Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato speaks at the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Manila on Jan. 17. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
A Filipino cardinal said he could not see "any justification" for other church leaders to question Pope Francis' exhortation on the family Amoris Laetitia.
In September, four cardinals sent questions to the pope in a bid to clear up "grave disorientation and great confusion" surrounding the summary document on the synod on the family.
The cardinals — Italian Carlo Caffarra, American Raymond Burke, and Germans Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner — said they wanted to clarify "contrasting interpretations" of passages in the document relating to the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments, and the church’s moral teaching.
In a statement on Nov. 14 titled "Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia," the cardinals said the paragraphs "allude to or even explicitly teach a change in the discipline of the church with respect to the divorced who are living in a new union."
So far, Pope Francis has not answered the four cardinal's questions.
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato in the southern Philippines said he couldn’t see "any justification" for the cardinals to question the pope's exhortation.
Speaking during the fourth World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Manila, Cardinal Quevedo said his fellow cardinals were "raising doctrinal objections" to the pastoral concern of the pope "for mercy and compassion for those who are in great need."
"As cardinals, we should be giving advise to the Holy Father, not questioning him," said the prelate.
"Within the church, we are hearing also of a vocal minority, they are questioning the vision of Pope Francis, a vision of 'a church of the poor and for the poor,'" he told delegates.
The cardinal noted that some people in the church hierarchy see the pope's exhortation "as an ideological vision, a vision that comes from the left."
"But it is a vision that truly comes from the early times of Christianity, the church of the poor," said Cardinal Quevedo.
The Mindanao prelate warned against a demonstration of "lack of communion" even among church leaders as he urged Catholics to open their eyes to issues that demonstrate the absence of unity.
He noted the reality of "broken families everywhere" where children live without parents. He said the church cannot be also be "indifferent" to victims of social injustices.
"Communion is the deepest vocation of the church," he said, adding that since the Second Vatican Council "there is a lot of empowerment given to various sectors in the church particularly the laity" that sometimes resulted in "conflicts between religious and bishops, priests and laity."
Cardinal Quevedo said these problems "arise in certain cases where lay people or the religious congregations would suggest policies to the priest or bishops but they do not listen."
He stressed the importance of looking at the "big picture of the significance of empowerment" even as "problematic cases" must be recognized because it shows a lack of unity among church institutions.
He said church sectors and institutions should "act as one body" because "we are all the body of Christ."
"We are different parts of the one body. We play different roles in the body of Christ," said Cardinal Quevedo.
Last year, Philippine bishops warned about the "beguiling" treatment of the document by the secular media that tends to focus on "difficult situations" discussed by Amoris Laetitia, like divorce and irregular unions.
In a statement, the country's bishops "made clear" that Pope Francis "does not in any way depart from the teaching of the church as contained in the creeds, the conciliar documents, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church."
Amoris Laetitia, or "The Joy of Love," is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis following the synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.
The document focuses on issues of contemporary morality and church practice that were discussed during the synods, including access to Communion, divorce, sexual mores, and pastoral practice.