What Is in Cardinal Müller's Book?

Source: FSSPX News

In a book-interview published in Italian by Solferino, on January 27, 2023, entitled In buona fede [In Good Faith], co-written with Franca Giansoldati, a journalist from the Italian daily QQ, and Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticizes the way in which Pope Francis is treating certain sensitive issues, and is concerned about the “doctrinal confusion” which reigns around the synod on synodality.

The Roman agency I.Media picked up by cath.ch of January 29, cites several extracts from the book. First of all, Cardinal Müller denies being an “opponent” of Francis: “Anyone who issues constructive criticism is accused… of being an enemy of Francis.”

However, “if there are things that are needed to be pointed out so as to improve the general situation, the only way to do so is to speak clearly,” he says, taking the example of St. Catherine of Siena who had “very harsh words to say against the popes, but never against the papacy.”

Admittedly, the former prefect of the Congregation of the Faith returns to his brutal dismissal which occurred on June 30, 2017, like a “clap of thunder in a serene sky,” but his harshest criticisms target the pope’s close advisers. He deplores the existence of a “magic circle that revolved around St. Martha’s House, made up of people... who are not prepared from a theological point of view.”

He believes that in the Vatican, “information now circulates in parallel, on the one hand the institutional channels unfortunately less and less consulted by the sovereign pontiff, and on the other hand his personal channels used even for the appointment of bishops or cardinals.”

Cardinal Müller points to the case of Msgr. Gustavo Zanchetta, “controversial, because he enjoyed a privileged status as a friend of the Pope.” The latter, condemned for abuse against seminarians in his country, had been employed for several years by the pope in the Vatican bank.

More broadly, the German cardinal denounces the preferential treatment given to Italian priests convicted of abuse. These, he affirms, benefit from the intercession of “influential friends” at St. Martha’s that “clerics of Polish, American, or other nationalities do not have,” and who are condemned by the Church courts.

Authoritarianism and Patronage

It is not certain, it seems to us, that this unofficial influence is at the origin of all the disgraces and arbitrary decisions that Cardinal Müller denounces.

He then says that he does not understand the Pope's intervention in the diocese of Toulon: the Pope forbade Msgr. Dominique Rey to ordain four future priests “because they belonged in the conservative category.”

While acknowledging that he does not know if there are other problems behind this affair, he believes that the pope has encroached on the prerogatives of the bishop of the place. The diocese of Toulon-Fréjus will also be the subject of a canonical visitation in the coming months.

Cardinal Müller also cites the case of a bishop in central Italy who has been allegedly “fired” because he expressed his disagreement with “some anti-covid measures” taken by the government. “The pope should not have been able to dismiss him,” he insists, recalling that he can only do so if the bishop jeopardizes the Catholic faith or the unity of the Church.

Finally, the German prelate deplores the replacement, for ideological reasons, of Msgr. Livio Melina at the head of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family. The latter was replaced by Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia “who has no specific competence in this area,” an affront – according to him – to the principle of “academic freedom.”

Failure of Curia Reform

Regarding the reform of the Roman Curia, the former prefect is very severe against the new apostolic constitution Prædicate Evangelium. According to him, this reform would reduce the Roman Curia “to a corporation that works to provide assistance to its 'clients,' the episcopal conferences.”

He also underlines the paradox of the announced “decentralization,” considering that on the contrary “the meshes of centralization have been reinforced.” He attributes the “manufacturing defect” of this reform to the “anti-Roman sentiment” of the conclave that elected Pope Francis in 2013. The reform, he claims, would have been requested by the “Latin American cardinals” who plan “to build a Church in their image.”

At the same time, he notes that the Pontifical Yearbook now mentions “Vicar of Christ and Successor of Peter” as “historical titles” (and therefore more truly effective) of the pope, a sign for him of “a latent form of denial of the Petrine foundation of the papacy.”

Moreover, he deplores a Curia where “external controls, audits” take precedence over the spiritual aspect. On the subject of evangelization, he is alarmed at the lack of reaction to dechristianization in Europe, considering that the “creeping nihilism” that is hitting the Old Continent today endangers its survival.

Because he is far from being a traditionalist, the cardinal does not, however, oppose reforms. He even envisages the appointment of lay people and women to important positions in the Curia. He notably cites those of Secretary of State, substitute, president of the Governorate of Vatican City or even nuncios.

Close to Liberation Theology

Pope Francis' magisterium is criticized in a more nuanced way: the Document on Human Fraternity [co-signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, February 4, 2019] manifests in his eyes a “good intention,” but seems to him to be too “elitist,” which makes him doubt that it can “penetrate the mass of Muslim faithful.” He also brings up the relevance of Laudato si' [May 24, 2015], but encourage the defense of human life from its beginning to its end as much as nature.

On the economic and social level, the German cardinal, who recalls his closeness to the liberation theology of his “dear friend” Gustavo Gutiérrez, deplores the consequences of “super-capitalism” and defends additional taxation of the richest.

He denounces the anti-democratic temptation that drives the wealthy, accusing them of encouraging a Great Reset to control the masses even more, especially since the pandemic crisis. Unlike Francis, he says he is opposed to the idea of a universal wage, but justifies the pope's position by referencing the situations of extreme poverty that exist in Latin America.

Fears About Synodality

Regarding synodality, the German theologian considers that the term synod promoted by the pontiff has become “a catch-all term.” He sees in its use a sign that a “democratization, a de facto Protestantization” is “in progress” in the Catholic Church. He criticizes in particular the “theologically untenable” proposals of the German Synodal Path opened in 2019, in the face of which, according to him, the Holy See has shown itself to be complacent.

In Germany, he believes, the Church is facing a situation “much worse than a schism” because the local Church is voluntarily separating from Rome, abandoning the foundations of Christianity. “It is therefore a question of apostasy,” he assures us, attacking in particular the promotion of intercommunion which “changes the meaning of the Eucharist.” He asserts that “the risk is the end of Christianity in Germany.”

In addition, Cardinal Müller regrets the ambiguity of Pope Francis on the question of homosexuality or his “substantial silence” regarding the indissolubility of marriage. He also regrets the contradictions on abortion, especially when the Pope gave the President of the United States, Joe Biden, the right to take communion.

The Liturgical Question

The German cardinal denounces the “negative effects” of Traditionis custodes, against the liberalization of the Tridentine Mass desired by Benedict XVI. He sees behind this decision the members of the Pontifical Benedictine University of Saint Anselm in Rome, who are “more ideologists than theologians,” as the ones who “manipulated” the Pope.

Considering this decision to be not only “unfair” but “a source of unnecessary tension,” he affirms that the main problem remains the defense of the sacrament of the Eucharist, which he says is less and less lived or understood by Christians.

On the question of the priestly ordination of women, Cardinal Müller says he is opposed, affirming that there is no need to talk about it. On the other hand, he reports having written several books on the possibility of a female diaconate, and says he is open to discussion on this point.

Criticism of Vatican Diplomacy 

The German cardinal says he is particularly worried about the danger posed by China in today's society, comparing Xi Jinping to Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Stalin. “You can’t make a pace with the devil,” he said of the secret agreement signed in 2018 by the Holy See and Beijing on the appointment of bishops.

According to him, the Vatican has facilitated the work of China, which wants Chinese priests to become agents of its propaganda. He claims that he consulted “a letter sent by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, authorizing Chinese priests to sign a charter imposing indoctrination courses.”

“The Chinese Catholic Church must not become a kind of choirboy of the state,” says the high prelate, referring to the similar criticism leveled by Francis towards the Patriarch Kirill whom he reproached for blessing Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.

The Cardinal deplores the way the Holy See and the Pope treated Cardinal Joseph Zen, a great opponent of Beijing. He particularly regrets that the Vatican did not take a clear position in his defense during his arrest last May, and harshly criticizes the silence of the Holy See regarding Taiwan and Hong Kong. “With illiberal regimes [like the one in Beijing], the Church must not compromise,” he insists.

Denunciation of the CIASE Report

Asked about the crisis of abuse in the clergy, the cardinal denounces the “gross errors” committed by the CIASE report in France, questioning the method used which resulted in an “abnormal, exaggerated, manifestly inflated number of victims.”

He also said he was unfavorable to the inquire commissions set up by governments, which seemed to him to have the “sole purpose of paralyzing the Church and not that of analyzing an aberrant phenomenon to be crushed.”

Cardinal Müller claims that the Archdiocese of Munich January 2022 report on the abuses was “a propaganda tool to weaken the figure of the pope emeritus in Germany,” when he represented a hinderance to the German Synodal Path. The German prelate, however, disapproves of the choice of the deceased Pope to resign in 2013. For him, the existence of a pope emeritus has created confusion and divided the Catholic Church into two camps.

The Mission of the Next Pope

Opposed to Francis possibly resigning, Cardinal Müller considers that some encourage the current pope to resign “to better steer the next conclave and identify, who knows, a young candidate close to the reforms that have been initiated in the meantime.”

He castigates the “attempts of many pressure groups” to influence the votes, citing the Sant'Egidio Community, the Jesuits, the Salesians, and even the African cardinals. Doing so, he says, is “ontologically forbidden.”

“The next conclave will necessarily have to bring the Church back to its essence,” he said. Francis’s successor will have to deal in particular with the fact that there are “more and more bishops in the world who act as if they had forgotten to be pastors interested in eternal life and the defense of the moral principles.”

According to the high prelate, the future pontiff will also have to defend the “non-negotiable values” of the Church on sexuality as well as the risks involved in the emergence of a “post-human” ideology. As such, he says he is particularly concerned “by the transhumanist trend.”

Ultimately, the work looks like an all-out indictment, but Cardinal Müller still remains attached to the Council and to post-conciliar reforms. He energetically deplores the excesses – all too visible under Francis’s government – without, however, going back to the root causes.

He vigorously attacks the symptoms, without touching the source of the evil. He does not want a Church slavishly aligned with the spirit of the modern world, without questioning the Council which promoted this openness.

Craintes sur la synodalité

A propos de la synodalité, le théologien allemand considère que le terme synode promu par le pontife est devenu « un terme passe-partout ». Il voit dans son emploi le signe qu’une « démocratisation, une protestantisation de facto » serait « en cours » dans l’Eglise catholique. Il critique en particulier les propositions « intenables théologiquement » du Chemin synodal allemand ouvert en 2019, face auquel, selon lui, le Saint-Siège s’est montré complaisant.

En Allemagne, estime-t-il, l’Eglise est face à une situation « bien pire qu’un schisme » parce que l’Eglise locale se sépare volontairement de Rome, en abandonnant les fondements du christianisme. « Il s’agit donc d’apostasie », assure-t-il, s’en prenant en particulier à la promotion de l’intercommunion qui « change le sens de l’eucharistie ». Il affirme que « le risque est la fin du christianisme en Allemagne ».

En outre, le cardinal Müller regrette l’ambiguïté du pape François sur la question de l’homosexualité ou encore son « silence substantiel » sur celle de l’indissolubilité du mariage. Il regrette aussi des contradictions sur l’avortement, notamment quand le pape a reconnu au président des Etats-Unis, Joe Biden, le droit de communier.

La question liturgique

Le cardinal allemand dénonce les « effets négatifs » de Traditionis custodes, contre la libéralisation de la messe tridentine voulue par Benoît XVI. Pour lui, derrière cette décision se cachent des membres de l’Université pontificale bénédictine Saint-Anselme à Rome, « plus idéologues que théologiens », qui ont « manipulé » le pape.

Considérant cette décision non seulement « injuste » mais « source de tensions inutiles », il affirme que le problème principal reste la défense du sacrement de l’eucharistie, qu’il dit de moins en moins vécu ou compris par les chrétiens.

Sur la question de l’ordination sacerdotale des femmes, le cardinal Müller se dit opposé, affirmant qu’il n’y a pas lieu d’en parler. En revanche, il signale avoir écrit plusieurs livres sur la possibilité d’un diaconat féminin, et se dit ouvert à la discussion sur ce point.

Critique de la diplomatie vaticane avec la Chine

Le cardinal allemand se dit particulièrement inquiet du danger que fait peser la Chine dans la société actuelle, comparant Xi Jinping à Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler et Staline. « Avec le diable, on ne peut pas faire de pacte », estime-t-il à propos de l’accord secret signé en 2018 par le Saint-Siège et Pékin sur la nomination des évêques.

Le Vatican a facilité selon lui le travail de la Chine, qui veut que les prêtres chinois deviennent des agents de sa propagande. Il affirme qu’il a consulté « une lettre envoyée par le cardinal secrétaire d’Etat, Pietro Parolin, autorisant les prêtres chinois à signer une charte imposant [des] cours d’endoctrinement ».

« L’Eglise catholique chinoise ne doit pas devenir une sorte d’enfant de chœur de l’Etat », affirme le haut prélat, en référence à la critique similaire émise par François à l’égard du patriarche Cyrille à qui il reprochait de bénir la guerre de Vladimir Poutine contre l’Ukraine.

Le cardinal déplore le traitement réservé par le Saint-Siège et le pape au cardinal Joseph Zen, grand opposant à Pékin. Il regrette en particulier que le Vatican n’ait pas pris de position claire pour le défendre lors de son arrestation en mai dernier, et critique durement le silence du Saint-Siège concernant Taïwan et Hong Kong. « Avec les régimes illibéraux [comme celui de Pékin], l’Eglise ne doit pas faire de compromis », insiste-t-il.

Dénonciation du rapport de la CIASE

Interrogé sur la crise des abus dans le clergé, le cardinal dénonce les « grossières erreurs » commises par la CIASE en France, mettant en cause la méthode employée qui a abouti à un « nombre de victimes anormal, exagéré, manifestement gonflé ».

Il se dit aussi défavorable aux commissions d’enquête mises en place par les gouvernements, qui lui semblent avoir pour « seul but de paralyser l’Eglise et non celui d’analyser un phénomène aberrant à écraser ».

Le cardinal Müller affirme que le rapport de l’archidiocèse de Munich sur les abus de janvier 2022 a été « un instrument de propagande pour affaiblir la figure du pape émérite  en Allemagne » où il représentait un frein au Chemin synodal allemand. Le prélat allemand désapprouve toutefois le choix du pape défunt de renoncer à sa charge en 2013. Pour lui, l’existence d’un pape émérite a créé de la confusion et divisé l’Eglise catholique en deux camps.

La mission du prochain pape

Opposé à une démission de François, le cardinal Müller considère que certains encouragent le pape actuel à démissionner « pour mieux piloter le prochain conclave et identifier, qui sait, un jeune candidat proche des réformes qui ont été engagées entre-temps ».

Il fustige les « tentatives de nombreux groupes de pressions » qui visent à influencer les votes, citant la Communauté de Sant’Egidio, les jésuites, les salésiens ou encore les cardinaux africains. Agir ainsi, déclare-t-il, est « ontologiquement interdit ».

« Le prochain conclave devra nécessairement ramener l’Eglise à son essence », assure-t-il. Le successeur de François devra notamment s’occuper du fait qu’il y a « de plus en plus d’évêques dans le monde qui agissent comme s’ils avaient oublié d’être des pasteurs intéressés par la vie éternelle et la défense des principes moraux ».

Selon le haut prélat, le futur pontife devra aussi défendre les « valeurs non-négociables » de l’Eglise sur la sexualité ainsi qu’affronter les risques que comporte l’apparition d’une idéologie « post-humaine ». A ce titre, il se dit particulièrement préoccupé « par le courant transhumaniste ».

En définitive, l’ouvrage fait figure de réquisitoire tous azimuts, mais le cardinal Müller demeure toujours attaché au Concile et aux réformes postconciliaires. Il en déplore énergiquement les excès – par trop visibles sous le gouvernement de François –, sans toutefois remonter aux causes profondes.

Il s’attaque avec vigueur aux symptômes, sans toucher au foyer du mal. Il ne veut pas d’une Eglise servilement alignée sur l’esprit du monde moderne, sans remettre en cause le Concile qui a promu cette ouverture.