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July 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – In a new interview with the German author Lothar C. Rilinger, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presents the network of relationships between church and state, faith and politics. As he says, the governing principle is the Christian conception of man, the Catholic social doctrine, and faith in Jesus Christ. The goal of history is the communion of saints, not class struggle. Against this background, he discusses here topics such as liberation theology and Indian theology.
In introductory words during the interview he says: “I am for example not against Communism in the sense of the counter-ideology from the point of view of Manchester capitalism or fascism, but because of the Christian conception of man and the Catholic social doctrine.”
In this light, the German cardinal discusses with Mr. Rilinger in a critical way also certain movements within the Church such as Liberation Theology and Indian theology. But he explicitly does not do this in order to speak out for the sake of the other side – here for the sake of extreme capitalism, which has no interest in human suffering.
In some introductory words to the interview, Cardinal Müller explains the original concern of Liberation Theology before it was instrumentalized: “The original concern of Liberation Theology was to speak of the love of God in view of the oppression and suffering of millions. My discriminating or warning references that are also meant to further the debate (also where Liberation Theology has been overturned into an inner-worldly doctrine of salvation or is being abused) do not want to play into the hands of the exploiters and super billionaires of the Forbes list.”
The following interview discussion starts with questions which, although mainly related to German conditions, can be applied to the Universal Church at the same time. It is about the ethical role that the Church should play in states, but without interfering in party politics.
In addition, Cardinal Müller discusses a Liberation Theology without Marxism, as well as an Indian theology, “which says that, regardless of the unique and ultimate Revelation of God in Jesus Christ, we could establish, based on the thinking or myths of the natives, a whole new approach to understanding the world. In my opinion, this is completely exaggerated and essentially theologically wrong.”
Cardinal Müller also clearly rejects Marxism and refers to the complex situation in China which he describes as having “the most abstruse combination of extreme capitalism and extreme communism.”
Lothar C. Rilinger is a German lawyer who has authored several books; the latest book – to which Cardinal Müller wrote a foreword – is dedicated to the theme of the presence of German culture in Rome.
Church and politics. An Interview with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller
by Lothar C. Rilinger
At least in the western world we can observe that church and politics are becoming increasingly alien to each other. Even if the separation of church and state was accomplished by the Enlightenment, it is questionable whether it is justified to speak out simultaneously for a strict separation of church and politics. Politics cannot by itself form the basis from which political decisions are made; it needs the preconditions that are developed in the social discourse.
The German Constitution has indeed established a separation of church and state. But this separation is not complete. The German constitutional law on state-church-relations is rather based on a 'limping' separation, so that there is still an interweaving which cannot be removed solely because of the social commitment of the churches. The question addressed to Cardinal Müller is: “To what extent should the Roman Catholic Church influence the political process in view of the loose intertwining of state and church?”
Cardinal Müller answers with the words: “I believe that the Church – understood as a community of the faithful and not only that of the bishops – should exert great influence, but mainly through the laity who are involved in politics, in society, in science. The bishops and priests cannot participate in party politics.”
Even if a commitment of the clergy in the realm of party politics is excluded – which was laid down in the Concordat of 1933 concluded between the Holy See and the German Reich – the question arises nevertheless whether the Church should at least in ethical questions intervene in the political discourse?
The German cardinal responds to this question in a clarifying manner: “The Church is called to stress the ethical basis of politics, but not to formulate politics as such. We must do everything possible to prevent people from drowning in the Mediterranean, but the Church's Magisterium, the bishops, cannot simply say that we must now approve a certain policy of exchanging populations. We can also criticize the fact that Africa is being depopulated and deprived of its youth. How can there ever be a reconstruction there if these people come to us, are not integrated, are uprooted from their homeland and remain disintegrated here. Here, one can certainly ask critical questions about a certain policy.”
So one could probably say that by participating in the ethical discussion, the Church removes the strict separation between religion and politics and in this way tries to bring religious content into politics.
Here we can think of Marxism. The ethics of Christianity is sometimes thought to be compatible with Marxism. Some claim that the idea of poverty and the dissolution of private property, which was propagated in early Christianity, is found in the economic ideas of Karl Marx, and therefore Christianity and Marxism complement each other. The question is put to Cardinal Müller: “Can therefore the recourse to Marxism be the basis of a political recommendation on the part of the Church?”
For Cardinal Müller it is clear that “Marxism in its historical manifestations has brought only misfortune” – and this “exclusively because it is based on a false anthropology, represents a false view of history and is deeply connected, through its materialistic view, with the capitalists against whom it fights.”
The Cardinal continues: “We have therefore in China the most abstruse combination of extreme capitalism and extreme communism. China, dictatorially ruled by Communism, is the complete self-refutation of Marxism. One takes practice as a criterion for theory, but the practice shows that the theory is wrong. From some Marxist analyses of society, one certainly might be able to learn something; there are class antagonisms, that is true, but history is not the dialectical result of class struggles, since history as a whole is not accepted by us as a struggle of one against the other. That would be a wrong attitude. The battle rhetoric should actually be overcome. We do not have the class struggle as the driving force and goal of history, but the Communio sanctorum, the communion of saints. The goal of history is, in God's Providence, to overcome our sinfulness and find our perfection in love.”
Even if Marxism has proven itself ad absurdum, it seems that Liberation Theology is not always free of echoes of the class struggle ideology. So we asked Cardinal Müller to what extent he saw Marxist tendencies in Liberation Theology. He presents the Catholic social teachings as the point of orientation.
“One can de facto state that there is a class struggle in some societies,” the German Praelat replies, “but it is something different whether one recognizes class struggle as a principle of historical development or whether one takes the view that class differences must be overcome. A society must show solidarity in the sense of Catholic social teaching. Consequently, it is our task to overcome class struggle thinking and class thinking. St. Paul says that in the Body of Christ, there is no conflict between rich and poor, or between Greeks and Gentiles, men and women. In the theological and, as a consequence, in the sociological sense we are all 'one' in Christ (Gal 3:28). The Early Church, according to the Acts, had everything in common, but not in the sense of a community of goods. The rich did not think of their goods exclusively for themselves, but also for others. All took part in everything. In Catholic social teaching we have the goal of creating a strong middle class and overcoming the contrast between rich and poor or between a socially isolated class of the oligarchy or aristocracy and the people, as we have seen in the French corporative state or feudalism, for example. This approach was quite successful in the Federal Republic of Germany after the war. There are no longer such isolated groups which do not want to have anything to do with each other and whose members would not marry among themselves.
One can and should work for a more just society without falling into class struggle. Cardinal Müller continues:
“There will never be a total balance in society in this world, but the greatest inequalities can be overcome. Liberation Theology wants to be theology. It asks theologically, how can one preach about the love of God in the face of the great suffering in this world and the material exploitation? In this respect, the Church as a whole, including the hierarchy, i.e., bishops and priests, in cooperation with Christian politicians, must work for the practice of a just social system, so that false and divisive boundaries can be overcome. Consequently, theology can also support politics without the theological point of view becoming the basis of an absolutist social doctrine.”
These remarks lead us on to the next question to Cardinal Müller: “From your words we can see that you do not see the option for the poor as a struggle that excludes the rich. Consequently, does Liberation Theology understand itself as a theology for all the faithful? Does it therefore include the poor and the rich?”
To this the Cardinal replies: “The proclamation of the Faith, the transmission of grace refers to every person, rich or poor. But what does rich mean? In our country the citizens are rich in relation to the people in the so-called Third World – they are rich, but not in the sense that they are in possession of all the economic resources of the country, such as, to give examples, the gold mines or the mineral resources, and that they use the profits from their businesses exclusively for their own luxury, while they withhold the just wages of their employees or do not provide for them in case of illness or old age. In this sense, we, the Church, must also change society, but not in the sense of Marxism. We do not have to build a new society from scratch, which, after all, cannot be anything other than the reflection of a finite mind, which, incidentally, Karl Marx also merely possessed. He could not grasp the whole of existence, he is not the author, not the creator of the world and man, and he did not know the deeper plan of history, which is known to us only in the light of the Word of God as God's Will for the salvation of all men.”
Next to Liberation Theology, Indian Theologia (Theologia india) is also being developed in South America, in order to overcome the economic inequalities there on this basis. So the question arises whether Cardinal Müller thinks that this theology could show a practicable way to this end?
But Cardinal Müller does not consider this theology to be theologically correct: “There is a so-called Theologia india, which has already been critically judged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is not a theology that takes into account the special situations of the indigenous people of the Amazon, but one that says that we could establish, based on the thinking or myths of the natives, a whole new approach to understanding the world. In my opinion, this is completely exaggerated and essentially theologically wrong.”
Discussing further this problematic theology, the Cardinal adds: “It is even said that they did not need Jesus Christ there at all. Before the missionaries arrived 500 years ago, God had already been there. Indeed, God was already there, but in the sense that the Creator, in His Being, manifested himself to the world and to the conscience of men in His Divinity (Rom 1:20; 2:16); but this does not in any way replace the historical mediation of the Gospel in Jesus Christ, which leads to the Incarnate Word of God. It is in the light of Christ that we first come to the universal understanding of God. Surely, one cannot say that the ancient Greeks, through Homer and the Iliad, mythologically had already had an encounter with God that then replaced the Revelation of God through Jesus Christ or made the whole history of salvation in the Old Testament superfluous – apart from the fact that the mythical opening up of reality by Greek philosophy, by reason and the Logos, had been overcome long before. We do not deny that myths and fairy tales also reflect general existential experiences. But this cannot be a substitute for a rational grasping of visible, empirical reality or even of the Revelation of the Word or of the meaning of being itself. One cannot derive a legal system from myths and recommend oneself to the goodwill or revenge of the gods.”
So, in the end, Cardinal Müller once again states very clearly what is for us the basis of faith:
“The only foundation we have is the Word of God which, made Flesh in Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father, entered into the context of all history. Here is the fullness of time. This is the only foundation. 'No one can lay any foundation other than the one that is laid: Jesus Christ' (1 Cor 3:11).”