Cardinal Mueller, in the last few days, has given wise guidance about how faithful Catholics should treat recent remarks attributed to the Roman Pontiff. As he puts it, "every Catholic can and should contradict" these remarks.
I hope that readers have not forgotten this same Cardinal Mueller's Manifesto of 2019; it was and is a most interesting document. In it, surprisingly,
he did not mention the Petrine Ministry of the Roman Pontiff.
This is unusual in modern Catholic discourse; it is the Dog which Failed To Bark In The Night. The sickly and mawkish modern cult of the Bishop of Rome has for so long pushed the Witness of the Incarnate Word, the words of Scripture, the teaching of the Fathers, into the background. How often have you heard a semi-literate sermon in which "Pope Francis Says" is prominent, but never any hint is given of "Jesus Says"? Or "in the words of S Paul?" In his most recent remarks, Cardinal Mueller has wisely criticised "idolatrous papolatry" and warned against letting "sentimentality" contradict "the rationality of Faith".
So, if Mueller's 2019 Manifesto had no other value, that particular silence was as refreshing as a glass of cold water on a sticky day.
Possibly the Cardinal agreed with the realisation by the great Anglican theologian Eric Mascall, that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility does not so much tell us something about the Christian Faith, as about the circumstances in which we might be told something about that Faith.
But most importantly, Gerhard Mueller's words reflect and endorse the illuminating perception of S John Henry Newman about the situation during the Arian crisis:
"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission ... at one time the pope*, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."
(In his statement last week, Cardinal Mueller cited Newman's observation that corruption in maters of revealed doctrine is much more serious than any other corruptions ... financial ... sexual ... )
It seems to me that the moment when PF decided not to aswer the Dubia of the four Cardinals was the formal, official moment ... the starting gun ... when the Petrine Ministry entered into its current "temporary suspense". When, likewise, he ignored the Filial Correction which some of us had sent him, he confirmed that Suspense. His determination to continue to mislead God's people by (at least) speaking ambiguously and then declining to clarify the "messes" which he creates, makes the truth of this analysis clearer day by day. Thus we are "officially" in a period in which the functions of the Papal Magisterium are in a vacatio docendi which will be ended at the moment when the same Petrine Magisterial organ as formally emerges from dogmatic silence to the audible exercise of the functions rightly attributed to it in Catholic Tradition and Magisterial Conciliar definition; that is, "devoutly to guard and faithfully to set forth the Tradition received through the Apostles; i.e. the Deposit of Faith".
In a masterly address on Apostasy delivered a few years ago at Buckfast, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke spoke of "The poisonous fruits of the failure of the Church's pastors in the matters of Worship, teaching, and moral discipline ... ". His dear Eminence always puts things so much better than I could! After PF's recent remarks, Cardinal Burke, as he has done after earlier pieces of papal nonsense, assured the Faithful that such utterances of PF are "devoid of magisterial weight".
And, dear readers, do you remember the Letter sent to PF by Fr Tom Weinandy? He wrote that a bishop who espoused heretical teaching "would no longer bear within himself as a bishop the four defining marks of the Church and, therefore, he could no longer justifiably act as an ecclesial member within the Church. He may continue to act outside the Church, or even within the Church, but his actions would lack a genuine ecclesial character, for the essential and indispensable four marks of the Church would be absent within his specious ministry."
By joining with Newman in this analysis, and suggesting that his analysis gives coherence to the remarks of Cardinals and scholars regarding the Bergoglian Crisis, I do not, of course, in any way suggest that PF and the silent or heterodox bishops have lost the right or capacity to use the Magisterium of his and their offices. On the contrary. I say no more ... and no less ... than S John Henry did: I am simply observing that, as a matter of fact, he is not and they are not at this moment using it.
At this moment, most unhappily, Christ's Church Militant here upon earth is deprived of the guidance of its principal earthly Shepherd.
But her Immaculate Heart will prevail!
Note: Newman is referring to Pope* Liberius; and, in referring to general councils*, he does not mean Ecumenical Councils. He explained later that he follows S Robert Bellarmine in distinguishing between Ecumenical Councils and councils which, even if large, do not count as Ecumenical. So nobody should try to apply these words to Vatican II, which was undoubtedly a 'valid' Ecumenical Council. Whether it always sought all the right answers to all the right questions in all the right places is, of course, very much another matter.