This morning there was to have been an eagerly anticipated press conference featuring Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, answering questions about his recently published pamphlet endorsing the "liberal" interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.
However, Cardinal Coccopalmerio failed to show up, pleading a "diary clash." This was later explained as a conflict with a meeting at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
In his short work, published by the official Vatican publishing house on February 8, Coccopalmerio had argued that all the sacraments including communion should be open to those "living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons" including the divorced and remarried and even cohabiting couples.
And the press conference had been anticipated by many as another move in the escalating cold war between the Pope and his opponents.
A short question and answer session occurred anyway in which Don Giuseppe Costa, the director of the publishing house, explained that the Cardinal's book was not an official response from the Vatican and that on Amoris Laetitia, "the debate is still open, we encourage it."
The theologian Maurizio Gronchi then made a joke about the "confusing" passages in the Gospels that homilists attempt to explain every Sunday.
It is virtually certain that Cardinal Coccopalmerio did not cancel because of an appointment clash. But it is a completely open question as to why he cancelled or indeed, why the quasi-official press conference was organized in the first place.
What is clear is that this growing crisis is in part now a farce. And I'm not just talking about the non-appearance of Coccopalmerio. Consider the general issue: Pope Francis publishes a document that, it is claimed, contains ambiguities that leave open the possibility of an heretical interpretation. The Pope refuses to clarify the meaning of the document in the face of an official query by four cardinals, and a thinly veiled smear campaign is mounted against them by Francis and his allies. Nevertheless, the heretical interpretation is endorsed by various groups of bishops around the world, and these appear to be affirmed by the Pope - either tacitly with silence or in one case via a quasi-public letter. Does that mean that this is the actual meaning of the document? The Pope still won't officially say. But now, what is in effect his own publishing house declares that it "encourages" debate on the question.
The Pope won't explain what Amoris Laetitia means but encourages debate on it.
And yes, some are actually suggesting that this is a good thing - an example of the Pope's openness to dialogue, etc.
Happy Valentine's Day.