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“Put not your trust in princes” (Ps 145:2)…

“Cardinal” Müller Defends Amoris Laetitia:
A Critical Analysis

Today we can present you with another installment in the never-ending soap opera The Joy of Love, otherwise known as Amoris Laetitia.

“Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller, fired this past July from his job as top doctrine destroyer because he wasn’t heretical enough for Francis, has written an introduction to a work entitled Risposte Amichevoli ai Critici di Amoris Laetitia (“Friendly Answers to the Critics of Amoris Laetitia”), which is to hit the stores in Italy on November 10. The author of the book is Rocco Buttiglione, who once published a substantial guide to the philosophy and theology of “Pope” John Paul II.

In our Oct. 25 post “Correction Reactions: Chronicling the Chaos following the Correctio Filialis, we already noted that Buttiglione had recently been the object of a correction himself by Novus Ordo Canon lawyer Ed Peters. It is to be expected that there will be a continual back-and-forth between the different factions for a few more months.

By writing the introduction to Risposte Amichevoli, Mr. Muller has essentially thrown his support behind Buttiglione and therefore Francis — and has positioned himself against the Filial Correction published on Sep. 23. On Oct. 30, La Stampa‘s Andrea Tornielli published an excerpt of Muller’s introductory essay (summarized here), substantial portions of which we will now critically examine:

Muller starts out by presenting Amoris Laetitia as a positive document that supposedly seeks to provide spiritual support to the married and families in crisis. This is nothing but window dressing. The ultimate reason for the two Synods on the Family and the post-synodal exhortation was to give official sanction to the idea of giving the Novus Ordo sacraments to unrepentant public adulterers and to wipe out the Catholic foundation of morality and replace it with a novel concept that views sin not as a voluntary transgression of the divine law but a merely “imperfect realization” of the “ideal” of virtue. We discussed this at length in our podcast program on the issue, TRADCAST 013.

We all know that virtually no one in the Vatican II Sect whose marriage is in crisis is going to read the endless blather found in Amoris Laetitia, and that’s actually a good thing. We also know that, no matter what Francis may claim officially, his infernal exhortation is the furthest thing from a “pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown”. He has made that evident time and again in various ways: His easy and free drive-thru annulments, his idiotic comments about indissolubility and perpetual fornication, the behind-the-scenes scheming he did with “Abp.” Bruno Forte, his blessing of the adulterous union of the Colombian president, etc., make clear what is really going on.

Muller calls the battle over Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia “regrettable”, but a sober assessment of the relevant facts shows that while regret it he may, the whole controversy has been desired by Francis from the beginning. Francis wants the controversy, the confusion, the doubt, the chaos. This is definitively confirmed by his persistent refusal to end it, something he could easily do at any time (as he did quickly for his decentralization of liturgical translations), and something he has gone to great and unreasonable lengths to not do. A Protestant minister has a greater chance to speak to Francis about whatever he pleases than his own “cardinals” do about magisterial issues if they happen to take too conservative a line for Francis.

After criticizing “schismatic temptations and … dogmatic confusion”, both of which he says are “very dangerous for the unity of the Church”, Muller endorses Buttiglione as an “authentic Catholic of proven competence in the field of moral theology” and maintains that “the articles and essays collected in this volume” provide “a clear and convincing answer” to the dubia of “Cardinals” Carlo Caffarra, Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmuller, and Joachim Meisner. This also applies, Muller says, to the position of the Austrian philosopher and Francis critic Prof. Josef Seifert, which “is similar to the ‘correctio filialis’ text signed by 62 Catholics.”

Muller then lists the two fundamental theses defended in Buttiglione’s book:

Buttiglione’s thesis makes two fundamental statements, to which I agree with full conviction:

1- The dogmatic doctrines and pastoral exhortations of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia can and must be understood in the orthodox sense.

2- Amoris Laetitia does not imply any magisterial shift towards an ethics of the situation [i.e. “situation ethics” or “ethical existentialism”] and therefore there is no contradiction with the encyclical Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II.

We refer here to the theory that subjective conscience could, in consideration of its interests and its particular situations, put itself in place of the objective norm of the natural moral law and of the truths of supernatural revelation (in particular that on the objective effectiveness of the sacraments). In this way, the doctrine of the existence of an intrinsice malum [intrinsic evil] and objectively bad behavior would become obsolete. The doctrine of Veritatis splendor remains valid (art. 56;79) also with respect to Amoris Laetitia (art. 303) for which there are absolute moral norms to which there is no exception (cf. dubium n. 3;5 of the cardinals).

(“Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Introduction to Rocco Buttiglione, Risposte Amichevoli ai Critici di Amoris Laetitia [Edizioni Ares, 2017]; excerpted here.)

It’s funny to see Novus Ordo apologists insist on “the orthodox sense” of Amoris Laetitia Chapter 8 — as though there were one. But even if there were, it would have to be asked why it is that Novus Ordo documents are always loaded with words that can be understood in an orthodox as well as a heterodox sense (right, Mr. Muller?) — but of course that’s not our topic now.

Curiously, in his introduction Muller notes on at least two occasions that Francis isn’t proposing this or that teaching “in a binding way”. But this begs the question: Is he proposing it in a non-binding way? Or is he not proposing it at all? Why leave it open? Why the lack of clarity? The issue is ultimately not whether Francis is teaching error or heresy in a “binding” or “non-binding” way but whether he is teaching it at all. Contrary to popular belief, the “not binding” copout is not going to save Francis or Amoris Laetitia, because the Roman Catholic Church cannot propose belief in guilt-free adultery as optional either.

Since we are only presented with an excerpt of Muller’s introduction and not with the full text, it is a bit difficult to assess it fairly, but going by what has been published by Vatican Insider, it seems that some of Muller’s argumentation rests on gratuitous assertions. Muller simply claims that “[i]t is evident” that Amoris Laetitia does not teach that those in mortal sin can receive the sacraments without prior repentance. He asserts without proof that Francis’ teaching that “[n]o one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the gospel” (Amoris Laetitia, n. 297) somehow “must be understood” in an orthodox sense (emphasis added). But must it? Can it even? Just because Muller manages to twist something into a meaning that could resemble orthodoxy doesn’t mean that it is the correct interpretation of the words. Anyone can spin words — but spin is not interpretation; eisegesis is not exegesis.

Muller then offers an original contribution to the debate:

In the global situation, in which virtually there are no longer any more homogeneously Christian environments that can offer the individual Christian the support of a collective mentality and in the “only partial identification” with the Catholic faith and with its ensuing sacramental, moral and spiritual life, perhaps the problem, mutatis mutandis, of a dissolution of a first marriage contracted not “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) in favorem fidei may also arise for the baptized Christians that were not sufficiently evangelized.

This is preposterous. Muller is suggesting that the church consider extending the so-called “Pauline Privilege” to the baptized who are “not sufficiently evangelized”. Stated succinctly, the Pauline Privilege refers to the divinely-revealed (in 1 Cor 7:12-16) ecclesiastical privilege of dissolving a non-sacramental marriage (i.e. a true marriage in which at least one of the spouses is not baptized) if one of the two spouses becomes a Catholic and the unbaptized party refuses to live in peace with the converted spouse. It is explained at some length in the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia (see here).

Unfortunately for Mr. Muller, the Pauline Privilege cannot be used to dissolve sacramental marriages between the baptized. Baptism is the clear line of demarcation. By contrast, try to define “baptized but not sufficiently evangelized.” You know that’s ultimately a free-for-all. Once they get their foot in that door, everyone whose marriage doesn’t “work out” will suddenly discover he was never sufficiently evangelized — and of course the Vatican II Sect had made sure of that!

Muller knows fully well what practical consequences such an extension, even if it were legitimate, would have. Perhaps this is why he was so careful in phrasing his suggestion: He said merely that “perhaps” this “may” be a solution that can be applied, on the grounds that “virtually there are no longer any more homogeneously Christian environments” — a “global situation” the Vatican II Sect is largely responsible for creating in the first place! Do you see how this works?

Of course, Muller follows up his absurd proposal with a statement affirming orthodoxy:

According to the doctrine of the faith, a marriage validly contracted by Christians, which because of its baptismal character is always a sacrament, remains indissoluble. The spouses cannot declare it null and void it on their own initiative and neither can the ecclesiastical authority, even that of the Pope, dissolve it from the outside.

This clear statement of the truth is then quickly followed by the typical Modernist “however”:

However, since God, who instituted marriage in Creation, bases the marriage of a man and a woman in concrete terms through the natural acts of free consent and the integral willingness to contract marriage with all its properties (bona matrimonii), this concrete bond of a man and a woman is indissoluble only if the spouses bring into this cooperation of human action with the divine one all the constitutive elements of human integrity. According to his concept, every sacramental marriage is indissoluble. But in reality, a new marriage is possible – even in the life of the legitimate spouse – when in concrete terms, because of the lack of one of its constituent elements, the first marriage did not actually subsist as a marriage founded by God due to the lack of one of its constitutive elements.

What Muller is doing here is bizarre and devious: After speaking about the Pauline Privilege, he quickly changes the topic to marriage annulments, which is a completely different thing. This is devious because he is clearly mixing the two concepts so as to confuse them in the minds of his readers. He also contradicts himself by affirming, first, the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and then following it up with the obligatory Modernist “but” and the false claim that “a new marriage is possible – even in the life of the legitimate spouse”.  That is true only for a non-sacramental marriage if the Church grants a dissolution under the Pauline Privilege — but that privilege “is attached to Baptism” (Catholic Encyclopedia) and has nothing to do with “the constitutive elements of human integrity”.

Muller’s next claim is that “a crass ignorance about the sacrament of marriage grows among many Catholics” in our times because the secular understanding of marriage “has been considerably distanced in many substantial elements from natural marriage and even more so from Christian marriage.” Precisely how this is relevant to the issue at hand is not clear, since any ignorance about marriage among “Catholics” is supposed to be dispelled in the pre-matrimonial marriage classes. Or do they not even teach what a marriage is in the Novus Ordo Sect?

Muller then proceeds to make the following argument:

In a matrimonial annulment procedure, therefore, the real will of marriage plays a fundamental role. In the case of a conversion in mature age (of a Catholic who is such only on the certificate of baptism) one can say that a Christian is convinced in conscience that their first bond, even if it took place in the form of a marriage in the Church, was not valid as a sacrament and that their current marriage-like bond, prized by children and with a living relationship matured over time with their current partner is a true marriage before God. Perhaps this cannot be canonically proven because of the material context or because of the culture of the dominant mentality. It is possible that the tension that occurs here between the public-objective status of the “second” marriage and subjective guilt can open, under the conditions described, the way to the sacrament of penance and Holy Communion, passing through a pastoral discernment in [the] internal forum.

This is typical Mullerian gobbledygook. It simply doesn’t matter of what “a Christian is convinced in conscience” regarding the validity of his own marriage because conscience can be erroneous, and nobody can be the judge of his own case. The Church has marriage tribunals for a reason.

Notice how Muller is trying to get his foot in the door here, opening the way for Francis’ “pastoral discernment” nonsense. What is there to discern? Bring your case before a marriage tribunal (well, they’re rather non-existent now, but the principle holds). If the tribunal decides your first marriage is valid, then the only thing to discern is that the second union is adulterous and therefore, at the very least, all sexual activity must cease. That this can involve great suffering for the parties involved, that they must be treated with great compassion, that they must be assisted with spiritual sacrifices, etc., all goes without saying. But none of that can alter the fact that the first union is the true and valid marriage, not the second one. There is nothing else to discern.

Not for Muller, of course. He essentially maintains that if a spouse in a second union together with his confessor have “discerned” (i.e., decided) that the first union (the one recognized as valid by the Church in the external forum) is invalid and the second union is the valid one, although in the eyes of the Church that one is adulterous, then any sexual activity with the second “spouse” is not adultery but merely a brazen violation of the public ecclesiastical order: “If the second bond were valid before God, the marriage relationships [marital relations] of the two partners would not constitute a serious sin but rather a transgression against ecclesiastical public order for having irresponsibly violated the canonical rules and therefore a minor sin.”

You can’t make this stuff up! According to Mr. Muller, the Church’s own judgment on a marriage can be safely ignored by the affected parties if “a Christian is convinced in conscience” that the judgment is wrong! How about that!

Aside from the absurdity of such a position, also think about what this leads to in the long (or not so long) run: There will be no more need for marriage tribunals. Why bother with tribunals that can mess everything up and make you commit a “minor sin” against the “ecclesiastical public order for having irresponsibly violated the canonical rules”? Why not simply “discern” everything in the internal forum together with your confessor and, in the event that he doesn’t discern correctly (wink, wink), simply look for a confessor that “understands” you?

This is nothing but sophistry aimed at legitimizing adultery. It is entirely pharisaical because while in this manner the indissolubility of marriage is upheld in theory, it is denied in practice, as people can simply move on to another union as they please, quickly “discerning” that their prior union(s) was/were not a real marriage.

We are reminded here of “Mgr.” Paul Garrity of Boston, who a few years back proposed the incredibly brilliant idea that the very fact that a couple gets a civil divorce proves that the marriage was never valid in the first place. By that logic, we can just cut to the chase and declare that the very fact that people carry out a certain act proves it’s not a sin. Solves a lot of problems, doesn’t it!

He may not be as blunt as Francis is about it, but Muller is cut from the same theological cloth as his boss. Recall that last year Francis put forward a position similar to Muller’s when he made the ridiculous claim that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know” (source).

This is poppycock. The truth is that it doesn’t take much knowledge to be able to enter into a valid marriage. Fr. Henry Ayrinhac explains as follows:

190. § 1. In order that matrimonial consent be possible it is necessary that the contracting parties at least be not lacking in the knowledge that marriage is the permanent union of man and woman for the procreation of children.

§ 2. Such ignorance is not presumed in those who have attained the age of puberty.

1. We can not consent to what we do not know; the marriage consent is not possible without some, at least confused, knowledge of what constitutes the essential object of the marriage contract; and this is the mutual right and obligation to the conjugal act: … Hence a person who would marry without having any idea of that right and obligation would not marry validly. Clear and explicit knowledge is not necessary. If one, knowing that the purpose of marriage is the procreation of children, would enter the contract with that in view and would consent to all it implies, although having no distinct idea of what is required for generation, there would be confused knowledge of, and consent to, what constitutes the essential object of the contract, and the marriage would be valid; even if the party was so disposed that if he knew what the act of generation really is, he would not give his consent. But at least that confused knowledge of the substantial object of the contract is necessary.

191. 2. Ignorance of the primary purpose of marriage is easily admitted in children. In the ancient legislation it was always presumed before the age of puberty; after that age, on the contrary, knowledge is presumed. The presumption admits of proofs to the contrary, but it would require strong evidence to obtain the annulment of a marriage on the ground of ignorance in a person of age to marry….

198. A simple error as to the unity, indissolubility, or sacramental character of marriage, even if it be cause of the contract, does not vitiate the consent. Error as to the essential object of the contract vitiates the consent, like ignorance. Error as to the essential properties does not, as long as it remains simply an error of the mind, whether antecedent or concomitant. Thus, a man who intends to form a real contract of marriage, although he does not believe in its indissolubility or sacredness, will be married validly, provided he does not exclude those properties by a positive act of the will, even though he would exclude them if he thought of it. His consent is directed expressly to the marriage contract and by way of consequence to the properties which are inseparable from it. His prevailing intention is to contract marriage; his views on the properties of marriage are errors in the mind which do not affect the primary object of the will. If, however, he would exclude those properties and make that exclusion the primary object of his will, this then would prevail over his intention of marrying and the consent would be vitiated, because one can not will marriage without willing an indissoluble union. But this requires more than a theoretical error; it supposes a positive act of the will, placing a condition, making consent depend on something else than the substantial element of the contract. That positive act is a fact which must be proved and is not presumed. Hence the difficulty of annulling a marriage on the ground of error as to quality…

[200.] 1. When a contracting party utters externally and seriously words expressing consent, he is supposed [=understood] to consent internally. His consent is supposed to be absolute if it is expressed absolutely. “Nobody is to be considered as having said what was not on his mind.” This, however, is only a presumption, and if in reality the internal consent was wanting, no matter what the external words might have been, the contract would be null in itself and before God.

(Rev. H. A. Ayrinhac, Marriage Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law [New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1919], pp. 191-192; 196-197; 199; underlining added.)

Fr. Ayrinhac also underscores how serious the matter is:

It is a general principle that when an act has been performed it ought to be considered valid until it is proved to be null. This applies in a special manner to marriage, which is a sacrament and indissoluble by divine law. To pronounce a marriage null without sufficient evidence is to run the risk of “setting asunder what God has put together.”

(Ayrinhac, Marriage Legislation, p. 25)

This is the Catholic position. It is evident that the Modernists are hard at work to blow it to pieces, and it is clear which side “Cardinal” Muller is on.

Those who are sorely disappointed in Mr. Muller now have not been paying attention. We have demonstrated several times before that Muller is a manifest heretic. Although it is true that in the controversy over Amoris Laetitia he has mostly taken a public stand against the idea that unrepentant adulterers can be allowed access to the Novus Ordo sacraments, two years ago he had already indicated that exceptions are possible, in an interview that did not receive widespread attention for some reason:

People need to finally realize that “Cardinal” Muller, just like the old Modernist Joseph Ratzinger, is not their friend.