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Cardinal Mueller: Church crisis comes from abandoning God, adapting to culture

“The crisis in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God,” the cardinal told thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in 2014 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Phoenix, Ariz., Jan 1, 2020 / 09:27 am (CNA).- The crisis facing the Catholic Church today has arisen from an attempt – even by some within the Church – to align with the culture and abandon the teachings of the faith, said Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Jan. 1.

“The crisis in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God,” the cardinal told thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

“The poison paralyzing the Church is the opinion that we should adapt to the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, and not the spirit of God, that we should relativize God’s commandments and reinterpret the doctrine of the revealed faith,” he said.

He cautioned that even a number of people in the Church are “longing” for a kind of Catholicism without dogmas, without sacraments, and without an infallible magisterium.

Mueller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, celebrated Mass Jan. 1 for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his homily, he reflected on the human desire to embrace substitute gratifications when God is set aside.

“But the one who believes needs no ideology,” he said. The one who hopes will not reach for drugs. The one who loves is not after the lust of this world, which passes along with the world. The one who loves God and his neighbor, finds happiness in the sacrifice of self-giving.”

“We will be happy and free when in the spirit of love we embrace the form of life to which God has called each one of us personally: in the sacrament of marriage, in celibate priesthood, or in religious life according to the three evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience and chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” he continued.

Mueller stressed that thanksgiving is a key part of the Christian life. At the start of the new year, he encouraged Catholics to voice gratitude for all of creation, for sending Christ into the world as our savior, for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Catholic Church, the gift of family, and all the other blessings that can be easily taken for granted.

“As Christians, we have a musical awareness of life: In our hearts resounds the song of thanksgiving of being redeemed. Its melody is love, and its harmony is joy in God,” he said.

Rather than placing hope in fate, he said, the Christian recognizes that suffering is inevitable, but can still find joy in Christ, who also suffered and opened for us the door to eternal life.

In these challenging times, however, scandals in the Church and a crisis among traditionally Christian societies in the West have led many to anxiously wonder whether the rock on which Christ built his Church is crumbling, the cardinal said.

“For some, the Catholic Church is lagging behind by 200 years compared to where the world is today. Is there any truth to this accusation?”

Calls for modernization demand that the Church reject what it holds to be true, for the sake of building a “new religion of world unity,” Mueller warned.

“In order to be admitted to this meta-religion, the only price the Church would have to pay is giving up her truth claim. No big deal, it seems, as the relativism dominant in our world anyway rejects the idea that we could actually know the truth, and presents itself as guarantor of peace between all world views and world religions.”

The post-Christian society welcomes these efforts to reconstruct the Church “as a convenient civil religion,” the cardinal said.

The antidote to secularization within the Church is a life of faith, lived in the enduring truth of Christ, Mueller told those present.

God, who is eternal, cannot be changed by the whims of society, he stressed.

“In the concrete human being Jesus of Nazareth, God’s universal truth is concretely present here and now – in historical time and space,” Mueller said. “Jesus Christ is not the representation of some supratemporal truth: He is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ in person.”


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17 Comments

    • Mueller of the Old Testament. Rigour &
      Discipline. He is not in a position to address the future church. May be the “past” church to which he belongs.

  1. “For some, the Catholic Church is lagging behind by 200 years compared to where the world is today. Is there any truth to this accusation?”

    In some areas Roman Catholics have kept pace with liberals. Faith is not enough if there is some confusion of the moral law, especially with respect to the ordering of families and communities.

  2. We read “that even a number of people in the Church are ‘longing’ [Cardinal Mueller] for a kind of Catholicism without dogmas, without sacraments, and without an infallible magisterium.” (Also, essential New Year’s reading: Cardinal Mueller, Roman Encounters, EWTN Publishing, 2019.)

    How naïve the World Parliament of Religions, at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, compared now to a less innocent parliament of synods within the Church itself.

    Judging from the promiscuous coupling of the Faith with Amazonia’s Pachamama, and soon by the surely more complete take-down of the Church in Germania—the synodal path degenerates into a planned sequence of mutually-validating factional synods, possibly combined with strategic silence from Rome (as in the dubia precedent). As with the real Second Vatican Council versus the falsified “virtual Council,” we now foresee the virtual and widely-marketed synodal path of half-way house Germania….All so very old-hat and predictable.

    And any novelty of an enabling papacy (?) would be nothing new. The precedent is the 7th century Pope Honorius I who, by his own silence, failed to contain the heresy of Monothelitism. But he did not actually promote it! Still, four decades after his death he was anathematized, by the Third Council of Constantinople in 690 A.D., for his ambiguous and “imprudent economy of silence” (wording of Pope Leo II). Eventually, the truth always buries its undertakers.

    In the undertaker-Zeitgeist of our present moment, do we foresee, in effect, the elevation of Pope Honorius I to the ranks of, say, the persecuted prophets? After all, the scorched Joan of Arc is now a saint!

    So, red hats off to the newly-discovered enabling Spirit—dressed up to look like the silent endurance of Christ. But, today it’s not Monothelitism—-whether Christ is the Unity of two wills (both divine and human)—-but whether the Triune God is still the unity of One, or instead, is an ambiguous grafting of the Transcendent onto one fashionable Zeitgeist or another. Amazonia and Germania vote for the latter.

    Time still to pray—as one Church—-for courage, for real discernment of engagement in post-Christian times, and therefore for steadfast Church leadership. As always, clarified in the dogmas, communicated within the sacraments, and upheld by the giftedly-infallible magisterium—-God is the ultimate agent.

  3. As a family this past New Year’s day over dinner my wife and I discussed with my son’s the changes that my wife and I experienced since our birth in the 1960’s. The change of attitudes towards race, ethnicity and religion of the 1970’s; The triumph of Capitalism and rise of the culture of materialism of the 1980’s; The rise of the information age in the 1990’s; The rise of globalism in the 2000’s, but we couldn’t put a label on the 2010’s. I can say for certain that when I was 17 in 1980 that the biggest changes from then to today are hand held computers, digital communities, the perpetual need to be entertained and informed, the ubiquity of sex and violence, the ability to be as inauthentic as possible and the rise of indifference to the relevancy of religion, (With the exception of Islam). Steven Pinker would have no problem calling the 2010’s the decade of the “Triumph of Progress” – I would suggest it was more like a decade of “Universal Hubris in the name of Progress”.

  4. O That Zeitgeist Cardinal Muller bemoans. Rumor has it voluminous thoughts of the Great Council enlightened wafted up to atmospheric heights merged as decades unfolded with many new bright notions of recent some say epochal visions of new paradigms others spiritual ecologic transformation [about the same] floating upwards upwards upwards finally descending descending descending much akin an immense lark of the putrid contaminating kind.

  5. Yes, many want the Church and possibly God to adapt to our ways and to our cultural arrangements and not the other way round.

  6. Adapting to current culture is exactly what Pope Francis has been doing. He may be popular with media, but that does make him a good example for Catholics.

    • Most opinion polls show Pope Francis is considerably less popular with Catholics than with non-Catholics, si you have a point.

  7. We cannot abandon God for culture! No Christ said, “the gates of hell will not prevail his Church”. The world is governed by the devil today and the only resisting Institution today is the Catholic Church. So the Church is the greatest obstacle to Satan. Let Catholics intensify prayers through Mary the Mother of Our Lord for remedy. I enterly agree with Cardinal Muller on his God-given analysis of the current situation.

  8. When I was a child, I was inoculated with the Dogmatic and Moral Teaching of my Catholic Faith. That spiritual serum has protected me through my long life. From time to time the formula and prescription of the inoculation has to be evaluated to see if it is still powerful. It might, probably, need a different formula and should be introduced, but with no destruction of the Dogmatic and Moral Teaching.

  9. Thanks to Diane Montagna’s good reporting and commentary I’m more depressed than previously, or should I say more ominously concerned. When Pachamama first made her splash within Catholicism rescued by police safeguarded by the Pontiff for further adulation at St Peter’s Basilica, quasi [?] venerated ceremoniously toted in propped inside a canoe I half jokingly said on another site [some would say peremptorily the hysterical kind but we need reach out to the peripheries. Besides truth is scrutinized there unabashedly] “The Abomination of Desolation?” Now that highly respected credentialed men like Cardinal Burke are expressing alarm of Mother Earth worship I fear. The event Ms Montagna covered [a Christmastide Vatican celebration] pictured the folding of arms across the breast of prelate defenders of the faith in prayerful honor of the goddess of the Andes. Hard to believe the photos but true – we must call it as it is. How else do we identify idolatry and explain the alarm of men like Cardinals Raymond Burke as well as Cardinal Gerhard Muller? A pity John Paul II, a man with deep devotion to Mary and her place in the schemata of salvation innocently coined the phraseology “ecological conversion” during a 2001 audience not knowing that it would be exploited today as we witness a turn toward the Zeitgeist of the Day. The Pontiff urging priests convert ecologically, that the Church must follow the lead of the UN. John Paul’s legacy is not only being eradicated but used where convenient. What must we do but arm ourselves with Christ’s weaponry truth and justice.

    • Regarding obsequious prelate defenders of Pachamama idolatry, we read: “How […]do we explain the alarm of men like Cardinals Raymond Burke as well as Cardinal Gerhard Mueller?”

      How about this very eloquent explanation/excerpt from Mueller’s recent book (Roman Encounters,2019):

      “No matter if someone knows the whole of Sacred Scripture by heart, has studied all the Church Fathers and is well qualified in modern philosophy and science, all it takes is for one journalist from the provinces or a mediocre hobby theologian [great label!] to denigrate him as a conservative or even arch-conservative and all his knowledge is cancelled out in the same way as if the finest wine is rendered unfit for consumption if some idiot mixes poison with it.”

      • Yes. We’ve entered the inscrutable Age of Aquarius when Church in league with a culture of death defames the Just. In any event Christus Vincit.

  10. “…the relativism dominant in our world anyway rejects the idea that we could actually know the truth…”

    The forces of relativism could not exist or grow absent this core belief. Just as, in secular law, truth historically has been an absolute defense against libel, so God’s truth is the hammer that crushes humanism, and must be banished from all thinking. Perfect example: as science inexorably moves to the reality that life begins at or very near conception, demands for and defense of the killing of the unborn grow louder, angrier, and more insistent. Otherwise, the people defending “choice” would have to confront the truth of their vast, unconscionable destruction of life. That they cannot do.

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