Tuesday, January 03, 2017

“Pope Francis” is in the minority. But the winds of change are blowing.

Bishops and Cardinals vs Pope Francis
Bishops and Cardinals vs Pope Francis.
But the progressives are with him.
In the tussles over the papal statement “Amoris Laetitia”, which many claim has changed church teaching on marriage (enabling the civilly-divorced-and-remarried to be readmitted to communion under certain circumstances that were never possible before), “Pope Francis” finds himself on the losing end among those bishops and cardinals who have taken sides so far.

The Four Cardinals Are Up 14-9. But Leonardo Boff Is in the Game, Too.

It seems likely to me that “Pope Francis” will go to his grave not having responded to the dubia, the yes-or-no “questions” which essentially ask “Pope Francis”, “does your teaching supersede that of “Pope John Paul” on the issue?” (“Pope John Paul II” seemingly unequivocally ruled out what “Pope Francis” now has opened the door to in the name of “mercy”):

The past six months have seemed at times like a war of attrition. The controversy has centred largely on how the Pope’s words are to be interpreted. Some national bishops’ conferences – Germany, for example – seem more or less united in favour of liberalising the discipline, while others – such as Poland – insist that nothing has changed. The bishops of Buenos Aires produced a document suggesting that the way is now open for Communion for the remarried in some cases where subjective guilt might be diminished. The Pope responded with a private letter commending this interpretation as the right one. In what has become a familiar aspect of disputes around the Pope’s real intentions, the purportedly private exchange was leaked – a transparent attempt to give momentum to the liberalising tendency.

The division doesn’t just run between national groups; it also divides episcopal conferences internally. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia published norms for his diocese which made it clear that the discipline there would remain unchanged. Those in irregular unions might receive Communion only if they lived in continence. His compatriot Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the new Vatican body overseeing family issues, criticised Chaput for jumping the gun on what should have been, according to him, decided collegially by the American bishops. Farrell clearly implied that such a policy should be more open to Francis’s favoured “option of mercy”. Amoris Laetitia, he said, was the Holy Spirit speaking.

Amid these manoeuvrings, a bombshell exploded. A letter was made public, addressed to the Pope by four cardinals known to be hostile to any change in the discipline. It took the form of dubia, “doubts”, traditionally addressed to the competent Roman authority by those seeking clarification of points of Church teaching or canon law deemed insufficiently clear.

Those in the camp of the dubia Cardinals claim that the doctrine of the sacraments is damaged by the new loophole – and of course “the sacraments” make Rome what it is (because you cannot get “valid sacraments” anywhere else); those opposed to the dubia Cardinals believe that “Pope Francis” has introduced a merciful development.

According to an article this morning by Vatican watcher Sandro Magister, the battle lines continue to be drawn:

Shortly before Christmas there were eighteen cardinals and bishops who had spoken out for or against the five doubts made public on November 14 by four cardinals concerning controversial points of “Amoris Laetitia,” with a request to Pope Francis for “clarity,” a request that so far has gone unheeded…. A “Postscript” mentioned three other contributions, bringing the total to twenty-one, only eight of them against the initiative of the four cardinals. But since then another cardinal and bishop have raised their voices, one for and one against….

At the present time, therefore, among the twenty-three cardinals and bishops who have weighed in the score is 14 to 9 in favor of the four cardinals, an evident sign that their “dubia” are by no means seen as insubstantial and that the expectation of a clarification is becoming more and more strong and widely shared.

Magister specifically points out that others are weighing in on the process – and he specifically mentions the now-disgraced Roman Catholic theologian of “Liberation Theology” (i.e., socialism), Leonardo Boff. Boff of course has weighed in heavily on the side of “Pope Francis”:

“The pope feels the sting of the headwinds from other parts of the hierarchy, especially those of the United States. This cardinal Burke, who now - together with your retired cardinal Meisner of Cologne - has written a letter to the pope, is the Donald Trump of the Catholic Church (laughs). But unlike Trump, Burke has been neutralized in the curia. Thank God. These people really believe that it is up to them to correct the pope. As if they were above the pope. Such a thing is unusual, if not unprecedented in the history of the Church. One can criticize the pope, have a discussion with him. This is what I have often done. But that cardinals should publicly accuse the pope of spreading theological errors or even heresies, I think this is too much. It is an affront that the pope cannot allow. The pope cannot be judged, this is the teaching of the Church.”

Except that in the same interview, Boff himself accuses of “grave theological error” and of “religious terrorism” the statement “Dominus Iesus” published in 2000 by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger with the full approval of Pope John Paul II.

But there are other interesting passages of the interview.

For example, where Boff explains why Pope Francis had to cancel the audience that he had granted to him at the beginning of 2015:

“I had received an invitation, and I had already landed in Rome. But that very day, right before the beginning [of the work] of the synod on the family of 2015, thirteen cardinals - including German cardinal Gerhard Müller - organized a revolt against the pope with a letter addressed to him that was later published, lo and behold, in a newspaper. The pope was furious, and he said to me: ‘Boff, I don’t have time. I have to reestablish calm before the synod begins. We’ll see each other another time.”

Or where he says he “heard that the pope wants to accept the explicit request of the Brazilian bishops, and especially of his friend the cardinal Cláudio Hummes, to again use married priests in pastoral care, at least for a certain experimental period.”

Not that Boff is waiting for the pope’s permission. In the interview, in fact, he recounts that although he is married and formally barred from exercising the ministry:

“I already do what I have always done, and when I happen upon a parish without a priest I celebrate the Mass together with the people, and no bishop has contested or prohibited me in this. On the contrary, the bishops are happy and they tell me: ‘The people have a right to the Eucharist. Keep going!’ My theological instructor, Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns - who died a few days ago - was, for example, very open. He came to the point where, when he saw married priests sitting in the nave during the Mass, he would have them come up to the altar and concelebrated the Mass with them.”

So perhaps we will soon see a move toward married priests.

This is from Boff’s Wikipedia entry:

Born Genézio Darci Boff on 14 December 1938 in Concórdia, Santa Catarina, he entered the Franciscan Order in 1959 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1964. He spent the following years studying for a doctorate in theology and philosophy at the University of Munich, which he received in 1970. Boff's doctoral thesis studied in what measure the Church can be a sign of the sacred and the divine in the secular world and in the process of liberation of the oppressed. …

Boff became one of the best known supporters (along with Gustavo Gutiérrez) of the early liberation theologians. He was present in the first reflections that sought to articulate indignation against poverty and marginalization with promissory discourse of the faith, leading to liberation theology. He continues to be a controversial figure in the Catholic Church, primarily for his sharp criticism of the church's hierarchy, which he sees as "fundamentalist", but also for his past critical support of communist régimes….

Authorities in the Roman Catholic Church did not appreciate Boff's criticism of the Church's leadership. They also felt his support of liberation theology had "politicized everything" and accused him of Marxism. In 1985, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, directed at that time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), silenced him for a year for his book Church: Charism and Power.[2] He later accused Ratzinger of "religious terrorism".

Boff was almost silenced again in 1992 by Rome, this time to prevent him from participating in the Eco-92 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which finally led him to leave the Franciscan religious order and the priestly ministry.

Boff joined the international group of Catholic Scholars who in 2012 issued the Jubilee Declaration on reform of authority in the Catholic Church….

Boff commented on the election of Pope Francis in March 2013: "I am encouraged by this choice, viewing it as a pledge for a church of simplicity and of ecological ideals. "He said the new pope was conservative in many respects but had liberal views on some subjects as well.”


  1. That's the great thing about being Pope. You can say whatever you want and say "it doesn't contradict historic church teaching."

    This whole thing reminds me of the Monty Python "Splunge" skit...