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Catholic Church must guard against polarisation over Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Müller warns

05 December 2016 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith won't be replying to four cardinals letter to Pope Francis, prefect asserts

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Cardinal Gerhard Müller, has cautioned against polarisation over the interpretation of the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and called for greater objectivity in the debate.

“At the moment it is important for every single one of us to remain objective and not allow ourselves to become divided and even less to trigger polarisation”, Müller told the Austrian Catholic Press Agency Kathpress in Rome on 1 December.

The CDF would not be replying to the four cardinals’ 19 September letter to Pope Francis in which they questioned the Pope’s teaching in Amoris Laetitia, Müller said. The letter was made public in mid-November after no response was received.

As the CDF acted and spoke “with the authority of the Pope”, it could not take part in an altercation of opinion, he explained, but the Pope could at any time, “of course”, commission the CDF to mediate in the altercation as it was responsible for all matters of faith and morals, he made clear.

Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner asked the Pope to clarify “whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (nn. 300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by [1981 apostolic exhortation] Familiaris Consortio n. 84.”

While he did not comment directly on the question of whether or not remarried divorcees should be allowed to receive the Eucharist in certain individual cases, he did emphasise that Amoris Laetitia must not be interpreted to mean that the teaching of former popes and the CDF on the subject was no longer valid.

The indissolubility of marriage must remain the “the unshakable basis of any pastoral accompaniment”, he underlined, but added that Pope Francis wanted to help all families who were going through crises “to find a way of concurring with the ever-merciful will of God”.

Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican’s appeal court, Msgr Pio Vito Pinto, has called for calm and prayer. “Pope Francis has underlined that the Church needs unity and not walls”, he recalled in an interview with the German Church’s internet portal katholisch.de on 1 December in Rome.

It was “in order and legitimate” that the four cardinals had written to the Pope expressing their worries, Pinto said, but the fact that a few weeks later, after not receiving a reply, they had published the letter was a “slap in the face”. Cardinals were obliged to be loyal to the Pope who stood for church unity, he recalled. “It is their duty to support and not hinder him in this.”

Asked whether it was possible that the four cardinals were only the spearhead of a wide front of Catholics who were dissatisfied with the Pope, Pinto replied: “That is what the media say but let us stick to the facts. The fact is that the Pope had a survey conducted in all dioceses worldwide on the issue of marriage and the family and then invoked two episcopal Synods to discuss the replies, which in itself is unique. At the first Synod the majority of bishops and at the second two-thirds agreed on exactly those issues which the four cardinals are now contesting," Pinto recalled.

Cardinal Burke’s announcement that he would publish a formal correction if Pope Francis did not define what he had said more precisely, was “madness”, Pinto added. The College of Cardinals could not call the Pope to account.

Officially, the publication of the cardinals’ letter was of “no account”, Pinto said. “We know Francis. He believes that people can be won over and will convert. I know he prays for them.”



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