Cardinal Gerhard Müller has spoken out firmly against trying to adapt the Church’s teaching to today’s often pagan lifestyles, saying such an approach introduces subjectivism and arbitrariness.

In an interview with the Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost on June 6th, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned that placing “any so-called lived realities” on the same level as scripture and tradition is “nothing more than the introduction of subjectivism and arbitrariness, wrapped up in sentimental and smug religious terminology.” 

The cardinal’s comments have been widely seen as a criticism of a recent “shadow council” when bishops and experts from Germany, France and Switzerland met May 25th in Rome to discuss how the Church could adapt its pastoral approach to today’s current lived experiences, especially regarding sexual ethics.

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, a participant at the meeting and one of the German episcopate’s representatives at the upcoming Synod on the Family, has gone on record saying that the “lived realities” of people should be a source of information for dogmatic and moral truths, the Austrian site Kath.net reported.

But Cardinal Müller stressed that these “lived realities” can sometimes be very pagan and that the faith cannot be the result of a compromise between acceptable Christian ideas, abstract principles and the practice of a pagan lifestyle. He added that Rome will strengthen bishops’ freedom and responsibility, but this will be threatened by “nostalgias for national churches and by the haggling over social acceptance.”

The German cardinal also said that the Pope invited each bishop to the October synod as a “witness and teacher of the revealed faith.”

Referring to the recent controversial closed-door meeting in Rome, Cardinal Müller said it is right to exchange information on any point or major issue. But he added that one cannot organize the truth. If this principle were to be adopted and taken as true by the Church, leading her to take her cue from public opinion, then the Church would be “shaken to her foundations," he said.

The Catholic Church is mother and teacher of all churches, he said, one that teaches and is not taught. “She does not need anybody – as superior and as adapted to our times he might think he is – to teach her a notion of the right faith, because in her, the apostolic tradition has been faithfully safeguarded and always will be preserved."

Bishop Koch appointed

On Monday, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Heiner Koch of Dresden-Meißen as the new Archbishop of Berlin.

Bishop Koch was also present at the May 25th meeting and will be one of the three German bishops to attend the October synod. He is currently chairman of the bishops’ marriage and family commission and known to strongly support the Cardinal Kasper thesis on admitting some remarried divorcees to Holy Communion.

Bishop Koch, 61, is also a proponent of Church recognition of same-sex unions. He has said that "any bond that strengthens and holds people, is in my eyes good; that applies also to same-sex relationships."

In an interview earlier this year with a local German newspaper, the prelate said that to “portray homosexuality as a sin is hurtful” and that the Church “needs a different language when it comes to homosexuals.”

“I know gay couples who value ​​reliability and commitment and live these in an exemplary manner,” he said.

Since the 1950s, all archbishops of Berlin have gone on to become a cardinal. The archdiocese is likely to grow in prominence in the coming years as the bishops' conference is understood to want to move its headquarters from Bonn, the former West German capital, to Berlin.

The Pope appointed Bishop Koch archbishop following his election last week by the Berlin archdiocese.