They expressed hope that their act would not be interpreted "according to a 'progressive/conservative' paradigm. That would be completely off the mark. We are deeply concerned about the true good of souls, the supreme law of the Church, and not about promoting any form of politics in the Church."
"We hope that no one will judge us, unjustly, as adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy. What we have done and are doing has its origin in the deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope, and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful."
The five dubia concern the teaching found in Amoris laetitia, and its relation to the teaching of the preceding Magisterium, especially that of St. John Paul II.
In an appended explanatory note, the cardinals wrote that the dubia "are worded in a way that requires a 'yes' or 'no' answer, without theological argumentation. This way of addressing the Apostolic See is not an invention of our own; it is an age-old practice."
They sought answers to the dubia noting that "doubt and uncertainty are always highly detrimental to pastoral care."
They emphasized that the differing interpretations of Amoris laetitia are "due to divergent ways of understanding the Christian moral life" and that more than merely being a question of the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to penance and Communion, the exhortation's interpretation "implies different, contrasting approaches to the Christian way of life."
The first dubium asks whether following Amoris laetitia "it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person 'more uxorio' (in a marital way) without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris consortio n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia n. 34 and Sacramentum Caritatis n. 29. Can the expression "in certain cases" found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation Amoris laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live 'more uxorio'?"
The cardinals wrote in their explanatory note that an affirmative answer to the first dubium would mean the Church teaches either that divorce doesn't dissolve the marriage bond, but persons who are not married "can under certain circumstances legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy"; that divorce dissolves the marriage bond and that the divorced-and-remarried "are legitimate spouses and their sexual acts are lawful marital acts"; or that divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, but "admitting persons to the Eucharist does not mean for the Church to approve their public state of life; the faithful can approach the Eucharistic table even with consciousness of grave sin, and receiving absolution in the sacrament of penance does not always require the purpose of amending one's life. The sacraments, therefore, are detached from life: Christian rites and worship are in a completely different sphere than the Christian moral life."
The second dubium asks if one still needs to "regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis splendor n. 79 … on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?"
This raises the question of intrinsically evil acts, for which "no discernment of circumstances or intentions is necessary" to "know that one must not do it," which was reaffirmed by St. John Paul II in his 1993 encyclical on fundamental questions of the Church's moral teaching, Veritatis splendor.
The third dubium asks, "is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God's law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin"?
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They noted that Amoris laetitia could appear to contradict a 2000 declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and also acknowledged that the distinction made in Amoris laetitia between a subjective situation of mortal sin and the objective situation of grave sin "is indeed well established" in Church teaching.
Nevertheless, they sought to clarify if "it is still possible to say that persons who habitually live in contradiction to a commandment of God's law, such as the commandment against adultery, theft, murder, or perjury, live in objective situations of grave habitual sin, even if, for whatever reasons, it is not certain that they are subjectively imputable for their habitual transgressions."
The fourth dubium asks if one still needs "to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis splendor n. 81 … according to which 'circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act 'subjectively' good or defensible as a choice'"?
This question was raised to discover whether Amoris laetitia agrees that an intrinsically evil act can never "become excusable or even good … on account of circumstances that mitigate personal responsibility," given its stress on such mitigating circumstances.
The fifth dubium asks if the teaching of Veritatis splendor which "excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object" still need be regarded as valid.
With this, the cardinals sought to determine if Amoris laetitia holds that conscience "can be in tension or even in opposition" with the precepts of God's law, "autonomously deciding about good and evil."