As we all wait for the issuance of the correction, let me state once again how I think things will progress.
1. Correction of the Pope's errors contained in Amoris Laetitia, firstly in camera caritatis.
2. Public correction after Francis has refused to retract. Declaration that some teachings in AL are of heretical nature. Intimation (or supplication, which is the same) to Francis to acknowledge the heresy of his opinions and retract them.
3. Warning to the Pope (again, in a strictly private way) that he will be declared a heretic unless he publicly retracts/answers the Dubia in the only possible way.
4. Public declaration of the Pope as heretic after he obstinately refuses to condemn his heresies.
It seems to me that all four steps follow from the very rationale of the presentation of the Dubia to the Pope. I do not see a way how any of the Cardinals can do anything differently. Please consider that the warnings to the Pope are the necessary premise of his being declared in obstinacy, and the private nature of the first warning is both wise and charitable. Let no one say Francis has been “surprised” by the events, or no one wanted to talk to him.
What happens next is, I think, either a new imperfect Council to declare the Pope deposed as heretic and proceed to a new conclave (if enough Bishops and Cardinals are found for it; I can't imagine four Cardinals and a handful of bishops would be sufficient, and I therefore think this hypothesis remote) or what I call Honorius 2.0.
Pope Honorius was heretic to such an extent, that after his death it was felt an ecumenical concil (a vastly expensive exercise) was needed to rid the Church of the stench emanating from his papacy. But that was, as we all know, after his death. There was, therefore, a time when Honorius was in charge, public heresy and all, as the only legitimate Pope, and no one was publicly convening a council to have him declared heretic and self-deposed.
The questions spontaneously arise: what was happening during the rest of his Pontificate?
Was the See vacant? Of course not.
Not even with a heretical Pope? Not even then, as the See was not declared vacant afterwards; not even retroactively.
Did he appoint bishops in the meantime? Very probably yes.
Did some or all of these bishops take part in the election of the next Pope (no Cardinals or Conclaves then….)? Ask a Church historian, but my take is: very possibly.
How was, then, the election of his successor valid? You would have to ask a theologian here. My take is that the election was valid because clearly happened in accordance with the thinking of the Church. The same Church, mind, which went through unbelievably chaotic times around the years of the Synodus Horrenda and still emerged with a succession of validly elected Popes. The same church who elected Popes, for several centuries, simply by gathering those Bishops around Rome who could be gathered for the task within a reasonable time, without a rigid “instructions manual” as to the exact proceedings, required participation, causes of invalidity of the election, and the like. You trust that the Church will keep being the Church, and the Lord will protect her in such a way that the faithful will always know who is the pope and which is the true church, no matter how bad the times.
And so we come to the most logical step forward: if the first four points all happen and no revolt against the Pope materialises, where are we?
We are, I think, at Honorius 2.0, and we should act in the same way as I think faithful and informed Catholic acted when Honorius kept being Pope after having publicly supported heretical positions: the Pope is still Pope, but he is a heretical one. As long as he is not declared self-deposed as heretic, he is – unworthy as he is – still the chap in charge. He will be refused obedience, but we will have to leave it to Divine Providence to find a way to sort the mess out. It happened brilliantly after Honorius' death, but this was an outcome no one could foresee with certainly in the time we are, basically, living now: heretical pope goes on spreading heresy and appointing cardinals and is not stopped.
Let's say Francis dies ten months after being officially branded a heretic, having appointed (say) 30 cardinal electors before and 12 after the official declaration concerning his heresy. Will we all become Sedevacantists if these 42 Cardinals are allowed to participate to the next Conclave, or even only the 30? I can't imagine that. I will always keep seeing the Church in that organisation that is reasonable for a thinking man, supported by orthodox Catholic organisations, to see as the Church. When the SSPX tells me “twelve Cardinals and 50 Bishops are enough to declare a Pope self-deposed and elect a new one” I will believe it, but until that point I will keep seeing the Church, however polluted by heresy, as exclusively the official and apparent one.
And if – and when – the SSPX were to declare the the Pope is deposed and a new Pope is elected, then the new Pope would have the support of the strongest, most orthodox Catholic body in existence, with around 500 of the best priests you could find, people whose orthodoxy puts Cardinal Burke himself to shame.
But I will not condone, on this little effort of mine, claims of papacy supported by a handful of V II bishops or cardinals without the support of clear beacons of orthodoxy like the SSPX; an event, this “four cardinals and a few bishops meet and elect a Pope” thingy, that I consider extremely improbable in the first place.
We must do like the faithful in the times of the heretical, but still living Pope Honorius: pray for the Church, avoid taking refuge in splinter-MiniMe church fantasies, and trust the Lord that, in His own time, he will allow the Church to emerge from this mess with a strong orthodox Pope and an uninterrupted succession of validly elected Popes.
Unless Francis dies very fast or retracts, there is no way we can avoid posing ourselves extremely strange questions, as at this point even the refusal of the Cardinals to issue the correction would factually make of the Pope a heretic, by the mere fact of his obstinate silence when requested to uphold the truth of the doctrine. Therefore, we must prepare for a time of great trouble knowing that the Lord will never fail to clearly show to us where the Church – however corrupted – is. What we must not do is to decide for ourselves who is Pope and who isn't, lest we degrade ourselves to the level of those funny guys thinking that some chap has been made pope by, I don't know, ten people.
Pray, hope and, if possible, don't worry.
Oportet ut scandala eveniant.
The Church will survive this madness, too.