Pope Francis has made a statement about his letter, Amoris Laetitia, suggesting some people may not fully understand the document and need more time. The comment comes after four cardinals asked the Pope to clarify their understanding of the document.
Last September, four cardinals sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to clarify some of his words in Amoris Laetitia. Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner sent Pope Francis five questions. The questions can be answered in a yes or no format.
But Pope Francis is not under any obligation to reply to the letter. The Cardinals have suggested if Pope Francis does not reply, they can meet, discuss and issue a correction. This is true.
Now, in an interview published today in the Italian newspaper Avvenire, Pope Francis is quoted as saying that some people see things with “a certain legalism” and “The Council told us this, but historians say that a century needs to pass before a Council is properly assimilated into the body of the Church. we are half way.” Pope Francis was referring to the council that produced the conclusions written into Amoris Laetitia.
Ultimately, the four Cardinals have questions about moral law and who may receive Communion and under which circumstances.
There seems to be a large number of people who are shocked and surprised that some of the clergy would send a letter to the pope asking for clarification, and saying they might issue a corrective commentary. But this is how the Church works.
There are conflicting reports that Pope Francis is offended by the letter, and others which say this is untrue. But such concerns are irrelevant.
The Pope is not an infallible person. The concept of papal infallibility only applies in certain, limited circumstances. Popes can make mistakes and have before. In addition, the clergy can have questions and they are allowed to ask them. The pope may or may not reply, and if the clergy conclude the pope has misworded his statements, they may issue a correction.
This is how all healthy organizations work. No organization can service which does not allow robust discussion between the executive officer and their subordinates. Not even an absolute monarchy is capable of survival if the king does not heed his ministers.
It is premature and inappropriate to criticize either the Pope or the Cardinals when we have only slight information on what is actually happening. Neither party is commenting outside of official statements. In fact, Pope Francs’ remarks to Avvenire may not necessarily be a reply to the Cardinals.
We must allow the fathers of our Church to resolve their questions in the ways that work for them. Our job is to be patient, to follow the teaching of the Church to the best of our faithful ability, and to love one another. It is virtuous to pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis and the Cardinals who have taken the important step of presenting questions to him.
We trust in the words of Pope Francis. In time, we will understand. It may take fifty years as he suggested. May God’s will, not ours, be done.
By Marshall Connolly