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Interview with “Corriere della Sera”

“Cardinal” Muller on Schism, Spies, and Francis’ “Magic Circle”

“Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller has lots of time on his hands these days, now that he is no longer the Prefect of the Congregation for the Destruction of the Faith. In fact, he seems to have no clear assignment in the Vatican at all at this time. Recently he said he has more requests for interviews than he is able to grant, and this explains why we are currently seeing one Muller interview after another being cranked out.

This past Sunday, Nov. 26, the Italian Corriere della Sera published the latest conversation with the former “watchdog of orthodoxy” (who, by the way, is a heretic himself, but that’s not our focus now), and it is significant inasmuch as Muller mentions the word “schism” and clearly rejects the idea, advocated by some, that he become the “head of a movement against the Pope”.

Dr. Robert Moynihan, editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine, has provided a complete English translation of the interview, which he published and distributed to his email list on Nov. 27, 2017.

We are reproducing this text below, in dark blue font:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Corriere della Sera

Cardinal Gerhard Müller speaks with an even tone and a marked German accent. We are in the Piazza della Città Leonina apartment that was previously occupied by Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, in a building inhabited by high-ranking prelates.

“There is a front of traditionalist groups, just as there is with the progressivists, that would like to see me as head of a movement against the Pope. But I will never do this. I have served the Church with love for 40 years as a priest, 16 years as a university professor of dogmatic theology and 10 years as a diocesan bishop. I believe in the unity of the Church and I will not allow anyone to exploit my negative experiences of these last few months.

“Church authorities, on the other hand, need to listen to those who have serious questions or justified complaints; not ignoring them, or worse, humiliating them. Otherwise, without desiring it, there can be an increase of the risk of a slow separation that might result in the schism of a part of the Catholic world, disorientated and disillusioned. The history of Martin Luther’s Protestant Schism of 500 years ago should teach us, above all, what errors to avoid.”

“The Pope confided to me: ‘Some have told me anonymously that you are my enemy’ without explaining in what way,” he recounts unhappily.

“After 40 years at the service of the Church, I had to hear this: an absurdity set up by prattlers who instead of instilling worry in the Pope they would do better visiting a ‘shrink.’ A Catholic bishop and cardinal of the Holy Roman Church is by nature with the Holy Father. But, I believe, as Melchior Cano, the 16th century theologian said, that the true friends are not those who flatter the Pope, but those who help him with the truth and with theological and human competence. In all the organizations of the world, deceivers of this type serve only themselves.”

“Tensions [in the Church] arise from the contrast between an extremist traditionalist front on some websites and an equally exaggerated progressive front, which today seeks to become accredited as ‘superpapal.’

“Look: if there is a perception of an injust act by the Roman Curia, almost due to inertia a schismatic dynamic might be set in motion, difficult to reverse.

“I believe that the cardinals who have voiced doubts about Amoris Laetitia, or the 62 signatories of a letter of criticism, which was excessive, to the Pope, should be heard, not dismissed as ‘Pharisees’ or grumbling people.

“The only way to get out of this situation is a clear and candid dialogue. Instead, I have the impression that in the ‘magic circle’ of the Pope there are some who are focused primarily on being spies against presumed adversaries, thus preventing an open and balanced discussion. Classifying all Catholics according to the categories of ‘friend’ or ‘enemy’ of the Pope is the worst harm that they cause to the Church.

“One remains perplexed if a well-known journalist [Note: probably referring to Eugenio Scalfari], is an atheist who boasts of being a Pope’s friend; and in parallel a Catholic and cardinal bishop like myself is being defamed as the opponent of the Holy Father. I don’t believe that these people can give me lessons in the theology of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.

On the unprovoked dismissal of the Pope by some theologians of his Congregation: “People cannot be fired on a whim, without evidence or trial, just because someone has accused them anonymously of making vague criticism of the Pope…”

Müller does not see a more divided Church than it was in the years of Benedict XVI.

“But I see her weaker. Let us try to analyze the problems. Priests are growing more scarce and we give responses that are more organizational, political and diplomatic than theological and spiritual. The Church is not a political party with the party’s struggles for power. We need to discuss existential questions about life and death, about the family and religious vocations, and not permanently about ecclesial politics.

“Pope Francis is very popular, and that is a good. But many people no longer take part in the sacraments. And his popularity among non-Catholics who cite him with enthusiasm, unfortunately, does not change their false convictions. Emma Bonino, for example, praises the Pope but remains firm in a position in favor of abortion that the Pope condemns. We must be careful not to confuse the great popularity of Francis, which is also a huge asset for the Catholic world, with a true revival of faith: even if we all support the Pope in his mission.”

The image of the Church as a “field hospital,” an image Francis first used in his interview with Civilta Cattolica in the summer of 2013.

“It was a great insight of the Pope, but perhaps now it is necessary to go beyond the field hospital, and to bring an end the war against the natural and supernatural good of today’s men who made it (the field hospital) necessary,” he says.

“Today we need more a type of ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Church,” Müller says.

“We must become the Steve Jobs [founder and head of the Apple computer company, now deceased] of the faith, and transmit a vision that is strong in terms of moral values and spiritual and theological truths.”

“It is not enough,” he adds, “the popular theology of some monsignors or the too journalistic theology of others. We also need theology at the academic level.”

From his words it is clear that the criticisms are directed above all toward some collaborators of Pope Francis.

“It’s good to use language that people can understand. Francis tends rightly to speak against the arrogance of intellectuals. But sometimes, the intellectuals are not the only arrogant ones. The vice of pride pertains to the character, not to the intellect. I think of the humility of St. Thomas, the greatest Catholic intellectual. Faith and reason are in harmony. “

In the perspective of the Cardinal, a model of the papacy that tends to emerge from time to time, “more like the sovereign of the Vatican State than like the supreme teacher of the faith,” can give rise to some reservations.

“I feel that Francis wants to listen to and integrate everyone. But the arguments of the decisions must be discussed first. John Paul II was more a philosopher than a theologian, but was assisted and advised by Cardinal Ratzinger in preparing the documents of the magisterium. The relationship between the Pope and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was and will always be the key to a fruitful pontificate. And I also remind even myself that the bishops are in communion with the Pope: brothers and not delegates of the Pope, as the Second Vatican Council reminded us.”

[Source: Robert Moynihan, “Letter #64, 2017: ‘The magic circle'” (Nov. 27, 2017), The Moynihan Letters Email List; italics and bold print in original.]

There is really no need for comment here. Besides, the next Muller interview is sure to come!