World Report

Threat of ‘fraternal correction’ of Pope Francis is dismissed

Cardinal Gerhard Muller.

The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has dismissed a threat of ‘fraternal correction’ of Pope Francis in connection with the ongoing Amoris Laetitia row.

In an interview with Italian TV last weekend, Cardinal Gerhard Muller responded to the earlier threat issued by Cardinal Raymond Burke that a formal correction of the Pontiff would be necessary after Christmas if Pope Francis continued in his refusal to answer directly the letter containing questions – dubia – submitted by him and three fellow cardinals on the papal exhortation on marriage and the family. 

Describing such a correction as “very remote”, Cardinal Muller said, “it’s not possible in this moment, because it doesn’t concern a danger for the faith as St Thomas said”.

The row over Amoris Laetitia has rumbled since last October when Cardinals Burke, Joachim Meisner, Walter Brandmüller and Carlo Caffarra released to the media the text of the letter they had submitted a month earlier to Pope Francis seeking clarification on the issue of communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. 


Since then, various prelates have spoken up variously to condemn or support the four cardinals. Cardinal Burke has since stated that there is “a very serious division in the Church which has to be mended [or it] could develop into a formal schism”.

In early December, the head of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Msgr Vito Pinto, rebuked the cardinals, pointing out that the issues raised by them had the effect of questioning not only the Pope but two synods on the family.

“The action of the Holy Spirit cannot be doubted,” he says. “[The cardinals] question not one synod but two!...Which Church do these cardinals defend? The Pope is faithful to the doctrine of Christ.”

This, however, did little to dissuade Cardinal Burke from issuing his threat of formal correction just before the Christmas period.

The latest prelate to enter the row is South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfrid Napier who, in a January 6 tweet, asked if Amoris Laetitia allows polygamists to receive communion. 

“If Westerners in irregular situations can receive communion, are we to tell our polygamists and other ‘misfits’ that they too are allowed?” he asked.

Appearing to address this during his own interview, Cardinal Muller insisted that Amoris Laetitia “is very clear in its doctrine and we can interpret the whole teaching of Jesus on matrimony, the whole teaching of the Church in 2,000 years of history.”

Cardinal Muller added on the wider row, “I am amazed that this became public, essentially constraining the Pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I don’t like this.”w