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Five Cardinals Send 'Dubia' to Pope Francis With Concern Over Doctrine

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Five cardinals have respectfully addressed Pope Francis with a series of questions, or "dubia," seeking clarification on certain matters of doctrine and discipline in anticipation of the opening of the Synod on Synodality at the Vatican this week.

Photo credit: Caleb Miller

Photo credit: Caleb Miller

These cardinals, including German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval ĂŤniguez, and Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, submitted their questions on August 21, touching upon topics such as doctrinal development, the blessing of same-sex unions, the authority of the Synod on Synodality, women's ordination, and sacramental absolution.

Dubia are formal queries typically raised by cardinals or high-ranking Church members to seek clarification from the Pope and the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) on matters of doctrine and Church teaching. They aim for "yes" or "no" responses without theological argumentation.

The cardinals had previously submitted a set of dubia on these same topics on July 10, and they received a reply from Pope Francis the following day. However, his responses were not in the customary "yes" or "no" format, leading to their reformulated request for clarification in the August 21 submission.

In their statement to the National Catholic Register, the cardinals expressed that Pope Francis' responses did not resolve their concerns and, in some cases, deepened them. Consequently, they rephrased the questions to elicit clear "yes" or "no" responses.

The cardinals decided to address these concerns in line with their duty, as per canon 212; 3, which calls on the faithful to express their opinions on matters pertaining to the well-being of the Church.

Cardinal Burke emphasized that the dubia are primarily about Church doctrine and discipline, focusing on the salvation of souls, rather than being against Pope Francis personally. He underscored the importance of these questions for the Church's well-being.

The practice of submitting dubia has gained prominence during this pontificate, with previous examples regarding the interpretation of Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the blessing of same-sex unions, and the implementation of Traditionis Custodes, among other topics.

The cardinals' reformulated dubia contain questions about the development of doctrine, the blessing of same-sex unions, the role of synodality, women's ordination, and the necessity of contrition for sacramental absolution.

The release of these documents comes shortly before the opening of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, a significant event in the Catholic Church where, for the first time, laypeople, women, and non-bishops will participate as full voting synod delegates. The ultimate decisions made at the synod will rest with Pope Francis.

It is important to note that the Pope and the Vatican have previously addressed the topics raised by the cardinals in their dubia. For instance, Pope Francis has discussed the development of doctrine, the blessing of same-sex unions, the role of synodality, and women's ordination in various contexts, and the Vatican's doctrinal office has clarified its stance on some of these issues. However, the cardinals seek further clarity and reassurance on these matters.

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