Catholics to Hold Conference in Rome to Address Church's 'Confusion' Under Pope Francis

Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017.
Pope Francis waves at the end of the Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican November 22, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi)

A group of Catholics are planning to hold a conference in Rome next month in response to concerns they have about the direction of the Church under Pope Francis.

Known as the "Friends of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra," named after a recently deceased cardinal who was opposed to the Catholic Church's new direction under Francis, the group will hold a conference on April 7 titled "The Catholic Church: Where Are You Heading?"

"It's subtitle, 'Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church,' is taken from comments Cardinal Caffarra made in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio in January 2017," reported the National Catholic Register on Tuesday.

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"The former archbishop of Bologna, one of the signatories of the dubia — five questions sent to Pope Francis in 2016 aimed at helping to resolve the prevailing confusion, died in September."

The conference stems from concerns mentioned by many within the Catholic Church over some of the statements within Pope Francis' exhortation Amoris Laetitia, or "Joy of Love."

In the exhortation, the pontiff seemed to loosen the standards for divorced and remarried couples within the Catholic Church.

"It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church," noted page 184 of the exhortation.

"The Christian community's care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity."

In 2017, months before his death, Cardinal Caffarra sent a letter to Francis on behalf of himself and three other cardinals expressing concern over the exhortation's text.

"A year has now gone by since the publication of 'Amoris Laetitia.' During this time, interpretations of some objectively ambiguous passages of the post-synodal Exhortation have publicly been given that are not divergent from but contrary to the permanent Magisterium of the Church," wrote Caffarra last year.

"Despite the fact that the Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith has repeatedly declared that the doctrine of the Church has not changed, numerous statements have appeared from individual Bishops, Cardinals, and even Episcopal Conferences, approving what the Magisterium of the Church has never approved. Not only access to the Holy Eucharist for those who objectively and publicly live in a situation of grave sin, and intend to remain in it, but also a conception of moral conscience contrary to the Tradition of the Church."

The exhortation stated later on page 229, quoting an earlier Church document, that baptized members "who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal."

The Roman conference is coming not long after Pew Research Center released a poll finding that, five years since Francis became pope, a growing number of American Catholics have concluded that he is, among other things, "too liberal" and "naïve."

Thirty-four percent of Catholics view Pope Francis as being "too liberal," a 15 percent increase from the number who said this in 2015. Also, 24 percent believe him to be "naïve," which marks a 9 percent increase from 2015.

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