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Cardinal Müller: To renew the Church we must be guided by her faith, morals

Negative reaction to Benedict’s essay, Cardinal Müller said in a recent essay, is evidence of his “diagnosis that a type of moral theology, which for a long time has not been Catholic, has collapsed.”

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, is pictured in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in this Nov. 19, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Rome, Italy, Apr 26, 2019 / 05:01 pm (CNA).- Countering critics of Benedict XVI’s recent essay on the scandal of sex abuse in the Church, Cardinal Gerhard Müller on Friday emphasized that Church renewal must be centered on Christ and his teaching.

“Rebuilding and renewing the whole Church can only succeed in Christ—if we get our bearings by the Church’s teaching on faith and morals,” the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in an essay published April 26 at First Things.

Benedict’s essay looked at the abuse crisis in the context of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the concurrent collapse in moral theology, and their effect on priestly life and formation. Some responded to his thoughts as though he were setting himself against Pope Francis.

Müller reflected that “Benedict was and is the most important figure in the Church’s fight against this crisis,” given his role in drafting the Church’s 2001 norms on the gravest of crimes: “He has the widest view of and deepest insight into this problem, its causes and history.”

Benedict, he said, “is in a better position than all the blind who want to lead other blind people,” and he added that critics of the emeritus pope “lack respect and are ideologically blinded.”

The Vatican summit on abuse of minors and the Church “should have signaled the beginning of getting to the roots of the evil of abuse,” which is necessary for the Church to be credible, he said. “Unfortunately, the practical conclusions drawn from this assembly have not yet been made public, so the U.S. Bishops’ Conference cannot yet put its suspended measures into practice.”

Müller called the “generalized and noncommittal analyses” of some speakers at the summit “distressing”, calling it “a consequence of the assembly not allowing some of the most competent cardinals to speak,” citing Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the CDF.

He said that seeing the problem as one of clericalism, or of celibacy, is a buzzword-infused ideology which undermines “zero tolerance as the only correct policy.”

“Sexual abuse of adolescents or even adult seminarians cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, even if the perpetrator wants to excuse himself by pointing to mutual consent between adults,” said Müller.

Yet some prominent bishops have insisted on distinguishing between the sexual abuse of minors and sexual misconduct between adults, arguing that potentially consensual sexual misconduct by clerics should not be accorded the status of a major crime.

True clericalism, Müller recalled, characterizes the bishop who “demands that his clerics are to distribute Holy Communion to persons not in full communion with the faith of the Church, or to those who need to be absolved from grave sin through penance before they can approach communion … He abuses the authority conferred on him by Christ in order to force others to act against Christ’s commandments.”

In these cases obdience to God rather than men “applies also in the Church,” he stated.

Seeking in the clerical state the roots of the abuse of minors is vain, Müller said, for “crimes in no way originate in the Church’s sacramental structure, but contradict it.”

The negative reaction to Benedict’s essay, he said, is evidence of his “diagnosis that a type of moral theology, which for a long time has not been Catholic, has collapsed.”

Müller denounced those who, “on the backs of young victims of sexual crimes, [try] to substitute the Church’s moral teaching, grounded in natural law and divine revelation, with a self-made sexual morality according to the egotistical pleasure principle from the 1970s.”

Reflecting that many abusive priests “did not have a sense of guilt, and did not know or directly rejected the teaching according to which sexual acts with adolescents, or with adult persons outside marriage, are morally reprehensible,” he asked: “Who deformed their conscience to such a degree that they no longer knew what the serious sins are by which ‘neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals … will inherit the kingdom of God’?”

According to Müller the height of the scandal is “when the blame is not laid upon those breaking God’s commandments, but instead the commandments themselves are made responsible for their transgression: The cause of sin becomes God, who is allegedly overtaxing us.”

While it is not put like this directly, he said that “the Church is accused of interpreting God’s commandments in an outdated fashion. Therefore, it is said, we now need to invent (or, as the euphemistic language puts it, ‘develop further,’ meaning ‘falsify’) a new sexual morality that agrees with the findings of modern human sciences, which morality ‘philanthropically’ leaves untouched the factual reality of people’s lives.”

But these proposals forget that “empirical science without any presuppositions does not exist, and that the underlying anthropology always influences how research data are interpreted.”

“Morality is about distinguishing good and evil,” he stated. “Can adultery be good only because a de-Christianized society thinks about it differently than the Sixth Commandment puts it?”

St. Paul’s writings against sodomy must be taken at face value, Müller emphasized: “How do exegetes know that behind the obvious meaning of these words, something else, even the total opposite, is intended? In immoral acts, especially against matrimonial love and its fecundity, Paul detects a denial of God, because the will of the creator is not recognized as the measure of our doing good.”

The consequence for the Church’s life is that “we can only admit to ordination candidates who also possess the natural prerequisites, are intellectually and morally capable, and show the spiritual readiness to give themselves totally to the service of the Lord.”

“We can only turn away from false ways if we understand male and female sexuality as God’s gift, which does not serve narcissistic pleasure but has its true goal in the love between spouses and the responsibility for a family. Only in the wider context of Eros and Agape does sexuality have the power to build up the human person, the Church, and the state. Otherwise it brings about destruction.”

Seeing celibacy as the cause of sexual crimes against adolescents can only arise from a “materialist and atheistic point of view,” he said. “There is no proof for that; statistical data about sexual abuse say the opposite.”

Such an atheistic view is also found “in the arguments of those who blame abuse crimes on an invented ‘clericalism’ or on the sacramental structure of the Church.” He said that clerics are not mere “officials”, but are meant to minister to the people of God.

Seeing clerics as “power-fixated functionaries … is possible only in a secularized Church,” Müller concluded.

“Instead of surrounding ourselves with media consultants, and seeking help for the Church’s future from economic advisers, all of us … have to refocus on the origin and center of our faith: the triune God, the incarnation of Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the closeness to God in the Holy Eucharist and in frequent Confession, daily prayer, and the readiness to be guided in our moral life by God’s grace. Nothing else provides the way out of the present crisis of faith and morals into a good future.”


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14 Comments

  1. Cardinal Muller asks: “Who deformed their conscience to such a degree that they no longer knew what the serious sins are[…]?” Already in the middle of the last century a distress flare went up:

    “The modern world will shortly no longer possess sufficient spiritual reserves to commit genuine evil. Already . . . we can witness a lethal slackening of men’s conscience that is attacking not only their moral life, but also their very heart and mind, altering and decomposing even their imagination . . . The menacing crisis is one of infantilism” (George Bernanos, 1947).

  2. Cardinal Mueller is so right, and all of his is fulfilling Ratzinger’s prophetic words about the future Church being smaller and more faithful. Pope Francis’ approach (along with the lost Cardinals and Bishops) is an approach that will empty the Church and not draw the people they think will enter through the relaxing of truths we prefer to deny. They will conclude that if none of it is true, why waste their time even belonging to or attending such a Church. Francis and his confused followers are killing the Church

  3. “If you love me, keep my Commandments!” John 14:15. Problems within our Faithfuls come from that LACK of PURE LOVE for Christ, thus, the void of KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS! People do notLOVE JESUS DEEP and Trruthful enough by KEEPING HIS DEAMND for the PERFCTION OF ONE’S very OWN SOUL. IT was for WHOSE Salvation HE DIED that most HORRIFIC DEATH in the HUMAN HISTORY! Then, there is that lack of Repentance! “Your SINS ARE FORGIVING YOU! Go and SIN NO MORE!” With all those DEEP SOLID FOOD, how could anyone be able to commit SIN? The VOID of TRUE LOVE for Jesus is the REAL PROBLEM!

  4. Team Francis is upset because their “reform” agenda is being undermined by their own moral and sexual corruption, which corruption is directly linked to the doctrinal and moral relativism which arose in the 1960’s as noted by his Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict in his essay-and which doctrinal and moral relativism they are unabashed champions of.

  5. Joseph worked as a carpenter. Jesus and Mary assisted the carpenter Joe. They earned their livelihood through toil and sweat of their brow. Cardinals, bishops, priests and religious have a much easier life. Not having genuine challenges for day to day survival could be some of the reasons for the current situation in the nearly two thousand year old institution.

  6. The great commissioning Jesus instructed his disciples is to preach to all the nations “the salvation of souls through repentance and forgiveness of sins.” The objections to preaching a watered down version of Christianity is that if there are no sins, there is nothing to repent of or to forgive. Hence the ability to preach is dependent upon the elevation of the conscious to be aware that certain human behaviors are deadly, sinful, and will not result in the salvation of the soul.
    So what are the behaviors named in Exodus 33:7 when God shows God’s face to Moses at Sinai at the giving of the Covenant and reveals that God is a merciful and forgiving God? The sins are named 1) forgiveness of sins of violence against fellow human beings (violent behaviors) that bring about death to both body and soul (anti-life) 2) sins against God and God’s commandments to avoid evil and to do good (being a blessings) 3) sins against justice or equity (cruelty). All of these behaviors God stands willing to forgive when the person’s consciousness is elevated to desire to change his/her behaviors by turning to God for help. This is Judaism and how transgressions are defined, not the shallow Greek definition of sin of “missing the mark.” Judaism includes the serious and deadly sins against life “I call upon Heaven and Earth. I put before you choice: Life or Death. Blessing or Curse. Choose Life that you may live.” Dt. 6. Salvation is eternal life, not eternal death. Eternal blessing, not eternal curse in Judaism of which Jesus did not abolish the law or the prophets, but came to fulfill. This is classic Judeo-Christian ethics.

    This seems to be the debate: Do you give sinner’s a “pass” and accept them as is, unconditional love or do you love the sinner by helping them reform his/her life?
    Is it about God’s ability as a loving God’s to love the sinner unconditionally first? Even when the sinner who has no desire to repent in order to experience this love? Is it God who is being tested? Likewise do the followers of Christ need to accept unconditionally sinful persons without asking the persons to repent in order to establish that followers of Christ love unconditionally? Who is this about? Does the emphasis shift from saving the sinner to saving God’s identity and the followers of Christ’s identity as unconditional lovers? Is who benefits from this desire to love irrelevant, as well as the fate of the person love so long as I and my God are the ideal lovers who can love even the damned?

    Or do we attempt to save the damned? By preaching truth? And the truth that human beings can change his/her behaviors from behaviors that lead to death to behaviors that lead to eternal life? Is this what preaching means?

    To pit truth against love seems to create conflict that Scripture never intended, because it seems impossible to reject truth and still claim to be loving. Is it about the worthiness of the lover (God and God’s followers) or the worthiness of the beloved (sinners)?

    That said. There are 8 billion people on the planet, but only one billion Roman Catholics plus another half billion of Orthodox Christians and Protestants, leaving 6.5 billion non-Christians. We baptized sinners must begin to offer a spiritually starving world the truth and love of Christ who “I came to give life, and life eternal.” We cannot be silent. We must do the best we can, knowing we all fall short as St. Paul says.

  7. Cardinal Müller apparently perceives, besides Emeritus Benedict XVI’s letter a true counter narrative to fomenting error what’s now occurring with the creation of a giant dicastery that in effect eliminates any safeguard of maintaining doctrinal integrity. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of India lauds the consolidation of the Church as messenger although as Edward Pentin observes integrity of message is lost. The new Church structure is on the mark insofar as purpose for consolidation to avoid falsely presumed unnecessary Curia multiplication with focus on the necessary. A Suprema Dicastery will result in the inevitable devastating multiplication within the Church of each national bishops conference becoming in effect a national church. As in Reformation England. As in Protestantism. Heterodoxy will likely be the result of death by suffocation rather than a direct coup de grace of whatever authority remains in the CDF. Although early Church papal authority was minimal and we survived today the Pontiff has deconstructed papal authority delegating that power to Bishops Conferences and Synods. Moral theological egalitarianism has long been an agenda priority in the prior piecemeal dissolution of the CDF, the sole remaining pontifical body intended to preserve doctrine hence unity of the evangelical message. Originally Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition 1542 Pope Paul III. The oldest of the nine congregations and the body under Cardinal Gerhard Müller disabled with the firing of the Cardinal’s most able priest associates handling priest abuse cases. They were presumably too harsh. Next Müller now virtual extinction of the Congregation that had sanctioned, penalized and excommunicated if necessary priests and laity that adhered to heresies. We’ve entered a climactic stage and as Cardinal Müller exhorts we the faithful must remain focused on the traditional doctrines of the Church. For our spiritual survival and with our merciful compassion for the sake of our errant brothers.

    • yes, the crew the Pope has selected to engineer this Super Dicastery is extremely disturbing from the viewpoint of orthodoxy. Just as Notre Dame burned…so St. Peter’s might too – from the same cause: loss of the True Faith. I have been harboring an opinion that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will out-live Pope Francis based on my interpretation of the St. Malachy prophecy. If this Super Dicastery is to be stopped it would seem that a new (last) Pope will have to be elected – AND SOON TOO !!

      • Michael I usually decline comment on prophecies since all we can do is speculate. Although the Apostle Paul advises we shouldn’t dismiss all prophesy. Since we’re dealing with End Times regarding the last popes and Saint Malachy [even here there’s ample question on authenticity regarding his second listing] coupled with the current extraordinary events of doctrinal change, bishops and cardinals citing at least insinuating papal error and two popes [if Emeritus Benedict XVI is still a pope] living at the Vatican both dressed in papal white providing Raymond Arroyo with blockbuster material for his Will Wilder kids adventure series I’ll offer my dime store prophetic opinion and take the jump on Arroyo. Malachy’s last verses show hiatus after “In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit…”. The connection with Peter the Roman is questionable at least ambiguous. St Malachy and most assessments list 265 popes Benedict XVI the 265th. Journalist Peter Seewald in his interview with Benedict post resignation from the papacy was queried by Seewald, “You realize you’re at the last in line”, Benedict responding “Anything is possible”. I could mention the February 11th 2013 lighting strike on St Peter’s Basilica the day of his announcement – but I’ll desist since it smacks of sensationalism. That aside there’s the first edition of the Austen Ivereigh book The Great Reformer immediately revised after Ivereigh realized his blunder of detailing in the Intro the rigging [a term aptly applied to the first Synod on the Family by E Pentin] of the papal election. Canonically a host of participants by canon law would have been under penalty of excommunication Laetae Sententia. Seriously Michael I don’t know the answer. Except that the preponderance of circumstantial evidence speaks to intent in reference to the Church being misled.

  8. The clue to what is so wrong with the Church can be seen in JP II’s decision to make the consecration asked for at Fatima. He did it in 1984 (after almost being killed on her feast day, May 13). Then after just five years, the Berlin wall came down (on the feast of the cathedral of Rome) in a totally unexpected way. Unfortunately, the consecration was supposed to be in 1929 — quite a bit went wrong in the meantime (understatement!). As with the prophets of the Old Testament, Fatima’s messengers were ignored for too long. But that is not all, Mary had said that God wanted to establish devotion to her Immaclate Heart. Compare what JP II did for the Divine Mercy, and you will see that the Church has failed to take action on this century old request. People, like Pope Benedict, generally realize that in the Church and society there was a noticeable worsening of faith and morals starting in the 1960’s. That is when Pope John XXIII opened the secret of Fatima but still failed to obey heaven’s directives. That is why Vatican II failed and why the aftermath has been such a catastrophe. When will we obey heaven? “Without me you can do nothing.”

    • Yes Jacob, and to think that our world now could be peaceful, if at any time enough people ( these last one hundred years ) had done what Our Blessed Mother asked: ” Pray my rosary for peace.. . ” What ” an offer you can’t refuse.” but we did And now the chastisement!!!!!!
      Google
      frregisscanlon.com for his in-depth explanation of the Fatima Secret.

    • Yes Jacob, and to think that our world now could be peaceful, if at any time enough people ( these last one hundred years ) had done what Our Blessed Mother asked: ” Pray my rosary for peace.. . ” What ” an offer you can’t refuse.” BUT we did And now the chastisement!!!!!!
      Google Denver’s:
      frregisscanlon.com for his in-depth explanation of the Fatima Secret.

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