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Reactions from Germany to Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s Defense of Amoris Laetitia

In the wake of the recent 8 January defense of the papal document Amoris Laetitia by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), there have been an increasing number of faithful Catholics now coming forth with reluctant criticisms; others quote the cardinal in order to claim that the case of the dubia has now been closed for good. In the following, I shall concentrate on three major voices: the German pro-life activist and book author, Mathias von Gersdorff; the German theologian, Dr. Markus Büning; and Guido Horst, the Rome Correspondent and former editor-in-chief of the major national German Catholic newspaper, Die Tagespost.

As we recall, Cardinal Müller has claimed that the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is in accordance with the traditional teaching on marriage and that there is no danger to the Faith coming from this document. He has also now issued a critique of the four cardinals who published their dubia with reference to this papal document.

First, let us consider those German Catholics who now criticize Cardinal Müller’s position and recent statement. Mathias von Gersdorff shows himself disappointed with Cardinal Müller’s rebuke of, as well as his distancing from, the Four Cardinals’ own Dubia, and he says that the words of this cardinal thereby now “increase the confusion concerning Amoris Laetitia.” Von Gersdorff, consequently, now raises an important issue and question when he says:

It is indeed remarkable that Cardinal Müller chooses an interview on television in order to criticize his brothers of the College of Cardinals [the Four Cardinals]. As Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith, he has at his disposal means that are more apt than an eleven-minute-short interview in which merely three minutes are dedicated to the Apostolic Exhortation. Does such a statement in a television interview have at all any relevant authority? One would have expected from a Prefect that he make such a grave statement – which has caused nearly an earthquake – either in L’Osservatore Romano or in an academic journal of theology. [my emphasis]

In von Gersdorff’s eyes, Müller did not even have “the time to give sufficient reasons for his critique.” [my emphasis] He continues, saying that “such a short format does not allow a larger explanation which would correspond to the weight of the statement.” The German author continues:

But that [a more careful explanation] would have been truly fitting. It is impossible that Cardinal Müller missed the fact that many bishops and bishops’ conferences already interpret the document [Amoris Laetitia] very differently from Tradition (and its own conceptions) and that they want to allow Communion for the remarried divorcees. That is also the clear tendency in Germany, the homeland of Cardinal Müller.

Von Gersdorff is also sound when he adds: “If he [Müller] thinks it is right to criticize the authors of the dubia, then it would be fitting also to criticize those who push ahead and interpret Amoris Laetitia (AL) in opposition to Tradition, with Cardinal [Reinhard] Marx being at the head of all of them.” [my emphasis]

(In this context, it might be worth noting that Cardinal Müller just recently declined to comment on Cardinal Marx’ own decision to remove his pectoral cross when visiting Jerusalem. Müller explicitly then said that he does not like to criticize his fellow prelates and cardinals in public: “I don’t think it is right to criticize my fellow prelates and cardinals in public, and I myself don’t do it.”) Mathias von Gersdorff, in his own article, rightly asks here why Cardinal Müller criticizes those who try to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on marriage while being altogether silent about the heterodox interpretations of Amoris Laetitia. Von Gersdorff thus fittingly comments that “with his own selective criticism, Cardinal Müller has now unfortunately increased the confusion concerning Amoris Laetitia”; inasmuch as “the simple faithful see [and hear] a cacophony as they have never before seen it, concerning a moral theological question which had been clarified already by many popes, and for many centuries.” The German journalist ends his commentary with this piercing statement:

Many ask themselves: Why do the pope and the second man in the Vatican – that is to say, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith – not confirm and strengthen the teaching of the Church in this important question where there are so many people who now openly deny this teaching?

As a second German voice, Dr. Markus Büning – who has repeatedly raised in the recent past his passionate and principled voice of indignation concerning Amoris Laetitia and the silence of the prelates of the Church – discusses in a new article written for the German website the question of a well-formed conscience with regard to the matter of the “remarried” divorcees.

Dr. Büning criticizes Amoris Laetitia for the fact that it is not based on the traditional Catholic teaching that a Catholic’s conscience has to be formed according to the Church’s Magisterium – and also with the reliable help of that Magisterium whose duty it is to teach the faithful trustworthily. As Büning says: “Only the well-formed conscience judges rightly and truthfully!” After repeating the Church’s clear teaching with regard to the “remarried” divorcees and their being disallowed still to receive the Sacraments, as was laid out in paragraph 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Büning concludes:

This text [FM 84] is not lacking any clarity. Here, nobody who knows the text can justly find an excuse, and nobody can thus come to the conclusion – with the help of a [purportedly] well-formed conscience – to seriously offer other solutions for the so-called remarried divorcees.

The German theologian continues by showing how the pope himself has taken now Amoris Laetitia on another path: “Pope Francis has now distanced himself with the publication of Amoris Laetitia from the clear teaching of his predecessor [John Paul II] and from his strict proscription as to the reception of Sacramental Communion, as was laid out in Familiaris Consortio 84.”

Here thus follows – and this appears especially important with regard to the discussion about Cardinal Müller’s own recent statements – Dr. Büning additional comment:

In this context, the repeatedly soothing comments by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith are not helpful, either, according to which the Church’s teaching has not been changed [in AL]. For the sake of clarity and truth, I cannot follow here the line of Cardinal Müller. One thing is indeed obvious: AL has not confirmed, but softened Familiaris Consortio n. 84. [my emphasis]

In the following, Dr. Büning shows how Pope Francis, with the help of footnote 351, does consider it possible for the “remarried” divorcees to have, in certain cases, access to the Sacraments. However, for this German theologian, the more crucial part of that section in AL is the fact that the document “does not any more present to mankind the Divine Law as unalterable precept.” On the contrary, “now the misguided, autonomous individual conscience is being celebrated by a pope!” [my emphasis] Büning concludes: “This teaching stands in clear opposition to the previous teaching of the Church concerning a well-formed conscience as it has been expressed in the Church’s Catechism which is still valid.” Thus, the German theologian does not only consider footnote 351 to be a problem, but, rather, the whole “paradigm shift” that is explicitly to be found in paragraph 305 of AL, which now “describes the Divine Moral Law not any more as an indispensable norma normans, but, rather, degrades it into being a mere source of inspiration for human conduct.”

In the face of such moral clarity and principled indignation and courage, one may only have wonder at a recent article written by the prominent Guido Horst in the conservative newspaper Die Tagespost. For him, Cardinal Müller’s own 8 January statement concerning Amoris Laetitia and the dubia has now closed the case, as it were. He sees that the debate within the Church has – with the recent words of the cardinal – reached “an intermittent end,” and thus adds: “After all, the words of the Prefect for the Faith stem from a qualified and competent source.”

After quoting Müller’s words, according to which there will be no public correction of the pope, Horst concludes with the following words:

Thus it is clear that, in the foreseeable future, there will be no further attempt coming out from the College of Cardinals or the world’s episcopacy to correct the pope formally, as Cardinal Raymond Burke once proposed it.

In a quite surprisingly authoritative fashion, Horst also declares that any continuing debates should now be ended: “Also the debate concerning the dubia (the doubts of the four cardinals) – as it had been led in the recent past, in public – is closed. It may continue among the experts, but it is not any more useful as a cause for irritation.”

As a little further surprise at the end of his article, the German journalist even proposes that Amoris Laetitia has, indeed, now set “stricter standards” [my emphasis] than before when it comes to the question of the “remarried” divorcees and as to how to discern their situation and accompany them. Prior to Amoris Laetitia, where some German dioceses had wished for an easier solution for everyone, the new papal document has now purportedly set the challenge of looking more carefully into each case individually. Thus, Horst says: “With Amoris Laetitia, the conditions for it [the pastoral care in individual cases] have become, rather, even stricter now.”

The future will likely disclose whether or not a Mr. Horst is shown to have had the proper advice – that is, the correct declaratory advice and even an authoritative prediction for the doctrinal and pastoral discussions within the Catholic Church. As for OnePeterFive, we shall continue to try to do our best not to allow the fuller and proportionate truth about Amoris Laetitia to be muted or proscribed.

24 thoughts on “Reactions from Germany to Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s Defense of Amoris Laetitia”

    • The reason so many people don’t see AL as a danger to their faith is because they don’t have the faith; therefore, that document poses no danger to whatever it is they have.

  1. Ironic Not A Word from Muller on Cupich, McElroy, McGrath, Gomez of California , Vatican officials , Austrian , Belgian and German Bishops promoting communion and acceptance of Homosexual so called couples and Lutherans consubstantiation heretics receiving the Body and Blood of Christ at Rc faith Communion. That IS Apostasy and Heresy to be sure yet NOTHING from Muller about the clowns like Boff, Radcliffe Sparano and Roisica that Francis Sad to say has promoted and coddled for three years now. . SHAME on all of them.

  2. Unless the Letter of Correction is read publically at the same time as PF receives it, in say, a major mainstream newspaper, (and anticipates the ridicule it will receive at hands of some hierarchy), the purpose of the Letter will be undermined; whilst its purpose is an act of charity towards the Pope surely the most important purpose is to provide clarity to the Faithful who need to be shown there is a deliberate but unpalatable choice to be made regarding the contents of the Catholic Faith. This pontificate’s destruction of the Church and the Catholic Faith is not going to stop. If they intend coming after the ER Mass, it needs to be known by all the Faithful that the celebration of the ER continues to be in accordance with God’s Will. These statements by Cardinal Muller surely involved a choice for him too.

  3. It seemed like Cardinal Mueller had been contradicting his boss in a subtle manner but got shook up when the boss fired 3 perfectly good priests from the CDF without any explanation. He knows the truth, pray that he has the fortitude to start speaking truth again before cognitive dissonance sees him believing what he now says.

  4. I’m sorely disappointed in Cardinal Mueller, but now have a feeling why PF moved Cardinal Burke out of that position. Cardinal Burke, God bless him, is more like a polite, well-spoken bull dog, which is what The Church needs right now.

  5. When the Son of Man returns, will He find Faith? I feel as if I am living within the confines of Sodom and Gomorrah waiting for an Angel of God to come and tell me that he will soon destroy the whole city. All the while, I pray that, even if very small in number are the truly faithful Catholics, that God will spare those of us who will live in the aftermath of a gigantic schism. With all the Novus Ordo parishes and dioceses nearly everywhere throughout the West, where will us who remain faithful to Christ go? I am sad and angry, and about another dozen feelings I cannot put into words. And, some of those words- entirely uncharitable towards those who seek to dismantle the Faith and destroy the Church from within like a cancer. These heretics and apostates must be excised from the vine. What priest can I or any of us go to who will teach and preach the One, True, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith without watering it down or teaching outright heresy and heterodox theology?

    God help me, if the Church Militant was a real army…the “bombing” would start in five minutes. Sorry, my thirty years of serving in the US Army is coming out. I know who my enemy is- Satan, and all of his disciples- ordained and otherwise who trample on me and my Faith.

  6. The heretics have the power. It is not going to get any better. The US Catholic bishops are more concerned with migrants and the millions they get from the government. When the Pope and most Bishops and clergy deny the Faith, is this still the Church. We have watched for years as public supporters of child murder and sodomy were given Communion. Should we really be shocked.

  7. For Mr. Horst to suggest that after AL the pastoral care will be even more strict is Horst poop. Nobody in their right mind believes that the German prelates like Marx and Kasper and Daneels etc. are looking for more rigid assessments for their flocks, they are looking to set them all free from 2000 years of continuity and all the restraints . Moral absolutes be damned in their eyes….especially Spadaro.

  8. Amoris is about giving Holy Communion to those in a civil union. We allowed the debate to be side-tracked by the emotive ‘divorced and remarried heterosexuals’ argument set up by Kasper et al. This is about Church approval for so called gay ‘marriage’, civil unions.

    • This is exactly true. AL is a dagger aimed at the heart of Catholic moral teaching. Its ramifications are huge, and have the effect of deconstructing the faith, right down to belief in Jesus’ divinity.

    • Of course it is.

      There is an argument that in Germany it’s about money too, but there is no doubt that the links between certain Bishops and certain politicians mean that it is the gay argument that is forcing it.

  9. Since Pope Francis and the Cardinals who support him on Eucharist to the divorced remarried couples r in direct contradiction to Pope JP2 teaching on the same topic which is clear and non-ambiguous and hence Magesterial, they r in a state of heresy and hence cease to be in their office directly by that fact. So anyone following their teaching is also in a state of heresy unless Pope Francis officially clarifies that his teaching in AL on this issue is infallible which will then override Pope JP2 teaching. Has Pope Francis the courage to do this to end all further discussion on the topic? He will then infallibly be teaching a heresy and that may incur God’s wrath on himself! But that seems to be the only way this confusion can be sorted out. Do the 4 cardinals who submitted the Dubia have the courage to give a formal correction of the Pope’s teaching in line with Catholic doctrine since the Pope himself does not appear to be in any mood to do so? That could be another option. Maybe they can do it formally with more signatures from other supporting cardinals from the College of Cardinals.

  10. If the Pope remains silent regarding the dubia letter, it is his duty, as chief of the CDF, to address the issue since he received a copy of that letter in the same time as Francis.
    Obviously the Pope already ordered him to shut up.

  11. Cardinal Ciappi, who had read the Third Secret of Fatima: “In the Third Secret, it is foretold, among other things, that the great apostasy in the Church will begin at the top”.
    Our Lady of Akita: …”Bishops against bishops, cardinals against cardinals”…
    Sister Lucia of Fatima: “Final Confrontation between the Lord and Satan will be over Family and Marriage.”
    Those who have ears should hear.


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