Will There Be a German Schism? Card. Müller: I fear yes; I hope not.
10 Maggio 2021
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, we are very happy to share with you, in our translation, the second part of the interview that Cardinal Müller has given to Lothar Rilinger of Kath.net. Enjoy your reading.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller: “There is no German Church except in the mind of authoritarian bishops who abuse their office, power-hungry lay officials and ideologically obstinate professors”. kath.net interview by Lothar C. Rilinger
Vatican (kath.net) “The “reality of life” elevated to the rank of pastoral super-dogma is the Trojan horse constructed by astute opportunists to deceive their simple adversaries. Only Jesus fully knows our hearts and knows the reality of human life in good and evil. He is the Savior from sin, death, and the devil. He did not respond to the realities of life of divorce (which was common at that time) to the envy and ill will of the Pharisees, or the political violence of the Romans with conformism and the “paradigm shift” of the teaching of the faith of Israel.” Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained this to kath.net. In the second part of our interview we want to address particular issues that arise from the tension between ecumenism and the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. In doing so, we also want to explore the limits that still stand in the way of a rapprochement.
Lothar C. Rilinger: The request of the “Synodal Way” aims at so-called intercommunion. Is there a difference in understanding between the Protestant Lord’s Supper and Catholic communion?
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller: The unity of Western Christianity broke down precisely on the question of the Holy Mass as a sacrifice. Luther, Zwingli and Calvin did not totally reject only some abuses regarding the Holy Mass, but rather the core of the Eucharist of the Catholic Church, from which they themselves came, as being corrupted by the justice of works. The consequence was that from the previous liturgy of the Mass only the Communion part remained. The High Prayer with the Holy Consecration was canceled because the sacrifice of the Church was interpreted as an addition or even a repetition of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and therefore it had to be rejected. Today we try to better understand the ecumenical partner starting from his positive concerns and avoiding any controversy. This has nothing to do with hiding the serious differences in the understanding of the Church and the Sacraments, which make a common communion or a reception of communion with the other denomination impossible from within. Only those who make the foundation of Christ a kind of ritual of interior communion see no problems. But a Christianity that has renounced the claim to truth of supernatural revelation and has reduced itself to social ethics and religious sentimentality, that is, that legitimizes itself only in an interior way, will only make a fool of itself before a secularized public. Then it doesn’t even need to cry about its own self-made irrelevance.
Rilinger: Given that intercommunion is required within the ecumenical movement, the question arises under what conditions can people who are not members of the Roman Catholic Church also receive Communion through baptism?
Card. Müller: Anyone who has not entered the communion of the Church through Holy Baptism has nothing to do with the Eucharist. Whoever has not taken the first step cannot have reached the goal. Based on the assumptions of the Catholic understanding of the Church and the Eucharist, the spiritual assistance of non-Catholic clergy is possible only in special cases. It is appropriate when the salvation of the soul is in mortal danger and clergy of one’s own denomination is not available. This can be absolution in the context of Confession and the reception of Holy Communion, if the person concerned affirms and confesses the Catholic faith in these two sacraments interiorly.
Rilinger: The reason for the difference between Communion and Holy Communion is the understanding of sacrifice. Is Jesus Christ sacrificed every time in the Catholic Mass as in the Protestant service?
Cardinal Müller: On the cross Jesus sacrificed himself for the salvation of the world in a sense that has nothing to do with a pagan understanding of God, worship and sacrifice, and which also overshadows the Old Testament understanding of sacrifice. But not because it was lacking, but because only Christ as the incarnate Son of God could reveal God’s greatest love through death imposed by human wickedness. Through this love sin and death were conquered forever, and in the resurrection the life of God was made manifest to all who believe.
The Eucharist as a liturgical celebration is the sacrament, that is, the sign-reality, which makes present the sacrifice of the life of Christ and his resurrection for all those who in subsequent generations come to believe in Christ through the word of the Annunciation. Because Christ is the Lord truly present in the Church for all times. He himself is in the Mass the same sacrificial Priest and the same sacrificial offering in which on the Cross he consummated and revealed his union with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Those who govern the Church – such as bishops and presbyters – are enabled by ordination in the Holy Spirit to carry out the liturgical and spiritual ministry that Jesus carries out through them in real terms. That is why they are called priests – which means nothing more than presbyters – with no pagan connotation as servants of the cult influencing the gods. Because priests do not fulfill on their own initiative, but solely on behalf of Christ at the liturgical-sacramental level, what Christ, the High Priest of the New Covenant, does for the Church. We as believers are not passively watching like silent spectators at a play, but are involved as members of the Body of Christ, actively offering our life sacrifice in, with and through Christ our Head, God the Father, from whom, after all, we have already received everything we can offer to Him in advance. Saint Augustine, in the tenth book of his “City of God,” profoundly exposes this connection between the unique sacrifice of the cross and its making itself present in the liturgy of the Church. Without knowledge of this text, ecumenical dialogue is nothing but hot air.
Rilinger: Does it follow from the different understanding of sacrifice alone that only Catholics can receive communion or may believers from other Christian religious communities also receive?
Card. Müller: The doctrine of the sacrificial character is – as I said – a classic controversial doctrine. But the connection between the Church and the sacraments is also important, which is essential for the Catholic and Orthodox doctrine of the faith, with its culmination in the Eucharist. From all its structure, the Protestant understanding of the church is not constitutively built around the Eucharist as a center, but around faith as an act of trust, which then experiences an assurance at the level of the sacraments. In the dialogue between Catholics and Christians of Protestant confessions, a closeness has already been reached due to the fact that we can pray together and listen to the Word of God. On certain occasions, I think of weddings and funerals, we also spiritually participate in the services of the respective other community, but without pretending to full communion of the churches by receiving Holy Communion – a communion that does not yet exist in reality.
Rilinger: While it is necessary for the reception of communion to accept the Catholic understanding of communion, the question arises: why?
Cardinal Müller: Because the sacraments are the self-realization of the Church. Because the Church is not an external organization that administers some means of grace and distributes it to the willing, but it is the Body of Christ, for which interior confession and exterior expression must correspond. Even Protestant churches, for 450 years until recently, have always been in agreement with this principle, and those Protestant communities who do not want to understand the sacraments as individualistic means of confirmation for a liberal sense of religion hold to their previous beliefs.
Rilinger: In your opinion, could the different understanding regarding Protestant Communion and Catholic Communion be overcome?
Card. Müller: Yes, this is the goal. We have certainly already made progress on the road to a common basic understanding. But the goal was by no means achieved, especially on the subject of the power of consecration by a priest validly ordained by a bishop. Without exception – according to Catholic doctrine – the trivialization of the differences in belief to mere differing theological schools would not be acceptable on the Catholic side.
Rilinger: Due to the current pandemic, Mass is hardly ever offered any more. Many faithful therefore fail to receive Holy Communion. Consequently, is it possible, as in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, that the priest would consecrate bread and wine remotely with the help of the Internet, just as large-scale hosts are consecrated in papal masses or masses on the occasion of World Youth Days, without all the chalices with the hosts being able to be on the altar?
Cardinal Müller: A long-distance consecration is an absurdity and a sacramental-theological abuse. What matters is the bodily presence. However, if Christ were truly, really and essentially present only in the faith of those who receive him and not in the Eucharistic gifts, then the image on television would be a virtual reassurance, which is psychologically effective, but not sacramentally effective. Christ truly died with flesh and blood on the cross and not just for appearances as the Docetists thought. God save us, in the age of virtuality, from a sacramental-theological Docetism in an elegantly reinforced guise.
Rilinger: We cannot find any rule in the Bible that establishes conditions for receiving communion for people who have not been baptized Roman Catholics. Can it be inferred from this fact that the conditions were simply devised by men and therefore not of divine origin, such that they can be abrogated?
Card. Müller: Of course, at the time of the Bible this problem had not yet arisen, and that is why there are no instructions there, as in a recipe book, on what to say and do in detail in the case of all future challenges. But the biblical testimony contains all the revelation in its essential features, so that from there also the doctrine of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, as well as all the other mysteries that are charged to the truth of the revelation, were able to affirm themselves in their truth and develop in their expression.
Rilinger: Can the ecumenical movement go so far as to deny theological differences as an “ecumenism qua disinterest” to achieve unity?
Card. Müller: If everything boils down to a civil religion, not only are the differences obsolete, but also the basic unity in faith in the Triune God, the divinity of Christ, the need for grace, eternal life. Indifferentism and relativism in the question of truth are the false friends of the ecumenical movement – in fact, its gravediggers.
Rilinger: Do you think it makes sense, as in a judicial case, to achieve Church unity by withdrawing the demands of both sides based on the principle of do ut des and bargaining until a common denominator is found?
Card. Müller: Ecumenism is obedience to the will of Christ, who wants the unity of his disciples so that the world may believe, and not a haggling or even a primitive barter.
Rilinger: Can the desire to create the one Holy Church lead to the abandonment of the constitutive conditions of the Roman Catholic Church?
Card. Müller: The Catholic Church could renounce itself if it were simply a man-made religious association. Why shouldn’t a sports team be able to dissolve itself or merge with another if it wishes? But the Church believes in the Triune God, who has also called his people together and charged the apostles with the universal proclamation of the Gospel and the conferral of grace through the Sacraments. And thus the Church believes that in Christ she is “the all-comprehensive sacrament of the salvation of the world” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 1; 48).
Of course, a non-Catholic can indignantly reprove this conviction as arrogance and presumption, or make fun of it in enlightened skepticism. But by what intellectual and moral right does he apodictically affirm his relativism and deny others – both as individuals and as communities – the human right of freedom of belief? It seems clear to me that he does so through the certainty that there cannot be revelation and thus our beliefs must be mere projections. But this again is only his subjective opinion, which he does not have the right to apply as a measure on other consciences.
Rilinger: Even if there are still constitutive differences between the individual denominations, can you imagine that these at least take a back seat in order to get closer to the goal of uniting Christianity?
Card. Müller: The classic controversy between Catholics and Protestants does not concern the doctrine of God, creation, or grace, but rather their mediation in the Church and in the Sacraments. Certainly we are united in the central articles of the faith when we have not descended to a liberal cultural Christianity. But the Church and the Sacraments remain an important question. By what right does someone say that Confirmation, sacramental Penance, Anointing of the Sick, priestly ordination, marriage as a Sacrament, the episcopate or the papacy are not important? Will these truths end up on the market-table of relativism as if they were for sale?
If faith is no longer the basis of the Church, then she dissolves into an organization with ethical and social objectives, but in which each person privately believes whatever he pleases. This isolates each person in his own ego, and everyone is no longer united in the truth revealed by the sanctifying God. Nothing holy or unifying would remain of the one holy Church. It would no longer be “the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
Rilinger: Should the Church draw on the so-called “actual realities of life” in order to interpret the teachings of the Church?
Cardinale Müller: No. The “reality of life” elevated to the rank of pastoral super-dogma is the Trojan horse constructed by astute opportunists to deceive their simple adversaries. Only Jesus fully knows our hearts and knows the reality of human life in good and evil. He is the Savior from sin, death, and the devil. He did not respond to the realities of life of divorce, to the envy and ill will of the Pharisees, to the political violence of the Romans with conformism and the “paradigm shift” of the teaching of the faith of Israel. Rather, in authority, he restored the original will of salvation of God against all flattening and alienation. He did not simply interpret the world in a different way and change things here and there, but he transformed it into good once and for all. He does not accompany the sinner in his path towards the abyss, but he calls him to repentance, so that he may walk “by the narrow way that leads to life” (Mt 7:14).
Rilinger: Even if the Church does not need to anxiously chase after the mainstream in order to be considered modern, should she not seek to influence the mainstream by means of her ideas?
Cardinale Müller: The prevailing aligned thought today is hostile to the spirit. From the point of view of faith we cannot negotiate with totalitarian ideologies, but we ought to remove the mask from their faces. Every democracy of a pluralist civil society based on freedom of conscience and religion has been and is being destroyed by the political ideologies of Bolshevism, National Socialism, and the present neo-Marxist socialism of the Western world or by gender mania, which denies and wants to destroy the bivalence based in the human body.
Rilinger: What do you mean by neo-Marxist socialism of capital?
Card. Müller: In China we have a mixture of capitalism in the economy and communism in ideology, in a way that both systems become means of absolute dominion. In the West, during the crisis of the coronavirus, the ten richest men in the world have been able to increase the value of their fortunes by 550 billion dollars, while millions of people have lost their work or slipped below the poverty line. At the same time, the large media corporations are in their hands. Thus they hold a monopoly on the interpretation of world events, and the common people are regarded as a newborn to be cared for. This is a new form of mixing capitalism with Marxist control and domination of the masses. Why do you think that interested circles in the West admire the Chinese system of surveillance and control?
Rilinger: Can you imagine that – similar to the various Eastern Catholic Churches – the individual national Roman Catholic churches would receive independence, that these churches would recognize the Pope as the head, but would each have their own unique and diverse constitutions?
Card. Müller: No, this would be the destruction of the Church of Christ and the Catholic faith. The essence of the Church of the final time of salvation, which came to light in the event of Pentecost, is precisely that faith unites where nationality divides. There is no German Church, except in the minds of authoritarian bishops who abuse their office, of lay functionaries who are thirsty for power and of ideologically stubborn professors. In the light of the image of the Church of Vatican II, these men of the German national church are not as progressive as they think, but even more reactionary than they seem.
Rilinger: The dispute between the local German churches and the Vatican on the formulation of doctrine is perceived by the public as a controversy. Could this dispute increase discontent towards the Church and lead to the further departures from the Church?
Card. Müller: The human weaknesses and shortcomings of her highest representatives are always a test of our faith, to see whether we are in the Church because of Christ or for the sake of secondary favors. But they are never a reason to separate oneself from the Church. Because she is the visible Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. But whoever sins against the unity of the Church by serious shortcomings, disputes, and a desire for power is also responsible for the loss of external credibility of the Church. The internal credibility of the Church, that is, the devoted love of Christ for our salvation and the good example of the great saints, but also of the serious and inconspicuous Christians we encounter in daily life – this credibility cannot be destroyed by any power inside or outside of her community (Mt 16:18).
Rilinger: Could this dispute even lead to schism?
Card. Müller: I fear yes, but I hope not!
Rilinger: Thank you, Your Eminence.
Lothar C. Rilinger is a lawyer and specialist in pension work, an adjunct member of the State Tribunal of Lower Saxony (in retirement). He is also the author of the book Urbs Aeterna, vol. 3.
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