Vatican City: Gerhard Mueller, a cardinal who was sacked from a senior Vatican post by Pope Francis has written his own “Manifesto of Faith,” in the latest attack on the pontiff’s authority by a leading member of the Church’s conservative wing.
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, 71, a German who was the Vatican’s doctrinal chief until 2017, issued the four-page manifesto on Friday via conservative Catholic media outlets.
He said “many bishops, priests, religious and lay people” had requested it. He did not say how many and why he was issuing it now.
However, conservatives balked this week when Francis made the first trip by a pope to the Arabian peninsula and signed a “Document on Human Fraternity” with a Muslim faith leader.
Ultra-conservative Catholics are opposed to dialogue with Islam, with some saying its ultimate goal is to destroy the West.
The manifesto was dated Feb. 10, the sixth anniversary of the eve of former Pope Benedict’s announcement of his resignation. Benedict, 91, remains an icon for conservative Catholics.
Mueller said he wrote it “in the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the faith”.
He said some Church leaders “have abandoned the people entrusted to them, unsettling them and severely damaging their faith”. He warned against “the fraud of (the) anti-Christ”.
Mueller, who did not mention the pope, is one of a handful of conservative cardinals who have open accused Francis of sowing confusion.
They say he is weakening Catholic rules on moral issues such as homosexuality and divorce while focusing excessively on social problems such as climate change and economic inequality.
Their leader is Raymond Leo Burke, 70, an American who was demoted from a senior Vatican position in 2014.
Mueller has ramped up his criticism of the pope since Francis removed him as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2017.
Most of the manifesto was a re-stating of the Church’s teachings, including several that Francis himself has strongly upheld, such as celibacy for priests and the ban on women’s ordination.
One section, however, was a clear jab at Francis’ reaching out to Catholics who have divorced and remarried outside the Church.
Francis believes some should be allowed to receive communion on a case by case basis, something that is anathema to conservatives.
The Vatican has not commented on the document.
Cardinal Gerhard Mueller Manifesto of Faith Explained
In a four-page public testimony released in multiple languages Feb. 8, and whose title is taken from the Gospel of John “Let not your heart be troubled!”, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reasserts many key teachings of the faith, reminding clergy and laity it is up to “shepherds” to “guide those entrusted to them on the path of salvation.”
“Today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the Faith,” the German cardinal laments, “so there is a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life.”
Written in response to requests from “many bishops, priests, religious and lay people,” the cardinal’s testimony comes as the Church awaits the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse, and following statements and documents from the Pope down that many practicing faithful have, at times, found confusing, disorienting and inconsistent with the Church’s teaching.
Cardinal Müller recalls that the “very purpose” of the Church is to lead humanity to Jesus Christ and underlines the importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a “safe standard for the doctrine of the faith” that was written to counter a “dictatorship of relativism.”
He then proceeds to quote copiously from the Catechism, interspersing passages with uncompromising commentary on what he sees as a crisis of confusion and disorientation in the Church.
The German cardinal urges the faithful to “resist” with “clear resolve” a “relapse into ancient heresies,” which view Jesus Christ as “only a good person, brother and friend, prophet and moralist.”
He stresses that the Church, founded by Christ as a “visible sign and tool of salvation,” does not “reflect herself but the light of Christ which shines on her face.”
She is “not a man-made association whose structure its members voted into being at their will. It is of divine origin,” he explains.
He underlines how 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.”
He cites holy Scripture, warning against those “who do not listen to the truth and who follow their own wishes, who flatter their ears because they cannot endure sound doctrine.”
Cardinal Müller, who served as CDF prefect under Benedict XVI and Pope Francis from 2012 to 2017, goes on to reassert that if Holy Communion is received unworthily — such as by some divorced and civilly remarried persons or those not in full communion with the Church — they will not be brought to salvation.
He underscores one of the Church’s “commandments” to go to confession at least once a year, explains reasons for priestly celibacy and the impossibility of ordaining women to the priesthood. He also warns that a person who dies in mortal sin without repentance will be forever separated from God. The moral law, he says, is a “liberating truth” and the path of salvation which “may not be relativized.”
The cardinal chastises bishops who “prefer to be politicians” rather than proclaim the Gospel, saying it leads many to wonder what the nature of the Church’s purpose is.
He also reminds the faithful of the last judgment, the “narrow gate” to heaven, and the “dreadful possibility” that a person who remains opposed to God to the end of their life “condemns himself immediately and forever.”
Responding to criticism that many pastors and bishops are not teaching the hard truths of the faith, Cardinal Müller warns that to “keep silent” about these truths is “the greatest deception” — as “vigorously” warned about in the Catechism.
“It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, ‘the price of their apostasy;’ it is the fraud of Antichrist,” he says, quoting again from the Catechism and echoing what Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk said last year during the controversy over Holy Communion for Protestant spouses.
“He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice,” Cardinal Müller adds, quoting from St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, “for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved.”
He closes his testimony by reminding that all the faithful must “recall these fundamental truths by clinging to what we ourselves have received.”
And quoting St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he calls on bishops and priests to “preach the Word in season and out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
Cardinal Müller concludes with a prayer to Mary, the Mother of God, imploring her for the grace “to remain faithful without wavering to the confession of the truth about Jesus Christ.”