The Vatican's former doctrinal chief spoke out against the disciplining of theologians

The Vatican’s former doctrinal chief has raised concerns about the harsh treatment of Catholic theologians, saying: “Nobody who interprets Amoris Laetitia in the context of the orthodox tradition should be disciplined.”

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until June of this year, told the Catholic Herald: “Only if one denies the principles of the Catholic faith can he be censored.”

His remarks are included in a new Catholic Herald report on the climate of fear within Catholic institutions.

Six weeks ago, Professor Josef Seifert was removed from his post at the International Academy of Philosophy by the Archbishop of Granada, after he wrote an article asking Pope Francis to clarify a passage in Amoris Laetitia.

The report includes testimonies from several other academics and priests around the world who have suffered repercussions for raising questions about Amoris Laetitia, or who describe a climate of fear in universities, seminaries and other institutions.

Last month, Cardinal Müller told the National Catholic Register that “people working in the Curia are living in great fear: If they say one small or harmless critical word, some spies will pass the comments directly to the Holy Father, and the falsely accused people don’t have any chance to defend themselves”.

He added: “It’s the same in some theological faculties – if anybody has any remarks or questions about Amoris Laetitia, they will be expelled, and so on.”

In his comments to the Catholic Herald, Cardinal Müller said that, while those who deviate from Catholic tradition might legitimately be censored, those who interpret it with reference to orthodox teaching should not be disciplined. He added: “The burden of proof lies on those who want to interpret Amoris Laetitia in a heterodox way that is in contradiction to the words of Jesus and the dogmatic decisions of the Magisterium.”

Since Amoris Laetitia was published in April, some have read it as calling into question the traditional teaching against Communion for the remarried. John Paul II and Benedict XVI reiterated the Church’s teaching that it is necessary for the remarried to resolve to live “in complete continence” if they wish to take Communion.

Speaking to Il Timone in February, Cardinal Müller said of this condition: “Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

The cardinal told Il Timone that Communion for the remarried was impossible because of the nature of marriage: “For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”