Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, one of the four cardinals who have asked the Pope to clarify Amoris Laetitia, has said that it matters because people’s eternal salvation is at stake.
Speaking to the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, Cardinal Caffarra said:
“We are talking about questions that are not secondary. It is not a
discussion of whether [eating] fish violates or does not violate
abstinence. These are most serious questions for the life of the Church
and for the eternal salvation of the faithful.”
The cardinal went on: “Never forget, this is the supreme law of the
Church: the eternal salvation of the faithful, not other concerns. Jesus
founded His Church so that the faithful would have eternal life and
have it in abundance.”
In the interview, translated
by Andrew Guernsey, Cardinal Caffarra says that the confusion and
anxiety in the Church, in the aftermath of Amoris Laetitia, is so
obvious that “only a blind man” could miss it.
“On these fundamental questions regarding the sacramental economy
(matrimony, confession and Eucharist) and the Christian life, some
bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A, with the
intention of interpreting well the same texts,” the cardinal said.
He explained that this was why he and the other three cardinals –
Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner – had submitted
their “dubia”, asking for clarification of the document.
The archbishop said that the actual text of Amoris Laetitia could be
read in continuity with Catholic doctrine. But there were widespread
interpretations which conflicted with Church teaching on Communion and
On Friday, when Cardinal Caffarra’s interview was published, the bishops of Malta published guidelines
for priests. These state that a remarried Catholic can receive
Communion if they come “with an informed and enlightened conscience, to
acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God”.
guidelines have been published in San Diego. Other bishops, such as
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Bishop Philip Egan of
Portsmouth, have reaffirmed the Church’s longstanding doctrine.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI affirmed the traditional teaching
that the remarried cannot receive Communion unless they endeavour to
live “as brother and sister”.
Cardinal Caffarra said that the most important of the five dubia was
the fifth, on conscience.
“It is where we meet and clash with the
central pillar of modernity,” the cardinal said.
The fifth dubia asks the Pope to clarify that St John Paul II’s
teaching on conscience is still valid. St John Paul’s encyclical
Veritatis Splendor teaches that conscience can never find exceptions to
absolute moral prohibitions.
As the cardinals put it, Veritatis Splendor
“excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and
… emphasises that conscience can never be authorised to legitimate
exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts
by virtue of their object”.
Cardinal Caffarra told Il Foglio that the conscience must refer to
moral absolutes: “every reasoned judgment is exercised in the light of
criteria, otherwise it is not a judgment, but rather something else”.
This was, the cardinal said, at odds with a modern, subjective
understanding of conscience. Caffarra pointed out that the martyrs had
refused to apostatise even in extreme cases – for instance, St Thomas
More’s wife pleaded with him not to abandon his family.
Elsewhere in the lengthy interview, Cardinal Caffarra explained the
cardinals’ reasoning for submitting the dubia. He said that many laity
and clergy had been saying: “‘But you cardinals in a situation like this
one have the obligation to intervene with the Holy Father. Why do you
exist, if not to assist the Pope in questions so grave as this?’ A
scandal on the part of many of the faithful was beginning to grow, as
though we cardinals were behaving like the dogs who did not bark, about
whom the prophet speaks.”
The cardinal said the four had been careful not to show any
disrespect to the Pope, and had therefore sent the letter privately. He
says they only decided to make it public when they were sure the Pope
would not respond.
Cardinal Caffarra told a story of one priest who had written to him
about his difficulty in giving spiritual direction. The priest had a
penitent who was in a relationship with a divorced woman. When the
priest explained how the man could correct his situation, the man
replied: “Listen, Father, the Pope said that I can receive the
Eucharist, without the resolution to live in continence.”
The priest told Cardinal Caffarra that he found the situation
unbearable. The cardinal said that many parish priests were in a similar
predicament: “they find themselves carrying a load on their shoulders
that they cannot bear. This is what I am thinking of when I talk about a
great disorientation. And I am speaking of parish priests, but many
[lay] faithful are even more confused.”