11 February 2019, The Tablet

Cardinals at war over 'fraud of Antichrist'

'He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth'

Cardinals at war over 'fraud of Antichrist'

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller stretches out his arms in the Cathedral in Mainz, Germany, 02 July 2017, the day after it was learned he was dismissed from CDF
Photo: Andreas Arnold/DPA/PA Images

The Pope's former doctrinal chief has published a "Manifesto of Faith" in which he warns of the "fraud of Antichrist" being perpetrated by those who fail to teach the faith correctly.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2012 to 2017, writes that there is "growing confusion about the doctrine of the faith".
In the face of this, "many bishops, priests, religious and lay people of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation".
He says it is the task of the shepherds of the Church to guide Catholics on the path of salvation. "This can only succeed if they know this way and follow it themselves."
But today, many Christians are no longer even aware of the basic teachings of the faith, so there is a growing danger of missing the path to eternal life, he warns.
Cardinal Müller says Christ is the "point of reference", rather than the "views of a majority or the spirit of the times".
He continues: "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."
Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of reconciliation before receiving communion, he continues, adding that from the internal logic of the sacrament, civilly remarried divorcees, "whose sacramental marriage exists before God", as well as those Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Faith and the Church, just as all who are not properly disposed, cannot receive the Holy Eucharist fruitful "because it does not bring them to salvation"
To point this out is a spiritual work of mercy, he insists.
He also argues that the rationale for a celibate priesthood also means the ordination of women is not possible.
Cardinal Müller also says that many wonder today what the point of the Church is, "when even bishops prefer to be politicians rather than to proclaim the Gospel as teachers of the faith".
He continues: "To keep silent about these truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. 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 will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved." 
Cardinal Müller, who was appointed to the CDF by Benedict XVI, has disagreed with the strategy of the Dubia cardinals who openly opposed the Pope's family life document Amoris Laetitia, which signalled a more merciful approach to communion for remarried divorcees. However, he has himself also raised concerns about the document itself. 
He drew a rapid response from the German prelate, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who writing on the German site Katholisch, says there is no doubt that the manifesto contains many statements of faith that every upright Catholic can wholeheartedly affirm, but there are also problems.

He writes: "There are blanket statements that can not stand this way, for example, when it is said that the conscience of the faithful is not sufficiently formed. This sentence in this generality is offensive to many believers. And what will many say when they think of priests who are accused of abuse? Is their conscience adequately formed? What must victims of abuse feel when a sentence like 'The priest continues the work of salvation on earth' is so completely undifferentiated? The right distinction makes the theologian."

He gives another example: "For the statement that remarried divorced and non-Catholic Christians could not fruitfully receive the Eucharist, the manifesto refers to no. 1.457 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I looked up twice and did not find that sentence there. I know no other dogmatically binding statement in which the sentence is in this form. Incidentally, the manifesto speaks of remarried divorced women whose first marriage is 'before God'. Thus, it obviously assumes that there are also those whose first marriage does not exist before God. Who can decide that, and what about these?"

He also challenges him on the celibacy issue. "In fact, there are priests in the Catholic Church who are married: in the Eastern Churches in communion with Rome, former Protestant or, as most recently, Pope Benedict XVI. has – former Anglican pastors. Even though I am personally convinced that one has to think afresh and deeper about the meaning of the freely chosen celibacy, at least the discussion of viri probati can not be forbidden."

Cardinal Kasper concludes: "I was totally horrified when I read about the 'fraud of Antichrist' towards the end of the manifesto. This is almost literally reminiscent of Martin Luther's argument. Luther also rightly criticised much in the church. But the Antichrist accusation was – as our Lutheran dialogue partners say today – even then inappropriate. Is there a Luther redivivus behind the manifesto? One who rightly advocates reforms in the Church, but wants to pass them on and defeat the Pope? I do not want to believe that. Because that could only lead to confusion and division. That would upset the Catholic Church."


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