Cardinal Gerhard Müller: Spiritual renewal is the Church’s foremost need

“That McCarrick, together with his clan and a homosexual network, was able to wreak havoc in a mafia-like manner in the Church is connected with the underestimation of the moral depravity of homosexual acts among adults.”

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

Rome, Italy, Nov 29, 2018 / 04:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Gerhard Müller said in a recent interview that the problem of clerical sex abuse must be countered primarily by spiritual renewal, prayer, and penance.

The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a Nov. 28 interview with Vatican Insider that “We need spiritual renewal, prayer and penance, drawing on the grace of the sacraments, reading and meditating on the Bible, entering into the spirit of Jesus Christ. We must be priests according to the heart of Jesus … The priest is an alter Christus, not because of his skill or ability, but because he gives his heart for humankind. We must bear witness to this and in so doing restore the credibility of the Church so that people may encounter faith.”

He called canon law “a necessary aid to the Church,” in which “we have norms of divine law that we cannot change, but also norms of human, ecclesiastical law that we can change and update to better respond to the needs and circumstances to be faced. But, we, the Church, are a sacramental and spiritual reality and more important we are the dimensions of morality and faith: rules, norms, external discipline are not enough.”

Acknowledging that procedures “have been established to combat the phenomenon,” he said, “spiritual renewal and conversion are more important. There are priests who never go to spiritual exercises, never approach the confessional, never pray the breviary. And when the spiritual life is empty, how can a priest act according to Christ? He risks becoming a ‘mercenary’, as we read in the Gospel of John.”

Cardinal Müller called for the “parties” in the Church to “work together to overcome this crisis that is hurting the credibility of the Church … We are all united in the revealed faith, and not by the prejudices of political ideologies. We are not a political entity, the Church was instituted by Jesus Christ.”

He suggested that the Pope could, to manage the crisis in the US, “appoint a commission of cardinals he trusts, to study the situation and then, on the basis of solid information, make some proposals, beyond oppositions, struggles between factions, mutual suspicions, and propaganda carried out by media campaigns. We need a solid base of information: only in this way decisions can be made for the future.”

Addressing episcopal accountability, the cardinal said, “We have sufficient norms in Canon Law, there is the motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela of 2001, there are the already existing norms of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, yet not always all the bishops have collaborated with our department. They have not informed as it is ought to be done. First we must do what is already established and indicated as necessary and obligatory by the existing norms.”

Discussing the thwarted effort of the USCCB to develop a code of conduct for bishops and to create a lay-led investigatory body, he said that “we must avoid confrontation and public controversy, and first discuss together to then arrive at a decision. We need to talk more before. I thought it was necessary for the presidency of the American Bishops’ Conference to first consult with our experts at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy Father is a single person, he cannot deal with everything. That is why there are the departments of the Roman Curia, to collaborate and arrive at a well-developed proposal to bring to the Pope.”

Speaking of the same-sex nature of much clerical abuse, Cardinal Müller rejected the “category” of homosexuals, and said that there are rather “concrete people who have certain tendencies, and there are temptations. Our hearts are wounded by the original sin and we must overcome temptations with grace, the new life in Jesus Christ.”

He called pedophilia and homosexuality “expressions of psychology that help the Church in her moral theology. But for us, the dimension remains the moral one: that is whether we act according to the Commandments, according to the holy will of God, or not. This is the problem for us.”

“We must collaborate with psychology and sociology, but we in the Church at the level of the Magisterium must not put these disciplines in the foreground,” Cardinal Müller stated.

“Instead we must base ourselves on moral theology. It is clear that according to God’s will, it is not possible for the lay faithful to have sex outside of marriage, and for a priest – who has committed himself to celibacy – it is not possible to have sex … We must raise the moral level of the clergy.”

He also addressed poor episcopal appointments, saying, “it is possible that the Pope may appoint a person who is ‘false’, who is not suitable for the role, for the episcopate. Jesus Christ himself, even though he knew everything thanks to his divine intellect, left freedom to the traitor Judas. Everyone is then responsible for their sin: we can, through the process of selection with the Congregations, through all our human judgments, do everything possible to elect a good candidate.”

The CDF prefect emeritus said it is impossible for human persons “to formulate an absolute, perfect judgment: we do it according to our limited possibilities, according to what we are given to know. One must look for suitable candidates for the episcopate, but the Pope is not infallible in the nomination.”

Cardinal Müller also said, asked about Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that “no one has the right to indict the Pope or ask him to resign! Clearly it is possible to have different opinions on the existing problems and on the ways to resolve them, but we must discuss them according to the roles of each and in the end, it is the cardinals, as representatives of the Church of Rome, who can help the Pope or ask the Pope for some explanations. But this must take place in private, in the proper places, and without ever making a public controversy with attacks that end up questioning the credibility of the Church and her mission.”

“I am personally convinced that Pope Francis is doing everything possible to counter the phenomenon of child abuse and to foster a new spirituality for priests, who must act according to the heart of Christ and do the good of all people,” he said.

Cardinal Müller also spoke recently to Life Site News, telling Maike Hickson Nov. 21 regarding the US crisis that “we will not succeed with the help of a lynch law and a general suspicion against the whole episcopacy or of ‘Rome.’ I do not see it as a solution that the laymen now take control, just because the bishops (as some believe) are not capable of doing so with their own strength. We cannot overcome shortcomings by turning upside down the hierarchical-sacramental constitution of the Church.”

“It would be important that the U.S. Bishops’ Conference assume its responsibility with independence and autonomy. The bishops are not employees of the Pope who are subject to directives nor, as in the military, generals who owe absolute obedience to the higher command. Rather, they carry together with the successor of Peter, as shepherds appointed by Christ Himself, responsibility for the Universal Church,” he said.

Cardinal Müller said “That McCarrick, together with his clan and a homosexual network, was able to wreak havoc in a mafia-like manner in the Church is connected with the underestimation of the moral depravity of homosexual acts among adults.”

He said the root of the crisis is “a secularization of the Church and the reduction of the priest to the role of a functionary … According to this evil spirit, the Revelation concerning Faith and morals is being adapted to the world without God so that it does not interfere anymore with a life according to one’s own lusts and needs.”

Cardinal Müller stated that “the primacy of the Pope is being undermined by the sycophants and careerists at the papal court … and not by those who counsel the Pope in a competent and responsible manner.”

The role of a bishop and cardinal is “to represent the teaching of the Catholic Faith, and not to justify the different private opinions of a Pope. His authority is extended over the revealed Faith of the Catholic Church and not over the individual theological opinions of himself or those of his advisers.”

Cardinal Müller said his supposed opponents “can perhaps accuse me of interpreting Amoris Laetitia in an orthodox way, but they cannot prove that I deviate from the Catholic doctrine. Additionally, it is irritating that theologically uneducated people are being promoted to the rank of bishops who, in turn, think that they have to thank the Pope for it by means of a childish submission.”

“The Magisterium of the bishops and of the Pope stand under the Word of God in Holy Scripture and Tradition and serves Him. It is not at all Catholic to say that the Pope as an individual person receives directly from the Holy Spirit the Revelation and that he may now interpret it according to his own whims while all the rest are to follow him blindly and mutely. Amoris Laetitia has to be absolutely in accordance with Revelation, and it is not we who have to be in accord with Amoris Laetitia, at least not in the interpretation which contradicts, in a heretical manner, the Word of God. And it would be an abuse of power to discipline those who insist upon an orthodox interpretation of this encyclical and of all the papal magisterial documents. Only he who is in the state of Grace can also fruitfully receive Holy Communion. This revealed truth cannot be toppled by any power in the world, and no Catholic may ever believe the opposite or be forced to accept the opposite.”

Cardinal Müller said that while he was CDF prefect “I did not oppose any innovation or reform. Because reform means renewal in Christ, not adaptation to the world.”

The cardinal said that if a priest “calls the blessing of homosexual relationships the result of a further development of doctrine … it is nothing but the presence of atheism in Christianity. He does not theoretically deny the existence of God, but, rather, he denies Him as the source of morality by presenting that which is before God a sin as a blessing.”

And Cardinal Müller spoke Nov. 29 to EWTN, discussing in part the debate over a purported “gay lobby” in the Church.

While saying he doesn’t know if there are “homosexual networks” in the Vatican, he affirmed that “there are high-level representatives of the Catholic Church who defend and promote beyond all measure people of this trend. But if the contents of the Catholic faith are called into question, they show themselves broadminded and powerless.”

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  1. How can there be no homosexuals as a category, but homosexual networks?
    I read the interview over at and I wasn’t particularly impressed.
    The public accusations haven’t hurt the credibility of the Church as far as I am concerned. The refusal of the hierarchy to admit there is a homosexual problem does. The fact that my Catholic in laws are all divorced does. The fact that my non-Cathic family are all still married does. The fact that as far as the Church is concerned Bishop McCarrick (who abused many) may yet reach Heaven, while my non-Catholic, non-church going parents (who never abused anyone, or committed adultery, and never divorced) did not (no salvation outside the Church, right?) damages the Church’s credibility.

    • “No salvation outside the Church” is widely misunderstood.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, 16) states:“This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” (CCC n. 847).

      The Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes also reassures:“All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (n. 22).

  2. As much as I admire the Cardinal’s knowledge and faith he should be the last to critique Archbishop Viganò’s courage in exposing the Pontiff and demanding resignation. Then the good Cardinal must include Saint Catherine of Siena and a host of others who firmly believe resignation by a Pontiff undermining the faith and leading many to perdition rises above protocol. Speaking to Cardinal Müller’s own record he had the golden opportunity when Prefect for the CDF to confront the Pontiff on his errors. That confrontation made public would most likely have had great benefit for a confused misled laity and clergy. Moral courage surpasses protocol when it satisfies Justice.

  3. “I am personally convinced that Pope Francis is doing everything possible to counter the phenomenon of child abuse and to foster a new spirituality for priests, who must act according to the heart of Christ and do the good of all people,” he said.”
    But, Sir, it ain’t about child abuse. It’s about sodomy with priests and seminarians, et al.
    And, there is no need for a “new spirituality for priests”. The sixth commandment says all that priests need to understand and have, indeed, clearly understood for many centuries.
    Cdn DiNardo respectfully asked for a Vatican investigation, Sir, but was flat out refused and was offered nothing in return but to go on retreat.
    Forgive me, Cdn Mueller, if I think your position, as stated in this article, is part of the problem. It ain’t rocket science.

  4. Thank God, again, for Cardinal Muller. He mentions the “childish submission” of so many uneducated bishops.

    One is reminded of the opposite case of a child in fantasyland … Papa Geppetto wanted a real live boy to give him a hand in his carpenter’s shop. So he carved a marionette with a network of strings, and named it Pinocchio. But, after running away to the circus, Pinocchio is actually transformed by a dream-fairy into a real live boy with “independence and autonomy” [from Muller].

    Now, in our more real world (?), Pope Francis wants some real live cardinals to help him out in his “field hospital” Church. So it is apparently on bad advice that he strings along with those “sycophants and careerists at the papal court,” and that he elevates some of his new cardinals. But then out of the blue, the counselor “McCarrick together with his clan” magically convert the field hospital into a circus tent, or at least a “modest” beach house. Underlying this collapse is the widespread and longstanding “reduction of priest(s) [and unsuspecting seminarians!] to the role of functionar(ies).” Liturgical “presiders” amidst a sea of titular “ministries”.

    The timeless St. Augustine describes such a fallen world. In his more comprehensive litany of “great ills” in a “life like ours” he includes: “those things that prove so vain and poisonous and breed so many heartaches…such wrath and plots of enemies, deceivers, SYCHOPHANTS; such perfidy and pride…and LUST; all the shameless passions of the impure—fornication and adultery, incest and UNNATURAL SINS, rape and countless other uncleannesses too nasty to be mentioned” [Muller does mention our “underestimation of the moral depravity of homosexual acts among adults”]” etc. etc. (The City of God, Book XXII, Chs. 10-21).

    The “new paradigm” of “cultural anthropological change” is not so new after all.

  5. Except for Fr. Peter Morello’s and Mark’s clarity here, even the lowest peasant who seek it, might have found it elusive with his eminence the Cardinal in this piece. In our world today clarity is very much valued and sought after.

  6. Amen Cardinal Muller, I have been praying for a Good Shepard to lead us maybe he will be the one. But let’s continue to pray; God bless Pope Francis, I know it is not an easy job being the shepherd of 1.2 billion sinners following the Way but it is evident to me that Il Papa is having difficulties distinguish between the faithful flock and the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  7. All of this reminds me of what the bandit, played by Eli Wallach, in the film, “Magnificent Seven”, said of his victims – “If God had not meant for them to be shorn, He would not have made them sheep.”

    In the Breviary, Wednesday, Week I, Morning Prayer, the Lord lists six fundamental characteristics of the wicked –

    Sin speaks to the sinner in the depth of his heart.
    There is no fear of God before his eyes.
    He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt.
    All wisdom is gone.
    He plots wrongdoing on his bed.
    He clings to what is evil.

    It takes a great deal of physical, spiritual and emotional discipline, effort, dedication and persistence to achieve that level of mastery. We are witnessing a convergence of evil in the world in which many of these like masters are concurrently peaking at the top of their respective vocations, social circles, business and political leadership roles. The Catholic Church, being comprised of mere mortal men, is no exception.

    Watching the behavior of the collective leadership of the Catholic world, I am, at the same time, shocked, saddened, disappointed, frustrated, angry and downright pissed.

    As a youth, I felt a calling to the priesthood and attended minor seminary.
    There was a significant homosexual presence among the faculty there. I learned, some years later, that two of my professors, religious priests, died of AIDS. I was quite saddened as I was fond of them.
    A few years later, as a young adult in college, I was approached by our parish priest (who had on only his underwear).

    None of the men with this sickness can possibly remain chaste. The nature of this beast makes them promiscuous. They should never have been accepted into the seminary, much less ordained.

    I suspect that the exposure of McCarrick and the resulting Catholic Church crisis is our Lord’s way of popping an extremely large, abscessed boil.

    Now, we’re watching the puss run. And it’s going to run a long, wide, meandering river for some years to come. The stench of this open infection will linger until those in-charge finally take decisive action or, more realistically, those who replace the current regime take action.

    As for the bureaucratic machinations of the Church, I can only say that I do not believe for a moment that these same leaders are naïve, incompetent, clueless, brainless, witless, spineless or just in the wrong place at the wrong time in human history.
    Code words like “clericalism” are merely slight-of-hand distractions issued for the press, (four syllable words do the trick every time).

    On the contrary, these people know what they are doing. They are malevolent and destructive.
    Only the Lord Himself knows the depth of this infection, or, should I say, infestation of evil corrupting His Bride.
    This infestation can be called nothing less than collective gang rape of the Bride of Christ; rape perpetrated by the very people who vowed to protect and defend Her chastity and purity.

    Those who defend this abuse, those who deny this abuse and those who are silent, are all participants, either by sin of commission or omission. Like the bandit and the evildoer, they have no fear of God.

    What happens now is the Lord God, Himself, WILL clean up this mess, because it may well be beyond the point of no return for any one person or group of persons to effect true repair, reconciliation and healing, especially when the patient is this close to death.

    For those in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, clinging to the status quo, be forewarned – the Lord will come, as He says, “Like a thief in the night”.

  8. He’s a good man although he seems afflicted with a form of holy servitude blindness. When Prefect he showed measured anger when the Pope fired his best assistants without explanation and when fired himself after a long painful obeisance not once did he criticize that decision. Commentators to this article on Cardinal Müller notice his towing the line citing child abuse and his “conviction” that Pope Francis is determined to solve the ‘problem’, the problem Müller himself cited previously as clerical homosexuality. Yes he is correct again following script that spirituality is the real issue. Of course it’s a deformed spirituality that underlies the sacrilegious behavior of priests and bishops and cardinals. Nonetheless sending all clergy on a monastic retreat will not resolve what is now an ingrained perverse perception that somehow it’s okay to have sex with other clergy, to use authority to intimidate and seduce the lower ranks. The disease that’s afflicting many prelates like the good Cardinal and that is driving the solidification of a devastating homosexual clerical culture is this self inflicted servile blindness that refuses to face up to reality.

  9. I read the interview, and Cardinal Mueller wisely reminds us of who we are: members of the Body of Christ, and how we are to act as members of Our Lord and of one another.

    • “And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. 30And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. “

      • Every baptized person is a member of Our Lord’s Mystical body. If I abuse anyone, child or adult, man or woman, boy or girl, I am abusing Our Lord as truly as if I took a consecrated host, threw it on the floor and stamped on it. And if I reject anyone, saint or sinner, I am rejecting Him, as truly as if I threw a consecrated host in the dumpster.

        • Baloney. You are saying that the very fact of being a member of Our Lord’s mystical body means that one is above reproach; which clearly isn’t true. Covering up the sins of others, sexual or otherwise, is not required and is not good. And pointing out their wrong behavior is not “rejecting” them and is not “as if I threw a consecrated Host in the dumpster.” I remind you that one of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish sinners.

          The verse that I quoted shows quite well that a member of the Body of Christ who offends Him is subject to being plucked out or cut off, rather than being allowed to corrupt the rest of the Body.

          • When did I say that being a member of Our Lord’s Mystical Body puts one above reproach? It gives us a dignity that we can have in no other way, and it makes demands that can only be met through grace. The spiritual works of mercy demand great prudence and are best done under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lest greater evil results. I understand your indignation, but we are dealing with souls for which Our Lord died. Victims of abuse and their abusers both need healing, though of very different kinds. The victims have the dignity of sharing in the cross of Christ. Their healing consists of recognizing this dignity. The healing of the abusers consists in recognizing what they have done and Who has already paid for it.

          • “When did I say that being a member of Our Lord’s Mystical Body puts one above reproach?”

            When you replied to my quote from the Bible about people who offend God and thus risk casting the whole body into Hell by saying that “abusing” people was like desecrating the Eucharist.

            “Victims of abuse and their abusers both need healing, though of very different kinds. … The healing of the abusers consists in recognizing what they have done and Who has already paid for it.”

            Yes, but in the meanwhile they need to be stopped rather than devastating more victims, damaging the Church, and ruining their own souls. I think that telling a person bluntly, “What you are doing is evil, and you need to knock it off *now*” and removing the person from a situation that enables him to continue what he’s doing is quite merciful. Once he’s stopped from damaging others is the time to worry about healing him, rather than delicately and respectfully letting him continue to wreak havoc.

        • In addition to Sr Gabriela’s excellent comment: ISTM to be a useless mockery to make a huge thing of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, if one does not make an equally huge thing of the Presence of Christ in one’s brethren and sisters in the Faith. To separate the two is to live a lie – the lie of loving God without loving one’s brother or sister in faith. St John is very explicit: such a thing is not possible, but is a lie.

          If the clergy really believed in the Christ in the Eucharist, they could not possibly have abused a single Catholic. They have abused thousands.

          Christ identifies Himself with the persecuted, the outcast, the rejected, the defenceless. Not with His Church. The Church Unpersecuted has been far too eager to read Acts 9 as identifying Christ with the Church *simpliciter*, whereas He is persecuted by Saul who persecuted the churches. only because He takes the part of the persecuted. Who, in that instance, were the churches.

          It is ludicrous, and worse, to imagine that He identified Himself with the Church when it persecuted & murdered St Joan of Arc, or when it waged a “crusade” against the Albigensian. It verges on blasphemy to suggest that Christ is identified with a Church that oppresses and murders. Such a suggestion implies a terribly debased idea of the Church, as though it were merely another of the “kingdoms of this world” in bondage to the devil.

          If the Church were to persecute Jews, homosexuals or Muslims, He would identify Himself with Jews, homosexuals or Muslims. That is the kind of Kingdom His Kingdom is: a Kingdom of Righteousnesd and Peace, with a King Who rescues the oppressed, and sends the rich away empty.

  10. Maybe it would help if people were less concerned to be Catholic, and were far more concerned to be Christian. Jesus never said anything about the importance of orthodoxy or dogma. (It is a mark in favour of the genuineness of the Gospels, that the Jesus presented in them is not at all rattled by having dealings with Samaritans, who were as much hated by the Jews as Protestants have been by Catholics.) The Church began to go wrong when it started ostracising people for having the wrong ideas – a tendency clearly seen in the Letters of St Paul.

    Most dogmas are of no *practical* interest whatsoever – the Catholic over-emphasis on dogmatic purity in Catholics is a very close parallel to the Protestant Fundamentalist over-emphasis on the doctrine of total Biblical inerrancy. In both forms of religion, people get bent out of shape from anxiiously trying to prove (to themselves, if to no-one else) that the Bible is totally inerrant, or that dogmas are totally free of error.

    But such concerns deform the life of faith: they are a subtle kind of self-righteousness, when the only righteousness that Christians should bother with, is the Righteousness of God and Christ. The total rightness of the Bible or of dogmas is a diversion from what really matters, and leads to the Pauline rejection of people for wrong belief, when people should be accepted even when their beliefs or conduct cannot be. Jesus rejected no-one – instead, they rejected themselves. If people reject Catholic teaching, they should be allowed to do so, without being stigmatised or thought the worse of in any way. The very idea of dogma is sub-Christian, & pernicious. Certainty in believing comes from the Holy Spirit of Christ, not from validation by the Church.

    • “Maybe it would help if people were less concerned to be Catholic, and were far more concerned to be Christian.”

      Catholic *is* Christian: the original form; the Church Jesus founded.

      Dogma is truth about faith or morals. Yes, Jesus did say things about truth and about morals, and of conforming oneself to His teaching, which is what orthodoxy is.

      “The total rightness of the Bible or of dogmas is a diversion from what really matters, and leads to the Pauline rejection of people for wrong belief, when people should be accepted even when their beliefs or conduct cannot be.”

      So, your opinion is so important that you get to declare that St. Paul was completely wrong, then? I don’t think so.

      “people should be accepted even when their beliefs or conduct cannot be.”

      What vague, puffy uselessness. “Accepted,” how? “Why yes, I know you believe murder is not wrong, is in fact good, and that you conduct yourself accordingly, and I can’t accept that belief or that conduct, but I accept you and will invite you into my house and give you access to my family because after all I wouldn’t want to be subtly self-righteous.”

      Your entire argument is utterly confused and quite silly.

      “If people reject Catholic teaching, they should be allowed to do so, without being stigmatised or thought the worse of in any way.”

      They should not be allowed to reject Catholic teaching while still pretending to be Catholic and doing their level best to undermine the Church. And if someone rejects Catholic teaching it makes perfect sense to think the worse of him because his reasoning is flawed, because he is claiming for himself more authority than the Church or the Bible, because he is doing evil things – for any number of reasons. Your hypocrisy is on display here: You say that people should not be stigmatized or thought the worse of for disagreeing with the Church, yet you stigmatize and disparage faithful Catholics, and also faithful Protestants, because they don’t conform with your personal dogma and orthodoxy.

      “Certainty in believing comes from the Holy Spirit of Christ, not from validation by the Church.”

      And if Person A is certain, certain, certain that something is true, and Person B is certain, certain, certain that the same thing is false, just how do you reconcile the two? They can’t both be true. That is why the Church has teaching authority, and can say which is the correct view.

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