News is now spreading about Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s varied remarks on marriage, as well as on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia itself, during his trip to Spain at the beginning of May. As the Spanish website Infocatolica.com now reports, Cardinal Müller spoke at a presentation of his new book on hope at the Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid, Spain, where he affirmed and confirmed the traditional view of marriage and the “impossibility” of changing that clear doctrine.
“It is not possible to live in God’s grace while living in a sinful situation,” he said, and continued by saying that people living in sin “can not receive Holy Communion unless they have received absolution in the sacrament of penance.” Müller importantly added that the “Church has no power to change the Divine Law” and that “Not even a pope or council can change that.” He also said that it is a “misreading” of the Pope’s exhortation that has caused so much polemic, and also that his own book is dedicated to the Pope.
According to the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost, Cardinal Müller, who is the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, also made some important statements concerning the question of the “remarried” divorcees at another talk given at a seminary in Oviedo, Spain. The Tagespost is quoting from the manuscript of Müller’s speech, which it will soon publish in its entirety. As this German source now reports, Müller said that there have been different interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, one of them even saying “that the door has been opened for the remarried to be admitted to the Sacraments in individual cases.” The newspaper continues: “The prefect of the Congregation for the Faith is of another opinion.” Müller stressed in his talk, and “with decisiveness,” that there, “where Amoris Laetitia speaks in general about situations, without concentrating on the very concrete circumstances – for example, in the cases of a civil remarriage after a first sacramental marriage – the previous statements of the Church’s Magisterium are still valid with regard to these concrete cases,” according to the Tagespost. The newspaper continues: “And this applies [according to Müller] clearly to the reception of Holy Communion by remarried divorcees. What has been taught by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio and by Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis is still valid in an unchanged way.” In this context, the Tagespost – which the only prominent nation-wide Catholic newspaper in Germany – quotes Cardinal Müller verbatim:
There have been different claims that Amoris Laetitia has rescinded this (prior) discipline, because it allows, at least in certain cases, the reception of the Eucharist by remarried divorcees without requiring that they change their way of life in accord with Familiaris Consortio 84 – namely, by giving up their new bond or by living as brothers and sisters.
Cardinal Müller responds to this line of argumentation with the following words:
If Amoris Laetitia intended to rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, it would have expressed itself in a clear manner and it would have given the reasons for it. However, such a statement with such a meaning is not to be found in it [Amoris Laetitia]. Nowhere does the pope put into question the arguments of his predecessors. They [the arguments] are not based upon the subjective guilt of these our brothers and sisters, but, rather, upon the visible, objective way of life which is in opposition to the words of Christ.
Moreover, the German cardinal also discusses the question as to whether there is not a certain change to be found in footnote 351 of the papal document, where it says “that the Church could offer the help of the Sacraments to those who are living in an objective situation of sin.” He responds to this question with the following words: “Without entering into this question in a deeper way, it is sufficient to point out that this footnote refers in a general way to objective situations of sin, and not to the specific cases of the civilly remarried divorcees. Because this latter situation has its own distinctive characteristics which differentiate it from other situations.” Here Cardinal Müller repeats the Church’s teaching that the “remarried” divorcees live “in opposition to the Sacrament of Marriage and therefore also in opposition to the Discipline of the Sacraments,” as the Tagespost paraphrases the cardinal’s words. Therefore, in Müller’s own words, the footnote 351 does not “touch upon the earlier discipline. The norms of FC 84 and SC 29 and their application in all cases continue to remain valid.”
The Tagespost also presents another extended statement by Müller concerning the “remarried” divorcees:
The principle is that no one can really want to receive a Sacrament – the Eucharist – without having at the same time the will to live according to the other Sacraments, among them the Sacrament of Marriage. Whoever lives in a way that contradicts the marital bond opposes the visible sign of the Sacrament of Marriage. With regard to his existence in the flesh, he turns himself into a “counter-sign” of the indissolubility, even if he subjectively is not guilty. Exactly because his life in the flesh is in opposition to the sign, he cannot be part of the higher Eucharistic sign – in which the incarnate Love of Christ is manifest – by receiving Holy Communion. If the Church were to admit such a person to Holy Communion, she would be then committing that act which Thomas Aquinas calls “a falseness in the sacred sacramental signs.”