New booklet by Cardinal asserted to be response to the Five Dubia of the Four Cardinals

Dali_The_Persistence_of_MemoryIn the shallow, liberal, Italian Catholic weekly Panorama we are informed about a booklet now out over the name of Card. Coccopalmerio, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.  It is ballyhooed as “the response” to the Five Dubia of the Four “intransigent” Cardinals, who are dissenters because they are defending doctrine.

Of course it can’t be that, can it?  The response to the Dubia should come from the Holy Father (to whom they were submitted) or from the CDF (whose Prefect has spoken unofficially about the issues but who hasn’t issued anything official).

Beware. When you read Panorama your IQ is likely to drop.  The use of verbs would help their writers come off as less smarmy.  But I digress.

Here is some of the piece in my fast translation.  My emphases  and comments.

In a little book on the reasons why the Church can’t turn back in the face of those who “are not in tune with Catholic doctrine”.

“Divorced and remarried, unmarried couples living together, are certainly not models of unions in harmony with Catholic doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way. For which reason the sacraments of reconciliation and of communion ought to be given also to so-called wounded families[a euphemism intended to arouse emotion rathe
r than thought, empathy rather than clarity]
and to those who even though living in situations not in line with the traditional canons on matrimony, express a sincere desire to draw closer to the sacraments after an adequate period of discernment.” [Not just “canons”.  They are not in line with Christ’s teaching either, or the perennial doctrine of the Church.]

17_02_13_panoramaThis is the pointed, calm and precise response that Pope Francis gives [Noooo…. Pope Francis didn’t give it.  The Cardinal did.  But this is what they want you to accept.] to those especially within the church and even in the College of Cardinals, who continue to express doubts about the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia in which, for the first time, there is foreseen the possibility of admitting to the sacraments those who contract a second marriage, unmarried couples living together and those people who live together in deformity with ecclesial directions in the matter of nuptial unions.

An indirect response, in any event, [See the slight of hand?] but [BUT!] the fruit of a deep canonical and ecclesiological study made, at the request of the same Pontiff, by one of the closest and most trusted collaborators, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (the “ministry” of justice of the Holy See).

The text – a booklet of only 30 pages entitled, “The 8th chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia” – was printed by the Vatican Press and on Wednesday 8 February arrived in religious bookstores which surround the Vatican.

The Doubts of the Four Cardinals

An initiative, they [the famous “they”] explained in the Vatican, that aims to “clarify” all the “doubts” raised by the most traditionalist elements bound with a vengeance [How mean!  How merciless!  How … mean!] to the defense of ecclesial doctrine in the matter of matrimonial life and of access to the sacraments.  [What sort of surreal, Dali-esque landscape has the Church become if those who defend doctrine are suddenly the dissenters?  Clocks are melting off the sides of tables.]


To all appearances, like a “normal” request for canonical clarifications, [This is more slight of hand: the Dubia ask for doctrinal clarifications, not just canonical.  So, the respose from an official of a canonical office isn’t going to take care of the doubts.] in reality a gesture of clear though polite disobedience on the part of four members of the College of Cardinals the organism which by its very nature is called to back up the reigning Pope in the governance of the Church.  [“Those dirty rotten mean old cardinals!  They are mean old meanies!”  (That’s the general level of the reader of Panorama, by the way.)]

It is normal that if a Cardinal feels the need to have clarifications on certain matters he can ask for them calmly – they assure us across the Tiber – in the course of personal audiences with the Pope. It is another thing to publish an open letter and bring up doubts and discontents in public opinion. A clearly offensive gesture toward the Pope almost completely like those which are used in interviews. As, for example, the German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, did in recent days, who, in a newspaper, openly criticized admission to the sacraments of couples living together and the divorced and remarried because, he admonished, Doctrine “is to be left alone” (la Dottrina “non si tocca”).  [Do you see what they did?  They smear Müller in order to raise Coccopalmerio above him as an authority.  Thus the Doctrinal Cardinal is out and the Canonical Cardinal is in.]


This is another confusing puzzle piece to deal with.  It is confusing because it has the appearance of official approval (it was published by the Vatican Press), but it remains a non-response response to the Five Dubia.  That’s probably why the ad hominem attacks lace the Panorama piece.

In any event, we still – prayerfully and patiently – await greater clarity from some with the true authority to issue what are manifest and actual responses to the Dubia.  Or else… we await a statement that they are not going to be answered.

Clocks melting off the edges of tables.  Elephants on stilts.  This situation is getting really strange.

Temptation Of St Anthony Salvador Dali

The moderation queue is, of course, ON.

If you think about offering a comment, please don’t rave.  It does no good for anyone (including yourself) and it will do harm (including to me).  Think before posting.  This isn’t a liberal fever-swamp.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. majuscule says:

    I’m wondering if this was all scripted beforehand? It’s certainly playing out like there’s been a lot of pre-planning. Drip here…drop there…

    If not by the Vatican Mafia then certainly by the Prince of Darkness.

  2. Curley says:

    wow, so now we’re tossing out all of that subjective reduced culpability stuff and just going full Malta for the whole church?

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Does the section “The Doubts of the Four Cardinals” remind anyone of the Marxist technique of public denunciation of targets of character assassination in totalitarian regimes?

  4. Mike says:

    Does any of the perpetrators of this sort of irrelevant, ad hominem hissy fit stop even briefly to think about the salvation of souls? Seems to me that’s the biggest wound inflicted by the spirit and sequelae of Vatican II.

  5. Titus says:

    Nothing is going to change until Leo XIV (or perhaps Gregory XVII) steps out onto the balcony and formally anathematizes these propositions ex cathedra, something he ought to do during his initial Urbi et Orbi blessing.

  6. St. Louis IX says:

    I am of the opinion, that there are many Heretics in very high places in Rome.
    I am concerned at the lack of masculinity, and true charity in calling these” men”heretics out.
    I worry for our good, and Holy Priests that MUST guide souls away from Hell, and to Heaven.

    Our Lady of Fatima
    Pray for us

  7. erick says:

    “Traditional canons?” Are there untraditional ones? With the addition of a single adjective they have relegated canon from the realm of law to the realm of custom. Insidious.

  8. Benedict Joseph says:

    The state of the contemporary Church proves that Dali’s work does have its uses.

  9. william_sr says:

    “For which reason the sacraments of reconciliation and of communion ought to be given also to so-called wounded families.”

    The problem is as clear as the pope’s nose. During the sacrament of reconciliation a person both confesses wrongdoing and firmly resolves to cease that wrongdoing (and any other). If that’s true, what possible purpose would reconciliation serve for these couples? The cardinal seems to maintain that it is a sinful way of life, but then also says that they may continue living this way.

    For a long time I thought this was a nuanced and deeply complicated theological issue which I was just incapable of understanding. I wish that were true.

  10. Grant M says:

    St Anthony, pray for us.

  11. Lepidus says:

    …there is foreseen the possibility of admitting to the sacraments … unmarried couples living together ….

    Am I missing something from the previous discussions on this topic? While I don’t agree with it, I thought the attempt is to allow people to Communion who are in situations that can’t be “easily” rectified – such as a second marriage with children where there was no defect in the actual / first marriage. Now they want it to include plain old shacking up, where the solution is simply to get married?

  12. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Book excerpt, “The divorced and remarried, de facto couples, those cohabiting, are certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic Doctrine, but the Church cannot look the other way. Therefore, the sacraments of Reconciliation and of Communion must be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment… Yes, therefore, to admission to the sacraments for those who, despite living in irregular situations, sincerely ask for admission into the fullness of ecclesial life, it is a gesture of openness and profound mercy on the part of Mother Church, who does not leave behind any of her children, aware that absolute perfection is a precious gift, but //one which cannot be reached by everyone//.”

    Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, Canon 18 & 20…

    CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.

    CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.

    Anathema sit.

    This is simply a push for acceptance of homosexuality as normative and the complete subversion of the natural order, the destruction of the family, and the further moral irrelevancy of the Church.

    Dear Lord let this nonsense end.

  13. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    May I take some comfort in the fact that His Holiness has not, actually, answered the Dubia? It seems to me more evidence that the Holy Spirit will not let the Pope teach error as truth or truth as error.

    On a related point: should it ever come to the point that the Cardinals declare Pope Francis a manifest, obstinate heretic (may God forbid that such a turn of events should arise or be necessary) at what point in his papacy would his actions no longer be considered those of a pope? Would his canonizations be called into (legitimate) question? Ought one to disregard his encyclicals, or some of them or….. Not knowing what to do should the situation arise is why I am asking the question at all.

  14. rbbadger says:

    Apparently, there is going to be a press conference wherein Card. Cocopalmiero answers the dubia. Not sure what, if any, weight this has, as Amoris laetitita is not a legislative text and doctrine is the province of the CDF. As if the pontificate could not possibly get any weirder.

  15. Lucas Whittaker says:

    Et ingressus est Noe in arcam . . .

  16. Br. Augustine of Nubia says:

    Where there is confusion…there is evil.

    At least Dali tried to be Catholic….

  17. Austin says:

    Is this a counsel of desperation? To answer the dubia — which are always constructed so as to allow only for yes/no responses — with something as woolly as this seems almost to admit defeat. A consummation devoutly to be wished.

    On the other hand, and more likely, this is a very woolly way of declaring war.

    If we can no longer live in the logical world of yes or no, we will bring into being the the nebulous world of both/and, yes/but, and nevertheless/also. In that world, those who insist on logic and clarity will be aliens, since the two world views cannot co-exist. Aliens, in the end, must be deported or exterminated. Wool and scissors do not willingly lie down together.

    Protestant denominations have gone through precisely this process — “listening” processes followed by inclusive, both/and policies, followed by the persecution and exclusion of those who opposed the compromise, followed by the persecution and exclusion of those who fell on the wrong side.

    Because, in the end, it turns out that there was a right side all along. It was just the opposite of what orthodox religion taught, and the compromise was intended to be only a staging post on the way to revoking and replacing the old order.

    The sad list of counter-orthodoxies progresses inexorably from divorce and remarriage, to homosexuality, to sacramental and biblical revisionism, to indifferentist universalism.

  18. Eugene says:

    Makes total sense to me…tomorrow the secular world celebrates a Valentine’s day which for the most part bears no resemblance to the feast of the real St. Valentine…the world celebrates all kind of “loves” or is that lust on the 14th of February so a minion of the Pope to represent the confusion and heresy that is AL, makes perfect sense in the secularized church …I just want to weep…How long Lord?

  19. johnwmstevens says:

    From what little posted, it seems as if the article is nothing but demagoguery.

    Where’s the reasoned argument, the clear and fair expounding of both sides of the question, the “discourse that seeks the truth” that is the sine qua non of the work of a writer who treasures their integrity and reputation?

  20. thomas tucker says:

    What can one say, other than what you have already said? It is strange indeed.

  21. codefro says:

    When four cardinals ask for clarification on doctrine, they are dissenting rebels. When dissenting rebellious nuns publicly tiptoe around and say that they will not comply with the investigation results with Benedict XVI’s LCWR investigation, they are oppressed heroes by the mean ol’ Vatican.

  22. chantgirl says:

    When I first heard this news I thought of a phrase my father used to use when we were trying to give him a less-than-satisfactory answer “That don’t feed the bulldog.”

    Until Pope Francis is willing to answer the Dubia with clear yes or no answers, this will not be settled. It becomes more and more difficult to find an excuse out of charity for his unwillingness to fulfill his duty as Pope.

    Pope Honorius was condemned for less than this.

    In charity, I can’t say much more, but the words “heresy” and “chastisement” have been swirling around in my doubts as of late.

  23. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    WHATEVER his motives for saying what he says and WHATEVER use others might want to put his words to, if Cdl. C. actually says what it sure looks like he’s going say, he is responsible for it.

  24. Jann says:

    “Surreal.” was exactly what I thought as I began to read this post. I then had to open a different web page because I couldn’t continue. That repeated itself several times before I could finish the article. I really, really, really don’t think I can take any more of this. “Lord, may we be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name.”

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    What is the likely scope of “those people who live together in deformity with ecclesial directions in the matter of nuptial unions” if they are distinguished from both “those who contract a second marriage” and “unmarried couples living together”? It sounds like an indefinitely capacious creepy expansion.

  26. MitisVis says:

    It is not surprising to see another ‘unofficial official” response and it will be no surprise to see many more from various unexpected angles. What would be surprising and of great concern would be an Official response confirming the changing of Christ’s own words spoken this last gospel. If the answers match the obvious intent of so many supporters of Amoris Laetitia there cannot nor never will be an official response to the Dubia given the protection of the Holy Spirit. The longer the ‘official’ is avoided the more certain we should be that we are defending the will of God and that they are rallying in vain against the Holy Spirit. So with eyes and ears wide open and a calm and resolved fortitude this should be as water off a duck’s back. I’m fairly certain Card. Burke will view this as such.

  27. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Since the time the Four Cardinals submitted the Dubia , it appeared that Cardinal Burke was taking much of the flak flying from the, well. . . reactionary non-response responses. So each time the Four Cardinals got mentioned focus was fixed a large amount of the time on him . Be that as it may , the consensus seems to be that it is actually Cardinal Carlo Caffarra who took the point on the Four Cardinals initiative ‘Seeking Clarity’.

    And one potential problem/disadvantage in going public with the dubia is that the MSM eventually get their grubby little hands on it and begin to strain out all their favorite parts – including reactions ; everything inflammatory and potentially inflammatory. . . repeating them over and over again to the beat of the demonic drum of division.

    Those who would rebuff Seeking Clarity (since it appears ignoring it didn’t work) have yet to provide a truly practical response. They keep talking (in the clouds it would seem) about admitting divorced & remarried to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist , but within the practical realm this is precisely where the problem and confusion lie.

    The whole reason, from a practical perspective, that Cardinal Caffarra is asking for clarity, is because of divergent interpretations of mainly paragraphs 300-305 of Amoris Letitia and how said interpretaions are currently affecting penitents and confessors and assailing them with confusion. Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview which Carlo Cardinal Caffarra gave to Il Foglio on January 14 of this year :

    “I believe that some things must be clarified. The letter – and the attached dubia – were reflected on at length, for months, and were discussed at length among ourselves. For my part, they were prayed about at length before the Blessed Sacrament.

    “…The foreword to the letter notes, “a grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the Church.” In what do the disorientation and confusion consist, specifically? Caffarra answers: “I received a letter from a parish priest which is a perfect snapshot of what is happening. He wrote me, ‘In spiritual direction and in confession I do not know what to say anymore. To the penitent who says to me, ‘I live in every respect as a husband with a woman who is divorced, and now I approach the Eucharist,’ I propose a path, in order to correct this situation. But the penitent stops me and responds immediately, ‘Listen, Father, the Pope said that I can receive the Eucharist, without the resolution to live in continence.’ I cannot bear this kind of situation any longer. The Church can ask me anything, but not to betray my conscience. And my conscience objects to a supposed papal teaching to admit to the Eucharist, under certain circumstances, those who live more uxorio [as husband and wife] without being married.’ Thus wrote a parish priest. The situation of many pastors of souls, and I mean above all parish priests – observes the cardinal – is this: they find themselves carrying a load on their shoulders that they cannot bear. This is what I am thinking of when I talk about a great disorientation. And I am speaking of parish priests, but many [lay] faithful are even more confused. . . “

    The non-response responses I have seen to date don’t address the real problem at all. Neither do they speak to the four Cardinals. One might concede that, to this point, they have only been speaking at the four Cardinals ; not to them. And that , so far, they still don’t understand the question.

  28. Ultrarunner says:

    Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment. And they came to him, and said: Hail, king of the Jews; and they gave him blows. 
    John 19 : 1-3

  29. thomas tucker says:

    I never thought refraining from grave sin was equivalent to reaching absolute perfection. I guess I am ready for canonization at the moment.

  30. TimG says:

    This press conference and the C9 statement (I would love to see a roll call on the votes there, esp Cdl Pell) seem to me to be a further drawing of the lines of demarcation between the papacy and “outsiders”.

  31. Rich says:

    Just for kicks, another cardinal should submit his own response to the dubia, claiming that his is the real one, and that Coccopolmerio was just kidding.

  32. JamesM says:

    Does “those people who live together in deformity with ecclesial directions in the matter of nuptial unions” include those in same sex unions? If not, why not? [I think that, logically, it would have to.]

    This seems as heterodox a statement as anything else in the document. Of course, it doesn’t actually say that but to me its meaning seems clear that it does.

  33. Did I get it right? They’ve thrown the Sacraments of Matrimony and Eucharist into the Orcus, and now the Cardinal offers: “buy two and get one free” to throw the Sacrament of Reconciliation after by spending it to penitents who refuse to amend and abstain from sin?

  34. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    I have come to the sad conclusion that:
    1. The response letter to the Argentine bishops;
    2. The statements put out by two newly-named American cardinals regarding AL;
    3. The public statements by the two Maltese bishops
    4. The public statements by Kasper and Marx;
    5. This 30 page booklet written by Card. Coccopalmuero;
    6. The personal attacks against Cardinal Burke;

    are all being orchestrated by the Vatican at the highest level. This is not about being lovers of Truth; this is all dirty politics at the base st level.

  35. Kathleen10 says:

    Dr. Edward Peters, and the pope is responsible for it as well, wholly and entirely, he knows what is to be said. Given the upset and confusion, (after all, hagan lio!), the pope is the one who should be addressing this. It is completely unacceptable to send anyone else to try to mop up this mess. Does he not want the smell of the sheep on him? This would be a perfect time to demonstrate real humility, to reassure the people with the clarity that is warranted considering the grave nature of things. Instead of clarity, we will get coyness, he now won’t appear, the man who has something to say at every opportunity, suddenly is behind the curtain and is what, too busy to address the growing calls for the pope to simply confirm the Church is still One, Holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith. A YES or a NO, anything else, is of the devil.
    Instead of fish, we will likely be handed a snake and told that’s good enough, chew on it.

  36. Ann Malley says:

    So, the Holy Father’s response to “wounded” families is to exploit those wounds to foment an agenda of “official” sacrilege. Rather an in-your-face rejection of the transformative nature of God’s grace, given to us so that we may not only recover from sin, but avoid it by being strengthened to carry our crosses in imitation of Him.

    This “Luther” gospel of sin and sin boldly, treating grace like some magical Band Aid to cover the pustulating wound instead of healing it, is so grotesque. Especially coming from those who, instead of healing the beleaguered sheep, are slapping on “religious solution stickers – ala CCC 675” in order to foment the agenda of he who would be king – the antiChrist.

    But what mercy and blessed oblivion there is to be had in just getting the kids a lock for their door to facilitate the privacy desired to fornicate etc in the safety of the family home. And if the little one’s object. Filled with the zeal to boot those who are abusing their siblings from the house, well, shame on them. The lesson is accompany in aiding and abetting sin because, after all, keeping the 10 Commandments is the antithesis of “true” charity. Wink, Wink. And don’t you dare look at the little man behind the curtain – that is now Christ shunted time out in the corner of His own Church.


  37. LeeF says:

    For updates on this matter see:

    Dr. Peters’ blog:


    Rorate’s own update notes the cardinal backed out of the press conference. Also there is the following quote:
    It was added by Conference presenters that, “Coccopalmerio’s book on Amoris Laetitia is not a response to the dubia, just his own pastoral reflections.”

    That is actually good news because the cardinal’s own staff describe the booklet as (personal) pastoral reflections and not any official legal interpretation. Which means the cardinal is using his office to lend an air of officialness not warranted by his personal opinions.

    I am not one to praise Rorate, but they make an excellent point:
    And, as we said yesterday on Twitter, and multiple times before: Are you really prepared for Francis to answer the dubia? Are you truly prepared? Think about it …

  38. Dundonianski says:

    Whatever Cardinal Coccopalmerio says/states/voices or writes, he(Card. C) is indeed responsible for such-but that in itself does NOT excuse/exculpate nor free from responsibility any superior party who has approved/nudged/obliged or required such response from a subordinate!

  39. jhayes says:

    Crux gives quotes from Cardinal Cocopalmieri about couples who cannot separate without committing further sin

    Quoting from Amoris’ passage 301, on the mitigating factors in pastoral discernment, the cardinal writes that if a couple in an irregular situation finds it difficult to live like brothers and sisters, the cohabitating couple is not obliged to comply because they’re the subjects this passage talks about, representing a “concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

    The example given by Coccopalmerio for a person who can’t go back without falling in a new sin is that of a woman who’s cohabitating with a man and his three children, after they were abandoned by his first wife.

    This woman, the cardinal writes, “has saved the man of a state of deep despair, probably from the temptation of suicide,” has helped him raise the children with a considerable sacrifice, and they have been together for ten years, adding a child to their family.

    “The woman of whom we speak is fully aware of being in an irregular situation. She would honestly like to change her life,” he writes. “But evidently, she can’t. If in fact, if she left the union, the man would turn back to the previous situation, the children would be left without a mother.”

    Leaving the union would mean, thus, not fulfilling great duties towards innocent people, meaning the children. “It’s then evident that this couldn’t happen without ‘new sin.’”
    According to Coccopalmerio, the one instance in which the Church cannot welcome couples in irregular situations into the sacraments are the faithful who, “knowing they are in grave sin and being able to change, have no sincere intention” of doing so.

    [This avoids the rhino in the salon.]

  40. Hilda says:

    Can. 897 : “The most August sacrament is the Most Holy Eucharist in which Christ the Lord himself is contained, offered, and received and by which the Church continually lives and grows.[…] Indeed, the other sacraments and all the ecclesiastical works of the apostolate are closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it.”
    Could somebody explains to me why “the sacraments of Reconciliation and of Communion must be given even to those so-called wounded families and to however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments “ but that the sacrament of marriage, closely connected with the Most Holy Eucharist and ordered to it, could not, at any price, be open to these couples ?
    This seems totally incoherent and is for me a manifest proof of the error contained in the Cardinal opinion.

  41. OldLady says:

    Stinks of manipulation like propaganda leaflets thrown out of a plane in times of war. Motives seem to become clearer day by day. Today I read that there are no church dividing issues between Lutherans and Catholics. The PR campaign for the Church of Nice continues. World events keep reminding me of the book, Lord of the World. Is a global religion really such a distant possibility? Please bring back the Church of Truth!

  42. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    OldLady observes, “Today I read that there are no church dividing issues between Lutherans and Catholics.”

    A curious way of looking at sexually active lesbian ‘bishops’!

  43. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I suppose “however many who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons” and “those who, despite living in irregular situations” (as quoted in translation from La Sua Eminenza) have the same ominous sweep as Panorama’s “those people who live together in deformity with ecclesial directions in the matter of nuptial unions”?

    Which good Italophone among you can get a review copy and tell us more?

  44. WYMiriam says:

    Your sentence fragment “elephants on stilts” reminded me, Fr. Z., of a wonderful song from what seems like a long, long time ago: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, particularly the line “Tambourines and elephants are playing in the band.”

    Is that a sign of things to come?

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