Rorate Caeli

Müller speaks: The Church, a house of many rooms

The new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Abp. Gerhard Müller, granted his first interview, after his appointment, to KNA, the German bishops's news agency (in German). Dutch Catholic blog In Caelo et in Terra has provided a translation, to which we made minor adaptations:

KNA: Archbishop, what is your feeling regarding your appointment?
Müller: Gratitude for the confidence that the pope has in me. It is not an easy task, considering the whole universal Church; but it is a beautiful assignment to be able to serve the pope in his teaching office. The position has a universal ecclesiastic dimension – and has nothing to do with centralisation.
KNA: When did you learn that you would be going to Rome?
Müller: Some time ago. But the change of office needs to run its ordered course.
KNA: Do you know why the pope has appointed you? Did he want a German, a theologian, someone he trusted?
Müller: It certainly wasn’t about nationality, and as Catholics we all belong to the universal Church. But the Holy Father knows me, and my theological work, not only as an author, but also as an expert of the Synod of Bishops in Rome and in the committees of Ecumenism and Faith of the German Bishops’ Conference.
KNA: When do you start in your office?
Müller: I have already started, on July 2.
KNA: You are now one of the most important people in the Vatican, and one of the closest collaborators of the pope. What will be your first steps?
Müller: I have already met with the superiors of the Congregation, in order to get an overview of the daily procedures and duties. The scope is very broad: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith consists of three departments: the doctrinal, disciplinary, and marriage departments. The prefect is at also president of the Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission. We have about fifty immediate employees. Then there are the “Feria quarta”, the meetings of cardinals, which take place every four weeks.
KNA: What are your major priorities?
Müller: The Congregation is responsible for the promotion of the doctrine of the faith, and not only for its protection. The 1965 reorganisation of the dicastery placed this positive aspect in its heart. It is about the promotion of theology and its basis in Revelation, to ensure its quality, and to consider the relevant intellectual developments on a global scale. We cannot simply and mechanically repeat the doctrine of the faith. It must always be associated with the intellectual developments of the time, the sociological changes, the thinking of people.
KNA: What do you want to emphasize especially? What do you want to especially deal with in the near future?
Müller: The Congregation has the task of supporting the pope in his Magisterium. We must guide ourselves based on the emphases he makes in his pronouncements. During his visit to Germany, Benedict XVI put the question of God at the centre. He also spoke of the ‘worldliness’ of the Church – a topic not only intended for Germany. It is about a right understanding of the nature and mission of the Church; about finding the right balance between isolating onself from the world and adapting to it – so that we can truly serve the world in the name of Jesus Christ. In particular, we have to counter a widespread apathy in matters of faith. The ‘Year of Faith’, with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Council and twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will be an essential contribution to this.
KNA: You begin your service in a turbulent time for the Vatican. Or is the Vatican currently back on its feet again?
Müller: I don’t know much about this concretely. It remains to be seen what the investigations will reveal. What seems important to me is that the good works of the many hundreds of employees in the Curia are not overlooked. They are unfairly associated with these individual actions; the impression is created that everyone is involved. That is totally out of the question.
KNA: Another major topic in Rome is the anniversary of the Council. What do you expect from looking back to it?
Müller: We do not need a hermeneutic that is imposed upon the Council from the outside. It is important to explore the hermeneutic that is included in the Council itself: the hermeneutic of reform in continuity, as the Holy Father has repeatedly underlined. A Council is an expression of the highest Magisterium of the Church in communion of bishops and the Pope.
In this sense, the Second Vatican Council was a wonderful event, albeit from a somewhat different type than some previous councils. It was its legitimate intention to respond not only to certain errors and correct them, but to provide an overall view of the Catholic faith. It was not so much concerned with individual elements, but with the big picture, the vast architecture of the Church represented by large rooms where you can feel at home and dwell joyfully.
KNA: The Council, however, also created problems, for example, for the Society of Saint Pius X.
Müller: Everyone who calls oneself Catholic will also have to keep the principles of the Catholic faith. These are not pre-formulated by the CDF or by anyone else, but given to us in the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ, which has been entrusted to the Church. Therefore, one cannot simply pick from it what fits in a given structure.
Rather, one must be open oneself to the whole of the Christian faith, the whole profession of faith, the Church’s history and development of her teaching. One must be open to the living Tradition which does not end somewhere – say, in 1950 – but goes on. Inasmuch as we appreciate history with its great achievements, we must also see that every era is also directly related to God. Every era has its own challenges. We cannot declare a [specific] historical time as the classical standard, but we move along from one summit to the next one.