‘Never apologise, never explain – it’s a sign of weakness’, said John Wayne famously in the movie. Probably it is good advice for a gunslinging cowboy, but it does not suit all professions.

On September 19 last four cardinals (not entirely the usual suspects) sent a letter to the Pope (cc. Cardinal Mueller) seeking to clarify five points arising from the publication of Amoris Laetitia. Framed in the conventional manner of these things, they were questions expecting a Yes/No answer. Thus far no reply has been received. So the cardinals have made their letter public in preparation for the Consistory which is scheduled for November 19 – two months after the dispatch of the letter.

The failure to answer such a letter is at best discourteous, and at worst imperious.

It may of course be, in this Year of Mercy, that the Holy Father has decided that the letter emanates from a clique of the rigidly unmerciful, and that to ignore it is a salutary admonition.

But the five questions are not a trap laid by the pharisaical to ensnare the Apostle of Mercy. They are questions which inevitably will be asked, time and again, by agonized confessors and spiritual directors seeking to guide souls through the perplexity of their marital situations with the wisdom of the Church and in obedience to the Lord Jesus.

For their sakes it would be a kindness to answer the cardinals’ questions.

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