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Archbishop Ladaria has consistent record of upholding Church teaching on marriage, sexual morality

Reports of the supposed unorthodoxy of the newPrefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have been greatly exaggerated.

Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a Sept. 8, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The announcement on July 1, 2017, that Pope Francis has appointed curial Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer as the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith surprised even many Vatican watchers who had predicted a changing of the guard. Reports of his unorthodoxy, though, have been greatly exaggerated.

Ladaria, a 73-year-old Spanish Jesuit who wrote his doctoral thesis on the Holy Trinity and once taught theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, has described himself as a “moderate conservative”. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Secretary of the CDF in 2008, in other words, second-in-command to Cardinal Levada in a congregation that the Holy Father himself had headed for almost a quarter century (1981-2005). This was not a decision that he made carelessly.

Readers of Catholic World Report may recall that four years later, when the Pope called then-Bishop Gerhard Müller from the Diocese of Regensburg to be the Prefect of the CDF, there were anguished cries in the Traditional Catholic blogosphere that the doctrinal sky was falling. It didn’t.  Now some of those same commentators are stirring up controversy because Cardinal Müller has not been reappointed for a second five-year term.

Professor Robert George, a legal scholar who teaches at Princeton University, knows Cardinal Müller and Archbishop Ladaria and has worked with both, most recently during the 2014 Humanum Conference on marriage. In a July 1 Facebook post responding to some of the rumors and fact-free commentaries, Prof. George wrote that the Pope “is not replacing a ‘conservative’ with a ‘liberal’…. Both are faithful Christians who are deeply committed to the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings.” During the Humanum Conference “the two men were completely of one mind in upholding the biblical and natural law understandings of marriage and sexual morality.”

In October 2014, only a few days after the end of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family (i.e. part one of the two-part Synod), Abp. Ladaria responded to a letter that a French priest, Father Claude Barthe, had sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asking whether a priest in the confessional can give absolution to a civilly divorced-and-remarried Catholic while the person is still living with the new partner. In his answer, Ladaria cited paragraph 84 from the Post-Synodal document Familiaris consortio by Pope John Paul II, which clearly states that divorced-and-remarried Catholics must repent and stop contradicting the indissolubility of marriage by their lives before they can receive the sacrament of Reconciliation or Holy Eucharist worthily. Although one may investigate whether the sacramental marriage was valid, any impression of “Catholic divorce” must be avoided. The possibility of reconciliation with the sacramental spouse should be considered. If for serious reasons—for instance, the duty to raise the children of the civil marriage—separation from the new partner is not possible, the divorced-and-remarried Catholics should live “as brother and sister”. If only the proceedings at the 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family had been as clear as Abp. Ladaria’s letter to Fr. Barthe!

Again in 2014, in the midst of the pre-Synod consultations, debates, and media coverage, Abp. Ladaria highly recommended Un sola carne in un solo spirito [One Flesh in One Spirit], at that time the most recent book by Father José Granados, a professor at the Lateran University, a prolific writer and a member of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. “It is a beautiful, deep and well documented volume, in which the discussion of the topics is always guided by a strict criterion,” His Excellency said at the presentation of the book in the Auditorium of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Rome. Fr. Granados went on to publish in Spanish and English in 2015 another book entitled Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine?, answering the question in the title with a decisive “No”.

Some see trouble brewing in the fact that Abp. Ladaria is president of a commission to study (again) the role of deaconesses in the early Church and the possibility of women deacons in the future. The Secretary of the CDF heads the commission ex officio and is neither responsible for setting it up nor amenable to the views of a notoriously radical feminist from the United States who was also appointed to it.

Abp. Ladaria participated in the doctrinal discussions between the CDF and the Society of Saint Pius X back in 2009-2010. He knows the dossier very well. In his new position as CDF Prefect he will also be President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission which continues to negotiate with the SSPX.

Perhaps Fr. Zuhlsdorf put it most succinctly when he wrote that, considering the views on record of some of the other potential candidates for the position of CDF Prefect, “the Church has dodged a bullet” with the appointment of Abp. Ladaria.

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About Michael J. Miller 127 Articles
Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.


    • Have you read the book entitled “Jesus, Salvation of all [human beings]”? Abp. Ladaria also wrote a book on original sin and grace; the summary on the cover is thoroughly orthodox: Jesus Christ won salvation for all, but each human being is free to accept that salvation or not. Nothing automatic about that, and it does not imply that hell is empty.

      • The important issue Michael is not Cardinal Ferrer’s orthodoxy. Yes he wrote beautifully and faithfully on traditional Catholic doctrine. As has the Pontiff. Everything in AL is sound. A very pastoral compassionate approach to marriage and the family. Except as you well know ch 8. Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer has not said one word in criticism of the premises, ambiguities emanating from AL ch 8 erupting into controversy, dissension, schism within the Church. He has said nothing whatsoever regarding the Maltese Hierarchy and other National Bishops Conferences that are openly shifting away from long standing doctrine on adultery and communion for D&R. Unless less you have evidence otherwise. At least Cardinal Mueller admonished the German Hierarchy. The real issue we’re all facing in this is not Ferrer’s papers and books attesting his orthodoxy. It is whether he will address the major moral issue of today’s Church on D&R. Or will he remain silent and strictly ‘obedient’ to a fellow Jesuit and Supreme Pontiff. All indications are that he will acquit himself to the Pontiff’s policy of silence and tacit approval.

        • Fr. Morello, the former Secretary and now Prefect of the CDF is very reserved (some say “media-shy”), which I consider one of his best qualifications for his present position. To see how much leaks and contrary opinions from subordinates accomplish, just look to Washington, D.C. I guess we have to wait and see what a theologian and long-time Curia worker will do now that he has delegated authority.

          • Michael I am with you that Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer should be professionally reserved, discretionary. And similarly I agree with “we have to wait and see what a theologian and long-time Curia worker will do now that he has delegated authority”. I hope my opinion that he will not address the crisis over AL proves unfounded. That as you seem to allude in your last sentence he will find a way to address it tactfully but effectively for the good the Church.

  1. Time will tell; rather shortly in this case. High Vatican officials often treat their office as political instead of as a servant of God. I don’t trust a pope that will not clarify his own words and wants to reopen investigations into Doctrine that has been infallibly defined.

    • I surmised elsewhere (in a comment on an article about Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer on LifeSite News) that, since Archbishop Ladaria is 73 years old, he may be a “place-holder” in the post for 2 years, until he turns 75. Then Pope Francis will choose someone truly heterodox to succeed Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

      I do agree that part of Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer’s “sailing orders” as Prefect of CDF will be to cooperate in Pope Francis’s stonewalling by refusing to respond publicly to any of the dubia questions – as opposed to Cardinal Mueller, who repeatedly and publicly stated clearly and unambiguously that “Amoris Laetitia” was to be interpreted and applied ONLY in continuity with the consistent teaching of the Catholic Church over the centuries.

      As to whether or not the change in CDF Prefect indicates that Pope Francis might be leaning toward full re-integration of the Society of St. Pius X, without any submission or concession on the part of SSPX and entirely on their terms, as some commenters on other sites have surmised, I will leave to others. I don’t think so – in fact, I think that re-integration of SSPX at this time carries the danger for the Lefebvrites and their supporters and fellow-travelers of turning into another Franciscan Fathers of the Immaculate chapter in the Church’s recent history, considering Pope Francis’s comments and the comments and attitudes of those who have his ear, here and abroad – but we shall see…….

  2. I don’t know. Let’s see how this plays out. Presumably we will soon see, since it will be hard for Archbishop Ladaria to dodge questions about Amoris Laetitia.

    Some people think there are some arcane canon law dimensions with respect to the questions that AL poses with respect to Communion for the remarried. I’m not a canon lawyer but cannot see how there could any very exceptional or liminal cases in which this would be permissible. I had hoped that canon lawyers would as a group make a definitive statement that there are no such rare cases. Anyhow, relating this to Ladaria, I wonder where he stands on those sorts of cases that have been discussed in the literature. I read one or two scholarly articles a while back about all this and was in over my head. On balance, it’s hard to see how any technical discussions that head toward permitting liminal cases could be squared with Scripture.
    There is a much bigger question here: the obvious attempt by certain parties to use AL, and the concept of the internal forum (with its complex history), as a way to challenge the longstanding Catholic concept of conscience. And turn it into a subjectivist concept. I have no doubt that now Cardinal Cupich is very sympathetic to that agenda. Just read his material about conscience.
    From the account above, maybe Ladaria, whatever he thinks about the technical issues about canon law in extremely rare cases with respect to AL, would dismiss the view of conscience of a Cupich.
    I don’t know. We should be finding out pretty soon, since again Ladaria will have to weigh in on *all* of this. If he does not, it will be a serious failure of his obligations in this respect.

    • If you live in or near the Archdiocese of Chicago (I have lived there all my life, to date), then, like me, you know that Cardinal Cupich’s sympathy to “that agenda” goes much further than using “Amoris Laetitia” to justify giving Holy Communion to divorced-and-civilly-remarried-without-a-Church-annulment Catholics who are sexually active. He uses the same document to justify giving Holy Communion to those Catholics who are acting out sexually based on the intrinsic disorder of same-sex attraction, including those who are cohabitating and those whose faux “marriage” has become common public knowledge and therefore a public scandal. And he has ORDERED his priests to give Communion to such folk without requiring repentance, confession, or amendment of life.

      Witness the New Ways Ministry conference, which was held in the Archdiocese of Chicago a little over two months ago, as an example of just how sympathetic to that agenda Cardinal Cupich is.

  3. Michael Miller notes how Abp. Ladaria responded to a question from a French priest; now let him respond to a dubia from four cardinals… his response (or his non-response) will give us some sense of where we are going from here.

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