Pope taps liberal archbishop to succeed conservative cardinal as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, a conservative theologian, is nearing the end of his five year mandate as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the department supposed to defend the Catholic doctrine. The Vatican has released a brief statement that Müller’s mandate will not be renewed, and instead, his deputy, Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, who is more liberal.

Cardinal Müller, who was appointed by Pope Benedict, has opposed some of Pope Francis’ attempts to make the Catholic church more inclusive. In particular, he has objected to the idea that members of the church who have divorced and remarried without an annulment could receive communion. This is currently not allowed, as in those cases, the Catholic church views the first marriage as still valid, and the divorced person to be committing adultery with their new spouse. The Pope said in a papal treatis,  “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), that it should be decided by a priest or bishop on a case by case basis.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a major department, and the head of the department is a close adviser to the Pope. Archbishop Ferrer is more liberal than the cardinal, and may be more amenable to the Pope’s push to make the Catholic church more inclusive.

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Michael W. Murphy
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Michael W. Murphy

The Roman Catholic church is handicapped by the inability to admit error. Sometimes this makes them take a circuitous route to get someplace. In the process they discover truths we overlook when we go a more direct route. That is the case with Roman Catholic Canon Law on marriage. In my experience having litigated divorces, in most divorces, the marriage could be annulled on the ground that there has not been a meeting of the minds on the material terms of the marriage contract. Unfortunately, the marital partners do not discover the materiality of those terms until after the wedding.

Our church started down a pastoral route. We made correct changes for pastoral reasons. Unfortunately, we did not do the biblical research to find grounds for our changes. We did not think through the implications of the biblical grounds for our changes. We did not teach the people in the pews that we were wrong in the past, and the reasons why we were wrong.

Our Jewish friends state that the Ten Commandments do not apply to non-Jews. Only those commandments which are in Gen 9:4-6 or implied by Gen 9:4-6 were given to all humanity. For example, while Gen. 9:4-6 commands the death penalty, the Rabbis by implying an infinite value to the image of God and the fear that the death penalty could be executed upon an innocent person, created procedures which virtually outlawed the death penalty.

We need to become a church which studies!

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Christopher, I have much the same question. Pope Francis isn't really more liberal - just more pastoral, and less confrontational. This is not to say that more of that tone from Archbishop Ferrer wouldn't be appreciated. I agree, though, that I still wouldn't identify it as "liberal."

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Prof Christopher Seitz
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Prof Christopher Seitz

"Liberal" meaning just what specifically by non RC standards?

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Rosina Harter
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Rosina Harter

I find it interesting that the media has not picked up on Archbishop Ferrer is a Jesuit. The Order is sworn to obey and uphold the Pope. Should be interesting times.

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