Rorate Caeli

In charge of the henhouse?

Gerhard Müller, Bishop of Regensburg, once again has his name mentioned as a possible successor to Cardinal Levada as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Marco Tosatti reports for La Stampa:

After Easter, and after his trip to Cuba, Benedict XVI will address one of the problems that are dearest to him: namely, the choice of a successor to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, William Levada. It is one of the most important positions in the the Curia and the Church and Benedict XVI knows this, having been at the helm of the congregation for a quarter of a century. Some sources close to the Vatican say the Pope’s choice seems almost certain: Levada's successor should be Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the Archbishop of Regensburg. If this Is true, we will be witnessing a revival, high up in the Church, of a form of theology which for decades has been more a cause of problems for the Church, than it has been a resource: Liberation Theology.

Honestly... Gutiérrez-mania seems to be the smallest of worries. Tosatti helpfully catalogues some of his opinions, which we present below in more complete and accurate quotes (in a darker color) which the Italian article mentioned only in passing:

On the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary:

In his 900-page work "Katholische Dogmatik. Für Studium und Praxis der Theologie" (Freiburg. 5th Edition, 2003), Müller would have denied the dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary claiming that the doctrine is "not so much concerned with specific physiological proprieties in the natural process of birth (such as the birth canal not having been opened, the hymen not being broken, or the absence of birth pangs), but with the healing and saving influence of the grace of the Savior on human nature."

On the Real Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord in the transubstantiated Eucharistic species:

In 2002, bishop Müller published the book "Die Messe - Quelle des christlichen Lebens" (St. Ulrich Verlag, Augsburg). In this book, he speaks of the Sacrament of the Altar and warns against using the terms "body and blood" in this context. These terms would cause "misunderstandings", "when flesh and blood are considered to mean the physical and biological components of the human Jesus. Neither is it simply the transfigured body of the resurrected Lord that is being designated."

Bishop Müller continues: "In reality, the body and blood of Christ do not mean the material components of the human person of Jesus during his lifetime or in his transfigured corporality. Here, body and blood mean the presence of Christ in the signs of the medium of bread and wine."

Holy Communion transmits according to Müller a "community with Jesus Christ, mediated by eating and drinking the bread and the wine. Even in the merely personal human sphere, something like a letter may represent the friendship between people and, that is to say, show and embody the sympathy of the sender for the receiver." Bread and wine thus only become "symbols of his salvific presence".

That is how Mgr Müller explains a "change of being" in the Eucharistic gifts:

"The essential definition of bread and wine has to be conceived in an anthropological way. The natural essence of these offerings [bread and wine] as the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands, as the unity of natural and cultural products consists in clarifying the nourishment and sustenance of man and the communion of the people in the sign of a common meal [...]. This natural essence of bread and wine is transfigured by God in the sense that the essence of bread and wine is made to consist exclusively in showing and realizing the salvific communion with God."

On Protestantism and the unicity and salvific universality of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as recalled in the Declaration Dominus Iesus:

Bp. Müller revealed a very vague ecclesiastical conception on October 11, 2011, during an honorific speech for Johannes Friedrich, regional "bishop" of the ‘Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria’. The occasion was the bestowal of the ecumenical award of the ‘Catholic Academy of Bavaria’.
On this occasion Mgr Müller said the following:

"Baptism is the fundamental sign that sacramentally unites us in Christ, and which presents us as the one Church in front of the world. Thus, we as Catholic and Evangelical Christians are already united even in what we call the visible Church. Strictly speaking, there are not several Churches one beside the other -- these are rather divisions and separations within the one people and house of God."

For Bishop Müller opposition against "Dominus Iesus" was merely based on "misunderstanding":

"The assertion that the Ecclesial Communities that have not upheld valid episcopacy ... are not Churches (plural) in a proper sense is not translated theologically correctly by the bold statement that 'the Evangelical Church is not actually a Church'. That is because the plural designates the Churches as local Churches with a bishop. The question here is not whether the confessional Churches of reformed character are actual Churches -- it is rather whether sacramental episcopacy is a constitutive element of a local Church or of a diocese. The difference between an Evangelical local Church and a Catholic diocese is being described -- not evaluated. The Catholic Magisterium is far from denying an ecclesial character or an ecclesial existence to ‘the separated Churches and ecclesial Communities of the West’ (UR 19)."

Bishop Müller describes the heart of ecumenism as follows:

"We no longer define the relations among us on the basis of existing differences in doctrine, life or in the constitution of the Church, but rather based on what we have in common, that is, on the very foundation on which we stand."

Tosatti adds the following:

Americans, who in recent weeks have been making their ad limina visits to Rome, believe that the successor to William Levada should be an English speaking figure, since the "front" of the Church's doctrinal battle is taking place mainly in the U.S. and in the Anglo-Saxon world in general. In Rome, among those people who enjoy the Pope’s esteem and whom he listens to, is the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, Raymond Leo Burke. Overseas, Allen Henry Vigneron’s name has cropped up as a possible ideal candidate. He is Archbishop of Detroit and a leading expert on philosophy and theology.


  1. An interesting paper by Bishop Mueller on the liturgy:

    It starts well enough but gets murkier towards the end. Here is one passage characterized by Rahnerian levels of obfuscation:

    "The cross is in reality a bloody sacrifice not in the ritual sense of a pagan human or animal offering, but because the sacrificial act consists in the gift of Self for the redemption of mankind, which includes Jesus' gift of his own human life (see Hebrews 5:8 and following). In accordance with this, eating and drinking "of his flesh and His blood" is not a initiatory banquet or a "feeding oneself on the body of a God" in the real or metaphorical sense of some mystery religions, but the real human communion with the "word of God Incarnate" (John 1:14), in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, who makes a gift of his flesh, hence of his life, for the life of the world.

    Those who are part of this bread, meaning that they are familiar with the historical and paschal Jesus, remain in Christ and Christ remains in them: "As the living Father has sent me and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me" (John 6:57). Jesus reveals himself this way: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48). The sacramental acceptance of the gifts of bread and wine transmit an authentic "koninis" with the Word Incarnate and gives to those who believe in his name, "the power to be made the sons of God" (John 1:12)."

  2. "Americans, who in recent weeks have been making their ad limina visits to Rome, believe that the successor to William Levada should be an English speaking figure, since the "front" of the Church's doctrinal battle is taking place mainly in the U.S. and in the Anglo-Saxon world in general."

    The theological situation in the USA is anything but grand, but it is far better compared to the situation in Europe, which is why I'd personally prefer an American prelate to sit in the CDF than someone from Western Europe.

  3. Johnny Domer8:38 PM

    I dislike arguments that reject scholarly work in theology out of hand in favor of a kind of a so-called "simple Gospel" approach (which is often facilely employed by theologically unsophisticated Protestants). However, there comes a point when someone is so entirely in an "intellectual" mindset that he can't give a straight answer to anything. I think Bishop Muller has gone to that excess. Not only is his teaching on those points theologically problematic, it's also laughably convoluted (especially his bit about Dominus Iesus: "Just because Dominus Iesus says that Protestant denominations aren't Churches doesn't mean that this individual protestant denomination isn't a Church." Yeah...). It's like he's incapable of affirming anything in a simple fashion.

    Archbishop Vigneron would be a zillion times better than Muller.

  4. I'm going to agree with Mr. Domer here. This "critique" of Mueller reads like the usual reactionary claptrap that comes from people who haven't done their homework. His theology, based on the de-contextualized excerpts presented, reads like standard Continental theology: vague, jargon-laden, and desperate to blend orthodox doctrine with (post)modern concepts. It's a failed project, but not a particularly dangerous one in the long term. This "stuff" doesn't have the power to redirect the Church; it will pass out of memory in a generation or two, just like so many theological currents which began to enter the mix from the 18th C. onward.

    But seriously, has anyone on this blog actually read Mueller's book (in German)? My suspicion is that the answer is a big fat, "" And with that, I'll do the "scholarly" thing and reserve judgment until a competent authority can weigh-in on the matter.

  5. The Holy Father has rarely disappoints and truly he could not do this with such an important appointment. Levada was not popular first but he did not do anything awful during his tenure. So, lets wait and see.

  6. Concerned Catholic9:55 PM

    If Mueller becomes the head of the CDF we can kiss Catholic tradition, and the SSPX goodbye.

  7. Actually, given Pope Benedict XVI's comments in Germany on his belief that the entire Christian community has passed beyond the 'confessional period,' and into some kind of undefined 'unitive' period, Mueller's statements seem quite in accord.

    Cardinal Burke would be an infinitely better choice. But I think this Mueller may think more like the Pope than is commonly believed.

  8. I think this is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

  9. Brian1:22 AM

    Would our Holy Father appoint someone to such an important position if he did not endorse his theology as being in accord with his own understanding of the Catholic Faith?

  10. Brian said, "Would our Holy Father appoint someone to such an important position if he did not endorse his theology as being in accord with his own understanding of the Catholic Faith?"

    Well, Brian. That's the rub.

    Concerned Catholic said, "If Mueller becomes the head of the CDF we can kiss Catholic tradition, and the SSPX goodbye."

    Let us pray the Holy Father makes his (pray favorable) decision on the SSPX before he makes any such appointment to the CDF!

    Dang, this just keeps going on and on and on...


  11. "It's a failed project, but not a particularly dangerous one in the long term."

    Not, not dangerous at all. Vatican II has done no damage. And the Church is enjoying a lovely Springtime. been. And we can Hope That All Will Be Saved.

  12. Methodius5:48 AM

    "His theology, based on the de-contextualized excerpts presented, reads like standard Continental theology: vague, jargon-laden, and desperate to blend orthodox doctrine with (post)modern concepts. It's a failed project, but not a particularly dangerous one in the long term."


    No amount of context can make a wrong statement right, or a heterodox comment into something orthodox.

  13. Is there any reason why people think their opinion is more likely to be published if it is more offensive?

    Anyway, this is just to note, which seemed to be obvious, that this merely reproduces Marco Tosatti's article for La Stampa. We only added some information to what Tosatti had already mentioned. So your beef, modestinus, is with Tosatti - who originally wrote this in Italian, so we believe his intended audience was not this blog...

  14. New Catholic, this time you better be wrong!

    What a horrible choice that would be!

  15. Texana3:14 PM

    New Catholic:
    Thank you for defending us poor uneducated non-theologians. Of course a few of us have graduated with advanced degrees in other fields along with facilities in several languages and life experiences which give a more rounded basis for evaulation of thought, opinion. and snarky remarks.

  16. You are welcome, Texana, you are absolutely right. And you have no idea what the kinds of comments from professional theologians we have had to block. For some reason, they think they own some kind of esoteric knowledge that only the initiated can discuss. It is with this attitude that so many Modernist ideas infiltrated the Church in the past century, when the sensus fidelium would have prevented their advance if they had been presented in direct terms.

    (As a matter of fact, we rarely discuss theological matters in this blog; in this post, we merely presented a few opinions of a specific prelate, but we did not say that they are right or wrong - not our place.)


  17. Desert Father7:35 PM

    It seems to me that the logical choice for CDF prefect would be someone for whom faith has been a matter of life and death, rather than convenience. If the Holy Father is thinking in these terms, then a number of African or Indian cardinals--such as Oswald Gracias in Mumbai--might be in the running. Oh, that Cardinal Arinze were a younger man ...

  18. All of the Eucharisitc miracles I have read about insist objectively that we may believe in biological factors - blood, skin cells and all the other components of flesh. This is Our Blessed Lord we are talking about not some postmodern semiological phenomenon. "Hoc est enim Corpus Meum". Thank you Your Grace.

  19. Steven S3:46 PM

    LeonG It seems to me that the Eucharistic miracles are signs of the invisible reality. As St. Thomas said, we do not receive Christ physically, we receive him substantially. Cells, blood, etc are all physical properties- they are all accidents. We receive Jesus-body, soul and divinity- but in some why not physically. We just have to be too careful to call people heretics.

  20. St. Helen, pray for us5:26 PM

    Steven - let's see that quote from St. Thomas in order that we might assess your interpretation of it.

  21. The appointment has been made:

    How will this help the cause of reconciling the SSPX?


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