July 3, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – “A number of cardinals” asked Pope Francis to fire Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office, “because he had on several occasions publicly disagreed with or distanced himself from the pope’s positions,” particularly as related to the exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
This information comes from America, a Jesuit magazine. As a magazine run by the Pope's own religious order, America has enjoyed special access since Francis' election in 2013. They published a famous interview with Pope Francis in 2013, and have since grown significantly.
The cardinals seem to have gotten their wish, because on June 30, it was announced that 69-year-old Müller would be removed from his job on July 2, the end of his five-year term as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
On July 1, Pope Francis named a 73-year-old Jesuit, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, to head the CDF. Ladaria Ferrer was previously Secretary of the CDF. He is also heading the pope's commission on women deacons.
Müller spoke to German media about his dismissal.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Müller told Allgemeine Zeitung as translated by Rorate Caeli. “Everyone has to retire at some point.”
Müller confirmed that he disagreed with Pope Francis for firing three priests from the CDF.
“There were competent people,” he said. This comment is consistent with a more vague one that Müller made in a May 2017 interview with EWTN's Raymond Arroyo.
In May, Müller told Arroyo, “I am in favor of a better treatment of our officials in the Holy See because we cannot only speak about the social doctrine and we must also respect it.”
Müller denied to Allgemeine Zeitung that he and Pope Francis had “differences” and disagreements over the interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. During his time as head of the CDF, Müller maintained that Amoris Laetitia must be interpreted through the lens of previous doctrine and therefore can't be used to change Church practice and thus undermine its teaching.
Müller said the four dubia cardinals asking Pope Francis for clarity on whether Amoris Laetitia is aligned with Catholic morality raised “legitimate questions.” He also criticized them and maintained that Amoris Laetitia was consistent with the Catholic faith so therefore no “fraternal correction” of Pope Francis would be necessary.
Nevertheless, he has been a voice for Catholic orthodoxy as bishops' conferences and high-ranking Vatican cardinals have called for the divorced and “remarried” to be admitted to Holy Communion contrary to Catholic teaching on adultery, the sacraments, scandal, and sacrilege.
The appointment of Ladaria Ferrer is “destined to have far-reaching consequences, not the least of which is to ensure that the C.D.F. and its prefect are rowing with and not against the pope on key issues, including the interpretation of 'Amoris Laetitia,' synodality and cooperation with the commission for the protection of minors,” America offered in its analysis.
“Ladaria Ferrer, though a competent theologian, is a low-key appointment who is never going to rock the boat, or cause any embarrassment to the Pope,” observed Father Alexander Lucie-Smith at the UK Catholic Herald. “His appointment means the virtual neutralisation for the foreseeable future of the CDF as a possible hotbed of opposition” to the pope's agenda.
Müller's removal sends a message “to other Vatican chiefs” to “watch out, your time is short, and you can and will be removed at the end of your term,” Lucie-Smith wrote.
Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter had a similar take, but he took this signal from Pope Francis as a good thing.
“I hope Cardinal Robert Sarah read this morning's Bollettino with care. Ditto for Cardinal Marc Ouellet,” wrote Winters, referencing the respective heads of the Vatican liturgy and bishop appointment offices. “They need to make sure their dicasteries are not loci of obstruction to the Holy Father but function as intended, as adjuncts to his office. Pope Francis has gone out of his way to work with the team he inherited, but if they are found wanting, it is time to let them go.”
Müller's sacking “signifies a critical moment in the history of Pope Francis' pontificate,” Professor Robert de Mattei wrote in Corrispondenza Romana on July 2. “It has never happened that a cardinal with more than 5 years to the canonical age of retirement (75) has not had his position renewed for a further five years.”
De Mattei noted that many orthodox Catholics see Ladaria Ferrer's appointment as a relief because Müller's replacement could have been far more heterodox, like Cardinal Christoph Schönborn or Malta's Archbishop Charles Scicluna.
“What some of them don't understand is that for Pope Francis, what is important is not the ideology of his collaborators, but the allegiance to his plan of 'irreversible reform' for the Church,” wrote de Mattei. He labeled the shakeup at the CDF “a defeat for the conservatives” more than an outright “victory” for Pope Francis.
De Mattei mentioned that there are many prelates older than Müller who haven't been asked to leave their posts. One example is Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Coccopalmerio is “the same cardinal whose secretary was caught in the act, by the Papal Gendarmerie, during a drug-based homosexual orgy in an apartment building, belonging to the Vatican.” (This gay orgy was taking place in not only a Vatican building, but a CDF one.)
The difference between Coccopalmerio and Müller is that the former “had shown his appreciation for Amoris Laetitia, explaining that: 'the Church has always been however the refuge of sinners,' whereas Müller did not hide his perplexity towards the 'apertures' in the papal Exhortation, even if with declarations of an oscillating nature.”
Ladaria Ferrer will also lead the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the Vatican's office that oversees the use of the Traditional Latin Mass.