Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 69(3) August 2019
The Power of Truth:
The Challenges to Catholic Doctrine and Morals
By Gerhard Cardinal Muller. Published by Ignatius Press
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
would be difficult to overstate the importance of this book." So writes
Edward Feser and I tend to agree. More than ever, Catholics need an
understanding of the strengths and limitations of the papal magisterium.
Is Humanae Vitae infallible? Yes, says Cardinal Muller. The wording of the document is such that it dispels any doubt about the possibility of a future revision. It is an infallible expression of the ordinary magisterium. I was particularly interested to learn that Monsignor Lambruschini, who was charged to present the document to the press, did say that there was no ex cathedra definition in the text. But he went on to say that the teaching was "non-reformable." By ignoring that, so many Catholics followed a path of confusion. With this encyclical, the Church has raised her prophetic voice, says Muller. It is a call to a renewal of marital spirituality.
In the chapter on who may receive Holy Communion, Muller notes a current tendency towards a view that the decision should be left to the feelings of the people. In reality, this exhibits a "contempt for the faith." Again and again, Muller returns to his central theme: the magisterium is not above the word of God but serves it, teaching only what has been handed down. There is only one magisterium. Bishops' conferences cannot have their individual magisteria! Something has gone dreadfully wrong when what is morally okay in Germany is a mortal sin in Poland. That is not a synodal Church. That is the Tower of Babel.
What about couples whose marriages have broken down and who are in their second civil marriage? Can they receive Holy Communion if objectively in a state of adultery? Muller quotes from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1994 statement that the Church's practice "cannot be modified because of different situations." Pope Benedict, while noting that they cannot be admitted to the sacraments, urged pastors to devote special concern to those affected. Given the widespread secularism that impacts on us, it is certainly possible that many marriages were not valid to begin with. Whatever the outcome, such people need to be treated with great pastoral sensitivity.This is a splendid work and is much needed especially now.