Vatican’s former doctrine head: Ban on female deacons, priests an infallible Catholic ‘dogma’

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Cardinal Gerhard Müller

Maike Hickson

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October 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Vatican’s former head of the congregation tasked with preserving the Catholic Church’s doctrine from error has stated that it’s an infallible teaching of the Church that must be held by all the faithful that women cannot receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of its three degrees – deacon, priest, bishop.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stated that it’s an “error” for anyone who claims to be Catholic to “demand” from the upcoming Amazon Synod (beginning in Rome on Sunday, Oct. 6) that it “must rule that the Sacrament of Holy Orders – in its first degree, the diaconate – may also be validly administered to women.”

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The Cardinal, in a statement to LifeSiteNews (published in full below), said that it is “certainly without doubt” that Saint John Paul II’s 1994 teaching on the impossibility of women receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees is a “dogma” of the Faith of the Catholic Church.

John Paul II declared in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church has “no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.”

Stated Cardinal Müller: “It is certainly without doubt, however, that this definitive decision from Pope John Paul II is indeed a dogma of the Faith of the Catholic Church and that this was of course the case already before this Pope defined this truth as contained in Revelation in the year 1994.”

“The impossibility that a woman validly receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees is a truth contained in Revelation and it is thus infallibly confirmed by the Church's Magisterium and presented as to be believed,” he added. 

Cardinal Müller made this comment in reaction to a recent claim made by Bishop Erwin Kräutler, one of the key organizers of the Amazon Synod, that John Paul II's teaching about the impossibility of female priests was “not a dogma.”

“But, even if the Pope explained at the time that 'all the faithful of the Church are definitely to hold this decision,' it is nevertheless not a dogma,” Bishop Kräutler stated in an interview with Blickpunkt Lateinamerika, the journal of the German relief agency Adveniat – a group which heavily funded the preparations for the upcoming Synod. Kräutler also stated in the same interview that the Amazon Synod “must” allow a female diaconate.

The Amazon Synod's controversial working document proposes “to identify the type of official ministry that can be conferred on women, taking into account the central role which women play today in the Amazonian Church” (14). But the participants of one preparatory meeting for the Amazon Synod – among them Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops – explicitly called for the allowance of female deacons. 

“In this sense, we propose that their leadership be recognized, promoting various ministerial forms of exercising service and authority, and in particular, that reflection on the female diaconate be taken up again in the perspective of Vatican II (cf. LG 29, AG 16 IL 129 c2),” the participants wrote.

Cardinal Müller goes on in his statement to explain in detail that not every dogma of the Catholic Church needs to be formally declared as such. 

“When it comes to a dogma, one has to differentiate between the substantive and the formal side. The revealed truth which is being expressed in it – and whose denial is being sanctioned with an “anathema sit” or which is being pronounced 'ex cathedra' by the Pope alone – does not therefore depend upon the external form of the definition,” he stated. The Creed is such an example. 

Next to this doctrinal question, the German prelate also addressed the current activities of Catholic progressives and their “manipulations” happening within the Church. 

After mentioning the fact that today some theologians, and even bishops, question the infallibility of John Paul II's 1994 declaration, Cardinal Müller goes on to discuss the current problem that, under the pontificate of Pope Francis, there seems to be a growing number of theologians who desire to promote a sort of “ecclesial absolutism.” 

“Some people,” he stated, “being themselves factionists, misinterpret in an ideological fashion the dogma of the primacy of jurisdiction and of the infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and morals; and they turn these dogmas into a heretofore-unseen ecclesial absolutism, as if – also outside of questions of faith and morals – the Pope could properly demand 'religious submission of mind and will” with regard “to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff' (Lumen Gentium 25).”

These people, according to Müller, pretend that there is, “next to the Word of God, an additional source of Revelation, either in the Pope or in the People of God, to whom the Shepherds should listen.” Thus, man would be placed above God's Revelation. “Such new sources [of proposed revelation], they say, would allow us to go beyond Scripture and Tradition and even to know better than the heretofore Magisterium as to what Jesus really had meant and what He would now say were He alive today.”

Without explicitly saying so, Cardinal Müller may have been referring to the working document of the Amazon Synod which claims with reference to the Amazon region that “territory is a theological place where faith is lived, and also a particular source of God’s revelation: epiphanic places where the reserve of life and wisdom for the planet is manifest, a life and wisdom that speaks of God” (19).

In the context of this false “ecclesial papalism” and erroneous teachings on the sources of Revelation, Cardinal Müller also pointed to the “shocking dilettantism” in today's theology, but also to the “brutal contempt of man” that is to be found in Church politics. “He who has an independent mind,” he explained, “is being mercilessly taken out and discarded in an inhuman way without taking into consideration his achievements for the Church and theology.”

True unity in the Church cannot be achieved by using such methods. 

“But the unity in the truth can only be received from God in prayer, and it can only be realized in the obedience of the Magisterium toward God and His Revelation, but it cannot be reached by manipulations, nor with the help of violence and deceit,” he stated. 

With these words, Cardinal Müller noted that changes to the Church's teachings go along with manipulations and deceit, and they do not foster unity. The Magisterium has to obey God and His Revelation. In this context, the German cardinal stated that “in theology, theological and philosophical arguments are what counts.” 

“The truth is not a function serving political and ideological claims to power,” he added.

The prelate highlighted that the recent methods of manipulations come from the progressivist camp. 

“And this popular trick of our progressivists has been understood for a long time and thus rendered ineffective. Namely, they use personal attacks, instead of putting forward for discussion their substantive arguments, and they help themselves in their embarrassment with the help of absurd insinuations that lack any intellectual honesty,” he stated. 

For Modernism, the Cardinal explained, “a dogma of the Catholic Faith is not the definitive and irreversible insight of the Church that a truth is contained in Revelation and therefore needs to be accepted by each Catholic 'with divine and Catholic Faith,' but it is, rather, an expression of the dominant opinion which has gained, with the help of journalistic strategies, the authority of the Pope who then happens to be reigning.”

These modernists now “wish to turn the ecclesial loyalty of each Catholic toward the Pope into an unconditional submission under this one man and into a senseless sacrificium intellectus.” But this “ideological camp” does not realize that they “undermine, with their politicization of the papal authority, the theological foundation of the Petrine Office. Catholics are not anymore to believe in God, but in the Pope, whom the mainstream ideologues inside and outside the Church present as 'their Pope.'”

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Cardinal Müller warned against those who politicize this papacy. He said that Catholics must remain loyal to God's teachings, even if Church leaders fail at being good shepherds. The Cardinal pointed out that “‘the obedience of faith … by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of the intellect and of the will to God who reveals’ (Dei Verbum 5), can never apply to a human being – even if it be the Pope or a bishop.” 

The authority of Church leaders, Cardinal Müller added, is “merely deduced and in its substance completely and totally dependent upon God's authority, 'because they do not receive any new public revelation as part of the depositum fidei' (Lumen Gentium 25).”

With these words, the Cardinal provides Catholics with a guide that helps them to know where the limits of papal authority lie so that they can properly orient themselves in the confusing times the Church is now facing. In this context, he outlined the “Incident at Antioch” where St. Paul “contradicted St. Peter to his face” (Gal. 2:11) on account of Peter, the first Pope, falling into error.

The Cardinal ended his statement with a pledge of loyalty to the Pope. 

“We Catholics are, without exception, loyal to Pope Francis and to the bishops in communion with him. This is the essence of the mandate of the Pope, that he assembles again and again anew the disciples and that he unites them in the profession of St. Peter who, when asked by Jesus what people think Who He is, makes the profession of the Church of all ages: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ (Mt. 16, 16). And this he said without paying attention to the fickle opinions of the people,” he stated. 

***

Full statement of Cardinal Gerhard Müller on the 'impossibility' of female ordination

October 3, 2019

The demand that the Amazon Synod must rule that the Sacrament of Holy Orders – in its first degree, the diaconate – may also be validly administered to women, contains several errors. 

The first error consists of the opinion that the Magisterium stands above Revelation and that a synod of bishops (with merely a consultative character), an ecumenical council, or the Pope alone could alter the substance of the sacraments (Council of Trent, Decree on Communion under both species, DH 1728).

The second error lies in the opinion that the Sacrament of Holy Orders really consists of three Sacraments, so that one has accordingly to decide whether the declaration Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (1994) merely applies to the ordination degree of the bishop, or of the presbyter (= the priest), or of the deacon. 

The third error consists of misleading a theologically uninformed public by putting forth the thesis that the definitive decision of Pope John Paul II, namely “that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful” (OS 4), is not a dogma.

It is certainly without doubt, however, that this definitive decision from Pope John Paul II is indeed a dogma of the Faith of the Catholic Church and that this was of course the case already before this Pope defined this truth as contained in Revelation in the year 1994. The impossibility that a woman validly  receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders in each of the three degrees is a truth contained in Revelation and it is thus infallibly confirmed by the Church's Magisterium and presented as to be believed.

Upon the request of the doctrinal commission of the German Bishops' Conference, I once collected during the time of Cardinal Wetter [who headed the doctrinal commission from 1981 until 2008] the most important documents from Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium: The Recipient of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Sources Pertaining to the Doctrine and Practice of the Church to Confer the Sacrament of Holy Orders Only on Men (Würzburg 1999). The International Theological Commission also expressed itself in a competent manner in this matter, and there exist notable monographs on this matter, as well.  A discussion is only of worth on the basis of the knowledge of the sources. He who negates it might perhaps be welcomed by the uninformed and often anticlerical media – who only rejoice about strife and division within the Church – but he cannot be taken seriously on the academic level.

When it comes to a dogma, one has to differentiate between the substantive and the formal side. The revealed truth which is being expressed in it – and whose denial is being sanctioned with an “anathema sit” or which is being pronounced “ex cathedra” by the Pope alone – does not therefore depend upon the external form of the definition. The essential statements of the Creed, for example, have not been formally defined, but they have been defined in their substance and in an exquisite manner, and they are presented by the Church as statements that have to be believed for the sake of salvation.

Some people now suggest that the doctrine that only a baptized man (who meets the necessary objective and subjective preconditions) may validly receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders is instead to be relativized, namely as an intermittent, private opinion of John Paul II, because some theologians or bishops are of the subjective opinion that this doctrine is not a dogma. And they hold this view, even though Pope Francis himself has always stressed the binding character of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Some people, being themselves factionists, misinterpret in an ideological fashion the dogma of the primacy of jurisdiction and of the infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and morals; and they turn these dogmas into a heretofore-unseen ecclesial absolutism, as if – also outside of questions of faith and morals – the Pope could demand “religious submission of mind and will” with regard “to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff” (Lumen Gentium 25). They do so as if there was, next to the Word of God, an additional source of Revelation, either in the Pope or in the People of God, to whom the Shepherds should listen. Such new sources, they say, would allow us to go beyond Scripture and Tradition and even to know better than the heretofore Magisterium as to what Jesus really had meant and what He would now say were He alive today. When faced with Imperial Chancellor Bismarck's deceitful misinterpretation of the dogma of the infallibility of the First Vatican Council, the German bishops stated that the Magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops is “bound to the content of Holy Scripture and of Tradition, as well as to the magisterial decisions as they have already been made by the Church's Magisterium” (DH 3116). Pope Pius IX gave this declaration his full support (DH 3117).

It is shocking what kind of dilettantism is currently to be seen in theology and what a brutal contempt of man is taking place in Church politics. He who has an independent mind is being mercilessly taken out and discarded in an inhuman way without taking into consideration his achievements for the Church and theology. But the unity in the truth can only be received from God in prayer, and it can only be realized in the obedience of the Magisterium toward God and His Revelation, but it cannot be reached by manipulations, nor with the help of violence and deceit. Ad intra et extra, it applies: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Religious Liberty, DH 1). 

One could not even convince a child that these political and media phantasies of omnipotence still have anything to do with the defined doctrine of the First and Second Vatican Councils concerning the Pope and the Church. One certainly could not do so with “the mature [in the Faith], for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). All those who either overestimate or underestimate the primacy of the Roman Church and her bishop should urgently read the text of the Congregation for the Faith (1998): The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church. It is to be found as an attachment in my 600-page study The Pope. Mission and Mandate (Herder 2017). The book is also available in Polish and Spanish and soon will be published in English and Italian, so that no one could excuse himself by claiming a lack of knowledge concerning my own considered position. In theology, theological and philosophical arguments are what counts. The truth is not a function serving political and ideological claims to power.  And this popular trick of our progressivists has been understood for a long time and thus rendered ineffective. Namely, they use personal attacks, instead of putting forward for discussion their substantive arguments, and they help themselves in their embarrassment with the help of absurd insinuations that lack any intellectual honesty.

According to the thesis of Modernism as condemned by the Magisterium – a pseudo-Catholic version of the cultural Protestantism of the theology of feeling according to Schleiermacher – a dogma of the Catholic Faith is not the definitive and irreversible insight of the Church that a truth is contained in Revelation and therefore needs to be accepted by each Catholic “with divine and Catholic Faith,” but it is, rather, an expression of the dominant opinion which has gained, with the help of journalistic strategies, the authority of the Pope who then happens to be reigning. The Word of God in Scripture and Tradition and the fact that the Magisterium is bound, in substance, to the unique and unparalleled Revelation in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of the Faith, is here being replaced by an ecclesial-political loyalty to the line of the actual Pope – but only under the condition that he is in accord with their own opinion. These same “false brothers” (Gal. 2:4) – who now wish to turn the ecclesial loyalty of each Catholic toward the Pope into an unconditional submission under this one man and into a senseless sacrificium intellectus – belonged to the most ruthless enemies of Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, a loyalty to the Pope that has a theological foundation looks entirely different.

However, the Manifesto of Faith (as it can be found in my book: The Power of the Truth. The Challenges to Catholic Doctrine and Morals Today – Ignatius Press 2019), which I had issued in the face of the chaos in the teaching proclamation and which, in accordance with the Apostolic Tradition, presents the key truths – Holy Trinity, Incarnation, Sacramentality of the Church, the Seven Sacraments, the unity of faith and discipleship, and the hope for eternal life – was demeaned as “half truths of a subjective and arbitrary character.” Someone who usually is a glowing admirer of Luther then even had thought himself able to accuse me of being a Lutherus redivivus, that is to say a revenant Luther. This Luther had, shortly before his death and in a language that does not invite a dialogue – had let himself go and had spoken about “The papacy in Rome, instituted by the devil” (1545). 

Moreover, this same ideological camp now presents itself in their well-known magazines, websites, and so-called non-fiction books as defender of the reform Pope, without noticing that they undermine, with their politicization of the papal authority, the theological foundation of the Petrine Office. Catholics are not anymore to believe in God, but in the Pope, whom the mainstream ideologues inside and outside the Church present as “their Pope.” These ideologues themselves then condemn, in a shocking fit of religious mania, every clear-minded Catholic, faithful bishop, and priest as enemy of “their Pope.” But “the obedience of faith … by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of the intellect and of the will to God who reveals” (Dei Verbum 5), can never apply to a human being – even if it be the Pope or a bishop. Their authority is merely deduced and in its substance completely and totally dependent upon God's authority, “because they do not receive any new public revelation as part of the depositum fidei” (Lumen Gentium 25). This applies also to the relationship of bishops and Pope. In their episcopal ordination, the bishops promised directly to God to preserve faithfully the Catholic Faith. In their consciences, they are duty-bound solely to God and His Revealed Truth (against any form of papalotry). But in the context of episcopal collegiality and of the orientation toward the Pope as the perennial principle and foundation of the unity of the Church in the revealed truth of the Faith (Lumen Gentium 18;23), the directness to God also in the community of the Church and in the communal responsibility for the whole deposit of the faith of the Church (against Protestant individualism) is being realized. It was only this way that St. Paul could “contradict St. Peter to his face” (Gal. 2:11), because the latter was in his teaching in fact loyal to the “truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14), but then “stood self-condemned” by his ambiguous practice. But St. Paul did so without fundamentally questioning the authority and mission of St. Peter. The so-called incident at Antioch, therefore, cannot be used as an argument against the existence of the papacy as of divine right.

After some negative experiences, Pope Francis has to be aware that the relationship between Pope and bishops (and within the Holy Roman Church his relationship to the cardinals) has to be determined by the Catholic understanding of the Church and that it may not be abandoned to the sensationalism of the journalists or to the opportunism of flatterers. It is an unspeakable arrogance when “Vaticanists” publicly and with gestures that seek approval hand to the Pope their books, in which they “uncover” – but in reality merely construe – oppositions and conspiracies against the Pope in the Curia and in the Church, and when they then allow themselves to be celebrated, similarly to the “heroes of the Soviet Union” of the past, for this folly that undermines the Faith. Let us remember here the “dove sellers and the money changers who had turned the Father's House into a marketplace,” who are, according to Jesus' example, to be driven out of the Temple and whose money (earned with their concoctions) is to be poured out – “and whose vending tables He overturned” (see John 2:15 seq.). In any event, this is not a form of literature which promotes harmony among the faithful and which contributes to the increase of morale.

If the Amazon Synod is to become a blessing for the whole Church and to strengthen her unity in the truth, instead of weakening it, the thinking along the lines of parties and ideologies has to stop. When in a struggle everybody “says something different” and legitimizes himself by saying: “I hold on to Paul, but I hold on to Peter, I hold on to Apollos, I to Christ,” then the counter question of the Apostle is justified: “Has Christ been divided? …. Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13) “Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine” (1 Cor. 11:19) – but “Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!” (Matt. 18:7).

We believe in the one God; “who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”; “there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:3-7). And we know that the Apostles and their successors, the bishops, are installed as “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7).

We Catholics are, without exception, loyal to Pope Francis and to the bishops in communion with him. This is the essence of the mandate of the Pope, that he assembles again and again anew the disciples and that he unites them in the profession of St. Peter who, when asked by Jesus what people think Who He is, makes the profession of the Church of all ages: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16, 16). And this he said without paying attention to the fickle opinions of the people.

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