Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Five Dubia

Rome pal Jan Bentz has reported in LifeSiteNews today that four Cardinals may be demoted (aka "stripped of their hats") for asking Pope Francis the following questions and, when he did not respond, publishing them.

Incidentally, I see that Jan has been regularly reporting for LSN, which is THE biggest Catholic media organ in Canada, a gazillion times bigger than Salt +Light or any diocesan heirloom, so good for you, Jan.  

Anyway since it is being posited that in this Year of Mercy there is such a thing as a stupid question (or five), I thought I would publish them here so we don't ask them ourselves by accident. (I have cut them from Catholicism.org.) Please read so that you know why five leading churchmen, any one of whom could have been himself elected pope, risked being called names, demoted, etc. All emphases are mine to add ease and variety to your reading.

1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of “Amoris Laetitia” (nn. 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” (in a marital way) without fulfilling the conditions provided for by “Familiaris Consortio” n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” n. 34 and “Sacramentum Caritatis” n. 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in note 351 (n. 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 Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (cf. n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 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” (n. 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 (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?
4. After the affirmations of “Amoris Laetitia” (n. 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” n. 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” (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” n. 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?
What I notice is the invitation for Francis to say "No, the black-and-white unmerciful thinking of Saint John Paul II was wrong and my fifty-shades-of-gray house theologian was right, and that's just how it is. Deal." Why does he not say this?

Actually, he doesn't even have to say this. All he has to say is "Yes" or "No" to each of the five, and then LifeSiteNews can get a million more hits as desperate Catholics-Who-Care try to figure out what is going on. 

I pointed out my problems with Chapter 8 within 24 hours of its release (and what a day that was). I was completely free to do this as my own theological career basically ended in Mainz, Germany one January day in 2006 when a worried former professor, switching to French so les americains at the table would not understand, warned me that I had better not piss off a neurotic current professor or I might damage my carrèire.  

"Je m'en fiche de ma carrière," I snarled, which was true only relative to my sanity and the Catholic faith as my father and grandparents and their grandparents understood it. All the same, I no longer have a carrière, so I have nothing to lose by writing things like:

Work 3, or Chapter 8, is a torturous and tortured attempt to make adultery seem that much less adulterous. Particularly intriguing was the author’s (or authors’) insinuation that some men and women cannot cease to have extramarital sex with each other without incurring sin. This too will disturb the orthodox Catholic reader.

 What I would love to see, if the Cardinals are indeed stripped of their offices for asking five questions regarding the validity of the doctrines of the Church as understood and promoted by Saint John Paul II, is an emergency synod and red mozette flying through the air like so many frisbees.

Update. Worth a read: Fr Mark Drew in the Catholic Herald.


  1. I know some are happy that there is finally some conflict and everything isn't being swept under a rug, but on the other hand schism is an objectively evil thing, and if it comes to it I don't see it being resolved in our lifetimes (very difficult for the Facebook generation!)

    What is also alarming is that people supporting the Pope's silence regarding the five dubia just do not see the problem. It's a very surreal scenario.

  2. I really don't want to see a schism. Ann Barnhardt sleeps like a baby because she firmly believes that Benedict XVI is still the one-and-only Pope (because Benedict seems to think he is a sort-of-pope, or the pope contemplative). And naturally Hilary White is delighted because she thinks the post-V2 madness will be swept away by the ("smaller, purer"?) Church. I, however, am worried about all the "little people" who will get throughly trampled. Too bad this wasn't all sorted in 1970.

    It is surreal. I read crazy statments from prelates, and guest stars like Greek Orthodox patriarchs who say stuff like "What has undoubtedly smothered people in the past is the fear that a "heavenly father" somehow dictates human contact and prescribes human custom." Uh. What? The Ten Commandments are a fairy tale now? The Second Person of the Trinity was not expressing the will of the Heavenly Father when He taught? Scare quotes around Heavenly Father?

    Interesting times.

  3. I too think of the "little people" caught in the middle. There is also the worry that observing the whole situation and "worrying" somehow fulfils our Christian duty. The whole affair is distracting but it does have real practical consequences. I saw a Twitter feed by a celibate Catholic (Simcha Fisher's brother, I believe) where he was following through the possible implications of the Kasper heresy on his own situation, i.e. could he 'discern' a relationship with another man.

    The most irritating part is that those who are defending the Holy Father are lashing out in a horrible, childish fashion, like how a child stalls giving an answer to a direct question because he knows, as we all know with regard to the dubia, that he will convict himself if he is honest.

    PS: I incorporate mercy into my understanding of justice.