February 21, 2019 (The Catholic Thing) — Now that the initial excitement has died down some, it's a good time to take a calmer look at Cardinal Gerhard Mueller's recently published Manifesto of Faith. He begins by quoting Our Lord: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1). Troubled, indeed, are the faithful in these days. The doctrinal and moral chaos in the Church is manifest and grave. We are seeking both guidance and the courageous refutation of errors.
Mueller acts as a good shepherd in protecting the flock that is wandering in ignorance and imperiled by false teachings:
Today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith, so there is a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life. … Many wonder today what purpose the Church still has in its existence, when even bishops prefer to be politicians rather than to proclaim the Gospel as teachers of the Faith.
A politician in democratic societies is mostly concerned with getting power — and then keeping it. He will tell voters what he thinks they want to hear regardless of his own convictions. The clerical politician in the Church is concerned with pleasing those in the hierarchy who can advance his career, whatever that may require. He ignores, tempers, and even discards the hard truths of the Gospel when he senses that those truths will frustrate his ambitions.
Mueller calls to repentance those shepherds who disturb the faith of the sheep: “The mediation of faith is inextricably bound up with the human credibility of its messengers, who in some cases have abandoned the people entrusted to them, unsettling them and severely damaging their faith.”
How sad that a former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith judges it necessary today to rebuke bishops for failing to teach the Faith in its integrity.
A prime example is the waffling about who can properly receive Communion. This is the poisoned fruit of the disastrous innovation in footnote 315 of Amoris Laetitia that authorizes a practice always forbidden by the Church, namely the administration of the Holy Eucharist to those who are in an adulterous “second marriage.”
He likewise rebukes those who would claim, as some have, that the Eucharist should be administered to Protestants. Mueller rejects these innovations, citing St. Paul: “Whoever eats unworthily of the bread and drinks from the Lord's cup makes himself guilty of profaning the body and of the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). And the Catechism: “Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion” (CCC 1385).
He adds: “To point this out corresponds to the spiritual works of mercy.”
It is eminently merciful to preach the whole truth and to require that the faithful abide by God's moral law and the canon laws of the Church: “The moral law is the work of divine wisdom and leads man to the promised blessedness” (CCC 1950). Consequently, the “knowledge of the divine and natural law is necessary” to do good and reach this goal (CCC 1955): “The moral law is not a burden, but part of that liberating truth (cf. Jn 8:32) through which the Christian walks on the path of salvation and which may not be relativized.”
Mueller further reminds us that “[t]he Church is not a man-made association whose structure its members voted into being at their will. It is of divine origin.” It is “Christ himself [who] is the author of ministry in the Church. He set her up, gave her authority and mission, orientation and goal (CCC 874).” Bishops are ambassadors entrusted with a message not of their own making. They must not distort that message.
Mueller's strongest point in the Manifesto is the reminder that the true mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. The reality of Hell and eternal damnation for souls who die in mortal sin is something that we rarely hear about from the pulpit. The impression many shepherds give today is that they worry a lot about trying to perfect the social order in this world, and very little about the loss of souls in the next.
Mueller is very pointed on this:
Every human being has an immortal soul, which in death is separated from the body, hoping for the resurrection of the dead (CCC 366). Death makes man's decision for or against God definite. Everyone has to face the particular judgment immediately after death (CCC 1021). Either a purification is necessary, or man goes directly into heavenly bliss and is allowed to see God face to face. There is also the dreadful possibility that a person will remain opposed to God to the very end, and by definitely refusing His Love, “condemns himself immediately and forever” (CCC 1022). “God created us without us, but He did not want to save us without us” (CCC 1847). The eternity of the punishment of hell is a terrible reality, which — according to the testimony of Holy Scripture — attracts all who “die in the state of mortal sin” (CCC 1035).
Cardinal Mueller simply states here and at other points in his Manifesto what was until recently commonplace and taken for granted by all Catholics, from the pope to the humblest believer in his local parish. Yet now he is accused of being a new Martin Luther by his fellow German cardinal, Walter Kasper (which is strange, given Kasper's affinity for Luther).
Bishop Athanasius Schneider, himself of German descent, courageously defends Mueller against this affront: “A clear profession of the Divinely revealed truths is in our days in the life of the Church often not anymore tolerated and is perceived even as a provocation, as one could see this, for instance, from the prompt, intolerant and astonishingly aggressive reaction with which Cardinal Walter Kasper has rejected the Manifesto of Faith of Cardinal Müller.”
Mueller deserves our thanks and prayers. The good fight for Catholic truth must be fought no matter what the cost.
Published with permission from The Catholic Thing.