Vatican Watchdog Speaks Out on Dubia: No Communion for Civilly Remarried

News: World News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  February 1, 2017   

Cdl. Gerhard Müller: Neither "the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it"

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ROME ( - Cardinal Gerhard Müller is affirming that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics must pledge to remain continent before being admitted to the sacraments and that not even the pope can remove this indispensable condition.

The Italian magazine II Timone recently asked the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) if the stipulation that such couples "strive to live in continence" prior to reception of confession and Holy Communion — as required by Pope St. John Paul II — was still required. The Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog responded, "Of course, it is not dispensable."

The cardinal emphasized that the Church has no ability to alter this law. "[N]o 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."

In the interview published Wednesday, Cdl. Müller was questioned about the conflicting interpretations surrounding the post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. The cardinal cautioned that this document can't be interpreted in isolation of perennial Church teaching.
"Amoris Laetitia must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church," he insisted.

He also made clear that it must be interpreted in its entirety and not taken piecemeal. "One cannot refer only to little passages present in Amoris Laetitia, but it has to be read as a whole, with the purpose of making the Gospel of marriage and the family more attractive for persons."

Cardinal Müller voiced his displeasure with the contradicting opinions posited by various bishops concerning the papal exhortation. "I don't like it, it is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope's teaching," he lamented. "This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine."

It is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope's teaching.

He advised those bishops, whom he said "are talking too much," to first learn the Faith themselves before attempting to teach others. "I urge them to study first the doctrine [of the councils] on the papacy and the episcopate." If bishops don't become well-informed themselves, then they may "fall into the risk of the blind leading the blind."

Asked if personal conscience could ever trump Church teaching on faith and morals, the cardinal flatly rejected the possibility. "No, that is impossible," he replied. "For example, it cannot be said that there are circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin. For Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for mortal sin to co-exist with sanctifying grace."

This is the very reason God instituted the sacrament of confession, he added.

Much attention focuses on John Paul II's 1981 papal exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which stipulated that remarried adulterers could not remain sexually active and still be admitted to the sacraments. But Cdl. Müller noted that much of the confusion stems from a rejection of the Church's "clear doctrine of intrinsic evils" as presented in John Paul II's 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (VS).

The Church teaches that intrinsically evil actions are everywhere and always wrong regardless of why they are done or circumstances surrounding the actions such as time or place. Examples of such intrinsically or objectively evil actions are abortion, adultery or suicide.

For Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for mortal sin to co-exist with sanctifying grace.

Veritatis Splendor teaches that all intrinsically evil acts are wrong for everyone regardless of any judgment made by a person's conscience. "[N]egative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception."

In other words, when God commanded, "Thou shalt not ... ," it applied to all people for all time.

This is also explained in paragraph 1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which reads, "If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists."

Incidentally, the questions presented to Pope Francis and to Cdl. Müller's office by the four cardinals in their widely reported dubia revolves around these two main issues:

  • The role of conscience in keeping God's law
  • Intrinsically or objectively evil acts that can never be done in good conscience

Cardinal Müller notes that the role of priests and bishops is to bring clarity and not confusion. He is urging all priests and laity alike to learn their faith.

"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," he explained.


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