Yes, yes, but maybe not: Francis in a sensational mystification raises more doubts than Dubia

The response to the "first version" of the questions posed by the five cardinals offers clarity on only one point: the blatant refusal of the Supreme Pontiff to respond in a timely manner, preferring to leave gray areas and open glimmers of opportunity "ad usum synodi".

It is simply incredible that the Supreme Pontiff has not yet found the time to respond to the dubia that Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Sandoval, Sarah and Zen addressed to him, in the "second edition" of 22 July. And that a media operation is being implemented to convince people that, in reality, the Pope would have responded comprehensively. Given the gravity of the issues touched upon and the simplicity of the response required, Pope Francis' reticence - once again, after that towards the dubia of 2016 - reveals more than any other declaration that he actually has no intention of putting the crazy locomotive.

Francis' refusal to respond in a timely manner blatantly reveals the inconsistency of the reassurances of him and his entourage that he wants to leave the doctrine untouched to dedicate himself only to practice. If it was already quite difficult to reconcile a deviant practice with a correct doctrine, now it is even more difficult to continue to support this slogan. In fact, if this were the case, Francesco would have had no problem answering the questions promptly.

Instead, the publication of the letter that the Pope addressed to the cardinals the day immediately following the reception of the dubia demonstrates how necessary it was to reformulate the questions and ask Francis to answer them precisely. The usual response to any dubia addressed to the ministries, based on their competence, includes short answers, usually preceded by negative or affirmative adverbs, which sometimes exhaust the response itself. Francis instead chose the path of not responding precisely to questions fundamental to the life of the Church, thus provoking the obvious and legitimate new request from the cardinals.

It also seems rather disconcerting that the Pope was able to put in black and white that "even if I don't always consider it wise to answer the questions addressed directly to me (because it would be impossible to answer them all), in this case I believe it is appropriate to do so due to the closeness of the Synod". Evidently Francis does not have much regard for the fact that the people writing to him are five cardinals who ask him vital questions about the faith of Christians, and not a school group who sends him postcards from the class trip. His concern was to silence everything before the Synod, but not all donuts succeed with the hole.

Let us now look in order at the content of the dubia and the Pope's "response". The first question for clarification addressed to the Pontiff places on the table the rationale that moves all the others: the Church can change its teaching, to the point of supporting, in the matter of faith and morals, the exact opposite of what was stated in his extraordinary and ordinary Magisterium? Pope Francis has often cited that passage from the Commonitorium of Saint Vincent of Lérins which speaks of the necessary development of doctrine, which consolidates, develops and refines. The point is that in the text of the Commonitorium not all changes are welcome, even less those of paradigm: permutatio is in fact synonymous with heresy. It was to distinguish the true development of the alteration that the work was written; yet the expression eodem sensu eademque sententia of Saint Vincent does not appear equally favored by Francis.

In the letter, the Pope once again evades the question: it is very well to affirm the maturation of the Church's judgment "in understanding what it itself has affirmed in its Magisterium"; as well as believing that the challenges of our time can stimulate in-depth analysis and lead to a "better expression of some past statements of the Magisterium".

But the point is another, as more clearly expressed in the second version of the first dubium: "is it possible that the Church today teaches doctrines contrary to those that she previously taught in matters of faith and morals?".

Pope Francis' letter introduces a dangerous distinction: «It is important to underline that what cannot change is what has been revealed “for the salvation of all” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 7)». Now, it is simply incredible that the complement of end – ad salutem cunctarum gentium – is interpreted as a complement of limitation. The Pope is saying, against every obvious meaning of the text, that what cannot change is only what has been revealed "for the salvation of all"; and therefore we must "constantly discern between what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or not directly connected to this objective".

In this way, a window is opened to those who might argue that, for example, the female diaconate is not something strictly linked to salvation and that therefore, on this point, the Church can also change its teaching. This limiting sense of the text of Dei Verbum recalls an old question, a coup attempted during the Council on § 11 of the same dogmatic constitution. There it was about the inspiration and inerrancy of the Biblical texts. The adjective "healthy" was inserted in reference to the truth taught "with certainty, faithfully and without error" by the Holy Scriptures, with the aim of restricting inerrancy to only those passages of Scripture that were considered connected to salvation. It was the hand of the Jesuits (always them!) of the Biblical Institute, who wanted to lay the foundations to legitimize imaginative exegeses. The issue was fortunately brought to the attention of Paul VI, who intervened and obtained the elimination of the adjective salutelis, replaced by the phrase: "the truth that God, for our salvation, wanted to be delivered in the sacred Scriptures". All the truth delivered to the Scriptures is for our salvation and therefore inspired and free from error.

Now Francis invents another limiting interpretation of the text of Dei Verbum, making the Council say what it does not affirm, in perfect continuity with the hermeneutics of rupture. Because everything "the Church teaches on matters of faith and morals, both by the Pope ex cathedra, and in the definitions of an ecumenical Council, and in the ordinary universal magisterium (see Lumen Gentium 25)" cannot be changed, that is it cannot be expressed except eodem sensu eademque sentencentia.

The point is right there and it is not the simple conviction of Saint Vincent of Lérins, since the expression was taken from the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius of Vatican I and its meaning is contained in the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum of Vatican II. Francis simply has to decide whether he wants to delve deeper into certain teachings of the Church or whether he wants to contradict them; whether he intends to shed more light on some aspects or whether he intends, through these particular aspects, to overturn the teaching of the Church.

What sense does it make, for example, in quoting St. Thomas's statement in this context: "the more one goes down to the particular, the more the indeterminacy increases" (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 94, art. 4)? It is a text that the Pope had already reported in Amoris Lætitia § 304, to essentially say that particular cases escape universal principles and thus open the doors to Communion for divorced and remarried persons on a case-by-case basis. But what Thomas really meant to say, we had already explained in illo tempore (see here). And it is at least dishonest not to remember that in the teaching of Saint Thomas (and of the Church) the moral absoluteness of negative precepts is affirmed; because «the negative precepts oblige semper ad semper (always and in every circumstance). In fact, under no circumstances should one steal or commit adultery. The affirmative precepts, on the other hand, oblige semper, but not ad semper, but according to the place and the circumstance" (Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, c. 13, l. 2).



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