Pope names archbishop to succeed Cardinal Muller at doctrine office

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Promoting the secretary of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the office of prefect, Pope Francis
chose not to ask German Cardinal Gerhard Muller to serve a second five-year
term in the post.

The Vatican announced July 1 that the pope chose as prefect
Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, 73, a Jesuit theologian who had been
appointed secretary of the congregation in 2008 by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

“The Holy Father Francis thanked His Eminence
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller at the conclusion of his quinquennial mandate,” the
Vatican announcement said. No new position was announced for Cardinal Muller,
who at 69 is still more than five years away from the normal retirement age for
a bishop.

Anticipating an announcement of the pope’s decision June 30,
both the English Rorate Caeli blog and the Italian Corrispondenza Romana blog
presented the pope’s move as a dismissal of the German cardinal, who originally
was appointed to the post by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis had met that morning with Cardinal Muller,
whose five-year term was to end July 2.

While Pope Francis wrote in his exhortation on the family,
“Amoris Laetitia,” that church teaching on marriage had not changed,
both Rorate Caeli and Corrispondenza Romana implied Cardinal Muller was let go
because he insisted that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics could not
receive Communion unless they made a commitment to abstain from sexual
relations with their new partners. Other bishops and bishops’ conferences have
read Pope Francis’ document as presenting a process of discernment that in
certain circumstances could allow some couples to return to the sacraments.

Cardinal Muller was the first Vatican official formally
confirmed in his post by Pope Francis after his election in 2013 and was among
the 19 churchmen named cardinals that year by Pope Francis.

The prefect of the doctrinal congregation is responsible for
promoting the correct interpretation of Catholic doctrine and theology; his
office also is responsible for conducting investigations of clergy accused of
sexually abusing minors.

Resigning from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection
of Minors, Marie Collins, one of the founding members and the last remaining
abuse survivor on the commission, said members of the Roman Curia were
reluctant to implement the commission’s recommendations and she particularly
cited Cardinal Muller.

Speaking to reporters in May on his flight from Fatima,
Portugal, to Rome, Pope Francis said Collins was “a little bit right”
because of the slow pace of investigating so many cases of alleged abuse.

However, the pope said the delays were due to the need to
draft new legislation and to the fact that few people have been trained to
investigate allegations of abuse. Cardinal Muller and Cardinal Pietro Parolin,
Vatican secretary of state, he added, were looking “for new people.”

As head of the doctrinal congregation, the prefect also
serves as president the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the International
Theological Commission and the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei,”
which is responsible for the pastoral care of traditionalist Catholics and for
the ongoing reconciliation talks with the Society of St. Pius X.

The new prefect, Archbishop Ladaria, was appointed
congregation secretary by Pope Benedict after having worked with him as a
member of the International Theological Commission in 1992-1997, as a
consultant to the doctrinal congregation from 1995 to 2008 and as secretary
general of the theological commission from 2004 until being named congregation

Archbishop Ladaria was born in Manacor, Mallorca, April 19,
1944, and earned a law degree at the University of Madrid before entering the
Society of Jesus in 1966. After theology and philosophy studies in Spain and
Germany, he was ordained to the priesthood July 29, 1973.

He earned a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical
Gregorian University in Rome in 1975 and began teaching dogmatic theology at
the Pontifical University Comillas in Madrid. Nine years later, he began
teaching at the Gregorian and served as vice rector of the university from 1986
to 1994.

Before the debate over “Amoris Laetitia,” Cardinal
Muller made headlines for his role in the Vatican critique of the U.S.-based
Leadership Conference of Women Religious and for his friendship with Dominican
Father Gustavo Gutierrez, considered the father of liberation theology.

In 2004, he co-authored a book, “On the Side of the
Poor: The Theology of Liberation,” with Father Gutierrez. In the 1990s,
when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the congregation before becoming
Pope Benedict, Father Gutierrez was asked by the congregation to write and
rewrite articles clarifying some of his theological and pastoral points.

In a 2012 interview with the Vatican newspaper, then-Archbishop
Muller said he was invited to participate in a seminar with Father Gutierrez in
1988, and he went “with some reservations” because the doctrinal congregation
had criticized aspects of liberation theology that it said were too influenced
by Marxist ideology.

“One must distinguish between an erroneous and a
correct liberation theology,” Archbishop Muller told the newspaper. While
a Catholic must reject Marxist ideas and analysis, he said, “we must ask
ourselves sincerely: How can we speak about the love and mercy of God in the
face of the suffering of so many people who do not have food, water, medical
care; who don’t know how to give their own children a future; where human
dignity really is lacking; where human rights are ignored by the

Before being named prefect of the doctrinal congregation,
Cardinal Muller had served five years as one of its members and had been a
member of the International Theological Commission from 1998 to 2003. Pope
Benedict led both bodies until 2005, when he was elected pontiff.

Cardinal Muller has close ties to retired Pope Benedict and
in 2008 helped establish the Pope Benedict XVI Institute, which is publishing a
complete collection of works by the German-born pope and theologian.

When he was appointed prefect of the doctrinal congregation
by Pope Benedict in 2012, he told the Vatican newspaper his job in Rome would
be “to relieve part of his work and not bring him problems that can be
resolved” at the level of the congregation. “The Holy Father has the
important mission of proclaiming the Gospel and confirming his brothers and
sisters in the faith. It’s up to us to deal with the less pleasant matters so
that he will not be burdened with too many things, although, naturally, he
always will be informed of important matters.”

Cardinal Muller is a native of Mainz, Germany. He was
ordained to the priesthood in 1978 and served in his native diocese as a
chaplain and high school religion teacher. With degrees in philosophy and a
doctorate in theology, he was a professor of dogmatic theology in Munich from
1986 to 2002.

He was named bishop of Regensburg in 2002 and then-Cardinal
Ratzinger attended his episcopal ordination. Then-Bishop Muller chose as his
episcopal motto “Dominus Iesus” (Jesus is Lord), which comes from St.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans and is the title of the 2000 document on salvation
through Christ alone, issued by the doctrinal congregation under then-Cardinal

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