There has been a lot of turmoil in the Catholic Church in the past few months, and Pope Francis is not happy. The source of this contention within the church began when, earlier this year, Pope Francis released his post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), a document concerning the subject of divorced and remarried couples. Although an apostolic exhortation is not dogma, it still has a significant influence on the church.
Soon after the release of the “Amoris Laetitia,” four cardinals, Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Joachim Meisner and Carlo Caffarra, using the proper procedure, privately sent a letter, also known as the dubia (doubts), to Pope Francis. The letter asked five yes-or-no questions concerning the exhortation in relation to certain dogmatic teachings of the church, such as sacramental participation in the Eucharist for those divorced and remarried, and the nature of mortal sin. The cardinals insisted that the purpose of the letter was to “dispel all ambiguity” regarding the exhortation in an effort to “implement ever more that synodality to which Your Holiness urges us.”
After two months, Pope Francis has not responded to their letter. Because of the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” and this confusion’s ability to lead souls astray, the cardinals decided to make their letter public. Since the submission of the letter on Sept. 19, Pope Francis has not answered any of the questions asked in the letter.
Instead of putting this issue to rest by simply answering the five questions, Pope Francis has publicly condemned resistance to “Amoris Laetitia” and the legalism of the exhortation’s critics. Additionally, Pope Francis mentioned in an interview that some criticisms, although not directly mentioning the dubia, are “formed with a nasty spirit in order to sow division.” In his Christmas address, the pope mentioned different types of resistance: open resistance which is “born of good-will and sincere dialogue,” hidden resistance which is “born of fearful or hardened or hardened-hearts,” and malicious resistance “which spring up in misguided minds and come to the fore when the devil inspires ill intentions.”
Most recently, Pope Francis has ordered Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), to dismiss three priests from the CDF. Francis gave no reason for the dismissal of these priests, who some called excellent and among the best when he was confronted about his orders.
Pope Francis created controversy when he made changes to the Congregation of the Divine Worship. Francis replaced more conservative members, including Cardinal Burke and Cardinal George Pell, with 27 new appointments, many of whom are more progressive than their predecessors. Also, Pope Francis dismissed all the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life in order to replace them with new members and to redo the academy’s statutes sometime this year.
Sources from the Vatican say that there has been an atmosphere of fear among the clergy in the Vatican. Many are afraid of speaking out against the recent controversies for fear of losing their positions in the Vatican.
These recent controversies have caused a lot of strife within the church, in what some call a civil war. This may be an exaggeration, but nonetheless, it is important to keep up to date with goings-on within the church. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit guides the church to a quick and clear resolution of this issue for the good of the faithful.