Rorate Caeli

Gerhard Ludwig Müller: "Pope Francis' clampdown on the Latin Mass was an imprudence"

The following article by Domenico Agasso appeared in La Stampa on January 7, 2023. (link)

VATICAN CITY. "Pope Francis' clampdown on the Latin Mass was an imprudence. I suggest to the Pontiff that he be more attentive to all sensibilities within the Church, even those furthest from his own." And he warns of a possible schism on the left in Germany, sounding a sharp "no" to the blessing of gay couples: "It is against the word of God."

German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, 75, was a student of Benedict XVI and his successor at the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Bergoglio created him a cardinal in 2014, but then in 2017 did not renew his mandate as prefect.

The cardinal reflects on the future of the Church after celebrating Mass for the Epiphany. He argues that "we are not a political or merely human organization, but a creation of Jesus Christ" with the task of "working for the eternal salvation of humanity." He cites Francis, who "often denounces the worldliness of the Church," a theme he shares with his predecessor: Joseph Ratzinger "warned against self-secularization."

A scenario of new clashes between the various factions is opening up in the Catholic enclosure, particularly between the more conservative circles and the more progressive galaxy, with offensives from opponents to the pontificate. Müller bitterly confirms that "unfortunately there are these tensions." He urges "not to confuse the Faith with these power games, a consequence of self-esteem or the pursuit of glory." The Prefect Emeritus of the former Holy Office trusts that "the oppositions can end. Otherwise we do harm to people." On Monsignor Georg Gaenswein's outburst against the Pontiff, he limits himself to saying that he read it "in the newspapers. We should know the full context to make an assessment. Unfortunately, it is one of those controversies that do not do God's people any good."

He fears other aspects more, however. One is the "doctrinal confusion. We must go back to the path of the great ecumenical Councils. The Pope, every Pope, must be at the service of the unity of the Church and the revealed faith." The first mission of the Pontiff is "to preach the Gospel." And the doctrine of the Church "is not the program of a political party; politicians often change ideas according to the tastes of voters. The Doctrine of the Church is the expression of the Word of God, and we, men, cannot complete, correct, or modernize the Word of God." It can be explained "more clearly in the challenges of the contemporary world." But there is "no possibility of changing the revelation in Jesus Christ."

The Cardinal theologian criticised the Bishop of Rome for the tightening of the Latin Mass brought with the Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes: he believes that "the Pope has committed an imprudence, because he did not take into account some sensitivities within the Church, those of the faithful attached to the ancient liturgy." Besides, "we have more than 20 rites of the same Mass: I would have been more tolerant, so as not to provoke problems that in this time in my opinion are superfluous, given that we are not dealing with dogmatic issues, and that we already have many and more important issues. It was not prudent to insist intransigently on disciplining the so-called traditionalists."

According to Müller, "it would have been enough to keep Pope Benedict's 2007 Motu Proprio, which was more prudent because it took in the whole ecclesial landscape." And then, he gives advice to Bergoglio: "That of being more attentive to every sensibility, even those furthest from his own, so as to try to keep everyone united. To listen to everyone, including those who do not think like him. Also because sometimes some of those who are called enemies of the Pope are actually not."

Müller is considered an adversary of the Pontiff; he knows this and wants to refute it. "It is not so. I am not an enemy of the Pope. Making suggestions does not mean being hostile. In the coming weeks with the publisher Cantagalli, I will publish a book on 'the Pope and his mission,' with the theology of the papacy. For me the Pope is the Pope, the highest authority. No one can say that I am an enemy of the Pope."

Another specter hovering over the future of the sacred palace: schisms. "Where there is a risk of a split is in Germany, with the synod of the so-called progressives. They deny revealed doctrine. It is not just about pastoral or liturgical reforms, but about the substance of the Faith. Francis has already intervened several times to try to stem this movement." In the German assembly, there are those who want to accept the blessing of gay couples, but for Müller this "is not possible, because it is against the word of God. The Lord has blessed only marriage between a man and a woman, this is the revealed reality of human nature, and you cannot do what you want with it."