Cdl. Müller: “We are experiencing conversion to the world, instead of to God”

In an exclusive CWR interview, the former prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith discusses tensions over the proposed reception of Holy Communion by Protestants, continued conflicts over the Church’s teaching about ordination, and homosexuality and ideology.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller is seen at the Vatican in this 2016 file photo.(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller is the former prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the former bishop of Regensburg, Germany. A noted professor of theology, he is president of both the Pontifical Biblical Commission and the International Theological Commission. He is also the author of many books, including The Hope of the Family, Priesthood and Diaconate, and The Cardinal Müller Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church.

Cardinal Müller recently responded to some questions from Catholic World Report about the situation in Germany, tensions over the proposed reception of Holy Communion by certain Protestants, continued conflicts over the Church’s teaching about why woman cannot be ordained as priests, and homosexuality.

CWR: Since 2014 there has been within the Church a steady stream of conflicts and tensions that involve many of the bishops of Germany. What is some of the background for this phenomenon? What is the source of these various conflicts over ecclesiology, Holy Communion, and related matters?

Cardinal Gerhard Müller: One group of German bishops, with their president [i.e., of the German Bishops’ Conference] in the lead, see themselves as trendsetters of the Catholic Church on the march into modernity. They consider the secularization and de-Christianization of Europe as an irreversible development. For this reason the New Evangelization—the program of John Paul II and Benedict XVI—is in their view a battle against the objective course of history, resembling Don Quixote’s battle against the windmills. They are seeking for the Church a niche where it can survive in peace. Therefore all the doctrines of the faith that are opposed to the “mainstream,” the societal consensus, must be reformed.

One consequence of this is the demand for Holy Communion even for people without the Catholic faith and also for those Catholics who are not in a state of sanctifying grace. Also on the agenda are: a blessing for homosexual couples, intercommunion with Protestants, relativizing the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the introduction of viri probati and with it the abolition of priestly celibacy, approval for sexual relations before and outside of marriage. These are their goals, and to reach them they are willing to accept even the division of the bishops’ conference.

The faithful who take Catholic doctrine seriously are branded as conservative and pushed out of the Church, and exposed to the defamation campaign of the liberal and anti-Catholic media.

To many bishops, the truth of revelation and of the Catholic profession of faith is just one more variable in intra-ecclesial power politics. Some of them cite individual agreements with Pope Francis and think that his statements in interviews with journalists and public figures who are far from Catholic offer justification even for “watering down” defined, infallible truths of the faith (= dogmas). All told, we are dealing with a blatant process of Protestantizing.

Ecumenism, in contrast, has as its goal the full unity of all Christians, which is already sacramentally realized in the Catholic Church. The worldliness of the episcopate and clergy in the 16th century was the cause of the division of Christianity, which is diametrically opposed to the will of Christ, the founder of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The disease of that era is now supposedly the medicine with which the division is to be overcome. The ignorance of the Catholic faith at that time was catastrophic, especially among the bishops and popes, who devoted themselves more to politics and power than to witnessing to the truth of Christ.

Today, for many people, being accepted by the media is more important than the truth, for which we must also suffer. Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom for Christ in Rome, the center of power in their day. They were not celebrated by the rulers of this world as heroes, but rather mocked like Christ on the cross. We must never forget the martyrological dimension of the Petrine ministry  and of the episcopal office.

CWR: Why, specifically, do some German bishops wish to allow Holy Communion to be given to various Protestants on a regular or common basis?

Cardinal Müller: No bishop has the authority to administer Holy Communion to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Only in a situation where there is a danger of death may a Protestant request sacramental absolution and Holy Communion as viaticum, if he shares the whole Catholic faith and thereby enters into full communion with the Catholic Church, even though he has not yet declared his conversion officially.

Unfortunately even bishops today no longer know the Catholic belief in the unity of sacramental and ecclesial communion, and they justify their infidelity to the Catholic faith with allegedly pastoral concern or with theological explanations, which, however, contradict the principles of the Catholic faith. All doctrine and praxis must be founded on Sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, and must not contradict the previous dogmatic pronouncements of the Church’s Magisterium. This is the case with permission for non-Catholic Christians to receive Communion during Holy Mass—apart from the emergency situation described above.

CWR: How would you assess, first, the health of the Catholic faith in Germany and then, secondly, in Europe overall? Do you think Europe can or will recover a sense of its previous Christian identity?

Cardinal Müller: There are a great many people who live out their faith, love Christ and his Church, and set all their hope on God in life and in death. But among them there are quite a few who feel abandoned and betrayed by their shepherds. Being popular in public opinion is nowadays the criterion for a supposedly good bishop or priest. We are experiencing conversion to the world, instead of to God, contrary to the statements of the Apostle Paul: “Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of God” (Gal 1:10).

We need priests and bishops who are filled with zeal for God’s house, who dedicate themselves entirely to the salvation of human beings on the pilgrimage of faith to our eternal home. There is no future at all for “Christianity Lite.” We need Christians with a missionary spirit.

CWR: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently reiterated the Church’s perennial teaching that women cannot be ordained priests. Why do you think this teaching, which has been reiterated several times in recent years, continues to be contested by many in the Church?

Cardinal Müller: Unfortunately right now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is not particularly well esteemed, and its significance for the Petrine primacy is not recognized. The Secretariat of State and the diplomatic service of the Holy See are very important for the relation of the Church to the various States, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is more important for the relation of the Church to her Head from whom all grace proceeds.

Faith is necessary for salvation; papal diplomacy can accomplish a lot of good in the world. But the proclamation of the faith and doctrine must not be subordinated to the requirements and conditions of earthly power plays. Supernatural faith does not depend on earthly power. In faith it is quite clear that the sacrament of Holy Orders in the three degrees of bishop, priest, and deacon can be received validly only by a baptized Catholic man, because only he can symbolize and sacramentally represent Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church. If priestly ministry is understood as a position of power, then this doctrine of the reservation of Holy Orders to Catholics of the male sex is a form of discrimination against women.

But this perspective of power and of social prestige is false. Only if we see all the doctrines of the faith and the sacraments with theological eyes, instead of in terms of power, will the doctrine of the faith regarding the natural prerequisites for the sacraments of Holy Orders and of marriage be evident to us also. Only a man can symbolize Christ the Bridegroom of the Church. Only one man and one woman can symbolically represent the relation of Christ to the Church.

CWR: You recently introduced the Italian edition of Daniel Mattson’s book Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay. What impressed you about the book and its approach? How does it differ from some of the “pro-gay” approaches or stances adopted by some Catholics? What can be done to explain, in positive terms, the Church’s teaching about sexuality, marriage, and related matters?

Cardinal Müller: Daniel Mattson’s book is written from a personal perspective. It is founded on a deep intellectual reflection about sexuality and marriage, which makes it different from any sort of ideology. Therefore it helps people with a same-sex attraction to recognize their dignity and to follow a beneficial path in the development of their personality, and not to let themselves be used as pawns in the ideologues’ demand for power. A human being is an interior unity of spiritual and material organizational principles, and consequently a person and the freely acting subject of a nature that is spiritual, corporeal, and social.

Man is created for woman and woman for man. The goal of marital communion is not the power of one over the other, but rather unity in self-giving love, in which they both grow and together reach the goal in God. Sexual ideology that reduces a human being to sexual pleasure is in fact hostile to sexuality, because it denies that the goal of sex and eros is agape. A human being cannot let himself be degraded to the status of a more highly developed animal. He is called to love. Only if I love the other for his own sake do I come into my own; only then am I set free from the prison of my primitive egotism. One cannot fulfill oneself at the expense of others.

The logic of the Gospel is revolutionary in a world of consumerism and narcissism. For only the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies does not remain alone but produces much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25).

[Translated by Michael J. Miller.]

42 Comments

  1. Thank you, Cardinal, for describing our present situation so clearly. What we are experiencing in the Church today is not a cross you could have anticipated on the day of your ordination to the priesthood.

  2. Very impressive, challenging and re-awakening. Hope and pray we can have an orthodox church leader in Asia particularly in the Philippines like him. God bless Cardinal Muller.

  3. Regarding the many German bishops capitulating to the “irreversible” secularization of the world, maybe others can do better in the near future…

    In 2013 at his first World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis challenged the current “whatever” younger generation: “Yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility—that believes you are incapable of true love. . . Have the courage ‘to swim against the tide’. And also have the courage to be happy.”

    Let us hope that the upcoming Synod on Youth in October can include swimming lessons undiluted by double-speak…Not a good sign, however, that a “parallel” Conference of Catholic Families is needed to supplement the partly-skewed agenda of the official World Meeting of Families in Dublin (http://www.ncregister.com/blog/kschiffer/critics-of-world-meeting-of-families-plan-parallel-conference-in-dublin).

  4. The Cardinal speaks so eloquently about a Church defined by celibate old men and all I can ask is WHERE IS JESUS IN ALL OF THIS CANONICALLY CONTROLLED THEOLOGICAL APPROACH TO A FAITH BROUGHT BY JESUS, OFFERD TO ALL BY JESUS AND DIED FOR BY JESUS? Somewhere the Church got lost in its own power, money and control and then forced it on the laity under pain of mortal sin. READ THE SACRED SCRIPTURES IF YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW LIVE IN JESUS CHRIST! Thank you

    • Jesus was celibate. Paul was celibate. No one is forced to be a Catholic. The Catholic Church gave you the Bible, so if you want to live in Jesus Christ then live in his Body the Church. You’re welcome.

    • Of course, Jesus Christ was “a celibate old man” in your book. How did God give us the Scripture if not through the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church? Already in the third century, Tertullian state in his brilliant De Praescriptione that only the Church can interpret Scripture because God gave it to her to be proclaimed to all the nations.

  5. There can be no changing of Our Catholic Beliefs simply because we hold with Gods teaching. How does one modernize belief? One cannot; one must rather form a contrary position and attempt to gain as much support as is needed to consider oneself above wrong doing. AKA sin.

  6. Thank you for standing firm against the world and the culture of death (evolution greatest modern apostasy), when I saw within the last couple of weeks that porn sites are now the top three of five (surpassed only by Google and FB), I knew indeed the world was voting and choosing animal over man created in the image of God and the natural order, and animal is what they are going to get and when that happens, we all know who they are coming for.

    • Evolution is not apostasy. It may or may not apply to man; we don’t really know. It makes no difference: God made us, whatever way He chose to do it.
      John Paul II described Evolution as “more than a theory”.
      It’s not something to get hung up about.

      • There are no proofs whatsoever that evolution is a fact, more like theory based on pseudoscience. Plus if evolution is true then the story about how God created Adam and Eve is false. And if Adam and Eve were evolved from apes then they would have to be immaculately conceived because there was no sins present before the fall of man through the eating of the forbidden fruits. So there would be not just one immaculate conception of Mary but also two with Adam and Eve, thus 3 immaculate conceptions!!!

    • Furthermore, please look up the meaning of Apostasy!
      Heresy perhaps (though it isn’t), but Apostasy never.

  7. Plainspoken and truthful.

    “The Secretariat of State and the diplomatic service of the Holy See are very important for the relation of the Church to the various States,”

    Ah, for another Cardinal Merry del Val!

  8. Three cheers for celibate old men who speak so eloquently about the Church and pronounce precisely what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

  9. Cardinal Mueller is a wonderful, solid successor of the Apostles. His faith-filled courage is a badly needed reminder that the Catholic Faith is ultimately supernatural and transcends any secular vision, however socially useful it may be.

  10. Ok so he knows this is happening, but what is he doing about it? He can’t be the only Cardinal to see what’s going on.
    If I was to sit by and watch someone being murdered, would I not be culpable? I guess I could pray that the murderer could stop or I could defend the person being assaulted.
    Come on Cardinals and Bishops it’s time to stand up and put your big boy pants on. Defend the truth and Holy Mother Church. We will be on your side

    • I’m sure he is praying right along with the rest of us faithful Catholics. What are you going to do about it?

  11. What a beautiful,clear and much needed statement about the current troubles that beset the Church. How O wish Cardinal Mueller was the Pope. He is so clear.

  12. One is left to wonder how and why in the hierarchy of truths of the perennial Magisterium the authority of the episcopal office — wielded wildly, egregiously and erroneously against the very truths of the faith it is consigned to preserve and proclaim – is given pride of place at the expense of mysteries of the greatest supernatural import. The pride and power of office preserved with impervious hubris while the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are consigned to the status of an hors-d’oeuvre.
    The episcopate is in effect presently composed of poseurs – secular materialists living off the dime of what remains of the faithful – and the far more numerous uncatechised baptized with something of a romantic attachment to the faith of their grannies.
    This week’s “exhibit A” could be thought to be the elevation to the College of Cardinals of a Marxist bishop credibly accused of concubinage while all are transfixed by the very old and widely known exploits of Cardinal McCarrick at the Jersey shore.
    I applaud Cardinal Muller for going as far as he does, but he need go far, far further and start calling out the cult that has eviscerated the Roman Catholic Church, metamorphosing it into an agency of atheism and immorality behind the façade of Christ’s one true Church.
    He can start at the top when he begins a manly, faithful and courageous analysis.

  13. I think that Cardinal Müller just got himself taken off of the Holy Father’s Christmas card list. Good for him!

  14. In the Eden story in Genesis, Adam and Eve are faced with a choice. The wisdom of God told them that they should not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Note: Many today simply call it the tree of knowledge perhaps because the don’t understand the importance of the full name or perhaps they want to make Christians seem anti-intellectual) Genesis tells us at each stage of creation, God saw that his creation was good. When the last stage was completed, the stage where man and woman made in God’s image and likeness were created, God declared his work to be very good. The wisdom of God did not want human beings to ever know evil. But God also wanted human beings to know love, God’s kind of love, selfless love so God gave human beings a free will which is required for love. When the serpent approached Eve, he offered her and Adam his version of wisdom, the wisdom of the world. Adam and Eve chose poorly. As Paul wrote, they chose the wisdom of a creature over the wisdom of the Creator. This was the original sin and it continues to be at the heart of every other sin since. We try to find abiding happiness in the one place it can never be found, in following the wisdom of the world. It’s sad enough when those opposed to God tempt us to follow the wisdom of the world. It’s worse when too many of God’s own priests follow the wisdom of the world in the way they treat the youth within the Church. It’s most distressing though when an entire Bishop’s conference makes that same choice. The wisdom of the world has never led to abiding love and happiness and it never will, yet that is all the German Bishop’s conference seems to have to offer us. May God raise up a leader in the Church who will speak the wisdom of God and who will call the “wisdom” offered by those in the German Bishop’s conference and others within and outside the Church by its right name.

  15. “A human being cannot let himself be degraded to the status of a more highly developed animal. He is called to love. Only if I love the other for his own sake do I come into my own; only then am I set free from the prison of my primitive egotism. One cannot fulfill oneself at the expense of others.”

    Such clear thinking, so simply stated.

    I live in hope that Cardinal Müller or a man like him will be named pope after Francis. To clean up the mess.

  16. God Bless Cardinal Muller, What happened to Pope Francis?? I ask this because I cannot believe a Pope can do what he is doing and still remain Pope,,,Has he always been so liberal? How did we ever get him as Pope? I know we are supposed to accept the Pope as the successor of St. Peter but in this case, what would St. Peter say I wonder? Jesus also said, The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. They seem to be winning but I don’t think so. The Holy Spirit is in the midst of us.

    • Yes, he always was so liberal. He is one of the purveyors of “liberation theology” which is Marxism in disguise.
      Similar to what the US bishops did after Vatican II, when they changed how the Eucharist was received, standing and in the hand. My recollection was that we were going to have the Mass in the vernacular, i.e., English and the US bishops decided to Protestantize the Church instead. Then out came all the SJWs and here we are, just ’cause the bishops wanted a seat at the political table.

    • This is an exclusive interview with Cdl. Mueller. CWR submitted questions in English by e-mail; His Eminence replied in writing in German.

  17. Cardinal Müller who was restrained to address what he understood was taking shape within the Church is now among the few prelates who is speaking freely. This movement toward accommodation of the world is based on the Pontiff’s vision of a new paradigmatic Catholicism. Indicated when Prefect Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer’s withheld approbation of the original German request for intercommunion. The Pontiff’s rejection of the German Bishops request for intercommunion referred to lack of maturity in the document. Prefect CDF Ladaria Ferrer’s official rejection upheld Church doctrine as universal. There appeared as some noted an opening for what seemed a biding of time for a later sanction in favor. That unofficial non magisterial remark that the matter should remain with the local ordinary on grounds that the German letter implied an unacceptable universality is exactly what this unofficial delegation of his authority to the local ordinary does. Local ordinaries worldwide will be free to adopt a policy of what will likely become indiscriminate communion not simply for Protestants who don’t hold our beliefs in the Eucharist, on moral matters, or confess serious sin – which will remove any justification for refusing Catholics who are D&R or practicing sexually deviate behavior. It goes to the Pontiff’s interpretation of canon 844 which perse is discriminate in its application only under extreme and rare conditions whereas he perceives a wider understanding of the canon. This has been throughout Francis’ pontificate the deft implementation of doctrinal change while avoiding actual magisterial pronouncement and grounds for heresy. Yet heresy exists in implementation and difficult to identify when couched within a plethora “concrete circumstances”. It leaves faithful clergy with one option. Resist and teach the truth. Similarly Müller’s comments to CWR adds pressure on local ordinaries to address this matter in fidelity to the Gospels.

  18. Cardinal Muller notes that a faction of the German hierarchy “see themselves as trendsetters of the Catholic Church on the march into modernity. They consider the secularization and de-Christianization of Europe as an irreversible development.” They want to preserve a compromised “niche” for what’s left of Catholicism and Christianity under a broad failure in steadfast leadership. The genius of the Second Vatican Council was that it proclaimed that engagement in the world (aggiornamento) depended upon a companion deepening (ressourcement, but hey, that’s a French word, not German).

    Today, the unaddressed problem in the German a project is that the game on the table is chess, not checkers–especially when history is clearly repeating itself. Under comparable circumstances, the tired Byzantine world converted to Islam largely because of its relative simplicity it had to offer. Today, why not a simpler companionship through broad intercommunion, rather than incorporation into Christ–the same yesterday, today, and forever–through a sacramental and ecclesial Church?

    The real choice, therefore, is not how best to accommodate the so-called arc of history (the German desperation), but rather, how to proclaim the nature of the human person as elevated toward deification–by the Incarnation, versus submission to an historic conflation of flat-earth radical secularism with a demonstrably syncretic and engulfing Islam.

    Where Secularism takes God out of the public forum, Islam takes the public forum out of man.

    Instead of absorption into Protestantism, the “niche” better than what the Germans hope for might be framed on a larger geography, as closer union with the Orthodox Churches reaching to the Urals–i.e., Churches faithful to the apostolic succession rather than the declining Protestant “ecclesial communions” too embedded in the flux of now-secular history.

    In short, it’s not really about modernity. At the time of the Second Vatican Council, Jean Guitton said of Islam that its distinctive feature was that “Islam has not wanted to choose between Heaven and Earth. It proposed instead a blending of heaven and earth, sex and mysticism, war and proselytism, conquest and apostolate. In more general terms, Islam proposed a blending of the spiritual and the temporal worlds which neither in Islam nor among the pagans have ever been divided.” Sounds a lot like many of the betrayed generation of youth addressed by the upcoming Synod on Youth, Faith and Vocations–a population that claims to be “spiritual, but not religious.”

    So, on the historic time scale, is the German strategy of niche-accommodation to be better understood as a two-fold and, yes, “irreversible” capitulation?

  19. I AM GETTING VERY OLD AND I’VE ALWAYS BEEN RATHER DIM-WITTED. NEVER MIND, I THINK THIS CARDINAL IS ON TO SOMETHING. I REALLY, REALLY DO!! SO!! COULD WE PRETEND HE IS THE POPE? I WOULD REALLY, REALLY LIKE THAT!!

  20. We should not be moved and succumb to the standards of the world, standards of the time and standards of popularity. We should uphold the truth and remain in the truth always, in season and out of season. The issue is the salvation of souls. Where is the universal united orthodox voice of the Church today? Who speaks with and for the Church today? Where is the truth? Who speaks the truth? There are so many disagreements and divergent views these days. Why the discord? Why? What is pushing us to be nervous, jittery, impulsive and irritated? What is forcing us to touch, twist, modify, alter and change the nature and stability of the Faith and everything Catholic and Christian, the Sacred Scriptures, the settled doctrine and discipline of Christ and His Church, from the way the Church worships to the way we think and live our lives? Do we want to destroy the Church and souls? What a self-destruction! What is it at all? What have we seen differently? Has the Church been wrong all along for all this past 2000 years? What do we want to achieve? Currently in the Church, who consistently and perpetually speaks, confirms and affirms the commands, the whole truth and the pristine, timeless and perennial language and teachings of Jesus Christ, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, the Apostles, the Saints, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Councils and the definitive teachings of the Magisterium and the Popes, when it comes to faith and morals? To whom do we look for clear teaching? To whom should we believe? Today, we hear the Pope says or does this, another time a Cardinal or Bishop says that, another time a priest says that, another time a theologian says the contrary, other time a commission says that, and so forth.
    The Church(and or Faith) is not Germany
    The Church(and or Faith) is not America
    The Church(and or Faith) is not Oceania
    The Church(and or Faith) is not Africa
    The Church(and or Faith) is not the Americas
    The Church(and or Faith) is not Asia
    The Church is according to the whole(Scriptures and oral traditions) bound by proclamation of the deposit of faith:rule of faith and in response an assent of faith by the one who believes.Thus,the teachings of the Church is that which is believed always,by all and everywhere.

  21. The Western cultural movement toward secularism is pervasive and universal. Catholics are not alone–very plainly, Protestant Christian denominations are under tremendous pressure toward secularization.

    I offer this: https://www.elcatoday.com/note-to-all-elca-bishopsincluding-presiding-bishop-eaton.html

    The post-script: After distribution of my letter to nearly 40 sitting ELCA Bishops, only 5 bothered to respond, and exactly ZERO decided to engage on the key theological questions raised–the comments were strictly related to polity–the proper assignment of responsibility and authority within the organization.

    The lesson: When Scripture is swept aside to pursue seeming minor changes in tradition, it is not long until the core of Faith, and worship, is lost.

    ELCA is dead to me, though Christ lives!

    • Cardinal Muller is a very bright light in the Church and we should pray for him, or other faithful and intelligent men like Cardinal Arinze or Archbishop Charles Chaput to succeed Pope Francis.

  22. I wish the priests and Cardinals like cardinal Muller would confront the Pope on al these things that are worrying to us Catholics. Let us hear the voice of the true Catholic Church Never have I heard a priest speak on the abortion issue or on Adultsry or hell or heaven. I want to kneel down and receive holy communion on my tongue with the patten under my chin. I’d like to see more reverence
    Bridget

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