Müller: "These Theories Are Radically Mistaken"


Müller: "These Theories Are Radically Mistaken"

The prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith refutes the ideas of those who want to permit second marriages with the first spouse still alive. He is backed up by Cardinal Sebastián, who also disagrees with Cardinal Kasper. But whose side is Pope Francis on?

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 29, 2014 – In a book-length interview recently released simultaneously in Italy, Spain, and the United States, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, revisits and develops what he had already reiterated last fall in an article in “L’Osservatore Romano” that made a sensation:

Divorced and Remarried. Müller Writes, Francis Dictates (23.10.2013)

In that article, Müller dwelt above all on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried, reiterating the reasons for the prohibition.

Already at the time, in fact, even at the higher levels of the hierarchy there were some who maintained the need for the Church to remove this ban.

And at the consistory in February of this year this change was upheld by the one whom Pope Francis had charged with introducing the discussion, Cardinal Walter Kasper:

Kasper Changes the Paradigm, Bergoglio Applauds (1.3.2014)

In the following months, Kasper’s ideas prompted particularly vigorous public reactions from cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Velasio De Paolis, Walter Brandmüller, and Thomas Collins.

But now it is again the prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith who is intervening forcefully in defense of the traditional doctrine.

The interview was conducted last June by Carlos Granados, director of the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos in Madrid. It was reviewed by the cardinal and has as its backdrop the upcoming synod of bishops, dedicated to the theme of the family.

In the preface another cardinal, former Pamplona archbishop Fernando Sebastián Aguilar, writes:

"The main problem present in the Church with regard to the family is not the small number of the divorced and remarried who would like to receive Eucharistic communion. Our most serious problem is the great number of baptized who marry civilly and of sacramentally married spouses who do not live marriage or the marital life in harmony with Christian life and the teachings of the Church, which would have them be living icons of Christ’s love for his Church present and working in the world.”

Cardinal Sebastián received the scarlet from Pope Francis, who has great esteem for him. But he certainly cannot be numbered among the supporters of Kasper’s theses.

In the interview Cardinal Müller also criticizes those who back themselves up with some of the statements of Pope Francis, bending them in support of a “pastoral” change on marriage.

He says, for example:

“The image of the field hospital is very beautiful. Nonetheless we cannot manipulate the pope by reducing the whole reality of the Church to this image. The Church in itself is not a hospital: the Church is also the house of the Father.”

And again:

“A simple ‘adaptation’ of the reality of marriage to the expectations of the world does not bear any fruit, but rather turns out to be counterproductive: the Church cannot respond to the challenges of the modern world with a pragmatic adaptation. In opposing an easy pragmatic adaptation, we are called to choose the prophetic audacity of martyrdom. With this we can bear witness to the Gospel of the holiness of marriage. A lukewarm prophet, through an adjustment to the spirit of the time, would be seeking his own salvation, not the salvation that only God can give.”

The following is an extract of the passages from the interview dedicated to the question of communion for the divorced and remarried, in which Müller also refutes another mantra associated with Pope Francis, that of “mercy”:

(the article then continues with a section from the interview)

These are assuring words. However, theyre not from the Pope, who obviously has the final say.

It is my understanding that nothing need to be said by the Pope; that is if the status quo is to be maintained.

With this whole “Communion for the divorced and remarried” hulabaloo, I think it is important not to buy into the narrative that there are two separate diametrically opposed “camps” with Cardinal Müller on one side advocating for things to stay the same while Cardinal Kasper is on the other side advocating for some sort of sacramental amnesty for all the divorced and remarried. That’s not really what is going on.

If you take a careful look at what Cardinal Kasper said in his address, he was mostly asking questions rather than making assertions. It seems far more likely to me that his intent was to start a conversation, not end one. Further, he reiterated that “The indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage during the lifetime of the other partner is part of the tradition of the Church’s binding faith that cannot be abandoned or undone by appealing to a superficial understanding of cheapened mercy.” He also points out that such an accommodation would not be a blanket permission but only for a “smaller segment of the divorced and remarried”.

In other words, I think those expecting some drastic change in this matter are going to be disappointed.

I would say that Christ has the final say.

Should the Church set in motion a slippery slope by granting a few cases of those divorced and remarried back to the sacraments? I am very suspect of Kasper’s intentions.

For those interested, there is going to be a book coming out in October from Ignatius Press called “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”.

It is by five Cardinals, and some theologians, and supports the Church’s traditional teaching in response to Card Kasper’s proposals on communion for the divorced/remarried.

Fr. Z links to it here:


Whatever Cardinal Kasper’s intentions (which none of us here can really know – for the sake of charity, I presume his intention to be that of the care of souls), I think your concern about the slippery slope is a valid one. If I had the opportunity to speak to the good Cardinal about this topic, that’s the first point I would raise.

Even if there were to be a relaxing of the “rule” in very limited specific circumstances, it could very easily be construed as opening the door for all. Even though it seems the intent is to be pastorally sensitive to those who are in this situation and cannot reasonably remove themselves from it (e.g. their first spouse won’t take them back and they have children with their second spouse), by making an exception for some, there will immediately be those wondering why an exception cannot also be made for them. I think it would create more pastoral problems than it would solve.

In that case, why being it up? The only alternative is the internal forum, which has already been forbidden.

I feel like we are seeing a reprise of the 1960s and the abc/Pill issue, and worry that it will end badly (I should say, I pray that it will end up better than that did!).

Charity demands that we assume Cardinal Kasper is simply utilizing the media as a cat’s paw in order to requisition the media pulpit on behalf of the church for the pope and Mueller to reiterate church teaching and actually have it reported.

How else are you going to get a headline like:

Breaking News: Catholic Church sticks with Jesus on Marriage!

Much less get people to read it! :wink:

The Pope is Catholic. He will side with the Church teaching, which is espoused by Muller.

I would too, but those who hear the Pope hear Christ. Because Christ said so. So that leaves us back to square one. The pope has the final say.

If he makes annullments very easy to obtain, like what is also being talked about, then it is the very same thing while technically not altering doctine. That is what we would call a loophole.

Decrees of nullity should be relatively easy to obtain… if they are warranted. IF.

What really ought to be made harder to obtain is the sacrament of matrimony. Perhaps some of the tribunal questions that lead to nullity decrees ought to be asked during marriage prep and the couples charitably informed that the ceremony, dress and vows will be meaningless in the eyes of church and God if the problems aren’t resolved first.

It was also reported that Crdl Kasper led efforts to persuade Pope JP II to find a way to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion when he was a bishop back in the '90’s. Seems that same effort continues and I suspect the Vatican would rather the laity not know of the on-going controversy between these high ranking heads.

Exactly! This possibility is what all the worry is about.

I seriously doubt that divorced and remarried Catholics will be given an open door to receiving Holy Communion.

However, I believe that the annulment process will change somewhat, especially in light of what Pope Benedict XVI had stated before resigning. He said that the lack of faith at the time of marriage, can be grounds for an annulment which a tribunal should take into account.

Let’s face it, many Catholics do in fact get married with a lack of faith or no faith at all. Many get married in the Church in order not to disappoint their parents. Some because one has faith, and the other just wants to please their spouse, or fear that their relationship will end without a Catholic Church wedding.

The preparation process for engaged couples has improved from where it once was, but it must be better in showing couples that faith is to be the center of their sacramental marriage.


I couldn’t agree more. I married outside of the Church as an atheist and it ended in divorce. I was lucky that the annulment process for that type of marriage is very easy (non canonical form I think it was called) but I can see getting married in the Church w/ very little understanding of Catholic marriage or simple apathy just to have the nice Church wedding.

In the Boston diocese we have a newer program called Transformed in Love (transformedinlove.com/) that was very good. It was two days and taught mostly by married couples. Hopefully it’ll be offered in more places, had to drive to Holliston (the Parish priest at St. Mary’s was an amazing teacher by the way). I think this will be the new standard (hopefully).

I thought divorced people were allowed to receive Communion as long as they hadn’t remarried.


But what is being discussed is the cases of divorced and remarried couples.


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