Vatican’s doctrine chief: Pope is not a ‘professional theologian’
ROME, March 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a recent interview, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), acknowledged that he must sometimes correct Pope Francis on matters of dogma, noting that the pope is not a “professional theologian.”
In a March 1 interview with the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, Cardinal Müller was asked about his relationship with the pope and whether he is his strongest opponent. Müller first explains that he had been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. Concerning Benedict, he adds: “With him, I was closely connected due to the fact that we are both academic theologians, we have the same [German] nationality and share the same world-view.”
However, with the current pope, the relationship is different. “Pope Francis is not a 'professional theologian', but has been largely formed by his experiences in the field of the pastoral care, which is very different here with us [in the West].” Müller stresses that the current pope has “a highly spiritual and theological power of judgment which follows the spirituality of the founder of his own [Jesuit] order, St. Ignatius of Loyola.” In Müller's eyes, it is “absolutely legitimate” that the pope lets his own life experience influence his papacy. And, he adds: “Thanks be to God, I have lived myself in Southern America for a long time, and so I can understand and assess well all of this [the special pastoral approach of the pontiff].”
The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger then asked whether Müller must sometimes dogmatically correct what the pope says in his charismatic enthusiasm. Cardinal Müller answers: “That is what he [Pope Francis] has said already three or four times himself, publicly (laughs); and then he gave me a hug so that – as he said – the gossip ceases with regard to this matter.”
Müller also says that one should not underestimate the theological understanding of the pope. Müller adds: “Again and again, he [the pope] refers to the teaching of the Church as the framework of interpretation, also in his spontaneous remarks in interviews.” Therefore, Cardinal Müller also considers the idea that he himself is the “number one enemy of the pope” to be a “fairy tale.”
In Müller's eyes, there is “some intentional disinformation on the side of those who want to claim the pope for their own ideologies instead of understanding him in the light of the teaching of the Church.” He then continues by saying that it must be clear to any clear mind that
…the pope – according to the Catholic Faith – has been established by Christ Himself; and the Congregation for the Faith with its 25 cardinals who are appointed by the pope is the instrument legitimized by the pope in order to help him – and thereby to partake – in the exercise of his universal teaching office. But we [at the CDF] are not called to exercise the art of flattery but, rather, to use our expert knowledge.
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