Before a significant Vatican summit, conservative Catholics have challenged Pope Francis. Five cardinals have demanded answers on same-sex relationships and other matters, and a women’s group has said that only men should be allowed to vote.
The cardinals from Asia, Europe, Africa, the United States, and Latin America announced on Monday that they had submitted the pope a series of official inquiries regarding the gathering, known as “dubia” (“doubts” in Latin).
They explained their struggles in an open letter to Catholics, saying they did so “so that you may not be subject to confusion, error, and discouragement, rather may pray for the universal Church.”
The pope and minority conservatives have been at odds recently, with the latter accusing the former of undermining various traditional doctrines.
For the past two years, church leaders have been preparing for this week’s secret conference, known as a bishops synod, by asking Catholics all over the world to offer their ideas for the direction of the Church.
The role of women, increased acceptance of LGBT Catholics, social justice, and the impact of climate change on the poor will all be discussed. Approximately 365 “members” will vote during the meeting, including cardinals, bishops, laypeople, and women for the first time.
This month’s discussions will be discussed again in October 2024. A papal document will come next, perhaps in 2025, so any revisions to Church doctrine, if any, would be decades away.
The five cardinals are Raymond Burke of the United States, Walter Brandmueller of Germany, Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, Robert Sarah of Guinea, and Juan Sandoval Iniquez of Mexico. They are all well-known opponents of the pope, range in age from 75 to 90, and no longer occupy any high rank.
Burke said in a conservative newspaper, the National Catholic Register, that the pope had previously received queries from the cardinals and had answered to them the next day in July.
Although it was unclear if the five had invited any more cardinals to join, there are 242 cardinals in the Church. German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, a well-known opponent of Francis, was not a signatory.
They revised and resubmitted them after being unsatisfied in order to get a straightforward yes or no response. According to The Register, the pope hasn’t yet reacted.
The pope’s seven pages of answers to the first set of questions were later made public by the Vatican in July. Under the condition of anonymity, a Vatican source blasted the cardinals for acting “as if this was a game show” with yes-or-no questions. The source claimed it was done to demonstrate that the pope had taken them seriously.
One inquiry centred on whether same-sex couples may be blessed, something that certain priests have done in a few nations, most notably Germany, despite the Vatican’s ban on such blessings in 2021.
The cardinals stated that they desired an unequivocal affirmation of the Church that homosexuality is a crime.
They also demanded clarification on the Church’s prohibition against female priests, despite Francis’ prior declaration that the “door is closed” on that subject in reference to a 1994 decree issued by Saint Pope John Paul II. Many cardinals and bishops who support the synod have welcomed the consultations as a chance to alter the Church’s power structures and give lay Catholics, especially women, the LGBT community, and those who are marginalised by society, a stronger voice.
Conservatives object to the idea that many laypeople will be allowed to vote in a meeting that is officially a synod of bishops. They contend that the Church should maintain a male-dominated hierarchical structure with power originating at the top, particularly on matters of theology.