ROME— The Vatican’s doctrinal czar believes Cardinal Raymond Burke’s threat to issue a “fraternal correction” of Pope Francis is “very remote,” because despite what the American prelate says, the papal document on the family Amoris Laetitia actually is very clear in its doctrine.
Speaking about a dubia letter Burke and three other cardinals sent to the pope late in 2016, urging him to respond to a series of yes or no questions regarding Amoris Laetitia and its provisions for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith acknowledged that everyone, “above all cardinals,” has the right to write a letter to the pope.
However, Muller added, “I am amazed that this became public, essentially constraining the pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I don’t like this.”
The letter was intended to be a private affair, but when Pope Francis refused to answer the questions, the cardinals gave it to the press, just a few days before October’s consistory for the creation of new cardinals.
Regarding a possible formal correction, which Burke said he was willing to do if the pope continued to refuse to answer the question submitted last September, Muller stated that “it’s not possible in this moment, because it doesn’t concern a danger for the faith as St. Thomas said.”
Amoris Laetitia, which some believe offered a cautious opening for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, “is very clear in its doctrine and we can interpret the whole teaching of Jesus on Matrimony, the whole teaching of the Church in 2000 years of history,” Muller said.
The prelate’s words came as he was talking to Italian TV show Tgcom24 on Sunday, a little more than a month after he’d told German website Kathpress that it wasn’t his office’s role to “participate in the controversy of opinion,” but to speak with the authority of the pope.
In Sunday’s interview, Muller also said that Francis “asks to discern the situation of these people who are living in unions that are not regular, that is, not in accord with the teaching of the Church on matrimony, and asks to help these persons to find a path for a new integration in the Church according to the conditions of the sacraments, of the Christian message on matrimony.”
According to the German prelate, appointed as the Vatican’s doctrinal czar by Benedict XVI, there’s no opposition: “On the one hand we have the clear teaching on marriage, and on the other hand the obligation of the Church to worry about these people in difficulties.”
Muller also responded to questions on other issues, such as the comments Francis had made earlier that day, regarding women’s right to breastfeed in public- even in Church, and his latest book, Benedict and Francis, Successors of Peter in the Service of the Church.
“Pope Francis speaks so much of the heritage, the theology, the announcement of the Gospel by [emeritus] Pope Benedict XVI, especially when he said that ‘mission is not proselytism, it wants to attract people to Jesus Christ,’” Muller said.
Asked about the popular tendency to compare Francis to his predecessor, the cardinal argued that it “goes against the Catholic faith” to do so, since both pontiffs are “gifts for the Church,” each of them marked by different experiences and different cultures.