Two cardinals have backed a declaration of traditional doctrine, in response to what they call “grave danger to the faith and unity of the Church”.
Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Burke, who publicly signed the dubia addressed to Pope Francis, were present as the statement, which reaffirms six points of doctrine, was issued.
The declaration came on Saturday at the end of a conference in honour of a third dubia cardinal, Carlo Caffarra, who died last year.
The dubia, which did not receive a reply from Pope Francis, asked him to clarify that Amoris Laetitia was in line with Catholic teaching. The new statement addresses the same points in a different manner.
After saying that there is “growing discontent and confusion” after the debates following Amoris Laetitia, it cites Vatican II’s words on the importance of bearing witness to the faith.
The statement affirms that “A ratified and consummated marriage between two baptized persons can be dissolved only by death”, and in such circumstances remarriage always constitutes adultery.
The declaration also reaffirms the existence of “absolute moral commandments” which prohibit certain “intrinsically evil” acts under every single circumstance.
The authors also justify the traditional teaching of the Church, which states that the divorced and remarried, if living in a sexual relationship, cannot receive Communion. Some bishops have cited Amoris Laetitia to dispute this teaching.
“We are convinced,” the cardinals and others affirm, “that judgment about the possibility of administering sacramental absolution is not based on the imputability of the sin committed, but on the penitent’s intention to abandon a way of life that is contrary to the divine commandments.”
During the conference, Cardinal Burke emphasised the limits of papal authority, saying: “Any expression of doctrine or practice that is not in conformity with divine revelation, contained in the sacred Scriptures and tradition of the church, cannot be an authentic exercise of the apostolic and Petrine ministry and must be rejected by the faithful.”
Quoting the historian John Watt, Cardinal Burke said: “If, according to the well-formed conscience, a member of the faithful should hold that a particular act of exercise of the fullness of [papal] power were sinful, and, in consequence, that he is not able to be in peace with his own conscience regarding the question, ‘the Pope must, as a duty, be disobeyed, and the consequences of disobedience be suffered in Christian patience’.”
In his talk, Cardinal Brandmüller spoke on “the important role of the laity’s witness of faith”, including during the Arian crisis when “the bishops failed in abundance”.
The “sensus fidei”, Cardinal Brandmüller said, can help the Church to deepen its understanding of the truth – and can act “as a sort of spiritual immune system, which enables the faithful instinctively to recognize and reject any error.”
The cardinal recommend Blessed John Henry Newman’s criteria for distinguishing a genuine doctrinal development from a corruption.
As a contemporary example of the sensus fidei, Cardinal Brandmüller pointed to the 2015 petition in defence of Church teaching, which was reportedly signed by 790,000 Catholics.
Another speaker, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, surveyed the historical role of the papacy, arguing that it consists in passing on Catholic teaching as a “servant” of the truth.
“Through the inscrutable permission of Divine Providence,” Bishop Schneider suggested, Satan’s attacks on the papacy “have in rare cases had the effect of a temporary and limited eclipse of the Papal Magisterium, when some Roman Pontiffs have made ambiguous doctrinal statements, thereby causing a temporary situation of doctrinal confusion in the life of the Church”.
The full text of the declaration:
Due to contradictory interpretations of the Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris laetitia,” growing discontent and confusion are spreading among the faithful throughout the world.
The urgent request for a clarification submitted to the Holy Father by approximately one million faithful, more than 250 scholars and several cardinals, has received no response.
Amidst the grave danger to the faith and unity of the Church that has arisen, we baptised and confirmed members of the People of God are called to reaffirm our Catholic faith.
The Second Vatican Council authorises us and encourages us to do so, stating in “Lumen Gentium,” n. 33: “Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal’ (Eph. 4:7).”
Blessed John Henry Newman also encourages us to do so. In his prophetic essay “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine” (1859), he spoke of the importance of the laity bearing witness to the faith.
Therefore, in accordance with the authentic tradition of the Church, we testify and confess that:
1) A ratified and consummated marriage between two baptized persons can be dissolved only by death.
2) Therefore, Christians united by a valid marriage who join themselves to another person while their spouse is still alive commit the grave sin of adultery.
3) We are convinced that there exist absolute moral commandments which oblige always and without exception.
4) We are also convinced that no subjective judgment of conscience can make an intrinsically evil act good and licit.
5) We are convinced that judgment about the possibility of administering sacramental absolution is not based on the imputability of the sin committed, but on the penitent’s intention to abandon a way of life that is contrary to the divine commandments.
6) We are convinced that persons who are divorced and civilly remarried, and who are unwilling to live in continence, are living in a situation that is objectively contrary to the law of God, and therefore cannot receive Eucharistic Communion.