An Italian Catholic journalist and author “reported” last week in La Stampa that the Pope will “almost certain”-ly appoint, as the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of the Diocese of Regensburg, Germany.
Bishop Müller has served as a member of that Congregation for almost ten years. In German-speaking countries he is widely considered a defender of Catholic orthodoxy, probably because as a professor of theology he wrote in support of the 1994 Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which declared that ordination to the Catholic priesthood has always been reserved to men alone. Most intriguingly, he has been sighted many times at the Vatican in recent months.
Having an unusual number of audiences with the Holy Father or meetings with Curia officials can augur a future Curial appointment, but in this case there is a routine explanation. Bishop Müller is the Chairman of the Ecumenical Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference, and the ecumenical dialogue with the Lutherans is a matter of great interest to Benedict XVI. Moreover Bishop Müller is editor-in-chief of the project based at the University of Regensburg to publish the Collected Works of Joseph Ratzinger. Another volume in the German series has just appeared: then-Father Ratzinger’s dissertation on St. Augustine’s writings about the Church.
Bishop Müller is also well known as the ordinary of the German diocese in which the Society of St. Pius X has one of their seminaries. After Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops in January 2009, the Bishop of Regensburg made unfortunate public statements that he would consider it “a schismatic act” if the SSPX tried to ordain priests later that year in Zaitzkofen. Such intemperate language aimed at Traditionalists must play well in German Catholic circles; there has been more of it in the years since.
The Bishop of Regensburg has not concealed his dislike for the Society of St. Pius X. In pre-Vatican-II days his attitude toward them might have been described as “theological animus”. What are the chances that the Holy Father would appoint such a churchman to head the CDF, now that the Congregation is directly in charge of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei which supervises the application of the 2007 Motu Proprio concerning the traditional Latin Mass?
The Bishop of Regensburg has enough on his plate at the moment, danke schön. The latest rumors can be chalked up to more wishful thinking among “neo-conservative” Vatican watchers. The Pope just might keep Cardinal Levada on as Prefect of the CDF well past retirement age, just as his predecessor of Blessed memory kept Cardinal Ratzinger at that post.