Card. Müller’s remarks on ‘Amoris laetitia’ – some analysis

We must deal soberly with the ramifications of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.   Despite some of its advantages, the document has problems.

A friend sent an email with some interesting analysis, which I am reworking and posting hereunder.

Sandro Magister has just now published the background report of Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s talk in Madrid from last week along with key excerpts of it in English.  HERE  Italian HERE  The original Spanish of Card. Mller’s address HERE

The English excerpts contain all his important statements about the issue of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.

I know this is getting tedious, but this is important.


Card. Müller, former bishop of Regensburg and the editor of Joseph Ratzinger’s Opera Omnia, is still the Prefect of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  It is still his right and obligation, and that of his Congregation, to clarify the meaning of papal documents.

Unless and until Pope Francis changes by a published decree the force and intent of the apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus, the Roman Curia remains constituted as it was before this pontificate. If Pope Francis wants to change this, he knows how to do so.

The upshot of Mueller’s intervention in Spain is that Amoris laetitia does NOT change the teaching of the Church as it is expressed in Familiaris Consortio 84.

Here is a quote from Cardinal Müller’s the English translation of Spanish address with my emphases:

“Some have affirmed that “Amoris Laetitia” has eliminated this discipline and has permitted, at least in some cases, the divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist without the need to change their way of life according to what is indicated in FC 84, which means abandoning the new union or living in it as brother and sister. To this it must be replied that if “Amoris Laetitia” had wanted to eliminate such a deeply rooted and significant discipline, it would have said so clearly and presented supporting reasons. There is however no affirmation in this sense; nor does the pope bring into question, at any time, the arguments presented by his predecessors, which are not based on the subjective culpability of our brothers, but rather on their visible, objective way of life, contrary to the words of Christ.

“But isn’t this change of course found – some object – in a footnote that says that in some cases the Church could offer the help of the sacraments to those who are living in an objective situation of sin (no. 351)? Without entering into a detailed analysis, suffice it to say that this footnote refers to objective situations of sin in general, without citing the specific case of the divorced in new civil unions. The situation of these latter, effectively, has particular characteristics that distinguish it from other situations. These divorced persons are living in contrast with the sacrament of marriage, and therefore with the economy of the sacraments, the center of which is the Eucharist. This is, in fact, the reason recalled by the previous magisterium to justify the Eucharistic discipline of FC 84; an argument that is not present in the footnote or in its context. That which footnotes 351 affirms, therefore, does not touch the previous discipline: the norm of FC 84 and of SC [= Sacramentum Caritatis] 29 is still valid, and its application in every case.

Thus, Card. Müller.

The importance of these observations by Müller is manifold.

First, they support the interpretation of Card. Burke who, only days after the publication of Amoris laetitia, issued a statement publish by the National Catholic Register saying that Amoris laetitia was not magisterial teaching and that it did not change the longstanding teachings of the Church on holy matrimony and Holy Communion. Burke’s interpretation was challenged by Card. Wuerl, Card. Lehmann and others.  However, Card. Müller has essentially supported Card. Burke.

Secondly, Card. Müller’s statement, even more than Card. Burke’s, throws down the gauntlet and challenges Pope Francis to deny what Müller claimed. If the Pope remains silent, but one of his surrogates does contradict Müller, then we will be one step closer to such a division between senior prelates over the authentic interpretation of Amoris laetitia that a public clarification could be called for.

On the other hand if Pope Francis wants to say that his Prefect of the CDF has Amoris laetitia wrong, then let him do that.

Finally, Archbishop Bruno Forte will be remembered by many as Pope Francis’ aide-de-camp during the 2014 Synod.  He was responsible for introducing into the Interim Report the language calling for the welcoming of homosexual couples into the Church. No one understood really what “welcome” meant. However, on account of that maneuver and the furor that it caused among Synod Fathers, Forte pretty much disappeared from view.

Now Forte has committed a second gaffe, apparently stating to an interviewer that the Pope told him to keep the language concerning Communion for divorced and civilly remarried ambivalent so that conservatives wouldn’t be able to get too upset about it. Forte went on to comment how “Jesuitical” that was of the Pope. HERE


The thick plot thickeneth more.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, One Man & One Woman, The Drill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ThankyouB16 says:

    …that a public clarification could be called for.

    A public clarification, or God help us: a call for Vatican III by the Pope?

  2. Kathleen10 says:

    Thank you for discussing this, Fr. Z. If anyone think this topic “tedious”, I would suggest they are not paying attention to the reality within the church, but ought to. We are at a critical juncture. If these innovations and changes are allowed to stand, it changes everything, even to the Ten Commandments themselves, and certainly, the sacraments. It has been obvious to simple laypeople that a vigorous response to the document is absolutely needed. It is time to define terms, ask pointed and direct questions expecting pointed and direct answers. Ambiguous terminology, wandering narratives, skipping from one topic to another, accidentally falling over some bit of orthodoxy or another, and all the other maneuvers of the cunning, ought to be easily picked up those with any sense of discernment. We’ve had a three year tutorial and we all ought to be valedictorians by now. But we can only support from behind. Who can take it on.
    This is the job of the Cardinals and Bishops. This is not the job of laypeople. Cardinals and Bishops need to simply do their job. They took an oath, now they must do what they promised God they would do, defend the faith, defend the sheep.

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    There is no doubt that what Cardinal Muller says is correct. The Church cannot change divine law. Is Cardinal Muller correct in upholding the idea that Pope Francis did not intend to provide a circuitous route for those living in adulterous second marriages a path to the sacraments? I can’t say for sure that the Cardinal is incorrect, but Pope Francis did not choose Cardinal Muller to present to document to the public on April 8, he chose Cardinal Schoenborn who it is reported practices a circuitous route in the Archdiocese of Vienna. Cardinal Forte says it was indeed the Pope’s intention to provide a circuitous route. Cardinal Kasper believes he did provided a circuitous route. If you read “Amoris Laetitia” it certainly seems to provide a circuitous route in footnote 351. So we have Cardinal Muller rightly defending the Magisterium of the Church, consigned to defend on one foot the integrity of the Chair of Peter, and Pope Francis pursuing a mode of conduct that is entirely unproductive – to speak respectfully. What is one to make of this?
    God bless Cardinal Muller. God reward him for his heroism. May his confreres in the hierarchy someday arise to his stature and prove themselves worthy of the responsibilities they presently appear unwilling to shoulder.

  4. MGL says:

    As much as we might have appreciated a more forthright approach from Cardinals Muller, Burke, and Brandmuller and from Bishop Schneider, their interventions must be rattling some cages pretty hard inside the Vatican, when taken as a whole. I expect this is the way things are done inside the walls–maddeningly indirect to outsiders, but clear as a bell to the intended audience.

    As others have said, the Holy Father must be faced with some difficult choices right now. If he remains silent, he will tacitly cede the doctrinal ground to the Prefect of the CDF. If he openly contradicts Muller et al, he will bring the crisis out into the light of day, with unpredictable and traumatic results.

    Note that I do not consider the possibility that the pope will come out and affirm Muller’s reading of AL, as welcome as that would be. We’re well past that point, and if anyone was still in doubt as to his leanings, Archbishop Forte’s statement should be the final nail:

    “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”

    Forte’s claim aligns with the abundance of evidence (including AL itself) that the pope sought to allow the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion, and unless his claim is forcefully repudiated by the Holy See, we can assume it is true.

  5. jhayes says:

    the arguments presented by his predecessors, which are not based on the subjective culpability of our brothers, but rather on their visible, objective way of life, contrary to the words of Christ.

    I think that identifies the core issue. In AL Francis does not call into question at all Canon 916, which says:

    “Can. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to…receive the body of the Lord….”

    But AL does raise the possibility, at least, that a person not conscious of grave sin (i.e. without “subjective culpability”) could receive Communion even though living in a situation that is objectively gravely sinful – what Canon 915 calls “manifest grave sin.”

    “Can. 915 Those…persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion”

    I suppose a Canon Lawyer would argue that if that is what Francis intended, he should have revised Canon 915 at the same time. Since Francis can change the CIC at any time by his own act, it seems likely that he doesn’t think it’s necessary right now.

  6. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Cardinal Müller has carefully laid out the Catholic doctrine on marriage and insisted that Amoris Laetitia has not changed it. He is right, of course, because it can’t be changed. But he has not addressed what I would call the institutional problem: the ambiguity and apparently intentional misdirection in a major papal document.

    I say intentional because of the misuse of cited documents (Gaudium et Spes and Aquinas), the failure to cite Veritatis Splendor and the carefully culled quotation from Familiaris Consortio, and the context of the two-year synodal process, which the pope himself started and ran, focusing from the beginning on the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried without amendment of life.

    The pope has not said that adulterers may receive Holy Communion, but after all this, he hasn’t said they can’t. He has laid down dubious premises (“[n]o one can be condemned for ever…” n. 297), lines of thought, and unspecified cases and conditions and considerations and processes that will lead to that conclusion, without plainly going there. And we know that all those who are tuned to his frequency will hear him loud and clear. They have already broadcast their acknowledgements. Thanks to Archbishop Forte, we also now know that he planned it exactly this way.

    This monument to obfuscation cannot be allowed to stand, magisterial or not. It is a disgrace to the Petrine Ministry.

  7. Traductora says:

    Cdl Muller’s statements are basically being ignored. He was scheduled to give this talk at a Catholic university under the control of the Archbishop of Madrid, a Francis appointee who is to Madrid what Cupich is to Chicago – a leftist, unheard-of and mediocre nobody, picked over the head of the nuncio and the bishops council because his views obviously coincided with those of the Pope (who hated the now retired Cdl Ruoco). The archbishop, Osoro, refused to give Muller – still the head of the CDF, in case they’ve forgotten – permission to speak there because he said that Cdl. Muller was “against Francis.”

    The Archbishop eventually was embarrassed into attending the lecture, which Muller gave at a different university, controlled by Regnum Christi, because Osoro’s initial attitude and remarks had caused so much comment. But there has been no response to Muller, and it is as if neither the CDF nor its head existed. Francis has moved on and is making it clear that he honestly doesn’t care what Muller or anybody else says. I don’t think he’s even going to bother removing Muller but will henceforth just ignore him.

    Supposedly when Muller reviewed the draft of AL, to which he responded with 40 pages of comments and revisions, he had not even been sent the complete document but a much shorter version missing some of the more controversial parts. Even so, he came up with 40 pages…

    It’s a pity, because Cdl Muller’s talk was very profound and even beautiful. I’m glad it’s showed up here at least!

  8. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Z and commentors.

  9. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    The modernists are more interested in changing practice than doctrine. AL points the way with a wink-wink. They all know what to do now.

  10. Rob83 says:

    The stand of the Cardinals is appreciated. I also fear they are likely to be as effective with their confreres in the short term as DH 14 has been in getting Catholics to carefully attend to Church doctrine in forming their consciences.

    My guess is that if Francis wants to respond but also doesn’t want to get into a war of words with his doctrine chief, he’ll transfer Mueller some months down the road to some ecclesiastical backwater as punishment for raining on his parade.

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    Because I do research in ambiguous speech as part of my research in humor theory, let me give some technical language to use in discussing things.

    If Pope Francis really said (I do not want to be guilty of detraction), as I understand from a comment, above, as it seems Cardinal Forte claims he did,

    “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So we won’t speak plainly, do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”

    then this sort of speech or written behavior might be related to what is called, semantic implicature (sorry for all of the links, but it is important to understand this issue):

    Here, is a technical paper:

    and a dissertation:

    [From Wikipedia article, Casuistry] “Casuistry dates from Aristotle (384–322 BC), yet the zenith of casuistry was from 1550 to 1650, when the Society of Jesus used case-based reasoning, particularly in administering the Sacrament of Penance (or “confession”).[14] The term casuistry quickly became pejorative with Blaise Pascal’s attack on the misuse of casuistry. In Provincial Letters (1656–7)[15] he scolded the Jesuits for using casuistic reasoning in confession to placate wealthy Church donors, while punishing poor penitents. Pascal charged that aristocratic penitents could confess their sins one day, re-commit the sin the next day, generously donate the following day, then return to re-confess their sins and only receive the lightest punishment; Pascal’s criticisms darkened casuistry’s reputation.”

    Here is some background on that:

    Jesuits, of course, are not the only ones to use semantic implicature (including mental reservation) and the logician Stephen Toulmin has done a great deal to rehabilitate casuistry in recent times. I am not claiming that AL is an exercise in semantic implicature (that would take a detailed analysis), but I am trying to inform a bit about the use of language.

    The Chicken

  12. iamlucky13 says:

    Cardinal Muller is solidly on point here, and other bishops need to reiterate the same message. The exhortation simply does not say what it does not say. Why is it so hard for people to understand that? Even Cardinal Schonborn agrees at least to the point that the exhortation did not create a general rule allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried. On the other hand, what the exhortation does say is this:

    “Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church…These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges.” (AL 300)

    The relatively easy to comprehend statements about being hindered from full participation and warned about a grave danger of expecting sacramental privileges does not allow the more ambiguous footnote 351 to be read as teaching that diminished culpability can be assumed, or even that the lawful proscription of Canon 915 does not apply to those in the objective situation of sin regardless of their subjective state.

    Unfortunately, I think Cardinal Burke missed the point when he explained why the exhortation is not magisterial. He was, of course, correct. However, he took the bait dangled by those who want to ignore doctrine – they challenged others to explain why they would “ignore” the Pope (in quotes because Cardinal Muller’s discussion explains why there is nothing that needs to be ignored). Once Cardinal Burke said that, their immediate response was, “oh, so we do get to pick and choose which teachings to believe.”

    Still, all this is just beating around the bush. What about the original source? Has Pope Francis at least said given a hint about how he wants us to read footnote 351?

    Yes! In fact, he did so in one of the in-flight interviews that are the only situation the secular world seems to consider infallible:

    “I don’t remember the footnote.”

    Wait, what? Back up a second:

    Reporter: “Why put something so important in a little note?” (Footnote 351)

    Pope Francis: “When I convoked the first synod, the great concern of the majority of the media was communion for the divorced and remarried, and, since I am not a saint, this bothered me, and then made me sad. Because, thinking of those media who said, this, this and that, do you not realize that that is not the important problem? Don’t you realize that instead the family throughout the world is in crisis? Don’t we realize that the falling birth rate in Europe is enough to make one cry? And the family is the basis of society. Do you not realize that the youth don’t want to marry? Don’t you realize that the fall of the birth rate in Europe is to cry about? Don’t you realize that the lack of work or the little work (available) means that a mother has to get two jobs and the children grow up alone? These are the big problems. I don’t remember the footnote, but for sure if it’s something general in a footnote it’s because I spoke about it, I think, in ‘Evangelii Gaudium.'”

    He sounds irritated, perhaps even angry (“since I am not a saint”). All these big issues are being ignored because of the obsession over Communion for the divorced and remarried. So not only did he NOT throw out Familiaris Consortio 84 and Canon 915, and not only did he warn us about the grave danger of presuming sacramental privileges, but he’s upset that so many people are obsessing over the supposed hidden meaning of a footnote and ignoring all the rest of what he wrote.

    Even if he did actually intend for footnote 351 to be read permissively, I maintain that Pope Francis both recognizes he could not say more than this because CCC 1854-1864 is correct at least in general, and he never wanted erring towards a presumption of diminished culpability to be even remotely the primary message of Amoris Latitiae.

  13. jacobi says:

    Amoris laetitia is not an infallible doctrine binding on Catholics, although as something written by a Pope, it must be considered with respect.

    Contraception is mortally sinful. Adulterers are in mortal sin and therefore may not receive Holy Communion with committing further mortal sin. That is not tradition or custom. It is established Magisterium teaching and is binding on all Catholics.

  14. iamlucky13 says:

    @ jacobi – Since you hit on a key point here – that receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin is a further mortal sin – I think it would be worthwhile to discuss that further. Why, theologically speaking, is taking the Body and Blood of Christ while in a state of moral sin itself also a sin? Where (aside from the Catechism, which reiterates teaching, but is not the root source of teaching) is this established? I know you are correct, but I don’t think I have competent answers to these questions.

    I think this is important enough that I’d like to suggest to Father Z that he dedicate a blog post to the matter, if he has the time and resources to put together a solid explanation.

  15. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    @iamlucky13: Surely Fr. Z or other can provide a more extended explanation, but to begin, see 1 Cor 11:23-29.

  16. Pingback: Amoris lætitia II | Ora Te canentium

Comments are closed.