Pope Francis has decided not to renew Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s term as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), instead appointing Archbishop Luis Ladaria SJ, second in command at the CDF, as his successor.

Some commentators saw the move as a “papal smackdown” against a cardinal who had insisted that divorced and remarried Catholics could not be admitted to Communion unless they were living “as brother and sister”. Cardinal Müller said that Pope Francis’s document Amoris Laetitia had to be read in light of the teaching of the Church.

But Cardinal Müller told the German newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung that “There were no differences between me and Pope Francis” and that his five-year term had “run its course”.

The Vatican said in its announcement: “The Holy Father Francis thanked His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller at the conclusion of his quinquennial mandate.” No new position was announced for Cardinal Müller, who at 69 is still more than five years away from the normal retirement age for a bishop.

Pope Francis had met Cardinal Müller the day before the announcement. Both the English-language Rorate Caeli blog and the Italian Corrispondenza Romana blog suggested he had been dismissed because of his stance on Communion for the remarried. Other bishops and bishops’ conferences read Amoris Laetitia as presenting a process of discernment that in certain circumstances could allow some remarried couples to return to the sacraments.

John Allen, writing for the Crux website, said there were several problems with the idea that the cardinal’s removal was part of an “ideological purge”.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection