Cardinal Müller: Most Catholics are clueless about marriage

That is my paraphrase of this story, which contains some direct, blunt words from the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Just because many Catholics do not understand the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, that does not mean the Church can change that teaching, said Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday — just days after the College of Cardinals held a two-day meeting to discuss the pastoral care of families — he said the widespread lack of understanding among Catholics about church doctrine was “lamentable.”

However, just because people don’t understand Jesus’ word doesn’t mean it can or should be changed, he said. “It would be paradoxical if the Church said, ‘Since not everyone knows the truth, the truth isn’t obligatory for the future.’”

Cardinal Müller then made this absolutely on-the-mark statement, one which goes to the heart of much of the confusion that exists among Catholics, as well as non-Catholics: “Doctrine and pastoral care are the same thing. Jesus Christ as pastor and Jesus Christ as teacher with his word are not two different people.”

Exactly. For far too long there has been a false clash, or schism, foisted between the Church’s theological doctrine and her pastoral care. The latter is always rooted in the former; it is the ground from which is grows and the source of its nourishment. For instance, what the Church teaches about sexual morality is rooted in her theological understanding—via divine revelation and supported by reason and natural law—of the nature of God, man and woman, charity, marriage, and so forth. When one’s sexual passions and desires are cited as the foundation for changing the nature of marriage, sex, and charity, then confusion and destruction follow, because the foundation is made malleable and relative to transitory whims.


Many Catholics “think marriage is just a festive gathering celebrated in church, but the spouses are giving their word,” promising to fully live in each other, in body and soul, in faith and in God’s grace, he said.

“There is no solution, since church dogma isn’t just some theory created by some theologians;” it represents “the word of Jesus Christ, which is very clear. I cannot change church doctrine.”

Nor can the Pope, who is not a creator or author of doctrine, but a defender and, when the need arises, a definer (or clarifier, if you will) of doctrine. But don’t take my word for it; just read what the conciliar fathers said in “Lumen Gentium”:

For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith. The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.

But when either the Roman Pontiff or the Body of Bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with Revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the Revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church. The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents; but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.

Note: expounding, defending, defines, prounounces, faithfully expounded, give apt expression, etc. As a wise man once noted: we can either try to conform reality to ourselves, or conform ourselves to reality, which ultimately means being conformed to Reality, that is, God.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.