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I am, quite frankly, surprised and a bit dismayed at the bad press that Archbishop Müller, the Pope and the entire Vatican apparatus have been getting today, following the former’s appointment as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Father Z, here, makes the following observation:
“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 [things] run smoothly at the Congregation, not to shape the Church’s doctrine.”
Archbishop Müller may have made some theological statements which, at first glance and out of context, seem to be at odds with Catholic dogma. But we are all aware of how easily things can be taken out of context, and also – let’s be honest – how clumsy prelates can sometimes be when explaining things to the media. Pope Benedict XVI has had to learn that, and Archbishop Müller will have to as well, if he hasn’t already.
Before rushing to keyboard or microphone to denounce someone as a heretic (yes, I am looking at Bishop De Galaretta of the SSPX, for one), we should support a new prelate in whatever small way we can, and give him the time to prove or – if necessary – correct himself. No one is perfect, but we all have the possibility to excel. That goes for curia prelates as well as for us.
With the appointment, just before the Vatican comes to a virtual Summer standstill – of the new heard of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – in times past know as the Universal Inquisition (which never fails to raise hackles in some media) – there is the question: who is Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller?
On the website of his former Diocese of Regensburg we find an extensive biography in English which shows that Bishop Müller is very much the pope’s man. Like Benedict, he is a professor, at home in the world of academia. A former position as professor of Catholic dogmatics at Munich, and since a few years as the official coordinator of the publication of Pope Benedict’s collected works, cements this theological and academical closeness to the Holy Father.
Another aspect of the new prefect’s career coincides with the pope’s priorities of advancing ecumenism with the Orthodox Churches of the East. Within the German Bishop’s Conference, Bishop Müller, who received the personal title of archbishop upon his appointment, was co-responsible for contacts with the Orthodox.
There are more elements in his biography which gel well with his new duties as the Church’s ‘third man’. Succeeding Cardinal Levada, a red hat is a certainty for Bishop Müller, as are the presidencies which come with his new position: those of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, and the International Theological Commission.
Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile