The idea that bishops’ conferences can take doctrinal decisions on marriage and the family is “absolutely anti-Catholic”, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief has said.
In an exclusive interview with the French Catholic magazine Famille Chrétienne, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said: “This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church. Episcopal conferences have authority over certain issues, but not a magisterium alongside the Magisterium, without the Pope and without communion with the bishops.”
The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also responded to recent remarks by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German bishops’ conference.
Cardinal Marx argued that the German bishops were “not just a subsidiary of Rome” and needed to set their own policies on marriage and the family.
He said: “Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.”
According to a translation by Rorate Caeli, Cardinal Müller told Famille Chrétienne: “An episcopal conference is not a particular council, even less so an ecumenical council. The president of an episcopal conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and he does not have any particular magisterial authority due to this title.
“Hearing that an episcopal conference is not a ‘branch of Rome’ gives me the occasion to recall that dioceses are not the branches of the secretariat of a bishops’ conference either, nor of the diocese whose bishop presides over the episcopal conference.
“This kind of attitude risks in fact the reawakening of a certain polarisation between the local Churches and the Church universal, out of date since the Vatican I and Vatican II councils. The Church is not a sum of national churches, whose presidents would vote to elect their chief on the universal level.
Cardinal Müller’s full, exclusive interview is only available in the print version of Famille Chrétienne.