Cardinal Müller 'bitter and concerned' with Church's direction
The former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has requested Church authorities to listen to the “fair complaints” of Pope Francis’ opponents, the Italian daily "Il Corriere della Sera" has reported.
November 29, 2017
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller / Alberto PizzolI / AFP
“There is a front made up of traditionalist groups as well as a number of progressives, who would like to see me lead a movement against the pope, but I will never do it."
These were the words of Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Massimo Franco, columnist at the Italian daily Il Corriere dela Sera, in an interview published on Sunday, November 26.
Müller, who has previously distanced himself from a series of pontifical moves, revealed that he was both bitter and concerned with the direction the Church is taking.
Insisting that he believed in “the unity of the Church", Cardinal Müller nevertheless called on Church authorities “to listen to those who have serious questions and fair complaints".
“We must not ignore them or, worse, humiliate them,” he emphasized.
“If not, without intending it, the risk of a slow separation may grow and lead to a schism by a section of the Catholic world that feels disoriented and disappointed," Cardinal Müller warned.
“The history of Martin Luther’s Protestant schism 500 years ago should indicate the kind of mistakes we need to avoid," he said.
Although he had previously harshly criticized his dismissal as the head of the Congregation for the Faith, he revealed several new aspects of this in his Corriere interview.
Pope Francis reportedly said to him that “certain people have told me anonymously that you are my enemy".
“After forty years of service to the Church,” he lamented, “gossips are making such absurd comments, creating doubts in the mind of the pope when they would have done better to visit a psychiatrist.”
Reaffirming his loyalty to Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller claimed that the pontiff’s “real friends are not those who flatter him” but “those who assist him with the truth and with theological and human expertise".
He had severe words for the “detractors” whom he blamed for his departure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Refuting the notion of a plot against the pope as “an absolute exaggeration", he admitted that significant “tensions” exist in the Church at present.
“I believe that the cardinals who expressed their doubts on Amoris Laetitia or the 62 signatories to a letter making critical comments about the pope, including some which were excessive, should be listened to and not swept aside with the back of the hand as if they were Pharisees or malcontents,” Cardinal Müller said.
What is needed is “free and frank dialogue,” he added.
Instead, he feared that people within the pope’s “magic circle” are “worried primarily about spying on perceived enemies, preventing open and balanced discussion".
In a sign of his good faith, Cardinal Müller recently issued a public defense of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the family, which has crystallized the various conflicts.
“To classify all Catholics as ‘friends’ or ‘enemies’ of the pope is the greatest evil that they cause to the Church,” Cardinal Müller insisted.
“People are perplexed when they see a well-known journalist, who is also an atheist, claim to be a friend of the pope, while a Catholic bishop and cardinal like me, is defamed as an opponent of the pope.
“I don’t think that these people are in a position to give theology lessons on the primacy of the sovereign pontiff,” he said.
Compared to Benedict XVI’s pontificate, the Church now seems “weaker,” Cardinal Müller continued.
“There are fewer and fewer priests yet we are offering answers that are more organizational, political or diplomatic than theological and spiritual," he said.
“The Church is not a political party based on power struggles. We need to discuss existential issues about life and death, the family, and religious vocations and not always ecclesiastical politics,” he added.
“Pope Francis is popular and that’s a good thing. However, people are no longer receiving the sacraments. And his popularity among those Catholics who enthusiastically quote him, unfortunately, does not change their false convictions,” the cardinal insisted.
It is now necessary to go beyond the notion of a Church as a “country hospital", Cardinal Müller said, citing an expression popularized by Pope Francis.
He said, instead, that the world needs a “Silicon Valley” Church.
“We need to become the Steve Jobs of the faith and transmit a powerful vision in terms of moral and cultural values," the cardinal claimed.