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Tag Archives: Cardinal Muller

September 20th, 2017

Francis the ‘Dialoguing’ Dictator

As  I think I’ve said before, my favourite “conservative” as opposed to “trad” Catholic magazine is the American New Oxford Review. (By conservative I mean orthodox but with a tendency towards papal positivism. The  (formerly Anglican) NOR has always tried hard to approach the subject of   Pope Francis with an eye  (in its own words) to always giving him  benefit of the doubt, despite his “confusing statements, pontifical missteps, muddled theological writings and misguided initiatives”.

But now it has had enough. The latest issue which arrived a few days ago contains a hard-hitting editorial entitled “A Pontificate of Mercy—or a Merciless Pontificate?”  This is such an important piece that I am reproducing most of it here. It shows that it’s no longer just dyed-in-the wool traddies but mainstream Catholics who are fed up with  this cack-handed, bullying pontificate:

We respect the Petrine ministry and we respect the office, but that presupposes the man elected to that office respects the ministry too. The time has come to offer an unvarnished look at the fruits of this papacy and to suggest that we move beyond giving Francis the so-called benefit of the doubt. Frankly, doubt is no longer an issue. Four-and-a-half years of evidence shows that Francis has fomented division, preached politics over the Gospel, and conducted himself more like a South American strongman than a vicar of Christ. 

Leaving aside for now the theological hubbub and ensuing kerfuffle surrounding Francis’s controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, his accommodation and appeasement of Islam, his enigmatic comments on shared communion, his serial insults of orthodox Catholics, his equivocal statements regarding contraception ,and his wilfully vague and confusing comments to reporters at 30,000 feet, let’s simply look at the current state of the Church vis-à-vis Pope Francis and the Bergoglio Vatican. 

Longtime Francis watchers will know that, shortly after being elected, the Holy Father gave every indication that, as an outsider, he would “clean house” — ridding the Vatican of bureaucratic excesses, financial scandals, and the horrific sexual immorality among the Roman clergy, late lamented by Pope Benedict XVI. Although Francis has effected some much-needed streamlining of the Holy See’s offices, he has shown himself more intent on removing every last vestige of the St. John Paul II and Benedict eras, up to and including the Church’s commitment to life issues, defense of marriage, and support of believers who suffer persecution.

Add to that, in recent months, Pope Francis has championed Islam as a “religion of peace,” hammered Catholic Poland as a nation of xenophobes, supported the “fake” government-sponsored Catholic church in communist China, floated the idea of ordaining married priests and women deacons, and marginalized conservative prelates who question his pontifical trajectory or uncover inconvenient truths that might cast his ideological allies in an unflattering light.

Let’s look at personnel: Much has been made of the Pope’s ham-fisted treatment of Raymond Cardinal Burke, the U.S.’s premiere canon-law expert. After Burke publicly aired his “conservative” views on divorce and “remarriage” at the 2014 Synod on the Family, Francis summarily removed him as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, where he served as the highest-ranking canon lawyer in the Church, and reassigned (read: demoted) him to the obscure position of patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Earlier this year, Francis removed Burke even from this largely ceremonial post after Burke uncovered the order’s promotion of condom use in Africa. To make a long story short, Pope Francis came down on the side of the condom promoter, Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager, over the whistleblower, Cardinal Burke. Not to go unnoticed: Burke was one of the four cardinals who signed the dubia asking the Pope to clarify certain passages in Amoris Laetitia, which Francis has refused to do, either publicly or privately.

There’s more: For four years running, Pope Francis has passed up awarding the red hat to either of the longtime leaders of the archdioceses of Los Angeles and Philadelphia, two of the largest sees in the U.S., both of which are traditionally home to cardinals. L.A.’s José Gómez and Philly’s Charles Chaput, appointed to their posts by Pope Benedict, are widely known as faithful, orthodox prelates. Some Vatican watchers have tried to explain this away by citing Francis’s desire for a more diversified College of Cardinals and admitting that — to put it bluntly — the Holy Father doesn’t like Americans. 

That might explain why Francis has awarded cardinalates to prelates in obscure sees in far-flung parts of the world that have minuscule Catholic populations (relatively speaking), such as José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán of the diocese of David in Panama, Philippe Ouédraogo of the diocese of Ouahigouya in Burkina Faso, Patrick D’Rozario of the diocese of Dhaka in Bangladesh, Sebastian Koto Khoarai of the diocese of Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho, and Charles Bo of the diocese of Yangon in Myanmar, to name a few. But that doesn’t explain why Francis, after appointing Blase Cupich as archbishop of Chicago and Joseph Tobin as archbishop of Newark (New Jersey), immediately raised them to the College of Cardinals. 

Francis appointed Cupich to his post in September 2014 and named him a cardinal less than two months later, one day after Cupich’s installation as Chicago’s new archbishop. Francis named Tobin a cardinal in November 2016, just 12 days after appointing him archbishop of Newark. For the record, Newark has never been home to a cardinal, perhaps because a cardinal has always lived eight miles away in Manhattan. According to The New York Times, Tobin “is considered a friend and ally of Pope Francis in a potentially important spot in the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States not far from New York City, where Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan has been the face of American Catholicism in the nation’s media capital” (Jan. 6). More recently, the Times contrasted him with Dolan, noting that “Cardinal Tobin is emerging as a champion of progressive, center-left Catholics” (July 16). 

As for Cupich, not only is he an ardent Francis ally, the hyper-liberal National Catholic Reporter (NCR) said his appointment is symbolic of the Pope’s personal involvement in “reorienting the U.S. hierarchy after 35 years of seriously conservative, dogmatic appointments” (Sept. 25, 2014). Presumably, NCR and Pope Francis would lump Gómez and Chaput in the pile of “seriously conservative, dogmatic appointments” — in other words, orthodox in their views of the Church and her teachings. (By the way, it is just silly for NCR to speak of 35 years of conservative appointments, considering the extremely liberal cardinals Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Joseph Bernardin of Chicago were appointed during that time and became the two primary kingpins in recommending U.S. bishop appointments. That said, after Bernardin died and Mahony retired, the appointments did get more “conservative.”)

Make no mistake: Francis is politically astute. His modus operandi is to marginalize Benedict’s “conservative, dogmatic” picks and promote his own like-minded ideologues. Francis knows that, if nothing else, his appointees to the College of Cardinals will be hand-picking the next pope, and maybe the one after that. Those whom Francis passes over — the Chaputs and Gómezes of the Church — will be locked out of the conclave. This is the surest way for Francis to promote his legacy for decades to come. 

But Francis hasn’t stopped there. Oh no. He has extended his legacy-promoting plan by ridding the Vatican of other Benedict holdouts. In early July, Francis abruptly removed 69-year-old Gerhard Cardinal Müller as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Müller, whom Benedict appointed to the Church’s chief doctrinal post in 2012, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that Pope Francis “did not give him a reason” for his dismissal, “just as he gave no reason for firing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months earlier” (July 19). Müller also told Allgemeine Zeitung that the Pope justified his dismissal by claiming that he “no longer intends to prolong roles in the Curia beyond five years,” and that Müller was the first one to whom this practice has been applied (July 10). It is instructive to note that Müller’s dismissal came on July 2, the exact expiration date of his five-year term, and that prior to that date, it had been customary for the head of the CDF to continue in his post until he resigned or reached the age of retirement, which is 75. Why the change for Cardinal Müller? Francis won’t say, but it bears mention that Müller, serving as the Vatican’s top doctrinal watchdog, has been critical of Amoris Laetitia, instead upholding the Church’s traditional teaching on Holy Communion and divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Further, he cannot have won brownie points with Francis by criticizing the Pope’s cult of personality and the accompanying “sanctimonious papolatry” he says is rampant within the Vatican. In a nutshell, it seems that Müller is too “dogmatic” for a Bergoglio Vatican. Francis prefers sycophants in his service.

Are we really supposed to believe that the Pope is going to oust every Vatican prelate at the end of his five-year term? The ever-reliable Vatican watcher Sandro Magister of Italy’s L’Espresso has noted (July 10) that Francis has kept in place other curial officials whose terms have expired. Msgr. Pio Pinto, for example, despite being 76 years old (one year past the mandatory retirement age) and at the end of his five-year term as dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, remains in his position. Pinto, charged by the Pope to revise the annulment process in the Church, is a well-known Francis supporter. And then there’s Argentine cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of Oriental Churches, whose second five-year term has expired. He’s still there. Is he a big Francis supporter? Yep, you bet. 

The list goes on! Most notably, February 15 of this year brought the end of the second five-year term of one of the Pope’s closest collaborators, 79-year-old Francesco Cardinal Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Coccopalmerio published a book earlier this year defending Amoris Laetitia and promoting unmarried, cohabiting couples receiving Holy Communion. (Cardinal Cupich wrote the foreword to the English-language edition of the book, by the way.) Of course, Coccopalmerio is still in his position, despite his age, despite his double-term expiration, and despite a bizarre drug-sex scandal involving his secretary, Luigi Capozzi. Msgr. Capozzi, a 49-year-old canonist, was arrested by Vatican police this spring after they caught him hosting a cocaine-fueled homosexual orgy in the former Palace of the Holy Office — a mere 500 yards away from Francis’s Santa Marta residence. Lord have mercy! Accounts by Italian news service Il Fato Quotidiano, which broke the story months after the fact, reported that Capozzi, whom it described as an “ardent supporter of Pope Francis,” was so high on cocaine when arrested that he had to be hospitalized for detoxification (June 28). Interestingly, Capozzi’s arrest came on the verge of his appointment as a bishop — on the recommendation of Cardinal Coccopalmerio, who, incidentally, made news in 2014 by emphasizing, in an interview with the Italian Catholic website Rossoporpora, the “positive realities” of homosexual relationships. No, the cardinal hasn’t yet shared his thoughts on the possible “positive realities” of cocaine use.

As of this writing, Capozzi remains Coccopalmerio’s secretary. Further, in follow-up accounts of the coked-up gay orgy, a senior member of the Curia told veteran Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin that homosexual activity among the clergy in Rome has “never been worse” (National Catholic Register, July 8). According to the NOR’s boots-on-the-ground sources in Rome, the Vatican is filled with an active gay subculture that is flourishing under Pope Francis. Why? It just so happens that those who are members of this subculture are the Pope’s most ardent ideological supporters, in a certain sense “friends of Francis.” No wonder he tends to look the other way. (Il Fato Quotidiano reported that Francis knew all about Capozzi’s orgy and arrest, months before the story broke in the news, but has remained silent about it.)

Francis is also hard at work undoing the great pro-life work begun by John Paul II. This May, Francis dismantled and reconstituted the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life. He dismissed those, appointed by John Paul and Benedict, who believe abortion is an intrinsic evil, in favor of new members who aren’t so sure. In at least one case, the Pope appointed a pro-abortion theologian who has expressed support for euthanasia in certain circumstances. Francis began his initiative last November when he released new statutes for the academy that summarily ended the terms of 116 of its 139 members (23 of them were re-appointed). The revised statutes no longer require Francis’s new appointees to sign a declaration that they uphold the Church’s pro-life teachings. Among the new appointees who won’t be signing that declaration is Nigel Biggar, a professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford. Biggar has supported legal abortion up to 18 weeks and has expressed qualified support for euthanasia. And this man now represents the Vatican on life issues!

Founded by John Paul II in 1994, the academy is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic and carries out research in bioethics and Catholic moral theology. It has promoted and developed the Church’s teaching on medical ethics, including in-vitro fertilization, gene therapy, euthanasia, and abortion. Francis has now expanded the academy’s mandate to include a focus on the environment and street violence, giving Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” concept a further watering down.

For those wondering (1) why the Pope has summarily dismissed longtime, faithful, intelligent, and effective pro-life leaders around the world, and (2) why he wants to “refocus” the efforts of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the newly appointed head of the academy provides some insight. In an interview with Cruxnow.com (July 19), Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia — a close collaborator and ally of Pope Francis? but of course! — explained that the academy “now aims to be missionary in outlook…in collaboration with believers of other churches and faiths as well as non-believers.” The Pope’s new appointments include two Jews, a Muslim, an Anglican, and a number of those “non-believers.” Paglia went on to criticize the current Catholic pro-life movement, calling it ineffectual. “If I may say so,” he told Cruxnow.com, “there is a certain way of defending life that doesn’t defend it.”

And so, Francis is entrusting the pro-life mission to Archbishop Paglia, who presumes to know more about promoting the pro-life ethic (as redefined by Francis) than those dismissed from the academy, including philosopher Robert Spaemann of Germany, Maria Mercedes Arzú de Wilson of Guatemala, Christine de Marcellus Vollmer of Venezuela, Andrzej Szostek of Poland, Mieczyslaw Grzegocki of Ukraine, Jaroslav Sturma of the Czech Republic, and Etienne Kaboré of Burkina Faso, whom Sandro Magister describes as “perfectly in line with the positions of the African Church on marriage, family, and sexuality, seen at work during the last two synods” (L’Espresso, March 13). These are just some of the dismissed members, but the list illustrates how geographically diversified the former members of the academy were. What all the dismissed members have in common is that they ardently believe in the teachings of the Church on critical life issues. What many of the dismissed members have in common, according to Magister, is that “they have distinguished themselves in publicly criticizing the new moral and practical paradigms that have entered into vogue with the pontificate of Francis.” 

Have you noticed a pattern yet?

Interesting, isn’t it? Pope Francis has consistently removed those who dare to try to “dialogue” with him or who publicly criticize his initiatives, his offhand utterances, his publications, or his “moral and practical paradigms.” If you’re tempted to draw parallels between Francis’s managerial playbook and that of your run-of-the-mill 20th-century communist dictator, you wouldn’t be alone. Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan made the same comparison, likening the Bergoglio Vatican to the Soviet “regime” under which he was born, where those who didn’t “follow the line of the party” weren’t allowed a voice (LifeSiteNews.com, Dec. 6, 2016).

Certainly, in any institution, a case can be made for removing those in positions of authority who seek to undermine that institution through public words and actions. But it is important to note that, by and large, those who are being “silenced” in the Church of Francis are those who have consistently upheld and defended what the Church has always taught, not those liberal Catholics who have made a career of undermining those teachings in a very public manner.

One last point about personnel, and this one is arguably the most troubling of Pope Francis’s pontifical trajectories. One would think that, given the Pope’s penchant for naming cardinals throughout the world — even in traditionally non-Christian countries — he would readily accept the advice of Joseph Cardinal Zen when it comes to the Church in China. Zen was China’s first cardinal and a key adviser to Pope Benedict regarding China-Vatican détente. But now it seems that Francis is ignoring the longtime advocate of religious liberty in communist China. Back in 2014 Cardinal Zen warned Francis not to visit China, cautioning that he would be manipulated by the government, which controls the “officially recognized” church on the mainland and persecutes the Chinese Catholics who make up the Vatican-aligned “underground” Church. The government-sanctioned church includes illegitimate bishops, three of whom have been excommunicated by the real Church. Nevertheless, Pope Francis disregarded Cardinal Zen’s warning. In an interview with Spanish daily El País, the Pope stated in a very dramatic manner that he would like to go to China, and that he awaits his invitation. “In China, the churches are packed,” he said. “In China they can worship freely” (Jan. 24). 

Cardinal Zen knows there’s no truth to the Pope’s statement. The Catholic Church in China — the real Church — remains small and persecuted. In 2016 alone, five “underground” bishops from mainland China who had served time in prison or labor camps died either in prison or from health complications arising from their confinement. In 2016 the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom recommended that China be designated a “country of particular concern,” meaning it is one of the world’s worst violators when it comes to respecting the right to religious liberty. Are we to believe that Francis, the alleged Pope of the peripheries, is unaware of the realities in China, given the advice from Cardinal Zen and the widely available reports issued by international agencies?

In response to the Pope’s inaccuracies, Cardinal Zen said he feared that the Vatican, in its desperation to make a deal with China, would sell out the long-persecuted underground Church, the only legitimate Catholic presence in the communist country. The situation regarding religious liberty in China, Zen has said, is worse today than ever.

And now Pope Francis’s Vatican has indeed made an agreement with the Chinese government. Although Benedict stated that China has no legitimate Catholic bishops’ conference, the Holy See under Francis has given the initiative of choosing bishops to the so-called Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. This agreement amounts to giving an atheistic government the power to choose bishops for its state-sponsored church. 

Cardinal Zen has repeated Benedict’s insistence that no legitimate bishops’ conference exists in mainland China. “The whole thing is fake,” he explained in an interview with the Polish outlet Polonia Christiana (July 14). “I really cannot believe that the Holy See doesn’t know that there is no bishops’ conference! There is only a name. They never really have a discussion, meetings. They meet when they are called by the government. The government gives instructions. They obey.” Francis’s Vatican, continued Zen, is “too eager to dialogue, dialogue so they tell everybody not to make noise, to accommodate, to compromise, to obey the government. Now things are going down, down.” 

Clearly, Francis has his own ideas, regardless of what Pope Benedict might have said and despite Cardinal Zen’s warnings and the reports of violations of human rights and religious liberty from the international community. Pope Francis will plow determinedly ahead, with his sycophants at his side, just as he has done vis-à-vis his detractors in the hierarchy, even while preaching mercy, mercy, mercy and dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. But where exactly is the mercy for those with whom he disagrees? Where is the dialogue?

To recap: Pope Francis is making deals with the state-sponsored church in communist China, diluting the Church’s pro-life ministry, sidelining his critics in the hierarchy, and looking the other way when it comes to homosexual activity that takes place right under his nose (when those involved happen to be his ardent supporters). He has consistently demonstrated that he rejects orthodox Catholicism, a Catholicism that recognizes and respects the legitimate structures and devotional life of the Church — e.g., the parish, the priesthood, religious life, the liturgy properly celebrated, traditional devotions and devotionals, a faith life built on prayer, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and so on. 

A recent article in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper and often considered a “mouthpiece” of the papacy, illustrates well Francis’s attitude. The article, penned by Giulio Cirignano, an Italian Scripture scholar, asserts that the “main obstacle” to implementing Pope Francis’s vision for the Church is “closure, if not hostility” from bishops and priests. Fr. Cirignano believes that the laity understands and supports Francis’s vision, but those pesky bishops and priests keep getting in the way. Fr. Cirignano charges that “seriously conservative” and “dogmatic” clergymen are unfit for a 21st-century Church. He says, for example, that they hold to an “antiquated image of the priesthood,” one that sees the priest as the “boss” or a “sort of solitary protagonist”; that they are relatively uneducated, their “theological and Biblical preparation is often scarce”; and — wait for it — these “seriously conservative” priests and bishops subscribe to a kind of counterreformation theology that is “lacking the resources of the Word,” is “without a soul,” and has “transformed the impassioned and mysterious adventure of believing into religion,” resulting in a “limpid faith.” Yow!

It’s actually reassuring, assuming Fr. Cirignano is correct, to know that bishops and priests present the greatest obstacle to the implementation of Pope Francis’s program. Further, Fr. Cirignano has unwittingly revealed that the Pope just might be the one who considers himself a “sort of solitary protagonist,” that he is unwilling or unable to be collaborative, to listen to other authentic voices in the Catholic Church.

But we’ll give Francis this: His perseverance in reversing so many of the great strides made during the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI is impressive. For Francis, his pontificate has become about his geopolitical agenda, his scattershot efforts at “reform,” the installation of his comrades in high places, and the exercise of his own personal power. The aim of his pontificate seems to be to remake the Church in the idiosyncrasies of Jesuit-trained Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, son of an Italian communist. As Cardinal Zen said, “Now things are going down, down.” Perhaps that’s exactly Pope Francis’s intent. The question is: How much further will things descend?


May 6th, 2016

Becoming a Bad Rad Trad

          Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining    many, desire as it were to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies and in conformity with the open foes of our faith.St. Peter Canisius.

          You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds….What you cannot turn to good, you must at least make as little bad as you can.St Thomas More.

I recently received the latest (September-October 2015) issue of The Brandsma Review,  which proves, reassuringly,  that editor Peadar Laighléis is still struggling manfully to overcome his ongoing production problems.   The layout, I am sorry to say, is still dire, but there are some excellent and up-to-date articles—notably, as one would expect, by Joe McCarroll and David Manly on the Eighth Amendment and abortion. However, one glaring and regrettable omission is any mention  of what seems to be becoming one of the  most serious  crises the Church has ever faced.

I refer, of course to the Holy Father’s ongoing  attack on the Church’s Tradition, most notably in regard to matters of sexual morality, in Amoris Laetitia.  I have referred before to this failure to face facts  as “tiptoeing around the Argentine elephant in the living room”. If  The Brandsma Review is not going to face squarely up to this problem, then what other Irish outlet will?

Is Stramentarius  morphing into a Bad Rad Trad? Well, if so, that’s regrettable, but I really don’t see how it can be avoided.

October 14, 2014

Get Ready to Throw the Rotten Fruit

The news from the synod–or as much of it as those in charge  want us to hear–is not good at all. It is confusing and extremely depressing. What can we do? Well, I’ll give you two comments from people I trust, and follow them up with one of my own.

The first–as you might expect–is from Fr John Hunwicke of the  Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:

I read the document which recently emerged from Rome with increasing disbelief. “Is this some sort of joke?” I wondered. I checked in my diary that the date was not April 1.

What has reassured me is the uproar among the Synod Fathers which followed its publication. One friend has described the Synod as a latrocinium. [He means a “robber council” of the kind which has occurred once or twice in the history of the Church–Stramentarius.] I think this is quite the wrong end of the stick. I don’t think it is “disloyal”  for a Catholic to say that the Holy Father was very poorly advised by those who suggested to him some of the names to be involved in spinning the Synod’s deliberations to the world. And also by those … probably the same lot … who put into his head the idea of making the thing secret. But they have been unable to get away with it. Powerful heads are well above the parapet. The first sign of the impending storm was when Cardinal Mueller made robustly and publicly clear his disagreement with the policy of secrecy. Cardinal Mueller is an able and acute man. He has realised that the Holy Father’s appeal to the Synod Fathers to speak with parrhesia  [that is, saying exactly what they think–Stramentarius] is a factor that can apply in more than one direction. And he is, like Miss Jean Brodie, in his prime. I do not think it will be easy for the malign interests in Rome to sideline him as their fathers did the ailing Cardinal Ottaviani. I will be surprised if heterodox plotters succeed in their attempted coup in the way that those earlier plotters did during the Sessio prima of the Council.

I do not think that “going to the SSPX” is a surefooted option ecclesiologically. What does the Society say about itself? That it is a canonically erected society within the Catholic Church with a certain very important charisma. It does not even claim to be some sort of separate, more “pure” Church than the Church herself. By its own constitution, none of its bishops possesses or claims to possess episcopal jurisdiction. “Going to the SSPX” doesn’t put you behind some sort of Starwars shield which will protect you from incoming missiles. It simply gives your enemies the opportunity of claiming that you always were schismatically inclined. In other words, it blunts your witness.

Catholics have a canonical right to make their concerns known to their pastors, especially to their bishops.

The Sovereign Pontiff himself would wish you to express yourself with parrhesia.

The second comment is from pro-life journalist Hilary White. She works in Rome, and  has an excellent blog called Orwell’s Picnic.,

Gravity works, doesn’t it? It always works all the time. Same with maths. Numbers always turn out the same no matter how you put them together on a page. Logic is the same kind of thing; a syllogism will tell you a true conclusion if you follow its rules, starting with true premises.

If you head off in a particular direction and keep walking along the same path for a long time, if nothing stops you, you will eventually reach your destination.

Fifty  years ago, the Second Vatican Council started the Church off in a direction it was never supposed to go. Many, many people followed along in good faith, assuming that the people in charge knew what they were doing. But a smaller number of others sounded a warning, saying that the direction leads to a deadly falls.

Well, now we are seeing the roaring falls that we have been hearing, and largely not heeding, for all this time. There is still time, of course, to start rowing back and return to the true course. The closer we come to the falls, the harder it will be, but it can still be done.

The only problem is that most of the people we have in charge of the boat are paddling for the falls as hard as they can.

What happens in the next week will be crucial. There are, reportedly, a lot of people in the Synod hall who do not agree with this direction. They now have a sacred duty to make it clear that we do not have to go in this direction, that to do so is disaster. Do they have the strength to force the boat backwards now that the falls is in sight? Do they even have the vision clear enough to understand where we went astray in the first place?

I don’t know. I only know that this is the wrong direction, and I don’t have to follow. Even if I am the only one, I don’t have to go over the falls with them. I seem to have been standing on the shore with my friends shouting at the people in the boat, trying to warn them. But they do seem to be getting further and further away, and the roar of the falls is now so loud, that I wonder if they can hear us at all.

What can I add?.  Well, the liberals always like to quote Cardinal Newman on the importance of consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine, as though one could somehow ascertain the truth from listening to unashamed contraceptors and other dissenters.   No, as the late Doris Manly pointed out, Blessed John Henry meant consulting the faithful–not the unfaithful. However, the  Second Vatican Council got the emphasis right when it reminded us that one of the early church fathers, St  Vincent of Lerins, did teach that the whole body of faithful Catholics, in their cultivated sense of the faith, are one of the guarantors of the church’s teaching authority.

If those governing the Church start saying, or even implying,  things plainly contrary to the words of Our Lord in order to ingratiate themselves with the world, as they appear to  be about to do now on the question of   the indissolubility of marriage, it will be the duty of us layfolk  to defy them–if necessary, to rebuke them publicly.  The trouble is , though, that  Catholics conditioned by the last 50 years of life in the church can’t cope with the idea that a pope or a papally-approved Synod might issue a “policy” that flatly contradicts church teaching.  Many good people would just regard it as a new party line, or even make themselves believe, absurdly,  that the new policy was always the church’s real policy. But we don’t have to go along with this rubbish: the church has got things wrong before. For instance, the Council of Sirmium ,  later condemned, made compromises with the Arian heresy.

So store up the rotten fruit: you may need it to fling at some treacherous mitred heads (metaphorically, of course, and with parrhesia!). 

September 24, 2014

Divorce and Communion–the Impossible Dream
There has been a vast amount of speculation in the secular and liberal Catholic media  that the forthcoming Synod on the Family might  somehow relax the Church’s teaching in relation to marriage and the Eucharist. I’m indebted to Fr Brendan Purcell for drawing my attention to this interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which the Cardinal spells out with great clarity just why the Catholic Church can never admit  anyone validly married, divorced and then “remarried” to Holy Communion.  I hope that any readers who missed this interview–as I did–will find Cardinal  Müller’s remarks reassuring.

Question: Public opinion in recent months has been very concerned about the problem of divorced and remarried persons. It has gone so far as to call into question the criterion established in Familiaris consortio, which in number 84 says: “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” Starting from a certain interpretation of Scripture, patristic tradition, and magisterial documents, some recent commentaries have hinted that it is time to propose an updated version of Familiaris consortio. What position should we take with regard to this? Is it possible to hope that there might be a change of doctrine in this matter? But above all (to formulate the problem more clearly and proactively): Is there any concrete way to accommodate divorced persons who have entered a new civil union?

Cardinal Müller: Not even an ecumenical council can change the doctrine of the Church, because her Founder, Jesus Christ, entrusted the faithful preservation of his teachings and doctrine to the apostles and their successors. The Gospel of Matthew says: “Go and teach all people everything that I commanded you” (cf. Mt 28:19–20), which is nothing if not a definition of the “deposit of the faith” (depositum fidei) that the Church has received and cannot change. Therefore the doctrine of the Church will never be the sum total of a few theories worked out by a handful of theologians, however ingenious they may be, but rather the profession of our faith in revelation, nothing more and nothing less than the Word of God entrusted to the heart—the interiority—and the lips—the proclamation—of his Church.

We have an elaborate, structured doctrine about marriage, all of it based on the words of Jesus himself, which must be presented in its entirety. We encounter it in the Gospels and in other places in the New Testament, especially in the words of Saint Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians and in Romans. We also rely on tradition, with many writings and reflections of the Fathers of the Church, such as those of Saint Augustine. These are joined by the particular development that Scholasticism and the Magisterium made in the Councils of Florence and Trent. Lastly, a final stage in the progressive exposition of dogma is magnificently expressed for us inLumen Gentium and, above all, in Gaudium et Spes (nos. 47–51), which are a complete synthesis that the Second Vatican Council made of the Church’s entire doctrine on marriage, including the question about divorce also.

In this regard, the Church cannot allow divorce in the case of a sacramental marriage that has been contracted and consummated. This is the dogma of the Church. I insist: the absolute indissolubility of a valid marriage is no mere doctrine; rather, it is a divine dogma defined by the Church. In the case of a de facto break-up of a valid marriage, another civil “marriage” is not permissible. Otherwise, we would be facing a contradiction, because if the earlier union, the “first” marriage, or, more precisely, the marriage, really is a marriage, the other later union is not a “marriage.” In this regard, I think we are playing with words when we speak about a first and a second “marriage”. A second marriage is possible only when one’s legitimate spouse has died or when the previous marriage has been declared invalid, whereby the preceding bond has been dissolved. Otherwise, we are dealing with what is called an “impediment of the bond.”

There are many respectable authors, renowned for their prestige in theology and canon law, who at present warn about the danger of simplifying or even adulterating these teachings. In this connection, I want to emphasize that in 1994, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the congregation over which I now preside, with the approval of then-Pope Saint John Paul II, had to intervene expressly in order to reject a hypothesis that had appeared (the one that you set forth in your question).

At the root of the question you pose, and beyond any apparent theological dispute, we must keep in mind that we are addressing a problem that casts doubt on the fact that it is necessary for the Church always to remain faithful to the doctrine of Jesus, whose words in this regard are absolutely clear.

This does not prevent us, however, from speaking, as we must, about the problem of the validity of many marriages in the present context of secularization. We have all attended a wedding at which you could not tell whether the intention of the couple contracting marriage really was to “do what the Church does” in the rite of matrimony! In theory, we all know the criteria or classical conditions for being able to contract marriage; especially that the will to consent not be vitiated but rather should be free and that there be sufficient personal maturity. Nevertheless, this current situation described earlier makes us reflect, and, as pastors, we are worried about the fact that many people who contract marriage are formally Christians, since they have received baptism, but are not practicing the Christian faith at all; not just liturgically, but also existentially.

Benedict XVI issued an insistent call to reflect on the great challenge posed by baptized non-believers. Consequently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took up this concern of the pope and set a good number of its theologians and other collaborators to work on the problem of the relation between explicit and implicit faith. What happens to a marriage when even implicit faith is lacking in it? It is certain that when implicit faith is absent, even though it was celebrated libre et recte [with free consent and with the proper form], it could be that it was invalid. It leads us to think that besides the classical criteria for declaring the invalidity of a marriage, it is necessary to reflect more on the case in which the spouses exclude the sacramentality of marriage. At the moment we are still in the process of working, with calm but persistent reflection, on this matter. I think that it would not be good to propose hasty conclusions, since we have not yet found a solution, but this does not prevent me from pointing out that in our congregation we are making great efforts to give a correct answer to the problem posed by implicit faith in the contracting parties.

Question: So that if the subject were to exclude the sacramentality of marriage, just as if one were to exclude children, for example, at the moment of the wedding, this could also make the contracted marriage null. Is this what is being studied . . .?

Cardinal Müller: Faith is an essential part of the sacrament. Nevertheless, we have to clarify the juridical question posed by the invalidity of the sacrament because of an obvious lack of faith. A famous canonist, Eugène Corecco, used to say that the root of the problem is specifying the degree of faith necessary to bring about sacramentality. The classical doctrine assumed a minimalist position, requiring a merely implicit intention: “to do what the Church does”. Corecco added that in today’s globalized, multicultural, and secularized world, where the faith is something that cannot simply be taken for granted, it becomes necessary to require a more explicit faith of the contracting parties, if we really want to save Christian marriage. Nevertheless, I emphasize again that this question is still being studied. To establish a valid and universal criterion in this regard is not a trivial question. In the first place, because persons are constantly developing, in matters pertaining both to the knowledge they acquire over the years and also to their faith life. Learning and faith are not static data! Sometimes at the moment when marriage is contracted, a person was not a believer; but it is also possible that a conversion process took place in his life, through which he experienced a sanatio ex posteriori [a “healing” or validation after the fact] of what was a serious defect of consent at the moment when it was given.

I want to insist, however, that when we are dealing with a valid sacramental marriage, in no way is it possible to dissolve that matrimonial bond: neither the pope nor any other bishop has the authority to do so, because this reality is not their concern but, rather, belongs to God.

Question: In this same context, there is talk about giving spouses the option to “redo their lives”. What are the underlying assumptions of this question? Is it a good approach to the problem? Most importantly: If the revelation of God was constantly bound up, both in the Old and in the New Testament, with the nuptial mystery and with a certain concept of the reality of marriage, what implications would that have for the faith? Within this same framework, it has also been said that the love between Christian spouses can “die”. I ask myself: Can a Christian really use this expression? Is it possible for the love between two persons united by the Sacrament of Matrimony to die?

Cardinal Müller:These theories are radically wrong, because they refer terminology that may be true about the life of the spouses to the life of their love. One cannot declare a marriage defunct with the excuse that the love between the spouses has “died”. Contrary to what many people claim today, in a not disinterested way, love is something more than a feeling. Love is the will that a person has to share his life with another and, above all, to give himself to her. Marital indissolubility does not depend on human feelings, whether they are permanent or transitory. This property of marriage was willed by God himself. The Lord has become involved in a marriage between a man and a woman, and for this reason the bond exists and originates in God. This is the difference.

The proposal to which you refer is in itself yet another expression of the grave secularization of marriage. But basically it is an instance of “begging the question” (petitio principii). In reality, only the death of a spouse dissolves the bond of a sacramental marriage. And I am not referring to death in a metaphorical sense. The reason for this is that the marriage is not only a merely human reality; it is a transformed human reality. The kind of marriage desired by Christ is a sacrament; it is a visible representation of the transforming grace that has created a new reality that did not exist before. In this regard, we must consider that the indelible character of baptism, confirmation, or priestly ordination does not disappear, either, when the Catholic who has received the sacrament distances himself from the Church or from his priestly commitments. Theological tradition speaks in this connection about a “quasi-sacramental character” in matrimony, because a person is permitted to contract a new marriage after the death of the spouse, but not while the spouse is alive.

In its intrinsic supernatural reality, marriage includes three goods: the good of exclusive, personal, reciprocal fidelity (the bonum fidei), the good of welcoming children and educating them to know God (the bonum prolis), and the good of the indissolubility or indestructibility of the bond, the permanent foundation of which is the indissoluble union of Christ and the Church, which is sacramentally represented by the marriage (the bonum sacramenti). This is why, although a limited abrogation of the physical communion of life and love is possible, the so-called “separation from bed and board,” for a Christian it is not lawful to contract a new marriage while the first spouse is alive, because the legitimately contracted bond is perpetual. The indissoluble matrimonial bond corresponds in a way to the character (res et sacramentum) imprinted in baptism, confirmation, and holy orders.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller is prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Formerly the Archbishop of Regensberg and a professor of theology, he is president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Communion.  Acknowledgments to the magazine First Things, which published this extract from a forthcoming book from Ignatius Press, entitled Will Catholic Teaching on Marriage Change?