The Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog is saying Catholics have “no reason” to honor the Protestant Reformation.
In a wide-ranging, book-length interview recently published by the Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, a Madrid-based publishing house, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), speaks on a number of subjects — including the upcoming commemoration in Sweden of the 15th-century Protestant Reformation.
Pope Francis to Celebrate with Protestants
The matter is a timely one for Catholics, as Pope Francis will travel to Sweden in October to attend a joint ecumenical service kicking off the year recalling the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Revolt. Others attending will include leaders from the Lutheran World Federation as well as representatives of various Christian communities. The meeting will take place October 31 in Lund, where the Lutheran World Federation was founded in 1947.
Meant not only to commemorate the Reformation, the Pope’s presence will also highlight the advances in dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans over the past century.
“Strictly speaking,” Cardinal Müller said in his interview, “we Catholics have no reason to celebrate October 31, 1517, the date that is considered the beginning of the Reformation that would lead to the rupture of Western Christianity.”
If we are convinced that divine revelation is preserved whole and unchanged through Scripture and Tradition, in the doctrine of the Faith, in the sacraments, in the hierarchical constitution of the Church by divine right, founded on the sacrament of holy orders, we cannot accept that there exist sufficient reasons to separate from the Church.
Protestant communities see things differently, he observed. “The Protestant reformers arrived at the conclusion, 500 years ago, that some Church hierarchs were not only morally corrupt, but had also distorted the Gospel and, as a result, had blocked the path of salvation for believers toward Jesus Christ.”
The head of the CDF criticized a distorted understanding of ecumenism, which blocks the path to true unity. “The relativization of the truth and the acritical adoption of modern ideologies are the principal obstacle toward union in the truth.”
He sees this approach being adopted by some in the Catholic Church today. “In this sense, a Protestantization of the Catholic Church on the basis of a secular vision without reference to transcendence not only cannot reconcile us with the Protestants, but also cannot allow an encounter with the mystery of Christ,” he insisted.
He acknowledged the validity of the Vatican II document “Unitatis Redintegratio,” but also noted it must be balanced against the CDF’s own 2000 document “Dominus Iesus,” which re-asserts the primacy of the Catholic Church as the one true Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, superior to all other religions. Müller called this document “the magna carta against the Christological and ecclesiological relativism of this time of such confusion.”
Cardinal Müller also touched on other topics, including Holy Communion for those in irregular unions, the twisting of Pope Francis’ words by some to push the gay agenda, women’s priesthood and clerical celibacy.
“Saint Paul insists on the fact that he who eats the bread and drinks the wine of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,” he commented, referring to the issue of who may receive Holy Communion. Catholics may only be restored to the state of grace through the sacrament of penance, he explained, and “access to Eucharistic communion certainly presupposes the life of grace.”
On those who would twist the Holy Father’s words for their agenda, His Eminence said:
Precisely those who until now have shown no respect for the doctrine of the Church are using an isolated phrase from the Holy Father, “Who am I to judge?” taken out of context, to present distorted ideas on sexual morality, reinforcing them with a presumed interpretation of the “authentic” thought of the pope in this regard.
He also made clear that female ordination to the priesthood is impossible, as “this is a matter that has already been decided.”
Finally, he defended clerical celibacy as “a special gift from God through which the sacred ministers can more easily unite themselves with Christ with an undivided heart.”