Cardinal Müller: Nobody can alter the way the Sacraments work

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has said that local bishops cannot reinterpret Church teaching subjectively.

In an interview with the German magazine Rheinische Post, Cardinal Müller said: “I do not think it is particularly beneficial for each individual bishop to comment on papal documents to explain how he subjectively understands the document.”

He further said: “It cannot be that the universally binding doctrine of the Church, formulated by the Pope, is given different and even contradictory regional interpretations. The basis of the Church is the unity of faith. The Church no longer experiences a new revelation.”

In recent weeks, the bishops of Malta and Germany have issued guidelines permitting Communion for the remarried. The Maltese bishops said that it might be “impossible” for some couples to avoid sex, and that people could not be refused Communion if they discerned that they were “at peace with God”.

However, several bishops have affirmed the traditional teaching that the remarried cannot receive Communion, except when they endeavour to live “in complete continence”. Cardinal Müller pointed to magisterial teaching, most recently that of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which says continence is necessary. The cardinal told an Italian magazine that this teaching was “not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

Cardinal Müller also said that, in order to be absolved of adultery, a penitent must resolve not to sin again. He said: “No one can alter the sacraments as a means of grace according to their own choice – for example, so that the sacrament of Confession can be given without the intention to sin no more.”



  1. A quick reading of this interview appears to support the constant Magisterial teaching regarding no Holy Communion for civilly remarried Catholics. If Catholic Morality regarding marriage “was a positive law of JP2” then not only is this untrue (because Catholic Morality is based on God’s Commandments), but Cardinal Muller’s statement suggests that Popes can inaugurate moral laws of themselves. He is affirming this idea that moral laws are related in some way to history and this principle is presently eroding the Church’s teachings in many areas.

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