On November 8, 2023, the conservative American Catholic site LifeSiteNews published an interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller which, the German site katholisch.de claims, was deleted a few hours later. Katholische.de, which is the information portal of the Catholic Church in Germany – i.e., the German Synodal Path – claims to have consulted the text and to have preserved it in its entirety.
This gave rise, in reaction, to a caustic article published on the German site, signed by Felix Neumann which concludes: “Müller no longer finds an echo except in the reactionary bull of the opponents of the pope, very close to the American far right, and in the circle of other misguided bishops like Viganò and the Texan Joseph Strickland.”
However, the exclusive interview given by the German cardinal to LifeSiteNews has in fact been online since November 9. The former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) answers questions from the American site following the publication of an article, of which he is the author, on the First Things site, October 27, 2023.
Cardinal Müller explains that “although the Pope has now given 'voting rights' to some lay people at the Synod on Synodality, neither they nor the bishops are able to 'vote' on the faith.”
“In a state committed solely to the temporal common good of all its citizens and governed by a democratic [and secular] constitution, [forgetting the principle “all power comes from God” (Rm 13:1). Ed.], the people are rightly [in this secular perspective] called the sovereign.”
“In the Church, which is endowed by God for the eternal salvation of mankind, God Himself is the sovereign.” And he goes on to specify that “to teach contrary to the apostolic faith would automatically deprive the pope of his office.”
In the interview published by LifeSiteNews, Cardinal Müller states that “some of Pope Francis’s statements are formulated in such a way that they could be reasonably understood as material heresy, independent of their unclear subjective meaning.” And to distinguish formal heresy which is a matter of personal will, that is to say professing an idea contrary to the faith, in full consciousness and knowledge of contradicting the truth.
Cardinal Müller continues: “that by Francis’s implicit promotion and toleration of same-sex ‘blessings’ and Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly ‘remarried,’ the Pope is fostering a ‘heresy of practice.’”
“At the synod, where many expect or fear that the homosexual ‘blessings’ will now be introduced, to write a public letter to these [LGBT] organizations on this occasion, to receive them, to be photographed with them… that is a very clear message,” he said. “It’s a heresy of practice.” And to underline: “Why didn’t he [the Pope] receive a father, a mother, and their five children at this time? There are no photos of that!”
Cardinal Müller then makes the observation that “the desired ‘modern’ changes to the Church are always introduced via the ‘pastoral way’ rather than by the outright teaching of formal heresy.”
The German cardinal reiterates that a pope “cannot abolish the character of sin” and that “every sin is evil in itself.” He also specifies that “the Pope could neither officially introduce the ‘blessing’ of homosexual couples nor the ordination of women because he has no authority to do so. If that were to happen, it would be invalid because the ‘blessing’ [of sin] would be blasphemy. Those who carried it out or approve of it would be gravely culpable.”
Likewise, he explains, the Pope cannot introduce the diaconate of women in the sense of the sacrament of orders because he cannot introduce new sacraments or new conditions.
“The diaconate, insofar as it designates a level within the one sacrament of holy orders, cannot be [changed] by the Pope,” continued Cardinal Müller. “This goes beyond his authority.… The diaconate is nevertheless linked to this priestly level of ordination, that it is one sacrament. The Council of Trent says that it is unum ex septem sacramentis ecclesiæ (one of the seven sacraments of the Church); it is one sacrament.”
Asked whether the election of Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy could have been invalid, he clarified: “It is difficult to judge [whether the election was invalid], but in the end, he was clearly elected by the majority, and there was, after all, no qualified objection to the procedure. And even if there were deficiencies... they have simply been de facto cured by the exercise [of the office].”
Cardinal Müller emphasizes that a challenge to the election of the Pope would do more harm than good and insists that we must keep in mind the bonum ecclesiæ (the good of the Church).