Rorate Caeli

Cardinal Müller reveals Consistory speech on “unlimited power of the papacy,” says this view “contradicts the entire Catholic tradition”

The following article is translated from an interview published on September 23, 2022 by InfoVaticana (here).

German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has granted an interview to InfoVaticana. The Cardinal responded to the questions of this media without beating around the bush and entered fully into the questions raised about the recent consistory of cardinals held in Rome at the end of August and about the dramatic situation that the Church in Germany is going through. Cardinal Müller has just finished preaching a spiritual retreat to more than 400 priests in Poland. Müller will visit Spain next October, where, on the 25th, he will participate in a conference in Madrid on “John Paul II and the New Evangelization. Source of moral and spiritual renewal”.

Interview with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller

InfoVaticana: A few weeks ago you participated in the Consistory of Cardinals in Rome. With what feelings did you undertake that event?

Cardinal Müller: First of all, I thanked the Holy Father for reconvening a consistory after a break of many years so that the cardinals could discuss with him the situation of the Church in today’s world. But the topic was limited to the discussion of the already published document Praedicate Evangelium on the reform of the curia and on the Holy Year 2025.

Some cardinals regret that they were not able to speak as much as they would have liked. Was there an opportunity for the cardinals to express their concerns to the pope?

There was no opportunity to discuss the burning issues—for example, the frontal attack on the Christian image of man by the ideologies of posthumanism and gender madness, or the crisis of the Church in Europe (there are no more priestly vocations, churches are empty on Sundays, etc.).

On the other hand, critical contributions referred to the theory of the papacy as an unlimited power of divine right over the whole Church, as if the pope were a Deus in terris. The newly appointed Cardinal Ghirlanda, SJ, as the pope’s most important advisor on curial reform, holds the view that everything the popes have said or done in the course of Church history is either dogma or law de jure divino.

This view contradicts the entire Catholic tradition, and especially Vatican II, [which overcame the error] that bishops and priests only had authority to perform sacramental acts while the pope was in exclusive possession of all jurisdiction, which he could delegate at will to clergy or laity. In reality, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, Christ confers on the bishop (or priest) the authority to preach, sanctify, and govern, even to administer justice. The pope does not confer jurisdiction on a bishop, but only assigns a specific diocese to a bishop, who is not a representative of the papacy, but of Jesus Christ (Lumen Gentium 27). In an ecumenical council, the consecrated bishops exercise their share in the jurisdiction of the universal episcopate not as delegates of the pope, but by virtue of the authority conferred upon them by Christ. The theory of the pope as autocrat, brought over from nineteenth-century Jesuit theology, not only contradicts the Second Vatican Council, but undermines the credibility of the Church with a caricature of the Petrine ministry. The promise of an ecumenical meditation of the Catholic doctrine of the pope (cf. John Paul II’s 1995 Encyclical Ut unum sint) as “the perpetual and visible principle of the Church’s unity in the truth of Christ” (cf. Lumen gentium 18; 23) is made frankly ridiculous [by that theory of unlimited power].

What issues would you highlight that are currently of major importance in the Vatican?

By “Vatican” we mean the accidental institutions of the Holy See. But I speak here of the ministry made by the Roman Church, that is, of the pope with the College of Cardinals (and the institutions of the Roman Curia) to the communion and unity of all the local Churches in the truth of divine revelation and the sacramental mission of bringing all men to the knowledge of Christ, Son of God and only mediator of salvation.

A somewhat controversial question: why is there more and more talk in the Church about issues such as ecology, the earth, or other topics, and less and less about Jesus Christ and his teachings?

In a world in which the meaning and goal of the human being is materially limited to temporal and transitory contents such as the acquisition of power, prestige, money, luxury, pleasurable satisfaction, it is easier to make oneself interesting as an agent of this program of a “New World Order without God” (according to capitalist or communist readings). “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” (Mt 16:26). If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we must obey his word: “Seek rather his kingdom, and the rest will be given to you besides” (Lk 12:31).

There is no strict opposition between the eternal/spiritual goods and the temporal/perishable needs of life. But first we pray God, our Father, that his Kingdom come and that his holy will be done on earth as in heaven. And we also ask for our daily bread, the forgiveness of our sins as we forgive those who offend us, and salvation from all the evils derived from our sinful separation from God, as the origin and goal of every human being.

In his succession to St. Peter, the Pope unites the whole Church daily in the confession of Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). And Christ builds his Church on Peter, the rock, giving him and the bishops the authority to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, to administer the Sacraments and, as good shepherds, to lead the flock of Christ to the good pasture of the Word and of Grace.

The whole Church has followed with attention and concern the steps of the German Synodal Way. What do you think of the decisions of the IV Assembly of the German Synodal Way?

In theatrical language, one would not know exactly whether to speak of tragedy or comedy with regard to this event. All the texts, very abundant but not very profound, do not deal with the renewal of Catholics in Christ, but with a surrender to a world without God. The only theme among all the themes is sexuality. However, it is not understood as God’s gift given to human beings as created persons in our male and female nature, from which derives the responsibility to participate as father and mother in the work of God’s creation and the universal will of salvation for one’s offspring, but as a kind of drug to numb a basic nihilistic feeling with the maximum satisfaction of pleasure.

Both Cardinal Marx and Georg Bätzing supported the texts that asked the pope for a change in sexual morality, the ordination of women, and the evaluation of homosexuality. What do you think?

There are two errors in this regard that only theological ignoramuses can make. First, the pope has no authority to change the teaching of the Church, which is rooted in God’s revelation. In trying to do so, he would exalt himself as a man above God. Second, the apostles can only teach and ordain what Jesus commanded them to teach (Mt 28:19). It is precisely the bishops, as well as their ongoing successors, who are called to the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) in Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition, and the irreformable doctrinal definitions of previous papal ex cathedra decisions or of ecumenical councils. “The Roman Pontiff and the Bishops…do not accept any new public revelation as belonging to the divine deposit of faith” (Lumen gentium 25; cf. Dei verbum 10).

Have you had the opportunity to speak with any of the bishops of Germany who hold these offices?

According to the logic of power, which shuns the truth as the devil shuns holy water, it makes no sense for them to speak to the former prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. But even Cardinal Kasper, whom they once celebrated as an ally on the question of communion for remarried divorcees, has been silenced by them after his critical statements on the synodal path.

What do you think is the reason for trying to reform the Church by changing morals, principles, teachings, and traditions?

Many well-paid officials in the “German Church” establishment—the largest employer in Germany—suffer from the fact that the Church’s teaching on marriage and the 6th and 9th commandments of the Decalogue contradict the mainstream of society after the Sexual Revolution of 1968. They cannot stand the contradiction between God’s will and their personal behavior, or the derisive comments of their contemporaries about the “Catholic world of faith and morals lagging behind in the Middle Ages.” So they also want to present themselves as modern and follow the cutting edge of the sciences of psychology and sociology. They want to be right there and not be regarded as outsiders—as the “sordid child of the nation,” as the Bishop of Aachen lamented.

Do you think the Church in Germany runs the risk of initiating a schism with Rome?

In their blind arrogance, they do not think of division, but rather of taking over the universal Church. Germany is too small a playing field for their exercise of governing ideology. They claim instead a leading role in the universal Church—nothing less than to impress the whole world with their wisdom and to free the backward and uneducated Catholics and their bishops in the other countries, including the pope, from the burden of revelation and the divine Commandments. Their goal is the transformation of the Church of the Triune God into a worldly welfare organization (NGO). Then we would have finally arrived at the “religion of universal brotherhood,” i.e., a religion without the God of revelation in Christ, without a truth reaching beyond finite reason, without dogmas and Sacraments as means of grace necessary for salvation. It is all just as described by the great Russian philosopher of religion Vladimir Soloviev in his Short Story of the Antichrist (1899). The world ruler of a godless universal philanthropy is contradicted (in Soloviev’s story) by Pope Peter II, who makes the following confession to the Antichrist who has installed himself on the throne of God: “Our only Lord is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God”.

What do you think the future holds for the Catholic Church at the universal level?

When one sees the megalomania of our politicians and ideologues from Beijing to Moscow and from Brussels to Washington, one cannot expect much good for the future of humanity. A true future for every human being in life and in death can only be expected from God, who out of Love gave his Son for the salvation of the world (cf. Jn 3:16). In a world in which men presume to be God, to create and redeem themselves (cf. the main advisor of the New World Order: Yuval Noah Harari, author of Homo Deus), we Christians are left only with the testimony of the Word and, if necessary, of blood, that only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior, because He has conquered the world, its arrogance, and its sin and death as the price for sin.

Only when we do not worship “the beast” of the abyss (ungodliness), its statue and its false prophet, do we attain life and dominion with Christ, which embraces our temporal and eternal future. For temporal and eternal death no longer has power over us (cf. Rev 20:6). We have peace of heart in the Son of God, who says to his disciples: “In the world you will have your struggles, but take courage: I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).