Ever since last Saturday night, when my translation of portions of a very important 4 May speech made by Cardinal Gerhard Müller in Oviedo, Spain, was published here at OnePeterFive, I have been expectantly and eagerly waiting for a proportionate response from the media to this statement by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). However, I have been disappointed. Most Catholic outlets have largely limited themselves to using and reporting on an article published by the Catholic Herald in England, misleadingly entitled: “Cardinal Müller: Amoris Laetitia is in line with previous teaching on Communion.” Even secular outlets have ignored this apparent (and potentially scandalous) conflict amidst the highest echelons of the Church.
While it is true that Cardinal Müller did not explicitly contradict Amoris Laetitia, the entirety of his speech – as well as his other speeches in Spain, all of which will hopefully soon be available in English – is an implicit act of resistance against the seeming tendency of Amoris Laetitia to undermine the Sacramental Order and foundational moral teaching of the Catholic Church. In nearly every single aspect, Cardinal Müller rectifies and corrects what Amoris Laetitia has quite explicitly left open. Here is an example of what I mean – in Müller’s words:
This is not an exaggerated conclusion drawn from the teaching, but, rather, the foundation itself of the Sacramental Constitution of the Church, which we have compared to the architecture of Noah’s Ark. The Church cannot change this architecture because it stems from Jesus Himself and because the Church was created in it and is supported by it in order to swim upon the waters of the deluge. To change the discipline in this specific point and to admit a contradiction between the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Marriage would necessarily mean to change the Profession of Faith of the Church. Concerning their Faith in an indissoluble marriage – not as a distant ideal, but as a concrete way of conduct – the blood of the martyrs has been shed.
Yet, these expressed words have not yet made much of a difference to the world, as it appears. Secular media barely reported on Müller’s statement. When one watches how he delivered the speech — even if one cannot understand the words he is speaking (the video of the speech is in Spanish, with no subtitles) — it becomes clear how serious the German cardinal is and how much weight is resting on his shoulders at this moment of history. It is apparent that he knows the gravity of what he is doing.
Moreover, in another earlier speech on 2 May in Valencia, Spain – upon which I hope that someone with the means to properly translate will soon make a fuller report – Müller has refuted the claim of Amoris Laetitia that the Catholic concept of marriage is “an ideal too abstract and too far away in the distance.” Müller replied: “No, it is the idea of God, and He will give us the Grace to live it!”
Thankfully, Dr. Sandro Magister, whose work we admire and have so much relied upon, has published today his own article with a translation of parts of the 4 May Oviedo Speech by Cardinal Müller. He trenchantly describes the fact that not even the Osservatore Romano published Müller’s talk, and he then proceeds to explain why, finally, Cardinal Müller’s words are largely now being ignored and why his words will practically have “a minimal impact”: namely, because “the role of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now marginal and essentially irrelevant”! In Magister’s eyes, Pope Francis has effectively “changed the shape of the papal Magisterium.”
This insight leads us to the important question of how Pope Francis has effectively worked out such a change.
In this context, it is worthwhile to review the words of one of Francis’ closest advisors and one of the authors of Amoris Laetitia, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández, who had had in the past already some serious conflicts with the head of the CDF. (Fernández is also said to have ghost-written Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, as well as the Encyclical Laudato Si.)
In the following, we propose to show how Fernández describes the method of operation of the Pope Francis apparatus [or “Nomenklatura?”] with regard to changing the culture, the mentality and the praxis of the Catholic Church. On May 10, 2015, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera had published an interview with Archbishop Victor Fernández.
This interview immediately caused a stir in Rome because it turned out to be a more-or-less direct attack on the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller. “Catholics know from reading the Gospel that it was to the Pope and the bishops that Christ granted a special governance and enlightenment — and not to a prefect or some other structure,” Fernández said. “When one hears such things, one could almost get the impression that the pope is merely their representative [i.e., a representative of the Curia itself] or that the pope is one who has come to disturb and must, therefore, be [himself] monitored.” This criticism aims unmistakably at Cardinal Müller and his prominent official remarks that his duty as the head of the CDF is “to provide the theological structure of a pontificate.” Vatican Insider journalist Andrea Tornielli had himself previously and quite sharply rebuked Cardinal Müller for his public remarks.
Archbishop Fernández puts it bluntly in the 10 May interview he gave about the papal concept of reform: “The pope first filled St. Peter’s square with crowds and then began changing the Church.” When asked whether the Pope is isolated in the Vatican, he responds: “By no means. The people are with him [Pope Francis], and not with his adversaries.”
The 53-year-old archbishop then added: “The pope goes slow because he wants to be sure that the changes have a deep impact. The slow pace is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of the changes. He knows there are those hoping that the next pope will turn everything back around. If you go slowly it’s more difficult to turn things back.” The interviewer then proceeded to ask him whether it does not help his adversaries when they know that Pope Francis says that his papacy might be short. Fernández answered: “The pope must have his reasons, because he knows very well what he’s doing. He must have an objective that we don’t understand yet. You have to realize that he is aiming at reform that is irreversible. If one day he should sense that he’s running out of time and doesn’t have enough time to do what the Spirit is asking him, you can be sure he will speed up.”
These words could be read in the context of the ongoing, two-year-long procedure and discussion on the question of marriage and the family that has caused much confusion among the faithful. And we see now how the pope can also very suddenly make a big step ahead. Archbishop Fernández is convinced that Pope Francis’ changes within the Church will remain even after his own papacy:
No, there’s no turning back. If and when Francis is no longer pope, his legacy will remain strong. For example, the pope is convinced that the things he’s already written or said cannot be condemned as an error. Therefore, in the future anyone can repeat those things without fear of being sanctioned. And then the majority of the People of God with their special sense will not easily accept turning back on certain things.
When asked whether the Pope is causing a schism within the Church, the Argentinian responded:
No. There’s a schism when a group of important people share the same sensibilities that reflect those of a vast section of society. Luther and Protestantism came about this way. But now the overwhelming majority of the people are with Francis and they love him. His opponents are weaker than what you think. Not pleasing everyone does not mean provoking a schism.
In spite of his denial of a larger opposition against some of Pope Francis’ attempts to change the Church, Archbishop Fernández admits that, today, probably a Conclave would not re-elect Pope Francis. He said, when asked about a possible re-election: “I don’t know, possibly not. But it happened.”
Here we have it. The majority – and the majority of the public media! – are behind the pope. “His opponents are weaker than what you think.” This is exactly what we are witnessing right now. Almost nobody reports on Cardinal Müller’s resistance.
Elsewhere, Fernández revealed a similar strategy of how to deal with the topic of the “remarried” divorcees, just as Archbishop Bruno Forte, the pope’s hand-selected Special Secretary to the synods, also revealed it a few days ago. It was earlier disclosed in Fernández’ 21 October 2014 interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nación — just after the October 2014 Synod on the Family concluded — where he said:
Really I thought that this topic [of the “remarried” divorcees] was not going to be treated, or that it was going to be mentioned in a passing way, because there were many other matters that concerned us more. What raises our attention is the possibility raised by many bishops that persons that are divorced and remarried could be allowed to receive communion. I would not talk about divisions, because those who brought the matter forward did it with much prudence, safeguarding the indissolubility of marriage and the ones that opposed it were thinking in the good of the families and of the children. There was only a group of six or seven very fanatical and somewhat aggressive persons that did not represent even 5% of the total persons that were attending the Synod. […] Perhaps we missed saying, at the very least, with Pope Francis: “Who are we to judge gays?”
As Fernández has said elsewhere about the pope’s program: “The Pope says we must ‘transform all things’ to evangelize the world today” and to enter into a “permanent state of mission.” The Archbishop also says that the Pope “destabilizes everyone.” Finally, Archbishop Fernández rebukes “conservatives” once more, saying that “some people listen to a pope only if what he says coincides with their own ideas.” And he concludes: “While these people seem to appear conservative as regards doctrine, fundamentally they seem not to have faith in the special assistance of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised the pope.”
Here we have an unmistakably subversive revolutionary strategy in front of our eyes. We have no choice but to face the fact that we are, in natural terms and in a practical way, in the resistant minority – just as those Jews who had loyally followed Christ, in spite of the disapproving stance of the official Sanhedrin hierarchy of the Synagogue. We are called to the same loyalty and fidelity, even though we do not yet know at what cost this must be accomplished.
But while in natural terms those standing for Christ’s Truth seem to be losing this fight, we know it is a supernatural battle, and that finally, the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. She will make sure that Her Son will be defended and that His enemy will be conquered. God’s timing is perfect!
Though we are called to our duty, we may rest in the knowledge that the solution will not arrive at the hands of men. It is in this context that we await consolation from heaven; a sign of hope, some encouragement that will give all of us new strength for battle and joy in our trials. She who is Queen of Heaven will prevail; she, who has the mission to crush the head of Satan, and has at her command every legion of angels. The victory, we trust, will be hers.