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Vatican doctrine chief criticizes bishops for giving ‘contradictory interpretations’ of Amoris

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ROME, February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Vatican doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Müller is warning bishops around the world to stop interpreting Pope Francis’ exhortation on marriage in ways that contradict unchangeable Catholic doctrine. 

“It cannot be that the universally binding doctrine of the Church, formulated by the Pope, is given different and even contradictory regional interpretations,” he said in a February 15 interview with the German magazine Rheinische Post.

“The basis of the Church is the unity of faith. The Church no longer experiences a new revelation,” he added.

Müller’s comments come on the heels of the bishops of Malta, and now Germany, having issued pastoral guidelines based on their reading of Francis’ Amoris Laetitia that they say allows Holy Communion to be given to civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics living in adultery. 

Müller, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said it was “not his style” to criticize publications by bishops. He added, however, “I do not think it is particularly beneficial for each individual bishop to comment on papal documents to explain how he subjectively understands the document.”

The Cardinal told the apologetics magazine Il Timone this month that “Amoris Laetitia must clearly be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.”

“It is not right that so many bishops are interpreting Amoris Laetitia according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching,” he said. “The Magisterium of the Pope is interpreted only by him or through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. … It is not the bishops who interpret the Pope.”

As “teacher of the Word,” a bishop must be the first to be “well-formed” so as not to run the risk of being “a blind man leading the blind,” he said. 

The Catholic Church teaches that the faithful may receive Holy Communion if they have the proper disposition, namely that they be in the state of grace (free from mortal sin). The Church follows the teaching of St. Paul in this matter where he states that the one who “eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” St. Paul states that such a one “eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” 

Earlier this week Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the Vatican’s legal chief, released a book in which he wrote that couples living in adultery as well as cohabiting couples who commit fornication “must be given” Holy Communion. They merely need a “desire” to change their situation, even if they “can’t act on their desire” because it might lead them into “new sin,” he wrote. 

But Müller said in his Rheinische Post interview that in order to be absolved of sexual sins such as adultery in order to approach communion, a penitent must resolve not to sin again. 

“No one can alter the sacraments as a means of grace according to their own choice – for example, so that the sacrament of Confession can be given without the intention to sin no more,” he said. 

Later in the Rheinische Post interview, Müller paid tribute to Francis’s “moral authority” as Pope while pointing out that the “man” who holds the office can, at times, be weak. 

“Everyone is weak and mortal,” he said. “Jesus did not choose the wisest, the richest, and the most prominent among his apostles, but simple people, craftsmen, fishermen.”

“That is why it is important not to look for supermen in the pope, the bishops, or priests, and, if they cannot fulfill these exaggerated expectations, turn away disappointed in the Gospel and the Church. Everyone needs forgiveness. But the grace of God proves itself in human weakness,” he said.

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