Increasing confusion: Cardinal Müller and Professor Buttiglione

Increasing confusion: Cardinal Müller and Professor Buttiglione

Roberto de Mattei
Translation by Francesca Romana
Corrispondenza Romana
November 2, 2017

Professor Rocco Buttiglione has been fighting for months against the critics of Amoris Laetitia in an attempt to justify the contents of Pope Francis’ Post-Synod Exhortation. Now he has gathered his articles in a book entitled: Friendly Answers to the Critics of Amoris laetitia, published by Ares, with a preface unexpectedly written by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller.

Andrea Tornielli reports in Vatican Insider a large extract of this introduction which adds to the present reigning confusion. The former Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, unlike Prof. Buttiglione, has always manifested a certain sympathy for the four “dubia” cardinals, but retains that to “neutralize” Amoris laetitia it would be better to interpret it in continuity with the teaching of the Church, rather than criticize it openly.

To explain the apparent contradiction between Amoris laetitia and the definite dogma of the Church on the Sacraments of Matrimony, Penance and the Eucharist, the Cardinal makes Rocco Buttiglione’s thesis the basis of his own, which is summed up in these two lines: “That which is in question is an objective situation of sin, which, because of attenuating circumstances, is not imputed subjectively”.

The problem would not then be that of the objectivity of the moral law, but of the “imputability” of the sinner, or of the subjective responsibility of his acts. The point of departure with this reasoning is not moral truth, for which, the moral imputabilty of an act, the subject would need to have committed it knowing freely what he was doing, or with full awareness and deliberate consent. The point of arrival, which transforms the truth into sophism is that the circumstances might annul the responsibility of those who find themselves in a situation of grave sin. In fact, according to Buttiglione, we cannot consider “imputable”, or guilty, those divorced and remarried who would want to change their life condition, but cannot do it, because of a concrete situation which determines their acts, rendering their free and conscious choice impossible. If, for example, a divorced and remarried couple have children whom they have to take care of, the dissolution of their cohabitation might jeopardize the future of these children.

Neither can they be asked to live as brother and sister, since it might have disastrous psychological and moral consequences for the couple and their children. In a case like this, it would be necessary to exercise prudent “discernment” and “mercy” should go as far as allowing cohabiters to receive Communion, even if their irregular situation does not satisfy the moral law.

The sophism derives from the fact that this reasoning has nothing whatever to do with Catholic doctrine on the imputability of acts and proceeds instead from “situation ethics” repeatedly condemned by Pius XII and John Paul II. “The distinctive mark of such ethics – explains Pius XII – is constituted by the fact that they are not based in any way on universal moral laws, such as the Ten Commandments, but on the actual, concrete conditions and circumstances, in which one must act, and according to which the individual conscience must judge and choose; this state of things is unique and valid once only for each human action. Thus the decision of the conscience, affirm those who sustain such ethics, cannot be ruled by ideas, principles and universal laws.” (Discourse to the World Federation for Young Catholic Women April 18 1952 )

“Full awareness” according to Catholic morality, does not mean that with one’s act there is a clear and explicit awareness of offending God in grave matter. If there was this awareness, it would add further malice to the sin. To sin mortally it’s enough to consent to behavior in itself opposed to the divine law in grave matter. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana, December 29th 1975, no 10). Every man in fact has the duty to know what is necessary for his own salvation. Ignorance on fundamental ethical truths, does not justify sins, but is in itself sin. In fact, John Paul II asserts “the truth is not found if it is not loved; the truth is not known if there is no desire to know it.” (General Audience August 24th 1983 no. 2).

The Magisterium from time immemorial, has condemned the affirmation “everything done in ignorance is devoid of any blame” (Council of Sens, June 2, 1140). Errors of Pietro Abelardo , DS 337/730). Non-imputability, complete or partial, is reduced thus to rare cases such as: drunkenness, dementia, psychic illness, hypnosis, dreams or half-sleep. In these cases the conditions of a free-act are missing, as the person’s control over the acts of his intellect or will is not possible.

On the other hand, as regards deliberate consent, to give moral character to our acts, imperfect consent is sufficient. All of our acts suffer external conditioning of various kinds (education, environment, social structures) just as they depend also on our genetic character or life habits (virtues and vices). Yet every act which does not occur through physical violence, and involves some knowledge, even partial, of the natural law, must be considered voluntary and imputable. Moral violence (exercised for example by the mass-media or by the diffusion of models of immoral conduct) does not do away with the voluntary nature of the act, since the consent of the will cannot be determined by any outside force to the will itself. For there to be full consent, it is sufficient that the will wants the act, independent of the conditions received. The act of the will is in fact interior and the interior act of the will can never be forced. (Ramón García de Haro, The Christian Life. A Course of Fundamental Moral Theology, Ares, Milan, 1995, p. 253).

True moral discernment furthermore, presupposes an objective norm of evaluation. For this, as another famous moralist observes, in judging the morality of an act it is necessary to start from the object and not the subject (Maussbach, Moral Theology, tr. It., Paoline, Rome, 1957, vol.II, pp. 310-311). For the goodness of an act it is necessary that it conform to the moral rule, according to three relations which constitute an inseparable unit: object, circumstance, end. For an act to be immoral, it is enough that one of these elements is evil, according to the principle bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu (Summa theologiae, I-IIae, q. 18, a. 4, ad 3). The historical or social circumstances may aggravate or attenuate the morality of an evil act, but do not change its intrinsic malice, short of denying the very existence of intrinsically evil acts [themselves].

Vertitatis splendor, reiterates the existence of “absolute morals”, whereas Amoris laetitia, even if not denying them in principle, de facto neutralizes them, by entrusting the evaluation of human acts to a discernment which subordinates the moral law to the subject’s conscience, rendering every act and every situation in itself unique and unrepeatable. Yet, “When it is a matter of the moral norms prohibiting intrinsic evil, there are no privileges or exceptions for anyone. (Veritatis splendor, n. 96). The observance of the moral law can involve difficulties, fears, anguish and interior conflicts. In these cases, however, in the history of the Church the real Christians don’t run around the moral law, through the shortcut of “non-imputabilty”, but make recourse to the invincible help of Grace: a word that seems to be unheard of to the defenders of Amoris laetitia .

When St. Thomas More was asked to accept Henry VIII’s adultery, the pressures that he had from his family, friends and the King himself, could have forced him into invoking the non-imputabilty of his apostasy. He chose, despite all, like the Christians of the first century, the road to martyrdom. A road the encyclical Vertitatis splendor traces with these words: “[…]the martyrs and, in general, all the Church’s Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense. By witnessing fully to the good, they are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is 5:20). (Veritatis splendor, nn. 91-93).

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3 comments on “Increasing confusion: Cardinal Müller and Professor Buttiglione

  1. [More confusion concerning Cardinal Muller from Hilary White at The Remnant]

    When Cardinal Muller was removed abruptly from his position as head of the CDF, the conservative Catholic world wailed that it was another case of a “good” prelate being got rid of. And it seems clear from the way it was done, and the way Francis treated Muller in general, that he was indeed got rid of. But his depiction by conservative writers as a beleaguered champion of Catholic orthodoxy persecuted by the regime for his faithfulness betrays a somewhat selective memory and short attention span. Ed Pentin has a long file of interviews and articles about Muller that clearly show his complete inability to make up his mind whose side he’s on.

    A quick examination of Muller’s interviews and statements reveal an irresolute and ultimately calculating mind of a man who is – so I am told by sources close to him – motivated mainly by a puerile desire to be approved of by the “cool kids” in the Vatican, on the one hand, and an unshakeable conviction of his own theological brilliance on the other.

    Most recently, on October 30th, Crux quoted him under the headline, “Cardinal Muller backs Pope Francis against critics of ‘Amoris Laetitia’” in which the former head of the CDF has at last climbed on board the Kasperian train on reception of Communion for unrepentant adulterers.

    Signaling furiously with the trendy FrancisChurch buzzwords and even trendier blithering incoherence, Muller writes that “mitigating factors in guilt,” can lead, couples in “an uncertain marital situation” through a “path of repentance” – always “accompanied” by an exquisitely sensitive confessor – to a point where the reception of Communion is no longer sinful. Presumably because adultery itself is no longer sinful. Or sacrilege either, I guess. Or something. Somehow the “new evangelization” is involved in this, though it’s unclear how exactly it makes adultery and sacrilege OK. Also, it’s very important to fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation, and as everyone knows, one can’t possibly go to Mass on a Sunday without receiving Communion.

    We hear again, as we did incessantly from the Kasperians at the Synods, about the hard case of the poor, poor woman who has been abandoned by the first husband, and who “finds no other way out than to entrust oneself to a kind-hearted person,” … with whom, I guess, she has also no choice but to have sexual relations. Because of kind-heartedness.

    Anyway, the result of this is a “marriage-like relationship” about which confessors have to be very careful not to say mean things. Or be too “extreme”. It’s very important for him to avoid a “cheap adaptation to the relativistic Zeitgeist,” on one side, and a “cold application of the dogmatic commandments and the canonical rules,” on the other. Because that could be too polarizing. And mean.

    And anyway, sins of the flesh aren’t the worst things ever. There are, like, “different levels” of gravity, you know? And, like, it depends on the type of sin, right? “Spirit’s sins” like spiritual pride and avarice and stuff, are worse than “sins of the flesh,” you know? Which are, like, only a result of “human weakness,” right?

    Apparently the real problem with this whole thing has been that the Kasperian kerfuffle has totally been blown way, way, WAY out of proportion, and the “polarization” it has caused has been “regrettable”. The question of Communion for divorced and civilly “remarried” Catholics, he said, has been “falsely elevated to the rank of a decisive question of Catholicism and a measure of ideological comparison in order to decide whether one is conservative or liberal, in favor or against the pope.”

    For years under Pope Benedict, Muller was engaged in an open war with the German episcopate who insisted that they were going to allow Communion for the divorced and remarried, no matter what Rome said, even threatening to go into schism if they didn’t get their way[2].

    Muller, with little backing from Pope Benedict – who appeared content to allow his CDF prefect and the Germans shout out their differences – and with outright opposition from Francis, did indeed strive to hold the line. The fact that Francis orchestrated the Synods to undermine him was certainly not his fault. And it is difficult to imagine anyone being in a worse position than he was at the time.

    But since then, Muller has demonstrated very little of his former grit, instead attempting from one day to the next to appease both sides. Reportedly removed from CDF – and of course lionized by “conservatives” – for his mild and equivocating opposition to Amoris Laetitia, Muller has gone back and forth in what can easily be seen as a desperate attempt to find friends in both camps. With this in mind one could be forgiven for not taking his October 30th essay too seriously.

  2. In fact, according to Buttiglione, we cannot consider “imputable”, or guilty, those divorced and remarried who would want to change their life condition, but cannot do it, because of a concrete situation which determines their acts, rendering their free and conscious choice impossible.

    We used to get a laugh out of such gibberish.

  3. Switched at birth: Mueller and Müller. What if they switched back?

    Special Counsel Müller: Ja, Hillary appears to have sinned, but she, Barack Obama, James Comey and Tony Podesta would have wanted to change their life condition, but couldn’t do it, because of a concrete situation which determined their acts, rendering their free and conscious choice impossible.

    CDF Head Bob Mueller: The pope is doing the best he can. It’s evil folks like Burke, Skojec, Lefebvre, and Weinandy who cause scandal and division and need to be excommunicated, or worse. I’m ordering Fr. Jim Martin to conduct a pre-dawn no-knock raid on Bishop Schneider, and to hand search him from head to toe.

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