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Editorial: Müller’s manifesto
A recent document released by the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is just the latest reminder — as if another were needed — of the stark divisions that currently exist within the Church.
A “Manifesto of Faith,” subtitled “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” was issued Feb. 8 by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former head of doctrine at the Vatican. He was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and was dismissed by Pope Francis in June 2017 without being given a reason — a method Cardinal Müller later called “unacceptable.”
Cardinal Müller’s document summarized five key aspects of Catholic doctrine: belief in the Trinity; the nature and authority of the Church; Christ’s presence in the sacraments; the “liberating truth” of moral law; and the reality of hell and promise of eternal life. It relies heavily on the Catechism of the Catholic Church to reiterate the basics of the Faith. Were it not for the public perception that Church politics played a role in its creation, the document would hardly be a newsmaker.
In the section of the manifesto that has attracted the most attention, however, Cardinal Müller directly addresses the topic of Communion for the divorced and remarried, a topic that has been heavily discussed and debated since the release of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) in 2016. Cardinal Müller unequivocally restates the Church’s traditional practice.
“From the internal logic of the sacrament,” he writes, “it is understood that civilly remarried divorcees, whose sacramental marriage exists before God, as well as those Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic faith and the Church, just as all who are not properly disposed, cannot receive the holy Eucharist fruitfully (Catechism, No. 1457) because it does not bring them to salvation. To point this out corresponds to the spiritual works of mercy.”
Since the document’s release, another prince of the Church, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has weighed in, saying the document will lead to “confusion and division.” Commentators are even more blunt. Those from more conservative circles call the document a straightforward statement of faith. Those from more progressive circles say it’s an undermining of papal teaching and the pope himself. These rather predictable responses are less effective in seeking and understanding the truth than they are in demonstrating the deepness of the Church divide.
Cardinal Müller himself states two reasons for writing the manifesto. First, because he was asked. Because of “growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith,” he writes, “many bishops, priests, religious and laypeople of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation.” Second, because many Christians today “are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith,” which leads to “a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life.” The manifesto does not mention the pope, neither by name nor by office. Some see this as a deliberate attempt to undermine the papacy, while others see it as evidence that the document is not meant to challenge Pope Francis.
For those of us stuck on the sidelines, we should focus as best we can simply on loving and serving the Lord. With frequent reception of the sacraments, by adoring the Blessed Sacrament, we can remain steadfast in faith while weathering any political storms, present or future, roiling the Church. And we can pray for true, unifying clarity to come from the one Christ designated to give it: the successor of St. Peter, the Holy Father himself.
OSV Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young