The Four Cardinals, who presented the ‘Dubia’ concerning Amoris Laetitia have written seeking an audience with the Holy Father. The letter is couched in the most diplomatic language and goes out of its way to deny any accusations of sede vacantism levelled at the authors.

One doubts very much that they will be granted an audience, or even get a reply to the letter. Why? Because more is at stake than the mere interpretation of AL, important as that is in itself.

What is at stake is the universality of the Roman Magisterium. What is at stake is the understanding of the very nature of the Church as expounded by Ratzinger and Mueller: that the universal church takes precedence both historically and ontologically over the local church, and that area conferences of bishops are merely administrative conveniences with no intrinsic authority or jurisdiction.

What seems to be the case, is that Pope Francis, to get his own way in the matter of the admission of civilly married divorcees to Holy Communion, is prepared to defer to local autonomy in the matter. A quintessentially authoritarian Pope is prepared to sacrifice the universality of the magisterium  for political advantage.

It may, of course, be that everyone will eventually fall in line with the Maltese, the Sicilians and the Germans. (Though the Poles seem very unlikely to do so.) But even if world-wide agreement were eventually reached, we would not have returned to the status quo ante.  The djinn would be out of the bottle. There would have been a de facto change in ecclesiology of significant proportions.

One is left to assume that that, paradoxically, is what Francis is after.

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