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Dr. Joseph Shaw, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford and chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, signed his name to the Statement of Support for the Four Cardinals' Dubia, released on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. As the Statement explains, Cdls. Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, Carlo Caffarra and Joachim Meisner "formally submitted five dubia to Pope Francis, asking him to clarify five fundamental points of Catholic doctrine and sacramental discipline" in "Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, as they appear "to conflict with Scripture and/or Tradition and the teaching of previous papal documents."
Dr. Shaw spoke with Church Militant about his reasons for adding his name as well as his thoughts on the current crisis of confusion in the Church.
CM: Various prelates have reacted with great hostility to the four cardinals. Have you been dismayed or surprised by the hostility?
Unfortunately, these are not the first personal attacks on cardinals and others who appear to be standing in the way of a certain agenda, though they are the most open and the most extreme. It is particularly sad because the Pope has recognized the gravity of the issues being discussed and has repeatedly called for open and fearless discussion — "parrhesia."
One hears stories of groups of cardinals approaching various Popes over the decades with concerns of one kind or another, but, having received no answer, for the four cardinals to publish such concerns was a very big step, and a strong reaction was to be expected. It implies that the cardinals feel it is necessary to warn the faithful, who have been looking for just this kind of leadership, that there is a grave problem, and that it is not going to solved behind closed doors.
These are men of the highest principle and the deepest experience in Church affairs. It is clear that they did not act lightly; I think it demonstrated enormous courage.
CM: Do you agree with Bp. Athanasius Schneider that the schism is already here — that liberal prelates pushing for Communion to the divorced and remarried, as well as liberalizing Church teaching on mortal sin and intrinsic evil, using "Amoris Laetitia," are truly in interior schism, in spite of their outward formal union with the Pope?
One aspect of Church unity is that we share one Faith, we believe the same thing. Another aspect of Church unity, from the earliest times, is that people excluded from Holy Communion in one place would, at least if this known, be excluded elsewhere.
Problems of communication and personal eccentricities have always prevented these kinds of unity from being manifested perfectly, but what we are facing today is open and official disunity of belief and Communion. Bishops and bishops' conferences are drawing up public guidelines on the basis of incompatible theological principles, and are openly and systematically admitting or refusing to admit to Communion completely different groups of people. Such differences are evident among supposedly liberal bishops and theologians, not just between them and the "conservatives."
In that sense, it seems appropriate to use the language of schism. Since the Second Vatican Council (as well as before, of course), there have been groups of individuals and bishops here and there who have rejected aspects of the Faith; they have fallen into heresy.
What hasn't happened since the Reformation period is that whole dioceses should take a position at odds with the Faith, making a public declaration of it, with the bishop attempting to impose it on his priests and faithful. Liberals are using this language of conservatives (see the remarks of Abp. Papamanolis
), but obviously schisms have two sides (if not more), and each side will always claim to be orthodox.
CM: What do you fear might happen of Pope Francis fails to answer the dubia?
Only the Pope can resolve the crisis by making a decisive intervention; even then, it won't be easy to get the genie back into the bottle. Until there is such a papal intervention, under the present or a future Pope, bishops will feel obliged to find their own way to understand what they should be doing, and will inevitably come to different conclusions
I think some liberals in Rome hoped that they could impose their own view on the whole Church by hints and by disciplinary measures against their opponents, and through appointments, but many conservative bishops feel that it is simply impossible for them in conscience to approve Communion for couples in illicit unions, particularly when there is no clear official directive to do so from the Pope.
So the de facto disunity of the Church will become more apparant and entrenched as time goes on, until this matter is addressed by the Pope, or possibly by a General Council.
Readers can learn more about the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales here.
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