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Chronic Confusion, Polarization & Polemics in the Church of Francis

The dubia didn’t do much, and the correctio came up short. What else you got?

Recall that in September 2016 four high-ranking cardinals submitted a dubia, five brief yes-or-no questions, to Pope Francis about passages in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia that, they say, have caused “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation.” After the Holy Father ignored them for the better part of two months, the cardinals went public with their dubia and called on Francis, with “profound respect,” to “dispel ambiguity” and “resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity.” No small amount of controversy ensued. (For details, and excerpts of the dubia, see our New Oxford Note “A ‘Climate of Fear’ in the Vatican?” Jan.-Feb.)

To date, Francis has refused to respond. Even the cardinals’ April 2017 request for a papal audience went unanswered. So far, two of them have exited this mortal coil without receiving so much as an acknowledgement of their concerns from His Holiness. Francis remains inscrutable, but if he can be subject to successful interpretation, it seems he has been responding with deeds rather than words (see our New Oxford Note “Is the Pope Looking to Lambeth?” Nov.).

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the Pope doesn’t deign to discuss the dubia. After all, the four cardinals just might be members of that class of theologians and curial officials for whom he has reserved a special type of ire — one was president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, another served as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, while another was president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. Are they the “victims of careerism and opportunism” Francis excoriated in his 2016 Christmas address to the curia (Dec. 22), whom he accused of having “hardened hearts” and “misguided minds,” of “hiding behind words of self-justification and often accusation”?

Well, wouldn’t you know it, more than four such “careerists” occupy the Church. There are at least 250 more (plus one, see below). That’s the head count, thus far, of those who have signed the Correctio Filialis de Haeresibus Propagatis. They’ve done so despite an ecclesial climate in which criticism of the current occupant of the Throne of Peter is seen as tantamount to treason, a job-jeopardizing offense.

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