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Shortly after the retirement of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch as ordinary of Freiburg im Breisgau, someone in that archdiocese pushed through a proposal to allow remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments. This caused some consternation, not least in the Vatican, since no such changes in doctrine had been proposed, let alone come into effect. Simply put, the archdiocese was out of line, doing something which it simply could not. Last month, Archbishop Gerhard Müller wrote an article outlining the Church’s teaching about marriage, divorce and the sacraments in L’Osservatore Romano.
Today, he wrote a letter to Archbishop Zollitsch, who still manages the affairs of Freiburg as Apostolic Administrator, in which he presents his conclusions about the proposal In short, it needs to be withdrawn and revised. Below is my translation of he letter, which will also be sent to the other diocesan bishops of Germany.
Honourable Lord Archbishop!
With the Document Prot. N. 2922/13, of 8 October 2013, the Apostolic Nuncio has communicated the draft of the guidelines for the pastoral care of separated, divorced and civilly remarried people in the Archdiocese of Freiburg, as well as your newsletter to the members of the German Bishops’ Conference prior to the publication of this letter, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. A careful reading of the draft text reveals that it does contain very correct and important pastoral teachings, but is unclear in its terminology and does not correspond with Church teaching in two points:
“Remarried divorced people themselves stand in the way of their access to the Eucharist”
1. Regarding the reception of the sacraments by divorced and remarried faithful the proposal from the bishops of the Oberrhein area is recommended anew as a pastoral direction: after a process of discussion with the parish priests, people concerned can either reach the conclusion to participate much in the life of the Church, but to deliberately refrain from receiving the Sacraments, while others can in their concrete situations achieve a “responsibly reached decision of conscience” and be able to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick, and this decision is “to be respected” by the priest and the community.
Contrary to this assumption the Magisterium of the Church emphasises that the pastors must recognise the various situations well and must invite the affected faithful to participation in the life of the Church, but also “reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried” (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, of 22 November 1981, N. 84; also compare the Letter of this Congregation of 14 September 1994 about the reception of Communion by remarried divorced faithful, which rejects the proposal from the Oberrhein bishops; and Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of 22 February 2009, N. 29).
This position of the Magisterium is well-founded. Remarried divorcees stand in the way of their access to the Eucharist, insofar as their state of life is an objective contradiction to the relationship of love between Christ and the Church, which is made visible and present in the Eucharist (doctrinal reason). If these people were allowed to receive the Eucharist this would cause confusion among the faithful about the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage (pastoral reason).
2. In addition to this a prayer service is suggested for divorced faithful who enter into a new civil marriage. Although it is explicitly stated that this is not some “semi-marriage” and the ceremony should be simple. but it would still be a sort of “Rite” with an entrance, reading from the Word of God, blessing and giving of a candle, prayer and conclusion.
Such celebrations were expressly forbidden by John Paul II and Benedict XVI: “The respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 84).
The affected faithful are to be offered support, but it must be avoided that “confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage” (Sacramentum Caritatis, N. 29).
Due to the aforementioned discrepancies, the draft text is to be withdrawn and revised, so that no pastoral directions are sanctioned which are in opposition to Church teaching. Because the tekst has raised questions not only in Germany, but in many parts of the world as well, and has led to uncertainties in a delicate pastoral issue, I felt obliged to inform Pope Francis about it.
“Going paths which fully agree with the doctrine of the faith of the Church”
After consultation with the Holy Father, an article from my hand was published in L’Osservatore Romano on 23 October 2013, which sumarises the binding teaching of the Church on these questions. This contribution was also published in the weekly edition of the Vatican newspaper.
Since a number of bishops have turned to me and a working group of the German Bishops’ Conference is dealing with the topic, I would like to inform you that I will send a copy of this letter to all the diocesan bishops of Germany. Hoping that on this delicate issue we are going pastoral paths, which are in full agreement with the doctrine of the faith of the Church, I remain with heartfelt greeting and blessings in the Lord.
Gerhard L. Müller
Former Dutch parliamentarian Boris Dittrich (pictured) has been treating several media outlets to the story of his visit to the Vatican and his conversation with Archbishop Müller. There are some serious problems with his comments, which I will try to address by fisking this article, which was written by Frans Wijnands and was published today on “meeting place for Christians” Het Goede Leven (all bold text in between square brackets are my comments):
The Pope does not decide the doctrine of the Church, says Archbishop Müller
Under the current Pope Francis there is no relaxation imaginable in the Church’s strictly dismissive opinion on homosexuality. So states the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It is not the Pope who decides the doctrine, the dogmas of the Church [well, in the case of dogmas, it is]. Concerning doctrine, that is a matter for the Curia. That is the response that Dutch former (Liberal Democrat] politician Boris Dittrich received from Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when Dittrich suggested out loud that the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards homosexuals could change in a positive way under Pope Francis.
Dittrich was in Rome and the Vatican these past days on behalf of Human Rights Watch, a worldwide human rights organisation which, among others, strives for equal rights for homosexuals [including the right to change truth, it would seem]. Dittrich is its director for ‘rights of sexual minorities’.
Earlier he had explained the position of Human Rights Watch in a more or less open letter of twelve pages [talk about losing the point in words, perhaps?] With the letter, Human Rights Watch encouraged Pope Francis last month to denounce violence towards and discrimination against homosexuals and transsexuals, and to stand up to priests and other workers in the Church who support violence against and discrimination of sexual minorities [Because no Pope has done that before. I'll just share this link again; in it I quote some sources which state exactly what Dittrich wants].
Dittrich travelled to Rome to personally explain the letter, but did not get to speak with the Pope [Did he think of making an appointment, or did he just assume the Holy Father would make time for him on the spot?]. The former D66 member of parliament was at the weekly audience with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday and was able to hand the letter to an assistant when Francis’ car stopped near him.
He did get to speak with Msgr. Müller (pictured), the head of the most important Vatican Congregation, that of the Doctrine of the Faith. Dittrich told Müller that he attended an opening of a campaign for more rights for homosexuals in Rio de Janeiro in 2008 and there spoke extensively with the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires: Msgr. Bergoglio, the current Pope. He told Dittrich that he was or is [odd and suggestive use of words] opposed to gay marriage, but could imagine that an alternative was possible, for example the legal recognition of homosexual relations. [Where did we hear that before? Oh, right: here.] A sort of cohabitation contract [as it exists in the Netherlands for both same-sex and separate-sex couples].
Cold and Stiff
To Dittrich’s suggestion that under the current Pope a relaxation of the Church’s strictly dismissive position was imaginable, Müller’s reply was that the Pope does not make policy, but that that was a task for the Curia.
“The entire conversation was cold and stiff. Very detached. Not a single sign of thinking along or sympathy, “says Dittrich. “I senses a tension, a sort of self defense.” [Probably because some research will show that the teaching of the Church is not subject to the personal opinions of whoever, and that Pope Francis is indeed a son of the Church, as he said himself].
In Rome and among Vatican watchers it is known that the public actions of Francis are not received well be everyone in the highest governing body. The Pope has repeatedly shown that he makes his own decisions and does not rely too much on the Curia. [On the other hand, Archbishop Müller and other Curial prelates have been confirmed in their jobs after careful consideration, a sure sign that Pope Francis supports them in their work].
He recently appointed Msgr. Pietro Parolin as new Secretary of State, as successor of Cardinal Bertone. Dittrich assumes that this new Secretary of State will loyally execute the Pope’s policies [Of course he will]. “That obviously creates tensions with the Curia [really?] Because it could lead to the influence and power of that Curia decreasing”, Dittrich assumes. [Dittrich should do a little less assuming and some more researching. Pope Francis was given a specific mandate to reform the Curia by the cardinals who elected him. Among them many Curial cardinals. Pope Francis' intentions to reform the Curia are hardly secret].
Shortly before resigning, Pope Benedict XVI appointed his former student, friend and confidant, Msgr. Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, [well, shortly... nine months, and it was a decision most likely far longer in the making], an office that Pope Benedict held himself for years before being elected Pope.
In the conversation [which took place where and how, I wonder? Did Dittrich meet the archbishop by chance or did he have an appointment?] with Boris Dittrich, Msgr. Müller also strongly attacked the role of the media. According to him, these are, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal, continuously out to hit the Vatican. [Well, many media outlets are, that's a fact. Whether it's wise to accuse all media of that, if the archbishop did, is the question]
I can’t help but consider Dittrich’s comments somewhat untrustworthy. He displays a lack of understanding about how the Church works and what she teaches, and a lack of preparation for his attempts to share a letter with the Pope. Add to that his clear liberal agenda, and we get an artificial image of a Curia opposed to their Pope, and image which simply is not supported by reality. It’s like what Archbishop Gänswein said when it was assumed that he and Pope Francis did not get along because he was Benedict’s man: ”All nonsense”.
Pope Francis has been encouraging a more pastoral approach to and treatment of homosexuals (and anyone else on the margins of our lives, for that matter) in the Church, but that is not the same thing as changing the teachings of the Church. Pope Francis has never indicated any willingness to change those. Those teachings are also not the product of policy makers, but have been given to us and continuously explained by the Church. To say that Pope and Curia are, or even can be, opposed to each other as if they were two politicians in parliament is a gross misrepresentation of reality.
Photo credit:  Sebastiaan ter Burg,  Catholic.org
A whole raft of new appointments and assignments in the Curia today. It seems as if Pope Francis is really getting to work with what he has been saying he would since his election: the reform of the Curia. New Secretary of State Archbishop Pietro Parolin is already waiting in the wings, ready to take over the office from Cardinal Bertone on 15 October. The Curia that he will be working closely with is starting to change with today’s transfers and appointments, although some prelates had their positions confirmed as well. These confirmations usually take place within the first week after a new Pope has been elected, but Pope Francis is taking his time: six months in, there are still prelates waiting to be confirmed.
I won’t hazard to guess if the appointments are wise or not, although I remain willing to give the Holy Father and the prelates in question every chance at doing their new jobs in the Curia, helping Pope Francis manage the Catholic Church and communicate, defend and confirm the faith that the Lord entrusted to her.
An overview at the changes:
Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, until today the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, succeeds Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro as Major Penitentiary. Cardinal Monteiro de Castro is 75 and has therefore retired. Cardinal Piacenza is 69 and has been a member of the Curia since 2000. He has been Undersecretary for the Congregation for the Clergy (2000-2003) and President of the Pontifical Commissions for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and for Sacred Archaeology following his consecration as bishop (2003-2007). In 2007 he was elevated to the dignity of archbishop and appointed as Secretary for the Congregation for the Clergy (2007-2010) and became its Prefect in 2010. In that same year he was created a cardinal. As head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal Piacenza is in charge of the Church tribunal chiefly dealing with excommunications, dispensations and indulgences.
Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, was until today the Vice-President of the Pontifical Council “Ecclesia Dei”. He now returns to the office where he began his Curial career as he is appointed as Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is a new position, as the Congregation also has a Secretary and an Undersecretary. Archbishop Di Noia began in the latter function in 2002. In 2009 he became the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which came with a consecration to bishop. In 2012 Archbishop Di Noia was appointed to “Ecclesia Dei”.
Archbishop Beniamino Stella succeeds Cardinal Piacenza as Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy. He is a diplomat who began as Apostolic Delegate, Pro-Nuncio and Nuncio to various countries (Chad, the Central African Republic and Congo (1987-1992), Cuba (1992-1999) and Colombia (1999-2007). He was President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy which trains priests for diplomatic service, from 2007 to today.
- Archbishop-elect Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, was until today the Bishop of Paplanta in Mexico. He has no Curial experience yet. From 2009 to 2012 he was Coadjutor Bishop of Paplanta, and last year he became the ordinary. He will be the Secretary for the Seminaries in the Congregation for the Clergy. This is a fairly new position, as the Congregation only received responsibility for the formation of priests in January of this year.
- Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, for more than nine years the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, the advisory body for the Pope which meets every couple of years for an intense series of discussions on specific topics. Before the task, Archbishop Eterovic served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, and he will now return to such a diplomatic posting, except this time in Germany. He succeeds Archbishop Jean-Claude Périsset, who is some six months shy of his 75th birthday and will therefore retire.
- Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, will retain one is his two offices, that of Secretary of the College of Cardinals. His other office, of Secretary of the Congregation of Bishops will be exchanged for that vacated by Archbishop Eterovic: Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops. Archbishop Baldisseri’s appointment may safely be considered in light of Pope Francis’ intent to move the Synod of Bishops to an instrument of an increased and more effective collegiality among the world’s bishops. Archbishop Baldisseri is also a diplomat, having served as Apostolic Nuncio to Haïti (1992-1995), Paraguay (1995-1999), India and Nepal (1999-2002) and Brazil (2002-2012).
- Archbishop-elect Giampiero Gloder is an official of the Secretariat of State who will succeed Archbishop Stella as President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer as Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
- Fernando Cardinal Filoni as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
- Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai as Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples
- Archbishop Protase Rugambwa as Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
- Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta as secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy.
Back in April, so several sources claim, Pope Francis put at least a temporary stop to the granting of the honorary title of Monsignor or, more accurately, the titles of Honorary Prelate of His Holiness and Chaplain of His Holiness. Both titles grant the use of the title ‘monsignor’ to whom it is bestowed. It is a honorific, granted upon the request of a priest’s bishop or by papal initiative to priests who have done some extraordinary service that would merit this recognition. In practice, and in some areas, the titles have also een given almost automatically to priests who reached a certain age or number of years in one position or function.
Bishops also use the title of monsignor, but this comes with their consecration as bishops and is therefore not an honorary title.
It is said that Pope Francis wants to await the first meeting of the college of eight cardinals that he has appointed to advise him in reforming the Curia, before possibly restoring the practice. Or not, as the case may be. The cardinals Bertello, Errázuriz Ossa, Monsengwo Pasinya, Gracias, O’Malley, Marx, Pell and Rodríguez Maradiaga will meet next month.
Six months into this pontificate, it should come as no surprise that Pope Francis’ priorities do not lie with the granting of honours and titles. Of course, he has appointed bishops and archbishops, but that is quite different, flowing from the need of a diocese for a shepherd. What this means for Francis’ first consistory seems clear: don’t hold your breath. While there are a number of clear candidates to be created cardinal – among them the new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, to name but one – they will be kept waiting a while longer, I would think.
And why not, after all? With 111 electors there is no shortage of cardinals who can participate in a conclave, and we have no reason to assume one is forthcoming (then again, this time last year we thought much the same…). Metropolitan archbishops can do their jobs just as well without being cardinals, and the same would go for prefects and presidents of the offices of the Curia. However, the College of Cardinals can be a valuable aid in running the Church, and Pope Francis will very likely be using it as such. In fact, with the title of cardinals comes the responsibility to function as such. The Pope can call consistories to assemble the entire college to deliberate, advise and decide about any given topic. And before long, I would think, Pope Francis may want to have the Secretary of State, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to name three Curial officials who are not yet cardinals, in that College.
One of the dangers of having a new Pope is that we see everything he says and does as a break from the actions and words of his predecessor. This is especially true if the charisma of the new Pope is so different than that of his predecessor.
In the short weeks since his election, Pope Francis has captured the imagination and enthusiasm of lots of people, through his easygoing nature as a people’s person, at comfortable with social interaction and obviously valuing the contacts with his coworkers, not just in the Curia, but also the people working the kitchens, offices and streets of the Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI is clearly a more private man, appreciating the quiet of his study and his books, of contemplation and the written word. That is not to say that he avoided people, or that Pope Francis is a stranger to solitude and careful thoughts, but for the sake of this blog post, the difference is certainly noticeable.
Does this make the one Pope better than the other? Obviously not. But there is risk that we start thinking of the one we most easily identify with as the origin of many seemingly new thoughts and actions.
Today, Pope Francis told Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, to continue “along the lines set by Benedict XVI, act decisively with regard to cases of sexual abuse”. Many media, both secular and Catholic, reported this today as a new position taken by the Holy Father, as a tougher stance on sexual abuse. This is, as the official blurb says, quite untrue. Pope Francis wants to continue what Pope Benedict started.
Of course, Pope Francis’ recommendation is praiseworthy, but it must not be understood as a divergence from the path taken by Pope Benedict XVI. It is a continuation. By presenting it otherwise, we unfairly pit the one Pope against the other, and depict Pope Benedict as somehow not as good as Pope Francis. And why? Only because Benedict is less of a people’s person, more retiring and at ease with decorum and ritual than Pope Francis is.
It is true, both Popes are different, but neither exists in isolation. Father Z is right when he says that we should “read Francis through Benedict“. If we don’t, we not only run the risk of misunderstanding either man, but also of being guilty of deception and, in fact, superficiality.
Whereas a cardinal’s 80th birthday usually represent a pretty definite point beyond which he can no longer vote in a conclave, this is not so for Walter Cardinal Kasper. His 80th birthday, yesterday, fell in the sede vacante, and that means that he can still vote in the upcoming conclave. Only cardinals who mark their 80th before the See of Peter falls vacant lose that right.
Born in the heart of southern Germany, Walter Kasper became a priest of the Diocese of Rottenburg in 1957. He started his priestly ministry as a parish priest in Stuttgart, but soon returned to studying. In 1958 he earned a doctorate in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübbingen, where he also became a faculty member until 1961. Among other things, he was an assistant to Hans Küng. His academic career soon took flight, and included a teaching post in dogmatic theology in Münster and the job of dean of the theological faculty both there and in Tübbingen. In 1983, Father Kasper was a visiting professor at the Catholic University of America.
In 1989, returned to his native diocese, which by that time had been renamed as Rottenburg-Stuttgart, and he did as bishop. He would helm that diocese for ten years, and in 1994 he became co-chair of the International Commission for Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, an appointment paving the way for his future.
Bishop Kasper was called to Rome in 1999 to become the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He became an archbishop then and in 2001 he was created a cardinal, with Ognissanti in Via Appia Nuova as his deanery. Today that church is his title church, as he was elevated to the ranks of the cardinal-priests in 2011. Upon his creation, Cardinal Kasper took over the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In 2010, Cardinal Kasper laid down his duties as president and retired, although he remained a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura until the sede vacante began last week.
Over the years, Cardinal Kasper has been one of the more visible curial cardinals, not least because of his critical approach to certain events and development, both within and without the Church. In 1993 he was one of the bishops who signed a letter allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments. He also criticised the 2000 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, claiming it was offensive to the Jews. In both cases, he was in an opposite position to Cardinal Ratzinger. On the other hand, his role in ecumenism also led to criticism from the more conservative wings of the Church. His ecumenical efforts were mainly aimed at the Orthodox Churches, and he led multiple Catholic delegations eastward. He also worked much towards mutual understanding between Catholic and Jews.
Most recently, he frankly spoke of miscommunications and mismanagement within the Curia, concerning the lifting of the excommunication of four St. Pius X Society bishops. Leading up to the papal visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Cardinal Kasper perhaps too frankly about the secularism in that country, and in the end did not join the Pope on his visit.
With Cardinal Kasper’s 80th birthday the number of electors remains at 117. Only after the conclave does he become a non-elector.