(Translation of German article by Giuseppe Nardi at Katholisches.info.)It seemed that everything was already fixed: Shortly before Christmas, the appointment of a new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) was expected. But then everything turned out differently – at least for the time being.
Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith who was still in office, had received his mandate in an unexpected way in the summer of 2017. Until then, the Spanish Jesuit had been secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, i.e. the right hand of the prefect. At the time, the prefect was still Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former bishop of Regensburg, whom Pope Benedict XVI had appointed to Rome in 2012 with the intention of placing this key position in reliable hands to ensure continuity beyond his retirement.
The stalled Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The election of Pope Francis, however, upset all the coordinates much more than some had expected in their wildest imaginations. Cardinal Müller, now disliked as a “Ratzingerian,” found himself constantly compelled to make declarations of loyalty to the new pope. He was placed under the general accusation by those who had special expectations of the new pope of representing that church which was now to be finally overcome.
The German cardinal tried to grow into a new role by walking a tightrope, aware of the risks involved. He outlined this in an interview with the French daily La Croix at the end of March 2015, saying that there was a need to “structure the pontificate of Francis theologically.” He increasingly felt the need to act as an actual guardian of the faith alongside the “pope of gestures” and “spontaneous speech” – if necessary, even against overly improvisational and deviant ways of the pope himself. Thus, in the spring of 2016, he held a lectio magistralis in Madrid, with which he placed the controversial post-synodal letter Amoris laetitia in ecclesial continuity, thus trying to take the “Bergoglian teeth” out of it.
It was clear to observers that this was not only a difficult but ultimately an impossible undertaking in every respect. Some spoke early on of a “suicide mission.” Indeed, things did not go well for long, and Francis dismissed Cardinal Müller suddenly one day in late June 2017, and in a rather unkind manner. Francis’s disapproval of Pope Benedict XVI’s last prefect of the faith is still evident today, with Francis not conferring any office or role on the German cardinal since. Müller, however, in whose episcopal city Benedict XVI had given his historic Regensburg speech in 2006, continues to be a cardinal and as such still has a not insignificant influence, which he seeks to assert.
Cardinal Müller also gave his answer to the motu proprio Traditionis custodes — with which Francis wants to strangle the traditional rite, or at least to repress it — by ordaining priests in the traditional rite immediately after its publication…RORATE CÆLI: Cardinals block appointment of Heiner Wilmer as Prefect of the DDF