Amoris Laetitia row: Rebel cardinals leak letter to Pope Francis lamenting Church's moral 'confusion'

ReutersFour conservative Cardinals have released a letter to Pope Francis sent in April in which they lament alleged divisions over morality in the Catholic Church.

Four conservative Cardinals have released a controversial letter they wrote to Pope Francis in April requesting a private meeting to discuss 'confusion and disorientation' in the Catholic Church following the publication of the Pope's April 2016 Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

In the letter the Cardinals lament alleged divisions in the Church on basic morality as a result of the Pope's exhortation, which translates as 'the joy of love'.

'And so it is happening — how painful it is to see this! — that what is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta,' they wrote.

The Cardinals reiterated five questions they had asked in November on whether or not Amoris Laetitia conforms to official Catholic teaching. The five 'yes-or-no' questions they asked – to which they received no response - were: whether adulterers can receive Holy Communion; whether there are absolute moral norms that must be followed 'without exceptions'; whether habitual adultery can be an 'objective situation of grave habitual sin'; whether an intrinsically evil act can be turned into a 'subjectively good' act based on 'circumstances or intentions'; and whether one can act contrary to known 'absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts' based on 'conscience'.

In their April 25 letter, the Cardinals wrote: 'Not having received any response from Your Holiness, we have reached the decision to ask You, respectfully and humbly, for an Audience, together if Your Holiness would like.'

They also asked the Pope if they could discuss the 'situation of confusion and disorientation' in the Church caused by 'objectively ambiguous passages' in the exhortation.

The letter, which was written by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra on behalf of Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, and Joachim Meisner, began respectfully. The Cardinals said they renewed their 'absolute dedication and our unconditional love for the Chair of Peter and for Your august person, in whom we recognize the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus: the "sweet Christ on earth"'.

They went on to state that it is the 'awareness of the grave responsibility' of their office as 'advisers of the Successor of Peter in his sovereign ministry' that moved them to ask the Pope for a meeting.

The Cardinals said that since Amoris Laetitia's release a year ago, amid speculation of a softening of the Church's position on homosexuality and Communion for divorcees, 'interpretations of some objectively ambiguous passages...have publicly been given that are not divergent from but contrary to the permanent Magisterium of the Church'.

They continued: 'Despite the fact that the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith has repeatedly declared that the doctrine of the Church has not changed, numerous statements have appeared from individual Bishops, Cardinals, and even Episcopal Conferences, approving what the Magisterium of the Church has never approved.

'Not only access to the Holy Eucharist for those who objectively and publicly live in a situation of grave sin, and intend to remain in it, but also a conception of moral conscience contrary to the Tradition of the Church.'

Some in the Church have since interpreted Church teaching as allowing for divorcees to receive Communion. Earlier this month an Argentinian bishop, Angel José Macin of the Diocese of Reconquista celebrated a special Mass for civilly-divorced-and-remarried couples in which they were all invited to receive Holy Communion.

According to Lifesite News, the exhortation has been used by various bishops and bishops' groups, including those in Argentina, Malta, Germany, and Belgium, to issue pastoral guidelines that allow Communion to be given to civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics; while bishops in Canada and Poland have issued statements based on their reading of the same document that forbids such couples to receive Communion.

The letter concludes: 'Faced with this grave situation, in which many Christian communities are being divided, we feel the weight of our responsibility, and our conscience impels us to ask humbly and respectfully for an Audience.'

The full text of the letter reads:

Most Holy Father,

It is with a certain trepidation that I address myself to Your Holiness, during these days of the Easter season. I do so on behalf of the Most Eminent Cardinals: Walter Brandmüller, Raymond L. Burke, Joachim Meisner, and myself.

We wish to begin by renewing our absolute dedication and our unconditional love for the Chair of Peter and for Your august person, in whom we recognize the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus: the "sweet Christ on earth," as Saint Catherine of Siena was fond of saying. We do not share in the slightest the position of those who consider the See of Peter vacant, nor of those who want to attribute to others the indivisible responsibility of the Petrine munus. We are moved solely by the awareness of the grave responsibility arising from the munus of cardinals: to be advisers of the Successor of Peter in his sovereign ministry. And from the Sacrament of the Episcopate, which "has placed us as bishops to pasture the Church, which He has acquired with his blood" (Acts 20:28).

On September 19, 2016 we delivered to Your Holiness and to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith five dubia, asking You to resolve uncertainties and to bring clarity on some points of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

Not having received any response from Your Holiness, we have reached the decision to ask You, respectfully and humbly, for an Audience, together if Your Holiness would like. We attach, as is the practice, an Audience Sheet in which we present the two points we wish to discuss with you.

Most Holy Father,

A year has now gone by since the publication of Amoris Laetitia. During this time, interpretations of some objectively ambiguous passages of the post-synodal Exhortation have publicly been given that are not divergent from, but contrary to, the permanent Magisterium of the Church. Despite the fact that the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith has repeatedly declared that the doctrine of the Church has not changed, numerous statements have appeared from individual Bishops, Cardinals, and even Episcopal Conferences, approving what the Magisterium of the Church has never approved. Not only access to the Holy Eucharist for those who objectively and publicly live in a situation of grave sin, and intend to remain in it, but also a conception of moral conscience contrary to the Tradition of the Church. And so it is happening — how painful it is to see this! — that what is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta. And so on. One is reminded of the bitter observation of B. Pascal: "Justice on this side of the Pyrenees, injustice on the other; justice on the left bank of the river, injustice on the right bank."

Numerous competent lay faithful, who are deeply in love with the Church and staunchly loyal to the Apostolic See, have turned to their Pastors and to Your Holiness in order to be confirmed in the Holy Doctrine concerning the three sacraments of Marriage, Confession, and the Eucharist. And in these very days, in Rome, six lay faithful, from every Continent, have presented a very well-attended study seminar with the meaningful title: "Bringing clarity."

Faced with this grave situation, in which many Christian communities are being divided, we feel the weight of our responsibility, and our conscience impels us to ask humbly and respectfully for an Audience.

May Your Holiness remember us in Your prayers, as we pledge to remember You in ours. And we ask for the gift of Your Apostolic Blessing.

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