As I said, if you are in ministry and people have questions, you answer them. You certainly don’t scold them or, worse, impugn their spiritual walk or inner motives. When Henry IV groveled before Pope Gregory VII outside of Canossa Castle, most assume Gregory had good reason to suspect Henry’s motives. Nonetheless, answering the call to pastoral ministry, Gregory went ahead and administered the reconciliation Henry needed to consolidate power and turn around and attack the pope.
So it came as quite a shock when, according to press releases at least, Pope Francis appeared to dismiss the request by four Cardinals for clarification of Amoris Laetitia. And not only did he fail to answer (again, assuming the press is accurate this time around), but he added quite a broadside against legalism, Whether he meant to or not, it was seen by many as suggesting that those questions were based on a flawed spirit rather than sincere desire for clarification. Call me fickle, but I’m leery of anyone who follows the idea that I have spoken, or you don’t love God enough. That’s an old fundamentalist trick. It might manifest itself differently, depending on the tradition. Liberal fundamentalists will say something akin to ‘I’ve said so, or you’re a bigot.’ But the gist is there. An assurance that I and the Word of God are one and the same, and any failure to fall in line can only be the result or your defects, whether moral, intellectual, spiritual, or whatever.
Because of that, I post this thoughtful response from Bishop Athanasius Schneider. At some point, we can’t simply dismiss the various individuals, some who have made their admiration of Pope Francis clear, because they think he might need to clarify a teaching. Especially since one of the common defenses of Pope Francis is that he just shoots from the hip, and you know how that is.