“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
The case of the former Prefect of the CDF, Gerhard Ludwig Card. Müller has prompted a lot of stories and speculation. What is clear is that Card. Müller was appointed to a five-year term by Pope Benedict. When Benedict abdicated, all offices (except a couple) were also vacated. Francis reconfirmed Müller for the rest of his term. Müller’s term was up on 2 July. On 1 July Francis informed Müller that he would not be reconfirmed as Prefect.
On top of those facts, it seems that Müller also declined to accept a post as Patron of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. Hence, Müller remains in Rome, as a Cardinal, with membership on other Congregations, but without a specific mandate in a dicastery. It seems he will not be going back to Germany as a diocesan bishop.
Tales have started to multiply. Some of them are based on what Müller himself said in an interview with a German newspaper. For example, that he spoke by telephone with Card. Meisner (of the Four Cardinals of the Five Dubia) on the night Meisner died.
However, other tales include spectacular accounts of more of the conversation that Card. Müller had with the Pope when the Pope, effectively, fired him.
Today I read at the site of Marco Tosatti, perhaps the best Italian language vaticanista working right now – surely better than that capricious weather vane Tornielli – that he obtained a brief statement from my old friend Greg Burke, who is now the papal spokesman. HERE
Tosatti presents (in Italian) a status quaestionis and then offers Burke’s response about the tales told at the site, for example, 1Peter:
C’è stato uno sviluppo. Abbiamo ricevuto dal portavoce vaticano, Greg Burke, una mail, che ovviamente riportiamo, avendo dato conto di quanto aveva scritto One Peter Five. Eccola:
Ho letto il tuo pezzo di oggi sul Card. Muller.
Ho solo una cosa da dirti:
La ricostruzione è totalmente falsa.
Ti prego di pubblicare quanto ti scrivo.
I read your piece today about Card. Muller.
I have only one thing to say to you:
The recreation is completely false.
I ask you to publish what I am writing to you.
I’ll just add that, when I read those tales, I was pretty skeptical. Also, Greg Burke doesn’t just make statements without consultation.
On another note, please read Ed Peters on the tales about conspiracies to undermine or overturn Humanae vitae.
I entirely believe that there are many enemies of Humanae vitae who labor to destroy its teaching and authority.
Does Pope Francis have a secret – or not so secret – team which he has tasked with this objective? I wrote about that here before.
Dr. Peters wrote at his place – HERE – that the teaching on contraception can’t be overturned.
About that ‘Humanae vitae’ rumor
Too many Roman rumors, it seems of late, have turned out to be true (or close enough to true) to rule out recent rumors that a “papal commission” has been set up “to reconsider” (perhaps as a step toward repudiating?) Bl. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae(1968). In any event, a few observations.
1. Humanae vitae itself, as brilliant as it was and as prophetic as it turned out to be, was not an infallible exercise of the (papal) magisterium. But rather than defend that view against the few serious-thinking Catholics who might disagree let me move directly to my second point.
2. In my opinion the central teaching in Humanae vitae—thatcontraception between married couples (both terms being correctly understood) is intrinsically evil— [NB]is a proposition infallibly taught by the (ordinary universal) magisterium of the Church. I say this in light of my third point.
3. That the substance of Humanae vitae is infallibly taught by the ordinary magisterium is masterfully argued in: John Ford & Germain Grisez, “Contraception and the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium”, Theological Studies 39 (1978) 258-312. This article expands on ideas considered in John Ford & Gerald Kelly, “Can the Catholic Teaching Change?”, in theirContemporary Moral Theology (Newman Press, 1963) II: 256-278, but the 1963 article, while very good, need not be read in order to follow the 1978 discussion. If Ford and Grisez are correct (as I think they are, even in the face of some important challenges over the years) then no substantive modification of Humanae vitae can be wrought by any commission, papal, dicasterial, or otherwise.
4. What one could imagine being discussed hereabouts is whether the rejection of contraception set forth (I would say, infallibly) in regard to conjugal relations is applicable to non-conjugal relations. Some theologians, solidly committed to defending Church teaching against conjugal contraception, have flagged the fact that the anti-contraception tradition, witnessed to in Humanae vitae, has been clearly articulated, so far at least, only in regard to conjugal sex. See, e.g., Ramón García de Haro (Spanish priest, 1931-1996), Marriage in the Documents of the Magisterium: a course in the theology of marriage (Ignatius, 1993) 297-298. To be sure, others (including the esteemed William E. May, translator of García de Haro) argue that the Church’s rejection of contraception between married couples, already part of the infallible magisterium, also applies to non-conjugal sex (sex that is, of course, by definition, objectively immoral); but it is also possible that the Church’s rejection of conjugal contraception does not apply outside of that context. I grant, of course, that explaining that difference, not to mention keeping it from morphing into a license for all sorts of morally illicit acts, would not be easy in age ill-equipped to follow subtle discussions and ill-disposed toward even trying, but for those respectful of the Church’s tradition of precision in complex matters, drawing the distinction seems a possibility.
In any case, my main point is this: before any commission or study group could move against the substance of the Church’s teaching reflected in Humanae vitae, the arguments for its infallible certainty, arguments set forth and steadily defended by Ford and Grisez, would need to be addressed and soundly rejected.
Something I don’t see happening. At all.
Be careful out there in the interwebs. Be very careful.