Everyone knows by now that Pope Francis declined to reappoint Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller to another five-year term as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. Rorate Caeli broke the news in English, and the sudden explosion of coverage yesterday following the scoop allegedly forced the Vatican to advance its timetable for announcing the reshuffle. It is somewhat unusual for Curial officials not to get reappointed as a matter of course, and, therefore, it is often forgotten that under Article 5 § 1 of St. John Paul’s apostolic constitution governing the Roman Curia, Pastor Bonus, prefects are appointed to five-year terms. There will, however, be no interregnum at CDF, as the Holy Father has appointed Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., as the next prefect.
Archbishop Ladaria, a talented theologian who has been working in Rome for over thirty years, was appointed secretary of CDF in 2008 by Benedict XVI when he appointed Angelo Amato prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Amato had been Ratzinger’s last secretary before his election as pope in 2005. (Bertone was appointed archbishop of Genoa in 2002.) Ladaria had worked with Ratzinger’s CDF for years while serving as a popular professor at the Gregorian before his appointment. He has long been seen as a moderate, which is to say neither a reactionary nor a progressive, and a figure with strong affinities toward the project of patristic ressourcement. Shortly after the disastrous 2014 Synod, Archbishop Ladaria wrote a letter to a French priest reaffirming John Paul’s Familiaris consortio and rejecting the more radical interpretations put forth at that time. It will, of course, have to be seen what he does now that he’s the boss.
What is there to be said about Cardinal Müller? Whatever his views before his 2012 appointment as prefect of CDF, he became a figure, much like Ratzinger before him, apparently determined to arrest the drift of the Church into the currents of this age. But it was clear that, following the election of the Holy Father in 2013, Cardinal Müller was not an influential figure in the Curia. Frequently, as in the case of the SSPX, he found himself at loggerheads with both the Holy Father and his subordinates. We have no illusions: Cardinal Müller is widely seen as an opponent of some of the Holy Father’s projects, notably the Amoris laetitia project. The surprise for us is that Cardinal Müller was permitted to serve out his term.
Perhaps coincidentally we are reminded that June 16 was the twentieth anniversary of Radiohead’s seminal LP, OK Computer, which featured the track “Karma Police.” Later that summer, “Karma Police” was released as the second single off the LP. As you no doubt recall, the song includes the line “This is what you’ll get when you mess with love.” We cannot think why we cannot help but think of this right now. Pure coincidence, we’re sure.