Cardinal Brandmuller: Anyone who opens Communion to adulterers ‘is a heretic and promotes schism’

In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel last December 23, 2016, one of the four Cardinals who raised the dubia has said, “Whoever thinks that persistent adultery and the reception of Holy Communion are compatible is a heretic and promotes schism.”

Cardinal Walter Brandmuller made the remark while speaking with Spiegel reporter Walter Mayr about the dubia – the as yet unanswered questions asked openly and officially by four Cardinals seeking to have the Pope clarify potentially heretical interpretations of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

In a separate interview released also in December 2016 by Vatican Radio, close papal confidant Cardinal Walter Kasper says the Pope has been clear in Amoris Laetitia and that the Pope confirmed his take in his statements approving the approach of the Argentine bishops. The letter to the Argentine bishops to which Cardinal Kasper refers has Pope Francis saying that it is authentic to interpret Amoris Laetitia in a way which permits Holy Communion in limited cases to divorced and remarried couples with no possibility of annulment.

In Catholic terms, that means communion for those living in adultery as per the words of Christ Himself: (Lk 16:18) “Every man that divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and he that marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

Taken together the statements demonstrate the stark difference between the approaches of various Cardinals to the dubia. While for some the openness to changing the Church on the matter means outright heresy, for others it is a necessary and Holy Spirit-driven evolution of the Church’s teaching or at least pastoral practice.

Cardinal Brandmuller told Der Spiegel that clergy have no right to alter Christ’s own teachings. “We are, according to the Apostle St. Paul, administrators of the mysteries of God, but not holders of the right of disposal,” he said.

The stark difference between the top leaders of the Catholic Church has apparently not been lost on the Pope. Der Spiegel’s Mayr reports on a rumoured saying of Pope Francis to a “very small circle” in which he said, “It is not to be excluded that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.”∎

by John-Henry Westen, Lifesite News

Vatican doctrine chief: Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that refutes previous teachings of popes

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.

Pope suggests Church’s view of marriage has been too abstract, idealistic

“We have presented a theological ideal of marriage that is too abstract, almost artificially constructed,” Pope Francis suggested last October.

Pope Francis received all members of the academic community of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in an audience in the Vatican on October 27. The meeting made headlines after Francis’ decision to personally replace Cardinal Robert Sarah for this address.

In his speech, available in English here, at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on the occasion of the opening of the academic year, Francis explained that the Church’s catechesis on marriage sometimes might have been too abstract for the common faithful.

Francis suggested that sometimes teachings on marriage were unable to combat the challenges of contemporary families: “Therefore, we must learn not to be resigned to human failure, but let us sustain the rescue of the creative plan [for humanity] at all costs.” Francis went on to say that many people were put off by an unobtainable ideal. “This excessive idealization, especially when we have not reawakened confidence in grace, has not made marriage more desirable and attractive, but all the contrary.”

While Francis pointed out that the family needs help and accompaniment, his strong insistence on “at all costs” and his strong, generalized denunciation of past praxis threatens to give rise to interpretations such as Cardinal Walter Kasper’s in his recent publication. Where Cardinal Kasper writes that the moral “ideal” is an “optimum” — implying too that it is unreachable by many — and states that “oftentimes, we have to choose the lesser evil […]; in the living life there is no black and white but only different nuances and shadings,” one could easily connect the statements of the Supreme Pontiff with those of the German theologian and Cardinal.

It is not the first time that Pope Francis publicly criticized “rigidity.” Earlier the same week, on October 24, Pope Francis called “rigid” people “sick” in his daily Mass homily at the Casa Sancta Martae. “Behind an attitude of rigidity there is always something else in the life of a person. Rigidity is not a gift of God. Meekness is; goodness is; benevolence is; forgiveness is. But rigidity isn’t!” he said.

It is surprising that Pope Francis addressed these words to the members of the John Paul II Institute, who have historically held to the Church’s Magisterium with fidelity and clarity. The Pope suggested that upholding the ideal of the Church’s teaching seems to create a “distance” from the common people: “Today’s pastoral topic is not only that of the ‘distance’ of many from the ideal and practice of the Christian truth of marriage and the family; more decisive yet is the topic of the Church’s ‘closeness,’ closeness to the new generations of spouses so that the blessing of their bond increasingly convinces them and accompanies them, and closeness to the situations of human weakness, so that grace can rescue them, give them new courage and heal them.”

The “new horizon of this commitment” invokes Cardinal Kasper and others to claim they have the right understanding of mercy, in which the doctor (the pastor) somehow has to enter the sickness rather than heal it from his “sane” and “healthy” standpoint. Pope Francis explained in this matter: “Let us not forget that good theologians also, as good pastors, smell of the people and of the street and, with their reflection, pour oil and wine on men’s wounds.”

A reader can only hope that the secular world, together with its media spin-doctors, does not take Francis’ words on “the Church’s closeness” to situations of “human weakness” and the “crisis of the contemporary family” as to mean that the Church condones gay “marriages,” divorce and remarriage, and abortions in certain cases.

from Lifesite News 

Cardinal Burke: we will make ‘formal act of correction’ if Pope doesn’t issue Amoris clarification

by  Dan Michaels

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said it may be necessary to make a “formal act of correction” if Pope Francis doesn’t answer a letter from four cardinals asking him to clarify aspects of Amoris Laetitia.

He is one of four cardinals who have written to the Pope asking for a clarification of Amoris Laetitia. They say that the document could be read as contradicting Church teaching on the moral law and on the question of Communion for the remarried. The Pope has declined to reply to the letter.

The September 19 letter, signed by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner, asked the pope 5 short questions which call for ‘yes or no’ answers that would immediately clarify the meaning of the confusion-plagued document on precisely those points where theologians, priests and even bishops have offered contradicting interpretations.

In an interview with Edward Pentin of National Catholic Register published last November 14, Cardinal Burke said that if the Pope were to teach error or heresy, “It is the duty in such cases, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.”

In the interview, Burke emphasizes that the cardinals have sought to act for “the good of the Church,” which, he says, “is suffering from a tremendous confusion” on the points they have raised especially. He notes, for example, that priests in different dioceses are being given contradictory directions on how to handle the question of access to Communion for those in adulterous unions.

“We, as cardinals, judged it our responsibility to request a clarification with regard to these questions, in order to put an end to this spread of confusion that is actually leading people into error,” he says.

Asked what would happen if the Pope remained silent, Cardinal Burke replied: “Then we would have to address that situation. There is, in the tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”

Burke goes on to insist that in a case of conflict between the pope and Church Tradition, the Tradition is binding. “Ecclesial authority exists only in service of the Tradition,” Burke explains. “I think of that passage of St. Paul in the [Letter to the] Galatians (1:8), that if ‘even an angel should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.’”

Historically, in the rare cases where popes have taught heresy, Burke explains, “It is the duty…, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.”

Such an act of formal correction would be extremely unusual. One example is the challenge to Pope John XXII in the 1330s. He had publicly taught – though only as his personal opinion – that souls in heaven would not actually see God until the Final Judgment, a teaching contrary to Church doctrine.

In response, several theologians challenged Pope John. A few were punished, but the Pope backed down after a joint letter by theologians from the University of Paris, under the leadership of Paludanus, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. The letter professed total obedience to John, but affirmed that the teachings being attributed to him were contrary to the Catholic faith. Before his death John withdrew his heretical opinion.

Cardinal Burke’s suggestion of a “formal correction” comes after a debate over whether the remarried can receive Communion while in a sexually active relationship outside marriage. The Church has taught that this is contrary to the dogma of the indissolubility of marriage.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Pope made no direct reference to the question, but some bishops have interpreted his words as meaning that some remarried people can receive Communion, even if they are still in a sexual relationship. This is the interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops, which the Pope has appeared to privately favour.

In a probable allusion to the Buenos Aires bishops, Cardinal Burke said: “Even diocesan directives are confused and in error.” He added that there was ”tremendous division” in the Church over Communion and other related points, concerning the moral law and marriage.

He said the four cardinals had intervened “because so many people are saying: ‘We’re confused, and we don’t understand why the cardinals or someone in authority doesn’t speak up and help us.’”

The great majority of Christian marriages are valid

by Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap.

Last time a ranking prelate (Cardinal Kasper) opined that half of all marriages were null his attribution of such a reckless assertion to Pope Francis himself could be dismissed as hearsay, deflected as referring to marriage in general and not Christian marriage in particular, or at least minimized as describing merely ‘many’ or even ‘half’ of all marriages. But none of those qualifications can be applied to blunt the impact of the pope’s startling claim “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null”.

If last time was bad, this time is very bad.

Consider: Marriage is that natural human relationship established by God as the normal way for nearly all adults to live most of their lives. God blesses marriage and assists married persons to live in accord with this beautiful state in life. When, moreover, baptized persons enter this quintessential human relationship, Christ adds the special graces of a sacrament and assists married Christians to live as signs of his everlasting spousal union with his Church.

To assert, then, that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” is really to claim that the great majority of Christians have failed to enter the most natural of human states and have failed to effect between themselves the exact sacrament that Christ instituted to assist them in it. The collapse of human nature presupposed for such a social catastrophe and the massive futility of the Church’s sanctifying mission among her own faithful evidenced by such a debacle would be—well, it would be the matrimonial version of nuclear winter. I am at a loss to understand how anyone who knows anything about either could seriously assert that human nature is suddenly so corrupted and Christ’s sacraments are now so impotent as to have prevented “the great majority” of Christians from even marrying! How can anyone responsibly even posit such a dark and dismal claim, let alone demonstrate it?

But beyond the arresting scope of the claim that nullity is rampant, there is the debilitating effect that such a view can and doubtless will have on couples in difficult marriage situations. After all, if “the great majority” of Christian marriages are, as alleged by Francis, already null, then couples struggling in difficult marriages and looking for the bread of spiritual and sacramental encouragement may instead be offered stones of despair—‘your marriage is most likely null, so give up now and save everyone a lot of time and trouble.’

Invoking the same extensive credentials to speak on Catholic marriage law that I invoked two years ago, let me just say that I believe that the great majority of Christian marriages are valid, that a matrimonial contract was therefore effected between the parties at the time of their wedding, and that by the will of Christ an indissoluble sacramental bond simultaneously arose between those spouses. To be clear, I also hold that many marriages are (and could be proven to be) canonically null and that the percentage of null marriages has indeed risen over recent decades, but I can and do reject anyone’s claim that the majority, let alone “the great majority”, of Christian marriages are null.

Finally—and I make this point mostly to preserve it for future discussion—the pope, toward the end of these remarks, made some comments about cohabiting and/or civilly married Catholics being in “a real marriage [and having] the grace of a real marriage”. Canonically (if I may be forgiven for mentioning canon law) such a claim is incoherent. Whatever good might be going on in the life of cohabiting and/or civilly married Catholic couples, it is not the good of marriage and it is not the grace of matrimony, but this—and here is my point—largely because of the Church’s requirement of canonical form for marriage. I would be glad to see the requirement of canonical form eliminated, but unless and until it is, cohabitation and civil-only marriage is not marriage in the Catholic Church.