Pope's Dubia to Müller, True or False?

A couple of days ago 1 Peter 5 posted this story, which reported that a source inside the Vatican had said that, before dismissing Cardinal Müller, Pope Francis asked five pointed and very controversial questions of the head of the CDF.

It received a good deal of attention straight away on the internet as the exchange is quite extraordinary.

The questions reported were as follows:
  1. Are you in favor of, or against, a female diaconate? “I am against it,” responded Cardinal Müller.
  2. Are you in favor of, or against, the repeal of celibacy? “Of course I am against it,” the cardinal responded.
  3. Are you in favor of, or against, female priests? “I am very decisively against it,” replied Cardinal Müller.
  4. Are you willing to defend Amoris Laetitia? “As far as it is possible for me,” the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith replied: “there still exist ambiguities.”
  5. Are you willing to retract your complaint concerning the dismissal of three of your own employees? Cardinal Müller responded: “Holy Father, these were good, unblemished men whom I now lack, and it was not correct to dismiss them over my head, shortly before Christmas, so that they had to clear their offices by 28 December. I am missing them now.”
Thereupon the pope answered: “Good. Cardinal Müller, I only wanted to let you know that I will not extend your mandate [i.e., beyond 2 July] as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith.” Without any farewell or explanation, the pope left the room. Cardinal Müller at first thought that the pope left in order to fetch a token of gratitude, and thus he waited patiently. But, there was no such gift, nor even an expression of gratitude for his service. The Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, then had to explain to him that the meeting was over, and that it was time for him to leave.

Many people tweeted the link and I noted that Rorate Caeli, who, frankly have not been wrong about this papacy from the beginning, stated that it did not sound like a genuine exchange:

Rorate Caeli then suggested that someone ask Cardinal Müller, seeing as he is rather straight speaking and has plenty of time on his hands now. 1 Peter 5 did, and have since updated the post with responses from Cardinal Müller's secretary and Greg Burke, Director of the Vatican Press office as follows:
When this story was first issued, we had not yet received any response from Cardinal Müller, his secretary, or Greg Burke, Director of the Vatican Press office. Burke has since responded to say that the reconstruction of the events of the Müller meeting as described below is “totally false”.

The personal secretary of Cardinal Müller has responded to OnePeterFive in an e-mail, saying that the pope did not put these five questions to Cardinal Müller and adding that this OnePeterFive article was doing damage to Cardinal Müller. However, he did not explain how so, particularly considering that the version of events reported to us by our sources paint Müller in a favorable and orthodox light.We just have received a second confirmation of the story from our reliable source which stems right out of the center of loyal and well-connected German Catholicism. Thus we plan to write a follow-up to this story in the near future.
Steve Skojec posted on Facebook about the controversy today, saying he stands by his source and:

Guido Horst says Mueller denies it now too. It's not exactly a statement (and Horst has reported things of questionable provinence, such as the idea that Matthew Festing was enriching himself at the expense of the Order of Malta, or that Edward Pentin and Roberto de Mattei are responsible for a new "black legend" in Rome) but it's...something.

But what is it, precisely?

Greg Burke said "the reconstruction is totally false".

Cardinal Mueller, we have been told, said that "the conversation had been quite different".

These are not denials of the broad outlines of what we reported. They are technical denials. It is of course possible that not every detail of what we were told was correct. Nevertheless, our sources continue to stand by what they were told.

As Hilary White said elsewhere, Vatican correspondents have learned to sit up and take notice when a denial is issued. Because usually, the Vatican doesn't even bother unless the story has something to it. The Vatican issued a denial in the name of Pope Benedict when we ran our Fr. Dollinger story on the Third Secret of Fatima, too. Fr. Dollinger went to his death asserting that his version of events was true.

So who, in such circumstances, do we believe? We spoke to one person with access to the highest levels of the Vatican who flat out told us that if we were to ask a certain person who should have knowledge of the situation, he would deny it, regardless of what transpired.

You will have to forgive me if I am incredulous about the obfuscations of people who have been covering for a mass apostasy in the Church. Mueller himself has told us that Amoris Laetitia presents no danger to the faith. He even attacked the four dubia cardinals publicly. And he very much is a man who continues to wish for a role in Rome.

I wish we still lived in simpler times when if a cleric -- especially a high-ranking one -- spoke, we could take him at his word. We do not live in such times. We have updated our story with denials both from Cardinal Muellers' secretary and from the Vatican Press Office. Failing a full statement from Mueller himself, I do not see a reason to update the story again.

But until and unless our sources retract, their version of events deserves a hearing, too. We intend to stand by them.

Who knows what's really going on, but Steve does raise some very interesting points here especially about Cardinal Müller's apparently desire to stay in Rome. Müller has not been without his critics, perhaps the most concerning of whom was Marie Collins, former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The most interesting element is that Müller has been out manoeuvred on all fronts. He has tried to be friends with a pope who is pushing impossible positions, as Steve says above, even coming out on his side against the dubia cardinals. Now his own strategy has completely failed to deal with the problem he himself articulated clearly in several interviews, as reported here by John Allen of Crux:
On Amoris, Müller expressed frustration that some bishops and bishops’ conferences have put out contradictory interpretations of its provisions on Communion for the divorced and remarried.
“It is not good that the bishops’ conferences are making official interpretations of the pope,” Müller said. “That is not Catholic. We have this document of the pope, and it must be read in the context of the complete Catholic tradition.”
“We don’t have two magisteria, one of the pope and another one of the bishops,”
[errr that's EXACTLY what we do have now!] Müller said. “I think it is a misunderstanding, a bad misunderstanding which causes damage, could cause damage for the Catholic Church.”
In general, the thrust of Müller’s commentary is to suggest that read in light of tradition, Amoris Laetitia does not actually authorize opening the sacrament to divorced and civilly remarried believers.
On the issue of female deacons, Müller didn’t “suggest” anything - he was about as blunt as humanly possible.
“No. Impossible. It will not come,” he said.
This is, frankly, farcical. It does nothing to forward the Kingdom or help the faithful. I almost spat my cornflakes out reading Pope Francis' words to the International Catechetical Symposium which is taking place this week at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires. ICN reports:
In his message to the symposium, the Holy Father points out that...the catechist walks with Christ, therefore is not a person who starts from his own ideas and tastes. He or she looks for the Lord and that searching makes their heart burn.
I just don't know whether to laugh or cry, this from a Pope who has consistently pushed his own agenda in the face of opposition from the majority of Fathers at two synods and outcry from the wider Church and even his own prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith!

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