VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s doctrine chief says there is no need to correct Pope Francis over his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics because “there is no danger to the faith” in what he has said.
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was responding to a public request from four conservative cardinals for the pope to clarify his position contained in the controversial document “The Joy of Love.”
Conservatives have voiced concern that Francis’ opening to allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion has sown confusion among the faithful about the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
The four cardinals posed five questions, or “dubia,” in a letter to Francis and Mueller last year and made it public after getting no response. Francis hasn’t addressed their complaints directly but has endorsed the interpretation of Argentine bishops who, in a set of guidelines, said “The Joy of Love” clearly allows the possibility of access to the sacraments in exceptional cases.
In an interview Sunday with Mediaset’s TGCom24, Mueller said church doctrine, and the pope’s document, is clear.
“Pope Francis asks us to discern the situation of these people who are living in an irregular situation, that is not according to the doctrine of the church on marriage, and he asks us to help these people to find a path for a new integration in the church according to the conditions of the sacraments, of the Christian message on matrimony,” Mueller said.
Mueller has ruled out letting these divorced and civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion, though he agrees that they must be integrated into the life of the church. His comments, therefore don’t stray from that position, suggesting he is simply taking a more conservative interpretation of the pope’s intentionally vague document.
Mueller said the four cardinals were free to write the pope seeking clarity, but that it was “damaging” to the church for them to have made their request for clarification public.
The four cardinals include two of Mueller’s German countrymen, Cardinals Walter Brandmuller and Joachim Meisner, as well as American Cardinal Raymond Burke and the retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra.