Gerhard Ludwig Müller for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Rocco Palmo reports:

A priest of Mainz, the new prefect spent most of his priesthood as a theology professor in Munich before his appointment to Regensburg in 1992. He has served as a member of the congregation since 2002.

Given common perceptions of the current pontificate, it's worth noting that Müller's appointment to lead the CDF survived an attempted subterfuge by some conservatives in Vatican circles, who — among other things — sought to play up a longstanding friendship the new "Grand Inqusitor" has kept with a leading architect of liberation theology, the Peruvian Dominican Gustavo Gutierrez.


Among CDF's relatively new areas of jurisdiction are several matters of sizable import to the church in the English-speaking world, above all deciding final outcomes to the worldwide church's clergy sex-abuse cases (a task entrusted to Ratzinger in 2001 after a Curial turf-fight), and the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus, the Pope's 2009 initiative allowing for Anglican groups to enter the Catholic church as collective units, with their own liturgy and governing structures. In the space of just over a year, the latter development has arguably made for the Western church's largest boon of married priests in the millennium since mandatory celibacy became universal policy.

Your thoughts?

Update: reports positively on the appointment:

In 2006, Müller acted to halt over 2 million Euros in Church funding to pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ groups after their dissident activities were exposed by faithful Catholic bloggers and a group called Union for the Associations Faithful to the Pope.

Central Committee of German Catholics had received more than two million Euros in financing from the Church prior to the cut off.

The association Donum Vitae created by the Committee came under fire for aiding women in obtaining abortions. The association fulfilled pre-abortion requirements for women by offering counseling and certificates, clearing the way for the abortion procedure.  Moreover, the Committee openly criticized the hierarchy of the Church, calling for the development of a democratic structure that would give authority to the laity.

Archbishop Müller also suppressed the Diocesan council of Lay People and thirty-three other dissident organizations.

UPDATE II: Father Z reacts to the appointment:

Some people have expressed misgivings over Müller’s open thoughts on a range of theological questions, including Liberation Theology.  Let us not forget that Joseph Ratzinger used a point from Liberation Theology as a starting point for a book on liturgical worship: Christ is the Liberator who frees us from sin and death and liturgical worship is as an act of the Liberator, liberating for those who participate.  Frankly, I think that focusing on the fact that Müller has read Liberation Theology is not very productive.  Liberation Theology has been pretty much junked, and picked over for the good points it had.

Note also that Müller begins his tenure as Prefect on the eve of the Year of Faith, which is clearly an important project for Benedict.  The Holy Father must see in Müller, as Prefect of “Faith”, someone who can advance that project.


Regarding the SSPX, the Holy Father made Archbp. DiNoia the Vice-President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“.  I imagine he will exert greater immediate influence.  Nevertheless, Müller will have a different view of the stand off than did the previous Prefect.

Müller has made some statements about clerical celibacy and Mariology that have a few people scratching their heads.  That said, his job is to make this run smoothly at the Congregation, not to shape the Church’s doctrine.

UPDATE III: John Allen Jr.'s take on the appointment.  (The comments section is interesting.  Reaction on the Liberal side is as negative as that from the traditionalist side.  Maybe it means the Holy Father has struck the right balance?)

The pope’s new doctrinal czar has a profile in Germany as a staunch defender of Catholic orthodoxy, yet not an ideologue. Among other things, Müller has a strong friendship with Peruvian liberation theologian Gustavo Guttierez.

Müller clearly enjoys the pope’s confidence.

Aside from the fact that Müller is the bishop of the pope’s home diocese, where Benedict’s brother Geörg still resides, he’s also the editor of Benedict’s “Opera Omnia,” a comprehensive collection of all the pope’s theological writings. Müller himself is a prolific author, having written more than 400 works on a wide variety of theological topics.

Despite his broadly conservative reputation, Müller actually earned his doctorate in 1977 under then-Fr. Karl Lehmann, who went on to become the cardinal of Mainz and the leader of the moderate wing of the German bishops’ conference. Müller’s dissertation was on the famed German Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Moreover, Müller is also a close personal friend of Guttierez, widely seen as the father of the liberation theology movement in Latin America. Every year since 1998, Müller has travelled to Peru to take a course from Guttierez, and has spent time living with farmers in a rural parish near the border with Bolivia.


Müller has been rumored to be in pole position to take over at the doctrinal congregation for some time, and late last year there was a push in traditionalist circles to try to block the appointment. E-mails were circulated suggesting that Müller, already a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is not a man of “secure doctrine.”

Specifically, the e-mails cited Müller for espousing suspect positions on the virginity of Mary (which he said in a 2003 book shouldn’t be understood in a “physiological” sense), the Eucharist (Müller has apparently counseled against using the term “body and blood of Christ” to describe the consecrated bread and wine at Mass), and ecumenism (last October, Müller declared that Protestants are “already part of the church” founded by Christ.)

Defenders of Müller argued that in each case, his words had either been taken out of context or were consistent with official teaching.

Author: Deborah Gyapong

Deborah Gyapong is a member of the Sodality of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary ( in Ottawa, a former parish of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (Traditional Anglican Communion) whose members were received individually and corporately into the Roman Catholic Church on April 15, 2012 by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the community will celebrate an approved Anglican Use liturgy and hopes to soon join with other sodalities across Canada to form the Canadian Deanery of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary. As we wait for our priest(s) to be ordained as Catholic priests, God willing, Archbishop Prendergast will provide priests to celebrate our Sunday Eucharist according to the Anglican Use. Deborah is a journalist who covers religion and politics in Canada’s national capital, writing primarily for Roman Catholic newspapers since 2004. Her novel The Defilers, published in 2006, was not a best seller, alas. She spent 17 years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in news and current affairs, including 12 years as a television producer.

38 thoughts on “Gerhard Ludwig Müller for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”

  1. My thoughts? The same as other traditionalists this morning. I am ready to give up on life. I am completely devastated. I feel that I and thousands of others who have tried to keep the faith have been expelled from the vineyard. I will now try to find ways to withdraw from active assistance in the Church and turn entirely to a private life in the Faith.


      1. And Bishop Müller, in spite of the appearances, is someone who is knowledgeable about married clergy: Since Pope Pius XII 1951 pastoral provision, married former Lutheran pastors have been ordained in Germany, many of them in the diocese of Regensburg.

        + PAX et BONUM

        1. Interesting point about ordaining married Lutheran pastors in Germany.

          As far as the rest of the Church is concerned, permission to ordain Lutheran married clergy in Sweden in the 1980s opened up the possibility of ordaining a considerable number of married clerical converts from the Church of England after the debacle of 1992. Prior to that a small number of married clerics from Anglicanism had been ordained in special circumstances. The Swedish precedent opened the possibility for the Church Universal. Until then there was no prospect of ordaining married men while their wives were still living.

          The Ordinariates have yet to provide the same numbers of ordained married men to match those of the post-1992 intake.

    1. PKTP, perhaps as a first step in your attempt to "withdraw from active assistance in the Church and turn entirely to a private life in the Faith" you might stop commenting on blogs.

  2. Well, I don't know. What would have been said about Ratzinger at his appointment to the CDF? After all, he was under investigation for heresy during Pius XII's reign, and maintained a long standing friendship with Hans Küng all the way up until recent years as Pope Benedict XVI. I'm afraid the pope knows something about Müller that we don't. We may just have to wait and find out what that is.

    For some reason I find it difficult to believe that the Holy Father has suddenly gone soft.

  3. I don't know how the cited heretical (on their face) statements possibly could be satisfactorily "contextualised" with the respective dogmata of the Church.

    Perhaps our readers would try and defend him? It'll be a hard sell, I bet.

    To read of this bishop's opinions is utterly heartbreaking! I really do hope that the Holy Father knows what he's doing here.

    1. Sure, I'll defend the Holy Father's choice. Of course, I don't read German, but I think that still leaves me as well armed as most of the critics. :-)

      Seriously though, I don't put a whole lot of trust in the chopped up quotes translated into English by the prosecutors… I admit the quotes can be worrying "on their face," but of course we cannot judge a book by its cover.

      Specifically, the e-mails cited Müller for espousing suspect positions on the virginity of Mary (which he said in a 2003 book shouldn’t be understood in a “physiological” sense),

      Already this is a distorted description, as it leaves out the crucial modifier "perpetual." It seems clear to me from the 2003 quotes that +Mueller is only putting forward the opinion that one is not required to believe that Our Lord “phased” out of Our Lady’s womb to maintain Her Virginity (pace Augustine). In other words, believing Our Lord traveled physically through and out of the birth canal by contractions, as all other babies do, does nothing to diminish the Perpetual Virginity of Our Lady. People of good will can disagree with that, but I don't think it is heresy.

      the Eucharist (Müller has apparently counseled against using the term “body and blood of Christ” to describe the consecrated bread and wine at Mass),

      I think this is where something is literally getting lost in translation from the German, which is understandable considering the topic is one of the deepest mysteries of the Faith that most requires more context than a single line or two.

      Without being able to read the original, I can only speculate… but my guess would be that there is a concern with losing sight of the "Soul and Divinity" in the Eucharist. Before I became Catholic, I labored under the misconception that transubstantiation was supposed to be a kind of "cloning" that reproduced the literal Body and Blood of Our Lord, as if the Eucharistic host was an independent "slice" of Him. Learning that He is fully present in every drop and crumb of the elements, and that dividing the elements does not divide Him, and that to move the elements around does not move Him (Summa III.76) helped me understand that the Eucharist is Him not "just" His Body and Blood. Now maybe I am fairly alone in having had that misconception, but I can see how an exclusive reference to "Body and Blood" could be an obstacle to a better understanding.

      and ecumenism (last October, Müller declared that Protestants are “already part of the church” founded by Christ.)

      Well, this is easy, isn't it?

      CCC 838: "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."

      Already part of the Church, but not yet fully part of it.

  4. It's hard for me to believe the pope doesn't know what he's doing. The more I think about this appointment, the less it makes sense, which in my mind can only mean one thing. I'm missing an important piece of the puzzle. There is something being held back from us, something we just do not see at this time. Puzzle building 101: When the pieces just don't fit, chances are you're missing something.

  5. This is probably the most important appointment which is made by the occupant of the throne of St Peter. I am sure BXVI is acutely conscious of this. Can we not trust his judgement in this? He is better placed than anyone else to know exactly where the new Prefect will lead the CDF.

    1. What makes you so sure that the Holy Father is kept abreast of all of the facts and that access to his person is allowed to those with important missions? We have heard time and time again of how very important persons — including Bp. Fellay of the FSSPX — could not get an audience with the Pope. And it's obvious that only filtered information has been delivered the Holy Father in the matter of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. It's impossible to believe that certain things would have happened had the Pope access to >all< of the facts. As in most things, this is not an issue of trusting the Holy Father; it's a question of whether those who guard access to him, and filter and spin what may be ordered or said by the Successor of St. Peter, are to be trusted. I believe, in the case of the USCCB and the CDF, for two examples, there is ample evidence to suggest that these persons indeed are not worthy of our trust.

      1. Well, for one thing Bishop Müller is an old friend of Cardinal Ratzinger's (now the Holy Father's). Then, he is a prolific theologian, whose festschrift contains a preface by none other than Pope Benedict XVI. One should not forget that Müller writes and conducts his interviews in German — a language the Holy Father happens to know.

        But you know, if you are so sure the Holy Father has lost the orthodox faith, you are free to leave — in fact, you have already left, because if you really believe the Pope could fall from the faith you are not a Catholic any more.

        1. … because if you really believe the Pope could fall from the faith you are not a Catholic any more."

          Then apparently the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York fell away from the Catholic Faith early on in his archiepiscopate, as, when he was once asked in a television interview, "what if the next pope allows women's ordination; won't you have to accept it then?," he replied that if any pope should attempt to allow WO he would "fall into heresy," and so, ipso facto, cease to be pope.

        2. Müller should spend less time writing 900 page books of heresy and just one hour a week in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.


            1. By reading what he has to say about the corporeal presence in the Blessed Eucharist.

              Not only do we have a liberation communologist in the C.D.F., a disciple of the very worst sort, Gustavo Gutiérrez, but we have a man in charge of reconciliation with the S.S.P.X who threatened to re-excommunicate them in 2009 after Benedict XVI lifted the 1988 declarations of excommunication. Just great. Oh, and he disdains a literal understanding of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. HIs first duty as Prefect should be to demand that he retract his own positions.


  6. Thanks Jack, those were pretty good suggestions as to how one might explain the seeming inconsistencies in +Müller's statements.

    After all is said and done, none of this really has any kind of effect on us. +Müller has not taken his position at the CDF yet, and not a single ruling has come down with his name on it yet. After all is said and done, nothing matters until then.

  7. As I wrote a few minutes ago on Fr. Z.'s blog, please get and read this book by Abp. Müller :

    He insists in it that ordaining women to “the diaconate” as as much an impossibility as to the presbyterate or episcopate; and, therefore, we may soon see some further activity on the “Zagano Watch” subsection of the WDTPRS blog, which has been inactive for some time. (Zagano is the leader of a "wolf in sheep's clothing" Catholic pressure group pushing "ordaining" women to "the diaconate," while avoiding the issue of the priesthood.)

    1. There is one Sacrament of Holy Orders. Women cannot receive this Sacrament. If they could be deacons then they could be priests and bishops. There is ONE Sacrament of Holy Orders!!

  8. Well, this is for sure; the moment this pope allows women/openly gay ordinations or lets himself be pushed around by cardinals who are pushing for such ordinations, I'm either: 1. Joining my local Orthodox Church 2. Joining my local Sedevacantist/SSPX group 3. Joining the any disgruntled Anglo-Roman Catholic group or 4. Become a heathen and burn books for kindling and raid the local churches and monasteries for their treasures.

    Honestly. We Catholics have been through worse. Remember when the pope was a fat, corrupt man named Roderigo Borgia? Remember the time when there were three popes going to war about who was the real pope? Remember the time when Napoleon and Italian armies kept the pope under house arrest? Remember when Attila the Hun was convinced by the pope to not enter Rome? What about the time when the pope was crucified upside-down while his flock get killed for entertainment for the Romans?

    Compared to those things, all these sexual abuse scandals, document leaks, modernist kooks, and all sort of politicking seem like just a split-second for the Church. I mean, supposing Judgement Day doesn't happen tomorrow or when we're all sleeping and least expectant of it.

    1. I agree, although in fact Rodrigo Borgia was, until his very last years a charismatic fast-talking "hulk," and also corrupt.

  9. I follow this blog out of sympathy for the ordinariates, its Anglican heritage or "patrimony") and the people who have joined the Church through them. However, this last thread -coupled with certain uncalled for alarmism regarding the OCSP- has deeply saddened me. People, come to your senses! Either the Catholic Church is the Church Christ himself founded in obedience to the Father and the one which is unfailingly sustained and assisted by the Holy spirit or it isn't. By joining it, you have proclaimed what the Creed teaches: She is the One and Only Church. Why, then all this festival of rash judgments, bickering, etc.? And over a curial appointment about which no one knows for certain anything (how many have read Bp. Müller's "Dogmatics" or anything, at length)!? Why following the worst trends of the so called "traditionalism" with its alarmism, uncharity and self righteousness?

    1. One of the concerns that many have with the Ordinariates is that many members have put their eggs into the basket of fanatical Catholic 'traditionalists' and believe that, by doing so, they are defending 'true Catholicism'!
      They are simply playing into the hands of those instinctively wary of them by fulfilling their worst expectations.

      None of these people, clerical and lay, have been given the opportunity to settle down quietly in the Church and gradually find their feet. They have brought with them a defensive Anglo-Catholic mentality without realising that this does not represent the Catholic mind. It amazes me to see some of the clerical members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walingham dancing the can can as if they were performing at patronal festivals in spikey Anglo-Catholic churches. In their imagination they believe they are setting an example for the rest of the Church in England and have no idea of the resentment they provoke.

  10. I'm sitting on the fence on this one. Many fellow traditionalists also complain about his views on celibacy. But for me who understands both the East/West story. Greeks married / Latins not. Well it's not an issue for me. The Orthodox and Greek Catholics are doing fine, and no massive call for womens ordination on the eastern front. Would love to see a debate between the SSPX and the Monks on Mt Athos in Greece. Both traditionalists. Both firmly against any ordination of women to any position, but a married priesthood is a matter of discipline.

    1. I actually agree about married clergy. It's not a dogmatic issue, nor a doctrine of faith that priests would remain unmarried. But it IS an issue of discipline, and discipline is something I can respect and find as something worthy to follow, as a sort of ascetic practice. Good for the soul. I am reminded of possible situations where priests who have families would find it difficult to be constantly reassigned in various parishes because it would affect things like places where their children would go to school, their work in the secular world, etc. From this point of practicality, I completely understand where the Roman practice of unmarried clerics is coming from. Easier to re-assign single men to far-off places (also, the question of who owns the church property, etc. I am tempted to think about St. Mary's in Hollywood, even though their case may only be slightly related to clerical celibacy.)

      The Monks of Mt. ATHOS!? I've had the impression that those men were the sort who foam at the mouth when someone says the word "Pope", "Rome", or "Filioque" Any debate would probably end up in a physical debacle that atheists will use to undermine the credibility of the sacred Christian religion.

      On the other hand, SSPX seems a bit, relatively speaking, more mellow than the Athonites. Just as pious and devout, mind you, but not as highly strung and easily provoked to violence. I mean COME ON, you'd only have to look at how these Greek monks behave with the Armenians at the Church of the HOLY SEPULCHRE itself. Every year, there's a brawl. SSPX do not engage in scandalous actions like committing acts of violence in holy places.

      1. 1) You obviously are not terribly familiar with Mount Athos, or most of its monastic inhabitants.

        2) Regarding the Holy Sepulchre, yes it is scandalous. But imagine: you are are living in close community with a group of people who you are not in perfect harmony with, in an area where you are under constant threat. And on top of that, the media of the world is constantly waiting and watching to see you crack. An Armenian monk meets an Orthodox monk, and there's a good chance that someone is waiting there with a camera to record the very instant that the two men come to blows. I don't know how well I would live in such a goldfish bowl.

        Instead of holding them out as an example of scandal, why not join me in silently praying for them?

        1. Oh, trust me, I pray for them.

          I hold the possibility that many in Mount Athos are very civil and polite and could disagree without spitting in anyone's face. They're just quiet in comparison to the loud, media-attention-catching minority. So for me, the impression Mt. Athos had made, outside of that nice 60 Minutes piece on them a while ago, was that they're pretty hostile or defensive. Maybe that's just them defending their turf or something.

          I'm only familiar to the extent that I've researched about them and their attitudes and behavior towards people like Roman Catholics. (I mean, I doubt that they'll even let me visit, for I am a terrible papist heretic) For one, it was in the issue of Ecumenism that made me think twice about how great Mt. Athos was; Vatopedi and another large monastery wrote a strongly-worded letter against Patriarch Bartholomew's friendliness with the Pope, to which he responded. The tone of the correspondence was very similar to Bishop Fellay's response to the attitudes of the other three bishops who did not want to reconcile with Rome.

          Scouring the internet, I've come across forum threads about the overtures the Orthodox had made towards SSPX and like groups (Old Catholics, Polish Nat'l Church, etc.) and they didn't seem interested. I'm really afraid of what would happen if you gather those folks into a room to -debate- topics that they feel strongly about.

          As for the Holy Sepulchre. Those sects have been living together since Ottoman times. I'm not sure if a chair moved a few feet away to some random place was a cause for brawls back in those days compared to now. If it did, then that's really sad. It's probably going to become a tradition for fistfights to happen in the most holiest of places unless something happens soon. The Franciscans there seemed non-violent and would not take part, as I had yet to find any sort of article about "Catholic-Orthdox-Armenian Three Way Brawl" having happened.

  11. Defenders of Müller argued that in each case, his words had either been taken out of context or were consistent with official teaching.

    No, both is incorrect. More later.

    Very true. And I do hope that the man's previous statements can be defended!

    Sorry, no!

    Why, then all this festival of rash judgments, bickering, etc.?… Why following the worst trends of the so called "traditionalism" with its alarmism, uncharity and self righteousness?

    It is not at all "rash judgement, uncharity, self…" etc. Proof will follow.

    " (how many have read Bp. Müller's "Dogmatics" or anything, at length)!?

    I am German, having studied theology, philosophy and history at a German universitiy and read the Dogmatik of Müller in the original language (as I did with the most terrible – and again: that´s not rash judgement – "Einführung in das Christentum" of Ratzinger and many other writings, also some other of Müller).
    The texts are more than bad.

    Oh, yes, you will also find sound doctrine, "conservative teaching" – as mentioned by William Tighe. But the evil thing is that exacatly beside this sound points you find scandalouse or even heretic ones – and perhaps the worst is that the whole language is Rahnerian (and Rahner himselfe is quoted often in Müller´s works), transcendental-philosophical, German-idealism-styeled, non-scholsatic AMBIGUOUSE-CONFUSING "NEWSPEAK" ("Neusprech", as Orwell would put it). Not "yes yes no no" thomistic and Catholic claritiy but confusing modernistical language. So yes, some times "conservative", some times heretical, …

    Quotes from Müller to be followed.

    1. I have already killed my rss feed on The Anglo-Catholic; probably I will be soon stopping visiting it at all. I used to read it every day and love it – but these days are gone. This site and it's readership/commentership are developing into a super-trad bubble, and this is not what I am interested in. The only positive thing about The Anglo-Catholic nowadays is Deborah Gyapong, and I can read her always brillant insight on "Foolishness To The World" without getting agitated at foolishness OF the world.

  12. So now, I think I will continue under the new thread re Müller and other appointments.

    Shortly to Christian Clay Columba Campbell and Ioannes:

    1. Yes, it is the teaching of most of the Catholic theologians that a Pope can defect from faith, become heretic and then loses his office – but it is difficult to see when there is a real, notorious (and pertinacious) defect of faith/heresy. And also there is some debate if and how he would then lose his office.

    2. Ioannes: So yes, 2. would be a Catholic possibiltiy (SSPX and "sedes" are Catholic possibilities – I am not a "sede" but because of 1. I can not call them not-Catholic. They are Catholic.).
    But 1. and 3. are not Catholic options. They are schismatic and heretic, not Catholic.

    1. I just want to repeat: I have in no way questioned the orthodoxy of the Holy Father. This thread has gotten way off course and I'll close the combox if folks don't get it back on track.

      There seem to be legitimate concerns about the doctrinal integrity of the soon-to-be Prefect of the CDF. This is a subject worthy of discussion, polite discussion.

      And I am totally sick of the "since you don't agree with every thought or decision made by Catholic bishops or the Pope, you're outside of the Church" comments.

      1. "since you don't agree with every thought or decision made by Catholic bishops or the Pope, you're outside of the Church"

        Well, the only way you're outside the Church is if you're excommunicated, aren't you? And only the Pope decides that, right? So no matter how flamboyantly liberal Cardinal So-and-So is, the fact that he's not yet ex-communicated means that apoplectic traditionalists will have to learn to accept him as a member of the Catholic Church and continue to do that thing they do unless someone interferes with them. Schism is not the solution, I don't think.

      2. What strange grammar. "You're only outside the Church if you're excommunicated, aren't you?" Is what I meant.
        I don't think Bishop Muller can force you to abrogate what you believe, even if he doesn't believe in them.

        We need to pray, if we believe Bishop Muller needs to change his stance on certain theological issues. We certainly can't send in some Elite Ultra-Catholic Assault Squad to kidnap the bishop and force him to change through forceful means.

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