Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy, has passed away. He was 79 years old.
Caffarra is now the second of the four dubia Cardinals to die in the past 60 days. In fact, his death comes two months, almost to the day, since the passing away of Cardinal Joachim Meisner on July 5.
Cardinal Caffarra was unique amongst the dubia cardinals in that he had received a warning message from Sister Lucia in the 1980s about the fight that was coming. In a 2008 interview, Caffarra revealed the unexpected message he was given by the Fatima visionary:
Q. There is a prophecy by Sister Lucia dos Santos, of Fatima, which concerns “the final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan”. The battlefield is the family. Life and the family. We know that you were given charge by John Paul II to plan and establish the Pontifical Institute for the Studies on Marriage and the Family.
A. Yes, I was. At the start of this work entrusted to me by the Servant of God John Paul II, I wrote to Sister Lucia of Fatima through her Bishop as I couldn’t do so directly. Unexplainably, however, since I didn’t expect an answer, seeing that I had only asked for prayers, I received a very long letter with her signature – now in the Institute’s archives. In it we find written: the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. And then she concluded: however, Our Lady has already crushed its head.
Before he signed on to the dubia, Caffarra made clear that he believed Amoris Laetitia to have been a real problem for the Church:
With regard to the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Caffarra points out that its “Chapter 8 is, objectively, unclear” since it causes “conflicts of interpretations even among bishops.” In such a case, continues the Italian prelate, one has to refer to the continuity of the Magisterium of the past in order to receive clarity. “In matters of Doctrine and Morals, the Magisterium cannot contradict itself,” Caffarra states. With regard to the question of the “remarried” divorcees and their access to Holy Communion, the cardinal makes clear that this cannot be changed and that these couples are still not allowed to receive Holy Communion. He refers here to the previous magisterial teaching of the Church and continues: “Now, if the pope would have wanted to change that teaching – it is very clear – he would have the duty, indeed the grave duty, to say so, clearly and explicitly. One cannot change the age-old discipline of the Church with the help of a footnote, and in an uncertain tone.”
In January 2017, Cardinal Caffarra broke his silence on the dubia, taking pains to demonstrate both a filial respect to the pope and an awareness of the “grave duty of us cardinals to advise the pope in governing the Church. It is a duty, and duties oblige.” He again reiterated his serious concern about that “which only a blind man can deny,” namely that “in the Church, there is a great confusion, uncertainty, insecurity caused by certain paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia.” When it comes to the discipline regarding the sacraments of marriage, confession, and the Eucharist, said Caffarra, “some bishops say A, others say the opposite of A.”
In an interview with 1P5’s Maike Hickson in July of last year, Caffarra made clear his concerns for the state of marriage in the world and the confusion surrounding this holy institution even within the Church:
The condition in which marriage finds itself today in the West is simply tragic. Civil laws have changed the definition, because they have eradicated the biological dimension of the human person. They have separated the biology of generation from the genealogy of the person. But I shall speak about this later. To Catholic faithful who are confused about the Doctrine of the Faith concerning marriage, I simply say: “Read and meditate upon the Catechism of Catholic Church nn. 1601-1666. And when you hear some talk about marriage – even if done by priests, bishops, cardinals – and you then verify that it is not in conformity with the Catechism, do not listen to them. They are the blind leading the blind.”
His advice to the faithful on how to preserve the Catholic Faith in its entirety and raise children to eternal life should perhaps be the thing we remember most about this Italian prelate who so committed himself in his final days to defending the teachings of Our Lord:
Caffarra: I will tell you very frankly that I do not see any other place outside the family where the faith which you have to believe and to live can be sufficiently transmitted. Moreover, in Europe during the collapse of the Roman Empire and during the later barbarian invasions, what the Benedictine monasteries then did can likewise be done now by the the believing families, in today’s reign of a new spiritual-anthropological barbarism. And thank God that they [the faithful families] exist and still resist.
A little poem written by Chesterton brings me to this reflection; he wrote it at the beginning of the twentieth century: The Ballad of the White Horse. It is a great poetic meditation on an historical fact. It takes place in the year 878. The King of England, Alfred the Great, had just defeated the King of Denmark, Guthrum, who first had invaded England. And thus came a moment of peace and serenity. But during the night after the victory, King Alfred has a terrible vision [in Book VIII: 281-302]: he sees England invaded by another army, which is described, as follows: “… What though they come with scroll and pen [a strange army it is, indeed, which has no weapons, but pen and paper – Cardinal Caffarra], And grave as a shaven clerk, By this sign you shall know them, That they ruin and make dark; By all men bound to Nothing, …. Know ye the old barbarian, The barbarian come again.”
Believing families are the true fortresses. And the future is in the hands of God.
The future is truly in the hands of God, as is the soul of the good Cardinal Caffarra. May God grant him eternal rest, and if he is welcomed into eternal beatitude, may he intercede for us poor sinners here below who carry on the fight in his stead.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.