The Curia of the Roman Catholic Church is the administrative body of the Holy See in Vatican City, Rome, through which the pope conducts the business of the Church as a whole.
On Sept. 13, 2017, the premier English-language Vatican journalist Edward Pentin had a sit-down interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who had served five years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until this July, when Pope Francis decided not to renew his term for reasons Müller said were never explained to him.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) is the oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia. It was founded to defend the church from heresy; today, it is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. There are reports that since the 2013 election of Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy, the Congregation has been less stringent in taking action against dissident theologians.
Edward Pentin reports for the National Catholic Register, Sept. 28, 2017, that in the extensive interview, Cardinal Müller:
- Criticizes what he describes as careerists and opportunists who he says are sowing discord in the Roman Curia and besmirched his name.
- Discusses the dangers of the CDF being ignored, particularly in the drafting process of pontifical documents such as the Pope’s very controversial apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), especially the highly disputed chapter 8 on allowing Holy Communion for remarried divorcees.
- Asserts that a pervading sense of fear is preventing more people, particularly priests, seminarians and professors, from daring to openly criticize Francis’ pontificate.
Below are excerpts of what Cardinal Müller said:
(1) On close advisers to Pope Francis:
“I heard that the Pope is close to certain theologians, but they cannot claim to be authoritative interpreters of the Pope. If Archbishop Fernandez makes a declaration, for instance, that’s only private. It has no more weight than the statements of other bishops — and certainly for the whole Church, he has no magisterial authority — and so it holds no more authority for me than any other theological voice.”
(2) On being dismissed as prefect of the CDF:
“[N]o explanation was offered to me. The Pope only saw me at a routine private audience, at the end of my term, to discuss the work of the congregation, and said, ‘That is all.’ All other explanations in the mass media are speculations. It is true that some time ago the Pope told me that some of his ‘friends’ had been saying that ‘Müller is an enemy of the Pope.’ I suppose these were anonymous accusations, and the anonymity of the accusers suggests that they were not prepared to have their arguments exposed to the light of honest and open discussion. The use of such underhanded tactics is always detrimental to the life of the Church and to the functioning of the Curia . . . . For the good of the Curia and the Church, there should be open dialogue. I must refute any calumnies that have originated in certain parts of the press, or from certain ultramontanist circles and Vaticanisti, and this anonymous group of false ‘friends’ around the Holy Father who have questioned my loyalty. All my life as a priest, theologian and bishop, I’ve worked for the Kingdom of God and his Holy Church. And to present me as an enemy of the Successor of St. Peter is completely crazy and unjust . . . . The biggest danger to the Pope these days are these opportunists, careerists and false friends who are concerned not for the good of the Church, but for their own financial interests and self-advancement . . . . But I firmly maintain my fidelity to Pope Francis, to whom I devoted myself as a loyal cooperator.”
(3) On Great Fear in the Curia:
“Careerists and opportunists should not be promoted, and other people who are competent collaborators not excluded without any reason or expelled from the Curia. It’s not good. I heard it from some houses here, that people working in the Curia are living in great fear: If they say one small or harmless critical word, some spies will pass the comments directly to the Holy Father, and the falsely accused people don’t have any chance to defend themselves. These people, who are speaking bad words and lies against other persons, are disturbing and disrupting the good faith, the good name of others whom they are calling their brothers.
The Gospel and the words of Jesus are very strong against those who denounce their brothers and who are creating this bad atmosphere of suspicion. I’ve heard that nobody speaks; everyone is a little afraid because they can be snitched on. It’s not the behavior of adult people, but that of a boarding school.
It’s the same in some theological faculties — if anybody has any remarks or questions about Amoris Laetitia, they will be expelled, and so on. That is not maturity. A certain interpretation of the document’s Footnote 351 cannot be criteria for becoming a bishop. A future bishop must be a witness to the Gospel, a successor of the apostles, and not only someone who repeats some words of a single pastoral document of the Pope without a mature theological understanding.”
“It is a very big danger for the Church that some ideological groups present themselves as the exclusive guardians of the only true interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. They feel they have the right to condemn all people of another standpoint as stupid, rigid, old-fashioned, medieval, etc.”
(4) On “Progressive” Catholics:
“All my life, after the Second Vatican Council, I’ve noticed that those who support so-called progressivism never have theological arguments. The only method they have is to discredit other persons, calling them ‘conservative’” — and this changes the real point, which is the reality of the faith, and not in your personal subjective, psychological disposition. By ‘conservative,’ what do they mean? Someone loves the ways of the 1950s, or old Hollywood films of the 1930s? Was the bloody persecution of Catholics during the French Revolution by the Jacobins progressive or conservative? Or is the denial of the divinity of Christ by the Arians of the fourth century liberal or traditional? Theologically it’s not possible to be conservative or progressive. These are absurd categories: Neither conservatism nor progressivism is anything to do with the Catholic faith. They’re political, polemical, rhetorical forms. The only sense of these categories is discrediting other persons.
We have Holy Scripture, we have eschatological revelation in Jesus Christ, the irreversibility of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, the salvation of the cross, the Resurrection, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ for the end of the world. … The responsibility of the Pope and the bishops is to overcome the polarization. Therefore, it’s very dangerous for the Church to divide bishops into friends and enemies of the Pope regarding a footnote in an apostolic exhortation. I am sure that anybody will denounce me also for this interview, but I hope that the Holy Father will read my complete interview here and not only some headlines, which cannot give a complete impression of what I said.”
(5) On Limits to the Pope’s Authority:
“We must distinguish between what is official doctrine of the Church, the role of the Pope, and what he is saying in private conversations. Those private opinions of the Pope need to be respected because they are opinions and words of the Holy Father, but nobody is obliged to accept uncritically everything that he’s saying, for example, about political or scientific questions. That’s his personal opinion, but nothing to do with our Catholic faith, by which we are justified in the grace of God.”
“The Successor of St. Peter deserves full respect for his person and divine mandate, and, on the other hand, his honest critics deserve a convincing answer . . . [concerning] controversial interpretation of some statements in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.
The Pope is only assisted by the Holy Spirit for the authentic interpretation of the revelation of God in Christ. He and the bishops are human cooperators in transmitting Revelation, which is completely given in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, but they don’t get any other revelation.”
“In the Incarnate Word of God, in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to us is given all the grace and truth. The Holy Spirit actualizes the full revelation in the doctrine, the sacraments of the Church. The Holy Father plays here a very important role in the apostolic Tradition, but not the only one. His teaching is regulated by the word of God in the Bible and the dogmatic Tradition of the Church. The magisterium and all the believers are supported by the Holy Spirit in the actualization of the full and complete revelation, but they do not receive any new public revelation . . . .
Nobody can demand of a Catholic to believe a doctrine which is in an obvious contradiction to the Holy Scripture, apostolic Tradition and the dogmatic definitions of the Popes and ecumenical councils in the matter of faith and morals. What is needed is a religious obedience, but not a blind faith, to the Pope and the bishops, and nothing at all to private friends and advisers . . . . We do not just believe things because a Pope teaches them, but because these truths are included in Revelation.”
Below is a video of Edward Pentin’s speech at the recently concluded Catholic Identity Conference 2017 on a climate of fear in Rome and the crisis in the Catholic Church during the reign of Pope Francis.
The Catholic Identity Conference 2017 was an extraordinary weekend conference, October 27-29 in Weirton, WV, of serious Catholics, including bishops, priests and journalists, to defend the Catholic Church suffering her worst assault in history.