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The disagreements between Pope Francis and some Bishops

These days, when the classic Catholic parlor game of deciding who in the Vatican is for the pope and who’s against him gets underway, German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller often figures near the top of most lists for the latter camp.

Prefect of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and thus an indirect heir to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Müller is perceived as a doctrinal conservative often struggling to hold the line against the more revolutionary tendencies unleashed under Pope Francis.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Müller, for instance, is a close friend of Gustavo Gutierrez and a supporter of a moderate form of liberation theology. In general, however, he’s not seen as an especially “Francis" kind of guy, often perceived as representing the traditional yin to the pope’s maverick yang.

To hear Müller himself tell it, however, that’s just plain bunk.

On May 3, Müller was at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, Spain, taking some questions from students and faculty. Inevitably, one was about whether the Vatican’s doctrinal czar feels uncomfortable with some of the more “ambiguous" things this pope says and does.

In fact, Müller claimed, there’s an explicit division of labor at work between his office and Francis, hatched from the very start three years ago. (Remember that Müller, 68, took office under Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.)

“At the beginning of his pontificate, we spoke with Pope Francis, observing that during the previous pontificates the press accused the Church of talking only about sexuality, of abortion and these problems," Müller said.

“For this reason, we decided, with Francis, to always, always, always speak in a positive way. If you look at the complete texts of Pope Francis, there’s gender ideology, abortion … yes, these problems are still there, but we concentrate on the positive."

That’s not a matter of “revolution," Müller said, insisting that Francis “is in line with his predecessors."

“His originality," he said, “is his charisma, thanks to which he succeeds in overcoming people’s blocks and their hardened positions."

To hear Müller tell it, the strategy is paying off.

“I think all of us can see, from the reaction of the press, that today there’s less aggression against the Church," Müller said. “It’s not that everybody is becoming Catholic, clearly, but at least they’re talking about other things."

He gave a concrete example of how the pope’s cachet actually allows him to push traditional Catholic messages in ways that other popes would have found difficult.

“Pope Francis has the courage to speak of the devil," Müller said.

“If Benedict would have said what Francis says today about the devil, he would have been called retrograde and medieval. But our pope has the charisma to say these things: the devil exists, he’s at work and is very evil, and whoever welcomes his suggestions is guilty."

According to Müller, his ability to rupture such taboos is the fruit of Francis’s pastoral nature.

“Pope Francis has his own style," he said. “He says he feels like a pastor, and that the doctrine is already very clear in the texts of Benedict XVI … He says, ‘go forward with the theology,’ but he maintains his charisma of knowing how to communicate with people, who need that charisma."

One could, of course, look on these statements with a degree of skepticism.

It’s natural to ask if Müller is perhaps slightly exaggerating his own role in crafting Francis’ spontaneous, shoot-from-the-hip style. It’s also possible to wonder if Müller’s insistence that what we have is a “positive" pope, not an “ambiguous" one, is to some extent a PR exercise calculated to calm anxious conservatives.

Nonetheless, Müller’s robust defense of the pope in Madrid does confirm one key point about reaction to Francis, both within the Vatican and among many Catholic bishops around the world.

Speaking to many prelates these days, especially those of a more conservative bent, you can often find a degree of ambivalence on certain points – whether Francis’ eco-encyclical Laudato Si’, for example, was too uncritical in embracing the agenda of the secular environmental movement, or whether his cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and remarried in Amoris Laetitia may lend itself to abuse.

If you phrase the question, however, as whether those prelates would like to roll the clock back to March 12, 2013, before Francis was elected, and see things turn out differently, a solid majority will say “no," and mean it.

In the main, that’s because many agree with Müller, that whatever its downside, this pope’s “charisma" has reduced hostility towards the Church in many sectors of the culture, including the press, and thereby created some breathing room for Catholicism to go about its business without the same constant fear of assault.

In effect, it allows Church leaders to catch their breath, to take a break from always putting out fires, and to ponder what comes next.

The next time, therefore, the “blues v. grays" exercise heats up about which bishops are with the pope and which are against him, this is a point worth recalling: At the end of the day, you don’t have to be with Francis on everything to regard him, net-net, as a blessing.

By By John L. Allen Jr.



  1. Lois Hudon in Bathurst N.B. Reply

    I’m not sure if this is where I should comment on my opinion about what the Bishop is doing by removing Father David from our English Parishes. There is a petition going around to keep our wonderful Father David.

  2. ADAM Caius Reply

    A GOOD CHRISTIAN would NEVER harm or hate ISRAEL or the Jewish people ! Those who hate so much the Jewish People and all the Jews , do they hate equally those Jews as follows : ( ? ) Jesus was Born a Jew

    Jesus is a real, historical person, born in the Land of Israel, during the Roman occupation, in approximately the year 3 BCE. However, at the time His name was actually pronounced, “Yeshua,” and that is the name used in this article. That Yeshua was born Jewish is one of the least contested truths of the Bible. The very first verse of the New Covenant reads: The book of the genealogy of Messiah Yeshua (“Jesus Christ”), the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). Who were Abraham and David?

    Abraham was the first Hebrew. God changed his name from Abram (Gen. 17:5). In Gen. 14:13 he is called Abram the Hebrew. So we can see that Yeshua (Jesus) is descended from “Abram the Hebrew.” Even to this day, Jews are also called “Hebrews”, and the language of the Jews is “Hebrew.”

    ( Saint )Mary (mother of Jesus) According to the New Testament, Mary (Aramaic: ܡܪܝܡ Mariam; Hebrew: מִרְיָם Miriam; Latin: Maria; c. 18 BC – AD c. 43), also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady (the Madonna), and occasionally Saint Mary (amongst other titles, styles and honorifics), was a Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth and the mother of Jesus.[Mt 1:16,18-25][Lk 1:26-56][2:1-7]

    The gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament describe Mary as a virgin (Greek: παρθένος, parthénos)[3] and Christians believe that she conceived her son while a virgin by the Holy Spirit. …According to ancient Jewish custom, Mary could have been betrothed at about 12,[6] however, there is no direct evidence of Mary’s age at betrothal or in pregnancy. The term “betrothal” is an awkward translation of kiddushin; according to the Jewish law those called “betrothed” were actually husband and wife.

    Saint Anne Saint Anne (also known as Ann or Anna ) of David’s house and line, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ, according to Christian ….. Mary’s mother is not named in the canonical gospels, ….Anne’s name and that of her husband Joachim come only from New Testament apocrypha, of which the Protoevangelium of James (written perhaps around 150) seems to be the earliest that mentions them.

    Saint John the Baptist, (born 1st century bc) Jewish prophet of priestly origin who preached the imminence of God’s Final Judgment and baptized those who repented in self-preparation for it; he is revered in the Christian church as the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

    Saint Peter (Syriac/Aramaic: Shemayon Keppa, Hebrew: שמעון בר יונה Shim’on bar Yona, Greek: Πέτρος Petros, Latin: Petrus; r. AD 30;[1] d. between AD 64 and 68[2]), also known as Simon Peter, Simeon, or Simōn, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, leaders of the early Christian Church. He is also the “Apostle of the Apostles”, an honor 3rd-century theologian Hippolytus of Rome gave him, and the Roman Catholic Church considers him to be the first pope, ordained by Jesus in the “Rock of My Church” dialogue in Matthew 16:18. The ancient Christian churches all venerate Peter as a major saint and associate him with founding the Church of Antioch and later the Church in Rome,[2] …
    The New Testament indicates that Peter was the son of John (or Jonah or Jona)[3] and was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee or Gaulanitis. His brother Andrew was also an apostle. According to New Testament accounts, Peter was one of twelve apostles chosen by Jesus from his first disciples.

    Saint Paul , Apostle to the Jews :
    Paul the Apostle says that Peter had the special charge of being apostle to the Jews, just as he was apostle to the Gentiles. Another apostle, James, is regarded as the leader of the Jewish Christians.

    Mary Magdalene (Hebrew: מרים המגדלית, original Greek: Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή),[2] or Mary of Magdala and sometimes the Magdalene, is a figure in Christianity. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She is said to have witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.Mary Magdalene is considered to be a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches—with a feast day of July 22. Other Protestant churches honor her as a heroine of the faith.

    All the 12 Apostles of JESUS were Jews ! The Jews brought the Christian Faith into Europe ! The Apostels payed a high price for spreading Christianism in the world , they payed with their lives , they have been crucified , they have been beheaded , they have been murdered in the most horrible ways by the Romans ! We have to remember always that the first CHRISTIANS of the world were the Jews !

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