Breitbart News reports that five prominent cardinals have challenged Pope Francis to clarify ambiguities in his teaching regarding topics such as blessings for gay couples, the ordination of women, and the authority of the synod of bishops.
The cardinals — German Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; American Cardinal Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican’s highest court; Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong; Cardinal Juan Sandoval, former archbishop of Guadalajara; and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, former prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Divine Worship — originally presented their five “dubia” (an ecclesiastical word for formal questions or doubts) in a July 10 letter to the Pope, which he immediately answered in a letter dated the following day.
In their first question, the cardinals ask if “the cultural and anthropological changes of our time should push the Church to teach the opposite of what it has always taught” — i.e. regarding homosexuality.
Francis responded that the Church must “constantly discern between that which is essential for salvation and that which is secondary or less directly related to this goal,” suggesting that certain teachings could change over time.
The cardinals’ second question dealt with the legitimacy of Church blessings for gay couples, a practice already formally excluded by the Vatican’s doctrinal office.
In his response, Francis never expressly replied to the doubt, suggesting instead that if such a blessing were to be given it should be clear that the blessing was not comparable to the sacrament of marriage — opening the door for Church blessings of gay couples.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, homosexual persons “are called to chastity.”
In his response, Pope Francis told the cardinals that it is not good to be “afraid” of the questions that people pose, to which the cardinals replied that it was “not out of fear of dialogue with the people of our time, nor of the questions they could ask us” that moved them to express their concerns. Rather, they did so because “there are pastors who doubt the ability of the Gospel to transform the hearts of men and end up proposing to them no longer sound doctrine but ‘teachings according to their own likings.’”
In response to the pope’s July 11 letter, the five cardinals reformulated their queries, insisting that the pontiff never really answered the questions they posed. In the new formulation, the cardinals request that the pope simply answer yes or no.