A modern example of a dubia submitted to a pope is when St. John Paul II was asked if ordination of only men to the priesthood, "is to be understood as belonging to the deposit of faith." He answered... YES! This was easy for John Paul II, because he was simply reiterating the timeless teaching and tradition of the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church. The problem with our current situation with Francis is he is unwilling to simply respond to the dubia submitted to him. These "doubts" have arisen because of statements made in chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. Any Catholic who knows his catechism should be able to respond to them. In brief, the dubia essentially ask whether the Church still teaches marriage is indissoluble by asking whether divorced and remarried individuals (who have not obtained a declaration of nullity) should be admitted to Holy Communion. It also asks whether the Church still holds that absolute moral norms still exist as binding without exceptions. Here are the five dubia submitted by the "Athanasian" cardinals:
1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio [as if they were married, including sexual relations] without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84 [ending the adulterous relationship by separating or living as brother and sister for grave reasons, such as caring for children], and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
2. After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?
3. After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?
4. After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
5. After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?
The answers are No, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Many become uncomfortable with challenging the pope's statements, understandably so. However, Jesus not only chose Peter, but "the Twelve" Apostles. Even in the time of Peter and Paul, we have the famous confrontation and public correction of Peter by Paul, in Galations 2:11. "And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong ... when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all,m “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Since Pope Francis has chosen, unlike John Paul II, to NOT respond to these good-will questions by cardinals who clearly reverence and respect the office of Peter... these dubia have become, de facto, "corrections" of the pope and those supporting his statements in Amoris. This whole thing would be over if Francis simply responded correctly to the questions. Instead, these "Athanasian" type cardinals have received what St. Athanasius and St. Bruno received ... nothing but attacks on their personal faith, their need for conversion and accusations that they are trying to be subversive, not to mention actual demotion and exile in the case of Cardinal Burke. Sadly, the pope has allowed this and we pray he will respond to these "Theology 101" questions about Church teaching.
That said, Dr. Peters makes a valid point in his blog when he says:
"No one in a position of ecclesial responsibility—not the Four Cardinals posing dubia, not Grisez & Finnis cautioning about misuses, and not the 45 Catholics appealing to the College, among others—has, despite the bizarre accusations made about some of them, accused Pope Francis of being a heretic or of teaching heresy. While many are concerned for the clarity of various Church teachings in the wake of some of Francis’ writings and comments, and while some of these concerns do involve matters of faith and morals, no responsible voice in the Church has, I repeat, accused Pope Francis of holding or teaching heresy."
I agree with Ed Peters and I am not implying the pope is a heretic. This is not disobedience or disrespect to the Pope, whom we love and respect. It does however, require our undertanding clearly that the infallibility of the pope is not a belief in his personal inerrancy or perfection. I predict there will be another, formal correction issued from the "four" in the near future and I have no idea what happens after that, but I think the cardinals want a popcorn trail for history that identifies the stake in the ground that Amoris has statements in Ch. 8 that do not clearly communiate Catholic moral teaching.
This rather rare occasion in Church history provides all of us an opportunity to see how the Holy Spirit guides the Church, despite human error and sin -- in the truth, and we know these teachings appearing in the dubia are part of the unchangeable ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church, no pope or bishop has the authority to change. Let us pray for our beloved pope that he will end this divisive controversy by stepping in line with his predecessors and the sacred deposit of faith he has promised to uphold and answer the dubia -- No, Yes, Yes, Yes Yes!