Pope Francis’ responses to the ‘dubia’ cardinals – brilliant

No one knows for sure why Pope Francis chose to publish his responses to the dubia presented by five intransigent cardinals.

My first thought was: Don’t swing at pitches in the dirt. And, it is tempting to observe that these dubious cardinals simply had it coming.

Coming on the eve of the opening of the synod, some will complain that Francis is putting his thumb on the scales of discussions before they happen.

At The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal suggested the responses show the synodal game is rigged.

But the disingenuousness of the questions themselves shows that the cardinals were trying to foreclose discussion before it began.

The responses were brilliantly done.

So, for example, on the question of whether or not the Catholic Church can bless same-sex couples, the pope first explained, “The Church has a very clear understanding of marriage: an exclusive, stable, and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to procreation.

“Only this union can be called ‘marriage.’ Other forms of union realize it only in ‘a partial and analogous way’ (Amoris Laetitia 292), so they cannot be strictly called ‘marriage.’ ”

He continued, “It is not just a matter of names, but the reality we call marriage has a unique essential constitution that requires an exclusive name, not applicable to other realities. It is undoubtedly much more than a mere ‘ideal.'”

Any idea that the pope is simply engaged in an effort to overturn the teachings of the church willy-nilly can be set aside.

That is not the end of the story, as it is for the dubious cardinals.

Francis adds: “When a blessing is requested, it is expressing a plea to God for help, a supplication to live better, a trust in a Father who can help us live better.”

I cannot think of anyone who should be turned away if this is their intent and Francis, being a pastor at heart, knows that.

There is something else going on here.

The dubious cardinals seem to forget, and Francis reminds them, that the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, did not suggest revelation exists to achieve some degree of self-satisfaction among the doctors of the law.

Revelation is given “for the salvation of all nations” (Dei Verbum, Paragraph 7).

The dubious cardinals think conversion happens before one gets to the church door, once and for all.

Francis, a pastor, knows that conversion never ends, that those who have crossed the threshold and those far from the doors of the church, are all in need of conversion.

Christ died once and for all. Our conversion to the divine will is ongoing.

What is most striking about the responses is the difference in approach from that found in the original dubia.

“The complex issues that the ‘Dubia Cardinals’ raise can only be answered with the pastoral type of response that Pope Francis gave,” Sacred Heart University professor Michelle Loris told me in an email.

“His method of response resonates with the way Jesus often responded to those who would try to trick and trap him — challenging his accusers to go more deeply into their heart and faith.”

Boston College professor Cathleen Kaveny had a different take on pope’s responses to the dubia.

She suggested that rather than giving a different answer to the issue of same-sex relationships, Pope Francis is changing the question. Read more

  • Michael Sean Winters journalist and writer who covers politics and events in the Roman Catholic Church for the leftwing National Catholic Reporter,
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