Those who reduce clergy sex abuse to clericalism and never mention the role that homosexuality has played in the crisis “don’t want to confront the true reasons” for the abuse, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has told the Register.

The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said these groups and individuals who publicly hold these views are against priestly celibacy and are exploiting such abuse crimes “for their own agenda.” Cardinal Müller shared these words in a sit-down interview with the Register in Rome recently, during which he shared his hopes for the Feb. 21-24 meeting of bishops on the “protection of minors” and discussed a range of other topics.

The German cardinal, who has been giving many interviews and talks on the crisis in the Church since Pope Francis asked him to step down as prefect in July 2017, also said he believed academic theology is facing “a breakdown” and that “more qualified theologians” are needed, along with “an appreciation for them.”

“Some Church’s leaders don’t realize the deep crisis the Church is in,” he said. “We must learn from the mistakes of history and learn from the great reform movements.”

 

Your Eminence, what is your view of the argument that clerical sex abuse is the result of clericalism?

It’s very unjust against Jesus, who gave spiritual power and authority to the apostles and bishops, with their priests. The large majority of such abuses are not due to the sacrament of holy orders, but to sexual incontinence, a false understanding of sexuality, not respecting the Sixth Commandment.

If you are a priest, you must preach the Decalogue and respect it. Where is it written in the Holy Bible or a book about the priesthood, or the Church Fathers, that because you are a priest, you are outside morality? On the contrary, you must set a good example.

 

Why are some Church leaders pushing the clericalism argument but never mentioning homosexuality?

I think they don’t want to confront the true reasons for sexual abuse of minors, of boys and young men, and want to make their own agenda. They’re against celibacy, against the Sixth Commandment, and therefore they instrumentalize abuse and this terrible situation for their own agenda.

 

What are your hopes for the February conference?

There has yet to be an analysis or diagnosis of the true reasons of the crisis, and you cannot give the right treatment with the wrong diagnosis. Take, for example, my broken wrist that happened when I fell a few weeks ago. I went to the doctor and told him I have so much pain in this hand, and it’s as if he would have said: “It has nothing to do with a broken hand. It’s because you’re an ivory-tower professor who trips over his own feet; you must go to a psychologist and have your mind changed. Then you’ll have no more pain.” It’s absurd. We must confront reality in the light of the Gospel, the Church’s doctrine and discipline, and the spirituality of the priesthood.

 

What do you make of the Pope’s recent comments on homosexuality in a recent interview, that homosexual priests who perform such acts should consider leaving the priesthood?

Practiced homosexuality is against the plan of God, the Creator, and nobody can relativize the Law of God. The Pope was absolutely right. Homosexual practice is not acceptable, not with adults and absolutely not with minors. More than 80% of the victims of sexual abuse are young boys, adolescent male minors, over 14 years. This is a homosexual act. But the abuse of females is just as terrible.

Daniel Mattson’s book Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay is very good on this. I presented the Italian version of it. On the one hand, there’s same-sex attraction, and on the other hand is homosexual practice, which is quite different. If you have a normal attraction to women, you’re not allowed to have a sexual attraction to every woman, only with your own wife. That’s very clear.

Same-sex attraction in no way justifies homosexual contact, as St. Paul said in the first chapter of his Letter to the Romans. We don’t need a new interpretation of this doctrine but, rather, more obedience to the word of God. “For God did not call us to impurity, but to holiness … who [also] gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4,7-8).

 

One prominent cardinal has tried to distinguish between non-consensual and consensual acts.

Where is that written in Holy Scripture? It’s a secularized meaning. If two men steal something consensually, is this any more acceptable because they’ve consented to do that together? That is a sin in a double sense. In no way does consensuality relativize a sin.

 

And it is likewise very grave if consensual between, say, a bishop or priest and a seminarian?

More than grave. A sin is a sin, and circumstances can aggravate the sin or diminish the guilt.

 

The U.S. priest Father George Rutler recently said the Vatican is undergoing “theological Chernobyl.” Do you agree with that?

There’s a breakdown not only of academic theology but also the basis of all theology, revealed through faith.

We need more qualified theologians and have an appreciation for them. There are certain different forms of theology: The Church Fathers, the scholastics, were inspired by other philosophers, but we have a legitimate plurality of theology on the same basis of the faith. Scotus is a little bit different from St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine is different from Hieronymus, but it’s the same basis, the same content: Scripture, Tradition, magisterium.

For example, some are speaking about the reform of the Curia, but not everybody has an idea what is the theological, ecclesiological position of the Holy Roman Church, with the Pope as its head. What is the College of Cardinals? It’s a representation of the Holy Roman Church, a presbyterium or synod of the Pope for his universal mission.

 

What are your views on the Pope’s death-penalty comments and his revision of the Catechism to make capital punishment “inadmissible”?

We’re against executions, but theoretically we absolutely cannot deny them, if we look at the history of discussion on this subject. If there are capital crimes, the question is if the secular state has the right to perform an execution. But Jesus was condemned to death, he was innocent, and this belongs to soteriology; but these questions weren’t reflected on before the new declaration was made. And the impression is not good that the Pope, if he wants to do, can simply change the Catechism. Where are the limits? The magisterium is not above the word of God, but under it and serves it (Dei Verbum, 10).

 

Do you think it sets a bad precedent, such unilateral action?

It was justified as a development of dogma, but the death penalty has nothing directly to do with dogma. This is a natural truth belonging to the natural ethics of the state. It’s not material related to God’s self-revelation of the truth and the salvation of all. This is the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, or the sacraments belonging to the materia fidei. But we also have natural truths: The Church fights for human rights, for example, but natural human rights don’t belong to supernatural Revelation.

 

One argument is that Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II laid the path for this. John Paul, for example, called for an international moratorium on the death penalty.

This is another question: There’s the theoretical and the practical. The first thing to consider is: Are there crimes that result in loss of life, which take away the life of all, that mean the perpetrator has lost his right to life? The other question is whether and how that should be carried out. Some modern antidemocratic states and dictatorships have no respect for human dignity.

 

Do you think an absolutist position against the death penalty relates to a wider and deeper problem of a loss of the sense of justice, a problem that some believe stems from a loss of belief in the Final Judgement — the reasoning being that if there’s no Final Judgement, this affects our overall perspective of justice in all our relationships?

Generally we need more of a sense of ultimate responsibility, and not feeling just answerable to the reaction of the press, the internet, or only public opinion.

 

Do you think a major problem is that we have lost a sense of the eternal, the supernatural, so we view everything from the perspective of this life?

I think almost all believe in eternal life but it’s only a consolation for death, while others don’t think it relevant to their own life, deeds, omissions, sins. In their understanding, God is always bestowing mercy, but it’s not the God of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s their own projection. “I forgive myself and God is only the mirror in which I see myself, he is my God. God doesn’t justify me, but I justify myself and God is only the medium.”

 

Is a turning point coming, do you think? Might some things change and the importance of theology and dogma make a comeback?

Many liberal Catholics are very content with the relativizing of moral dogma.

They always want to be on the side of the majority, the collective, but belonging to Christ is a cross, requiring penitence and change of life, obedience to the commandments, the fellowship of Christ. Some want a soft God.

Some Church leaders don’t realize the deep crisis the Church is in. We must learn from the mistakes of history and learn from the great reform movements.

There we have the right understanding of reform: “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

 

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.