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Pope Francis criticizes former doctrinal head Muller: he has ‘good intentions’ but is ‘like a child’

Maike Hickson Maike Hickson Follow Maike

September 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has criticized Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican’s former head of doctrine who continues to raise concerns about the direction the Church is taking under the Francis pontificate, stating that the cardinal “has good intentions” but is “like a child.”

In the context of Pope Francis' September 4 flight to Mozambique, the news websites of the German and Austrian Bishops' Conferences, Katholisch.de and Kathpress.at, both report that Pope Francis was also asked about Cardinal Müller and his recurrent interventions that now seem to have a “critical view of the current pontificate.”

Pope Francis is reported to have answered: “He has good intentions, he is a good man. The Pope likes him. But he is like a child.”

The Pope made these comments in front of a smaller group of journalists on his flight to Mozambique, Africa, while greeting the journalists on board. Kathpress.at states that “the Pope made these comments at a short greeting of media representatives who are traveling with him. In this context, he [the Pope] was asked about some contributions of the former chief of the Congregation for the Faith which indicate a critical view of the current pontificate.” Dr. Paul Wuthe, the editor-in-chief of Kathpress.at, informed LifeSiteNews that "the Pope made these comments in an informal conversation with a German-speaking journalist on the flight to Mozambique. Among the journalists on the flight was also a correspondent of Kathpress who reported on it."

Roland Juchem, Rome Correspondent of Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur (KNA), which works with Kathpress and Katholisch.de, told LifeSiteNews that the Pope’s remark on the Cardinal “stems from the usual papal walk on his flight to greet [the journalists]. In this case, a colleague briefly asked the Pope about Cardinal Müller and his distancing statements about his pontificate.” 

The Austrian Catholic news website Kath.net – which also reported on these papal comments on Pope Francis (based on the Kathpress report) – reached out to Cardinal Müller himself, asking him for comment. 

Cardinal Müller answered, saying: “with Jesus, one could ask His Vicar: why do you call me good? 'No one is good but God alone ' (Luke 18:19), and one could console oneself with the words of Scripture: 'we should be called children of God; and so we are' (1 John 3:1).” The German prelate continues, saying that to be a child of God in Christ “is the greatest dignity to which the Son of God has raised us (Rom. 8:17).”

Commenting on Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller added:  “Also, I think that the Pope is a good man and I like him from my heart, especially for everything that he does for the poor and the wounded. Whether many or few in his own surroundings are 'children' in the sense of Jesus (Luke 18:15-17) is known to God alone.”

In a new and longer interview with Kath.net, Cardinal Müller – independently of these new spontaneous comments of the Pope – criticized the advisors Pope Francis has chosen to surround himself with. 

In light of the fact that Cardinal Müller has already repeatedly criticized the Amazon Synod's working document (Instrumentum Laboris), he explained that this document “leaves out the essential content of the revealed Faith,” for example concerning the very notion of Revelation and of the Church. 

The German prelate quoted one “theological ignoramus with a bishop's hat” who stated that the Instrumentum Laboris is “merely the application of the encyclical Laudato Si and therefore an expression of the infallible Magisterium of the Pope who stands above the word of God or, as a source of revelation, right next to it.” Further presenting the claims of this one depreciative bishop, Müller continued: “Who therefore makes the Instrumentum Laboris subject of a theological critique, is said to be a heretic who calls upon himself eo ipso eternal punishment in hell. This great thinker and most worthy successor of the Apostles only missed where there is to be found in Laudato Si an irreversible doctrinal statement ex cathedra which has to be believed by every Catholic for the sake of his salvation – except, of course, that it is a dogma that the world has been completely created (=creation) in its being and in its order. But this should be known by every child from its first catechism class.”

Cardinal Müller’s above comments make it clear that Catholics are free to criticize the Amazon Synod's working document.

The German Cardinal continues his critique of this bishop, saying that “I feel sorry for Pope Francis when he is being defended with their lives by such courageous friends who, with their shameless half-education, undermine the Roman Primate, by abusing the Pope's authority for their anti-Catholic agenda. He who still yesterday was prominently defaming the predecessors [of the Pope] and purportedly congratulated Pope Benedict for his courage to retire, is completely untrustworthy as a defender of the current Pope.”

Cardinal Müller also makes it clear that such attempts at intimidating the critics of Pope Francis or of the Amazon Synod document will not silence him. “As bishop,” he stated, “who at his episcopal consecration has promised to proclaim loyally the Catholic Faith I will not be intimidated through the media by such ideologues with their ridiculous super-papalism which stands in direct contradiction to the First and the Second Vatican Council. Who is impressed by the arrogance of such theological illiterates who try to cover up the weakness of their argumentation with the help of personal insults?”

Further commenting on the duty of a pope as such, the prelate says that “every pontificate is dependent upon the fact that it is in accordance with Revelation in Holy Scripture and Tradition and the doctrinal continuity with his predecessors and especially with the ecumenical councils.”

He later goes on to explain that he has written in defense of the papacy in the time before Pope Francis' pontificate, and during. “Church history will speak its judgment as to the question upon whom Pope Francis should have better relied,” Müller commented.

Cardinal Müller also commented about some fundamental aspects of the current debates in the Church where it is, “unlike in politics, not about power, but about God's Truth Who wishes our salvation (1 Tim. 3:15).” Here, “every Catholic and especially every bishop has the task” to help “build up the Church, which is the Body of Christ.”

“All Catholic bishops, and especially the cardinals of the Roman Curia, have the duty – in union with the Pope – to witness to, and to proclaim – in this world and in an unadulterated manner – the truth of Revelation,” Müller said.

He also stated in this new interview that “I expect each Catholic to make use of his own reason in the Faith (the sensus fidei fidelium).” 

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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.