It Was Also Answered (with the Same Answers) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2019
This is one of the standard objections that Francis-critics have against Pope Francis: “why hasn’t he answered the dubia?” I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that. The dubia are five questions asked of Pope Francis, by Cardinal Raymond Burke, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, and recently deceased Cardinals Joachim Meisner and Carlo Caffarra: dated 9 September 2016.
My friend, Dr. Robert Fastiggi, has argued that Pope Francis already in effect answered them in Amoris Laetitia itself:
Responding to the Five Dubia from Amoris Laetitia Itself (Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Vatican Insider / La Stampa, 3-9-18)
Dr. Fastiggi, commenting on my blog, has suggested a second way that Pope Francis has replied:
In the 2020 book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, Pope Francis offers some reflections in conversation with Austen Ivereigh. On pages 87-89 of this book, Pope Francis explains the reasoning behind the approach he took in chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. He says this approach was suggested by Cardinal Cristoph Schoenborn of Vienna, and it is based on “the true moral doctrine of the authentic scholastic tradition of Saint Thomas.” Pope Francis explains: “There was no need to change Church law, only how it was applied” (p. 88). “Because of the immense variety of situations and circumstances people find themselves in,” the Synod agreed “on the need for a case-by-case discernment” (ibid.) Pope Francis makes it clear that the approach taken by the Synod and Amoris Laetitia does not involve any change in “law or doctrine.” Instead, it enables pastors “to walk with people who are living together or divorced, to help them see where God’s grace is operating in their lives, and to help them embrace the fullness of Church teaching” (ibid.).
Pope Francis explicitly states that Amoris Laetitia introduces no change in Church law or doctrine. This is a sufficient response to the dubia. Pope Francis does, though, highlight the need for pastors to discern whether people in irregular situations have sufficient knowledge and full culpability and to what extent they can receive the assistance of the sacraments in accordance with footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia. These pages in Let Us Dream help us understand that chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia involves no change in Catholic law or doctrine. Pope Francis simply highlights the need for pastors to deal with difficult cases on a case-by-case basis with proper pastoral discernment. This type of discernment is nothing new. Any good priest will tell you that he applies this type of discernment on a regular basis, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Moreover, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also answered the dubia in his essay, “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse.” (10 April 2019). And he answered in the same way that Pope Francis did (namely, no, yes, yes, yes, and yes). This is explained in the article, “The Dubia Were Answered,” by Elizabeth A. Mitchell (The Catholic Thing, 5-11-19).
Any other questions, Your Eminence Cardinal Burke and Your Eminence Cardinal Brandmüller (or the legions of folks still wondering about this along with you)? Is there any part of “no” and “yes” that you don’t understand in this instance? I’m not trying to be “cute” or disrespectful; it’s a direct question, just as your dubia were. You wrote in your “Explanatory Note” for the dubia the following:
What is peculiar about these inquiries is that they are worded in a way that requires a “Yes” or “No” answer, without theological argumentation.
Very well, then, those yes and no answers have indeed been given: by this pope (twice) and (with full agreement) by the previous one (though not writing as pope). The answers are:
Pope Francis’s New Document on Marriage: 12 Things to Know and Share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 4-8-16)
Pope Francis Shatters Reformers’ Dreams with ‘Modern Family’ Document (Thomas D. Williams, Breitbart, 4-8-16)
Interpreting Amoris Laetitia ‘through the lens of Catholic tradition’ (Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency, 4-8-16)
First Thoughts on “Amoris Laetitia” (Bishop Robert Barron, Aleteia, 4-8-16)
“True Innovations but Not Ruptures”: Cardinal Christoph Schönborn Presents “Amoris Laetitia” (Diane Montagna, Aleteia, 4-8-16)
Pope Affirms Traditional Marriage (Bill Donohue, Newsmax, 4-8-16)
Pope Francis’s revolution has been cancelled (Damian Thompson, The Spectator, 4-8-16)
Pope Francis on love in the family (Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, CatholicPhilly.com, 4-14-16)
Pope Francis is a social conservative (Tim Stanley, The Telegraph, 4-18-16)
Amoris Laetitia and the Progressive Pope Myth (Anthony S. Layne, Catholic Stand, 4-23-16)
Cardinal Müller: Magisterium on Remarried Divorcees Unchanged by Amoris Laetitia [cites precedent in both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI] (Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 5-4-16)
Cardinal Müller: Amoris Laetitia is in line with previous teaching on Communion (Catholic Herald, 5-4-16)
Pope okays Argentine doc on Communion for divorced and remarried (Inés San Martín, Crux, 9-12-16)
What Pope Francis said about Communion for the divorced-and-remarried (Catholic News Agency, 9-13-16)
Not heretical: Pope Francis’ approval of the Argentine bishops’ policy on invalid marriages (Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, 9-15-16)
Cardinal Schönborn: Pope Francis follows John Paul II’s teaching on communion (Catholic Herald, 4-8-16)
Amoris Laetitia – An Apologia for its Orthodoxy (Scott Smith, Reduced Culpability, 1-19-17)
Vatican’s Muller: No Communion For Divorced, Remarried — Not Even a Pope Can Change This (Michael W. Chapman, CNS News, 2-1-17)
Cardinal Müller, German bishops clash on interpretation of Amoris Laetitia (Catholic World News, 2-1-17)
Cardinal Müller: Communion for the remarried is against God’s law (Catholic Herald, 2-1-17)
Does Amoris Laetitia 303 Really Undermine Catholic Moral Teaching? (Robert Fastiggi & Dawn Eden Goldstein, La Stampa / Vatican Insider, 9-26-17)
Dr. Robert Fastiggi Defends Amoris Laetitia Against Critics (hosted at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 10-3-17)
Critics of Amoris laetitia ignore Ratzinger’s rules for faithful theological discourse (Robert Fastiggi & Dawn Eden Goldstein, La Stampa / Vatican Insider, 10-4-17)
Dr. Fastiggi Replies to Dr. Brugger Regarding Amoris Laetitia (hosted at Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 10-12-17)
Pastoral Charity is the Key to Pope Francis’s Endorsement of the Buenos Aires Bishops’ Document (Robert Fastiggi, La Stampa / Vatican Insider, 11-28-17)
Photo credit: Pope Francis & Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, April 2019 (New York Times / Vatican Media)
Summary: The question is always asked: “why hasn’t Pope Francis answered the dubia?” These are five questions asked by four Cardinals (requiring only a yes or no answer). The pope has answered twice, so has the previous pope.