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CDF Prefect Characterizes Statement Made by Papal Adviser as “Heretical”

From Left to Right: Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernàndez
From Left to Right: Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernàndez

Last year in Rome, a controversy emerged concerning some comments made by Cardinal Gerhard Müller about his own role in the Church as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Müller indicated that it was thus his task to help in the “theological structuring” of the pontificate of Pope Francis. These statements, which he made in an interview with La Croix on 29 March 2015, included the following statement:

“Pope Francis is also more pastoral and our mission at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to provide the theological structure of a pontificate.”

At the time, this particular statement had especially provoked a reaction from some of the close collaborators of Pope Francis, such as the Italian journalist of La Stampa, Andrea Tornielli, who then commented on 7 April 2015:

Cardinal Müller’s words – which introduced the new task of “provid[ing] the theological structure of a pontificate,” a task that had not been formalised until now –  went practically unnoticed. While on the one hand his words open up new doctrinal scenarios in relation to Church tradition, on the other they seem to suggest that, according to Müller, the current pontificate – and [like] St. John XXIII’s [pontificate] too – lacks sufficient theological “structure.”

Moreover, the ghostwriter of many of the pope’s current writings, Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, himself decided to make his own critique of Cardinal Müller’s statement in his well-known (and quite controversial) interview with Corriere della Siera on 10 May 2015. In this interview, Fernández – whom Dr. Sandro Magister recently demonstrated to have written certain essential parts of Amoris Laetitia in articles published in his own name a decade ago – acerbically commented on those who still resist Pope Francis’s reforms. Fernández said, “Others — really just a few — are, instead, going their own way. And from what one can see, they tend to ignore Francis’ teachings.” The interviewer requested more:

[Question:] Could you give us an example?

“I’ve read that some people say the Roman Curia is an essential part of the Church’s mission, or that a Vatican prefect is the sure compass that prevents the Church from falling into ‘light’ thought; or that this prefect ensures the unity of the faith and guarantees a serious theology for the pope. But Catholics, reading the Gospel, know that Christ assured special guidance and enlightenment for the pope and bishops all together, but not for a prefect or another structure. When you hear such things it almost seems as if the pope were their representative, or was someone who came to cause trouble and needs to be controlled.”

[Question:] Would it be possible to have a pope without the Vatican or away from the Vatican?

“The Roman Curia is not an essential structure. The pope could even go and live away from Rome, have a dicastery in Rome and another one in Bogotà, and perhaps link-up by teleconference with liturgical experts that live in Germany. Gathered around the pope, in a theological sense, is the College of Bishops in order to serve the people.” [emphasis added]

A little later, Fernández continued: “Cardinals could disappear, in the sense that they are not essential. The pope and the bishops are essential.”

These terse stipulations of the Argentinian archbishop, however, provoked an immediate response in the form of a statement made to the same newspaper – only one day later, on 11 May 2015. The statement was made by Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretary of State, who then corrected Fernández. Becciu came to the defense of the Curia and stressed that – while it is correct that the pope and the bishops are the shepherds of the Church – the Curia has historically developed and has played a very important role in helping “the growth of the Church.”

In May of 2015, it is likely that Müller also learned of Archbishop Fernández’ provocations. If he did know, he maintained a public silence – until now. Müller has just given an interview to the German Catholic journal, Herder Korrespondenz. This interview has already created a stir due to the CDF Prefect’s comments indicating surprisingly strong stipulations concerning reconciliation of the SSPX. What has mostly escaped notice was another segment of the interview, one in which Cardinal Gerhard Müller thoughtfully returns to the earlier statements of Archbishop Fernández, at least one of which was clearly directed against Müller, if not by name.

Müller labels as heretical the claim that the pope is not bound to live in Rome. When asked about Pope Francis’ “acts of relativizing the papal office” and whether “his style is changing the theological profile of the papal office,” the German cardinal said the following :

The teaching on the papacy as a Divine institution cannot be relativized by anybody – this would mean to want to correct God Himself. […] A while ago, there were people who were presented by certain tendentious media outlets as being the closest counselors of the pope, and specifically according to whom one could even well move the residence of the pope down to Medellin or distribute the offices of the Curia to the different local churches. This is fundamentally wrong and even heretical [“sogar häretisch”]. In this matter, one only has to once read the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council in order to recognize the ecclesiological absurdity of such thought games. The residence of the pope is the Church of St. Peter in Rome. (my emphasis added)

In his sequential remarks, Cardinal Müller presents the teaching of the Church, namely that Saint Peter’s explicit mission – “to herd the whole Church as her supreme Shepherd” – has been transmitted “to the Church in Rome, and with it, to its bishop, the pope.” He continues: “Here, it is not only about an organizational juggling, but about the preservation of the God-given unity.” Müller explains that it is also “about the representation of the leading clergymen of the Roman Church – the cardinals – who help the pope to carry out his primacy” and that “the Roman Church herself is the mater et magistra of all the churches in the world.”

It is somewhat stunning to see how the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – also without mentioning any names – has now seemingly singled out the pope’s closest advisor — and ghostwriter of important papal texts like Amoris Laetitia — in order to chasten him for his presumptuously insouciant and possibly heretical views.

68 thoughts on “CDF Prefect Characterizes Statement Made by Papal Adviser as “Heretical””

  1. Oh what fresh Hell is this? Not content with potentially scuttling the reconciliation with the Society, is Cardinal Mueller now questioning the validity of the Avignon popes?

    • In my opinion, the SSPX would be well inspired in going slowly with the reconciliation with Rome.
      They must hold firm about the VAT II’s council acknowledgement which the Vatican requires as a prealable. That is not negotiable.

      • There will be no peace until Rome recognises Vatican II as a terrible blunder & rescinds it. It must hold on to Tradition and that means bringing back TLM & all sacraments & devotional exercises. The SSPX & other Traditional Orders are very well placed to help in teaching NO priests the Tridentine Mass and in keeping the altar a place where they, as apostles of Christ, celebrate in person Christi, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is central to our faith & priests are central to this wonderful event being made possible & available to all Catholic brethren.

        For over half a century the leadership of the CC has severely scandalised its membership – now is the time for reining in the dissidents & weeding out sodomites. It has to be done before the Church can be restored.

        • A friend of mine told me she attended a mass recently in Texas at which the pastor’s dog processed down the aisle clad in “matching vestments” with the pastor. He, the dog, was allowed to prowl around the Sanctuary all during the sacrifice of the mass. In his mock vestment. Sickening!!!!!!
          THIS is what comes out of Vatican II.

          • That’s a dreadful scandal and one that should have been confronted by a couple of male members of the congregation acting swiftly to remove the dog. That priest should be brought to the Bishop’s attention by those attending the Mass. How insulting to the Blessed Sacrament!

    • Yes. Of all the hills for Mueller to die on – the residency of the Pope in Rome?

      Fernandez’s comments are certainly dotty, but there’s no defined dogma that Popes *must* be resident in Rome. St. Peter himself was first bishop of Antioch…and more than once in the 19th and 20th centuries, popes explored contingencies to relocate the papacy, temporarily at least, in case of war and invasion.

    • Mueller said, after 2009, that the 4 SSPX bishops were still excommunicated. Apparently B16’s action on their behalf was not disexcommunicatory enough. It makes a lot more sense – or no less – to suppose that they were never excommunicated.

  2. Bishop “Heal me with your mouth” says:

    “But Catholics, reading the Gospel, know that Christ assured special
    guidance and enlightenment for the pope and bishops all together, but
    not for a prefect or another structure. When you hear such things it
    almost seems as if the pope were their representative, or was someone
    who came to cause trouble and needs to be controlled.”

    While saying it he knows full well of his own heretical ideas that will be presented in Bergoglio’s “Amoris Laetitia”. I detect clever stage-setting for deception and a high degree of self-interest here.

    Another thing is the inconsistency of modernist reasoning, the self-serving attitude, the selective memory. Suddenly he ponders the times when Christ walked on earth, as though the ever-evolving god of surprises and progress cared about ways of the past. Isn’t Bergoglio’s favourite call: “Moving forward”?

    And there is the question: Would Christ ever discuss the art of kissing? Would He say: Myself, I don’t know much about it, but one talks to people. One talks to them so much about this rather intimate aspect of their lives, one becomes an expert.

    Maybe this is the topic of confessions with modernists these days.

    The healing power is in God alone, Ghost Writer! Don’t you know? Focus on the Kingdom of Heaven and salvation through Jesus Christ. As soon as you do that, sound doctrine will suddenly become useful. No, not useful – it will become necessary.

    If you have a fear of our just and merciful God, you will not want to rely on your own (possibly ill-formed) conscience alone. You will appreciate those who came before you. The expression: “Standing on the shoulders of giants” comes to mind. No need to force open wide-opened doors.

  3. Just as Bugnini was “promoted” to nuncio to Iran, perhaps Pope Sarah will “promote” Fernandez to ISIS-controlled Iraq. Maybe he can try to “heal them with [his] mouth”. Kiss of peace and all that.

      • So there are in Lutheranism, but one wouldn’t condemn the denial of the Holy Trinity on the basis of Luther’s doctrine.
        There are other grounds for defending the “Romanity” of the Church other than the document of the ‘questionable’ subsistit principle.

      • Yes, in the documents of Vatican Two there are many fine and Traditional teachings – the ones preceding the Council and reiterated there. As for the Council novelties, they are prudential and pastoral and are they binding as it is claimed they are?

        In view of the conciliar practice and pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Synod defines matters of faith and morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so.

        Addenda to Lumen Gentium, Explanatory Note of the Theological Commission, Documents of Vatican II, Abbot translation. (America Press: 1966), p. 97-98.

      • I think there is more than what meets the eye. Vatican 2 was a mistake. And even if there are documents that are traditional, what happens to the other documents that are perhaps a bit controversial? Just because there are SOME traditional documents in Vatican 2 does not entail that in its entirety it is all good and well.

        • Those things that are novel in VII are tricky, complicated matters. I don’t see how your comment helps the discussion move forward.

  4. Cardinal Müller seems to be attempting to get blood out of a stone. Vatican II was always described as a pastoral council & as such its papers & conclusions were not deemed infallible teaching although Modernists pressed extremely hard for them to be recognised as such. Now that Vatican II has been turned on its head, he rather belatedly tries to get acceptance for its summations & the implementation of them in a last ditch effort to save Vatican II from demolition. This surely is not in accordance with the Office he holds which should be absolutely clear in its dogmatical teaching rather than its pastoral teaching.

    Up until now the Vatican had nothing but contempt for Tradition & Traditional Orders like the SSPX, so what has changed? Why the sudden rush to get them on board? Would it be Lund perhaps, in order to soften the blow for the rest of us into accepting unrepentant Lutherans et al into the Mystical Body of Christ, or worse still into accepting Amoris Laetitia in full?

    • All of the above, plus it’ll be easier to “stamp-out” the pesky SSPX once it’s under the boot heel of the Vatican.

      • God’s Will will prevail – no-one can fight it. Tradition is the way to go because that is what sustained the CC from the time of the Apostles to the Vatican II Council. When dispensed with, nothing has been right in the Church and won’t be until they bring Tradition & the proper interpretation of Scripture fully back into existence.

  5. Müller for Pope.

    And now I once again see the actual value of VII. It often did reaffirm tradition and orthodoxy, and it’s a trump card to use against libCats who worship it as the font of all that’s good.

    Remember, the poisons in the Church sprang mostly from the fevered imaginations of those possessed by the ‘spirit of VII’ and not from the Council itself.

    • Have you actually read Gaudium re Spes and Sacrosanctum Concillium? If so, how can you possibly say all that’s wrong with VII is “from the fevered imagination of those possessed by the ‘spirit of VII”? They’re dreadful documents! Quite frankly VII stinks!

    • Muller for Pope? Oh please, no. Are you aware of Muller’s theological explorations of the Resurrection and the virginity of Our Lady?

      • That was before his conversion. Seriously. The old heretic cardinal of Germany, Lehmann, recently lamented how Muller has changed since the early 90s when he was more”open and flexible”. People change: some go from heterodox to orthodox (like Muller), others go from orthodox to heterodox (Origen, Tertullian, Luther and too many others to count). Muller’s a good egg, but Sarah’s the next pope.

        • I hope you’re right about his conversion. I think there’s plenty of reason to be wary of Cardinal Muller even now. But with God nothing is impossible, as I know well from my own past (and present) life.
          By the way, I know of your apostolate and cheer it whole-heartedly. I’m glad to see you comment here!

          • Thanks, the apostolate is a great grace–for me anyway.

            Steve’s done a great job with the site. It definitely fills a need. It will be fun to read sites like this one after the next conclave. I’m sure Steve will enjoy publishing content that is 95% edifying/good news.

          • Looking to the next conclave- well, you’re an optimist. I’m not, and it doesn’t matter. May our faith increase and may we persevere until the end. That’s all that matters.

  6. Card. Muller: “The residence of the pope is the Church of St. Peter in Rome.”

    If it is heretical to assert and maintain that it is possible for the Pontifex Maximums, The Successor of St. Peter, the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome to not live at Rome and still retain the Office of Supreme Pontiff, what is the officeholder of these and other titles of the Roman Pontiff doing living in the Vatican City State which isn’t even another city in Italy but a completely different country?

    The Head of the Catholic Church is not currently residing in Rome. Neither physically or legally. He has the plenitude of authority to govern the diocese of Rome due to universal jurisdiction.

    Why are we having problems? The Pope is not in Rome. One must speak of the Church of the Vatican City State.

    Cast off this monstrous legal fiction! Renounce the Vatican City State now.

      • I’m not saying he isn’t. However he does not reside in Rome. Prior to 1929 and excluding the Avignon period, the Roman Pontiff resided in Rome. Never did they govern Rome from a distance much less another country like is happening now.

        Edit: And when the Popes were at Avignon the results were not good and this is as a result of the spiritual wound of not residing in Rome.

    • The U.S. Embassy is in Rome, yet is a completely different country.
      Your assertion is a semantic silliness. If you have walked in Rome you would stumble across St. Peter’s and say “look, it is is Rome”
      The fact that it has autonomous governance does not change its geographic location.

      • Then what was the purpose of going to all the trouble of declaring the Vatican City State to be a sovereign entity separate from the State of Italy if there was not some perceived change in status? Trust me, every official that has any dealings with the matter on a day to day basis knows exactly where the one ends and the other begins. Why are they behaving that way? Why are they making a big deal out of it?

        Because the Vatican is no longer considered, for legal purposes, part of Rome or Italy. This is the monstrous legal fiction. By sovereign act they have been separated, divorced really, one from the other.

        My assertion is that St. Peter and his successors are irrevocably united with the City of Rome. When something intrudes to disrupt this relationship, bad things happen.

        The relationship has been intruded upon. Bad things are happening.

  7. i think the heresy thing he references is delegating papal authority to foriegn sees, say the archdiocese of berlin gets to be prefect of CDF for a turn, or rather each episcopal conference gets their own CDF, all independent of each other

  8. Speaking of heresy: get this latest from Francis:

    It is not Catholic (to say) ‘or this or nothing:’ This is not Catholic, this is heretical. Jesus always knows how to accompany us, he gives us the ideal, he accompanies us towards the ideal, He frees us from the chains of the laws’ rigidity…
    Just like AL – Commandments are only ideals, and asking for dogma is heretical.

  9. Yet, Francis allows this advisor to remain in his position while the Cardinal Prefect for CDF- also appointed by Francis- says this??? My head is spinning.

    • Cardinal Muller was appointed by BXVI in 2012. I thing Francis will hold onto Muller rather than cut him loose like Cardinal Burke. Keep your friend close and your enemies closer.

      • Tim, thank you for correcting me about which pope appointed Mueller. Sometimes my head spins so fast based on daily developments inside the Vatican with the pope and his minions!

          • True, but Francis only deals with Sarah from afar. I mean, at least Sarah doesn’t live at the Vatican, does he?! Head scratcher- yes, but even Francis has thrown the conservatives a bone every now and then. You know, maybe Francis tries to appease us rigid, moral, judges in order to further his agenda. After all, Francis hasn’t listened a whole lot- based on his first encyclical and exhortation- to prelates like Sarah.

          • I have said the same thing before on another blog: that in my opinion, Pope Francis from time to time does something “orthodox” – just to throw orthodox Catholics a bone. …otherwise he would have a full scale resistance***. A resistance that we must organize, despite the ‘bones’ he throws us.

            On June 25, in Rome, Catholic Laity are organizing to call for Pope Francis to rescind the Amoris Laetitia. I unfortunately am not able to go to Rome, but I have sent in a donation to support it. I hope all the Catholic blogs run by laity publish the results of that conference at the same time. Us commenters can then chime in to add our support.
            *** Actually now I’ve changed my imagery. Every time (the few times) Pope Francis says something orthodox….it seems to me he’s throwing chicken feed in a direction, and Catholics – who don’t want to believe that we have a heretical pope, rush to eat the chicken feed ‘squawking’ to every one ” see, see Pope Francis is orthodox” ….these Catholic chickens include the cardinals and bishops – who will not call the Holy Father out on his latest exhortation, but point to its “orthodox’ parts. To them, I say : “sure, your Excellencies, allow us to eat the poison in the chicken feed: the only exception is Bishop Schneider.

  10. From all indications what Cardinal Muller says is mostly ignored by Pope Francis. He evidently is not one of the “insiders”. What we continue to have here is a ‘one man show’ but with only confusion to show for it. We must pray daily for all of them as the way they are supposed to light gets dimmer by the day.

  11. It is not required that the Bishop of Rome reside in Rome in order to be “Peter”. It is preferable, but there are a number of times in history where this was not possible. The same is true of other bishops. The council of Trent sought to correct abuses in this regard.

  12. Tucho’s ardent desire is a Church without devout faithful, thus enabling the remaining clergy class to live their lives without the need to cover their tracks. Something more like a faculty room – with edgy discussion and the exchange of cutting edge notions. Open
    minds, open mouths. Archbishop Tucho Fernandez, author of “Heal Me With Your
    Mouth” and “Amoris Laetitia” is proving the unveiling of the Bergoglian ecclesiastical model.
    If you need more you can’t miss this…

  13. Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernandez needs to stop making up new rules for the Church that was founded by Jesus Christ.

  14. The Popes have managed to govern the Church from outside Rome – from 1305 to 1370 and then again until 1378, they were at Avignon. Which remained Papal territory until the Revolution – IOW, for over 400 years. Fernandez is correct. When was it defined as a dogma revealed by God that the Pope cannot transfer his see from Rome to elsewhere ? One cannot be a heretic unless one denies a defined dogma. So F.’s words cannot be heretical.


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