Pope Francis
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The conservative sector of the Church vs. Pope Francis: “Only a fool can speak of a springtime in the Church”

The former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Gerhard Ludwig Muller, questions the decisions of the Pope.

Papa Francisco I
Pope Francis in Vatican City, July 2.Associated Press/LaPresse (Associated Press/LaPresse)
Juan Arias

A reaction from the conservative Church to Pope Francis’ decision to appoint Victor Manuel Fernandez, Archbishop of La Plata, heir of the old Inquisition, responsible for overseeing the purity of doctrine, as head of the Congregation of the Faith, was to be expected.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who had been appointed by the late Benedict XVI, the conservative German theologian Joseph Ratzinger, has just given an interview to Michael Hayenes, of Life Site News, in which he harshly criticizes the new appointment of the Argentinean Fernandez.

Although at times with the felicitous language of ecclesiastics, the former head of Ratzinger’s Holy Office, has been hard on Pope Francis, whom he has accused of having opened the Church to progressive doctrines. According to the German cardinal, “only a fool can speak of a springtime in the Church.

In the interview, the theologian goes so far as to be subtly critical of the revolutionary ideas of Pope Francis whom, subliminally, he accuses of being vain. “The Church of the Triune God,” the German theologian affirms, “does not need a new foundation or modernization, as if she had become a dilapidated house and as if weak men could surpass the divine master builder.” Cardinal Muller reminds us, with his eyes fixed on Francis, that “the Pope and bishops cannot demand obedience for their private opinions,”. And even less, he stresses, “confuse faith with power games, a consequence of self-esteem or the search for glory”.

According to Müller, “the doctrine of the Church is the expression of the word of God and we men cannot complete, correct or modernize it”. The cardinal, however, wanted to remind that he “is not an enemy of the Pope”, although he underlines that there is “a ghost over the Sacred Palaces: schisms”.

The former Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith, removed from office by Pope Francis, speaks of the possibility that a schism could occur within the important Church of Germany, because of Pope Francis’ openness to gay marriage, something that, according to Müller, “is against the word of God”.

Already last January, Cardinal Müller, accused Pope Francis of “forgetting the conservatives” and went so far as to state that “blessing homosexuals, is against God.” The German cardinal insists that Pope Francis’ theological overtures can lead to power games “a consequence of self-esteem or glory-seeking”, a subliminal way of accusing him of vanity.

According to the cardinal, the Argentinean Fernandez has insisted from the very beginning on the dangers of what he calls “modernizing the faith”, and adds: “We men cannot complete, correct or modernize the word of God”, a serious and lurid accusation against Pope Francis.

One of the points of divergence between the German cardinal and the Pope is the possibility of the Church allowing divorced people who love each other to remarry in the Church. According to Müller, the sacrament of marriage “is indissoluble by divine will. No one can change it. And it must be between a man and a woman. And he explains that the only possibility for the divorced is “to return to the legitimate spouse or to desist from relationships that are not valid”. To put it in the local language: if they have been divorced, let them get back together or put up with it.

The curious thing is that Cardinal Mulller should not forget that the only sacrament in which the officiants are the spouses is that of marriage, of which the priest is simply a witness.

In the early Christian communities, those who wished to be united in marriage simply advised the rest of the community that they were henceforth going to form a family. What consecrated them was the desire to share a life of love.

This is what Pope Francis intends when he refers to primitive Christianity, which gradually became dogmatized and became entrenched in theological discussions that Jesus criticized the Pharisees and the law-loving priests who loved the letter rather than the spirit of the law.

Cardinal Müller does not seem to forgive Pope Francis, whom he does not consider a theologian, for having relieved him of his office. Even less so for having placed at the head of the dogmatic tribunal of the Church an Argentine friend of his, Fernandez, who shares with him his ideas on the subject of the Church and sexuality.

Francis is also criticized for the resurgence of the importance that women had had in primitive and original Christianity. In fact, Francis calls everything a new springtime for the Church. “A madness”, underlines the cardinal on whom the late Pope Ratzinger, his friend and friend, was inspired.

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