Maike Hickson

Cardinal Gerhard Muller
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Diane Montagna/LifeSiteNews

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Cdl. Müller: German progressive clergy have rendered the Church in Germany ‘nearly meaningless’

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

December 10, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a recent interview, Cardinal Gerhard Müller describes the chaos into which the Catholic Church in Germany has been plunged due to the progressivist agenda of liberalism, laxity, and relativism since the 1970s. This progressivism, he says, has rendered the Church in Germany “nearly meaningless,” and it is time to return to “ascesis, mysticism, and discipline,” in order to restore the Catholic faith.

Published on December 5 by the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost, this new interview with Cardinal Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is a sort of assessment of the state of the Catholic Church in Germany, with a special view and attentiveness to the theology departments at German universities.

“Professionalism in theology is not well received,” “the logic and reason of the faith are being denied,” and “manager qualities” are highly esteemed. After a negative description of the state of affairs in German theology, the cardinal says that “so-called ‘German Churchmen’ still dream in a sort of ridiculous self-aggrandizement that they still can instruct others and thus...be the trendsetters of the Church. However, it is now time for them to go into the school of others and humbly to learn from [them] how to remain loyal to the Word of God and thus to gain the energy for a new evangelization.”

Further describing the attitude of the progressivists, Cardinal Müller also says that the “party spirit of progressivism” is “not about seeking the truth, but power.”

“The Church, however, is one and united in the faith which comes from God,” he adds, “and does not lie in the victory of one party over another.”

Commenting on some of the recent sharp attacks against him as a person after he publicly criticized homosexuality (see here, for example), the cardinal states: “He who is insecure in his arguments has to try it with insolence.”

Cardinal Müller sees that the Catholic Church is split: “Yes, the Church is split, but from the progressive party one does not hear anything – except the attempt [to] revive old errors – that would help us for the future.” This old “model” of the progressives, the prelate continues, “which has rendered the Church in many countries nearly meaningless, cannot be the antidote against the mostly homemade crisis.”

“That which contradicts the Will of God and destroys people cannot again make the Church trustworthy,” the cardinal states.

Speaking about the situation of the Church in Germany, Cardinal Müller says that it is not representative for the Universal Church – “not at all.”

“Most of the problems are in the realm of Middle Europe,” he explains. “At academic conferences in Rome, the Germans usually are notably absent.”

Further discussing the question of how the Church in Germany came to be in such a dire state, Cardinal Müller describes his own experience as a university theology professor in Germany.

“Progressive” professors would tell their post-graduate students to write their theses in an orthodox manner, “so as not get questions from Rome,” and to wait until they were established professors with tenure, he explained. Once that new professor’s position had become essentially not terminable, “he could express himself ‘freely,’ that is to say in conformity with the majority and in a fashion critical of Rome.” Thus, “the freedom of theology is not being used in a responsible manner in light of the ‘truth of the Gospels’ (Gal. 2:14),” explains the cardinal. He sees a strong “lack of faith” among those progressivists of the 1970s and onwards.

The German prelate also says that candidates who do not have a certain distance toward Rome do not fit into German theology departments. “In Germany, barely anyone would have had a chance to become a professor had he written a doctoral thesis on John Paul II or Joseph Ratzinger.” Such people would not even be invited to interviews.

Therefore, theology departments at German universities only make sense, he adds, when such theology professors “fulfill their task which was given to them when they received their tenure as professor.”

“When theology forgets its rootedness in the revealed faith, it cuts the branch off on which it sits by negating its own epistemological principles and criteria of truth.”

Cardinal Müller makes it clear that, in the realm of doctrine, “a self-contradiction cannot be the result of a legitimate development of doctrine.”

Cardinal Müller also discusses the role of Church authorities with regard to the Catholic Church in Germany and her failures. On the one hand, there are these progressivists of the 1970s, but then there is also the “culpable naïveté of the responsible persons who, out of a false understanding of mercy and with an unmanly avoidance of conflict, have overlooked grievances, and [are] doing this without considering the consequences.”

Speaking about the role of the Vatican regarding inaction from responsible authorities, Cardinal Müller says that “in Rome, one is intimidated and one suffers under the constant reproach that one is too strict or that an institution like the Congregation for the Faith does not anymore fit into our times.” There are often to be heard “anachronistic references to the Roman Inquisition or the Holy Office” so as to more easily “relativize or dismiss” the decisions from the Congregation.

“One does not wish to appear [to be] putting on the breaks and one wishes to give professors a chance,” Müller explains. “But such tactical games do not help. When the theological level is sinking and the academic standard is getting lost in the chaos of subjective opinions, then a theological formation at universities makes no sense anymore.”

Cardinal Müller says that, in some cases, “individual institutions [in Germany] are not capable [of reforming] themselves, even with the help of the Church’s Magisterium.”

Pointing to the immense wealth of the Catholic Church in Germany, the German cardinal says that Rome has a sort of “minority complex toward the German-speaking world with its money and with the – earlier – [good] reputation of ‘German theology.’ This leads to leaving the Germans to themselves, as long as the money flows in,” the prelate explains.

Politely criticizing Rome here for its leniency toward the German-speaking Catholic world, Cardinal Müller reminds Rome of its own responsibility: “And here [in the Church], everybody is responsible for everyone, but especially the ‘Pope as the permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion’ (Lumen Gentium 18).”

Since this Müller interview, in large parts, deals with the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany, it has already attracted the attention of major German-speaking Catholic outlets such as Katholisch.de and Kath.net.

For the U.S. audience, however, it might be especially of interest that Cardinal Müller, when once more discussing the matter of homosexuality, quotes the U.S. author Daniel Mattson. Mattson’s recent book is entitled Why I Don't Want to Call Myself Gay, and the German cardinal quotes it when saying that “‘homosexuals’ as a third species, next to men and women, does not exist. I rely here on the book by [Daniel] Mattson” who, as someone affected by this problem, “is more trustworthy than all the prominent ideologues together.”

Moreover, touching upon the many clerical sex abuse cases and the suffering of the victims themselves – which he dealt with when heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – Cardinal Müller says that “neither the Church’s sexual morality nor celibacy themselves are responsible for this suffering, but especially the fact that they have both been culpably defied.”

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.