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Cardinal Gerhard Müller.
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Cardinal Müller: Amazon Synod is a ‘pretext for changing the Church’

Diane Montagna Diane Montagna Follow Diane

ROME, July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In a forceful new interview, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said the upcoming synod of bishops on the Amazon is “a pretext for changing the Church.”  

“The fact that it is being held in Rome is intended to underline the beginning of a new church,” he added.

In the July 11 interview with La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana (see full text below), the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has also seconded Cardinal Walter Brandmuller’s critique of the Amazon Synod’s working document as “heretical,” adding that “it also lacks theological reflection.” 

“The heretic knows Catholic doctrine and contradicts it. But here there is only great confusion,” he says, adding that the “center of it all is not Jesus Christ” but its authors and proponents, and “their human ideas to save the world.”

“The approach of Instrumentum Laboris is an ideological vision,” that has nothing to do with the foundations of Catholicism, he insists.

Commenting on the substance of the working document, Cardinal Müller said the “cosmovision” it proposes is “pan-naturalistic” and “similar to Marxism.”  

He also said “we must absolutely reject” expressions such as “ecological conversion,” insisting “there is only conversion to the Lord.”

Regarding the working document’s emphasis on “Mother Earth,” the former head of the CDF said: “Our mother is a person, not the Earth. And our mother in faith is Mary.”  

The cardinal called the document’s push for an “inculturated liturgy” a move “to change not only what is ecclesiastical right, but also what is divine right.”

Asked if he is concerned about being labeled an “enemy of the Pope” for levelling such criticism, Cardinal Müller says: “It is only a working document that has no magisterial value, so only the ignorant can say that those who criticize it are an enemy of the Pope.” 

“Unfortunately,” the cardinal adds, “this is their trick to avoid any critical dialogue; if you try to raise an objection you are immediately labeled as an enemy of the Pope.”

Seduced by the illusion that “everything must be changed in the conviction that, in this way, there will be a new springtime of the Church,” they “despise” tradition and treat Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as “outdated,” the cardinal insists.

But “they do not see that instead they are destroying the Church. They are like blind men falling into a pit.”

Here below is an English translation of the full interview with Cardinal Gerhard Müller, with the kind permission of La Nuova Bussola. 

LA NUOVA BUSSOLA: Your Eminence, you say “they want to change the Church,” but what are the clear signs of this intent?

CARDINAL MÜLLER: The approach of Instrumentum Laboris is an ideological vision that has nothing to do directly with the theological approach to the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, who is the Incarnate Word, true God and true man. They want to save the world according to their own idea, perhaps using some elements of Sacred Scripture and Apostolic Tradition. It is not by chance that, although they speak about Revelation, Creation, the sacraments, and relationships with the world, there is hardly any substantial reference to the texts of the Second Vatican Council that define these aspects: Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, and Gaudium et Spes. There is no mention of the root of human dignity, of the universality of salvation, of the Church as the universal sacrament of the salvation of the world. There are only profane ideas, which one can also discuss, but they have nothing to do with Revelation.

In this regard, it seems to me important to mention n. 39 of the Instrumentum Laboris, where it speaks of “a broad and essential arena of dialogue between the Amazon’s spiritualities, creeds and religions that requires an approach of the heart to the different cultures.” It also says: “Insincere openness to the other, just like a corporatist attitude, that reserves salvation exclusively to one’s own creed, are destructive of that very creed.” They treat our Creed as if it were our European opinion. But the Creed is the response, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, to the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ who lives in the Church. There are no other creeds. Instead, there are other philosophical convictions or mythological expressions, but no one has ever dared to say, for example, that Plato’s Wisdom is a form of God’s Revelation.

In the creation of the world, God manifests only his existence, his being a point of reference for conscience and natural law, but there is no other revelation outside of Jesus Christ. The concept of Lógos spermatikòs (the “seeds of the Word”), taken from the Second Vatican Council, does not mean that revelation in Jesus Christ exists in all cultures independently of Jesus Christ — as if Jesus were only one of the elements of revelation. Saint Justin Martyr rejected all pagan mythologies and said the elements of truth in philosophies are the property of Christ (II. Apol. 13), “in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).

Then you agree with Cardinal Brandmüller when he speaks of “heresy” in regard to this document.

Heresy? Not only that, it also lacks theological reflection. The heretic knows Catholic doctrine and contradicts it. But here there is only great confusion, and the center of it all is not Jesus Christ but themselves, their human ideas to save the world.

In the document, the “cosmovision” of the indigenous peoples is presented as a model of integral ecology. According to this conception, the spirits and divinities act “with and in the territory, with and in relation to nature.” And this cosmovision is associated with the “‘mantra’ of Francis: ‘everything is connected’” (n. 25).

“Cosmovision” is a pan-naturalist or — in the modern European context— a materialistic conception, similar to that of Marxism; in the end, we can do what we want. God is not nature, as Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) formulated it. 

We believe in God, the Creator of the universe. Creation is for the glorification of God, but it is also a challenge for us, who are called to collaborate with God’s saving will for all mankind. Our task is not to preserve nature as it is; we are responsible for the progress of humanity in education, in social justice, for peace among peoples. That is why Catholics build schools and hospitals; this too is part of the mission of the Church. One cannot idealize nature as if the Amazon were a sphere of Paradise, because nature is not always loving towards man. In the Amazon there are predators, there are infections and diseases. And also these children, these young people have the right to a good education, to benefit from modern medicine. One cannot idealize only traditional medicine, as the synodal document does. One thing is to treat a headache, it is quite another when there are serious diseases and complicated operations. Man not only has the right, but also the duty to do everything to preserve or restore health. The Council also values modern science, because thanks to it we have defeated so many diseases; we have lowered infant mortality and also risks to the mother. Modern technology is not in itself the devil, but must serve to solve the many problems of human existence. Christians have a responsibility to promote the temporal common good (Gaudium et Spes, 34 ff.), without confusing it with eternal salvation.

However, the traditional cultures and religions of the indigenous Amazonian peoples are described as a model of harmony with nature.

There is no harmony with nature after original sin. Many times [nature] is the enemy of man, but in any case it is ambivalent. Consider the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. Earthquakes, fires, floods, storms are all manifestations of nature and are dangers to man. And man has become an enemy to his brother instead of a friend (through adulteries, robberies, lies, murders, wars). “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:22-23).

Everything is read through the key of a needed “ecological conversion”....

We must absolutely reject expressions such as “ecological conversion.” There is only conversion to the Lord, and as a consequence there is also the good of nature. We cannot make ecology a new religion, this is a pantheistic conception which must be rejected. Pantheism is not only a theory about God; it is also a form of contempt for man. God who identifies himself with nature is not a person. Instead, God the Creator created us in His image and likeness. In prayer we have a relationship with a God who listens to us, who understands what we want to say, not a mysticism in which we can dissolve our personal identity. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption, in union with whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (cf. Rom 8:15).

… and one considers the Earth as mother.

Our mother is a person, not the Earth. And our mother in faith is Mary. The Church is also described as a mother, as the bride of Jesus Christ. These words [about Mother Earth] must not be inflated. It is one thing to have respect for all the elements of this world, it is another to idealize or divinize them. This identification of God with nature is a form of atheism, because God is independent of nature. They totally ignore Creation.

Already at the beginning of the 1980s, then-Cardinal Ratzinger saw that there was no preaching in churches on Creation, and he foresaw the dramatic consequences.

Indeed, all of these mistakes arise from a confusion between Creator and creature, from the identification of nature with God, which among other things generates polytheism, because every natural element is associated with a divinity. The essence of biblical monotheism is the ontological difference between Creator and Creation. God is not part of his work, he is sovereign above all created things. This is not the contempt but rather the elevation of nature. A fundamental axiom of Catholic theology says: Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit eam [“Grace does not replace nature but perfects it”] (St. Thomas of Aquinas, Summa theologiae I, q. 1 a.8). And men are no longer slaves to the elements; they no longer have to worship the god of fire or make sacrifices to the god of fire to pacify us with an element that frightens us. Man is finally free.

The pantheistic vision that is espoused by the Instrumentum Laboris also implies a criticism of anthropocentrism which the Church herself should correct.

It is an absurd idea to pretend that God is not anthropocentric. Man is the center of Creation, and Jesus became man, he did not become a plant. This is a heresy against human dignity. On the contrary, the Church must emphasize anthropocentrism, because God created man in His image and likeness. The life of man is infinitely more worthy than the life of any animal. Today there is a reversal of this principle: if a lion is killed in Africa it becomes a world tragedy, but here children are killed in the womb of their mother and everything is fine. Stalin also held that the centrality of human dignity should be removed; in this way, he could call many men to build a channel and allow them to die for the good of future generations. These ideologies ensure that that some men dominate over all others. But God is anthropocentric, the Incarnation is anthropocentric. The rejection of anthropocentrism comes only from a hatred of oneself and of others. Man in Christ as a son of the Father is theocentric and never cosmo-centric. Love for God above all else and love for one’s neighbour, this is the gravitational field of human existence.

Another magic word in the Instrumentum Laboris is inculturation, which is often associated with the Incarnation.

Using the Incarnation almost as a synonym for inculturation is the first mystification. The Incarnation is a unique, unrepeatable event. It is the Word who becomes flesh in Jesus Christ. God did not become incarnate in the Jewish religion; he did not become incarnate in Jerusalem. Jesus Christ is unique. This is a fundamental point, because the sacraments depend on the Incarnation, they are the presence of the Incarnate Word. One cannot abuse certain terms that are central to Christianity. The Church expresses herself in the forms of particular cultures through symbols in catechesis and the liturgy. But the sacramental signs (word and sign) effect the supernatural grace of Christ, who is present. Thus one should not despise the liturgy as “a museum piece” or “the property of a select few” (IL n. 124). The “substance of the sacraments” is more important than secondary rites (language, music, etc.) and cannot be changed by ecclesiastical authority (Council of Trent, 21. sess. 1562:DH 1728).

Let us return to inculturation: it is clear from the synodal document that all the beliefs of indigenous peoples, their rites and customs must be adopted. There is also a reference to how early Christianity was inculturated in the Greek world. And it is said that, as it was done then, it must be done today with the Amazonian people.

But the Catholic Church has never accepted Greek and Roman myths. On the contrary, it rejected a civilization that despised men through slavery. It rejected the imperialist culture of Rome or the pederasty typical of the Greeks. The reference of the Church was to the thought of Greek culture, which had come to recognize elements that opened the way to Christianity via reason. The relationship between revealed faith and the human intellect is the basis of our relationship with God, the origin and end of all creation. Aristotle did not invent the ten categories: these already exist in being; he only discovered them. This also happens in modern science: it is not something that concerns only the West, it is instead the discovery of structures and mechanisms that exist in nature. The same applies to Roman law, which is not just any arbitrary system. Rather, it is the discovery of certain legal principles, which the Romans found in the nature of a community. Certainly, other cultures have not had this depth. But we do not live in Greek, Roman, Gothic, Lombard, Frankish culture. Christianity totally transformed Greek and Roman culture. Certain pagan myths may have a pedagogical dimension in relation to Christianity, but they are not elements that lie at the foundation of Christianity.

In this process of inculturation, Instrumentum Laboris also “reinterprets” the sacraments, especially as regards the Holy Orders, on the pretext that there are few priests in such a vast territory. 

This further demonstrates that the approach used is sociological and not theological. The revelation of God in Christ becomes present in the sacraments, and the Church has no authority whatsoever to change the substance of the sacraments. These are not merely rites that we like, and the priesthood is not a sociological category for creating a relationship in the community. Any cultural system has its own rites and symbols, but the sacraments are means of divine grace for all men at all times and places, so we cannot change their content or substance. Nor can we change the rite, when this rite is constituted by Christ Himself. We cannot perform a baptism with any liquid; it is done with natural water. At the Last Supper, Jesus Christ did not take just any drink or food; he took grape wine and wheaten bread. Some say, “but wheat does not grow in the Amazon, let’s use something else.” But this is not inculturation. They want to change not only what is ecclesiastical right, but also what is divine right.

Your Eminence, one last thing: you often refer to “them,” to those who want to change the Church. But who are “they”?

It does not depend on a single person or a specific group of people. It is a self-referential system, immune from any critical argument, a way of thinking that must disqualify other Catholic faithful and theologians, by morally branding them as Pharisees, doctors of the law, rigid, and conservative. 

They speak of the wisdom of the ancestors with great respect but the long tradition of the Church is despised, and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are treated as outdated. They want to adapt [everything] to the world: indissoluble marriage, celibacy, women priests, and apostolic authority, as if it were a political issue. Everything must be changed in the conviction that, in this way, there will be a new springtime of the Church, a new Pentecost. This too a bizarre idea, because the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a unique event, eschatological and valid forever. As if the example of the Protestants were not enough to disprove this illusion. They do not see that instead they are destroying the Church, they are like blind men falling into a pit. The Church must develop according to the principles of Catholic theology and not of sociology or naturalism and positivism (cf. Dei Verbum, 8-10). “Sacred theology rests on the written word of God, together with sacred tradition, as its primary and perpetual foundation. By scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ, theology is most powerfully strengthened and constantly rejuvenated by that word (Dei Verbum, 24).

Translation from the Italian by Diane Montagna of LifeSiteNews.

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