Image: Cardinal Müller and Pope Emeritus Benedict — Source
Today, 19 July, there appeared a new interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It is an interview which he had given in early July to the prominent secular German news agency DPA (German Press Agency); this means that this interview is now being picked up by numerous news outlets. We shall now quote from the German newspaper Die Welt and its own report on this interview.
Even though many of the published media stories have stressed that part of the new interview in which Cardinal Müller defends himself – especially with regard to accusations that he was negligent in dealing with sexual abuse cases both while being the Bishop of Regensburg and then later as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) – we will point out other apt and pertinent aspects of this fuller interview.
In this interview – which was conducted at the beginning of July in Müller’s own Rome apartment (that is to say, most probably after his return from his 1-2 July visit to Germany, to his hometown, Mainz) – Cardinal Müller touches upon his recent dismissal from his prominent curial position as the Prefect of the CDF. Importantly, he reveals that Pope emeritus Benedict himself was “disappointed” about this dismissal. As Die Welt puts it:
It is sad [according to Müller] that now no German is any more to be found in a high curial office. That is also the same view of Pope emeritus Benedict: He, too, says Müller, is “disappointed” that his [Müller’s] contract [five-year mandate] has not been extended.
In the interview, Cardinal Müller also explains that the office had been “a good fit and was well suited” for him. Some “interested circles,” however, claimed that there existed “purported tensions,” “but the pope always assured me that he does not believe these rumors, and that he has full trust in me,” explains the German cardinal. But he still does not know the “exact reasons” for this dismissal, according to Die Welt.
However, Cardinal Müller did make use of this interview in order to criticize the phenomenon of careerism and the courtiers within the Vatican, and to warn against having a “personality cult of the pope.” According to Die Welt:
Some people practice a “hypocritical devotion to the pope” according to the motto “the Holy Father has an idea, and we follow it unconditionally, and everybody is full of admiration” [according to Müller]. “The pope is also only a human being. That is to say, not everything he does and says is from the onset perfect and unsurpassable.”
Müller himself “does not regard himself as an opponent to the pope, nor as an ‘agitator,’” in the words of Die Welt. He says:
I believe that I was never a conservative, nor a hardliner. To categorize the spiritual and religious life in terms of conservative and progressive is a sign of immature thought [“Armutszeugnis”]; it merely betrays the aggression of those who prefer to discriminate against others, rather than dealing with their arguments.
When reflecting about his own role in Rome – he had been called to Rome by then-Pope Benedict himself in 2012 – Müller says, according to Die Welt:
At the beginning, he was told: “typical German professor who does not understand that, if need be, 2+2 can also be made five,” relates Müller. “I did not grow up in Rome; I am not a curial [prelate]. I insist upon that. I am a bishop who came from the outside. Perhaps, as a northerner, one will always remain a foreign body [“Fremdkörper”].”
As Die Welt reports, Müller does not speak “one bad word about the Argentine” pope, and he “has had a relationship with the pope which was ‘good from the beginning, I [Müller] believe.’”
However, Die Welt continues, Müller does indicate in the interview “what he thinks about some of the personnel decisions of the pope”: “One’s own work can only be successful with qualified employees,” Müller is convinced. He continues, saying: “In former times, one always said that a good ruler is characterized by the fact that he calls the best – also sometimes uncomfortable – counselors to his side, and not the opportunists and mediocre people who at all times have tried to get close to those in power.” According to Die Welt, Müller counts himself to be among the “circle of the uncomfortable counselors.” He himself does not think highly of “the behavior of the courtiers” at the Vatican, nor of the conduct of the “careerists who try, with the help of flattery, to get into some kind of small positions [“Pöstchen”]. “Rather take the risk of some disadvantages than bending one’s conscience,” Müller said.
When speaking about one of the topics of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia – the apparently indulgent admission of the “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments – Müller makes it clear that he is against it. “God is the measure of reality,” says Müller in the interview, “and not simply that which is factual. That which actually exists is not automatically good.” In a similar manner, Cardinal Müller rejects the idea of a promiscuous “marriage for all.”
The theme of not bending one’s conscience – as discussed in this new 19 July interview – also came up during another recent Müller-interview , one which took place right after the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner in Cologne on 15 July. When speaking about the dignified funeral ceremony for Cardinal Meisner, Cardinal Müller then said:
We believe that we shall be rewarded for the merits which we gain here on earth. We are, after all, collaborators with God; we help build His Kingdom, also against resistances or a lack of understanding. But that is also a sign that we are on the right path with Christ Who also went this path on which people also often did not understand Him. It is a path which has led to the Cross, but also then to the Resurrection, to the triumph over evil, over death, and over the alienation of man from God.
Moreover, Cardinal Müller stressed in this 15 July interview that
Each of those present [at the funeral Mass] were also especially touched by the word of Pope Benedict; he is really – as it clearly showed itself here once more – a master of the word who speaks out of a deep Faith and who gives us courage to continue on the path of the Faith.
Cardinal Müller then concluded this short 15 July interview in Cologne with some words about Cardinal Meisner himself – one of the four dubia cardinals: “He is for me a great witness of our Christian Faith in the midst of our world.”
These words echo the words of Archbishop Georg Gänswein who, on that same day, also gave some interviews and said the following words about Cardinal Meisner:
A giant has been given a farewell; or a spiritual giant had to go. I can only hope that he, now from up above, gigantically intercedes for us.
Gänswein also explained that Cardinal Meisner “has lived out of the spiritual and for the spiritual,” and that he may “already now see some spiritual fruits.” Gänswein stressed that the now-famous message written by Pope emeritus Benedict – as recited by Gänswein publicly – was “a spiritual encouragement for all of those who listened to it; and spiritual encouragements for this our time are very good and very much needed.”
All these different statements – which show us a close connection between Cardinal Müller, Archbishop Gänswein, the now-deceased Cardinal Meisner and Pope Benedict himself – may have to be seen in the greater light of some recent denials and dismissals. Perhaps they should be even more fully seen in the context of the larger current crisis within the Catholic Church under the papacy of Pope Francis.
The author thanks 1P5’s Matthew Karmel for kindly providing some additional links for this article.