NEW YEARS FIREWORKS! AN ANSWER TO THE DUBIA A POSITIVE START TO THE NEW YEAR IN OUR LORD, 2018
Müller, “Buttiglione's book has
dispelled the cardinals’ dubia”
Interview with the cardinal on Amoris laetitia and the
possibility of sacraments for those who live a second
union, “We must link God's Word of salvation to
concrete situations, excluding both legalism and
Pubblicato il 31/12/2017
Ultima modifica il 31/12/2017 alle ore 00:58
For his seventieth birthday, the most significant words were those received by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller has "defended the clear traditions of faith, but in Pope Francis’ spirit" he has "tried to understand how they can be lived today". It it precisely the sense that the German cardinal wanted to give in the rich and articulated introductory essay in support of philosopher Rocco Buttiglione’s initiative, who in a recently published volume collected his contributions for an in depth reading on Amoris laetitia beyond opposite extremisms.
For many years now, first as cardinal and then as Pope, Joseph Ratzinger had spoken of the problem represented by the increasing number of marriages celebrated without faith and without the awareness of the sacrament. A problem taken into consideration by Müller himself in a pastoral letter published at the beginning of his episcopate in Regensburg. In this interview with Vatican Insider, the Cardinal returns to the dubia and elaborates on some passages of his introduction to Buttiglione's book.
Your Eminence, why did you support philosopher Rocco Buttiglione’s book on Amoris laetitia?
My friend Rocco Buttiglione's intention in this book is to offer competent answers to questions formulated in a competent manner. I wanted to support this contribution to honest dialogue without bias and without controversy. In German there is a way of saying, "whoever wants to bring peace takes the barrel from both sides". However, I believe that we must accept this risk out of love for the truth of the Gospel and, for the unity of the Church.
Do you believe that Professor Buttiglione's book has actually answered to the famous dubia expressed by the four cardinals?
I am convinced that he has dispelled the doubts of the cardinals and many Catholics who feared that in "Amoris Laetitia" a substantial alteration of the doctrine of faith had taken place both on the valid and fruitful way of receiving Holy Communion as well as on the indissolubility of a marriage validly contracted between baptized.
The impression one gets when reading the five dubia texts of the cardinals is that we are not dealing with real questions, that is, doubts expressed in order to have an answer in one sense or another, but rather with questions that are a little rhetorical and that lead towards an already established direction. What do you think about it?
In all my stances, which have been requested to me by many parties, I have always tried to overcome polarizations and opposing ways of thinking. For this reason, Professor Buttiglione asked me for an introduction essay to his book entitled "Why Amoris Laetitia can and must be interpreted in the orthodox sense". Now, however, we must not waste time wondering how we have entered this tense situation, but rather on focusing on how to come out of it. we need more confidence and more benevolent attention to each other. As Christians, we must never doubt the good will of our brothers but "each one of you, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves" (Phil. 2,3) - so the Apostle admonishes us to all share the same feelings in love.
In your introductory essay to Buttiglione's book, you speak of at least one exception concerning the sacraments for those who live a second union, that concerning those who cannot obtain marriage annulment in court but are convinced in conscience of the nullity of the first marriage. This hypothesis was already considered, in 2000, by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In this case, can we open the way to the sacraments? Could Amoris laetitia be considered a development of that position?
Faced with the often-inadequate education in Catholic doctrine, and in a secularized environment in which Christian marriage is not a convincing example of life, the question arises also on the validity of marriages celebrated according to the canonical ritual. There is a natural right to marry a person of the opposite sex. This also applies to Catholics who have departed from the faith or maintained only a superficial bond with the Church. How can we consider the situation of those Catholics who do not appreciate or even deny the sacramentality of Christian marriage? Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to reflect on this without having a ready-made solution. This is not about artificially constructing some kind of pretext for being able to give communion. Those who do not recognize or take marriage seriously as a sacrament in the sense that the Church considers, cannot even, and this is the most important thing, receive in holy communion, Christ who is the foundation of the sacramental grace of marriage. There should first be a conversion to the entire mystery of faith. Only in the light of these considerations can a good pastor clarify the family and marriage situation. It is possible that the penitent may be convinced in conscience, and with good reasons, of the invalidity of the first marriage even though they cannot offer canonical proof. In this case the marriage valid before God would be the second one and the pastor could grant the sacrament, certainly with the appropriate precautions as not to scandalize the community of the faithful and not to weaken the conviction of marriage indissolubility.
We are faced with an increasing number of marriages celebrated without real faith between people who, after a few years (sometimes a few months) leave each other. And then, perhaps, after having entered a new civil union, they truly meet Christian faith and embark on a journey. How to act in these cases?
We do not yet have a consolidated answer here. However, we should develop criteria without falling into the casuistic trap. Theoretically, it is quite easy to define the difference between a non-baptized believer and a so-called "Christian in name only" who later reaches the fullness of faith. It is more difficult to verify this in the concrete reality of the individual person on the pilgrimage of their life. Faithful to the Word of God, the Church does not recognize any dissolution of the marriage bond and therefore no division. A sacramental marriage valid before God and before the Church cannot be dissolved by the spouses or by the authority of the Church, nor can it be dissolved by a civil divorce followed by a new marriage. The case is different, which we have already mentioned, of a marriage that has been invalid since the beginning because of the lack of a true consensus. In this case, a valid marriage is not dissolved or considered irrelevant. It is simply recognized that what seemed to be a marriage actually wasn’t.
In your introductory essay to Buttiglione's book, you also speak of the diminished imputability of guilt for those who "are not yet able to satisfy all the requirements of moral law". What does that mean?
Mortal sin deprives us of the supernatural life in grace. Its formal principle is the will to contradict the holy will of God. To this is added the "matter" of actions in serious conflict against the doctrine of the faith of the Church and its unity with the Pope and the bishops, the holiness of the sacraments and the commandments of God. Catholics cannot excuse themselves by saying that they do not know all these things. But there are people who, without their own gross negligence, have not received sufficient religious teachings and live in a spiritual and cultural environment that endangers the sentire cum Ecclesia (think with the Church). Here we need the good shepherd who, this time, must not repel the wolves with his stick but - according to the model of the good Samaritan - pour oil and wine into the wounds and hospitalize the wounded in the inn that is the Church.
In your introductory essay, you also recall the traditional doctrine according to which "for the imputability of guilt in God’s judgment, one must consider subjective factors such as full knowledge and deliberate consent in the serious lack of respect for God’s commandments". So, then, can there be cases in which, lacking full knowledge and deliberate consent, imputability has diminished?
Whoever in the Sacrament of Penance asks for reconciliation with God and the Church must confess all their grave sins remembered after a thorough examination of conscience. Only God can measure the gravity of the sins committed against His commandments because He alone knows the hearts of people. The circumstances, which God alone knows, which diminish the guilt and punishment before His court, differ from those which can be judged from the outside, such as those which can call into question the validity of a marriage. The Church can administer the sacraments as instruments of grace only in accordance with the way in which Christ established them. Saint Thomas Aquinas distinguishes the sacrament of penance from that of the Eucharist as the former being a medicine that purifies (purgative) while the latter, a medicine that edifies (supporting). If they are exchanged for each other, damage is done to the sick or healthy person. Those who remember a grave sin must first of all receive the sacrament of penance. For this reason, repentance and the intention to avoid future occasions of sin is necessary. Without this, sacramental forgiveness cannot be given. This is in any case the doctrine of the Church. In the introduction to Buttiglione's book, I also mentioned the relevant passages of the most authoritative magisterium. However, believers also have the right to a careful accompaniment that corresponds to their personal journey of faith. In pastoral accompaniment and especially in the sacrament of penance, the priest must help in the examination of conscience. The believer cannot decide in conscience alone whether or not to recognize God's commandments as just and binding on them. Rather, we examine our thoughts, words, deeds and omissions in conscience in the light of His holy will. Instead of justifying ourselves alone, we pray humbly to God and "with a contrite spirit" (Psalm 51:19) for the forgiveness also of sins that we do not know we have committed. So a new start is possible.
How then can we overcome the opposite risks of subjectivism and legalism? How do we take account of each, individual, specific, sometimes dramatic, event?
In the Catholic vision, the conscience of the individual, the commandments of God and the authority of the Church are not isolated in front of each other, but stand with one another in a carefully calibrated internal connection. This excludes both legalism and self-referential individualism. It is not our duty to justify a new union that resembles a marriage with a person who is not the legitimate spouse. We are not allowed in our thought to believe “in a worldly way" that Jesus cannot have taken so seriously the indissolubility of marriage or that this indissolubility can no longer be demanded to the people of today who, because of life’s length, cannot resist so long with a single spouse. However, there are in fact dramatic situations from which it is difficult to find a way out. In these cases, the Good Shepherd accurately distinguishes objective and subjective conditions and gives spiritual counselling. But he does not stand up as Lord above the conscience of others. Here we must link the God's word of salvation, which in the doctrine of the Church can only be transmitted, with the concrete situation in which people find themselves along their pilgrimage. It is good to remember here also the ancient principle that the confessor should not disturb the conscience of the penitent in good faith before they have grown in faith and in the knowledge of Christian doctrine to the point of being able to recognize their sin and formulate the intention of no longer committing it. Between obedience to Christ the Master and imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd there is not an "or" but an "and".
The pastoral-application guidelines of Amoris laetitia of the Buenos Aires bishops, which were praised by the Pontiff, have been published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. How do you rate them?
This is an issue on which I would not like to comment. In my preface to Buttiglione's book I spoke in general about the relationship between the papal magisterium and the authority of the pastoral directives of the diocesan bishops. These are not dogmatic decisions or a sort of evolution of the dogma. This is only a potential practice concerning the administration of the sacraments since in such serious cases the sacrament of penance must precede the reception of communion. In this regard, however, it should be remembered that according to the Catholic faith the Eucharistic sacrifice, the Holy Mass, cannot be reduced to the reception (with the mouth) of communion. The Council of Trent speaks of a triple way of receiving the sacrament: in desire (in vow); the reception with the mouth of the holy host (the sacramental communion); the intimate union of grace with Christ (the spiritual communion).