Cardinal Müller: Pope Can Be Hard to Follow Because of Pace of Prophecy

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks to 'L'Osservatore Romano' on new letter to bishops on the new movements, published June 14.

(photo: Bohumil Petrik/Catholic News Agency)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said some struggle to follow Pope Francis' 'in uscita' (venturing into the world) magisterium because it isn’t always easy to keep up with the pace of prophecy, something that requires effort and hard work.

“What is important is that all the people of God and all the elements of the Church, little by little, each at its own pace and with its own gifts, even with its weaknesses, go in the right direction,” the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said in a June 9 interview with L'Osservatore Romano.

He added that this is done by going beyond one’s own plans and safe environments which requires “some hard work and effort,” “dialogical obedience”, and even using “many times a dialectic” method.

The German cardinal was speaking to the Vatican newspaper ahead of the release tomorrow of a letter entitled Iuvenescit Ecclesia (Rejuvenate the Church) that the CDF has sent to bishops. The letter deals with the relationship between the hierarchy and new ecclesial movements.

Cardinal Müller said it is clear that these two entities are “meant to rejuvenate the Church, are gifts to renew the life of faith of the People of God” and that the existence of the letter refutes those who argue that Pope Francis has no particular love for the movements.

Moreover, he said, a Pope “cannot help but love what the Spirit provokes for the benefit of many men, whose hearts God often waits for without them knowing it, and in favor of all the People of God who are the first recipients of this gift.”

He added that certainly some of these gifts have often been “disruptive innovations” in need of “purification.” Hopefully, he said, they have been “rather like children who have come into the world without having been planned. But whoever is really their father and mother, loves the children once they have arrived, and provides for them and more than the others.”

He added that that is what makes it possible to reconcile the activities of the movements, which often have a strong identity, with those of a pontificate that has made the abandonment of self-reference one of its cornerstones.

Cardinal Müller said it was possible to move out of being one’s own “center of gravity” and to love, even with a strong and well-defined identity, but it “must take place without arrogance," and “with respect for the interlocutors".

He said a “certain inability to have a sincere dialogue is born out of a weak cultural identity” and so a clear identity gives a taste of authenticity to dialogue. He added that this is because true dialogue always starts with an exchange of gifts between two identities. “Otherwise it is just a series of monologues, perhaps seasoned with a lot of courtesy.”

He said it is important to come out of oneself because “reality is greater than our thoughts, as Francis has often said”, but he also warned that the opposite of being self-referential is not servility.

Cardinal Müller then alluded to the current confusion of this pontificate, saying that some “elements” in the Church “seem to be struggling to keep up with the ‘outward’ magisterium of Francis.”

He said “it is difficult to keep up with the pace of prophecy” but that on the other hand, “it is not the speed of the pace that counts.

“What is important is that all the people of God and all the elements of the Church, little by little, each at its own pace and with its own gifts, even with its weaknesses, go in the right direction,” he said. “And this is not done effectively without some hard work and effort, without dialogical obedience, and many times even in a dialectic way.”

“The truth of prophecy only matures and manifests its scope over time,” he continued, and this is why “it is not easy to understand it right away.” Indeed it often involves an aspect of the "cross", both for the “one who carries it, and for the one who receives it."

“In fact, truly ‘going out’ from ourselves,” he said, “always involves the effort of leaving behind one’s own plans and safe environment."

L’Osservatore Romano pointed out that nevertheless, “among the recurring criticisms” of Pope Francis is that with this new element, there is a discontinuity with his predecessors.

But Cardinal Müller also distances himself from that criticism. "Every Pope has his gifts and preferences,” he said. “I believe Francis is profoundly united to John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the desire to make the most of all the new things that the Spirit inspires in the Church.

“The look of the Pope is the watchful and loving look of a father who not only supports but also, when necessary, corrects,” he said. “And he does so for the sake of his children and for their advantage, above all. "

So what should the movements do to avoid falling into the temptation to lock up the Spirit inside inward-looking schemas, L’Osservatore Romano asked?

For Müller the best teachers are the saints who, "in the history of the Church have been able to combine, always in a fruitful way, continuity and newness —fidelity to tradition and openness to what God has asked anew, and they did so by putting themselves at the service of the Church and the authentic good of so many brothers and sisters of their time — loving and accompanying them, really cultivating in their hearts an ever greater love for the good destiny of their fellow travelers, while themselves also frankly acknowledging their mistakes and allowing themselves to be corrected by the truth and the good."

In any case, the prefect concluded, putting oneself at the service of a plan and the greater good is "the best way out of the temptation of self-reference, and this is as true for those in the Church who are called to serve in the hierarchy as for the ordinary faithful, without exception.”