On April 7, Catholics of every stripe — prelates and priests, religious and laity — will gather near Vatican City to examine the confusion over the pontiff's 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, as well as the accelerating push to "re-interpret" Church teaching on contraception.
Titled "Catholic Church: Where Are You Heading?" the conference honors a last wish of the former Bologna archbishop, Cdl. Carlo Caffarra, one of the four dubia authors who in the lead-up to his death in September 2017 sought to clarify Amoris Laetitia's ambiguities.
Organizers — the "Friends of Carlo Caffarra" — are designing the conference according to the cardinal's wishes. Themes include the limits of papal authority and division in the Church, fueled by pastoral and doctrinal confusion on moral issues like Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. Participants will also study the mounting push inside the Vatican to "re-interpret" Humanae Vitae — a campaign to "bless" the use of contraception by elevating "conscience" over doctrine.
Caffarra was aghast at the crisis of confusion flowing from Amoris Laetitia. Just months before his death, he told Italian newspaper Il Foglio, "It is a fact — which only a blind man can deny — that there exists in the Church, a great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia."
The cardinal lamented that on "fundamental questions regarding matrimony, confession and Eucharist ... some bishops have said A, others have said the contrary of A."
Especially concerning to Caffarra was the fact that some bishops interpret Amoris Laetitia as opening the door to Holy Communion for couples in illicit unions — the divorced and civilly remarried, unmarried cohabitants and same-sex couples, etc.
In the United States, for example, Bp. Robert McElroy, a promoter of heterodoxy and homosexuality, ordered his priests to post invitations in parish bulletins calling divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to consult their consciences on the question of Communion. McElroy urged them to consider that perhaps God is calling them back to the Eucharist. But he said nothing about God calling them to chastity first.
A clear departure from Catholic teaching, McElroy's directive has been repeated across the world, with bishops in Germany, Malta, Argentina and elsewhere giving the go-ahead to adulterous Communions.
In addition to addresses by Hong Kong Cdl. Joseph Zen and Cdl. Francis Arinze, former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, the conference will feature a screening of an interview Caffarra gave on the topic of Humanae Vitae. The cardinal was troubled by a secret papal commission set up in 2017 to study the potential for changes to the Church's position on birth control "in the spirit of Amoris Laetitia."
Vatican watchers point to a recent Pontifical Gregorian University lecture by Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, one of Pope Francis' star theologians, outlining a "new interpretive paradigm" for Humanae Vitae that seemed to green-light birth control.
In his address, Chiodi — a newly-appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life — asked rhetorically whether "natural methods could/should be the only form of responsible parenting." In alluding to responsible parenting and childcare, Catholic media noted Chiodi implied that different means of fertility regulation could be considered equally valid, whether natural family planning (NFP) or artificial contraception.
The conference will close with a declaration reaffirming the truth of the moral and doctrinal teachings of the Church, issued on behalf of the "baptized and confirmed members of the People of God."