Updating our post early this morning about the dubia of the four cardinals, we note that Rorate Caeli‘s Roman correspondent, “Fr. Pio Pace,” has weighed in with an interesting bit of news. The Holy Father made clear—how is not clear at this point—that he would not answer Cardinals Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra, and Meisner. That is, if true, the four cardinals went public not on some arbitrary schedule—i.e., they decided to publish when they didn’t hear back within a time frame of their own choosing—they went public after they received word that they would not hear back at all. The cardinals’ dubia, then, are doubly extraordinary; extraordinary that they would propose them and extraordinary that the Holy Father would simply refuse to answer them.
There are also reports—beginning with Rorate‘s Pio Pace, but in other places—that the four cardinals who proposed the dubia are simply the public face of a larger group of prelates. Sandro Magister says:
The four cardinals who signed this letter and are now making it public are not among those who a year ago, at the beginning of the second session of the synod on the family, delivered to Francis the famous letter “of the thirteen cardinals”[.]
The thirteen were all members of the synod and in full service in their respective dioceses. Or they held important positions in the curia, like cardinals Robert Sarah, George Pell, and Müller himself.
These four, however, while all are recognized for their authoritativeness, have no operational roles, either for reasons of age or because they have been dismissed.
And that makes them more free. It is no mystery, in fact, that their appeal has been and is shared by not a few other cardinals who are still fully active, as well as high-ranking bishops and archbishops of West and East, who however precisely because of this have decided to remain in the shadows.
In a few days, on November 19 and 20, the whole college of cardinals will meet in Rome, for the consistory convoked by Pope Francis. And inevitably the appeal of the four cardinals will become the subject of animated discussion among them.
(Emphasis supplied.) In the words of Fr. John Hunwicke, “Apparently, it is now to be the particular ministry and calling of the elderly or the retired or the sacked, because they have nothing to fear being sacked from, to speak with Parrhesia.“
The news of the dubia breaks about a week before the ordinary public consistory of the College of Cardinals for the creation of new cardinals, including the Americans Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, and Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark (recently translated from Indianapolis in an unprecedented move).