Pope Francis hasn’t been shy about making controversial statements from his post as the leader of the world’s 1 billion Catholics, and he isn’t shy about defending himself against critics, either.
Francis said in an interview published Friday he isn’t concerned about efforts from four hard-line cardinals who have been critical about the pontiff’s priorities. They say Francis is focusing too much on providing the church’s ministries to people and allowing the church’s doctrine to erode, particularly as it relates to a document he issued in April. “Amoris Laetitia,” “The Joy of Love,” created doubt over the pope’s stance on administering communion to people who have remarried.
“Some people — I am thinking of certain responses to ‘Amoris Laetitia’ — continue to misunderstand,” Francis told Italian newspaper Avvenire. “It’s either black or white (to them), even if in the flow of life you have to discern.”
The critical cardinals, led by American Cardinal Raymond Burke, dispute any ambiguity in the 260-page document that could allow people who have been remarried to take communion. In it, Francis wrote that people who are divorced and remarried “cannot be condemned forever,” language which his critics say is “the cause of disorientation and confusion”
They say Francis’ views appear to violate church teaching that emphasizes the eternality of marriage. The cardinals sent Francis a letter in September outlining concerns, which they made public this week because they had not received an answer to their five specific questions about the document.
Burke alluded Tuesday to the possibility that the pope’s teaching on the matter could amount to heresy, telling the National Catholic Register that the cardinals would have to make “a formal act of correction of a serious error” if Francis didn’t clarify. He said he and his colleagues were acting because many people expressed confusion over the church’s official policy on the matter.
Francis also pushed back against charges he is steering the Catholic Church away from its roots so it closer resembles Protestantism. Conservatives in the church fear he is loosening rules that prohibit homosexuality and divorce.
“I don’t lose sleep over it,” Francis said.