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Cardinal Muller: Pope Benedict has ‘duty’ to preach truth about sex abuse crisis

Martin M. Barillas Martin M. Barillas Follow Martin

ROME, April 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Gerhard Muller, in an interview with an Italian journalist, praised the recent letter by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI regarding homosexuality and clerical sexual abuse while dismissing blame placed on “nebulous” clericalism as a “false answer.”

Cardinal Muller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, validated a number of points raised by the former Pope, saying that in parallel to the rest of the world, there was a decline in morality, ethics and spirituality in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. He said that the contribution by Benedict XVI is “very important in this hour” because the Church is in a “crisis of credibility.”

Saying that it is the duty of observers to go “the roots or beginnings of this crisis,” Muller explained that the crisis began with the 1960s sexual revolution and the “contemporary crisis of moral theology” that has denied the “existence of intrinsically evil acts.”

Paying credit to his countryman, Cardinal Muller said: “Pope Benedict has a long memory of what happened in the Church and has a great capacity for theological analysis. It is very surprising that at 92 he has this lucidity to analyze the situation, much better than others who raise their voices.” Regarding objections raised by some that Pope Benedict had supposedly interfered in the authority of Pope Francis, Muller said, “The bishop and the great theologian [future Pope Benedict XVI] Ratzinger not only has the right, but also the duty of divine right to speak and give testimony of the revealed truth.”

When Muller was asked what the consequences may be for the publication of the former Pope’s reflection, he said, “I hope that some will finally begin to address the problem of sexual abuse in a clear and correct way. Clericalism is a false answer.”

While Pope Francis is often said to have a “pastoral approach” to the many moral problems of the day, Muller called for greater rigor, saying that it is “totally false to replace the foundations of human morality with a presumptive and indefinite pastoral rule.” He added, “And the Church, especially the bishops and the Pope, has an obligation on the part of God to preach the truth, including moral truth. This is the only way.”

The cardinal appeared to criticize the Second Vatican Council, which was summoned by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s and blamed by some for innovations that went beyond the intended “aggiornamento” or renewal. Explaining why jurisdiction over pedophilic clergy passed from the Congregation for the Clergy to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, Muller said:

“After the [Second Vatican] Council, a soft line prevailed, it was said that we should not be too legalistic, as it was in the days of Judaism. We are in the times of the Gospel, we said, we must accept men and not focus on limits and things to forbid but worry about living the grace of the Gospel. But this soft line does not work with human nature. Human nature is weak, it needs the help of grace, but also of a personal and ecclesial discipline. That is why the Congregation for the Clergy was not adequate to evaluate the cases of sexual abuse by priests, so the task went to the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Supreme Apostolic Court for causes against faith.”

Regarding the clerical perpetrators of sex crimes, Muller said that accusations must be treated carefully, but “drastic measures” should be taken against those proven to have committed abuses. Their crimes, he said, are against God, and objections against removing them from the clerical estate are not valid. He said, “Clearly it is a pain, but it is a just punishment. In these cases the priest is responsible for acts against life and against human dignity: it is not just a sin - we are all sinners - but when it comes to a crime against God and against men, one can not continue going to the altar as the representative of Jesus Christ. In that attitude there is also a false idea of ​​mercy.”

The perpetrators, even after doing penance, should not continue “as if nothing” had happened, Muller said.

“The victims suffer all their lives for what they have suffered, some will no longer be able to marry, they still have many deep difficulties in their lives, and all this caused by a servant of God, by an apostle. I am totally against this false mercy. The mercy of God is a change in life, which also implies accepting an appropriate punishment for the crime made in order to be reconciled. That blame should not be minimized, the damage that a man of God has done.”

The cardinal was interviewed by Ricardo Cascioli of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.

 

Your Eminence: How would you rate the publication of Benedict XVI's article on sexual abuse?

The contribution of Benedict XVI is very important in this hour that the Church is living because we have a great crisis of credibility, and it is our duty to go to the roots or to the beginnings of this crisis, which did not fall from heaven. So far we have only talked about clericalism, a very nebulous concept, a way of not addressing the true causes of the crisis, which has a long history that begins in the Church with the sexual revolution of the 1960s and with the contemporary crisis of moral theology by denying the existence of intrinsically evil acts. It has begun to be argued that some actions are a serious sin or crime only under certain conditions, that everything depends on the situation. But this is nothing more than a self-justification of sin.

Pope Benedict has a long memory of what happened in the Church and has a great capacity for theological analysis. It is very surprising that at 92 he has this lucidity to analyze the situation, much better than others who raise their voices.

Q: A first objection that has been made is related to the origin of the scandal of pedophilia going back to '68 and the sexual revolution. It is stated that the cases started well before '68.

It is an inconsistent objection. It is obvious that in all times there have been problems like this, but here the difference is in the passage from some isolated cases to a generalized phenomenon. Just look at the data. In the 60s, in parallel with what was happening in the world, in the Church there was a fall of the moral line, the ethics, the spirituality of the priesthood. Above all, confusion was created on the border between good and evil, on the forbidden and the lawful. A deviation of consciousness has taken place. When one is properly formed, he knows that this is sin, that is not sin. Conscience respects these internal rules, but if there are moral theologians who start to confuse, to say that this is not a sin, that everyone has the right to live their sexuality, then later we find these consequences. If one knows clearly what is lawful and what is not, he has more inner strength to resist temptation.

Q: In this sense, Benedict XVI recalls the encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993) as a response of Saint John Paul II to this drift of moral theology. It sounds like an indication also for today, since situational ethics, of casuistry, seems to triumph.

Muller: Judging  "case by case" aims to be a pastoral approach, but the pastoral must have a foundation. One thinks that by avoiding saying things clearly one can avoid alienating people from the Church, but it is totally false to replace the foundations of human morality with a presumptive and indefinite pastoral rule. And the Church, especially the bishops and the Pope, has an obligation on the part of God to preach the truth, including moral truth. This is the only way.

Q: Today, this lack of clarity is especially noticeable when talking about homosexuality and gender ideology.

Muller: It is true, one thing is to take care of people who have homosexual tendencies, and another is to back the false anthropology of gender. In this, even publicly, you have to be very clear, you can not give false signals. The Catholic Church can not accept the ideology of gender, in any way, because this goes against nature, against the will of God, against the good of the family, against the good of individual persons, of man and of the woman, children. The Church must be very clear, it must not fear the international press and organizations that want to introduce this false anthropology that will destroy all of humanity.

Q: With regard to the cases of pedophilia among priests, Pope Benedict XVI recalls that at a certain point the competence passed from the Congregation for the Clergy, which was not adequate, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Can you explain this passage?

Muller: After the [Second Vatican] Council, a soft line prevailed, it was said that we should not be too legalistic, as it was in the days of Judaism. We are in the times of the Gospel, we said, we must accept men and not focus on limits and things to forbid but worry about living the grace of the Gospel. But this soft line does not work with human nature. Human nature is weak, it needs the help of grace, but also of a personal and ecclesial discipline. That is why the Congregation for the Clergy was not adequate to evaluate the cases of sexual abuse by priests, so the task went to the Doctrine of the Faith, which is the Supreme Apostolic Court for causes against faith.

Q: Regarding this topic, in his letter Benedict XVI insists a lot on the fact that we should not only think about the guarantees for the abusers, but also about protecting the faith. What does that mean exactly?

Muller: Acts of pedophilia are not only sexual crimes, but also crimes against the faith. Because many victims suffer in their relationship with God. The priest is not an official of the system: the priest is the representative of Jesus the good shepherd who gave his life, and all the faithful - especially minors - have the fundamental right to know a priest who gives witness and is a person of great trust. The credibility of the Church and of the representative of Jesus Christ is the door through which the theological faith enters, faith as a virtue, faith as union with Jesus.

That is why we are talking about crimes against the faith. Even at the time when I was in the Doctrine of the Faith there were some who did not want to understand, who said that the Congregation was too rigid, that we should respect the rights of those who commit crimes. It is true that there are also false accusations, but when the accusations are true we must take drastic measures against the perpetrators. You can not say "they abused a child, but we have mercy on these delinquents." The argument that they might lose their priesthood is not valid, that we priests have an indelible character and it is a punishment that one can no longer celebrate Mass. Clearly it is painful, but it is a just punishment. In these cases, the priest is responsible for acts against life and against human dignity: it is not just a sin - we are all sinners - but when it comes to a crime against God and against men, one can not continue going to the altar as the representative of Jesus Christ. In that attitude there is also a false idea of ​​mercy.

Of course there is forgiveness for those who do penance, but this forgiveness can not mean that a priest guilty of pedophilia can continue as if nothing had happened. The victims suffer all their lives for what they have suffered, some will no longer be able to marry, they still have many deep difficulties in their lives, and all this caused by a servant of God, by an apostle. I am totally against this false mercy. The mercy of God is a change in life, which also implies accepting an appropriate punishment for the crime made in order to be reconciled. That blame should not be minimized, the damage that a man of God has done.

Q. Benedict XVI points out that, however, even in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the times of the trials have been too long.

Muller: It is a slowness that certainly is not due to the personnel of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has always worked hard in these cases. But the causes are many and the staff insufficient. We must also bear in mind that the processes begin in the dioceses. In any case, during my mandate there was a commitment to increase the staff to at least three units. But for no apparent reason, in 2017, even four qualified people were fired. You can not ask the Congregation to work faster and faster and then reduce the staff.

Q: Many have seen in Ratzinger's article also an answer to the famous Dubia of the four cardinals (Caffarra, Meisner, Burke, Brandmuller), who asked for confirmations about the validity of the intrinsically bad acts, about Amoris Laetitia.

Muller: I do not know what the intentions were, but it is absolutely clear that there are acts that are evil in themselves, that can never be good or justified. I find the position of certain theologians incomprehensible when they consider the good in the iniquitous action. This to make the judgment depend on the circumstances, is always in favor of the offender, does not take into account all the factors. If an innocent person is killed, what can be the good thing for me that I am the victim of the crime? This argument is made only from the perspective of the offender. I do not know of any case in which a crime is good for the victim. So it is for adultery: the partner who must suffer, who must submit to adultery, who is betrayed, where should he see good? It is absurd to argue that there are actions against the commandments of God that, in some circumstances, are legitimate.

Q: There were poisonous criticisms against Benedict XVI, accused of breaking the silence. There are even those who cited the directory for the bishops (Apostolorum Successores) where it forbids bishops emeritus to interfere in the leadership of the Church and undermine with their interventions the Magisterium of the regent bishop.

Muller: These people are the most evident proof of the Church's modernization: they have no idea what the mission of the bishops is. Of course, bishops emeritus must remain outside the daily government of the Church, but when it comes to doctrine, morals and faith, they are bound to speak of the divine law. Bishops are not criminal police officers who, once retired, can no longer take action against criminals; a bishop is a bishop forever. Christ gave the authority to the bishop to be the servant of the Word, to bear witness. All of them promised in the episcopal consecration to defend the depositum fidei. The bishop and the great theologian [future Pope Benedict XVI) Ratzinger not only has the right, but also the duty of divine right to speak and give testimony of the revealed truth.

Unfortunately we have many people in the Church who do not know the alphabet of Catholic theology. They speak as politicians, as journalists, without the categories of Sacred Scripture, of the apostolic tradition, of the Magisterium of the Church. How can it be said that the pope emeritus has no right to speak of the fundamental crisis of the Church? We even have the scandal of an atheist like Eugenio Scalfari who can with impunity affirm his interpretations of what the Pope tells him in private meetings, who is treated as an authorized interpreter of the Pope, and instead a figure like Ratzinger should be silent? But where are we? These idiots talk everywhere but they do not know the Church, they just want to like people. The apostles Peter and Paul, the founders of the Roman Church, gave their lives for the truth. Peter and Paul did not say "now there are other successors, Timothy and Titus, let them speak to them publicly." They gave testimony until the end of life, until martyrdom, with blood.

A bishop emeritus, when celebrating a Mass, in the homily should not tell the truth? Should we not speak of the indissolubility of marriage only because other active bishops have introduced new rules that are not in accordance with the divine law? Rather, they are the active bishops who do not have the power to change the divine right in the Church. They have no right to tell a priest that he has to give communion to a person who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. No one can change this divine law, and if one does, he is a heretic, he is a schismatic.

Today these strange ideas are fashionable, for which the ecclesiastical authority is conceived as a positivist authority so that those who have the power can define the faith as they want. And the others have to shut up. It would be better if they were those, who know very little about theology, to be quiet. First, study.

Let's look at where they have taken to the Church, for example in Germany, these great modernists that we also have among some professors. Each year, 200,000 people leave the Catholic Church in Germany. Protestants reach 300,000, these are the real problems. They do not do anything about this, they only talk about homosexuality, about how to change the sexual morality, about celibacy: these are its themes, so the Church is being destroyed. And they say that this is modernization: it is not modernization, this is the worldization of the Church.

Q: What consequences are expected from the publication of this article by Benedict XVI?

Muller: I hope that some will finally begin to address the problem of sexual abuse in a clear and correct way. Clericalism is a false answer.

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