Conservative opposition to Pope Francis spurs talk of a schism in the Catholic Church
Of all the recent attacks launched by conservatives against Pope Francis, one stood out more than most.
It came from a German cardinal who is one of the most powerful men in the Vatican. And it underlined a growing backlash in the church to some of Francis’ more progressive ideas — a backlash led largely by German and American bishops who fear the pope may be overturning centuries of doctrine on divorce, among other matters.
The cardinal, Gerhard Mueller, the pope’s own doctrinal chief, made it clear in an interview in February that he firmly opposed Francis’ tinkering with the church’s ban on divorced and civilly remarried Catholics taking Communion.
Francis has implied that the ban could be relaxed. But Mueller told Il Timone, an Italian Catholic publication: “No power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”
As Francis enters his fourth year in office, his conservative opponents have chosen to stand and fight over his 2016 apostolic exhortation titled “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” in which he suggested bishops can use discretion in granting Communion to Catholics who divorce, then remarry in a civil ceremony.
Francis’ guidance was seen by many as contradicting the ruling, which dates to the early days of the Roman Catholic Church, that couples are living in sin if they remarry, because their first marriage is still valid in the eyes of the church.