Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said that Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that contradicts magisterial teachings of previous popes and councils.
In his December 1, 2016 interview with the domradio.de, the radio station of the Diocese of Cologne, Germany, the Vatican’s doctrine chief said:
The binding declarations of the popes, of the Councils of Trent and of the Second Vatican Council and of the Congregation for the Faith on the essential characteristics of marriage and on the precondition for a fruitful reception of the Sacraments in the state of justifying [i.e., sanctifying] grace may not be pushed aside by anyone under the pretext that marriage is, after all, merely an ideal which only can be reached by a very small number of people.
Regarding Communion for “remarried” divorced Catholics, Muller cites a 1994 letter by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which denied the possibility for bishops to permit Communion for the couples in question. The letter by Cardinal Ratzinger was a response to a 1993 Pastoral Letter of three progressive German bishops (one of them being the then-Bishop Walter Kasper) who were then already pushing for Communion for the “divorced and remarried.”
The indissolubility of marriage must be “the unshaken foundation of teaching and of every pastoral accompaniment,” Müller emphasizes.
The interview was Muller’s first – and so far only – public response to the issue of the four Cardinal’s Dubia addressed to the Pope. Muller said that his Congregation cannot answer the four Cardinals’ Dubia without the express authority of the Pope.
Cardinal Müller stated in the interview that the “Holy Father, at the same time, wishes to help all people whose marriages and families are in a crisis to find a path in accordance with the ever-merciful will of God. We can always assume that the just and merciful God always wants our salvation in whatever need we find ourselves. But it does not stand in the power of the Magisterium to correct God’s Revelation or to make the imitation of Christ comfortable.”
As a follow-up question, the interviewer asked Muller: “Would the bishops’ conferences thus then be asked to help? Francis himself, after all, writes in Amoris Laetitia that not all questions need to be clarified in Rome….”
When answering this pertinent question, the German Cardinal first explains that bishops’ conferences “are merely working groups with certain competences” and, thus, are not of “Divine Law.” He continues:
Only in fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles, to the whole of the revealed Faith, can the bishops of a conference speak, for example, about the pastoral application of Amoris Laetitia. Otherwise, the Church would disintegrate into national churches and, in the end, would atomize. The Sacrament of Marriage, however, is in Korea just as valid as it is in Germany.
When asked whether the individual bishop may make his own independent decision as a response to Amoris Laetitia, Muller responded that “Nor can the individual bishops do whatever they want according to their own private taste. They are servants, not masters of the Faith.”
Muller emphasized that marriage is not an “ideal” to which we aspire to, but rather a Sacrament founded by God Himself:
Marriage is in truth not a wishful image produced by ourselves, but, rather, a Sacrament, that is to say a reality founded by God Himself. It is an expression of the Mercy of the Creator and of the Redeemer. God does not put excessive demands upon us so that he then can show His Mercy toward us in the face of our own failure. With the help of Grace, we are able to fulfill the Commandments – among them the Sixth Commandment – and thus find peace of heart in a life in accordance with God’s will.