The Pope, The Five Dubia and the “Formal Correction”

His Eminence Raymond Leo Card. Burke gave interview to LifeSite. He said that the “formal correction” of Pope Francis he had mentioned before could “probably” be issued sometime after the upcoming Feast of the Epiphany, thus after 6 January 2017

Among the things Card. Burke said were that a “formal correction” was necessary because the Five Dubia submitted by the Four Cardinals about Amoris laetitia Ch. 8 concern the “very foundations of the moral life of the Church” and “the Church’s constant teaching with the regard to good and evil”.

The “formal correction” would be a brief reaffirmation of points raised in the Five Dubia.  It could not be much more than that.

As I wrote before, in the past Popes have indeed been “corrected”.  Check out this post: Once upon a time, there was this Pope who was “corrected”…. So, what Card. Burke is suggesting is not entirely without precedent.

Furthermore, if the situation is allowed to go forward without some sort of action, the result could be an undermining of the Petrine Office itself, which is so important for the unity of the Church and the safeguarding of teaching on faith and morals.  Therefore, what might be undertaken is a service to the Holy Father, not an attack.  Far from it.

So, Card. Burke mentioned 6 January, Epiphany.  However, in between then and now comes the annual Christmas “Greetings” between the Pope and the Roman Curia.  This year it will take place on Thursday 22 December.  Benedict XVI used that occasion to make a famous speech about the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture in regard to Vatican II (etc.).  O my prophetic soul.  And then there was Francis’ own infamous tirade against the members of the Curia in 2014, when he read them his list of 15 “ailments” and ripped them to shreds.  HERE

It is impossible not to imagine that Pope Francis will use the Christmas Curia greetings on Thursday to tear the Four Cardinals, and anyone else thinking about associating with them, limb from limb, if not directly and by name, then by innuendo and oblique reference.

Will Pope Francis respond to the Five Dubia?   I doubt it.  His surrogates will probably continue to put out there that a) if perhaps the doubters heard more confessions, b) didn’t hate the Spirit of Vatican II, c) were not so obtuse, they would see how perfectly the notions proposed in Amoris laetitia Ch. 8 in fact are authentic developments of … you know… doctrine and stuff.

So, I would make plans to tune in to CTV on Thursday to watch the exchange of greetings of Francis and the Roman Curia for Christmas.

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  1. Michael_Thoma says:

    The Holy Father’s Christmas coals are expected at this point, the question is, will he including a few redhat removals..

    I appreciate the purpose of the Dubia, however, I question whether it is better to leave the question unanswered until the paranthesis closes? If not we may not like the answer that will be given.

  2. Rod Halvorsen says:

    I agree. Of course the Pope won’t respond.

    I do believe, that the correction will be more than a mere clipped address of yays and nays. It seems fairly clear to me that, because of the questions themselves, the correction will address the issues in technical and legal and, yes, PASTORAL detail, for there is nothing more truly pastoral than offering the clear truth in love. What’s more, it not just a good idea, it is a requirement as set forth in the Catechism {CCC 1697, not just the “joys” but also the “demands”}.

    The dubia are not limited to issues involving marriage and divorce/remarriage. In fact, the dubia go right to the heart of some basic Christian truths and doctrines, the answers to which would expose the beliefs of any who respond to them. In that way they are powerful tools of catechesis for all of us, for OUR answers will reveal where we stand vis a vis Christ and His Church.

    Not much has been said about this but they are very craftily worded and do not exclusively address the possibility that the Pope might be a heretic. Depending on answers given, they could expose the Pope as an apostate.

    The Pope will not answer.

  3. Bosco says:

    Perhaps, for once, Francis has had his tongue-tied for him. He is paralyzed by five questions which simply require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. He seems virtually driven to an excess of verbiage.

    “But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.” Matthew 5:37

    “But let your speech be, yea, yea: no, no: that you fall not under judgment.” James 5:12

    Mum is the word I suppose.

  4. Thomistica says:

    The authors of the Dubia and their supporters need to be at the ready for a blistering and vitriolic attack on the fraternal correction, and consistently take the high road. Talking points have to be at the ready for this attack, with easily understood and brief retorts ready for media consumption.
    E.g., I still am not clear on what Howard Kainz is saying, in of all places, The Catholic Thing:
    Kainz says: “Under Canon Law, there are still legitimate uses of the internal forum in absolving divorced and remarried Catholics. If the ‘external forum’ of ecclesiastical tribunals cannot be used because of lack of witnesses, lack of evidence, or unavailability, the internal forum would be the place of last resort. Also, in cases of impending death, last rites and absolution can be given to a penitent.”
    I assume this cannot be correct as an interpretation of canon law, but don’t have any expertise in this area. In any case, Kainz’s comment has to do with very liminal cases.
    This Dec. 13 article also caught my eye, for a particular reason.
    You’ll see that it quotes some passages (see addendum to the article) from the following: Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Concerning Some Objections to the Church’s Teaching on the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful (1998). Perhaps Fr. Spadaro’s crowd will cite it after the fraternal correction is issued. (I was unaware of this 1998 document!)
    I think the strategy here will be to point out the following, from Kainz’s article:
    “2005: The 2005 Synod on the Eucharist reaffirmed the 1981 decision of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris consortio.
    2007: Pope Benedict XVI in the apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis reiterates the decision of the 2005 Synod.”
    Anyhow, the author of this Patheos article strikes me as wrong to think that the Pope has a limited and not a very latitudinarian view of Communion for the ‘remarried’. The whole tenor of this pontificate cuts against the grain of the author’s interpretation.
    There is a good chance that the circle surrounding the Pope never really grasped or imagined the magnitude of the discord and disunity they have unleashed. Nonetheless, that circle is no doubt at the ready with a highly orchestrated media/social media campaign to vilify the four Cardinals and their supporters. Thus easy to understand replies to these attacks need to be in the can for release to the media, already–including (perhaps especially) replies to articles like the ones above.

  5. Rod Halvorsen says:


    As a Lutheran convert, I see Lutheranism all over the place in current Catholic Culture. In fact, more Lutheranism than doctrinal Catholicism, so I think your point that the purveyors of the heresies and chaos may have misjudged the reaction is right on.

    I suspect that because use of artificial contraception doesn’t matter, marriages last as long as two people can hack it before they shake hands, part and find their true soul mates and the Blessed Sacrament is Really There but the Real Presence isn’t for many and seemingly most “Catholics”, the “cool” kids thought they’d have no big reaction to simply stating what they thought was everybody’s opinion anyhow.

    I have always pondered the statement the Anglican Archbishop Venables made about how supposedly then Jorge Bergoglio told him not to convert “because we need you where you are”. Meaning and the phrases of Bergoglio admittedly often appear to be mutually exclusive, but I have come to wonder if what was really meant was, “Wait. We will join you…watch and see”…

  6. Eugene says:

    I am getting a feeling in the pit of my stomach that the Cardinals will go ahead with formal correction BUT NOTHING will come of it. They will be ignored. the majority of the church of nice Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests will just go long as if nothing happened. I keep coming back to the conclusion that nothing will change unless there is a direct intervention by our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the shepherds of the church have ignored the faith since VII and don’t really care to do anything about it.
    Case in point, living in the socialist haven of Canada, my Ordinary is the current president of the bishops conference, he has ignored numerous correspondence I and others have sent him re: “catholic” teachers attending pride parades, local MP voting for the euthanasia law and still reading and being a minister of communion in my parish, the questionable personable conduct of diocesan employees…and it goes on and on, all ignored all whitewashed. And he is currently presiding over a conference of Bishops where some have issued public statements supporting church teaching the inability of priest to give last rites to Catholics going through the process of euthanasia while other bishops have come out in favour of doing this. All this has drawn silence from him. It is a tragedy but reading his last weekly newsletter, everything is fine with the Cathedral renovatiions, the new person being tired to ring the bells, his mother visiting for the month….I just want to cry, but why bother NO ONE CARES!

  7. Thomistica says:

    I liked your point that “the dubia are not limited to issues involving marriage and divorce/remarriage”. That will easily be lost in the wash in the reaction to a fraternal correction but is absolutely critical. Opening the “internal forum” up to all sorts of conscience-related “discernments” and “accompaniments” in moral matters is disastrous for both sacramental and moral theology across the board.
    Anyhow, as I pointed out elsewhere, it’s important to see Providence at work here and not to let all this disturb peace of mind. Against the background of the last several decades of tolerated dissent within the Church, this news is a *positive* development.
    Finally!– a small group of stalwart Cardinals willing to stand up publicly to the secularizing forces. The issue of Communion for the remarried was all along just a vehicle for insinuating a much more sweeping agenda at the highest level, in a papal exhortation. It was only a matter of time before it reached that level.
    When the fraternal correction comes, presuming yet that the Pope does not reply to the Dubia, the correction it will not just be just of the Pope, but of bishops and archbishops who have bought into this agenda. Including the Cupich’s and McElroy’s of the world.

  8. JMody says:

    Fr. Z, I went and reread your post on the 2014 Christmas address to the Curia and was particularly taken by points 9 and 10:
    9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”
    10) Glorifying one’s bosses. “It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren’t God.”

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