Dubia: Cardinal Müller vs. Cardinal Burke? Cardinal Caffarra vs. Cardinal Müller?
Interviewed on January 7, 2017, by the Italian television network Tgcom24, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declared that the “formal correction” of the Pope on the subject of Amoris laetitia demanded by Cardinal Raymond Burke (see DICI no. 345 dated November 25, 2016, http://www.dici.org/en/news/reactions-to-the-four-cardinals-request-to-… ), was not possible “at this time”. Indeed, the German prelate thinks that, since Amoris laetitia is “clear” in its doctrine, there is “no danger to the faith”; and his expresses his disapproval of the publication of these dubia. “It is a shame for the Church to discuss these things publicly,” he said. –When the Church has been promoting dialogue for 50 years and everything has become a topic for discussion and been called into question, as the recent synods have amply demonstrated, there is a certain piquancy to this remark!
Earlier, in the December 16 issue of the Passauer Neue Presse, reprinted on the website of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Müller had stated that Amoris laetitia was in continuity with Church teaching on marriage, neither calling this sacrament into question nor making “Catholic divorce” possible in any case. He also expressed his view on the case of the four cardinals who sent their dubia to the Pope, saying that he saw in that the danger of useless polarization and of polemics that would be harmful to Church unity.
Nevertheless, Cardinal Müller was not always of that opinion, and Edward Pentin, the Vaticanist of the National Catholic Register, had no trouble recalling, on January 9, that “the CDF had clear misgivings about the document [Amoris laetitia] before it was published—concerns which were never heeded. One informed official recently told the Register that a CDF committee that reviewed a draft of Amoris Laetitia raised dubia ‘similar’ to those of the four cardinals,” which Cardinal Müller is disowning today.
Edward Pentin recalls also that Jean-Marie Guénois, in Le Figaro (April 8, 2016), had revealed that the same Cardinal Müller had tried to amend the text on the eve of its publication, by submitting 20 pages of corrections, none of which seems to have been included in the final version of Amoris laetitia.
On January 9, 2017, in an interview granted to Michael Matt of The Remnant, Cardinal Burke responded to Cardinal Müller by reaffirming that Amoris laetitia is in fact dangerous and that there will have to be a formal correction if the Pope does not respond to the dubia. The American prelate said, to paraphrase: “I do not fear losing my rank as cardinal; I fear God’s judgment.”
In the Italian newspaper La Verità (January 11), Cardinal Burke was anxious to explain that a possible “formal correction” would not be an “ultimatum”, but he stated again that with Amoris laetitia “the faith is in danger,” because “the confusion in the Church is obvious.”
“Great confusion that only a blind man can deny”
On January 14, in Il Foglio, one of the four signers of the dubia, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop emeritus of Bologna, granted an interview to the Italian journalist Matteo Matzuzzi, two important excerpts from which can be read below. Emphasis is by the editor of DICI.
Cardinal Caffarra: What prompted us to take this action (to send our dubia about Amoris laetitia to the Pope)? A general or structural consideration and a contingent or circumstantial one. Let us start with the first. We cardinals have the grave duty to advise the Pope in governing the Church. It is a duty, and duties oblige. More contingent, in contrast, is the fact—that only a blind man can deny—that there is in the Church great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity caused by certain paragraphs in Amoris laetitia. Recent months have seen, on fundamental questions that concern the sacramental economy (marriage, confession and the Eucharist) and the Christian life, some bishops saying A and others the contrary of A, while intending to interpret the same texts correctly. And that is an undeniable fact, because facts are stubborn, as David Hume said. The way out of this “conflict of interpretations” was to resort to fundamental theological criteria of interpretation, thanks to which I think that we can reasonably show that Amoris laetitia does not contradict Familiaris consortio. Personally, in my public meetings with laymen and priests, I have always followed this path.
But that has not been enough, the Archbishop emeritus of Bologna observes.
We have noticed that this epistemological model was not sufficient. The discrepancy between these two interpretations persisted. There was only one way to deal with them: to ask the author of the text that was now interpreted in two ways which was the right interpretation. There is no other way. But then there was the problem of how to address the Supreme Pontiff. We chose a way that is quite traditional in the Church, what we call the dubia.
Because this is an instrument which would not have demanded lengthy, elaborate responses from the Holy Father if he had been willing to respond by exercising his supreme judgment. He merely had to answer with a “yes” or a “no”. And then to cite approved authors (in technical jargon: probati auctores), as the pope have often done, or to ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to produce a joint statement to explain the “yes” or the “no”. It just seemed the easiest way. The other question that arose was whether to do this privately or publicly. We reflected and agreed that making everything public immediately would show a lack of respect. And so, it was done in private; only when we were certain that the Holy Father would not answer, did we decide to go public.
That is one of the most debated points, which unleashed the polemics. Recently Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the former Holy Office, expressed his judgment that the publication of the letter was a mistake. Cardinal Caffarra explains himself:
We interpreted the silence of the Pope as permission to continue the theological debate. Moreover, the problem has implications for the Magisterium of the Bishops (who, let us not forget, exercise it not as delegates of the Pope but in virtue of the sacrament that they have received), and also for the life of the faithful. Both have the right to know. Many faithful and priests were saying: “But in a situation like this, you cardinals have the obligation to intervene with the Holy Father. Otherwise, for what reason do you exist if not to assist the Pope in such grave questions?” Scandal started to spread among the faithful, as though we were behaving like the dogs that do not bark that the prophet speaks about. This is what was behind those two pages.
But the critiques have come pouring in, even on the part of your brother bishops or fellow prelates in the Curia.
Some people keep saying that we are not obedient to the Magisterium of the Pope. This is false and calumnious. We wrote to the Pope precisely because we do not want to be disobedient. I can be obedient to the Magisterium of the Pope if I know what the Pope teaches in matters of faith and the Christian life. But that is precisely the problem: on fundamental points we do not understand clearly what the Pope teaches, as is demonstrated by the conflict of interpretations among bishops. We want to be obedient to the Pope’s teaching, but the Pope’s teaching must be clear. None of us wanted to “force” the Pope to respond: in a letter we spoke about his “supreme judgment”. We asked our questions simply and respectfully. Finally, the accusations of trying to divide the Church are not worth dwelling on. The division which exists already in the Church is the cause of this letter, not its effect. On the other hand, what is truly unworthy in the Church, in the context that I have just mentioned, are the insults and the threats of canonical sanctions.
In the preamble of your letter to the Pope, you note “serious uncertainty among many faithful and great confusion concerning questions that are very important for the life of the Church.” In this specific case, what do the uncertainty and confusion consist of?
I received a letter from a parish priest which is a perfect picture of what is happening. He wrote to me: “In spiritual direction and confession, I no longer know what I should say. To the penitent who tells me: ‘I am living in a marriage with a divorced woman and now I go to Communion,’ I propose a path to correct this situation. But the penitent stops me and abruptly answers: ‘But, Father, the Pope said that I could receive the Eucharist without resolving to live in continence.’ I can no longer deal with this situation The Church can ask me anything but not to betray my conscience. And my conscience opposes an alleged teaching of the Pope that would admit to the Eucharist, in certain circumstances, those who are living more uxorio [as husband and wife] without being married.” That is what this priest wrote. The situation of many pastors, especially of parish priests (the Cardinal notes) is this: they find themselves with a weight on their shoulders that they are not capable of carrying.
This is what I think of when I speak about uncertainty. And I talk about parish priests, but many lay Catholics are even more helpless. We are not talking about secondary matters. We are not discussing whether or not fish breaks a Lenten fast. These questions are extremely important for the life of the Church and for the eternal salvation of the faithful. Let us never forget: the eternal salvation of the faithful is indeed the supreme law in the Church. Nothing else. Jesus founded His Church so that the faithful might have eternal life and have it abundantly....
But is there still room today for so-called “intrinsically evil” acts? Or maybe is it time to consider the other side of the scales, the fact that everything, in God’s sight, can be forgiven?
Be careful: This causes major confusion. All sins and intrinsically evil choices can be forgiven. Therefore “intrinsically evil” does not mean “unforgivable”. Incidentally, Jesus is not content to say to the adulterous woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” He tells her also: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10). Saint Thomas, based on Saint Augustine, gives a very beautiful commentary when he writes: “He could have said: ‘Go and live as you like and be sure of My forgiveness. Despite all your sins, I will liberate you from the torments of hell.’ But the Lord, who does not love or encourage sin, condemns the sin by saying: ‘Sin no more.’ Thus it is apparent how tender the Lord is in His mercy and how just in His Truth.” (Commentary on John, 1139). We are truly—and not just in a manner of speaking—free in the presence of the Lord. And hence the Lord does not cast us out from His forgiveness. There has to be a marvelous and mysterious marriage between the infinite mercy of God and the freedom of man who must convert if he wants to be forgiven....
(Sources: cath.ch/katholisch.de/NCRegister/Remnant/Verità/Foglio – DICI no. 348 dated January 20, 2017