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German Cardinal Gerhard Müller outside St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican CityPhoto by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Gerhard Müller has strongly rebuked a recent document issued by Pope Francis and Cardinal Victor Fernández on transgender issues, accusing Fernández of a “manipulation” of prior teaching on such questions.

“It is confusing and harmful for the Magisterium to rely on the terminology of a nihilistic and atheistic anthropology by seeming to grant its false content the status of legitimate theological opinion in the Church,” said Cardinal Müller, in an interview with Il Messaggero published November 21.

His comments come in light of the recent dubia response, issued November 8 by current prefect of the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, and approved by Pope Francis.

READ: Pope Francis says ‘trans’ people can be godparents, homosexual ‘parents’ can have children baptized

The controversial text is believed to have been primarily authored by Fernández. It allows for so-called “transgender” individuals to be godparents for the sacrament of Baptism, as well as allowing homosexual “parents” to have their children baptized. The text stated that a “transsexual” individual could receive Baptism with the same ease as any one else, without renouncing his lifestyle of living as a different sex, provided there was no “public scandal.”

But Müller – who led the CDF from 2012 through 2017 – strongly protested against the document’s tone and content. 

“Hermaphrodites born with this particularity can receive baptism, but not those who have mutilated their bodies,” he stated. Müller questioned whether Fernández’s approval of transgender baptism was given “because there are transsexuals who ask the priests or bishops for a second baptism but with the new name they have at the registry office or want to change the baptismal document in the parish archives.” 

When asked if “doctrine has changed” on the Church’s position relative to the transgender lifestyle, Müller stated that “mutilating oneself is a grave sin in the eyes of God.” He further alluded to the “thriving industry behind this phenomenon that earns billions and billions,” implicitly suggesting that such an industry has outlined the way for wider societal support. 

The former prefect stated that Fernández’s response was “an ambiguous text: it does not state it explicitly, but that is what the consequences are.”

“Moreover,” Müller added, “it is confusing and harmful for the Magisterium to rely on the terminology of a nihilistic and atheistic anthropology by seeming to grant its false content the status of legitimate theological opinion in the Church.” 

The dubia response also answered favorably regarding whether homosexual couples can present children for Baptism, a point which Müller noted implicitly referred to surrogacy. “ Any form of surrogacy or the production of a child in a laboratory (as a thing) to satisfy selfish desires is, from the Catholic point of view, a grave violation of the personal dignity of a human being whom God intended to exist physically and spiritually through his own mother and father in order to call him to be a child of God in eternal life,” he noted.

While refraining from directly affirming that Fernández’s text was a direct “doctrinal break from the past,” Müller stated that the response was certainly a notable and poignant one. He observed how Fernández drew from Cardinal Ratzinger (during the German cardinal’s own tenure at the CDF), and how such references were misrepresented:  

The new Prefect of the Dicastery of the Faith justified those choices by making continuous quotations from Ratzinger as well as St. Augustine, thus showing doctrinal continuity, but this does not seem true in every aspect. It is a substantial manipulation. He referred to “then Prefect Ratzinger” and his documents on the subject, as if he is in one way [in one mindset], but in his documents Ratzinger said the exact opposite regarding these sensitive questions

The Papal signature has been appended to the dubia response, although reports have highlighted the apparent evidence that Pope Francis’ signature was not original to the text but actually pasted onto the electronic version of the text. Notwithstanding such reports, Müller argued that the response could not be invalidated since it bears the Pope’s signature, but stated that “one can ask for clarification, because believers have the right to an argumentative justification of the continuity of revealed doctrine.”

READ: Pope Francis hosts members of local trans group at papal table for annual Vatican lunch

The Church’s previous answers on topics related to transgender issues were “very clear documents,” he added. 

Indeed, despite the issuing of the dubia response, Catholic teaching on transgender issues remains unchanged. The Catechism states: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” (CCC # 2333)

The CDF’s 1975 documentPersona Humana, stated: “There can be no true promotion of man’s dignity unless the essential order of his nature is respected.”

Then, under the leadership of Cardinal Ratzinger in 1986, the CDF issued a document instructing bishops on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. The CDF admonished bishops to ensure they, and any “pastoral program” in the diocese are “clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral.” 

More recently, Cardinal Raymond Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, together with several other bishops, wrote in their 2019 Declaration of Truths that gender reassignment surgery is a “grave sin” and a “rebellion” against divine and natural law.