Home from retreat, and I see the Catholic internet is abuzz with the gossip that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, head of the CDF, and Cardinal Ratzinger’s second successor, will soon be out. Granted, the man is not playing baseball, but it seems the story is that he will not be offered an option to continue his original five-year contract.
Still, I was surprised a post appeared on my facebook feed from a Catholic friend and it appears this news is a Big Thing. With lots of angry comments about how dictatorial and un-liberal Pope Francis is in a liberal sort of way. I don’t get the complaints. Really.
One, popes have the power to depose and appoint whom they wish for various offices. What was never disputed in the 1978-2013 era suddenly comes into play under Pope Francis. My own thought: it’s going to be a long four-day weekend, and a few American Catholics need something to complain about other than why isn’t their parish observing Saint Elizabeth of Portugal this coming Tuesday.
Two, I recall few enough alligator tears when Archbishop Piero Marini was replaced in 2007. Two years into Pope Benedict’s term, and it’s understandable the new pope finally wants his own “man” in the role of master of ceremonies. Long service under St John Paul didn’t translate into tenure-for-life. I recall B16 was heaved some criticism keeping him on the job as long as he did. And this wasn’t just playing around the fringes with dogmatic theology; this was save the papal liturgy, save the world stuff.
Three, I guess that Cardinal Müller is the last line of defense against bishops interpreting Amoris Laetitia with mercy where some difficult cases of divorce and remarriage occur. It makes me wonder if Just War theory got ancient Christians nervous about murder becoming a forgivable sin. I think concern is always appropriate where grave sin is concerned. But on the mercy front, Church teaching is less altered and more put in the hands of trusted pastors. Concerning the priests I know and have worked with, I’m putting my trust that the pastoral solution in difficult situations will be well-handled.
Four, it’s not like the CDF is publishing documents very much these days. Come to think of it, not many curial departments are coming out with anything in writing at all.
Five, the comments from the stiff(-necked) resistance to Rome are interesting. A sample:
How I loathe this faithless pontiff. May his successor grind his legacy, his “magisterium,” and, especially, his apparatchiks to dust.
He is a man of unsubtle vendettas.
The Charcoal Fire is burning in the Vatican and the 30 Pieces of Silver are echoing throughout it’s (sic) halls.
The good cardinal isn’t getting off easy:
Bye, bye Mr. Wimpy and I hope you’ve learned something.
And there’s more than these samples from two sites.
This is clearly a very difficult time for these Catholics. They’ve had to turn on living Church authorities, going all the way up to the pope. If you told me in 2012 that five years hence, a vocal minority of Catholics would be so vehemently and vocally opposed to the institutional church, I wouldn’t have believed liberals would care enough to bother.
I saw on another facebook post some too-pithy comments about Cardinal Müller’s next assignment. I hope the man is placed somewhere he can utilize his gifts for the betterment of the Body. A diocese. A special assignment.
As for his replacement, I’m trying to think of a good lay theologian.
Maybe it’s good it happened this way. If Pope Francis had cleaned house at the top of the CDF in 2013, he would have been criticized just as roundly. If he let Cardinal Müller re-up, the curia man probably would have come under suspicion from the Right. It strikes me as dysfunctional to the extreme that there seems that no one in Rome right now can do right. Or is it Right?