As all are by now well aware, Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond L. Burke, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner have made public a dubia that was sent directly to Francis, as well as to Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the CDF, seeking “yes” or “no” answers to five very specific questions.
At issue, according to the authors of the dubia, is the “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation” that exists concerning Amoris Laetitia.
As I recently wrote, Francis has been put on trial before the entire world. Now, in the face of the dubia, he has but three choices as it concerns his response to each of the five questions it contains:
- He may answer by confirming the true Faith, as is his duty.
- He may answer by denying the true Faith, rendering himself a formal heretic.
- He may answer with silence, and make no mistake, silence is indeed an answer.
Scenario #1 would require Francis to undermine his own agenda; i.e., it would require a profound conversion on his part – an intention for which we must earnestly fast and pray. Clearly, this is the most desirable outcome, but it is arguably the least likely as well.
Scenario #2 is rather straightforward: Francis would thereby declare himself to be a formal heretic and thus an anti-pope. Given his history of cunning and calculation in order to further his own agenda (most obviously as it concerned the Synods on the Family), this too seems highly unlikely.
Scenario #3, in my view, is by far the most likely. It also happens to be, for many, the most confusing.
Indeed, one may well wonder what consequences there would be, if any, should Francis choose to simply ignore the dubia; just as he has thus far.
This is one of the questions that was posed by Edward Pentin of National Catholic Register in an interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke. His Eminence responded:
Then we would have to address that situation. There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.
Pentin followed up, asking: “If the Pope were to teach grave error or heresy, which lawful authority can declare this and what would be the consequences?”
Cardinal Burke replied:
It is the duty in such cases, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.
Let’s take a closer look at this exchange…
At first blush, it may seem as if these questions were asked in the “wrong” order, but Edward Pentin is no amateur, and Cardinal Burke is not given to impetuosity.
Earlier in the interview, Cardinal Burke identified Amoris Laetitia as leading to the “spread of confusion that is actually leading people into error.” He stopped short, however, of laying blame directly at the feet of Francis.
The dubia, as Burke sees it, is intended as a formal invitation for Francis, as an act of “charity toward the Pope,” to correct the situation.
NB: It is only on the condition of his refusal to do so that Cardinal Burke is then willing to explicitly say, “the Pope is teaching error.”
I do not think for a moment that the ordering of these questions was random. In fact, one may very well imagine that interviewer and interviewee coordinated their efforts in order to make a precise presentation.
In any case, even though it’s already rather clear that Francis is actively teaching error, this interview represents a job well done by both Pentin and Burke, who for his part, is moving forward in a very deliberate and formal manner – thank God!
That said, one notes the absence of the next logical question:
What would Francis’ refusal to answer the dubia say about the validity of his pontificate?
I suspect that the question wasn’t asked (or published, at any rate) simply because Cardinal Burke is not prepared to give an answer – not publicly anyway – wishing instead to take a first things first approach.
Fair enough, but let’s consider it ourselves just the same.
It is one thing to wonder how events will play out logistically (or what the “formal act of correction” may include) if Francis refuses to answer the dubia; it is quite another to measure the consequences objectively.
As for the former, we cannot be entirely certain, but in the case of the latter, not so.
If indeed it becomes necessary (to quote Cardinal Burke once more) for “cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error” – and this after challenging the pope publicly to reject said error and to confirm the true Faith – it can be said without any doubt that Francis will have judged himself (or revealed himself, if you prefer) to be a formal heretic.
As all of us know, a formal heretic cannot be pope; therefore, Francis would be known to all as an anti-pope.
While present circumstances are in many ways unique, we may do well to consider the case of Pope Honorius I.
Without going into needless detail over matters still debated; let it be said that Honorius failed to adequately safeguard the doctrine of the faith against the Monothelites as evidenced in letters that he had sent to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, in response to queries the latter had sent to Rome.
For this, Honorius was posthumously condemned as a heretic and anathematized by the Third Council of Constantinople as follows:
“We decide that Honorius also, who was Pope of elder Rome, be with them cast out of the Holy Church of God, and be anathematized with them, because we have found by his letter to Sergius that he followed his opinion in all things, and confirmed his wicked dogmas.” (Third Council of Constantinople, Session XIII, 28 March 681)
This ruling was later confirmed by two subsequent councils. [For more, see Roberto de Mattei, The Heretic Pope ]
Note well that Honorius was condemned posthumously. In other words, he was not afforded the opportunity that Francis now has; namely, to make a correction and to confirm the immutable doctrine of the Church.
Even so, Honorius was formally “cast out of the Holy Church of God!”
Should Francis refuse to answer the dubia in confirmation of authentic Catholic doctrine, who can possibly argue that he has not, of his own volition, incurred no less a fate?