"The 'Synodal Path' into the German Schism". New interview with Cardinal Müller

"The 'Synodal Path' into the German Schism". A critical illumination

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller: "The resolutions of the 'Synodal Path' take away from believing Catholics 'the truth of the gospel' (Gal 2:5)." Superb kath.net interview by Lothar C. Rilinger

With the most recent General Assembly, the negotiations and democratic votes of the so-called "Synodal Path" came to an end. The decisions made with a majority are now to be implemented. However, the resolutions do not meet with the undivided approval of Rome and the Pope, both of whom represent the universal Church and thus 1,300 million Roman Catholics and who are both responsible for guaranteeing the unity of the two-thousand-year-old Church in the truth of Christ, yes, the resolutions were not only by German Catholics, but also criticised worldwide. The decisions of this reform process, which claim legal validity for themselves, are apt to distance ourselves from the principle of unity, which has guaranteed the continued existence of the church for two thousand years. The abandonment of the unifying principle has far-reaching consequences. We spoke about this with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a dogmatist and historian of dogma.

Lothar C. Rilinger: Many texts were approved a few days ago at the Synodal Path in Frankfurt. We can only address a few. But first of all, fundamentally: How much of the traditional teaching, for example on the priesthood or on homosexuality, may a Catholic question before he stops being Catholic?

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller: The sacrament of orders (in the three stages of bishop, presbyter and deacon) which is one in its origin and nature has its basis in the calling and empowerment of the apostles by Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself. Against the objection of spiritualistic groups up to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, that the sacrament of Holy Orders does not belong to the substance of the church, the episcopal-papal magisterium (especially in the Councils of Trent and Vatican II) has the Christological origin and the ecclesiological place of this sacrament worked out. The “hierarchical, i.e. sacramental, constitution of the Church is also founded in him (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 18-29).

So whoever denies the essential elements of this ordained ministry instituted by Christ in the Church as an authorized ministry of word and sacrament and whoever does not recognize the bishops and priests as the shepherds appointed by the Holy Spirit, can no longer call himself Catholic (cf. II Vatican Council Lumen Gentium 14). What is constitutively Catholic is not determined by the state registry office or by the Central Committee of German Catholics or any other church organization of purely human rights, but in the last resort only by the entirety of the Catholic bishops with the Pope as the everlasting principle of the unity of the Church in the truth of the final revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The heretical contradiction to revelation and its conceptual formulation in the binding creed of the church disguises itself, as with the old Gnostics, as a further development of what was actually meant or as a necessary adjustment to the limited or time-related comprehension of the addressees - as with the so-called modernists of the century before last. One can no longer say against the mainstream of the Western world what the meaning of human nature, created by God as having two sexes, is. And one should no longer call sexual activity outside of the legitimate marriage of man and woman a sin without exposing oneself to social ostracism or incurring the supposedly just punishment from the judiciary, which has to watch over the socially permitted thinking, speaking and acting in a totalitarian manner. To put it banally: It is about nothing other than the dictatorship of relativism.

Rilinger: As far as the ordained ministry is concerned, there are three levels - deacon, priest, bishop - but it is a single sacrament. It would actually be discrimination, as Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer warned in Frankfurt, if one only wanted to admit women as deacons, but not as priests or bishops. What problems do you get caught up in when you demand a diaconate for women?

Cardinal Müller: In fact there is only one and indivisible sacramental office in the three degrees of bishop, presbyter and deacon. That is why its essential elements apply to all three degrees of consecration. This knowledge has grown in the faith tradition of the church, has also prevailed over heretical objections and has therefore matured to the point of the magisterium definition, which binds every Catholic in the conscience.

Rilinger: Last time, a text was approved according to which extramarital sex should be viewed positively. Another text has now been adopted, which is intended to enable blessing celebrations for all kinds of sexual contacts, but also for people who are civilly divorced and remarried and who live in contradiction to their indissoluble sacramental marriage. Just two years ago, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had declared precisely these blessings of non-marital sexual contact to be impossible. What does this behavior say about the church in Germany, about the German bishops, but also about Rome, if no immediate action is taken?

Cardinal Müller: On behalf of the Pope, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has clearly emphasized the Catholic teaching of the two-sexedness of man. In his recent interview (March 2023) with the Argentine newspaper “La Nación”, Pope Francis made a lucid distinction between pastoral care for those with difficulties in erotic attraction by the opposite sex and the most dangerous colonization of the world by the completely unscientific gender ideology, which the relevant lobby, worth billions, is supposed to force on all countries, including poor ones. If they refuse, they threaten to cut off development aid and thus consciously accept hunger and impoverishment.

This is already evident from the pseudo-scientific talk of a "biological man". As if human sexuality were something other than a biological fact, which, however, has to be dealt with morally in the body-soul unity of the human being in relation to the moral good that comes to perfection in love.

In fact, the Catholic Church is the only institution in the world that unconditionally upholds human dignity because, according to God's commandment, it names the harmfulness of sin and imparts to every sinner the grace of repentance and conversion, and thus promises new life in the love of God.

Beyond the most original and therefore most advanced and beneficial definition of man, which Jesus, the Son of God, definitively revealed to us as the will of the heavenly Father and Creator of the world and man (cf. Mt 11, 25-27), there is no human knowledge that could qualify his word: “Have you not read that the Creator created human beings in the beginning [the reason in which the sense of the Creator's will is shown] male and female and that he said: Therefore it will be man will leave father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will be one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one” (Mt 19:4-6). Even with the most sophistical twists of words, exegetes with an affinity for the spirit of the times cannot cover up the revealed truth that the result of denial of God is a lie about the right relationship between man and woman and that consequently the sexual intercourse of people of the same sex with one another contradicts the two-sex natural disposition of man and thus constitutes a serious sin (cf. Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9f). The storms in the mainstream media or the fines and jail sentences imposed on believing Christians in dictatorships cannot change that, even if the corresponding laws are given a formal democratic touch.

Rilinger: Another text called for lay preaching, lay baptism and assistance in marriage to be made possible by lay people. Apart from the fact that this is already the case, at best semi-legally, in some German dioceses: why do we still need permanent deacons?

Cardinal Müller: These options are not based on a lack of priests and deacons in Europe or on a particular emergency of endangered spiritual salvation, but on the urge of full-time lay people in pastoral ministry to exercise priest-like functions in order to increase their own social prestige. The actual minister of baptism is the bishop or priest and also, if they cannot be present, the deacon.

A layperson can only give emergency baptism in an emergency, when it is about the individual salvation of the soul of the baptismal candidate - but not the solemn baptism in the visible church service. Episcopal commissioned and theologically trained lay people can say a spiritual word in non-Eucharistic services and thus participate in the proclamation on the basis of the common priesthood, should a qualified testimony be available.

In Western theology - which would be discussed in more detail - it is the spouses who administer the sacrament of marriage. The bishop or priest, representing Christ and representative of the Church, confirms the marriage covenant on their behalf. “It is fitting for men and women to enter into their union with the consent of the bishop, so that marriage may come before the Lord [cf. 1 Cor 7:39: "Marriage in the Lord"] and not of lust. Everything should be done for the glory of God!”, wrote Ignatius of Antioch to his brother in office, Polycarp of Smyrna, at the beginning of the 2nd Christian century (chap. 5, 2). So it goes in the wrong direction when the priests are pushed out of the liturgy of the wedding ceremony.

Rilinger: Bishop Georg Bätzing said to the opponents of the reforms at the press conference at the end of the Synodal Path: "What are we taking away from you with the decisions we make?" And further: "Please live what is important to you and take it we won't take you away.” How would you respond, speaking for ordinary Catholics, so to speak?

Cardinal Müller: That is sheer cynicism, in line with the slogan “Stop thief.” The believing Catholics will not allow themselves to be defamed as opponents of “reforms”, and certainly not by bishops who – in complete contradiction to the episcopal ideal of Vatican II – their anti-Catholic propaganda should not hit others in the face. Faithful Catholics follow the apostle's word about the reform of thought in Christ: "Do not conform yourselves to this world, but reform yourselves and renew your thoughts so that you may examine and discern what the will of God is: what pleases him, what is good and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The resolutions of the “Synodal Path” take away “the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:5) from the believing Catholics in order to replace it with the cheap lens mush of a sex-fixated ideology, the true gravitational center of the German-Synodal Path – a nihilistic materialism , which is a mockery of God, who created man in his own image and likeness, male and female.

Rilinger: How do you explain the fact that more than two-thirds of the Bishops approved texts that apparently contradict the traditional teachings of the Church? How can a bishop agree or abstain—an abstention counted as a vote not cast—when he sees only some positive passages in the texts but sees others as problematic? Some bishops have declared that they will do just that.

Cardinal Müller: It is a serious violation and an inexcusable abuse of episcopal authority, such as in the Eastern Roman Empire the majority of bishops violently enforced the Arian heresy, i.e. the denial of the divine nature of Christ, or as in North Africa at the time of St. Augustine, the Donatist bishops, who had developed a sacramental theology that differed from Rome, outnumbered the Catholic bishops. They cannot be excused by ignorance or fear of persecution by anti-Church dictatorships, or the seduction of brainwashing propaganda. They must be familiar with the anthropological teachings of Vatican II on marriage, family and sexuality, especially on the physical and mental unity of man in his person (with self-confidence and freedom). The Pope himself and the two competent Prefects of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Bishops, Cardinals Luis Ladaria and Marc Ouellet, have publicly pointed out their serious errors.

Rilinger: Those bishops who voted against the approved reforms are now under massive pressure. This pressure has been taken into account by the reformers, as can also be seen from Bätzing's statements at the press conference. You were once Bishop of Regensburg yourself. What do you recommend to your confreres? How would you act in this situation?

Cardinal Müller: This game of media dictatorship has been played out over the last few years, which in itself proves the godlessness of these campaign operators, right down to the institutions paid for by the bishops, who engage in inhumane and unchristian hunts against decent and competent representatives, be they Bishops, priests and lay people, betrays. Always according to the principle: If there are no arguments, try personal insults.

Rilinger: The sacraments are still valid, even if a priest or bishop fully supports the resolutions of the “synodal path”. But is it advisable for believers to receive the sacraments regularly from such clergymen, or should one perhaps travel further to receive Holy Communion on Sundays elsewhere, etc.?

Cardinal Müller: Yes, the sacraments are valid even if they are administered by a schismatic or heretical bishop - but only if he only intends to do what the Church understands by these sacraments. But one should also avoid these persons who lead astray so many of Christ's little sheep entrusted to them. Incidentally, many Church Fathers were also severely persecuted by heretics, such as Athanasius the Great, John Chrysostom, Pope Martin I, etc. The so-called blessing of same-sex couples is a misnomer. The appearance of the gesture of blessing does not correspond to any reality of the helping grace imparted by God. It is a grave sin to invoke the name of God to justify with the love of God the frivolous transgression of God's commandments, which always keep us from the harm of sin. “For the love of God is that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not difficult. Because everything that comes from God conquers the world. And that is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith.” (1Joh 5, 3f)

Rilinger: Within the framework of the "Synodal Path" - as in a political party - it was decided by a majority what German Catholics should believe and what Catholics worldwide should believe. Is it compatible with the Bible and with the teaching and tradition of the church that religious decisions are made binding by voting according to political guidelines with a majority, especially since the majority of the members have not been trained in theology or only have a rudimentary education?

Cardinal Müller: This assembly, which in a usurping fashion calls itself the "Synodal Path", although there was no open discussion oriented towards the Word of God, has no basis in the sacramental constitution of the Church. It is only a forum for the exchange of opinions - albeit unsuccessful. The "Synodal Path" is by no means - as was said in complete theological ignorance - instead of God the sovereign of the national German church, who can give the bishops the order to give up the revealed truths in favor of a materialistic world view or even to contradict them diametrically. As for the bishops who, in complete contradiction of their divine mission to present and defend the Catholic faith in all its truth and fullness, consented to or cowardly abstained from these unbiblical texts, the evangelist applies the word of the evangelist that the “leading Men” probably came to believe in Jesus, but did not openly profess his faith, just for fear of being expelled from the synagogue [today: the political correctness of the woke barbarism]. "For they loved the sight of men more than the sight of God" (John 12:43).

Rilinger: The "Synodal Path" claims to represent the German Catholics in a legally binding manner and to suggest that it is entitled to this legitimacy. Can an extra-ecclesial body that is not democratically legitimized make decisions for all German Catholics?

Cardinal Müller: The "Deutschsynodale Weg" is not part of the sacramental church constitution, but is nothing more than an informal body. There can be no question of a legally binding representation of Catholics. The members of this body sent by the ZdK or appointed by the bishops do not represent the church towards the state, society or history and certainly not the Catholics in their religious obedience towards God. They represent no one else but themselves. Even if they had been sent to this body in a kind of general and free election as representatives of the majority of German Catholics, they would have no authority which the individual German Catholics or their entirety in their conscience of faith could oblige. Even the numerical majority of bishops cannot oblige anyone to obey statements contrary to faith or immoral regulations. In contrast to the apostles, the bishops are not infallible bearers of revelation, which ends with the end of the apostolic period and which is fully available in Holy Scripture and the apostolic tradition. In their entirety, under the leadership of the Roman Pope, they are only entitled to infallibility (as an authentic interpretation of the depositum fidei) if they adhere to the "teaching of the apostles" (Acts 2. 42) (Vatican II, Dei verbum 7- 10).

Rilinger: The Central Committee of Catholics (ZdK) pretends to represent the interests of the Catholic lay people in their entirety - but without the members of the ZdK being elected to this body by the German Catholics. The ZdK can therefore only be regarded as a sham representation. Does this body therefore have the legitimacy to represent the interests of all German Catholic lay people?

Cardinal Müller: The arrogant claim to represent the interests of Catholics alone shows the horrific theological ignorance of the authors of these monstrous synodal texts. With whom do the baptized members of the body of Christ want to register and assert their interests if they are concerned with the salvation of the world in Christ instead of their purely earthly lust for power. Besides, the pilgrim Church has no worldly interests at all (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 8). Because it determines “no earthly will for power, but only this one thing: to continue the work of Christ himself under the guidance of the Spirit, the Comforter, who came into the world to bear witness to the truth; to save, not to judge; to serve, not to be served.” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes 3).

Rilinger: Eminence, we thank you for your arguments, which are based on the dogmatics of the Roman Catholic Church and therefore take into account the long theological tradition of the Roman Church.