July 2, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – Cardinal Muller is now out – no longer the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Taking his place as Prefect will be Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, until now the Secretary of the Congregation (see reporting by Edward Pentin at NCRegister). Folks are understandably trying to read the tea leaves on this one. Ladaria was appointed to the CDF by Benedict XVI. That’s “good.” Ladaria was just named its prefect by Pope Francis. That’s “bad.” My take on the appointment of Ladaria is probably closer to that of Fr. Z, i.e., that we “dodged one” (read Fr. Z’s full take here). Given some of the other names said to have been in the mix, things could have been far, far worse.
Yet, while we may have “dodged one,” I think the truth is: it never really mattered who replaces Cardinal Muller. Pope Francis simply has no use for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). It seems clear enough from the Pope’s homilies and comments attacking his opponents, that Pope Francis likely views the CDF as little more than the Congregation for the Doctors of the Law and Rigidity. Why would he bother placing one of his St. Gallen friends there as Prefect, if he is going to ignore it anyway? Better to place one of his St. Gallen buddies where they might accomplish something for his agenda. Consider, there have been reports that the CDF had raised questions about various parts of the draft of Amoris Laetitia before it was published. According to these accounts, the Pope simply ignored the CDF. Now, certainly, a Pope is not required to listen to advice and counsel, but it is certainly a prudent and wise thing to do to minimize the risk of confusion and ambiguity. Pope Honorius could have used a CDF in his day to screen his draft letters to Sergius of Constantinople. Unfortunately for Honorius and the Church of his day, he did not. The confusion that Honorius fostered led to his condemnation by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (here) and to some rather choice words about him by one of his successors, Pope Leo II.
To date, the pope has refused to answer the dubia. He has refused the cardinals attempts to meet privately to discuss them. He has ignored the publicizing of these efforts, although he appears to have taken pot shots at the dubia cardinals in his homilies from time to time. Pope Francis apparently skipped out again on meeting the College of Cardinals at the recent consistory. One might speculate that the Pope did so to avoid an occasion where he might have been confronted for his obstinate refusal to answer the dubia. I’d like to think he would have been confronted had the opportunity presented itself – but I have my doubts (as much as I respect the four dubia cardinals). Forget the CDF. It is not a player in this current crisis. It is abundantly clear: this Pope’s CDF – no matter who is Prefect – will not address the dubia in any official way.
So, where does this leave us? I don’t know. I don’t read tea leaves. I don’t drink tea. But, from what I see, the way forward for the dubia cardinals is not clear. Perhaps one way forward, as I suggested here, might be for the four cardinals – plus as many other cardinals as they can enlist into the effort – to address a signed, public declaration to all Catholic bishops around the world. This declaration would request that each one of them publicly request that Pope Francis definitively answer the dubia in a solemn manner – befitting a successor of St. Peter – which would “confirm the brethren” (cf Luke 22:32). The bishops should do this both by letters to the Pope and from their pulpits. The request should include a specified time period for the Pope to respond. Three months should be more than enough time. How about picking a specific date by which this be done? Pick a date with some import and meaning in the life of the Church in our times – one involving a message concerning the “dogma of the Faith,” sin and the reality of Hell. How about October 13, 2017?