Is the Vatican’s new doctrinal tsar steering Francis in a new direction?

Several Vatican watchers have noticed over the course of the past week or so a change of tone, and speculated that it might indicate a change of tack in the Vatican on matters of doctrine and governance. They note that clarity and prudent stability seem to have re-emerged, in place of ambiguity and dysfunction.

The declarations and interventions often adduced in illustration of the change have a common element: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – and more specifically, the CDF’s new prefect, Archbishop (and Cardinal-designate) Luis Ladaria SJ.

Archbishop Ladaria (pictured) spent nine years as secretary to the CDF, and several years before that as a member of the International Theological Commission – including a stint as the ITC’s secretary-general that started in 2004. Until his appointment as CDF secretary in 2008, he was Ordinary Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he was known as a gentle and soft-spoken, rigorous and demanding teacher and director of dissertations. Students and fellow faculty alike held him in high esteem and harbour deep and abiding affection for him.

When Archbishop Ladaria took the reins of the Congregation on July 1, 2017, it was in the wake of Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s often tumultuous five-year term. Cardinal Müller had been outspoken during his tenure, even critical of some interpretations certain bishops – in particular those of Malta – gave to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. The prefect said: “It cannot be that the universally binding doctrine of the Church, formulated by the Pope, is given different and even contradictory regional interpretations.”

Müller’s term, begun under Benedict XVI, ended unceremoniously, with Pope Francis merely telling him he’d decided not to renew his mandate, and apparently offering no reason for his decision – not that he had to – mere days before its expiry.

​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