Cardinal Müller Rebukes Belgian Mayor, Says Politics Is About ‘Dignity of Man in the Image of God’

Brussels district mayor Emir Kir ordered police Tuesday to block access to the conference venue, but was overruled by Belgium’s highest court.

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller leaves the Paul VI Hall at the end of the first meeting of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 5, 2023, in Vatican City.
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller leaves the Paul VI Hall at the end of the first meeting of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 5, 2023, in Vatican City. (photo: Franco Origlia / Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Gerhard Müller has rebuked local Belgian authorities who tried to shut down a conference he spoke at this week, comparing them to “absolutist rulers of the past.”

In an April 18 statement to the media, the former head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office strongly criticized a district mayor and his supporters for their attempt to cancel the National Conservatism conference that took place April 16-17, calling them political activists who desired the withdrawal of the “fundamental right to freedom of assembly.”

The conference, organized by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a public affairs institute, and the Herzl Institute, a Jewish political think tank, aims to promote conservatism as “inextricably tied” to the idea of nation, national independence, and the revival of national traditions.

Late on Tuesday, Belgium’s highest court ruled the conference could take place, overruling an order given by Brussels district mayor Emir Kir to shut down the event on the grounds that it threatened “public order and peace.” Kir complained it was “ethically conservative,” opposed to abortion and same-sex unions, defended national sovereignty, and that its speakers were “reputed to be traditionalists.”

Police surrounded the venue on Tuesday, denying access to speakers and guests.

Political pressure had already forced the organizers to cancel two other venues shortly before the conference had begun, after which they found a third hotel venue, called Claridge, located in Kir’s district.

Cardinal Müller said Kir and his associates “had unintentionally revealed their ideological relapse into absolutist state thinking when, in a fit of shocking self-irony, Brussels was proclaimed a right-wing free zone.”

But the German cardinal stressed that elected members of democracies are not “lord and master” of their territories as they were centuries ago when the religion of the ruler used to dictate the religion of those ruled.

Such officials, Cardinal Müller added, consider themselves “entitled to punish their fellow citizens,” labeling them as dissidents, depriving them of their liberties, and “confiscating property (blocking of bank accounts)” just as past “absolutist rulers” used to do.

The cardinal stressed he had been invited not as a politician but as a theologian to discuss the idea of Christian Europe.

He added that “anyone who is not blinded by totalitarian ideology in their perception of reality but recognizes the dignity of man in the image of God as the measure and limit of politics, should know that the Judeo-Christian tradition of Europe is the best means of protection against the attack on fundamental human rights and the slide of pluralist democracies into totalitarian systems of rule.”

Pope Francis (R) embraces new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich after he appointed him during an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Pope Francis vs. Cardinal Hollerich

EDITORIAL: The Pope’s comments regarding women’s ordination in his interview with CBS put a damper on the movement to alter the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and diaconate.