The arrival of a theologian like Benedict XVI in the Chair of St. Peter was no doubt an exception. But John XXIII was not a professional theologian. Pope Francis is also more pastoral and our mission at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to provide the theological structure of a pontificate.
More than two months ago, the CDF and Prefect Müller were presented with the now infamous dubia consisting of five extraordinarily basic yes/no questions that address matters so entirely fundamental to the faith as to represent, not just points of “theological structure,” but the very foundation upon which the entire moral edifice of the Holy Catholic Church is constructed.
And what has Müller and the CDF provided in return?
Nothing, that is, until last Thursday when the Prefect chose to break his silence via yet another media interview; this one with the Austrian outlet Kathpress.
Writing on the content of the interview, Deacon Nick Donnelly of EWTN Great Britain, reported:
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has told Kathpress that the dicastery charged with upholding the Faith of the Church would not be involved in the discussions because it acts and speaks “with the authority of the pope” and “cannot participate in the controversy of opinions.”
Cardinal Müller further explained that though the dubia were personally addressed to the Holy Father, Pope Francis could commission the CDF to “settle the dispute ad hoc”.
Wait just a minute…
First of all, the letter that accompanied the dubia is addressed:
To His Holiness Pope Francis and for the attention of His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller
If this doesn’t constitute a direct plea to Cardinal Müller, requesting him to do his duty as Prefect, I don’t know what would.
Secondly, the proper duty of the CDF, like that of every other Congregation in the Roman Curia, does not change according to the current Pontiff’s daily mood swings. Rather, the duties of the various dicasteries are formally documented; in the present case, in the 1988 Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus:
The proper duty of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the whole Catholic world; so it has competence in things that touch this matter in any way … To safeguard the truth of faith and the integrity of morals, the Congregation takes care lest faith or morals suffer harm through errors that have been spread in any way whatever. (Pastor Bonus, Articles 48,51)
The CDF “has competence” to safeguard “faith and morals” by preventing errors “spread in any way whatever.”
In any way whatever…
NB: There is no special exception for errors promulgated throughout the Universal Church by a madman bishop in white posing as an oracle for the “God of Surprises.”
All of that having been said, Gerhard Müller – a man who ties his shoes the same way you and I do – has an obligation before Almighty God to speak out, loudly and clearly, in defense of the truth; with or without a personal invitation.
That he also happens to be Cardinal and Prefect makes his failure to do so all the more deplorable.
According to Deacon Donnelly, Müller told Kathpress that Amoris Laetitia should not be “interpreted as if earlier statements from Popes and the Congregation were no longer valid.”
In other words, this constitutes Müller’s answers to the five questions posed in the Dubia… wink, wink.
That’s all well and good, but why not issue a formal response in the name of the CDF?
In his report, Deacon Donnelly suggested that Müller’s hands are tied:
Though Cardinal Müller doesn’t come out and say it, his interview with Kathpress strongly implies that Pope Francis has told him that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must not reply to the four cardinals’ dubia on Amoris Laetitia
I’m not so sure that excuse is going to fly on Judgement Day, but there you have it – Francis has muzzled (more appropriately, castrated) Müller.
This is the same Francis who, at the opening of Extraordinary Synod 2014 where this prearranged exercise in prying open the gates of Hell first began in earnest, instructed the bishops and cardinals to “speak with parrhesia and listen with humility.”
According to Strong’s Concordance:
Parrhesia (παρρησία) a Greek term found in Sacred Scripture meaning “freedom, openness, especially in speech; boldness, confidence.”
In all of this, one may feel compelled to pity poor Gerhard as the victim of a charlatan superior.
Doing so, however, would be a failure to recognize the degree to which Francis and Müller are really just birds of a feather; each in his own way a manifest hypocrite unwilling to do his duty; eschewing plainspoken proclamations formally issued in favor of carefully worded suggestions dispensed via media interviews.
Shame on the both of them.