Cardinal Caffarra charged that speaking of too great a division between doctrine and pastoral practice is a grave problem: "To think pastoral practice is not founded and rooted in doctrine signifies that the foundation and root of pastoral practice is arbitrary. A Church which pays little attention to doctrine is not a more pastoral Church, but a more ignorant Church."
He continued, "When I hear it said that this is only a pastoral change, and not a doctrinal one, or that the commandment prohibiting adultery is a purely positive law which can be changed (and I think no righteous person can think this), this signifies that yes a triangle has generally three sides, but that it is possible to construct one with four sides. That is, I say, an absurdity."
Cardinal Caffarra also discussed the notion of "development of doctrine," which is at times used to invoke the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to Communion.
He said that "if there is one clear point, it is that there is no evolution where there is contradiction. If I say that S is P and then I say that S is not P, the second proposition does not develop the first, but contradicts it. Already Aristotle had justly taught that enunciating a universal affirmative principle (e.g., all adultery is wrong) and at the same time a particular negative proposition having the same subject and predicate (e.g., some adultery is not wrong), this is not making an exception to the first. It is contradicting it."
The dubia, he noted, were meant to clarify whether or not Amoris laetitia is a development of the preceding Magisterium, or a contradiction of it – as both interpretations have been taken by some bishops.
"Has Amoris laetitia taught that, given certain circumstances and after going through a certain process, the [divorced-and-remarried] faithful could receive the Eucharist without resolving to live in continence? There are bishops who have taught that this is possible," the cardinal remarked. "By a simple deduction of logic, one must therefore also teach that adultery is not in and of itself evil."
He affirmed that Amoris laetitia's value is that "it does not call pastors of souls to be content with responding 'no'" to the faithful, but that it calls them to help the faithful discern their situation.
Cardinal Caffarra maintained that the importance of the dubia is ensuring that bishops and pastors remember that there are intrinsically evil acts – which he noted can be known by reason, and was recognized first in the West by Socrates.
The cardinal then turned to misunderstandings of conscience. He clarified that conscience "is an act of reason … a judgement, not a decision," and contrasted this with the understanding of conscience as "an unappealable tribunal on the goodness or evil of one's actions: one's subjectivity."
He said the fifth dubium was the most important, for it regarded conscience, asking if the teaching "that conscience can never be authorised to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object" still need be regarded as valid.
Cardinal Caffarra noted that a passage of Amoris laetitia seems "to admit the possibility that there can be a true judgement of conscience … in contradiction with what the Church teaches as pertaining to the deposit of divine Revelation. It seems. Therefore have we given the dubia to the Pope."
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The cardinal concluded by referring to Bl. John Henry Newman, who he said understood conscience "in a most lucid way". The English convert recognised that private judgement cannot be elevated as "the ultimate criterion of moral truth."
"Never say to a person: 'Always follow your conscience', without adding, always and immediately: 'love and seek the truth about the good'. Otherwise you would put in his hands the weapon most destructive of his humanity."