to ministry figures, 75% of the babies were aborted during the first eight weeks of life in the womb, while about 22% were killed from 9-14 weeks’ gestation.
The number of abortion clinics in Spain has fluctuated in the last decade, although the difference between 2013 and 2022 represents a significant increase, from 198 to 222.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Posted on 10/2/2023 07:00 AM (CNA Daily News)
CNA Staff, Oct 2, 2023 / 04:00 am (CNA).
During the month of October, the Catholic Church celebrates guardian angels.
Guardian angels are instruments of providence who help protect their charges from suffering serious harm and assist them on the path of salvation.
It is a teaching of the Church that every one of the faithful has his or her own guardian angel from baptism, and it is the general teaching of theologians that every human person has his or her own guardian angel from birth.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their [angels’] watchful care and intercession. ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’ Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God” (No. 336).
Several of our greatest saints have also shared their thoughts on guardian angels. Here’s what they had to say:
St. John Vianney:
“Our guardian angels are our most faithful friends, because they are with us day and night, always and everywhere. We ought often to invoke them.”
St. John Bosco:
“When tempted, invoke your angel. He is more eager to help you than you are to be helped. Ignore the devil and do not be afraid of him; he trembles and flees at the sight of your guardian angel.”
“How great is the dignity of souls, that each person has from birth received an angel to protect it.”
St. Thérèse of Lisieux:
“My holy Guardian Angel, cover me with your wing. With your fire light the road that I’m taking. Come, direct my steps… help me, I call upon you. Just for today.”
St. Basil the Great:
“Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd, leading him to life.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux:
“We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father.”
St. Francis de Sales:
“Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit. Without being seen, they are present with you.”
St. Josemaría Escrivá:
“If you remembered the presence of your angel and the angels of your neighbors, you would avoid many of the foolish things which slip into your conversations.”
St. John Cassian:
“Cherubim means knowledge in abundance. They provide an everlasting protection for that which appeases God, namely, the calm of your heart, and they will cast a shadow of protection against all the attacks of malign spirits.”
This article was previously published at CNA on Oct. 2, 2022, and was updated on Sept. 29, 2023.
Posted on 10/2/2023 05:34 AM (CNA Daily News)
National Catholic Register, Oct 2, 2023 / 02:34 am (CNA).
Five cardinals have sent a set of questions to Pope Francis to express their concerns and seek clarification on points of doctrine and discipline ahead of this week’s opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican.
The cardinals said they submitted five questions, called “dubia,” on Aug. 21 requesting clarity on topics relating to doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women’s ordination, and sacramental absolution.
Dubia are formal questions brought before the pope and the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) aimed at eliciting a “yes” or “no” response, without theological argumentation. The word “dubia” is the plural form of “dubium,” which means “doubt” in Latin. They are typically raised by cardinals or other high-ranking members of the Church and are meant to seek clarification on matters of doctrine or Church teaching.
The dubia were signed by German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, 94, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; American Cardinal Raymond Burke, 75, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura; Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, 90, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong; Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, 90, archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara; and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, 78, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The same group of senior prelates say they submitted a previous version of the dubia on these topics on July 10 and received a reply from Pope Francis the following day.
But they said that the pope responded in full answers rather than in the customary form of “yes” and “no” replies, which made it necessary to submit a revised request for clarification.
Pope Francis’ responses “have not resolved the doubts we had raised, but have, if anything, deepened them,” they said in a statement to the National Catholic Register, CNA’s partner news outlet. They therefore sent the reformulated dubia on Aug. 21, rephrasing them partly so they would elicit “yes” or “no” replies.
The cardinals declined the Register’s requests to review the pope’s July 11 response, as they say the response was addressed only to them and so not meant for the public.
They say they have not yet received a response to the reformulated dubia sent to the pope on Aug. 21.
The Register sought comment from the Vatican on Sept. 29 and again on Oct. 1 but had not received a response by publication time.
The cardinals explained in a “Notification to Christ’s Faithful” dated Oct. 2 that they decided to submit the dubia “in view of various declarations of highly placed prelates” made in relation to the upcoming synod that have been “openly contrary to the constant doctrine and discipline of the Church.”
Those declarations, they said, “have generated and continue to generate great confusion and the falling into error among the faithful and other persons of goodwill, have manifested our deepest concern to the Roman pontiff.”
The initiative, the cardinals added, was taken in line with canon 212 § 3, which states it is a duty of all the faithful “to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church.”
The practice of issuing dubia has come to the fore during this pontificate. In 2016, Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller along with late Cardinals Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner submitted a set of five dubium to Pope Francis seeking clarification on the interpretation of Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, particularly regarding the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments. They did not receive a direct response to their questions.
In 2021, the DDF issued a “responsa ad dubium” giving a simple “no” to a dubium on whether the Church has “the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex.” That same year, the Dicastery for Divine Worship issued a responsa ad dubia on various questions relating to the implementation of Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting the Traditional Latin Mass.
Then in January of this year, Jesuit Father James Martin directly sent Pope Francis a set of three dubium seeking clarification of comments the Holy Father had given the Associated Press on the issue of homosexuality. The pope replied to the questions with a handwritten letter two days later.
What both dubia contain
The first dubium (question) concerns development of doctrine and the claim made by some bishops that divine revelation “should be reinterpreted according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote; or whether divine revelation is binding forever, immutable and therefore not to be contradicted.”
The cardinals said the pope responded July 11 by saying that the Church “can deepen her understanding of the deposit of faith,” which they agreed with, but that the response did “not capture our concern.” They reinstated their concern that many Christians today argue that “cultural and anthropological changes of our time should push the Church to teach the opposite of what it has always taught. This concerns essential, not secondary, questions for our salvation, like the confession of faith, subjective conditions for access to the sacraments, and observance of the moral law,” they said.
They therefore rephrased their dubium to say: “Is it possible for the Church today to teach doctrines contrary to those she has previously taught in matters of faith and morals, whether by the pope ex cathedra, or in the definitions of an Ecumenical Council, or in the ordinary universal magisterium of the bishops dispersed throughout the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25)?”
In the second dubium on blessing same-sex unions, they underscored the Church’s teaching based on divine revelation and Scripture that “God created man in his own image, male and female he created them and blessed them, that they might be fruitful” (Gen 1:27-28), and St. Paul’s teaching that to deny sexual difference is the consequence of the denial of the Creator (Rom 1:24-32). They then asked the pope if the Church can deviate from such teaching and accept “as a ‘possible good’ objectively sinful situations, such as same-sex unions, without betraying revealed doctrine?”
The pope responded July 11, the cardinals said, by saying that equating marriage to blessing same-sex couples would give rise to confusion and so should be avoided. But the cardinals said their concern is different, namely “that the blessing of same-sex couples might create confusion in any case, not only in that it might make them seem analogous to marriage, but also in that homosexual acts would be presented practically as a good, or at least as the possible good that God asks of people in their journey toward him.”
They therefore rephrased their dubium to ask if it were possible in “some circumstances” for a priest to bless same-sex unions “thus suggesting that homosexual behavior as such would not be contrary to God’s law and the person’s journey toward God?” Linked to that dubium, they asked if the Church’s teaching continues to be valid that “every sexual act outside of marriage, and in particular homosexual acts, constitutes an objectively grave sin against God’s law, regardless of the circumstances in which it takes place and the intention with which it is carried out.”
Question about synodality
In the third dubium, the cardinals asked whether synodality can be the highest criterion of Church governance without jeopardizing “her constitutive order willed by her Founder,” given that the Synod of Bishops does not represent the college of bishops but is “merely a consultative organ of the pope.” They stressed: “The supreme and full authority of the Church is exercised both by the pope by virtue of his office and by the college of bishops together with its head the Roman pontiff (Lumen Gentium, 22).”
The cardinals said Pope Francis responded by insisting on a “synodal dimension to the Church” that includes all the lay faithful, but the cardinals said they are concerned that “synodality” is being presented as if it “represents the supreme authority of the Church” in communion with the pope. They therefore sought clarity on whether the synod can act as the supreme authority on crucial issues. Their reformulated dubium asked: “Will the Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome, and which includes only a chosen representation of pastors and faithful, exercise, in the doctrinal or pastoral matters on which it will be called to express itself, the supreme authority of the Church, which belongs exclusively to the Roman pontiff and, una cum capite suo, to the college of bishops (cf. can. 336 C.I.C.)?”
Holy Orders and forgiveness
In the fourth dubium, the cardinals addressed statements from some prelates, again “neither corrected nor retracted,” which say that as the “theology of the Church has changed,” so therefore women can be ordained priests. They therefore asked the pope if the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which “definitively held the impossibility of conferring priestly ordination on women, is still valid.” They also sought clarification on whether or not this teaching “is no longer subject to change nor to the free discussion of pastors or theologians.”
In their reformulated dubium, the cardinals said the pope reiterated that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is to be held definitively and “that it is necessary to understand the priesthood, not in terms of power, but in terms of service, in order to understand correctly Our Lord’s decision to reserve holy orders to men only.” But they took issue with his response that said the question “can still be further explored.”
“We are concerned that some may interpret this statement to mean that the matter has not yet been decided in a definitive manner,” they said, adding that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis belongs to the deposit of faith. Their reformulated dubium therefore comprised: “Could the Church in the future have the faculty to confer priestly ordination on women, thus contradicting that the exclusive reservation of this sacrament to baptized males belongs to the very substance of the sacrament of orders, which the Church cannot change?”
Their final dubium concerned the Holy Father’s frequent insistence that there’s a duty to absolve everyone and always, so that repentance would not be a necessary condition for sacramental absolution. The cardinals asked whether the contrition of the penitent remains necessary for the validity of sacramental confession, “so that the priest must postpone absolution when it is clear that this condition is not fulfilled.”
In their reformulated dubium, they note that the pope confirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent on this issue, that absolution requires the sinner’s repentance, which includes the resolve not to sin again. “And you invited us not to doubt God’s infinite mercy,” they noted, but added: “We would like to reiterate that our question does not arise from doubting the greatness of God’s mercy, but, on the contrary, it arises from our awareness that this mercy is so great that we are able to convert to him, to confess our guilt, and to live as he has taught us. In turn, some might interpret your answer as meaning that merely approaching confession is a sufficient condition for receiving absolution, inasmuch as it could implicitly include confession of sins and repentance.” They therefore rephrased their dubium to read: “Can a penitent who, while admitting a sin, refuses to make, in any way, the intention not to commit it again, validly receive sacramental absolution?”
The public release of the documents, obtained by the Register and other news outlets, comes two days before the opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, a pivotal and highly controversial event in the Catholic Church.
The gathering in Rome marks a historic moment for the Church because for the first time in its history, laypeople, women, and other non-bishops will participate as full voting synod delegates, though the pope will ultimately decide whether to accept any of the assembly’s recommendations.
Pope Francis, either directly or through the Roman Curia, has previously addressed the topics brought up by the five cardinals and their dubia.
On the issue of the development of doctrine and possible contradictions, Pope Francis has frequently described a vision of doctrinal expansion grounded in a particular understanding of St. Vincent of Lerins’ maxim that Christian dogma “progresses, consolidating over the years, developing with time, deepening with age.” The pope has said doctrine expands “upward” from the roots of the faith as “our understanding of the human person changes with time, and our consciousness deepens.”
For instance, the Holy Father has said that while the death penalty was accepted and even called for by previous Catholic doctrine, it is “now a sin.” “The other sciences and their evolution also help the Church in this growth of understanding,” the pope said. In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that this kind of approach might be considered “imperfect” by those who “dream of a monolithic doctrine defended by all without nuance,” but “the reality is that such variety helps us to better manifest and develop the different aspects of the inexhaustible richness of the Gospel.”
On the topic of blessing same-sex unions, which have been pushed for in places like Germany, the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, weighed in on the matter in 2021, clarifying that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex.” However, some have speculated that, in spite of the DDF text referencing his approval, Pope Francis was displeased by the document. Relatedly, Antwerp’s Bishop Johan Bonny claimed in March that the pope did not disapprove of the Flemish-speaking Belgian bishops plan to introduce a related blessing, although this claim has not been substantiated and it is not clear that the Flemish blessing is, in fact, the kind explicitly disapproved by the DDF guidance.
Regarding the DDF text, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin cited it in his criticism of the German Synodal Way’s decision to move forward with attempted blessings of same-sex unions, but he also added that the topic would require further discussion at the upcoming universal synod. More significantly, new DDF prefect Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, a close confidant of Pope Francis, stated in July that while he was opposed to any blessing that would confuse same-sex unions with marriage, the 2021 DDF guidance “lacked the smell of Francisco” and could be revisited during his tenure.
Regarding the authority of the forthcoming synod, although Pope Francis has expanded voting rights in the Synod of Bishops beyond the episcopacy, he has also repeatedly emphasized that the synod “is not a parliament” but a consultative, spiritual gathering meant to advise the pope. The pope did adjust canon law in 2018 to allow for the final document approved by a Synod of Bishops to “participate in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter,” though only if “expressly approved by the Roman pontiff.”
On the possibility of the sacramental ordination of women, Pope Francis reaffirmed in 2016 that St. John Paul II’s clear “no” via Ordinato Sacederdotalis (1994) was the “final word” on the subject. In 2018, then-DDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria confirmed that the male-only priesthood is “definitive.” In a 2022 interview with America magazine, Pope Francis again affirmed that women cannot enter ordained ministry and said that this should not be seen as a “deprivation.”
The pope has established two separate commissions to consider the question of a female diaconate, but the first, historically-based commission did not come to any definitive consensus and the second, focusing on the issue from a theological perspective, seems similarly unlikely to offer univocal support for a female diaconate. However, the synod’s Instrumentum Laboris does ask if “it is possible to envisage” women’s inclusion in the diaconate “and in what way?”
Finally, regarding withholding absolution in the confessional, the pope has previously referred to priests who refrain from offering absolution for certain moral sins without the bishop’s permission as “criminals” and told the Congolese bishops in February that they must “always forgive in the sacrament of reconciliation,” going beyond the Code of Canon Law to “risk on the side of forgiveness.”
Jonathan Liedl, senior editor of the National Catholic Register, contributed to this story.
Posted on 10/1/2023 18:15 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Oct 1, 2023 / 15:15 pm (CNA).
A few thousand Catholics joined Dominican priests and sisters on Saturday for a daylong event in Washington, D.C., focused on praying and reflecting on the rosary to conclude a nine-month rosary novena.
The Sept. 30 Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, included talks by Dominican priests, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession, and a vigil Mass. The pilgrimage was held one day before the start of the month of the rosary in October.
“I find it very spiritually enriching,” Jane Degnan, who traveled from Narragansett, Rhode Island, to partake in the pilgrimage, told CNA.
“The atmosphere here at the basilica really helps us to appreciate and grow in our devotion to the Blessed Mother and the rosary, [which enriches] our relationship with the Lord Jesus,” said Degnan, who added that her attachment to the Dominicans stems from having an uncle who is a Dominican priest and a cousin who is a Dominican nun.
The event began with a talk by Father Gregory Pine, a Dominican priest, on the Virgin Mary, which was followed by exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the upper church while confessions were heard in the various Marian shrines in the lower church. Nearly 20 priests heard confessions throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
Adoration concluded with Benediction, which was followed by another talk from Pine, this one focused on the rosary.
“The rosary imports to us a kind of contemplative stance toward the mysteries [of Christ] in union with Mary,” Pine said during his talk.
Pine explained how “all Christians are called to be contemplative.” He said our experiences in the present are meant to be carried into the next life, where we “couldn’t even imagine looking away” from God: “Heaven is contemplative.”
“It is precisely for this purpose you have been baptized and confirmed and commissioned for a life in this modern world,” Pine said.
Rather than attaching ourselves to material desires, the rosary “puts our minds and hearts in motion” and attaches us to something “that can truly satisfy [us],” Pine continued. “We can’t hang our hearts on anything less,” he said, adding that “apart from [Christ], we can do nothing.”
After Pine’s second talk, the Dominicans led pilgrims in praying the rosary. This was followed by a brief talk on the rosary by Father Lawrence Lew, another Dominican priest. The pilgrimage ended with a Vigil Mass.
Father John Paul Kern, the executive director of the Dominican Friars Foundation, told CNA that the pilgrimage was a good way to lead into the month of the rosary. He said “people were very excited” to partake in the pilgrimage and added that it serves as part of the Dominican “heritage of continuing to preach the rosary,” which has been an important part of the order’s mission for more than 500 years.
Kern, who said he was “very pleased with the turnout” for the pilgrimage, referenced the “powerful” depiction in the basilica of the Pentecost event, which shows the Blessed Mother with the apostles when Christ breathed the Holy Spirit onto them. He said that while praying the holy rosary, “we are gathered with Our Lady like the apostles.”
Prior to the pilgrimage, participants were encouraged to take part in a nine-month novena, which included praying the rosary on the 30th of each month and reciting a novena, which asks God to “pour out [the] Holy Spirit upon us as we meditate upon the mysteries of Christ contained in the most holy rosary.”
Kern said the Dominicans mailed out about 500,000 novena prayer cards to entities and about 100,000 at the request of parishes and individuals. He said he estimates there were at least 100,000 participants in the monthly novena.
One participant, Kyle Grimes, told CNA that the nine-month novena preceding the pilgrimage was a good reminder that helped serve in the preparation for the pilgrimage. He added that he was glad the Dominicans held an event like this.
“It’s hard to find a lot of events like this, especially [ones] that are just Dominican in nature,” said Grimes, who traveled from Baltimore for the pilgrimage.
The Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage was the first event of its kind held by the Dominicans at the basilica, but the organizers intend to make it an annual event.