Cdl. Farrell’s Super-Dicastery Sidelines CDF on ‘Amoris Laetitia’

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  December 6, 2016   

New prefect speaks as if doctrine is a matter of opinion while Cdl. Müller is muted

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VATICAN ( - The prefect of the newly established super-dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life is critical of those who oppose his liberal interpretation of "Amoris Laetitia" (AL), while sidelining the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) by brushing off doctrinal objections to AL as mere differences of opinion.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell in comments he made recently in the liberal U.K paper The Tablet "criticized opponents of the papal exhortation 'Amoris Laetitia' for closing their minds to 'certain nuances that exist in the life of people.'" He added that such critics "wished the world were 'more perfect then [sic] it truly is.'"
The new cardinal of the recently formed super-dicastery, which began operating in September, further downplayed the doctrinal concerns voiced by prelates who insist that interpreting AL so as to allow sexually active divorcees to receive Holy Communion would contradict Church teaching.
"It doesn't surprise me in the least that there would be differences of opinion — there are differences of opinion as to which way you say the 'Hail Mary,'" he said, "there are differences of opinion as to how we celebrate the Mass and which language we use."
In October, Cdl. Farrell professed that AL "is faithful to the doctrine and to the teaching of the Church." Referring to Pope St. John Paul II's 1981 papal exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" the cardinal proclaimed of AL, "It is carrying on the doctrine of 'Familiaris Consortio' of John Paul II. I believe that passionately."
But Cdl. Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, seems to disagree. He was asked last week to weigh in on the doctrinal questions contained in the official questions, or "dubia," on AL sent in a recent letter submitted by Cdl. Raymond Burke and three cardinals to Pope Francis, asking specifically whether AL allows civilly remarried adulterers to receive Holy Communion.
It was then that Cdl. Müller brought up the CDF's 1994 rejection written by Cdl. Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) of such "pastoral" proposals. Cardinal Müller affirmed that AL "should not be interpreted as if the teachings of earlier Popes and the CDF on the subject were no longer binding."
In this 1994 letter cited by Cdl. Müller, Cdl. Ratzinger's reasoning disagrees with that of Cdl. Farrell, declaring:
If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists. ... The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution ... when for serious reasons, for example, for the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.
But in November, Cdl. Farrell seemed to contradict his previous position regarding AL as being in accord with "Familiaris Consortio" when he publicly castigated Abp. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia for Chaput's guidelines, which implemented paragraph 84 of "Familiaris Consortio."
Paragraph 84, as implemented by Abp. Chaput, requires civilly remarried divorcees to be chaste before they can receive the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion.
With Cdl. Müller keeping relatively silent while Cdl. Farrell takes center stage on the issue of how AL gets interpreted, the question of unrepentant adulterers being allowed to receive Holy Communion seems to be shifting from a doctrinal question to a mere pastoral question.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. gave some insight into how this would eventually play out. In a video from October 2014, he predicted,

The reception of Communion is not a doctrinal position; it's a pastoral application of the doctrine of the Church. ... It involves the mercy of God, the sacrament of reconciliation, the conscience of the individual person, the state of the soul of that individual person. All of those things are quite distinct from a statement in the doctrine of the Church.

Some prelates disagree with this faulty separation of doctrine and discipline. Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, observed, "To varying degrees, the idea would consist in placing the Magisterium in a pretty box and separating it from pastoral practice, which could evolve according to such circumstances, fashions and emphases."
He characterized this separation as "a form of heresy" and "a dangerous, schizophrenic pathology."

The head of Poland's bishops, Abp. Stanislaw Gądecki, also disagrees with the position held by Cdls. Farrell and Wuerl on the separation of Church teaching and personal practice. Archbishop Gądecki expressed his belief that those who wish to divide Church teaching from discipline are really about altering Church doctrine while professing to change only the application of the doctrine.

Practically all are repeating that there will be no doctrinal change. ... [O]ne cannot speak of the separation of the practice of the Church from Her doctrine, from Her teachings. The two are inseparable. I have the impression that many supporters of this modernity are in fact thinking about changing doctrine, yet calling it a change in Church discipline. ... [It] is strongly emphasized: "We accept the entire doctrine," but there immediately follows a suggestion that doctrine has nothing to do with it. This is greatly worrying me, for one and the other are saying that they want no change in doctrine. From where then, are arising these practices opposed to doctrine?


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