John L. Allen Jr.: Was Müller’s exit really a ‘night of the long knives’ move?

(Crux) Given the way German Cardinal Gerhard Müller has become identified as the Vatican’s leading in-house skeptic about Pope Francis’s cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried in Amoris Laetitia, it was written in the stars that when and if Müller was ever replaced as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it would be seen as a papal smackdown.

In some quarters, that’s precisely how news has been received that Francis has appointed Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, a fellow Jesuit, to take Müller’s place.

Before we get too carried away in the “night of the long knives” way of seeing things, however, there are a few points worth taking into account.

First, as of July 2, Müller reached the end of the five-year term to which he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. Granted, such terms can be extended at a pope’s discretion, but the point is that it’s not really as if Müller has been “fired”. His service was up, and the pope decided to name someone else.

Second, while Müller undeniably has a more restrictive take on the implications of Amoris than many others, it’s hardly as if he’s an implacable foe of the pontiff. Recall, for instance, that the German-speaking bishops at the second Synod on the Family made a commitment in their language group to achieve unanimity on their recommendations, and Müller was part of that consensus. [More]