Pope Francis sought reassurance after the release of his own document that his teaching was in line with that of the Church, asking one of his close advisers whether the controversial Amoris Laetitia was orthodox.
The pope then expressed “comfort” upon being told that the document was such.
When Austrian Cardinal Christophe Schönborn met with the Pope Francis shortly after Amoris Laetitia was presented in April 2016, the pontiff thanked the cardinal, whom he’d assigned the job of presenting it to the media.
Then, according to Cardinal Schönborn, Pope Francis asked him whether Amoris Laetitia was orthodox.
“I said, ‘Holy Father, it is fully orthodox,’” the cardinal stated.
A few days later, Cardinal Schönborn said, he received a note from Pope Francis saying, “Thank you for that word. That gave me comfort.”
The pope has declared Cardinal Schönborn the document’s “authoritative interpreter.”
Cardinal Schönborn was also co-editor along with the future Pope Benedict XVI of the historic 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church commissioned by Pope St. John Paul II.
He shared the story of how Pope Francis had sought post-promulgation reassurance from him on the orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia at a July 13 speaking engagement to discuss the exhortation at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland. The cardinal’s speaking appearance was the subject of a Crux opinion piece.
Typically when a pope drafts a document, it’s then disseminated privately to respected cardinals and theologians for review and feedback on any potential problems. This process enables inaccuracies to be fixed before the papal document is promulgated.
Widely-held though unconfirmed reports indicated that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) submitted many recommended amendments to Amoris Laetitia that were all ignored, a piece from Catholic Culture noted.
Cardinal Schönborn’s report raises the question of whether Pope Francis was completely sure of Amoris Laetitia’s orthodoxy even after its release, it said, and more certainly suggests that the pope knew some high-ranking prelates would view the document as unsound.
Amoris Laetitia continues to cause disorder within the Church, as the exhortation appears in part to give tacit approval for Catholics in objectively sinful situations to present themselves for Holy Communion without repentance and renunciation of sin. Various prelates and bishops’ conferences across the world have taken on divergent interpretations and applications of the contentious document.
The ambiguous parts also seem to conflict with previous papal teaching.
Catholics from cardinals to theologians, scholars and people in the pews have called for Pope Francis to clarify Amoris Laetitia’s ambiguities and to affirm Church teaching on marriage and sexuality.
The document also continues to produce division, as these requests for clarity have been frequently derided, at times by some of Pope Francis’s closest advisers.
Cardinal Schönborn has indicated that Amoris Laetitia opens the door for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, and he has said that prior teaching on family should be read through Amoris Laetitia.
He too has been critical of the four cardinals who submitted the dubia requesting clarification on from Pope Francis, and said recently the dubia can all be answered with a “yes.”
In a bulletin last fall, the cardinal’s cathedral of the Archdiocese of Vienna profiled a homosexual couple with their adopted son as an alternative form of family.
Late last year, a post on the Archdiocese of Vienna website on the Ten Commandments suggested regarding the Sixth Commandment that such things as masturbation, pornography, and prostitution were permissible.
The cardinal had argued that at the 2015 Synod on the Family, the second of two controversial Synods called to pave the way for Amoris Laetitia, the Church should change its approach to find the “positives elements” in sexual relationships that violate the natural law and Church teaching.