The Tablet attacks the CDF Prefect by falsely claiming Pope Francis said policing doctrine ‘need not be taken too seriously’.

The Tablet has published an editorial that takes a swipe at Archbishop Müller, the Prefect for the CDF, for re-iterating the Church’s doctrine on divorced and re-married Catholics by claiming that Pope Francis said policing doctrine ‘need not be taken too seriously.’  The editorial states:

‘Archbishop Müller is a more complicated case, not least because he was the personal choice of Pope Benedict with whom Pope Francis still has regular discussions. But the archbishop is clearly out of step with the new mood, for instance in his astonishing recent statement that divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion cannot appeal to God’s mercy. He is not going to be able to live it down. It is well known that many of his fellow German bishops – and others elsewhere in the world – strongly disagree.

One option would be to divide the Congregation in two, one part taking on responsibility for the discipline of the clergy – suitably modernised to avoid a repetition of the disastrous mistakes in handling clerical child abuse – and the other responsible for policing doctrine, an issue that Pope Francis himself has implied need not be taken too seriously.

Thus downgraded, the role of prefect of the CDF would disappear. Both these functions should in the first instance be handled by local bishops’ conferences, with Rome reverting to its traditional role as a court of appeal. That would demonstrate the principle that under collegiality, the governing body of the Catholic Church is not the Pope and the Curia but the Pope and the bishops, with the Curia in support. The era of the “one size fits all” decree from the Vatican would have come to an end.’

In its report on Archbishop Müller’s re-iteration of the communion ban The Tablet made no reference to the ‘astonishing recent statement that divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion cannot appeal to God’s mercy.’ This is what The Tablet reported on 21st June 2013:

‘Communion for remarried divorcees can never be justified as a matter of conscience, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) spelt out this week.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller said the indissolubility of a sacramental, valid Catholic marriage is a “divine norm”, and therefore “not at the Church’s disposal” to alter.

In an article in the conservative German Catholic paper, Tagespost, Müller said it was not permissible for remarried Catholic divorcees to continue receiving communion after coming to the decision that their conscience permitted them to do so. Catholics in doubt about the validity of their marriage must put their case before an ecclesiastical court, which is responsible for possible annulments, he said.’

This is hardly the harsh interpretation of the Church’s doctrine on Marriage that The Tablet claim that Archbishop Müller  will never be able to live down. Where did The Tablet get this quote, ‘that divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion cannot appeal to God’s mercy?’

Protect the Pope comment: The Tablet is seriously suggesting that Archbishop Müller is out of step with Pope Francis because he affirmed in public the Church’s doctrine on the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage and the exclusion of divorced and re-married Catholics from receiving Holy Communion because they are in an adulterous relationship. This is Catherine Pepinster and The Tablet indulging in ‘fantasy Pope Francis’ who fulfills all their liberal dreams. Pope Francis has actually said nothing that would suggest that he is about to abandon the Church’s doctrine on marriage.

There are also no grounds for The Tablet claiming that Pope Francis policing of doctrine ‘need not be taken too seriously’. In his meeting with Confederación Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Religiosos y Religiosas he is reported to have said by those attending:

‘They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing… But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward… Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up…’

Far from saying that a letter from the CDF should not be taken seriously this transcript indicates that Pope Francis said that the religious must reply to the CDF and offer an explanation of the matter under investigation. He also told them that they must move beyond their mistakes identified by the CDF, and not hold onto them. Notice that he calls these missteps by the Religious ‘mistakes’, which is hardly the ringing endorsement of dissent that the Tablet is pretending it is.



18 comments to The Tablet attacks the CDF Prefect by falsely claiming Pope Francis said policing doctrine ‘need not be taken too seriously’.

  • Wake up England

    Well then,

    High Time The Pope starts unequivocal teaching then that is understandable to The Poor.

    THE POOR tend to be simple and NOT highly educated (like me).

    Tell us simply, Your Holiness. Speak simply so we can understand.

    • Andrzej

      I agree. I still believe (and hope) that Francis’s oblique style is part of a greater strategy.

      Personally, I yearn for a clearer and unequivocal voice in the key issues.

  • agent.provocateur

    I do not see The Tablet as a catholic magazine, but unfortunately I have to agree with them on this matter. The quote from pope Francis can indeed be interpreted as a suggestion not to take CDF seriously.

    • Deacon Nick Donnelly

      I can’t believe that Pope Francis said such a thing when only last week he admitted he takes advice from Pope Benedict XVI, the exemplary prefect of the CDF in the 20th Century. Deacon Nick

      • Wake up England

        Deacon Nick:

        Let’s hope you’re right.

        Off the topic: I believe you write for the CTS.

        I am sad to see that, in the latest edition of A Simple Prayer Book, “A Prayer for England” has been taken out. I would have thought we need it now more than ever.

        I hope the CTS reinstate it in future editions.

      • Peter

        Yet It has never been denied by the Vatican. And the sisters at the meeting still say it was Francis’s words and in spanish, not Italian. The sisters apologised for the leak to the press.

      • Genty

        But don’t you see, Deacon Nick, that this is the whole problem. That whatever the Pope says on doctrine is clouded with ambiguity. Both you and The Tablet are saying you believe/can’t believe what a certain statement means. Perhaps both are correct. It strikes me that a frightened man appears to be overwhelmed by the enormity of his task and doesn’t actually know which way to turn; who are his friends and who are his enemies. Being domiciled outside The Vatican won’t help him. Only the Holy Spirit and our prayers can.

  • BJC

    Another opportunistic piece from CP. There are two quotes we are never going to see printed in the Tablet, that’s for sure, because they are rather inconvenient to the narrative they are trying to build.

    (1) “How’s our faith? Is it strong? Or is it sometimes a bit superficial?…..the Faith isn’t negotiable. There has been, throughout history of the people, this temptation: to chop a piece off the Faith, the temptation to be a bit “like everyone else does”, the temptation “not to be so very rigid”. But when we start to cut down the Faith, to negotiate Faith, a little like selling it to the highest bidder, he stressed, “we take the path of apostasy, of disloyalty to the Lord.” (6 Apr 2013)

    (2) And on gay marriage: “Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” (2010)

    The first could have been written specifically for the Tablet, the second is probably stronger than anything Pope Benedict has ever said on gay marriage.

  • Peter

    I think the story is highly revealing. I have never heard a pope speak this way about the CDF – ‘yes answer the letter, don’t worry and be ready to make mistakes.’
    Although Cardinal Ratzinger was never the ‘panzer cardinal’ as described by some liberals, I can’t imagine Benedict saying such a thing.

    Another revealing point – Archbishop Muller (the current prefect of the CDF) is slowly rehabilitating the work of the great liberation theologian and his mentor the Dominican Gustavo Gutierrez.
    Gutierrez was censured in the 1980′s. Two documents written in 1984 and 1986 by Cardinal Ratzinger were rather critical of liberation theology, however Muller wrote a book with Gutierrez “On the Side of the Poor. The Theology of Liberation”. It only goes to show how things can change.
    Archbishop Muller stated
    “The Latin American ecclesial and theological movement known as “Liberation Theology”, which spread to other parts of the world after the Second Vatican Council, should in my opinion be included among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology.”

  • irishrc

    It reminds me of the story of the woman caught in adultery. So many finish at “no one has condemned you, go” leaving out “and sin no more”. All the Pope did was point out the obvious, we all make mistakes. So let’s not dwell on them. The only person not making mistakes is dead.
    What chances the clergy stop their subscriptions to the tablet?

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Peter: I do not think you are correct in saying that Gutierrez was censured i.e. that his teachings were formally condemned. He may have been asked for an explanation but nothing more.

    On the subject of collegiality there is a good article in the most recent edition of “Faith” magazine available at:

    The article says that collegiality means acting collegially i.e. all the Bishops acting as one with the Pope not local Bishops doing their own thing on doctrine!

    • peter

      Hi Nicolas
      thankyou for the article, i will have a look over the weekend.
      I remember the Gutierrez controversy well. In the end Gutierrez entered the Dominicans for some protection from his accusers, but you are right it did not end with the removal of his licence, rather the two Instructions issued by the CDF were generally seen as a reprimand against liberation theologians including Gutierrez. It is late and i don’t have anything to hand but if memory serves me, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to the Peruvian bishops stating he had deep concerns about Gutierrez work. I’ll see if i can dig out the text. I think you raise a good point though; what is a formal censure and what is a warning?
      I’ve met Gutierrez a number of times, he is a wonderful and humble man – and very funny! I think his book on Job, is one of the most beautiful meditations i have read.

  • munserf

    Let’s have clear teaching upholding the deposit of Faith,not double meaning ambiguity.

  • But when we talk about marriage and divorce why are we content to say it is a teaching of the church. It is very much a teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If we do not take the Church seriously then we are not taking Jesus seriously. Though i honestly believe the reply from the Tablet will be “Why bring Him into it! We have managed without him for the past 50 years.

  • fd

    I’ve just watched the Pope Angelus on Italy’s SkyTg24, which shows and intellegently comments the Angelus every week.
    Once again, St Peter’s square was full to the brinks with people. As the Pope leaves tomorrow for World Youth Day, he asked “Are there young people here?” And an enormous outburst of joy was heard :” SII !! : YES !! ”
    When I see this beautiful images I think about the most anti-Catholic news outlet in Italy (the daily Il Fatto Quotidiano , the daily Il Manifesto and LA7-tv channel ).
    La7, by the way, is the channel which had the gut to attack Cardinal Timothy Dolan (spreading disgustng lies about him) during the Conclave)
    Because I know that those outlets are all headquartiered a stone’s throw away from the Vatican , just a block away.
    So, I imagine them soothing with anger every Sunday and every Wednesday

  • fd

    Rai3 news outlet’s night edition tonight has just showed what they call the “two Rio De Janeiro”: “the adorned one which waits the Pope” and “the poor part whose inhabitants say that the Pope will never see”.
    Rai3 clearly doesn’t know or pretends not to know that South America is full of Catholic missionaries and priests, many of them from Italy, who are there with the poor. Or what about the fund-raising and clothing collection organized by the Italian Churches , and the Church club, the ones,which -according to them- should pay the property tax ?

  • Sonja

    I have just discovered a good summary of the theology of Pope Francis on Wikipedia. It puts together his beliefs from a number of published sources. The Tablet and CP should perhaps check their facts rather from multiple sources rather than rely on a single source, or transcript of a private meeting held in Spanish.

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