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VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog has been dismissed from his post. Reports claim Cdl. Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — and outspoken critic of the agenda to open Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried — is being removed by Pope Francis at the end of Müller's five-year term, July 2, 2017. Speculation is that Boston's Cdl. Sean O'Malley may replace him.
The news follows months of rumors that Müller's time at the CDF was nearing an end, as he became increasingly vocal about his denunciations of attempts to change Church discipline and doctrine on marriage and the sacraments.
"I have said it many times, and I repeat it here again," he said in remarks made June 21, "Jesus established clearly, and without doubt, the indissolubility of valid matrimony. This is what we must preach, declare and explain to the Catholic faithful."
Addressing the worldwide confusion following Amoris Laetitia and various dioceses using it to open up Holy Communion to those in adulterous or homosexual relationships, the cardinal explained, "Contrition, confession and reparation are the three necessary elements for absolution. These are the immediate conditions for receiving the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ, who is the same divine Person who forgives us."
A December shake-up at the CDF caught Müller by surprise, who lost three of his best staff. According to Vaticanista Marco Tosatti,
[Cdl. Müller] was very perplexed, because they were good priests, and among the most professionally capable. He declined to obey, and asked the Pope for a private audience. He had to wait because the meeting was postponed several times. Finally he was received. He said, "Your Holiness, I received these letters, but I have not done anything, as these persons are among the best in the Congregation. What have they done?" The answer was: "I'm the pope, and I don't have to give reasons for any of my decisions. I've decided that they must go, and therefore they must go." He stood up, extending his hand, signaling that the meeting was over.
Müller later confirmed he had been caught off guard by the pope's move.
Some speculate tensions between the cardinal and Pope Francis began when Müller added his name to a letter of protest at the 2015 Synod, which sharply criticized the lack of transparency and consultation, going so far as to hint at an agenda. "A number of Fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions."
The letter criticized the lack of "openness and genuine collegiality," and ended with a note of warning about the potential collapse of the Church if the Synod was not cautious in its discussions of issues like Communion to the divorced and remarried, which could "raise even more fundamental issues about how the Church, going forward, should interpret and apply the Word of God, Her doctrines and Her disciplines to changes in culture."
Pope Francis rejected the letter's suggestions.
Spanish newspaper Clarìn speculates Cdl. O'Malley of Boston is being eyed to head the CDF, a Franciscan who has come under fire for his refusal to confront Catholic politicians, including attending a gala ceremony in honor of President Obama in May, appearing with Democrat John Kerry at a graduation ceremony in 2014, and sitting in choir at pro-abort stalwart Ted Kennedy's funeral in 2009.