Conference in Rome Tackles the Confusion in the Church

by David Nussman  •  •  April 9, 2018   

Cdl. Burke, other prelates talk about papal infallibility, need for clarity

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ROME ( - Several church leaders spoke at a symposium in Rome about the ongoing confusion in the Church.

The conference on Saturday was called Catholic Church, where are you going? At the event, Cdl. Raymond Burke gave a speech about the limits of papal infallibility. He did not specifically mention the current Holy Father during his talk.

Burke noted the Supreme Pontiff has plenitudo postestatis, or "fullness of power," in the Church. However, the cardinal emphasized that the Pope ought never use this power to "act against the Apostolic Faith," and must only exercise it "sparingly and with the greatest prudence."

The cardinal, who was one of the four signatories of the Dubia, cited Canon Law and other sources throughout his speech. At one point he said, "The Successor of Peter is the rock that, against arbitrariness and conformism, guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God."

He continued, "The fullness of the power of the Roman Pontiff can only be rightly understood and exercised as obedience to the grace of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the flock of every time and in every place."

The conference on Saturday took place in a hotel in Rome, near Vatican City. Several hundred participated in the day's events.

The summit concluded with a theological declaration by the lay participants. The final declaration begins, "Due to contradictory interpretations of the Apostolic Exhortation 'Amoris Laetitia,' growing discontent and confusion are spreading among the faithful throughout the world."


Cdl. Raymond Burke at the Apr. 7 conference.

(National Catholic Register)

"The urgent request for a clarification submitted to the Holy Father by approximately one million faithful, more than 250 scholars and several cardinals, has received no response," the document states. "Amidst the grave danger to the faith and unity of the Church that has arisen, we baptized and confirmed members of the People of God are called to reaffirm our Catholic faith."

The document includes six statements of faith that defend Catholic teaching on marriage and conscience. The first statement reads, "A ratified and consummated marriage between two baptized persons can be dissolved only by death."

Another of the statements says, "We are also convinced that no subjective judgment of conscience can make an intrinsically evil act good and licit."

The sixth and final point is, "We are convinced that persons who are divorced and civilly remarried, and who are unwilling to live in continence, are living in a situation that is objectively contrary to the law of God, and therefore cannot receive Eucharistic Communion."

We are also convinced that no subjective judgment of conscience can make an intrinsically evil act good and licit.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan also gave an address for Saturday's conference. He talked about "The Apostolic See as the cathedra of truth."


Abp. Athanasius Schneider speaks at the conference.


The bishop said:

The charism of truth is entrusted by God first to Saint Peter and to his successors, the Roman Pontiffs, whose seat is consequently called the cathedra of truth par excellence. Given their ministry of truth, the Roman Pontiffs must continually be aware that they are not the owners of the cathedra of truth, but its servants and vicars.

The Latin word cathedra most literally means 'chair' or 'arm-chair.' In the Church's usage, cathedra refers to a bishop's position of authority in the Church. (This is where the word 'cathedral' comes from.) Thus, the cathedra of St. Peter, or the Chair of St. Peter, is another word for the papacy, papal authority or the Petrine Office.

In his talk, Bishop Schneider cited a slew of sources, from the Church Fathers to Dom Prosper Gueranger to Pope St. John XXIII.

Given their ministry of truth, the Roman Pontiffs must continually be aware that they are not the owners of the cathedra of truth, but its servants and vicars.

Also speaking at Saturday's symposium was Cdl. Walter Brandmüller, another Dubia cardinal alongside Cdl. Burke. Cardinal Brandmüller said, "Therefore, when Catholics en masse consider it legitimate to remarry after divorce or use contraception … this is not a mass witness to the faith, but a mass departure from it."


Cdl. Walter Brandmüller at the Apr. 7 conference.


The German cardinal drew a distinction between the authentic sensus fidelium​ ('sense of the faithful') and a false understanding of it which involves denying truth and catering to people's lack of faith.

Cardinal Brandmüller told conference attendees, "In the history of the people of God, it has often been not the majority but rather a minority which has truly lived and witnessed to the faith."

He went on, "The experience of the Church shows that sometimes the truth of the faith has been conserved not by the efforts of theologians or the teaching of the majority of bishops but in the hearts of believers."

The prelate also combined two theological slogans, sensus fidei and sensus fidelium, to form the phrase sensus fidei fidelium, "the sense of faith of the faithful." He said:

The sensus fidei fidelium, I believe, is expressed much more authentically through spontaneous declarations. One very clear example of this is offered by the "Manif pour tous" mass demonstrations in France. It is also worth noting the participation of hundreds of thousands of people in the Marches for Life. Almost one million Catholics have petitioned the Holy Father about the issues that arose over Amoris Laetitia, followed by more than 200 eminent scholars from all over the world. And there are human chains praying the Rosary around the world. These are the forms in which the sensus fidei, the instinct of faith of believing people, is manifested today. It is time that the Magisterium paid due attention to this witness of faith.

Cardinal Brandmüller and Cdl. Burke, both of whom spoke at Saturday's summit, are the two surviving Dubia authors. The Dubia were a series of questions or 'doubts' about Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia​. The other two authors of the Dubia, Cdl. Joachim Meisner and Cdl. Carlo Caffarra, have since passed away.

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