Cardinal Vincent Nichols has expressed his support for Pope Francis in the wake of questions raised by four cardinals about parts of Amoris Laetitia.
The president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made his remarks in an interview with The Irish Catholic newspaper while on a visit to Belfast last week.
Asked if he shared any of the concerns that had been expressed by Cardinal Raymond Burke and three other cardinals, Cardinal Nichols said: “For me it is very simple. Pope Francis is the Pope. He is who God has given us and, therefore, we follow his lead.”
Asked how he would respond if the four cardinals published a “formal correction”, Cardinal Nichols said: “The Pope is the one who has been chosen under the influence of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church and we will follow his lead. I am not going to say anything more than that because I think the Pope’s patience and reserve about this whole matter is exactly what we should observe.”
Questioned whether he thought that Amoris Laetitia had changed any of the Church’s teaching, Cardinal Nichols said: “There is no question of that. There is no question. The issues raised by Amoris Laetitia are not core doctrinal issues, these are about how do we live, in very traditional terms actually.
“Everything in Amoris Laetitia is drawn from the tradition of the Church: how do we live the mercy of God and how do we enable people who feel judged, feel excluded, feel as if they have no place, to begin to explore that [the mercy of God].”
Two weeks ago, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief, said the Church’s traditional teaching in Communion for the remarried could not be changed. This teaching, reiterated by Pope St John Paul II, is that the divorced and remarried cannot take Communion, except possibly when they try to live “in complete continence” .
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth tweeted last week: “Council of Priests yesterday: whom do we obey, the bishop or the Pope? I’d say both! But there’s a growing problem: let’s pray for the Church.”
In his interview Cardinal Nichols also expressed scepticism about the idea of women deacons. Last August Pope Francis set up a commission to study the role of women deacons in the early Church.
The cardinal said: “I personally value both the celibacy of the priesthood and the fact that it is restricted, as I would believe is the wish of the Lord, to men. I also find it difficult to separate diaconate out of the one sacrament of Holy Orders.”
He stressed his support for women in leadership roles in the Church, saying: “The vast majority of Catholic schools in England and Wales are led by women, as are so many organisations in the English Catholic Church.”
“What I would fear, frankly, is that the leadership of women in the Church would simply be channelled into the order of deacon. And I think across the Church the leadership of women should be broader and more varied than that.”
When asked if he saw a danger in the Prime Minister “cosying up” to the US President Trump, the cardinal said: “I don’t think the responsible meeting of political leaders to put on a new footing the … special relationship between America and Britain should ever be described as cosying up.”
He said: “Prime Minister May is a very serious politician, a very dedicated politician and I’m quite sure she knows exactly what she is doing.”