Friday, October 13, 2023


“Silere non possum” is reporting a letter that Cardinal Mueller has written to retired Cardinal Duka. The following is a Google Translate of Cardinal Muller’s letter with an introduction from Silere non possum:

In an open letter that began circulating this morning among the members of the synod, H.E.R. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed his brother Dominik Jaroslav Duka, archbishop emeritus of Prague.

Müller, who had already announced a reaction, wrote to criticize, point by point, the answers that the prefect in office, H.E.R. Mr. Víctor Manuel Fernández offered to the archbishop emeritus.

“In fact, the Buenos Aires text – underlines Müller – seems in discontinuity at least with the teachings of John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio, 84) and Benedict XVI (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29). And, even if the "Response" does not say it, the religious assent of intelligence and will must also be given to the documents of the ordinary magisterium of these two Popes".

Here is the Google Translate of Cardinal Muller’s letter:

 Your Eminence, dear brother Dominik Duka,

I have read with great attention the "Response" of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) to your "dubia" on the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("Response to a series of questions", hereinafter "Response" ) and I would like to share my evaluation with you.

One of the "dubia" you presented to the DDF concerns the interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia" contained in a letter from the bishops of the Buenos Aires region dated 5 September 2016, which allows access to the sacraments to divorced people living in a second union civil, even if they continue to behave like husband and wife without the desire to change their lives. According to the "Response" this text from Buenos Aires belongs to the ordinary pontifical magisterium, having been accepted by the Pope himself. Francis in fact stated that the interpretation offered by the bishops of Buenos Aires is the only possible interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia". The "Response" draws the consequence that religious assent of intelligence and will must be given to this Buenos Aires document, as happens with other texts of the Pope's ordinary magisterium (see Lumen Gentium, 25.1).

In this regard, it is first of all necessary to clarify, from the point of view of the general hermeneutics of the Catholic faith, what is the object of the assent of intelligence and will that every Catholic must offer to the authentic magisterium of the Pope and the bishops. Throughout the doctrinal tradition, and in particular in “Lumen Gentium” 25, this religious assent concerns the doctrine of faith and morality that reflects and guarantees the entire truth of revelation. The private opinions of popes and bishops are expressly excluded from the magisterium. Furthermore, any form of magisterial positivism contradicts the Catholic faith, because the magisterium cannot teach what has nothing to do with revelation, nor what specifically contradicts the Sacred Scripture ("norma normans non normata"), the apostolic tradition and the previous definitive decisions of the magisterium itself (Dei Verbum, 10; cf. DH 3116-3117).

Is there therefore a religious assent to be given to the Buenos Aires text? From a formal point of view, it is already questionable to ask for the religious assent of intelligence and will to a theologically ambiguous interpretation of a partial episcopal conference (the Buenos Aires region), which in turn interprets a statement of “Amoris Laetitia” and which requires an explanation and whose coherence with the teaching of Christ (Mk 10,1-12) is in question.

In fact, the Buenos Aires text seems in discontinuity at least with the teachings of John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio, 84) and Benedict XVI (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29). And, even if the "Response" does not say it, the religious assent of intelligence and will must also be given to the documents of the ordinary magisterium of these two Popes.

However, the “Response” claims that the Buenos Aires text offers an interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” in continuity with previous Popes. That's it?

Let's first see the content of the Buenos Aires text, summarized in the "Response". The decisive paragraph of the “Response” concerns the third “dubium”. After having said that John Paul II and Benedict XVI already allowed access to communion when the divorced and remarried agree to live in continence, Francis' novelty is indicated:

“Francis maintains the proposal of full continence for the divorced and the [civilly] remarried in a new union, but admits that there may be difficulties in practicing it and therefore allows, in certain cases, after adequate discernment, the administration of the sacrament of Reconciliation even when one is unable to be faithful to the continence proposed by the Church" [underlined in the same text].

In itself, the expression "even when one is unable to be faithful to the continence proposed by the Church" can be interpreted in two ways. The first: these divorced people try to live in continence, but, given the difficulties and due to human weakness, they cannot. In this case, the “Answer” could be in continuity with the teaching of Saint John Paul II. The second: these divorced people do not accept living in continence and do not even try (there is therefore no intention of amending themselves), given the difficulties they encounter. In this case there would be a break with the previous teaching.

Everything seems to indicate that the “Answer” refers to the second possibility. In reality, this ambiguity is resolved in the Buenos Aires text, which separates the case in which at least one tries to live in continence (n.5) from other cases in which this is not the case (n.6). In the latter cases, the bishops of Buenos Aires state: "In other more complex circumstances, and when it has not been possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the option mentioned [trying to live in continence] may in fact not be practicable."

It is true that this sentence contains another ambiguity, as it states: “and when it has not been possible to obtain a declaration of invalidity”. Some, noting that the text does not say "and when the marriage was valid", have limited these complex circumstances to those in which, even if the marriage is null for objective reasons, these reasons cannot be proven before the ecclesial forum. As we can see, although Pope Francis presented the Buenos Aires document as the only possible interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia", the hermeneutic question is not resolved, because there are still different interpretations of the Buenos Aires document. In the end, what we observe, both in the “Response” and in the Buenos Aires text, is a lack of precision in the wording, which may allow alternative interpretations.

In any case, however, even leaving aside these inaccuracies, it seems clear what both the "Response" and the Buenos Aires text mean. It could be formulated as follows: there are particular cases in which, after a period of discernment, it is possible to give sacramental absolution to a baptized person who, after having contracted a sacramental marriage, maintains sexual relations with a person with whom he or she is in a second union. , without the baptized person having to make the resolution not to continue having these relationships, either because he discerns that it is not possible for him, or because he discerns that this is not God's will for him.

Let's first see if this statement can be in continuity with the teachings of Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The argument of the "Response" according to which John Paul II had already admitted some of these divorced people to communion, and that Francis is therefore only taking a step in the same direction, does not hold up. Continuity, in fact, is not to be found in the fact that someone could now be admitted to communion, but in the criterion of this admission. John Paul II and Benedict XVI allow divorced people who, for serious reasons, live together without having sexual relations to receive communion. But they do not allow it when these people habitually have sexual relations, because here there is an objectively serious sin, in which one wants to remain and which, as it affects the sacrament of marriage, acquires a public character. The break between the teaching of the Buenos Aires document and the magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is perceived when we look at the essentials, which is, as I said, the criterion for admission to the sacraments.

To be clearer, let's imagine that, ironically, a future DDF document proposes a similar argument for allowing abortion in some cases, like this: “John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have already allowed abortion in some cases, for example when the mother has uterine cancer and this cancer needs to be treated; now abortion is permitted in some other cases, for example in cases of malformation of the fetus, in continuity with what previous Pontiffs have taught." We can see the fallacy of this argument. The case of an operation for uterine cancer is possible because it is not a direct abortion, but an unintended consequence of a curative action on the mother (according to what has been called the principle of double effect). There would be no continuity, but discontinuity between the two doctrines, because the second denies the principle that governed the first position and which condemned any direct abortion.

But the difficulty of teaching the "Response" and the Buenos Aires text, according to the proposed formulation, does not lie only in its discontinuity with the teaching of Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In fact, this teaching is opposed to other doctrines of the Church, which are not just affirmations of the ordinary magisterium, but have been definitively taught as belonging to the deposit of faith.

The Council of Trent teaches, in fact, the following truths: that sacramental confession of all serious sins is necessary for salvation (DH 1706-1707); that living in a second union as husband and wife while the marital bond exists is a grave sin of adultery (DH 1807); that a condition for giving absolution is the penitent's contrition, which includes sorrow for the sin and the resolution to sin no more (DH 1676; 1704); that it is not impossible for the baptized person to observe the divine precepts (DH 1536,1568). All these statements do not only require religious assent, but must be believed with firm faith, as they are contained in revelation, or at least accepted and firmly held as they are definitively proposed by the Church. In other words, the choice is no longer between two propositions of the ordinary Magisterium, but what is at stake is the acceptance of constitutive elements of Catholic doctrine.

The testimony of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the Council of Trent is ultimately traced back to the clear testimony of the Word of God, which the Magisterium serves. The entire pastoral care of Catholics living in second unions after a civil divorce must be based on this testimony, because only obedience to the will of God can serve the salvation of people. Jesus says: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if, having repudiated her husband, she marries another, she commits adultery" (Mk 10,11ff). And the consequence is: "Neither fornicators nor adulterers [...] will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:10). This also means that these divorced people are not worthy of receiving communion before having received sacramental absolution, which in turn requires repentance of their sins, along with the resolution to make amends. Here there is no lack of mercy, but on the contrary, as the mercy of the Gospel does not consist in tolerating sin, but in regenerating the hearts of the faithful so that they live according to the fullness of the love that Christ lived and taught us to live.

It follows that those who reject the interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” offered by the Buenos Aires text and the “Response” cannot be accused of dissent. Their problem is not that of perceiving an opposition between what they understand and what the Magisterium teaches, but of perceiving an opposition between two different teachings of the same Magisterium, one of which has now been definitively affirmed. Saint Ignatius of Loyola invites us to believe that what we see as white is black if the hierarchical Church establishes it as such. But Saint Ignatius does not invite us to believe, entrusting ourselves to the Magisterium, that what the Magisterium itself told us before, definitively, to be black is white.

Furthermore, the difficulties raised by the text of the “Response” do not end there. In fact, the "Response" goes beyond what was stated in "Amoris Laetitia" and in the Buenos Aires document on two serious points.

The first point touches on the question: who decides on the possibility of administering sacramental absolution to divorcees in second unions at the end of the discernment process? In the "dubium" that you presented to the DDF, dear brother, you propose various alternatives that seem possible to you: it could be the parish priest, the episcopal vicar, the penitentiary... The solution given in the "Answer" must have been a real surprise for you, which you would not even have been able to imagine. In fact, according to the DDF, the final decision must be made conscientiously by every believer (n.5). It can be deduced that the confessor limits himself to obeying this decision of conscience. It is striking that it is said that the person must "put himself before God and expose his conscience to him, with its possibilities and his limits" (ibid.). If conscience is the voice of God in man ("Gaudium et Spes" 36), it is not clear what "putting one's conscience before God" means. It seems that here conscience is rather the private point of view of each individual, who then places himself before God.

But let's leave this point aside to focus on the surprising statement contained in the DDF text. The faithful themselves decide whether or not to receive absolution, and the priest only has to accept this decision! If this applies in general to all sins, then the sacrament of Reconciliation loses its Catholic meaning. It is no longer the humble request for forgiveness of one who finds himself before a merciful judge, who receives the authority of Christ himself; but it is about the absolution of oneself after having explored one's life. This is not far from a Protestant vision of the sacrament, condemned by Trent, when he insists on the role of the priest as a judge in confession (see DH 1685; 1704; 1709). The Gospel states, referring to the power of the keys: "Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). But the Gospel does not say: "what men decide in conscience that you must loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven". It is surprising that the DDF was able to present to the Holy Father for his signature, during a hearing, a text with such a theological error, thus compromising the authority of the Holy Father.

The surprise is even greater because the "Response" tries to rely on John Paul II to argue that the decision is up to the individual believer, hiding that the quoted text of John Paul II is directly opposed to the "Response". In fact, the "Response" cites "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" 37b, where it is said, in the case of the reception of the Eucharist: "The judgment on the state of grace, obviously, belongs only to the interested party, since it is an evaluation of conscience". But let's see the sentence that John Paul II later adds, which the "Response" does not report, and which turns out to be the main idea of ​​this paragraph from "Ecclesia de Eucharistia": "However, in cases of external behavior that is seriously, manifestly and stably contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in its pastoral care of good community order and respect for the Sacrament, cannot fail to feel called into question. The norm of the Code of Canon Law on the non-admission to Eucharistic communion of those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin refers to this situation of manifest moral indisposition" (ibidem). As can be seen, the DDF selected the premise of the text of Saint John Paul II by omitting the main conclusion, which is opposed to the thesis of the DDF. If the DDF wants to present a teaching contrary to that of Saint John Paul II, the least it can do is not try to use the name and authority of the holy Pontiff. It would be better to honestly recognize that, according to the DDF, John Paul II was wrong in this teaching of his Magisterium.

The second novelty contained in the "Response" is that each diocese is encouraged to produce its own guidelines for this discernment process. An immediate conclusion follows: if the guidelines are different, it will happen that divorced people will be able to receive the Eucharist according to the lines of one diocese and not according to those of another. Now, the unity of the Catholic Church has meant from the earliest times the unity in the reception of the Eucharist: since we eat the same bread, we are the same body (cf. 1Cor 10,17). If a faithful Catholic can receive communion in one diocese, he can receive it in all dioceses that are in communion with the universal Church. This is the unity of the Church, which is based and expressed in the Eucharist. Therefore, the fact that a person can receive communion in one local Church and cannot receive it in another is an exact definition of schism. It is unthinkable that the DDF "Response" would want to promote such a thing, but these would be the likely effects of embracing its teaching.

Faced with all these difficulties in the DDF's "Response", what is the way out for those who want to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine? I have already said that the Buenos Aires text and that of the "Response" are not precise. They do not say clearly what they mean, and therefore leave open other interpretations, however unlikely. This leaves room for doubts about their interpretation. On the other hand, the way in which the “Response” records the approval of the Holy Father, with a simple dated signature at the foot of the page, is unusual. The usual formula would have been: "the Holy Father approves the text and orders (or allows) its publication", but none of this appears in this poorly edited "Note". This opens a further doubt on the authority of the "Response".

These questions allow us to raise a new "dubium", according to what I formulated previously: there are cases in which, after a period of discernment, it is possible to give sacramental absolution to a baptized person who maintains sexual relations with a person with whom lives together in a second union, if this baptized person does not want to make the resolution not to continue having these relationships?

Dear brother, until this “dubium” is resolved, the authority of the “Reply” to your “dubia” and of the Buenos Aires letter remains in suspense, given the inaccuracies that these texts contain. This opens a small space for the hope that there is a negative "Answer" to this "dubium". In this case, the beneficiaries would not be primarily the faithful, who in any case would not be obliged to accept a positive "Response" to the "dubium" as it contradicts Catholic doctrine. The main beneficiary would be the authority that responds to the "dubium", which would be preserved intact, since it would no longer ask the faithful for religious assent of intelligence and will regarding truths contrary to Catholic doctrine.

Hoping that this explanation clarifies the meaning of the "Response" you received from the DDF, I send you my fraternal greetings "in Domino Iesu",

Gerhard Card. Ludwig Müller



rcg said...

Lots to unpack here. The linguistics of placing one’s conscience ‘before God’ might imply presenting for judgement S well as prioritizing one’s conscience over the Law. Altogether, it shows that the Bishops can reasonably interpret Pope Francis’ teachings in various ways, and it appears they do. The problem is whether the bishops feel they are empowered to interpret Church teachings to help people deal with their problems or if they can change Church teachings to accommodate the desires of people. Cardinal Mueller senses what many others have, is the Pope his own man, or is he merely an administrator relying on the work of others without the ability to evaluate or defend it.

Paul said...

Who will guard the guards?

Perhaps the answer lies in Calvin's city?

Geneva or...🤔

rcg said...

Paul that’s the problem I see with Pope Francis. I think he wants to be orthodox but is naive to think others will reach the same conclusion he does. When they don’t, he gets aggravated but just slams the hammer down instead of acting as the pontifex and guiding the flock and defending the Faith. We need to be more strict in our orthodoxy and be willing to deny communion and even excommunicate people for offending the Faith. It can be done in a caring way and even helpful. But everyone feels they are owed access to Christ and don’t respect Him for it.

TJM said...


Yet PF attacks the orthodox Catholics: the TLM Catholics. His papacy marks the end of the leftwing loon element in the Church. The younger clergy and laity are not buying what he is selling. They thirst for authentic Catholicism.

rcg said...

TJM, I think it is only ego that causes that. The same reason he fights the Indians about their versus populem Mass #boggle. In my tiny hometown and Parish our priest for many, many years was Polish and would tell me about all the various ways people around the world would conduct the same Mass with special trappings for their culture. It inspired wanderlust and several important life choices centered around my love for our Church. The tide since that time has ebbed away from grounding in a desire to express respect for God and to emphasize self and our contribution.

ByzRus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ByzRus said...

Cause: His papacy marks the end of the leftwing loon element in the Church.
But everyone feels they are owed access to Christ and don’t respect Him for it.

Effect: The younger clergy and laity are not buying what he is selling.

Future: They thirst for authentic Catholicism.

Commentary: On my side of the street, we're quiet, go about our business and we focus on the spiritual as we are not burdened in any way with liturgical wars and pop culture debates. There's nothing for the Holy Spirit to leak from my side. Our ancient faith is how its been, I am at a loss as to how to improve it save for the vernacular issue which was addressed well over 50 years ago at this point. I'm not saying this to brag, I just marvel at what goes on in the Roman space, I mostly shake my head in disbelief anymore and I like many, watch some here claim it to be the work of the Holy Spirit and if the line isn't towed, that's the work of satan. Equally perplexing, the claim that Christ being in the center of a circle of believers participating in liturgy reduced to its lowest common denominator somehow is promoting the glorification of the divine. Unbelievable.

At Divine Liturgy, the following is commonly said prior to the homily - if not a seasonal greeting. The various persons who espouse liturgical puritanicalism, are closed in among themselves, are bowing to the current whims of secular culture under the guise of "listening", could they really and honestly proclaim the same? The divine is timeless, not subject to compromise.

Priest: Slava Isusu Christu! Glory to Jesus Christ!
Laity: Slava Na'viki! Glory Forever!

ByzRus said...

My point with my last diatribe?

A few weeks back, we were focused on fetishes on this blog. Since, something clicked in my head.

Anymore, it is possible the Church is a church in name only. Perhaps not. Are the differences and agendas irreconcilable? Seems, for the ones that still care one way or another, we are getting close to that point.

Fetishes I have observed:

There are those who have fetishized a council and the ideologies that have crept into sacred life since. They fetishize their fetishes else we risk backsliding, compromising the genius that is the revised liturgy (how's that going??), or somehow creating conflict between divine worship and social concerns and/or social justice.

There are those who have fetishized a man, a human being, who wears a white suit and puts his pants on each morning the same way I do. Apparently, all he does is guided by the Holy Spirit. He's almost divine it would seem. If you're not wholly for it, you must be filled with satan so the claim goes. I thought only the Buddhists did that.

There are those who, honestly, have fetishized the TLM. They worship the liturgy as much if not more than Christ. They are there, but, my experience has been they are a very small minority.

Then there are the rest of us. Have we fetishized tradition, the ancient faith? Is that even possible? We aren't fanatical (a sin), we just long for authenticity wherever it can be found. Sterile/whitewashed worship desired by those who are, or consider themselves to be elites, is off putting and +50 years on, still totally foreign to many. How many heresies did the Church have to weed through that were similar? Do we never learn from the past? Honestly, "We" just want the real Catholic Church to stand back up already. Maybe, just once, the holy one, the elitists and the man in the white suit will give us some sympathetic consideration by "listening".

ByzRus said...

Final thought...

The "listening" Church would do well to give those who are marginalized, as well as those who believe they are not what they NEED, not what they WANT.

Extraterrestrial, puritanical, abstract, perhaps, opaque liturgy is not what the faithful need no matter how fetishized it has become, or some wish to continue fetishizing it into being.

Authenticity is what the faithful have relied upon (most saints/martyrs), continue to need and will always need.