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Cardinal Müller's Unworthy Polemic

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 1, 2017

Having consistently refused to take a clear stand on what he must know are the errors of Amoris Laetitia (AL) and their catastrophic results in practice, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, unceremoniously sacked by Francis as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), continues to engage in a most annoying polemical tactic: misstating the issue and then addressing only the issue as misstated.

Thus, in a recent interview with Corriere della Sera (translated at Rorate Caeli), the Cardinal complains that 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 recent months.”

Of course, the problem with AL, as well as the Cardinal’s “negative experiences of recent months” which are related precisely to AL, has nothing to with any “traditionalist” or progressive “front,” nor any call for the Cardinal to join a “movement against the Pope.”  The only movement the Cardinal is called upon to join is a movement for the truth about the indissolubility of marriage and the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament, both of which are being undermined by AL and its implementation, as the Cardinal is well aware. 

The real issue is opposition to error, not opposition to the Pope for its own sake. It is the spread of error stemming directly from AL that now threatens the unity of the Church, not a “movement against the Pope” the Cardinal imagines he is being asked to join by an imaginary “traditionalist front,” which is nothing more than a polemical bogey man.

The Cardinal knows this, course. Which is why, in the same interview, he goes on to say that “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, unwittingly, the risk of a slow separation that might lead to a schism may increase, from a disorientated and disillusioned part of the Catholic world.  The history of Martin Luther’s Protestant Schism of 500 years ago, should teach us, above all, what errors to avoid.”

But it is precisely those members of the faithful “who have serious questions or justified complaints” about AL and other aspects of this papacy who constitute what the Cardinal simultaneously disparages as a “traditionalist front” while incoherently supporting its aim.  And it is not they, who defend the Church’s teaching, but rather those who undermine it who are at “risk of a slow separation that might lead to a schism.” Indeed, it is these people who are the real “movement against the Pope” in terms of attempting to destroy the credibility of the Petrine office by heaping praise on the errors of AL.

Müller himself admits in the same interview that “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 theological, human competence.” Yet he caricatures those who refuse to flatter the Pope but rather candidly object to his errors as a “traditionalist front” representing a “movement against the Pope.”

Continuing with his polemical incoherence, the Cardinal next states: “The 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 credit themselves as super-papists.”

Nonsense.  The “tensions in the Church” have been created by AL and its author, who is determined to implement its liberal interpretation in order to admit public adulterers and others in “irregular situations” (i.e., living in sin) to Holy Communion, just as he did when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  The result is that in some dioceses what is objectively a mortal sin has suddenly become “mercy,” while in others the Church’s constant teaching is still followed. Francis, not “extremist traditionalists,” is the source of this unprecedented division in the Church.

 Those the Cardinal humiliates as “extremist traditionalists” — at the same time he argues they “should not be humiliated” for voicing their concerns! — are merely pointing out the reality of the situation AL has engendered.  The progressives, on the other hand, in perpetual dissent from one doctrine or another, have suddenly discovered blind loyalty to the Pope precisely because he has lent his name to the spread of errors they favor — the same errors Müller himself recognizes, while pretending they have not emanated from Francis and his ill-starred document.  Yet Müller dishonestly posits a false moral equivalence between faithful Catholics who oppose error and unfaithful Catholics who applaud it.

I, for one, have had enough of Cardinal Müller’s crafty double-talk, which allows him to condemn tradition-minded Catholics while half-heartedly supporting their position. With leaders like these, who act more like politicians than Princes of the Church, there is no hope, humanly speaking, for an ecclesial restoration.  Our hope lies with the intercession of the Mother of the Church, who foresaw this disaster at the time She came to Fatima with a message-warning for the Church and the world.