Card. Müller: Delegate doctrinal decisions to regional conferences? “absolutely anti-Catholic”!

Cardinale-MullerRecently Card. Marx and the German Bishops conference flexed their muscles a bit and suggested that they should have oversight of doctrine (rather than Rome) and that they were pretty much not subordinated to Rome.

I have now read an interview which Card. Müller gave to Famille Chrétienne. He said that to delegate certain doctrinal or disciplinary decisions on matrimony or the family “is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea”.

I have to agree.  It has been kicked around in the discussion of restructuring the Roman Curia that perhaps doctrinal oversight could be devolved to regional bishops conferences.  That is the liberal’s Shangri-la, the progressivist’s Eldorado, the dissenter’s nirvana.  It would also be, of course, total disaster.

Were such a thing approved, I believe I might simply withdraw to a cave to finish out my natural span in prayer and penance.

Regional conferences do not constitute some kind of parallel or equal body alongside the Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has it’s mandate from and in the name of the Successor of Peter.  The Roman Pontiff delegates his own authority to his Congregations in matters that concern them.

You might take a few minutes to read Apostolos suos.  (Latin HERE)

In a nutshell, conferences of bishops do not exercise teaching authority as the whole body of bishops does.  Individual bishops do (when they are in unity with Roman Pontiff), but conferences don’t.  Conferences must submit their doctrinal declarations to the Holy See for a recognitio (approval).  But then the doctrinal statement is authoritative not by authority of the conference but because the Holy See has backed it up.  Conferences don’t have their own doctrinal authority.  They “borrow” it.  And, again, individual diocesan bishops are not subjected to the regional conference.  They have their own authority in their dioceses by virtue of their belonging to the college of bishops, as successors of the Apostles.  Conferences can’t command them to do X or Y.  They can agree to follow what the conference as a body decides.  In general, that’s what happens: they act in solidarity.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pattif says:

    Almost from the beginning, I have thought the real issue is not primarily (or even very much) Communion for divorced and remarried people; I think the primary issue is a bid by the German bishops for the status of an autocephalous (or quasi-autocephalous) national church. I think this is why the Germans are always going on about how much better the Orthodox handle these matters, and I think it is not unrelated to +Kasper’s celebrated row with +Ratzinger about the precedence of the universal versus the particular church. I don’t believe that, when +Kasper made that dreadful comment about the African bishops, he intended it to be racist; I think he thinks precisely the same about, for example, the Polish bishops. The remarks made by +Marx the other day (“the synod can’t tell us what to do”) would tend to bear this out.

  2. Akita says:

    He has really stepped up! God preserve Cardinal Muller.

  3. PaterAugustinus says:

    I certainly agree that a local bishops’ conference has no ultimate or final authority on doctrinal matters. However, historically – especially before communication could be so instantaneous and organizations so centralized – local synods certainly did manage all the affairs of their local Churches as a general rule, and dealt directly with doctrinal matters when they arose. If that didn’t settle the matter, appeals could be made to larger synods and, in the end, Rome. It was also customary for the Holy See to be notified whenever anything of great import was being discussed, and we have letters of Pope St. Leo the Great (and Pope St. Hormisdas as well, I believe) complaining that this custom was not observed. St. Augustine mentions the custom as well, in his famous quote on the authority of the Roman See: “…for already two councils on this question have been sent to the Apostolic See; and replies have also come from there. The cause is finished; would that the error might be sometime finished also!”

    But that doesn’t change the fact that local synods often had a much more active role in guiding the affairs of the local Church – and Metropolitan Archbishops or synods would often discipline diocesan bishops for violating custom or going against what had been decided in common. The Venerable Bede says of St. Theodore of Canterbury, that he was the first English primate “whom all the English Church obeyed.” I certainly dread the idea of people like Cardinal Muller thinking they have a right to be obeyed by their suffragans, but what has happened to the traditional understanding that local synods could manage the affairs of the Metropolitanate, and that Metropolitans/Archbishops/Primates had the power to depose/appoint, and could expect to be obeyed? Always preserving the rights of the Holy See, of course.

  4. Matt R says:

    PaterAugustinus, it would seem that bishops’ conferences replace Rome and the CDF in these scenarios and also take away the authority that can only be properly exercised by the local bishop. The Anglo-Saxon church, the North African church, etc. never aimed to take over for both Rome (quite the opposite) and the local bishop (at least entirely in the latter case).

  5. JBS says:

    In general, while there’s nothing especially exciting about Cardinal Müller, there’s also nothing too offensive about him. He’s a “2/3rd’s” kind of cardinal, so that he could one day be Pope John XXIV.

  6. norancor says:

    Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, the heavily influential “theologian” at Vatican II and afterwards implementing VII in Germany, promoted this idea of a de-centralized, demoted Curia in favor national or regional groups of churches. I think he even wrote a whole book on it… (Shape of the Church to Come?)

    It is all just a latter-day version of the very, very old problem of Gallicanism; made worse by his anonymous Christian ideas and championing of individualized, low class “piety.”

    Enculturation? Cultural Gallicanism. Domination of National Conferences? Gallicanism. Imposing a certain liturgical style for an entire diocese or country, separate from the sanction of Rome? Gallicanism. Profound effect of national politics and culture and secular authority in how a Church is run (here’s lookin’ at you, Cd. Marx)? Yeah… Gallicanism.

  7. xavierabraham says:

    I think how Church in Africa has to deal with polygamy is a more important topic than what the German bishops’ need. If a polygamous family become Christian, what care and concern should church show to a man’s “other wives and children” ?

  8. ConstantlyConverting says:

    “Were such a thing approved, I believe I might simply withdraw to a cave to finish out my natural span in prayer and penance.”

    Fr Benedict XVI much?

    Reading his Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week, it jumped out that he might have been influenced to offer himself for the Church (humility of stepping down.)

    I have no idea his motivation. I’m a full time mom, with a liberal arts degree. No theology training. It just seemed he was very influenced by the offering of Jesus in the writing.

  9. juergensen says:

    Pray for Cardinal Müller, that God grant him the strength and wisdom needed to fight the heretics hailing from Germany, and that he not be “promoted” like Cardinal Burke.

  10. Michael in NoVA says:

    Why not leave doctrinal decisions to regional conferences? That way, each geographic area can determine what morality means for those countries, and they can all be in communion with each other through the central church. I mean, look at the wonders it has done for the Anglican Communion! It’s not as if the Church of England is dealing with bickering member conferences, or have two groups, such as the Episcopal Church of the USA battling the African Episcopals over the administration of parishes in the same territory!

  11. donato2 says:

    Cardinal Marx sounds like the child who in a fit of pique says “if I can’t have it my way, I’m going to go home and take my toys with me.” The good news is that it sounds like Cardinal Marx believes that the Synod is not going to turn out to his liking. The irony is that Cardinal Marx is rejecting the Synod when the modern synod is a result of Vatican II and is supposed to be an antidote to Vatican I’s purported excess emphasis on papal authority.

  12. Charles E Flynn says:

    Is John’s cave at Patmos available? There could be a separate monthly donation button.

  13. TomD says:

    “. . . they should have oversight of doctrine (rather than Rome) and that they were pretty much not subordinated to Rome.”

    Many Catholics already hold this view, even if only implicitly. For example, here in the United States, many Catholics do not see themselves as members of the Catholic Church in America, but as members of the American Catholic Church, independent from Rome, disengaged from the past, except a “past” of their own imagination. They are more secular in their beliefs and attitudes, wishing to be relevant to the present day, seeking to accommodate the “faith” with the needs and desires of the world.

    Rome, and the past, are an impediment to this worldview.

  14. Michael_Thoma says:

    As soon as an Emperor is installed to preserve unity once this regionalist doctrinality comes around, sure. Of course, the Emperor would have the authority to torture, behead, or exile any bishop that doesn’t comply.. You know just like the Early Church.. The same one with Latin rite ad populum, deaconesses, Eucharist in hand, and leavened host

  15. SanSan says:

    Make room in that cave Father…..sigh.
    Hope Cdl. Muller stays put, he’s one of few that make any sense these days besides Cdl. Burke.

  16. Sonshine135 says:

    Is it just me, or does Cardinal Marx sound much like another famous German Catholic who went against the Church?

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