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Robert George on Müller Dismissal: Nothing To See Here

by Christopher A. Ferrara
July 4, 2017

Someone writing in the Italian blogosphere — I no longer remember who — coined the term “normalist” to describe the mentality of Catholic “conservatives” who refuse to acknowledge that anything is amiss in the Church in the midst of the Bergoglian tumult, and that everything is normal. They have been doing likewise throughout the past fifty years of revolution in the Church.

One such is Robert P. George, the renowned Princeton professor, who said of himself at a conference I attended: “I am a Vatican II Catholic.”  What exactly a “Vatican II Catholic” is has never been adequately explained, but we can intuit its essence: a liberalized Catholic who accepts as given the ruinous ecclesial novelties of the past half-century, the sight of which would have reduced any of the pre-conciliar Popes, not excluding John XXIII, to apoplexy.

According to George, there is no cause for concern over Pope Bergoglio’s removal of Cardinal Müller as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ­­(CDF) on the very day his first five-year term expired.  His replacement by the CDF Secretary, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, is actually good news, he maintains: “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.”

Disputing the obvious, George argues that Pope Bergoglio “is not replacing a ‘conservative’ with a ‘liberal.’… [I]f 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.’”

No, says George, “[t]his is not a big ‘shake up’ or an ideological purge” because Ladaria “was Cardinal Muller’s lieutenant at the CDF and the two men worked together beautifully, singing from exactly the same hymn book… I do not expect him to ‘grow’ into someone who is prepared to jettison or soft-pedal the Church’s moral witness.”

Nevertheless, George concludes: “I am sorry to see Cardinal Muller leave the CDF. He is a treasure of the Church and a true apostle.”

So, George’s “normalist” take on the sacking of Cardinal Müller is that no one should be concerned that Pope Bergoglio is knocking the CDF out of commission lest it pose any impediment to a reformist agenda that would water down the Church’s moral teachings, because Archbishop Ladaria is every bit as committed to those teachings as Müller, who is “a treasure of the Church” because of his staunch orthodoxy.

Except that George’s own apologetic raises these glaring doubts:  First, if Ladaria is no less committed to a defense of the Church’s moral teachings than Müller, then what was the point of replacing Müller with Ladaria at the instant Müller’s term expired — an unprecedented move against a CDF Prefect?  Second, if there was no malign motive involved in sacking Müller — who is a treasure of the Church — then why would Pope Bergoglio so abruptly discard a treasure of the Church?

From this Fatima perspective, the invasion of the Church by worldly thinking lamented even by Paul VI (too little, too late) has long been evident. For the “normalist” brigade, however, the marching orders remain unchanged: deny, deny, deny.