Ladaria to Replace Muller as Head of Doctrinal Congregation

By McElwee, Joshua J. | National Catholic Reporter, July 14, 2017 | Go to article overview

Ladaria to Replace Muller as Head of Doctrinal Congregation


McElwee, Joshua J., National Catholic Reporter


ROME * Pope Francis did not to renew the expiring term of Vatican doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Muller, choosing instead to replace the German prelate with his deputy, a Spanish Jesuit theologian known for keeping a relatively low public profile.

The pope has appointed Archbishop Luis Ladaria, 73, as the new prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Ladaria had previously served as the office's secretary.

A Vatican statement announcing the appointment July 1 did not say whether Muller would be receiving a new role. At 69 years old, he is six years away from the traditional retirement age for bishops. It is unusual for a cardinal of that age not to have an official posting.

The Vatican statement simply said the pope thanked Muller for his service at the conclusion of his five-year term as prefect, which began with his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on July 2, 2012.

The July 1 announcement had been highly anticipated over the past day, as rumors began to circulate that Muller would be leaving his position following a meeting the cardinal had June 30 with Francis.

The pope's choice of Ladaria, who has served at the doctrinal congregation since his own appointment by Benedict in 2008, seems to signify that Francis did not want a radical shakeup at the Vatican office, but simply a change in personnel.

Prior to his appointment at the Vatican, Ladaria had taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University and served as its vice-rector. From 2004 to 2009, he was the secretary general of the International Theological Commission.

Ladaria is also president of the new papal commission studying the possibility of women deacons in the church, having been appointed to that role by Francis last August.

Before becoming the head of the doctrinal congregation, Muller had served for 10 years as the bishop of the southeastern German diocese of Regensburg. He is known to be close to Benedict, who studied and taught at the University of Regensburg prior to becoming a bishop.

But, after Benedict's retirement, Muller and Francis never appeared to develop an especially warm relationship. Most recently, the cardinal has been inconsistent about his position regarding the teaching authority of Francis' exhortation on family life, Amoris Laetitia. After four cardinals publicly challenged Francis last November to answer questions about what they see as inconsistencies in the document, Muller said in January that the exhortation was "very clear" and that cardinals should not challenge the pope publicly.

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But the cardinal appeared to contradict Francis' teaching in the document in a May interview with EWTN. Asked about the possibility of the church giving Communion to those who have remarried without first receiving annulments, the cardinal stated: "We don't accept polygamy"

In Amoris Laetitia, Francis asked pastors to use pastoral discernment in such cases and said that in some instances such discernment "can include the help of the sacraments." The pope has also praised a set of guidelines issued by Argentine bishops that said divorced and civilly remarried couples might eventually be allowed to receive Communion.

Muller was also publicly questioned in recent months about his willingness to implement recommendations of the new papal commission on clergy sexual abuse, even in instances when Francis had approved them. …

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