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Pope harsh on self-interest critics

HONG KONG (SE): “Following the publication of your apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting,” a letter to Pope Francis under the title, Seeking Clarity: A plea to untie the knots in Amoris Laetitia, and signed by four cardinals begins.

One of them, Raymond Cardinal Burke, told the National Catholic Register that if the pope does not clarify the issues raised in the letter, the four will take the serious step of making a formal act of correction of a serious error.

The other three signatories are Walter Cardinal Brandmüller, Carlo Cardinal Caffarra and Joachim Cardinal Meisner.

While the letter was sent to Pope Francis on September 18, it was only made public on November 16, after the quartet had received no reply from the pontiff, or his prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Cardinal Müller.

They say that there is much confusion over some issues, especially in regard to the contentious chapter eight, which has seen contradictory diocesan regulations on some matters, like whether the divorced and remarried can be guided towards receiving communion in some circumstances or not.

“We want to help the pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel ambiguity,” the four cardinals write in their letter.

In explaining their action, the four say, “We hope that no one will judge us unjustly, as adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy. What we have done and are doing has its origin in the deep collegial affection that unites us to the pope and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful.”

Although the four deny it is a challenge to Pope Francis, the letter has been dubbed by the media as a public challenge from four conservative cardinals, asking him to take a stand on five issues that they call confusing or points of doubt.

They want Pope Francis to declare whether or not these five points supersede rulings by previous popes.

However, the pope remained silent, even though the four cardinals explained the spirit of going public as continuing their reflection and the discussion with the whole people of God.

In the forward to the published letter, the four explain, “If your brother will not listen to you, take with you two or three witnesses. If then he will not listen even to them, tell it to the assembly.”

The witness in this case is Cardinal Müller, who had also received a copy of the letter when it was sent to the pope.

The cardinals explain that the letter to the pope is sent in the deepest spirit of charity.

It reads, “We have noted a grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the Church. We have noted that even within the episcopal college there are contrasting interpretations of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia.

“The great tradition of the Church teaches us that the way out of situations like this is recourse to the Holy Father, asking the Apostolic See to resolve those doubts which are the cause of disorientation and confusion.

“Ours is therefore an act of justice and charity,” they say.

“We have also carried out a specific duty… The Holy Father has decided not to respond. We have interpreted his sovereign decision as an invitation to continue the reflection and the discussion, calmly and with respect.”

However, Pope Francis did not seem to think so. Avvenire reported him as saying on November 18 that he is leading the Church in the spirit of Vatican II and moving away from “a certain legalism, which can be ideological.”

Although he did not name names, he did say, “Some people—think of the responses (to The Joy of Love)—still do not understand.” He called them critics that tend to think in black and white, rather than discerning distinctions in particular cases.

Although he believes constructive criticism is helpful, he pointed out that if it is done with a nasty spirit simply to justify preconceived positions, it is not honest.

He then suggested that rigid attitudes can reflect psychological problems and may be “born of something missing.”

The four cardinals conclude their letter saying, “We hope that no one will choose to interpret the matter according to a progressive/conservative paradigm. That would be completely off the mark. We are deeply concerned about the true good of souls… not about promoting any form of politics in the Church.”

Vatican journalist, Robert Moynihan, takes the matter back to the beginning of the consistory of February 2014, when Pope Francis asked Walter Cardinal Kasper to give the opening talk in support of communion for the divorced and remarried.

“Right away the controversy broke out with the greatest intensity,” Moynihan says. “And it is the same one he that divides the Church today.”

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