VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog is saying there will be no formal correction of Pope Francis.
Speaking Sunday to Italian TV station TGCOM24, Cdl. Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said of the dubia submitted by the four cardinals, "I do not like this." In his opinion, Amoris Laetitia presents "no danger to the Faith," and thus it was wrong "almost to force the Pope to say yes or no" to their doctrinal queries.
"Even a possible fraternal correction of the Pope seems distant," he clarified, "It is not possible at this time because it [Amoris Laetitia] is not a danger to the faith ... ."
Four cardinals — Raymond Burke, Carlo Cafarra, Joachim Meisner and Walter Brandmüller — issued a series of questions to Pope Francis in September requesting clarity on passages of the apostolic exhortation that have engendered widespread confusion. Titled "Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia," the cardinals' letter noted "a grave disorientation and great confusion" among the faithful over "contrasting interpretations" of the exhortation.
"We want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel all ambiguity," the letter explained.
After the Holy Father failed to answer the questions, or dubia, after two months, the cardinals went public with the letter. It has since provoked controversy, leading to attacks by fellow prelates, with one even accusing the cardinals of apostasy and fostering schism.
Burke has made clear that if the Holy Father fails to respond, the cardinals may take the extraordinary measure of seeking a formal correction of the Roman Pontiff. Asked by EWTN's Raymond Arroyo on December 15 whether the possibility of a formal correction still stands, Burke answered, "Of course it does. That's the standard instrument in the Church for addressing such a situation."
Müller continued in his interivew, "We are very far from a correction, and I say that is a loss to the Church to discuss these things publicly."
He insisted that Amoris Laetitia "is very clear in its doctrine and we can interpret the whole doctrine of Jesus on marriage, the whole doctrine of the Church in 2,000 years of history."
According to the prefect, the Holy Father is simply asking people "to discern the situation of these people who live in an irregular union, that is not according to the Church's teaching on marriage, and is asking you to help these people find a way to a new integration into the Church under the conditions of the sacraments, the Christian message about marriage."
"But I do not see any opposition," he claimed. "On the one hand, we have the clear teaching on marriage, on the other the obligation of the Church to concern itself with those who are in difficult situations."
The varying interpretations of Amoris Laetitia by bishops around the world, however, belie Müller's claims. The German Bishops Conference has officially come out supporting an interpretation of the papal exhortation that allows for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Holy Communion, while San Diego bishop Robert McElroy has issued a statement saying it should be left to individual conscience to determine. The Argentine bishops have also issued guidelines suggesting the matter should be decided on a case-by-case basis. All of these positions contradict longstanding Church teaching and practice that only those in the state of grace may receive Holy Communion, and that those in an objective state of adultery — regardless of personal culpability — must refrain from receiving.
Cardinal Burke has repeated on several occasions that Amoris Laetitia is not part of the infallible magisterium.
"My position is that Amoris Laetitia is not magisterial because it contains serious ambiguities that confuse people and can lead them into error and grave sin," he told Catholic Action in November. "A document with these defects cannot be part of the Church's perennial teaching. Because that is the case, the Church needs absolute clarity regarding what Pope Francis is teaching and encouraging."