02 February 2017, The Tablet

Pope Francis should talk with ‘dubia’ cardinals, says Radcliffe

The Pope should engage with the four cardinals who penned the “dubia”, or doubts, about contentious issues in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, theologian Timothy Radcliffe has said, writes Filipe Avillez. Speaking in Portugal, where he was attending conferences on Catholic ethics, the ex-head of the Dominicans said that it was important to recognise that the four cardinals were “speaking honestly”. He said they were expressing doubts felt by many about Francis’ teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics could, in some circumstances, be allowed to receive Communion.

The “dubia” were sent to the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) by Cardinals Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, Joachim Meisner and Carlo Caffarra in September. Having received no answer from the Pope or from CDF Prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, they made their letter public in November. Asked if the Pope should reply, Fr Timothy said: “I think it would be good to engage more closely with the four cardinals. I think it is important to recognise that they speak honestly.”

Fr Radcliffe is often portrayed as a progressive, a description he said he disliked, adding that “simplistic labels” tend to “stop the conversation” necessary to search for truth. On Amoris Laetitia, he said he considered it did not change doctrine, but was an attempt “to understand more deeply how people travel towards God. It is a very profound meditation on what it means to be a moral being … I disagree with [the cardinals], I agree with the Pope’s position. But I think we have to understand they are expressing genuine doubts ... felt by many young people,” he explained.

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