Vatican doctrinal chief: it’s not my job to engage in the dubia controversy

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CNS)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CNS)

by Staff Reporter at The Catholic Herald, posted Friday, 2 Dec 2016

Cardinal Gerhard Müller said the CDF could only speak with the authority of the Pope

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), has said that his role is not to participate in the controversy over the four cardinals’ letter to the Pope.

He has also indicated that he does not believe Church doctrine can change on Communion for the remarried.

In an interview with the German website Kathpress, Cardinal Müller said that the CDF’s role was to speak with the authority of the Pope, not to “participate in the controversy of opinion”.

He was answering a question about the dubia – that is, requests for clarification submitted to the Pope by four cardinals. They ask whether certain teachings of the Church, repeated in the last 35 years by Pope St John Paul II, are still valid. The Pope has not replied to the dubia since they were submitted in September.

It is common for the Pope to ask the CDF to answer such a request. Cardinal Müller said the Pope could do so in this case.

In the interview, Cardinal Müller said that the CDF’s 1994 letter to bishops was still Church teaching, and that Pope Francis’s recent document, Amoris Laetitia, had not altered anything in this regard.

The 1994 letter repeated the teaching of St John Paul’s 1981 exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which says that the remarried can only receive absolution, and therefore Communion, if they resolve to live “as brother and sister”.

The letter, which was signed by the then-CDF head Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and officially approved by St John Paul, says that the teaching of Familiaris Consortio applies without exception: “The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.”

In the wake of Amoris Laetitia, some bishops have suggested that the Church’s doctrine on divorce, remarriage and Communion might admit exceptions. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego has issued guidelines which say “the conscience of the discerner” should decide whether to receive Communion.

The 1994 letter, however, says that the decision should be taken in obedience to the Church’s teaching, which conscience cannot override. It states: “The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible.”

Cardinal Müller also downplayed the controversy over the dubia, saying that it was wrong to think of a power struggle: emphasis should be on “the victory of truth and not the triumph of power”, the cardinal said.


CP&S comment – Is this a form of hand-washing by Cardinal Müller of the sticky problem of the unanswered dubia? Or is it a strategic move from a true Cardinal of the Church not wanting to take on the responsibility for a Pope who could be trying to veer from the Catholic Faith’s dogmatic teaching? 

LifeSiteNews has also reported on this

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18 Responses to Vatican doctrinal chief: it’s not my job to engage in the dubia controversy

  1. ginnyfree says:

    More smoke and mirrors. I guess he’s taking pointers from his boss. They really don’t need specific permission from the Pope to respond to each piece of paper that crosses their desks. This is a classic dodge. If his portrayal of their process of evaluation of correspondence to and from their offices were actual, they’d never get anything done because they’d have to check with the Pope first before responding to everything. They’ve been given the Authority to act in His stead in all their works. Their autonomy and authority to act is a given. Without it, they’d cease to function. Each Congregation is given this ability. They don’t have to run their works past the boss, before they become official. I guess he expects us to agree and obey according to his re-visioning of his Congregation’s fundamental purpose and capabilities. If what he says is to be accepted as reality, it would fundamentally cripple his whole Congregation and turn it into a group of paper shufflers whose hands are tied and waiting for Pope Francis to happen to take and interest in any and all their potential works. It is kinda scary when you think about it. He’s surrendered the Congregation to a theocrat who will only approve of works on a case-by-case basis? This is a dangerous re-visioning of such a body as the Congregation is. Yeah. Think about boys and girls. It is scary. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  2. JabbaPapa says:

    They really don’t need specific permission from the Pope to respond to each piece of paper that crosses their desks

    Yes, but to be fair the text was not sent to the CDF.

  3. JabbaPapa says:

    Cardinal Müller has not commented on the dubia, quite rightly, because they were addressed to the Roman Pontiff, so that unless and until the Pope should decide to refer the matter to the CDF, it’s just not his business.

    However — what the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine has done is to provide yet another authoritative doctrinal clarification of Amoris Laetitia against the more ludicrous interpretations proposed by some :

    http://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/cdl-muller-affirms-church-teaching-on-marriage

    Cardinal Müller made known that the CDF speaks with papal authority — one of his reasons for not weighing in on Cdl. Burke’s letter unless asked directly by the Holy Father. At the same time he emphasized that AL “should not be interpreted as if the teachings of earlier Popes and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the subject were no longer binding.”

    As to leaving the matter of receiving Holy Communion up to the consciences of unrepentant adulterers, the 1994 statement cited by Cdl. Müller mandates, “Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching.”

    The 1994 document further iterated that St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” “confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.”

    HOW many more of these clarifications from the highest competent Authorities below the Pope will be required for certain persons to finally admit that YES the requested clarifications from the Holy See have in fact been provided and that YES they uphold the constant teaching of the Church ???

  4. johnhenrycn says:

    “How many more of these clarifications from the highest competent Authorities below the Pope will be required…”

    As many as it takes, JP, until our beloved and allegedly supreme rhetorician learns how to clearly communicate his ideas to people other than his factotums and your goodself who, I suspect, is on retainer as part his stand-up extemporaneous speech writing team. Here’s an amusing analysis of his modus operandi and yours: The Quandary of the Two Pope Francises.

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    Here’s an amusing analysis of his modus operandi and yours: The Quandary of the Two Pope Francises.

    Dunno why you insist on being so systematically snide towards me, but the analysis is wrong anyway. I don’t think its author actually even understands Rhetoric in the first place, and certainly the piece is packed with the sort of grossly dubious ideological claims that are antithetical to Dogma.

    his “winks” and “nods” about Communion for the divorced and the remarried have no authoritative status as Catholic teaching

    … and yet this individual insists in this regard of attributing various objective absurdities to the Pontiff, that do not actually belong to anything that he has said.

  6. johnhenrycn says:

    You took less than 10 minutes (18:41 – 18:51) to read, reflect on and respond to the Quandary article. If you had read it, you’d have seen that the author believes, on balance, that PF’s official documents and speeches exhibit “sobriety, thoughtfulness and fidelity to the great tradition of Catholic wisdom.” I don’t agree with that summation. I offered it in a spirit of equanimous colleagiality; but you’re too thick and/or wrapped up in your own opinions to see it.

  7. JabbaPapa says:

    You took less than 10 minutes (18:41 – 18:51) to read, reflect on and respond to the Quandary article

    And that’s “thick” on my part … how exactly ?

    you’d have seen that the author believes

    Sorry, but I simply don’t buy into that sort of “plausible deniability” — but then you’re probably too stupid and/or wrapped up in your nonsensical personal hostility to comment otherwise than in kneejerk disagreement with my comments.

  8. johnhenrycn says:

    “Kneejerk disagreement…?”
    Yeah, that’s true. I’ve got your number, pal:

  9. johnhenrycn says:

    It took me 20 minutes (21:08 – 21:28) – twice as long as it took you to digest and comment on the Quandary article – to figure out what you are and where you come from.

  10. johnhenrycn says:

    …actually, it’s been seven years since I first ran into you.

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    And you’ve been bombarding me with gratuitous claptrap (some letters in this word are unnecessary) during that entire time.

    Feel free to find yourself a better “hobby”.

  12. johnhenrycn says:

    These past seven years in my life since I started blogging – how to describe them?

    …and you’ve been such a big part of those times, JabbaPapa. God bless you.

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    I couldn’t give a fig however you might choose to spend the extra spare time you’d gain from discontinuing your ludicrous behaviour towards me.

  14. mmvc says:

    HOW many more of these clarifications from the highest competent Authorities below the Pope will be required for certain persons to finally admit that YES the requested clarifications from the Holy See have in fact been provided and that YES they uphold the constant teaching of the Church ???

    So, again, according to Jabba there’s nothing to see here. The four Cardinals with their Dubia (as well as their many supporters) in their ignorance triggered a storm in a teacup and in the process brought a heap of unnecessary ridicule and attack upon themselves from their liberal counterparts. Oh, and worst of all, these rigid certain persons had the audacity to seek answers from the Pope himself rather than second guess the second-in-command! If they don’t buck up and start modelling themselves on tolerant and flexible heroes like Camara and Häring, who knows, they really could risk losing their red hats!

  15. JabbaPapa says:

    according to Jabba there’s nothing to see here

    Sorry, completely untrue.

    The four Cardinals with their Dubia (as well as their many supporters) in their ignorance triggered a storm in a teacup and in the process brought a heap of unnecessary ridicule and attack upon themselves from their liberal counterparts

    Oh please.

    1) the dubia go far deeper into far more fundamental theological problems than just the situation of certain divorced-remarried in relation to the Sacraments

    2) bearing in mind the sarcasm and not taking it too seriously, nevertheless to suggest that I might somehow agree with the “liberal”-“progressives” who have unjustly attacked the Cardinals is simply ludicrous

    3) the very fact that the cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has now felt it necessary on three separate occasions to remind everyone of the constant teaching of the Church clearly demonstrates that yes, there clearly is a real problem in the minds of far too many people

    4) you seem to have completely missed the point that my rhetorical question “HOW many more of these clarifications from the highest competent Authorities below the Pope (etc) is directed principally against the “liberal”-“progressives” who are trying to claim that Amoris Laetitia has somehow “changed” the Dogma

  16. mmvc says:

    How silly of me not to realise that by ‘certain persons’ you meant the countless liberal progressives who avail themselves of the rich array of papal ambiguities, errors, blunders and flexible role models in order to champion their cause, rather than the four Cardinals and their supporters who sought clarification from the Pope!

  17. JabbaPapa says:

    Regardless how you interpret my points, mmvc, the fact remains that “communion for adulterers” is contrary to Catholic Dogma, and it has been denounced on multiple occasions throughout the Centuries, and that denunciation was repeated by Pope Francis during the Synod, and at least three times since by Cardinal Müller, and again more formally by the Vicar of Rome in his guidelines to the Roman Clergy. The Argentine Bishops, far from “supporting” it as some people very imprudently claimed, in fact denounced it as being particularly scandalous.

    Otherwise I literally have no idea how you can possibly have concluded that I was “attacking” the Cardinals, given that I have overtly expressed support for their action on more than one occasion — because it is clear that a significant degree of confusion has arisen among some of the Faithful, and it has reached a point where it needs some clarifications.

    (though I am quite pessimistic that clarifications when provided will actually be heeded by such people as write for the so-called “Remnant” ; given their seemingly willful inability to accept the clarifications already given)

    By “certain people” I meant to refer to all of those at the extremes, of whatever faction, who reject or denounce the proper Magisterial Authority and instead promote their own ideas against the Orthodoxy. It does not refer to any genuinely Faithful Catholics.

  18. kathleen says:

    JH @ 18:41 yesterday

    A very interesting link you gave – “The Quandary of the Two Pope Francises” – seeing as how it was a written by someone who likes Francis and wishes to give him the benefit of the doubt!

    However, even this well-intentioned author cannot hide, nor excuse the numerous and unrelenting stream of incidences where the Pope makes shocking, un-Catholic, and disparaging remarks in disparity to the Orthodoxy of the Catholic Faith.

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