This is big:

A group of cardinals – including some of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church – have written to Pope Francis telling him that his Synod on the Family, now meeting in Rome, has gone badly off the rails and could cause the church to collapse.

Their leaked letter, written as the synod started, presumably explains why a few days ago the Pope suddenly warned against ‘conspiracy’ and reminded the cardinals that he, and only he, will decide the outcome of the synod.

This is the gravest crisis he has faced, worse than anything that happened to Benedict XVI, and he knows it.

Here is the text of the alleged letter. But now, this update from the Spectator‘s Damian Thompson:

Update: As I write this (3.20pm Monday) various cardinals have said they didn’t sign the letter, some of them waiting several hours before distancing themselves from it. Now Erdö says he didn’t sign it. It’s extremely hard to get at the truth. ‘Not signing’ can mean a number of things, ranging from an outright false claim that a cardinal supported the letter to panicky backtracking by cardinals who did assent to it but are grasping at the technicality that they didn’t personally append their signature. But the damage to the synod is done.

Crux reports:

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to comment at Monday’s press briefing, saying that since it was a letter supposedly for Pope Francis, “it’s up to him to choose what to say about it.”

But he did say that two of the reported signatories had denied signing the letter. And then, as the briefing was underway, a third issued a similar denial. Later, a fourth also denied involvement to Crux.

The cardinals who said they didn’t sign the letter are Péter Erdõ, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, Hungary, and relator general of the synod; Mauro Piacenza of Genoa, Penitentiary Major at the Vatican; Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, and André Armand Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris.

More from Crux:

A source told Crux, however, that the letter does exist, but that Pell’s involvement was overstated.

The source, a senior participant in the synod who asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said the content of the letter as described by Magister also was incorrect, as was the list of signatories.

He did confirm, however, that there is a letter addressed to the pope from a number of cardinals, but declined to elaborate on its contents.

What is happening? Are they losing their nerve? Did some conservative do this to sabotage the Synod? What is going on?

Who is governing the Church?