Maike Hickson February 1, 2017
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has given a new interview in which he has made some comments with regard to the papal document Amoris Laetitia, and which may now be seen as an indirect response to the Four Cardinals’ own dubia.
Cardinal Müller spoke with the Italian journal Il Timone, and the interview was just published in the February issue of that journal. Dr. Sandro Magister, the Italian Vatican specialist, first reported on this interview and has today already published in English certain passages from that interview. Magister says that the German Cardinal had at first not responded to the dubia when they were sent to him directly, but, he adds:
To make up for this, however, now Müller is bringing clarity, and how [?], in an extensive interview that is coming out today [1 February] in the magazine Il Timone, conducted by editor Riccardo Cascioli and by Lorenzo Bertocchi. In the interview, the cardinal does not use the word dubia, but he says “apertis verbis” [with open words] precisely what the four cardinals were asking to have clarified. And he does not fail to lash out against those bishops who with their interpretive “sophistries” – he says – instead of acting as leaders for their faithful, are falling “into the risk of the blind leading the blind.”
In the interview, Cardinal Müller answers to the question as to whether there can be a contradiction between doctrine and personal conscience with a clear: “No, that is impossible.” He continues:
For example, it cannot be said that there are circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin. For Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for mortal sin to coexist with sanctifying grace. In order to overcome this absurd contradiction, Christ has instituted for the faithful the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation with God and with the Church.
With this quote, the Prefect for Doctrine rejects the confusing comments – stemming from Amoris Laetitia – which indicate just the opposite. Cardinal Müller insists that “Amoris Laetitia must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church”; and he adds that he does “not like it, it is not right, that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of [more subjective] understanding the pope’s teaching.”
This [more subjective individual way] does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine. The magisterium of the pope is interpreted only by him or through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the pope, this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church. To all these who are talking too much, I urge them to study first the doctrine [of the councils] on the papacy and the episcopate. The bishop, as teacher of the Word, must himself be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind.
In a 1 December 2016 interview, Cardinal Müller also insisted that the local bishop is strictly bound by the Church’s doctrine. This part of that interview, as we then said, unfortunately was – and still is – largely overlooked. We also recently reported that Cardinal Müller has recently again insisted upon that part of the post-synodal document Familiaris Consortio – paragraph 84 – which very clearly states that the “remarried” divorcees must live in permanent and sincere continence if they wish to access the Sacraments. This is what he also importantly repeats in this new interview, thereby answering some of the dubia himself:
Q: The exhortation of Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, stipulates that divorced and remarried couples that cannot separate, in order to receive the sacraments must strive [sic] to live in continence. Is this requirement still valid?
A: Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments. The confusion on this point also concerns the failure to accept the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor,” with the clear doctrine of the “intrinsece malum [intrinsically evil].”
Müller repeats what he has done before, namely he insists that not even a pope can change the substance of the Sacrament of Marriage:
For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.
Cardinal Müller then proposes that we study the doctrine of the Church more deeply, in order to avoid chaos and further confusion. He also rejects the use of sophistries with regard to marriage:
I urge everyone to reflect, studying the doctrine of the Church first, starting from the Word of God in Sacred Scripture, which is very clear on marriage. I would also advise not entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which, if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead. These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage. The task of priests and bishops is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity. One cannot refer only to little passages present in Amoris Laetitia, but it has to be read as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons. It is not Amoris Laetitia that has provoked a confused interpretation, but some confused interpretations of it. All of us must understand and accept the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, and at the same time be ready to help others to understand it and put it into practice even in difficult situations.
This new interview comes as a surprise, since Cardinal Müller only recently had rebuked the Four Cardinals for their publication of the dubia, thereby, he said, putting the pope under pressure to answer. He then also had said that there will be no public correction of the pope because “there is no danger to the Faith.” Moreover, he additionally had claimed that “Amoris Laetitia is very clear in its doctrine.”
Therefore, while Müller still essentially upholds this prior claim, he now implicitly and substantially rejects those parts of Amoris Laetitia which are causing much of the confusion (as he had done already in May of 2016). And he effectively thereby includes the newly presented episcopal guidelines, for example, the ones in Malta and in Argentina – all of which confusions were the cause for the dubia in the first place. It is to be hoped that this statement by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will bear, in some enduring way, good fruit for the sincere termination of these equivocating and demoralizing confusions