Cardinal Müller Speaks Out on ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ the Dubia and the Vatican

The former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gives an extensive interview to the Register.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller speaks at the presentation of the document Iuvenescit Ecclesia in the Vatican Press Office June 14, 2016.
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller speaks at the presentation of the document Iuvenescit Ecclesia in the Vatican Press Office June 14, 2016. (photo: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA)

Over the course of Pope Francis’ pontificate, reports from Rome have frequently mentioned the fact that when it comes to drafting documents, the Holy Father has preferred to consult his own advisers rather than depend on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), leading to the dicastery’s isolation. Added to this have been reports that since Francis’ election, the congregation has been less stringent in taking action against dissident theologians.

How important is the CDF — until the 1960s, the most important Vatican department — in the life of the Church today? To find out, the Register sat down Sept. 13 with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who had served five years as the congregation’s prefect until Pope Francis decided not to renew his term in July for reasons the cardinal has said were never explained to him.

In this extensive interview, Cardinal Müller criticizes what he describes as careerists and opportunists who he says are sowing discord in the Roman Curia and besmirched his name. He also discusses the dangers of the CDF being ignored, particularly in the drafting process of pontifical documents such as the Pope’s apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), and how a pervading sense of fear is preventing more people, particularly priests, seminarians and professors, from daring to openly criticize aspects of this pontificate.

He also shares his opinion on the dubia (five questions posed to the Pope by four cardinals aimed at clarifying passages of Amoris Laetitia), the extent of authority held by the Pope’s closest advisers, and the dangers some of them present by invoking the Holy Spirit to justify their positions considered by some scholars as propagating heresy.


Your Eminence, last month it was reported that, since 2013, no action has been taken against dissident theologians. Is this true? 

This observation is not correct. The approach of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith since the changes of the Second Vatican Council is first to promote the faith — and the second is to defend the faith. In some cases we act as a tribunal for delicts against the faith and morals. But in my time there were cases in which we had first to dialogue with some theologians to resolve problems in a brotherly way. But I think there has been no absolute change in the role of the congregation. It must continue to defend the faith against heresies, schisms and other delicts against unity of the Church and the holiness of the sacraments, all according the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus (1988).


So there haven’t been, at least publicly, cases of dissident theologians being disciplined in any way over the past four or so years?

There were often reproaches against us over the past year, which belong to an anachronistic view of the CDF, which carries no resemblance to the role and the work of the congregation in modern times. There was a group of so-called progressive activists, who issued propaganda against us, saying the existence of the congregation is a throwback to the days of the Inquisition. These are old obsessions dating back to ’68. Now the same people say they’ve been successful in intervening with “their” Pope, that the congregation isn’t doing its work, but this is not true. We addressed some cases involving problematic views and theologians. For example, we couldn’t give the nihil obstat in some — few — cases.


Do you have examples of theologians who have been disciplined over the past few years, perhaps who we haven’t heard of?

No, I cannot give the names because they’re under the pontifical secret, but my impression of the situation over the past five years is that there hasn’t been any change in the role of the congregation.


There has been a lot of talk about the congregation being downgraded, even isolated, during this pontificate. Instead, the Holy Father prefers to consult his advisers, such as his close confidant Archbishop Victor Fernandez, rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires. Are such people directing doctrine, and is the CDF being sidelined?

I heard that the Pope is close to certain theologians, but they cannot claim to be authoritative interpreters of the Pope. If Archbishop Fernandez makes a declaration, for instance, that’s only private. It has no more weight than the statements of other bishops — and certainly for the whole Church, he has no magisterial authority — and so it holds no more authority for me than any other theological voice.


But when he ghostwrites a document such as Amoris Laetitia, as evidence has shown, then his views become authoritative?

I don’t know if he was the ghostwriter of the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia [the highly disputed chapter on, among other things, allowing Holy Communion for remarried divorcees in a small number of special cases]. It is a text of the Pope, not of Victor Fernandez or of any other ghostwriter. Magisterial documents are the product of a process of theological preparation; and in former times we were given the names of theologians who had made a draft or had added any points or reflections to it. But in the end, what is decisive is the authority of the Pope. An apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, and all that he says concerning doctrine, has a magisterial authority. It’s binding according to the range of that particular declaration. It does not contain any “new dogma,” but is, rather, an exposition of dogma always held and taught by the Church.

In Amoris Laetitia there’s no new doctrine or explication of some juridical points of the doctrine, but an acceptance of the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. The only question is their pastoral application in extraordinary situations. The Pope will not and cannot change either the doctrine or the sacraments. What he wants is to help couples in very difficult circumstances as a good shepherd, but in accord with the word of God.


You say you don’t know the reasons for the Pope not renewing your term as prefect, but might it be because there’s a wave of heterodoxy at the highest levels, and you didn’t fit into that because you’re considered orthodox? Then you have Amoris Laetitia and your interpretation of it that diverges from those held by the Pope’s closest advisers and, in view of his comments on the issue, very possibly the Pope himself. Could this be the reason for ending your term?

I don’t know because no explanation was offered to me. The Pope only saw me at a routine private audience, at the end of my term, to discuss the work of the congregation, and said, “That is all.” All other explanations in the mass media are speculations. It is true that some time ago the Pope told me that some of his “friends” had been saying that “Müller is an enemy of the Pope.” I suppose these were anonymous accusations, and the anonymity of the accusers suggests that they were not prepared to have their arguments exposed to the light of honest and open discussion. The use of such underhanded tactics is always detrimental to the life of the Church and to the functioning of the Curia. Looking at history, we see that courts are often blighted by such intrigues, and this is something that the Pope himself has condemned very strongly as a longstanding evil in the Roman Curia. He assured me that no credence should be given to such gossip.

For the good of the Curia and the Church, there should be open dialogue. I must refute any calumnies that have originated in certain parts of the press, or from certain ultramontanist circles and Vaticanisti, and this anonymous group of false “friends” around the Holy Father who have questioned my loyalty. All my life as a priest, theologian and bishop, I’ve worked for the Kingdom of God and his Holy Church. And to present me as an enemy of the Successor of St. Peter is completely crazy and unjust.

Throughout the pontificates of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as a theologian and bishop, I was accused by people with an anti-Roman attitude of being too close to the Pope and of not having maintained a critical distance to Rome. It is surely ironic that these same people should accuse me now of being an enemy of the Pope. This is obviously opportunistic behavior we’re seeing. The biggest danger to the Pope these days are these opportunists, careerists and false friends who are concerned not for the good of the Church, but for their own financial interests and self-advancement.


Do you think the Pope is advised poorly by these people around him, or is your removal a manifestation of his own will?

I don’t know. As I said, I received no explanation for my dismissal, and it would be wrong to speculate. But I firmly maintain my fidelity to Pope Francis, to whom I devoted myself as a loyal cooperator. In this year of the commemoration of the Protestant revolution against the primacy of the Holy Roman Church, I published a historical and theological study on the mission of the Pope as Successor of St. Peter, and so it is not as if I am unaware of the importance of the papacy in the Church of Jesus Christ. The important thing is that we have to love the Church because she is the Bride of Christ. Loving her means that we sometimes have to suffer with her, because in her members she is not perfect, and so we remain loyal despite the disappointments. In the end, it is how we appear in the eyes of God that matters, rather than how we are regarded by men.


While you were head of the CDF, there were reports that the congregation made corrections to various drafts of papal documents, particularly Amoris Laetitia, but also the Pope’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), but they were ignored.

We don’t have the right in the congregation to correct the Holy Father, that’s very clear, but it’s always been usual that the first drafts need to have an official comment by the congregation. Regarding Amoris Laetitia, I don’t know who made the ultimate redaction (final edition), the last corrections or editing.


Does it disturb you that your corrections to these documents were ignored?

Not all were ignored — the Holy Father isn’t obliged to accept our corrections, but I don’t know who made the synthesis of all texts and brought them to the Holy Father. If it were so, that the same people who made the first draft also made the ultimate redaction and that they decided whether or not how to accept the suggestions or not, then that would not be in order. The Holy Father cannot personally do all of the elaboration of different suggestions from this and other congregations, of other theologians. He’s free to ask anybody. If you are a theologian of the congregation and are asked by the Holy Father to make a draft, you must distinguish between your own personal theology and what will be coming out, so that it is a document of the papal magisterium. One must be very humble in preparing a text, always cautious not to take the opportunity to introduce your own personal point of view and to praise yourself or let yourself be celebrated as the famous adviser of the Pope. The more responsible you are the more discreet you have to be.


Given the diminishment of the congregation, why does it continue to be important? If it’s being stripped of its main role, why is it necessary?

In the current atmosphere in the Catholic Church, there are many prejudices against the congregation, based on misconceptions and myths. To some people, mention of the CDF conjures up images of Hollywood films about the Inquisition, burnings at the stake, etc. What did or did not happen centuries ago is a question for historians, but bears no relation to the work of the congregation today, when its job is to support the Holy Father in his mission in 2017. But some people don’t understand what the consistory of all the cardinals is, and they do not understand the theological teaching that underpins the role of the Roman Curia. It is not merely a functional apparatus or a bureaucracy.

The cardinals represent the Holy Roman Church. The Pope is the head of the Roman Church, which is ecclesia principalis (the principal Church) in the communion of all the dioceses, bishops and Churches around the world.

Over time, there developed this group of Roman clerics to serve not only the Diocese of Rome, but in service to the Holy Father for the whole Church. As this body of the major clerics of the Roman Church evolved, the cardinals formed a college; and now they have the important role of electing the Pope and of being his primary advisers and collaborators.

In the 16th century, there was a division of responsibilities, so that one group was given the oversight of doctrine, another of the nomination of future bishops, another of the liturgy. But when we consider the mission of the Church, it’s clear that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the most important because the mission of the Church is preaching the Gospel of the truth of revelation.

The Holy Father, as Successor of St. Peter, has to unite the Church. His mission and task is to proclaim, “You are Christ, Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). All the other truths are included in this Christological reality, in relation to the Triune God and in Christ’s revelation to us as the Redeemer of all mankind. Therefore, the congregation is so important for the Holy Father. He does right to fulfill his mission with the help of the Holy Roman Church in this form of the congregation of 25 cardinals, some bishops, the working staff and plenty of consulters.


Has that been lost, do you think?

It’s not lost, but I’m afraid that there is no clear idea of the ecclesiological status of the Roman Church in the form of the congregation of the cardinals and the Roman Curia. Some think that a pope personally can do whatever he wants because he is absolute sovereign, but that’s not true.


He’s the “Servant of the Servants of God.”

He is, and the role of the Pope as the head of the Vatican state has nothing to do with the Pope as the visible head of the Church, the principal of the unity of the Church in the revealed truth. The Pope’s independence of worldly powers is necessary for his mission, but he is not independent of the moral law. He is, in fact, the first interpreter of the natural moral law.

As the first and the last, the highest, most important interpreter of that revelation of God in Jesus Christ, he is not an isolated person, but head of the Roman Church — and, therefore, he is reliant on the qualified and engaged cooperation of the Roman Church in the form of the cardinals and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.


Do you think the fruits of this diminishment of the CDF and the papacy is why we’re seeing this chaos and confusion, bishops having different and, some theologians argue, heretical interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, for example? Is it because of this ignorance, or lack of respect, if you like, for what the Church is?

I think the Pope should not be blamed for this confusion, but he is authorized by Jesus Christ to overcome it. The pope, as bishop of the first apostolic Church in the worldwide communion of Catholic Churches is the permanent principle and foundation of the unity of the Church in the faith and the communion in love (Lumen Gentium 18).


He’s known to pay close attention to the media, and so must know what is going on. Is it not, therefore, incumbent on him to put this right, in the interests of unity of the Church, and that this responsibility rests with him, and him only?

I don’t want to criticize him, publicly or privately. But I am free to say what I think is for the good of the Church. I’ve made some interventions in my office as prefect of the congregation, in which I explained that the only true and correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia — which on the whole is very good and in favor of matrimony — is the orthodox interpretation, by which we mean to say: It is in the line of holy Scripture, apostolic Tradition and the definite decisions of the papal and episcopal magisterium, which is continuous up to now. Nowhere in Amoris Laetitia is it demanded by the faithful to believe anything that is against the dogma because the indissolubility of marriage is very clear. The only question is whether, in some cases, true matrimony exists in today’s context, in a culture where the definition of matrimony is very different from what the Church is teaching.


Is it problematic that the Pope is giving his own interpretations that appear to be at odds with the orthodox interpretation you espouse, for example his letter to the Argentine bishops and his praise for the Maltese bishops?

In the case of the letter to the Argentine bishops, if the Pope is writing a personal and private letter, it’s not an official doctrinal document.


It has been posted on the Vatican website.

The website of the Vatican has some weight, but it’s not a magisterial authority, and if you look at what the Argentine bishops wrote in their directive, you can interpret this in an orthodox way.


To go back to the CDF, how would you like to see it be brought back to its stated purpose? How would you like it to do this under its new prefect, Archbishop Luis Ladaria?

Theologically, Archbishop Ladaria and I have absolutely the same understanding of the Catholic faith and theology, because he refers to the great Church Fathers and theologians and has an orientation to the foundation of the verses of Holy Scripture, the word of God, the apostolic Tradition — the same framework. But I hope that the secretary and undersecretary will have, also, this understanding: to serve the orthodox faith, to serve the Holy Father in his very important role for the unity of the Church and the revealed truth. Competence is more important than friendships, and sincerity serves more than ambitions. I said it personally to the Holy Father that it’s especially important that the congregation’s members, superiors, our collaborators and our consulters are, firstly, orthodox, have theological competence and must have a good moral life, and a deep spirituality as priests.


Does such opportunism disturb you?

The Holy Father, in his second Christmas speech to the Roman Curia, to the cardinals, spoke of the 15 illnesses of the Curia very general. Many of the participants felt offended because the press spoke about Vatican officials as if they were all careerists and opportunists, looking around only for money and big apartments, etc. But one should not speak generally about present persons as if they were guilty or stupid.

Careerists and opportunists should not be promoted, and other people who are competent collaborators not excluded without any reason or expelled from the Curia. It’s not good. I heard it from some houses here, that people working in the Curia are living in great fear: If they say one small or harmless critical word, some spies will pass the comments directly to the Holy Father, and the falsely accused people don’t have any chance to defend themselves. These people, who are speaking bad words and lies against other persons, are disturbing and disrupting the good faith, the good name of others whom they are calling their brothers.

The Gospel and the words of Jesus are very strong against those who denounce their brothers and who are creating this bad atmosphere of suspicion. I’ve heard that nobody speaks; everyone is a little afraid because they can be snitched on. It’s not the behavior of adult people, but that of a boarding school.


One senior Church figure, speaking to me on condition of anonymity, called it a “reign of terror.”

It’s the same in some theological faculties — if anybody has any remarks or questions about Amoris Laetitia, they will be expelled, and so on. That is not maturity. A certain interpretation of the document’s Footnote 351 cannot be criteria for becoming a bishop. A future bishop must be a witness to the Gospel, a successor of the apostles, and not only someone who repeats some words of a single pastoral document of the Pope without a mature theological understanding.

We must distinguish between what is official doctrine of the Church, the role of the Pope, and what he is saying in private conversations. Those private opinions of the Pope need to be respected because they are opinions and words of the Holy Father, but nobody is obliged to accept uncritically everything that he’s saying, for example, about political or scientific questions. That’s his personal opinion, but nothing to do with our Catholic faith, by which we are justified in the grace of God.


Regarding Amoris Laetitia and the fear of criticizing it, and the lack of response to the dubia, isn’t the irony that it goes against the Pope’s wish for parrhesia (to speak boldly and frankly) and dialogue?

Everyone who becomes bishop, cardinal or pope must learn to distinguish between the critics who are against the person and critics against the mission you have. The Holy Father, Francis, must know that it is important one accepts his intention: to help those people who are distant from the Church, from the belief of the Church, from Jesus Christ, who wanted to help them. … This discussion is not against him, it is not against his intentions, but there is need of more clarification. Also, in the past, we had discussions about the faith and the pastoral application of it. It’s not the first time this has happened in the Church, and so why not learn from our long experiences as Church to have a good, profound discussion in promoting the faith, the life of the Church and not to personalize and polarize? It’s not a personal criticism of him, and everybody must learn it and respect his high responsibility. It is a very big danger for the Church that some ideological groups present themselves as the exclusive guardians of the only true interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. They feel they have the right to condemn all people of another standpoint as stupid, rigid, old-fashioned, medieval, etc.

Nobody can, for example, say Cardinal Caffarra didn’t understand anything of moral theology. Sometimes the un-Christian behavior is printed in L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, or given in official organs of the media, to make polemics and rhetoric. This cannot help us in this situation — only a profound theological discussion will.


Do you think this unwillingness to discuss, and this tendency to make things personal, is because those making these accusations don’t really have the strength of their own convictions, that they know their arguments won’t stand up to rigorous examination?

All my life, after the Second Vatican Council, I’ve noticed that those who support so-called progressivism never have theological arguments. The only method they have is to discredit other persons, calling them “conservative” — and this changes the real point, which is the reality of the faith, and not in your personal subjective, psychological disposition. By “conservative,” what do they mean? Someone loves the ways of the 1950s, or old Hollywood films of the 1930s? Was the bloody persecution of Catholics during the French Revolution by the Jacobins progressive or conservative? Or is the denial of the divinity of Christ by the Arians of the fourth century liberal or traditional? Theologically it’s not possible to be conservative or progressive. These are absurd categories: Neither conservatism nor progressivism has anything to do with the Catholic faith. They’re political, polemical, rhetorical forms. The only sense of these categories is discrediting other persons.

We have Holy Scripture, we have eschatological revelation in Jesus Christ, the irreversibility of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, the salvation of the cross, the Resurrection, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ for the end of the world. … The responsibility of the Pope and the bishops is to overcome the polarization. Therefore, it’s very dangerous for the Church to divide bishops into friends and enemies of the Pope regarding a footnote in an apostolic exhortation. I am sure that anybody will denounce me also for this interview, but I hope that the Holy Father will read my complete interview here and not only some headlines, which cannot give a complete impression of what I said.


Would you say we have never had a Pope like this, who has this disputed approach to doctrine, distinguishing between teaching and pastoral practice, and so allowing false interpretations to grow? In such a context, would you, therefore, say that the CDF is needed more than ever?

He has another approach: John Paul II and former Popes Paul VI and Benedict XVI — they met all the modern questions and genesis of the modern world; they gave good explanations. He [Francis] thinks his contribution is not in this way, because what is clear is to have pastoral approach from the so-called Third World. The poor are the key for the New Evangelization, and he wants that, it is true, and a very good intention to try to overcome this contraposition in the Church. The Holy Father wants to say not only this or that is not allowed, but to give more importance to good intentions, positivity, to say that the Gospel is in favor of life, not only against abortion, for example.

We have the inseparable relation between faith and life, grace and love, and not the dualism between theory and practice. It is a Marxist approach to distinguish the two. We are not speaking from theory because belief isn’t a theory; belief is the unity with God in our conscience. Our categories are not theory and praxis, but truth and life, both gifts of grace, forms of the communication with God in the Church as the Body of Christ. Therefore, pastoral practice means coming to a true understanding of what Christ as pastor and good shepherd is doing for us, leading us to the eternal life.


What other concerns would you like to see addressed, in the CDF and further afield, perhaps?

The role of the CDF is very important: The prefect and all the collaborators give interviews and talks that promote the faith. That was a new identity shaped by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his long time as prefect, and we cannot go back to the old pre-conciliar approach when the CDF, or Holy Office, was only a bureaucratic defender behind the walls of the Vatican, and everyone was afraid to get a letter of the congregation. That is an old form, and I hope there’s no way back to that. The congregation has to offer the Church, especially bishops and theologians, impulses and orientations for the teachers of the faith. The best help for the Holy Father today is a high-profiled congregation for the doctrine of faith and morals.


And yet many people would like to see the CDF being more of a defender of the faith, especially today. It’s almost as if there’s an absence of authority of defending the faith coming from the Vatican. What do you say to that?

I always tried to avoid this impression. I gave many talks around the world. What I offered was this promotion of the faith and all the teaching, defending the faith, new questions of dogma and moral [questions], and especially the challenges of bioethics and all these big efforts, such as gender ideology, which will absolutely destroy the fundament of human existence, family and future.


But what about the problem of secularist thinking and heterodoxy within the Church and defending orthodoxy?

What I could do, I did. I understood the role of the prefect in this new vision manifested by Cardinal Ratzinger and then by his successor, Cardinal William Levada, and therefore Pope Benedict XVI appointed me. I hope that the CDF will now continue with this line promoting the faith. What we need is a great effort for the truth of the faith and not a battle for more power in the whole Church and especially in the Roman Curia.

The question of today is not about more power for Church officials, but the truth of God for the lives of all men. Paul VI made a certain mistake when he changed the congregation’s role, and it became one among the other congregations. The truth is that the CDF is more important than the others, not because its members consider themselves better and more powerful than the others, but because the foundation of the Church is not politics, but the faith. The secretary of state has the job of organizing the apostolic nuncios, working for peace and freedom among the states, for social justice and so on. It’s a very important role, but, nevertheless, the Church is not a political organization; it is not a social organization; it’s not a NGO [nongovernmental organization]. The Holy Father underlines all the time that we are the sacrament of the complete unity between God and man on the basis of real faith, hope and love, and nobody can change it.


Would you like the Pope to answer the dubia? Is that vital for the well-being of doctrine?

The best thing would have been for the Holy Father to have had an audience before their publication. Now we have the spectacle of a trial of strength. It’s better to speak before and to deepen the questions and give good answers.


What is your opinion on the correction? Given the depth of concern among many priests and faithful on the issues raised there, how important is it that the Pope gives a response?
What the Church needs in this serious situation is not more polarization and polemics, but more dialogue and reciprocal confidence. The Holy Father and all good shepherds are wishing the full integration of couples in irregular situations. But this must happen according to the general conditions of the worthy and valid reception of the holy sacraments. We must avoid new schisms and separations from the one Catholic Church, whose permanent principle and foundation of its unity and communion in Jesus Christ is the actual Pope Francis and all bishops in full communion with him. The Successor of St. Peter deserves full respect for his person and divine mandate, and, on the other hand, his honest critics deserve a convincing answer. A possibility of the solution could be a group of cardinals engaged by the Holy Father to begin a theological disputation with some prominent representatives of the dubia and the “corrections” about the different and sometimes controversial interpretation of some statements in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.


There are rumors that the CDF had a file on Archbishop Fernandez because his theology was problematic. Do you know about this?

I don’t; it was before my time. Once, in an interview in Corriere della Sera (2015), he criticized me publicly, saying the prefect of the congregation has nothing to say, that the Pope is his friend, he is the true interpreter, that the Holy Father is enlightened directly by the Holy Spirit. But never have I read that the Holy Father is enlightened by the Holy Spirit in the understanding of a new revelation. The Pope is only assisted by the Holy Spirit for the authentic interpretation of the revelation of God in Christ. He and the bishops are human cooperators in transmitting Revelation, which is completely given in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, but they don’t get any other revelation.

The Gospels are human words inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that didn’t exclude the true human cooperation of the Evangelists. Catholic theology doesn’t speak about the “enlightenment of the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops.” The apostles listened to the words of Jesus — it was a human mediation by human nature, and so the cooperation of the Church is absolutely needed. Surely the faith is given by the Holy Spirit, but by the mediation of evangelization. Nobody can believe unless heard by human ears the word of God.


When some of the Pope’s advisers often invoke the Holy Spirit to justify their positions, implying that if someone doesn’t understand it, he doesn’t understand the workings of the Holy Spirit, is this a dangerous trend?

I am afraid that there is a certain Pentecostal misunderstanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. In the Incarnate Word of God, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to us is given all the grace and truth. The Holy Spirit actualizes the full revelation in the doctrine, the sacraments of the Church. The Holy Father plays here a very important role in the apostolic Tradition, but not the only one. His teaching is regulated by the word of God in the Bible and the dogmatic Tradition of the Church. The magisterium and all the believers are supported by the Holy Spirit in the actualization of the full and complete revelation, but they do not receive any new public revelation as a part of the depositum fidei, as it confirmed the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, 25).

Nobody can demand of a Catholic to believe a doctrine which is in an obvious contradiction to the Holy Scripture, apostolic Tradition and the dogmatic definitions of the Popes and ecumenical councils in the matter of faith and morals. What is needed is a religious obedience, but not a blind faith, to the Pope and the bishops, and nothing at all to private friends and advisers.

These people must come out with their arguments, and they are not allowed to demand any respect for their presumed magisterial authority. We do not just believe things because a Pope teaches them, but because these truths are included in Revelation (cf. II.Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 10).

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.