Cardinal Caffarra: Pope Cannot Change Doctrine in a Footnote

caffarra1The retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra – one of the authors of the Five Cardinals Book and a strong defender of the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage – has recently given an interview to the Italian website La nuova bussola quotidiana. In this 25 May interview concerning marriage and the family, Cardinal Caffarra makes clear that even if the state now makes laws allowing so-called same-sex marriages, they “cannot change the reality of things.” He says that “mayors (especially Catholic ones) have to make a conscientious objection” in this matter. To celebrate such a union, Caffarra continues, would be to make oneself partially responsible for such a “gravely illict act on the moral level.” The Italian cardinal sees currently taking place a disjunction between nature and logos with relation to marriage.

When asked whether there are also supernatural causes for this new development, Cardinal Caffarra refers back to the already known and important correspondence he had with Sister Lucia in the 1980s. Caffarra points out that on 13 May 1981 — the very same day that Pope John Paul II suffered the shocking attempt on his life — Caffarra was about to open the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. He describes how, a few years later, he wrote to Sister Lucia and asked her for her prayers for the newly founded institute, not expecting a response. Caffarra continues: “She wrote back to me – let me remind you that we were then in the early 1980s – and she told me that there will be a time of the ‘final conflict’ between the Lord and Satan. And that the battleground would be over the very constitution of marriage and the family.” Sister Lucia then told Caffarra that “those who will fight for marriage and the family will be persecuted” and that “they should not have fear because the Madonna already has crushed the head of the infernal serpent.”

Caffarra explains this struggle between God and Satan with regard to the redefining of marriage, as follows: “And Satan says to God: ‘See, this is your creation. But I will show you that I can construct an alternative creation. And you will see that the people will say it is better this way.’”

It is up to the Church, according to Caffarra, to teach again the fullness of the beauty of the sacramental marriage which makes one out of two and gives the spouses the grace of marital charity in order to have children and educate them. The Church “has to heal the inability of men and women to love,” adds Caffarra.

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.” Caffarra then here makes reference to the “principle of interpretation” according to which an uncertain magisterial teaching has to be interpreted in continuity with the previous Magisterium.”

This statement of Cardinal Caffarra makes one ask the larger question: “To what extent, in any event, is anything intentionally ambiguous binding on the Catholic conscience?”

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