Prof. Robert George Says New CDF Replacement Is Faithful, Concerns Unfounded

roanokecollege, Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0 / Jim McIntosh, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

Robert P. George, a Catholic and a professor at Princeton, wrote on Facebook that concerns among Catholics about Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller’s replacement at the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith are unfounded.

Pope Francis recently announced that Cardinal Müller would not serve as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith beyond his initial 5-year term and that the congregation’s second-in-command, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, would succeed him. Some conservative Catholics, who saw Cardinal Müller as a pillar of orthodoxy, have been concerned his replacement might not be as faithful.

I know both men and hold them in high esteem,” George wrote. “I have worked for Cardinal Muller and with Archbishop Ladaria. Both are faithful Christians who are deeply committed to the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings.”

Although he said he did not know the pontiff’s reasons for the change, George is certain that this is not a case of a “conservative” being replaced by a “liberal”:

“First, these political labels mislead rather than illuminate in discussions of the work of the CDF and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Second, if by a ‘liberal’ one means a person who favors or would support the revision or reinterpretation of the Church’s moral teachings (on the sanctity of human life, for example, or on marriage and sexual morality) to make them more palatable to people who don’t like them, then I can assure you that Archbishop Ladaria is not a ‘liberal.’

Here’s the full text of his Facebook post:

Catholic friends and others who are interested in what’s going on in the Catholic Church:

Although I was saddened by Pope Francis’s decision not to renew Cardinal Gerhard Muller for a second term as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith, I take consolation and encouragement from the fact that the Holy Father has appointed as Cardinal Muller’s successor Archbishop Luis Ladaria. I know both men and hold them in high esteem. I have worked for Cardinal Muller and with Archbishop Ladaria. Both are faithful Christians who are deeply committed to the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings.

I am not privy to the Pope’s reasoning in making these decisions, but I can tell you what is NOT going on here. He is not replacing a “conservative” with a “liberal.” First, these political labels mislead rather than illuminate in discussions of the work of the CDF and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Second, if by a “liberal” one means a person who favors or would support the revision or reinterpretation of the Church’s moral teachings (on the sanctity of human life, for example, or on marriage and sexual morality) to make them more palatable to people who don’t like them, then I can assure you that Archbishop Ladaria is not a “liberal.”

This is not a big “shake up” or an ideological purge. Indeed, Archbishop Ladaria was Cardinal Muller’s lieutenant at the CDF and the two men worked together beautifully, singing from exactly the same hymn book. I witnessed this myself in putting together the 2014 Humanum conference on marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. The two men were completely of one mind in upholding the biblical and natural law understandings of marriage and sexual morality. Moreover, in addressing these matters in private meetings as well as in public settings, Archbishop Ladaria spoke from conviction, not mere allegiance to his boss. I do not expect him to “grow” into someone who is prepared to jettison or soft-pedal the Church’s moral witness.

Still, I am sorry to see Cardinal Muller leave the CDF. He is a treasure of the Church and a true apostle. May God reward him–all six feet seven inches of him–for his dedicated and selfless service. I know I am far from alone in feeling enormous gratitude for his work and witness.

What do you think of Prof. George’s perspective? Let us know in the comments!

[See also: How You Can Pray Pope Francis’ “5 Finger Prayer”]

[See also: Pope Francis Reveals the Prayer He Prays Every Night Before Bed]