Pope Francis Put on Notice, Cardinals Demand Answers

In the lead-up to the Vatican Synod, a group of senior Cardinals has raised a series of questions, called dubia, to Pope Francis. These questions address contentious issues such as the blessing of gay marriage and the ordination of women. The Cardinals, led by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, have expressed their concerns about recent declarations that they believe contradict the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, causing confusion among the faithful.

The Background of the Dubia

Cardinal Burke, along with four other senior clergymen, presented a set of questions to Pope Francis, seeking clarification on several pressing issues facing the Church. These questions were published on Cardinal Burke’s website and social media platforms, as an official statement from the Cardinals. The group believes it is their duty to voice their opinions on matters that impact the Church’s well-being, particularly in assisting the Pope.

The Cardinals’ concerns stem from declarations made by the German Synod of Bishops, which advocated for same-sex union blessings and the ordination of women. They argue that these declarations contradict the long-standing doctrines and disciplines of the Church, leading to confusion and spiritual error among the faithful and other well-intentioned individuals.

The Revised “Yes or No” Questions

After receiving an unsatisfactory response from the Pope to their initial questions, the Cardinals revised their queries to seek clear and direct answers. These revised questions were published in multiple languages, including English, Italian, French, Spanish, Polish, German, and Portuguese. Let’s examine the summarized version of these questions:

  1. Can the Catholic Church teach something that contradicts its previous doctrines on Faith and Morals?
  2. Can the Church bless homosexual unions? Is the Church’s teaching on sexual acts outside the Sacrament of Marriage as grave sins still valid?
  3. Will decisions made by a minority of representatives at the “Synod on Synodality” hold the same authority as those made by the Pope in union with the College of Bishops?
  4. Is it possible for the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests?
  5. Can a priest validly absolve someone who confesses a sin intending to continue committing it?

The Cardinals Behind the Questions

Cardinal Burke is not alone in his pursuit of answers from Pope Francis. German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, joins Cardinal Burke in presenting the questions. Cardinal Brandmüller previously cosigned another set of questions to Pope Francis in 2016. The other three Cardinals who signed the questions are Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, and Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

It is worth noting that Cardinals Brandmüller, Sandoval, and Zen are no longer eligible to vote in the next papal conclave due to their age. Nevertheless, their collective concerns reflect a significant portion of the Cardinals’ opinions within the Church.

Pope Francis’ Response and Cardinal Fernandez’s Criticism

The Pope’s initial response to the dubia was delivered in Spanish and has been published by Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the Vatican’s new Prefect of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. However, the Cardinals claim that the answers did not follow the customary format of “responsa ad dubia.” Displeased with the response, Cardinal Burke and his colleagues reformulated their questions and resubmitted them on August 21. As of now, they are still awaiting a response from the Pope.

Cardinal Fernandez, known for his close relationship with Pope Francis, defended the Pope’s initial response to the dubia. He stated that the Pope had already answered the questions and criticized the Cardinals for making their inquiries public. Cardinal Fernandez accused the Cardinals of treating the Pope as though he were their servant.

The Upcoming Vatican Synod

The Vatican Synod, known as the “Synod on Synodality,” is set to address a range of contentious issues within the Church. With 363 voting delegates, including 54 women, attending the final stage of this three-year synod, topics such as sexual abuse, LGBTQ inclusion, and female ordination are expected to be highly debated. The Synod will commence on October 4, providing a platform for open discussions and potential resolutions.


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