Amoris Laetitia in continuity with Church teachingCardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has, on multiple occasions, maintained that Amoris Laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching.
Feb 10, 2017
By Elise Harris and Anian Christoph Wimmer
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has, on multiple occasions, maintained that Amoris Laetitia is in continuity with Church teaching.
In an interview with Italian monthly Il Timone published the same day the German bishops’ guidelines were released, the cardinal stressed that “it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the Pope’s teaching.”
“This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine,” he said, stressing that Amoris laetitia “must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.”
Having so many bishops split off with their own interpretations “does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine,” he said, adding that the Pope’s magisterium is able to be interpreted only by him or by the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation.
“The Pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the Pope; this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church,” he said, telling the bishops “who are talking too much” to first “study the doctrine (of the councils) on the papacy and the episcopate.”
As someone who teaches the Word of God to others, a bishop must himself “be the first to be well-formed so as not to fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind.”
Cardinal Müller pointed to Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II’s 1981 exhortation on the Christian family in the modern world, in which the Polish Pope stipulated that the divorced-and-remarried who for serious reasons cannot separate, in order to receive absolution in confession which would open the way to receiving Communion, must take on the duty to live in complete continence.
This aspect of the text, Cardinal Müller said, “it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”
Confusion on this point, he said, stems from a failure to accept St. John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis splendor, which taught that there are intrinsically evil acts, that absolute truths exist across various cultures, and urged sharp caution against moral relativism and the misuse of conscience to justify false or subjective morals.
For Christians, “marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride,” he said, adding that “this is not, as some said during the synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the Pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”
The prelate then suggested that in order to quell the confusion generated by the differing interpretations of Amoris laetitia, everyone ought to study the Church’s doctrine, beginning with Scripture, “which is very clear on marriage.”
He advised against “entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead.”
“These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage,” he said. The task of priests and bishops, then, “is not that of creating confusion, but of bringing clarity.”
Cardinal Müller stressed that amid the ongoing debate, “one cannot refer only to little passages” present in Amoris laetitia, but must read the document “as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons.”
“All of us must understand and accept the doctrine of Christ and of his Church, and at the same time be ready to help others to understand it and put it into practice even in difficult situations.”--CNA