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Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, second of four ‘dubia’ cardinals, dies at 79

His death comes almost exactly two months after that of Caffara’s friend and collaborator, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who passed away July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany.

Vatican City, Sep 6, 2017 / 09:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced that Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop Emeritus of Bologna, has died at the age of 79.  He was known for pastoral and academic work in support of marriage and families, especially through the founding of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

No details regarding the late prelate’s death were included in the Sept. 6 announcement of his passing. However, his death comes almost exactly two months after that of Caffara’s friend and collaborator, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who passed away July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany.

Cardinals Caffara and Meisner were among the four cardinals who penned a letter with five “dubia,” or questions, about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia to Pope Francis, requesting that he “resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity.”

Signed by Caffarra, Meisner and Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Leo Burke, the letter was sent to Pope Francis privately on Sept. 19, 2016, but was released to the public two months later.

The four cardinals believed themselves obliged to submit the dubia because of “the fact – which only a blind man could deny – that in the Church there exists great confusion, uncertainty, insecurity caused by some paragraphs of Amoris laetitia,” Caffarra said in a Jan. 14 interview with Matteo Matzuzzi of the Italian publication “Il Foglio.”

In the interview, Caffarra said the letter and its dubia “were long reflected on, for months … for my part, they were also the subject of lengthy prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

“In these months, in terms of fundamental questions regarding the sacramental economy (marriage, confession, and the Eucharist) and the Christian life, some bishops have said A, some others have said the contrary of A, with the intention of interpreting well the same text.”

The cardinal said that “the way out of this ‘conflict of interpretations’ was to have recourse to fundamental theological criteria of interpretation, the use of which I think can reasonably demonstrate that Amoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio.”

And yet, he said, “we saw that this epistemological model would not suffice. The contrast between the two interpretations continued,” and so the only way to address the question was to ask the author of Amoris laetitia to clarify it.

Born in Samboseto di Busseto, Italy, in 1938, Caffarra was ordained a priest in 1961 and was widely known for his work in the area of marriage and the family.

He held a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University, as well as a diploma of specialization in moral theology from the Pontifical Alfonsian Academy.

He taught moral theology and moral ethics, and in 1974 he was tapped by Pope Paul VI as a member of the International Theological Commission. Four years later, in 1978, he participated as a representative of the Holy See at the First World Congress on human sterility and artificial procreation in Venice.

In 1980, Caffarra was named an expert at the Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family, and a year later was appointed by St. John Paul II as founder and president of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family.

He also served as a consultant for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1983-1988, and was longstanding a friend of the dicastery’s prefect, Josef Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.

During his tenure as consultant for the Vatican’s doctrinal department, Caffarra also participated in a study on genetic engineering launched by Italy’s health ministry. Then in 1988, he officially founded the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Washington D.C., bringing it to Mexico and Spain shortly after.

On Sept. 8, 1995, he was named Archbishop of Ferrara-Comacchio, a position he held until his appointment in 2003 as Archbishop of Bologna, where he served until his retirement in 2015.

He was named cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2006, and he also held an honorary doctorate in Christian Literature from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

Despite nearing retirement, Caffarra was appointed by Pope Francis as a participant in both the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2014, and the Ordinary Synod on the Family in 2015.

Other roles the cardinal held were as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. He was also an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The cardinal’s funeral will be celebrated Saturday, Sept. 9, at 11a.m. in Bologna’s San Petronino cathedral by the diocese’s current Archbishop, Matteo Maria Zuppi. A memorial vigil will be held in the cathedral the night before, beginning at 9p.m.

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  1. A great witness to Christ and defender of His doctrine. Cardinal Meisner now Caffarra of the Four Dubia Cardinals in so short a period. Let us not fall into the fallacy of inertia because All is in God’s hands. God expects more from us. His hands can reshape this period of challenge to the faith. Faith given to us by Christ and His Apostles.

  2. One really does have to wonder what God’s plan is. Two of the dubia cardinals, dead, within 60 days of each other. Is God on the other side? Is he sparing these men further humiliation, or sparing them from having to suffer by witnessing a coming melt-down / schism? Is he giving us our just deserts by taking these stalwarts away from us at the time they seem to be needed the most?

    • We do not know the answer to these questions, but we do know that God is still in control. We do know that God allows these things to happen for the greater good. We must continue to pray and trust God.

  3. Let’s not forget Pope Francis was validly elected and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Thought this excerpt was very insightful:
    ‘Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey – that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.’

    Saint Pius X

    Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union

    November 18, 1912

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