Cardinal Müller’s exit: the official ‘term-limits’ explanation strains credulity

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 10, 2017

Cardinal Gerhard Müller is understandably unhappy with the way he was dismissed as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But he insists that he has never been, and will never be, a critic of Pope Francis. He has repeated the official explanation for his removal: that the Pope made a decision that officials of the Roman Curia should serve only one 5-year term, and “I happened to be the first one to which this applied.

Sandro Magister, the veteran Vatican-watcher for L’Espresso, is more skeptical about that explanation—and, frankly, more persuasive. Magister points out that in February, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio completed his second 5-year term as president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts; the Pope did not replace him. In June, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri completed his second 5-year term as prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; he’s still there. Also in June, Archbishop Arthur Roche wrapped up a 5-year term as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and Archbishop Augustine DiNoia finished his 5 years as vice-president of the Ecclesia Dei commission; they’re both still in place.

So it seems that Pope Francis devised his new policy just in time to apply it to Cardinal Müller. Which could be a coincidence.

Now, Magister remarks, we’ll need to wait just a few weeks to see whether the new policy is applied equally to notable allies of the Pontiff, for example Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, whose 5-year term as dean of the Roman Rota ends in September.

(In case you were wondering, Cardinal Robert Sarah’s current term as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship won’t end until November 2019.)

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Jul. 12, 2017 9:23 AM ET USA

    "Cardinal Robert Sarah’s current term as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship won’t end until November 2019." But then at that point, he'd better be prepared.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 10, 2017 11:33 PM ET USA

    It seems to be all about Amoris Laetitia, the pet project of Pope Francis. I am afraid that individuals who wish to advance quickly in the hierarchy know that all they need to do is praise AL for its brilliance and clarity. Some of the new cardinals come to mind.

  • Posted by: Philopus - Jul. 10, 2017 5:02 PM ET USA

    Should I hold my breath in anticipation?