Card. Müller weighs in on ‘Amoris Laetitia’, informally answers the Five Dubia

17_02_01_Muller_TimoneThe Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is doing his job.  His Eminence Gerhard Ludwig Card. Müller, has given a long interview to the Italian Catholic monthly Il Timone.  Title: “You don’t negotiate Truth.”  He comments on the relationship of personal conscience, ecumenism and the interpretation of the controversial, confusing Amoris laetitia.

Card. Müller doesn’t explicitly respond to the Five Dubia submitted by the Four Cardinals.  Not explicitly.  But he does happen to respond to the points raised in the Five Dubia.

Here is a solid gold quote, in my translation:

Amoris laetitia “must be read as a whole, in any case an act of adultery is always a mortal sin and the bishops who cause confusion on this point ought to study the Church’s doctrine.”

That is directed, of course, at the ludicrous statement of the Bishops of Malta, guidelines on the implementation of chapter 8 of Amoris (aka The Maltese Disaster).

I see that Sandro Magister has already provided translations of some of the interview. HERE  Let’s have a look at these “key passages of the interview” with my emphases and comments:

Q: Can there be a contradiction between doctrine and personal conscience?

A [Müller]: No, that is impossible. For example, it cannot be said that there are circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin. For Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for mortal sin to coexist with sanctifying grace. In order to overcome this absurd contradiction, Christ has instituted for the faithful the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation with God and with the Church.

Q: This is a question that is being extensively discussed with regard to the debate surrounding the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

A: “Amoris Laetitia” must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church. […] I don’t like it, it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting “Amoris Laetitia” according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching. This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine. The magisterium of the pope is interpreted only by him or through the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. The pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the pope, this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church. To all these who are talking too much, [Maltese, et al.] I urge them to study first the doctrine [of the councils] on the papacy and the episcopate. The bishop, as teacher of the Word, must himself be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind. […]

Q: The exhortation of Saint John Paul II, “Familiaris Consortio,” stipulates that divorced and remarried couples that cannot separate, in order to receive the sacraments must strive to live in continence. Is this requirement still valid?

A: Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments. The confusion on this point also concerns the failure to accept the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor,” with the clear doctrine of the “intrinsece malum.” […] For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and 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. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Q: How can one resolve the chaos that is being generated on account of the different interpretations that are given of this passage of Amoris Laetitia?

A: I urge everyone to reflect, studying the doctrine of the Church first, starting from the Word of God in Sacred Scripture, which is very clear on marriage. I would also advise not entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead. These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage. The task of priests and bishops is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity. One cannot refer only to little passages present in “Amoris Laetitia,” but it has to be read as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons. It is not “Amoris Laetitia” that has provoked a confused interpretation, but some confused interpretations of it. [Wellll…okay… Amoris, alas, is less than perfectly clear, which has allowed some to go to the zoo.] All of us must understand and accept the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, and at the same time be ready to help others to understand it and put it into practice even in difficult situations.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Thank you for posting this, Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

    I am glad that he has affirmed very important aspects of what the Church has always taught.

    So, this raises a question: if these teachings must be held firmly by everyone, why is there such confusion on this point among bishops. The text seems to leave open all sorts of room for the misinterpretation offered by many, including Cardinal Schoenborn and the Maltese bishops.

  2. Serviam says:

    AMEN!! Have been waiting….and waiting…. for a glimmer of light to peek through the clouds of confusion from near the tippy top. I’ll take it!!

  3. TimG says:

    God bless Cardinal Muller! With his earlier comments I was very concerned that he was “giving in” to the Liberal interpretations but with this interview……there can be no confusion. Very clear comments.

  4. Love the Cardinal Prefect’s words…. I just hope this doesn’t result in him being “promoted” to some other “important” responsibility.

  5. Back pew sitter says:

    What are the chances that, after this, Cardinal Müller will still be Prefect of the CDF in six months time? Good for him though. The righteous will be remembered and thanked in eternity.

  6. LarryW2LJ says:

    “One cannot refer only to little passages present in “Amoris Laetitia,” ……”

    But that is EXACTLY what IS happening; and I am very disappointed that these Men of the Church didn’t have the wisdom or the courage to recognize it and make sure that it wouldn’t happen – or at the very least, make it very difficult for it to happen.

    Bravo to Cardinal Muller for shining brilliant light into the gray.

  7. mburn16 says:

    “That is directed, of course, at the ludicrous statement of the Bishops of Malta”

    CC: Bishop of Rome

  8. Aegidius says:

    Cardinal Müller is either authorised by the Holy Father to start cleaning up parts of the mess that has been created – a step which must be followed by many more, and many much more difficult ones, too – or, he has just openly joined the resistance – eventually knowing that there is nothing to loose for him in Rome any more anyway. Who knows?

  9. Bos Mutissimus says:

    While I’m grateful to His Eminence for these very clear statements, I’m not as certain it pertains to “doing his job.” Not infrequently are we reminded that neither personal letters to local bishops’ conferences nor spontaneous airplane interviews constitute magisterial teaching; in a similar vein, how can we say that a magazine interview with the Prefect for the CDF rises to the level of an official doctrinal clarification? To be sure, these statements are a step in the right direction. I hope, however, that they are but an overture, to be followed by the full symphony – that is, formal responses to the dubia. Still, immense gratitude and prayers for Cardinal Muller. Semper Fidelis,

  10. That Guy says:

    Reading that FELT GOOD. I retain hope that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Bride of Christ.

    Also, I cannot wait to use the phrase “go to the zoo”! I’ve felt like we’ve all been fed bananas for the last couple years, and all I can do about it is fling poop. Cdl Müller brings hope.

  11. Thorfinn says:

    Cardinal Müller chooses his words carefully as befits every successor of the apostles and particularly one serving in his office.

  12. CradleRevert says:

    This is a very different tone compared to the confusing interview he did a couple weeks ago. One wonders if (a) the Pope gave him the OK to start clearing up the confusion or (b) Cardinal Mueller has decided to quit tip-toeing around egg shells and just clearly affirm what needs to be affirmed. If (b), I suspect that we’ll see a swift slap-down from the Vatican reminiscent of the Cardinal Sarah/ad orientem debacle last summer.

  13. TNCath says:

    I am very happy to hear Cardinal Müller say all this, but I’m afraid the cages at “the zoo” have already been unlocked. I know of priests who are telling their parishioners in “irregular situations” to go ahead and receive Holy Communion. Who’s going to be the one to tell them, “Oops, nope, sorry, you can’t do that” after they’ve been told otherwise? And even if they do, will they even comply?

  14. Lavrans says:

    A nice interview, as stated above by another commenter, until a formal document is issued saying the same thing, it remains a positive step on the journey of eliminating confusion. I hope and pray that the CDF issues a clarification on the matter. To be honest, they can just copy and paste this interview, for all I care. It is the document that will matter.

  15. anilwang says:

    While it is still good to hear Cardinal Muller still has some backbone despite the heavy handed way Pope Francis cut down any Cardinal or Bishop or group within the Church that rebukes ambiguity, we still need a formal response to the dubia because Amoris Laetitia is a formal document of the Church that has been the excuse for some to formally institute policies that lead people to Hell.

    So I still hope for a formal correction, because without it, something more dramatic like formal schism or worse could result.

    IMO, Pope Francis’s heavy handedness will ultimately backfire if not publically repented of. Even if you ignore the Saints among us who fear Hell more than man, on an earthly level, Niccolo Machiavelli once observed that it is foolish to take everything away from a person since once a person has nothing left to lose, that person cannot be controlled. I fear that for many victims of the Pope’s heavy handedness, they may be reaching that stage and unless a legitimate outlet exists to fight back (e.g. the dubia, Cardinal Sarah’s call to worship rightly, etc), something more dramatic will happen (hopefully not tragic). We’ve already had concrete examples of this politically in several parts of the world, and I don’t think we’re too far off from something similar happening in the Church.

    I don’t know if this is right, but my own prayer is that Pope Francis and all the Bergoglian/Kasperian Cardinals, Bishops, and Priests have regular unignorable visions of their Judgement Day. Beyond the damage they have caused and continue to cause, I do fear for their souls and do want them to repent and act according to Christ or step aside and let someone better able to serve to take their place.

  16. Thomistica says:

    Re. Cardinal Muller’s statement, all well and good. But the amount of discussion and commentary that Amoris Laetitia has elicited is already excessive and far out of proportion to what this flawed document ever even merited. We all know there is a deep problem in the Church right now, with proliferating discrepancies in how to interpret the magisterium across the world. We don’t need more commentary and yet more back and forth. This is becoming quite obsessive and an incredibly harmful distraction from the mission of the Church. The acres of articles and social media commentary will no longer achieve anything. Even Cardinal Muller’s statement is not going to achieve anything. The Pope needs to clarify matters.

    So let’s have that fraternal correction from the four Cardinals, publicly, already, and move on from there. Let the chips fall where they may, relying on Providence to sort things out.

    If a private correction has not occurred, fine, it should occur. But let’s hope the four Cardinals don’t wait two months to issue a public correction. There is sufficient evidence already that this Pope has no interest in addressing concerns of the laity nor in addressing the tremendous damage now being done by un-Catholic view of conscience now proliferating.

  17. Vincent says:

    I do not wish to carp. However, why is it that news in the Church has suddenly become like the David Cameron British Government of recent memory? Dave felt the need to be interviewed about everything and anything, and every speech was preceded by a day by the content of the speech in a press conference. Why does the head of the Roman Inquisition, possibly the most important officer of the Church, have to give statements in interviews with some Italian newspaper?! Is it to avoid being “official”? Or something? I feel that the good these things do is undone by the fact that the Maltese fiasco is “official”, this kind of thing is “unofficial”. And until that communication is made official, more things like Malta will happen.

  18. Inigo says:

    My “Rigidity Alert” has just gone off!

    Since the Patron of the Knights of Malta is already taken, where will Cardinal Müller be exiled after this I wonder?

    Prelate to the SSPX Personal Prelature maybe?
    Prefect of the Papal Comission for Withholding the Title of Monsignor from Father Zuhlsdorf?

    Any bets on how long it will take for the pope to call him in for an audience like he did with Cardinal Sarah?
    Major overhaul of the CDF? Perhaps a papal commission?

    How about a poll?:)

  19. Fr AJ says:

    Very good! Cardinal Wuerl needs to read this interview. He wrote in his blog today equating Canon 915 with Jewish law commanding the stoning of the woman caught in adultery and said that for Jesus mercy triumphs over law. Apples and oranges. He also said that where an individuals conscience differs with Church teaching, the individual should always follow his or her conscience even if formed incorrectly. Sigh.

  20. TimG says:

    With regards to the speculation that Cdl Muller is proceeding at the direction of the pope to clarify….we can hope so.

    However, as I always do when something like this happens, I checked Fr Spadaro’s Twitter feed to see what those inside the inner circle have to say. He has re-tweeted Cdl Cupich’s link to Cdl Wuerl’s blog with the statement “Is it confusion or different approaches?”. Additionally, he has just tweeted Pope Francis “is a Pope of seeds not of trees. It’s easy to cut a tree. It’s impossible to stop a silent growing forest…”

    In my opinion, neither Fr. Spadaro nor Cdl Wuerl’s statements are helping and we must have clarity. My guess is Cdl Muller is on his own here.

  21. Kevin says:

    All well and good, but this doesn’t resolve any issues on the subjective level. However ridiculous this scenario may seem, humor me!…. A mother of two divorces her husband and remarries her boss, has a conversion back to her faith and desires to live a chaste life. He threatens that she’ll lose her job, her house and access to the three other children that they have had together, if she insists on ending their sexual relationship. This woman is forced against her will to comply. Is she guilty of adultery, or mortal sin for that matter? If this woman is not guilty of mortal sin, am I right in thinking that she cannot be denied the sacraments? This is the type of exception that I assume is implied in AL, but Cardinal Muller offers no clarity. Instead he is reiterating what Church teaching has always been on the objective level.

  22. Agathon says:

    A modicum of clarity, but at this point I’ll take what I can get. Praise God for this interview.

  23. Thomistica says:

    I suspect very strongly that you are right: Cardinal Muller is going solo on this one. If so, a courageous move.
    If the Pope or Vatican does not answer this question explicitly in the next few days, the assumption has to be that your working assumption is correct.
    Enough ink spilled on this issue. Time to move on to the phase of correcting a confusion-inducing papacy.

  24. Austin says:

    But now the German bishops have declared that marriage will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. How long can this confusion go on?

  25. Benedict Joseph says:

    Cardinal Muller’s words provided the greatest comfort this morning, however we remain in the same position. The Holy Father’s response to the Argentinian episcopate stand as they were rendered and provide the defining key of interpretation – despite what Cardinal Muller says. How can you get around it?
    How do you get through to those who need to hear that two messages are being rendered to the faithful, and it is not the fault of the faithful, it is the fault of the pastor. How do you get that across to “somebody?” Why does it take so much effort? What is the impediment? “Amoris laetitia,” all be it an Apostolic Exhortation requiring a considered and thoughtful reading, is not Heidegger’s “Being and Time.” It’s a pastoral document that should have fairly friendly access. A maze of profound insights it is not. Ambiguity and pious poetics triumph over depth intellect here, despite its length.
    Tossed salad double speak will not do. It is counterproductive and, should this go on any longer, will mark this pontificate as at least disingenuous if not far, far worse.
    Time to clean up the mess in the short time remaining while it might still be accomplished.

  26. Dan says:

    we will know soon enough if he was acting on his own or on the Pope’s authority.

    If in the next week we hear of an overhaul of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, or perhaps some scandal involving it requiring the Pope’s personal intervention, then we will know he was acting on his own.

  27. donato2 says:

    Meanwhile, the German conference of bishops is doing and saying the opposite. It is being reported today that it issued guidelines that allow for communion for the divorced and remarried in “individual cases.”

  28. thomas tucker says:

    So Cardinal Wuerl is giving me carte blanche to do whatever I want? Great! My conscience never bothers me when I am doing what I want.

  29. TimG says:

    Austin – you make an excellent point. The German bishops have provided guidelines (apparently released 1/23) that are quoted in Lastampa and linked on Fr Spadaros twitter feed a short while ago.

    Further speculating on my part, the timing of Cdl Mullers interview seems aligned to intercept and rebut those guidelines.

  30. thomas tucker says:

    TimG- who would ever have thought that we’d be getting our authoritative Catholic teaching via Twitter , magazine interviews, and second hand conversations about what the Holy Father thinks?

  31. cwillia1 says:

    I see a veneer of orthodoxy placed on top of a de facto license for hetero-praxis. Look, Muller is not speaking with the authority of his office and even if he does at some point, unless there is a clear and timely correction to wrong-minded statements from bishops, it will amount to nothing. Orthodoxy is upheld so orthodox catholics should keep their mouths shut while nothing is done to bring sacramental discipline in line with orthodoxy. It looks like an intentional strategy designed to undermine established, authoritative teaching by creating realities at the parish and diocesan level.

  32. stuartal79 says:

    Austin, there will some German bishops who uphold traditional teaching.

  33. Benedict Joseph says:

    No sooner said than the German hierarchy goes balistically contrary, yet again.
    Will there be a corrective? No.
    Another false consolation.
    Back to square one.
    How long do sheep follow shepherds who make game of them?

  34. TimG says:

    Thomas tucker – never imagined this. Dangers of the Internet. “What does the pope really think?” “I don’t know – let’s go check Fr xxxx’s twitter feed and see.” :(

  35. AveMariaGratiaPlena says:

    Thank God.

  36. SG says:

    It have interpreted Cardinal Muller as generally criticising all disrespect to the authority of the pope (by talking too much), not just from the bishops from Malta.

    If a mortal sin requires understanding and intent to sin and the clergy and catholic community does not have the ability (or even credibility due to scandals and poor example) to transfer teachings and dogma at 100% accuracy and 100% assimilation to parishioners, then surely Pope Francis is justified in highlighting the need for pastoral care, discernment and flexibility in some cases.

    (also see comment by Keven 1/2/17 12.25 PM)

  37. albizzi says:

    Sorry, your Eminence, AL is confusing.
    Otherwise never the erring Maltese bishops would have used it to oblige their priests to act against their consciences while scandalizing a lot of maltese faithfuls who took the initiative to correct them publicly in a newspaper ad.
    And never the 4 cardinals would have felt themselves obliged to write the five dubia letter.
    We are all understanding that Card. Muller is “walking on eggs” since he looks slowly deviating from the “party line” in the Pope’s eyes. Anyways it is his duty to reply clearly the five dubia in an official statement since the Pope remains dumb. But in doing so it is highly probable that he would be summoned by Francis and fired on-the-spot. That seems to be the new and efficient method for governing the Church.

  38. arga says:

    but the cardinal’s analysis is sadly hypocritical; a magnificent defense of true doctrine, on the one hand, and yet —- a defense of the very source (A.L.) of the errors he condemns!

  39. Rosary Rose says:

    I’ll say it. The emperor has no clothes.

    Fr AJ, your quote of Cardinal Wuerl sounds like blatant heresy. What he says is contrary to the Catholic faith and he portrays it as truth. He is misleading hundreds of thousands of souls.

    Kevin, yes. The mother of two must risk the second divorce if her husband refuses to live as brother and sister. Two things: when you follow God, He takes care of you. Romans 8:28. Secondly, Mary and Joseph lived as brother and sister, lean on them for help and example. When we take up a cross for God, He rewards us in ways we never could have comprehended.

    A lack of trust and or belief in God’s providence is why we have the problem of abortion today. Why we have so many of our problems. We have lost our belief that God will take care of us.

    There is a storm raging. Are we willing to step out of the boat and go towards Christ? Return to belief in the mystical – Save the Liturgy, Save the WORLD!!!

    This weekend is a First Saturday. I encourage everyone to start a five First Saturday devotion, whether you’ve made one already or not. Commit to the Nineveh 90 starting Feb 13. Pray the rosary every day, especially for our Leaders.

    God bless Fr. Z.

  40. Semper Gumby says:


  41. thomas tucker says:

    btw, Cardinal Wuerl has a comments section on his blog site and I asked him about his statement on conscience . Not surprisingly, he neither responded nor posted it. It’s funny how conscience is emphasized as being inviolable when it comes to sexual morality, but when it comes to killing and other issues, it is emphasized that we are to form and correct our erroneous conscience in accordance with Church doctrine and the natural law.

  42. Thorfinn says:

    Kevin –

    “…He threatens that she’ll lose her job, her house and access to the three other children that they have had together, if she insists on ending their sexual relationship. This woman is forced against her will to comply…”

    Obviously if someone is actually forced to do something against their will they do not sin at all. But how can you suggest answer to this hypothetical is for the woman to submit to her abusive partner!? Have some compassion for the woman! What kind of monster is this she is shacking up with, who threatens to take her job, her children, and throw her out on the streets!? She should get out of that situation as quickly as possible; in the West a lawsuit would likely gain her sexual harassment damages, custody of the children, and a restraining order. But even in countries where the woman may not get much legal protection, morality & common sense agree that she needs to get out ASAP — seek sanctuary in the Sanctuary, if need be. What would you have a priest say: come to Communion, then go back to adultery with this monster? Can you deny that Our Lord & Our Lady would have special compassion for such a one?

  43. robtbrown says:

    thomas tucker,

    I had the same experience. My conclusion is that the comments section is only for applause, which of course is another example of Clericalism. It suppresses the episcopal mandate to teach, which is mentioned five times in the rite of episcopal ordination.

Comments are closed.