IMPORTANT: Interview with Card. Caffarra about the Dubia and ‘Amoris laetitia’ confusion


I was sent this Tweet of Matteo Matzuzzi of Il Foglio:

[Decoded: “Differently from what is going around, Caffarra … isn’t responding to Müller (it’s a matter of chronology)”]

Probably addressed to me.  Since Matzuzzi will read this: Good interview with Card. Caffarra!  Sincere kudos.  There was a lot of helpful information.  You might have dropped me an email.

Card. Müller did his interview on Italian TV last weekend, 8 January.  Then, on 14 January, 6 days later, Caffarra’s interview appears at Il Foglio.  Are we to believe that Matzuzzi did the interview before Müller’s TV appearance and then he sat on it until now? Nearly a week after Card. Müller’s appearance?  That’s possible, I guess, though it stretches credulity a little.  Il Foglio is behind a paywall.  I haven’t seen anywhere the actual date of the interview with Card. Caffarra.  Have any of you?  Correct me if it was published somewhere.

Caffarra, coincidentally, addressed Card. Müller’s major concerns.

Then, @Rorate tweeted:

Definitely aimed at me. That this should be the first thing they tweet about in regard to Matzuzzi’s splendid, jam-packed interview with Card. Caffarra is too bad, a wasted opportunity.  Odd priorities.

If I really am wrong about the timing, okay, fine.  It doesn’t make any real difference, does it.  Caffarra’s interesting and dense interview stands.  The response/not response issue is of only peripheral importance.  What Card. Caffarra said is of central importance.

Moreover, the stakes are growing greater and greater each day.  In this new Year of Grace, with all its portentous overtones, egos aside and eyes wide open, it is high time that we close ranks and work together rather than pick at each other.  Don’t you readers agree? [UPDATE: Don’t answer that.  It’s a rhetorical question and the answer is obvious.]

___ ORIGINALLY Published on: Jan 14, 2017 @ 13:13___

carlo-caffarra-con-benedetto-XVIToday in the Italian Il Foglio there is an interview with His Eminence Carlo Card. Caffara, one of the Four Cardinals who submitted the Five Dubia to His Holiness the Pope about Amoris laetitia.

Il Foglio seems to have a paywall, but you can find the Italian text at Il Sismografo.

Caffarra, who founded the John Paul II Institute for the Family is probably the author of the Five Dubia.

This interview is undoubtedly a response to Card. Müller’s statements on Italian television the other day – which on the surface seemed to thrown the Dubia and the Four under the #64 Bus – that provoked confusion and consternation.

Il Sismografo lost the formatting when it was transferred, which makes it laborious to tease out.  Here is the headline:

“Solo un cieco può negare che nella Chiesa ci sia una grande confusione”. Intervista esclusiva al cardinale Carlo Caffarra

“Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.” An exclusive interview with Carlo Card. Caffarra.

Some salient long passages from the extensive piece.  My fast translation with my emphases and comments:

“The division between bishops is the cause of the letter that we wrote to Francis, (the division is) not the effect of the letter. Insults and threats of canonical sanctions are unworthy.”

“I think think that some things have to be cleared up. The letter and the the attached Dubia were reflected on at length, for months, and were discussed at length among ourselves. And in my case they were prayed about at length before the Blessed Sacrament.”

“We were aware that the gesture we were undertaking was serious. We had two concerns. The first was not to scandalize the faithful. For pastors like ourselves that is a fundamental obligation. The second concern was that no one, believer or not, should find in the letter expressions that even at a distance seem to be even slightly disrespectful toward the Pope. The final text is the fruit of many revisions: revised proofs, rejected, corrected.”

What drove us to do this? A consideration that is general or structural and one that is contingent or circumstantial. Let’s start with the first. We cardinals have a grave obligation to give counsel to the Pope in the government of the Church. It’s an obligation, and obligations oblige. In terms of the contingent consideration is the fact – which only the blind would deny – that there is enormous confusion, uncertainty, insecurity in the Church as a result of some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia. Over the past months, in terms of fundamental questions concerning the sacraments [economia sacramentale] (matrimony, confession and Eucharist) and the Christian life, some bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A – and this with the intention of interpreting the same text. And this is an undeniable fact, because facts are stubborn, as David Hume said. The way out of this ‘conflict of interpretation’ was recourse to fundamental theological interpretative criteria by the use of which, I think, one can reasonably show that Amoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio. Personally, in public meetings with laity and priests I have always followed this method.”

“Nevertheless, we realized that this epistemological model was not sufficient. The contrast between these two interpretations continued unabated. There was only one way to get to the bottom of is [per venirne a capo]: to ask the author of the text that is interpreted in two contradictory ways which is the right interpretation. There is no other way. Then we confronted the problem of how to bring this to the Pope. We chose a way that is very traditional in the Church, the so-called Dubia. [Why?] Because it is an instrument which would not oblige the Holy Father to respond in detail and at length in case, in his sovereign judgment, he should wish to respond. He only had to answer yes or no. And to pass it on, as Pope have often done, to trusted writers (probati auctores) or to ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to publish a Declaration with explanations of the yes or no’s. It seemed the simplest way. The other question was whether to do it privately or publicly. We thought and agreed that it would be disrespectful if we made everything public right away. So we did it privately, and only once we were sure that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publicize it. [NB!] We interpreted his silence as authorization to proceed with a theological discussion. Furthermore, the problem profoundly involves both the Magisterium of Bishops (which, let’s not forget, they exercise on the basis of the sacrament they have received and not on the basis of delegation from the Pope) and it involves the life of the faithful. [NB!] Both groups have a right to be involved in this discussion. Many of the faithful as well as priests were saying, ‘but you cardinals in a situation like this one are obliged to intervene with the Holy Father. Why otherwise do you exist if not to help the Pope in questions as grave as this?’ A scandal on the part of many of the faithful began to grow, as though we cardinals were behaving like the dogs who did not bark about whom the prophet speaks. This is what is behind the those couple of pages.”

Some individuals continue to say that we are not being docile to the Magisterium of the Pope. This is false and calumnious. We wrote to the Pope precisely because we did not want to be un-docile. I can be docile to the Pope’s Magisterium only as long as I know what the Pope is teaching in matters of faith and Christian life. But this is exactly the problem: that which the Pope is teaching on some fundamental points simply cannot be understood, as the conflict of interpretations among bishops shows. We want to be docile to the Magisterium of the Pope, but the Magisterium of the Pope has to be clear. None of us wanted to ‘oblige’ the Holy Father to respond. In the letter we spoke of sovereign judgment. We simply and respectfully asked questions. The accusations that we wanted to divide the Church are unworthy of attention. The division that already exists in the Church is the reason for the letter, not its effect. What’s unworthy in the Church, above all in a context such as this, are the insults and threats of canonical sanctions.”

“I received a letter from a parish priest that’s a perfect photograph of what’s been happening. He wrote me, ‘In spiritual direction and in confession I don’t know what to say anymore. To the penitent who tells me that he lives with all the effects as the husband with a woman who is divorced and now I go to Communion’, I propose a certain path in order to correct this situation. But the penitent stops me and responds immediately, ‘Look, Father, the Pope said that I can receive Communion without living in continence.’ I can’t take this kind of situation any longer. [NB] The Church can ask many of things of me, but not that I betray my conscience. And my conscience objects to a supposed papal teaching to admit to Communion under certain circumstances, those who live as husband and wife without being married.’ This is what the priest wrote to me. The situation of many pastors of souls, and I intend mainly parish priests, is this: they are carrying a load on their shoulders that’s too heavy to carry. This is what I am thinking of when I talk about a great confusion. And while I am talking about parish priests, many faithful are even more confused. We are talking about questions that are not secondary. We’re not talking about whether eating fish violates the law of abstinence or not. We are talking about the most serious questions for the life of the Church and about the eternal salvation of the faithful. Never forget, this is the supreme law of the Church, the eternal salvation of the faithful. Not any other concerns. Jesus founded His Church so that the faithful would have eternal life and have it in abundance.”


[For the sake of length, I’m skipping a rather thick section in the middle.]


“I retain that this is the most important point of all. This is where we meet and clash with the load bearing column of modernity. Let’s begin by clarifying the language. Conscience doesn’t decide, because it is an act of reason; the decision is an act of freedom, of will. The conscience is a guide by which the subject of the proposition that it expresses is the choice that I am about the make or that I have already made, and the predicate is the moral qualification of the choice. It is, therefore, a judgment not a decision. Naturally, every reasoned judgment is an exercise performed in the light of criteria, otherwise it is not a judgment, but rather something else. A criterion is that which on the basis of which I affirm that which I affirm and I deny that which I deny. At this point we have an especially illuminating passage of the Tractate on moral conscience by Bl.  Antonio Rosmini: ‘There is a light that is in man and there is a light which is man. The light that is in man is the law of Truth and grace. The light that is man is right conscience, since man becomes light when he participates in the light of the Truth mediated by the conscience confirmed by that light.’ Now, in view of this conception of moral conscience we contrast the concept that erects as an un-appealable tribunal of the goodness or the evil of one’s own actions: one’s own subjectivity. Here, for me, is the decisive clash between the vision of life that belongs to the Church (because it belongs to divine Revelation) and modernity’s conception of one’s own conscience.

The one who saw this in the most lucid way was Bl. John Henry Newman. In his famous Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, he said, ‘Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway. Words such as these are idle empty verbiage to the great world of philosophy now. All through my day there has been a resolute warfare, I had almost said conspiracy against the rights of conscience, as I have described it.” Later he adds that, “in the name of conscience one destroys true conscience.” That’s why among the Five Dubia the fifth Dubium is the most important. There is a passage in Amoris laetitia, at n. 303, which is not clear; it seems – I repeat – seems – to admit the possibility that there is a true judgment of conscience (not invincibly erroneous; this has always been acknowledged by the Church) in contradiction to that which the Church teaches as pertaining to the deposit of divine Revelation. Seems. And, therefore, we gave the Dubium to the Pope.

“Newman says that ‘did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet.’ These are matters of tremendous gravity. It would elevate private judgment to the highest criterion of moral truth. Never say to a person: ‘Always follow your conscience’, without adding immediately and always: ‘Love and seek the Truth concerning the Good.’. You would put into his hands the weapon most destructive of his humanity.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. thomas tucker says:

    Such lucid thought. How I wish this man were the Pope.

  2. Clemens Romanus says:

    Wow! Papabile!

  3. bibi1003 says:

    God bless him and all of our faithful priests.

    I’ve read the description of a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, but I still don’t understand what authority it carries. If Pope Francis answers the Dubia and says that Communion should be given to divorced/remarried/cohabitating Catholics, are priests required to comply? What will happen to priests who don’t comply?

  4. Praynfast says:

    Amen. They are the Real Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.

  5. JARay says:

    This issue will not go away. It is very, very serious. I support the five dubia (six when poligamy, as in Africa, is included). My constant prayer right now is that the Pope will see that these issues must be resolved and resolved in a manner which upholds the constant teaching of the Church.

  6. arga says:

    Stupendous. Erudition, integrity, clarity of thought.

  7. LeeF says:

    Great admonition at the end there. I.E. we have the obligation seek and form a correct conscience, not follow willy-nilly an incorrect one that would result from not seeking (clear) guidance from confessors and the Church where we would delude ourselves that our preferences and the easy way out it actually conscience.

  8. rdb says:

    Thank you Cardinal Caffarra!!! I need to find out a way to communicate my grateful thanks for his clear, confident and thoughtful defense of Catholic Church teaching. As he said, priests on the front lines have been placed in an extremely difficult position when people approach us with questions on this issue. A priest friend of mine was one of the 3 fired by name from the CDF and other friends who work in the Vatican Curia are discouraged, confused and saddened. We are bearing the fruits of poor seminary education and formation.

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    I certainly crave to see words of this kind.

  10. excalibur says:

    Sad that Rorate still feels the need to attack you, Father Z. When the ad hominem was done a while back I went on Twitter and gently rebuked Rorate (received a number of thanks, btw). I find that Rorate has now blocked me from his Twitter account.

    Why is it that many conservatives always pick fights with their allies rather than unite?

    [This is also so pointless and sad. We need to be circling the wagons and facing outward, not forming a circular firing squad. I hope that one day soon the situation will improve. However… this post is not really about them. I’ll now close this rabbit hole and remove other comments that chase the rabbit.]

  11. LeeF says:

    It does not really matter if Card. Caffarra’s comments followed or preceded Müller’s, or if the ever ungracious Rorate scooped the story first as they are always desperate to do to over-exaggerate their influence and sources.

    The REAL story here is that regardless of to whom the comments were directed and when they were made, Card. Caffarra made a GREAT point about why there needed to be Dubia asked, and why they need to be answered. Which is because different bishops are teaching differing interpretations of AL.

  12. Y2Y says:

    There is an obvious inference to be drawn from all of this which no-one seems willing to articulate.

  13. GregB says:

    This discussion about conscience is very interesting. When we look out into the world at the behavior of others, we are cautioned about the log in our own eye. If you believe in original sin, we all have the log of concupiscence in our eye. If you assert the primacy of conscience, without any qualifiers, then where do all those logs go to during the examination of conscience? It sounds all very HAL 9000’ish to me. Moral blind spots can be hardest of all logs to see, because they can be so large as to hide in plain sight.

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