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For understanding how Francis acts with his opponents, the archbishop and theologian Bruno Forte is a reliable oracle, especially since he reported in pubic what the pope said to him during the last synod, at which he acted as special secretary:
“If we talk explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you have no idea what a mess these guys will make for us. So let’s not talk about it directly, you get the premises in place and then I will draw the conclusions.”
Francis has drawn the conclusions, as is known, in the postsynodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” but in such an ambiguous form that he has inevitably aggravated the opposition and confusion in the whole Church, and has induced four cardinals to ask him publicly to bring clarity on the “dubia” created by this fluid magisterium of his.
But for Bruno Forte, it is not the words of “Amoris Laetitia” that have generated the doubts, but it is these latter and those who are raising them that are “sowing uncertainty and division among Catholics and others.”
This and more was said by the archbishop and former special secretary of the two synods on the family, who is also one of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s trusted men, at the conference that he gave on March 9, in Rome, at the church of San Salvatore in Lauro, introduced by the auxiliary bishop of the pope’s diocese, Gianrico Ruzza, and as followup speaker, immediately after him, Church historian Alberto Melloni, head of the famous “school of Bologna.”
The main argument that Forte brought out in support of Pope Francis’s position is the concordance between what is written in “Amoris Laetitia” and the propositions voted on by the synod of bishops: a “consensus fidelium” - he added – which has been wrongfully abandoned by those who have raised the “dubia.”
Here are his exact words in this regard, transcribed from an audio recording of his conference:
“The final points of the synod were approved by the representatives of the episcopates of the whole world, with an extraordinary majority: almost all of them unanimously and the more delicate by at least two thirds. Francis had clear ideas, he knew where he wanted to go. When he called on me to be the secretary of the synod, he said to me: ‘For me it is important to arrive there together with all the bishops of the world, because the pope is the servant of the servants of God and I want us to grow together. It doesn’t matter to anyone if a document is written for the Church without the journey we have made.’ This is an aspect that must not be overlooked. Pope Francis has taken collegiality seriously. There are those who have calculated that the 85 percent of the contents of the postsynodal exhortation comes from texts of the final synodal relation. They are texts that ripened collegially, with the episcopate of the world working alongside the successor of Peter. We therefore find ourselves before what is truly a ‘sensus,’ an impressive ‘consensus fidelium.’ This is why the ‘dubia,’ underground, raise doubts over those who have raised them, because some of them were absent from the synod and have not seen what great power of communion there was.”
Of course, Forte didn’t make the slightest reference to how the twofold synod was manipulated from on high, resulting among other things in a sensational incident halfway through the first session - when Forte himself was accused in public by cardinal relator Peter Erdo of having written parts of the “relatio post disceptationem” entirely on his own initiative - and in an even more sensational letter of protest and of appeal to the pope from thirteen cardinals at the beginning of the second session.
Nor did he make any reference to a presumed “collegiality” that produced texts rejected in their most controversial points by almost a third of the synod fathers, and passed by a margin of a few votes only on account of an ambiguity and reticence of language even more pronounced than those afterward put into “Amoris Laetitia.”
Instead, entering into the content of the objections, Forte contested the accusation of “relativism” brought against the pope and his “Who am I to judge?”
And he did so by referring to the “great Jesuit” Karl Rahner and to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in whose footsteps - he said - Francis is going against relativism, since “he combines the absoluteness of the truth with the absoluteness of charity, in a daily effort of discernment, from which no one should feel excluded.”
It can be presumed with a certain surety that what Forte has illustrated is also what Pope Francis thinks about the objections of the four cardinals, and not only about these.
Less directly attributable to the thought of Francis, but also expressive of the sentiments of the pontifical court, is instead the derisive tone with which, right after Forte, Melloni went after the four cardinals of the “dubia.”
“The specialty of certain components of the Church,” he said in alluding to them, “is that they believe they are half of the Church. It is as if the cherry were to believe itself half of the cherry tree.”
And further on in saying that “the four cherries that I cited before” have not understood anything either of the famous saying of John XXIII: “It is not the Gospel that changes, it is we who change over time,” or of the “authentic doctrinal authority” that Francis acknowledges not only in the synod but also in the episcopal conferences.
The only thing that the four believe, according to Melloni, is that “the function of the magisterium is that of doing the algebraic sum between the statements of one encyclical and of another.”
Unfortunately, however, the professor lamented, the four are equipped with an exaggerated sound box, which “turns their little things into half of the reality.” And he recounted a meeting he had in China with the seminarians of Shanghai, “who knew very little about ‘Amoris Laetitia’ but knew everything about the ‘dubia’. For them the ‘dubia” were serious and grave matters, and the text of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ was instead a bit freaky.”
“The most striking thing about the ‘dubia’ is not that someone should be raising them, even if I find extremely improper the very instrument of questions posed to the pope. The bishops and cardinals have every right and even the duty to tell the pope what they think, but treating the pope like a defendant, as is done in trials, no, this they do not have the right to do, it doesn’t help at all.”
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)