In Depth Interview with Cardinal Müller
National Catholic Register in what I think is the most important and revealing interview I have read regarding the situation in the Church at the moment.
I have felt frustrated with Cardinal Müller who obviously understands the depth of crisis we are in, but has remained quiet and publicly supportive of the Pope when he could have spoken out against Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis' lack of response to the dubia. Now he has been removed as prefect of the Congrgation for the Doctrine of the Faith, there is a real risk that any comments he makes will be see as sour grapes. HOWEVER, it strikes me that in this interview, the Cardinal is very balanced and very gracious, making his respect for the person of the Pope clear, while also making his opinion on certain controversial issues equally clear. I found his lament:
"I am sure that anybody will denounce me also for this interview, but I hope that the Holy Father will read my complete interview here and not only some headlines, which cannot give a complete impression of what I said."...quite troubling really and expressive of his frustration at being misrepresented to the Holy Father by "opportunists, careerists and false friends who are concerned not for the good of the Church, but for their own financial interests and self-advancement."
I found his comments about Pope Francis rather comforting. To me they cut through any false images and show something of what the man is truly about, and what he is about is perhaps not as monstrous as we might fear:
He [Francis] thinks his contribution is not in this way, because what is clear is to have pastoral approach from the so-called Third World. The poor are the key for the New Evangelization, and he wants that, it is true, and a very good intention to try to overcome this contraposition in the Church. The Holy Father wants to say not only this or that is not allowed, but to give more importance to good intentions, positivity, to say that the Gospel is in favor of life, not only against abortion, for example.Cardinal Müller presents some interesting insights into the Pope's motivation and intention which, although they may be well intentioned, appear to be being horribly misused by others in the Church:
In Amoris Laetitia there’s no new doctrine or explication of some juridical points of the doctrine, but an acceptance of the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. The only question is their pastoral application in extraordinary situations. The Pope will not and cannot change either the doctrine or the sacraments. What he wants is to help couples in very difficult circumstances as a good shepherd, but in accord with the word of God.It seems plausible that this is the intention of the Holy Father's work with the extraordinary synods, but even if it is so, it is not working out well, and that would seem to be because the Pope has enlisted the help of people with a different agenda and refused the help of those more qualified to speak for the Church:
I don’t know who made the synthesis of all texts and brought them to the Holy Father. If it were so, that the same people who made the first draft also made the ultimate redaction and that they decided whether or not how to accept the suggestions or not, then that would not be in order.Cardinal Müller goes into some detail about the nature of the CDF, eg:
it’s clear that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the most important because the mission of the Church is preaching the Gospel of the truth of revelation.
The Holy Father, as Successor of St. Peter, has to unite the Church. His mission and task is to proclaim, “You are Christ, Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). All the other truths are included in this Christological reality, in relation to the Triune God and in Christ’s revelation to us as the Redeemer of all mankind. Therefore, the congregation is so important for the Holy Father.
...I’m afraid that there is no clear idea of the ecclesiological status of the Roman Church in the form of the congregation of the cardinals and the Roman Curia. Some think that a pope personally can do whatever he wants because he is absolute sovereign, but that’s not true.Is it a stretch to imagine that what the Cardinal is saying here is that the Pope and his collaborators do not understand the role of the Pope or of the curia? He certainly appears to be saying that there is a lack of understanding of how the Vatican should work and how it is actually being manipulated. This dichotomy could well be the key factor to understanding the current dysfunction in Rome.
Asked about the present confusion over Amoris Laetitia, Cardinal Müller is clear that the Pope should not be blamed for the confusion, (which by implication he clearly acknowledges and admits) but he firmly asserts that it is the Pope who is authorised by Jesus Christ to overcome it. He points out that the pope, as bishop of the first apostolic Church in the worldwide communion of Catholic Churches is the permanent principle and foundation of the unity of the Church in the faith and the communion in love. This would seem to point out the fact that it is that unity which is being damaged by the present situation.
One particularly damning statement in the interview concerns the promotion of careerists to influential position and the sacking of loyal staff. This is obviously something Cardinal Müller feels very strongly about as he practically teared-up discussing it in this interview on EWTN. In his interview with Pentin, Cardinal Müller states:
Careerists and opportunists should not be promoted, and other people who are competent collaborators not excluded without any reason or expelled from the Curia. It’s not good. I heard it from some houses here, that people working in the Curia are living in great fear: If they say one small or harmless critical word, some spies will pass the comments directly to the Holy Father, and the falsely accused people don’t have any chance to defend themselves. These people, who are speaking bad words and lies against other persons, are disturbing and disrupting the good faith, the good name of others whom they are calling their brothers.This does seem to be a direct criticism of Pope Francis handling of the CDF, especially when you consider Cardinal Müller's comments earlier in the interview: "Some think that a pope personally can do whatever he wants because he is absolute sovereign, but that’s not true."
The Gospel and the words of Jesus are very strong against those who denounce their brothers and who are creating this bad atmosphere of suspicion. I’ve heard that nobody speaks; everyone is a little afraid because they can be snitched on. It’s not the behavior of adult people, but that of a boarding school.
This theme appears to continue in the context of criticisms of Amoris Laetitia and now the Cardinal seems to be giving a less guarded opinion of what is going on:
The Holy Father, Francis, must know that it is important one accepts his intention: to help those people who are distant from the Church, from the belief of the Church, from Jesus Christ, who wanted to help them. … This discussion is not against him, it is not against his intentions, but there is need of more clarification. Also, in the past, we had discussions about the faith and the pastoral application of it. It’s not the first time this has happened in the Church, and so why not learn from our long experiences as Church, to have a good, profound discussion in promoting the faith, the life of the Church and not to personalize and polarize? It’s not a personal criticism of him, and everybody must learn it and respect his high responsibility. It is a very big danger for the Church that some ideological groups present themselves as the exclusive guardians of the only true interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. They feel they have the right to condemn all people of another standpoint as stupid, rigid, old-fashioned, medieval, etc.At first I thought he was going to criticise those who have a negative view of Amoris Laetitia here, but rather, he attacks those who call the document's critics rigid, who does that more than Pope Francis himself on a practically daily basis?
Nobody can, for example, say Cardinal Caffarra didn’t understand anything of moral theology. Sometimes the un-Christian behavior is printed in L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, or given in official organs of the media, to make polemics and rhetoric. This cannot help us in this situation — only a profound theological discussion will.
Cardinal Müller is completely correct here though in saying that criticisms of the way Pope Francis is trying to help people do not amount to criticisms of his intention but attempts to assist in a way that retains and deepens the unity of the Church rather than causes division and problems. It seems clear he is saying that the Francis "camp" if you like, displays an unwillingness to discuss, and a tendency to make things personal. This is in continuity with the impression we have gleaned in the wider Church I feel. This is reinforced by the Cardinal's next comments, where he states:
I’ve noticed that those who support so-called progressivism never have theological arguments. The only method they have is to discredit other persons, calling them “conservative” — and this changes the real point, which is the reality of the faith, and not in your personal subjective, psychological disposition.I have been tweeting about this all week. In a by now recognisable pattern, all the usual suspects have tweeted responses to the Correctio filialis which have been, just as predicted, focused solely on the character of those signing rather than pertaining to the content of the document. Quite simply, given the reality of the concerns surrounding the Pope's teaching (notwithstanding Müller's attempts to fend off such criticism in this interview by stating, correctly, that much of what he says is not Magisterial: "nobody is obliged to accept uncritically everything that he’s saying, for example, about political or scientific questions. That’s his personal opinion, but nothing to do with our Catholic faith") why on earth would the Pope decide not to be clear about the orthodoxy of his teaching? What could possibly make him chose to be silent when heresy is being actuated in his name, for example in Malta, unless that is precisely what he wants to take place? Those who claim to understand what he is teaching say he is not changing teaching, then he is, if they are really as confused as they appear to be, God help the poor faithful who are supposed to follow the Church's teaching!
We have the inseparable relation between faith and life, grace and love, and not the dualism between theory and practice. It is a Marxist approach to distinguish the two. We are not speaking from theory because belief isn’t a theory; belief is the unity with God in our conscience. Our categories are not theory and praxis, but truth and life, both gifts of grace, forms of the communication with God in the Church as the Body of Christ. Therefore, pastoral practice means coming to a true understanding of what Christ as pastor and good shepherd is doing for us, leading us to the eternal life.Asked about the dubia directly, the Cardinal seems to say that the Pope should have received the dubia cardinals and dealt with the issue earlier.
The best thing would have been for the Holy Father to have had an audience before their publication. Now we have the spectacle of a trial of strength. It’s better to speak before and to deepen the questions and give good answers.Regarding the Correctio, Cardinal Müller is far from dismissive, saying that the Pope's honest critics deserve a convincing answer. He is critical of those invoking the Holy Spirit as the force behind new directions:
there is a certain Pentecostal misunderstanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. In the Incarnate Word of God, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to us is given all the grace and truth. The Holy Spirit actualizes the full revelation in the doctrine, the sacraments of the Church. The Holy Father plays here a very important role in the apostolic Tradition, but not the only one. His teaching is regulated by the word of God in the Bible and the dogmatic Tradition of the Church. The magisterium and all the believers are supported by the Holy Spirit in the actualization of the full and complete revelation, but they do not receive any new public revelation as a part of the depositum fidei, as it confirmed the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, 25).
Nobody can demand of a Catholic to believe a doctrine which is in an obvious contradiction to the Holy Scripture, apostolic Tradition and the dogmatic definitions of the Popes and ecumenical councils in the matter of faith and morals. What is needed is a religious obedience, but not a blind faith, to the Pope and the bishops, and nothing at all to private friends and advisers.
These people must come out with their arguments, and they are not allowed to demand any respect for their presumed magisterial authority. We do not just believe things because a Pope teaches them, but because these truths are included in Revelation (cf. II.Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 10).So what have we learnt here?
- Careerists and opportunists are sowing discord in the Roman Curia
- These people seek to undermine those who would give authentic counsel to the Holy Father
- The important, even vital role of the CDF is being reduced, sometimes even ignored, and unity is suffering as a direct result.
- A pervading sense of fear is preventing more people, particularly priests, seminarians and professors, from daring to openly criticize aspects of this pontificate (as Fr Ray Blake movingly articulated yesterday).
- The stand off over the dubia is damaging the Church. The way forward must be dialogue.
Read this extensive interview in full here.