Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who was informed by Pope Francis on 30 June that his mandate as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) would not be prolonged, has sharply criticised the way in which the Pope dismissed him.
“The Pope informed me within one minute of his decision not to prolong my mandate. He did not give a reason, just as he gave no reasons for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months ago. I cannot accept this way of doing things. As a bishop one cannot treat people in this way. The Church’s social teaching must also be applied to the way employees are treated here in Rome”, Müller told the Bavarian daily 'Passauer Neue Presse' on 6 July.
He had informed Cardinal Joachim Meisner of the Pope’s decision not to renew his [Müller’s] mandate in a long telephone conversation on the evening of 4 July, a few hours before Meisner unexpectedly died in his sleep. Meisner had been “particularly upset” to hear of the Pope’s decision, Müller said. “He thought it would harm the Church”.
Meisner had also been most concerned about the current situation of the Church, “about the disputes and altercations that were standing in the way of church unity and the truth”, Müller added.
Asked if Meisner had been upset that Pope Francis had not answered the letter he (Meisner) and three other cardinals had written to the Pope and later published asking Francis for clarification on whether or not remarried divorcees could in certain individual cases receive the Eucharist, Müller said it would have been better if instead of publishing the letter, the dubia, that is the four cardinals’ doubts, had been discussed at a confidential meeting.
He recalled that he himself had never taken part in the dubia debate, but added, “I must stress with all due clarity that the attempts to date to explain how the balancing act between dogma, that is church teaching and pastoral practice can be achieved by Cardinals Schönborn, Kasper and others, are simply not convincing.”
He recommended that Pope Francis discuss the dubia with the three remaining cardinals. “And I suggest the Pope entrust me with the dialogue as I have the competence and the necessary sense of responsibility required. I could moderate the discussion”.
He had no intention, however, of allowing himself to lead a movement which was critical of Pope Francis. Dialogue and cooperation were called for. “Bridges are needed to prevent a schism”, he emphasised.
Asked in the 'Passauer Neue Presse' interview of 6 July on his relationship with Meisner and what he thought of Meisner’s views, Müller replied:
“We were on good terms and I admired his courage to raise his voice against certain currents of the zeitgeist. It is easier to swim with the current than to speak up for the truth. The Apostles already experienced that standing up for the truth meant giving witness, and giving witness has something to do with martyrdom – not necessarily martyrdom of the blood. There is also martyrdom of the word for which one has to suffer certain disadvantages - especially if one is not part of the main stream”.