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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Müller affirms that the Protestant Reformation was actually a revolution which has tragically fractured Christianity.
Cardinal Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), penned a Tuesday article in Italian Catholic daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. Although Cld. Müller was removed from his position as the Vatican's chief theological watchdog earlier this year, it seems that he nonetheless works to ensure sound theology in the Church.
The German prelate rejects the efforts of some Catholic leaders to portray Martin Luther in a more positive and favorable light. He writes:
It is not realistic to argue that his intention was to fight against some abuses of indulgences or the sins of the Renaissance Church. Abuses and bad actions have always existed in the Church, not just in the Renaissance; and even today they exist. We are the holy Church because of the grace of God and the sacraments; but all men of the Church are sinners, all need forgiveness, contrition and penance.
Cardinal Müller says that Luther's diversion from the true Christian tradition is most apparent in his 1520 work "De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae" ("On the Babylonian captivity of the Church"). In this text especially, the cardinal argues, "He overturned the concept of homogeneous development of Christian doctrine as explained in the Middle Ages."
The cardinal added that Luther was responsible for "denying the sacrament as an effective sign of the grace contained therein; he has replaced this objective efficacy of sacraments with a subjective faith."
Catholics believe that the sacraments give the grace that they signify; they are efficacious in and of themselves. Protestants deny the sacraments' objective efficacy and hold that the grace given by a sacrament depends entirely on the subjective devotion and piety of each individual who receives them.
Elsewhere in the article, he condemned heterodox leaders, who use off-handed remarks from the pope — some of them wildly misrepresented and taken out of context — in a way that confuses and scandalizes the faithful. "In today's confusion," he noted, "many have come to overturn reality: they believe the Pope infallible when he speaks privately, but then when the popes throughout history have proposed the Catholic faith, they say that it is fallible."
The former CDF prefect went on to critique Catholic leaders who speak favorably of Luther: "There are so many voices that speak too enthusiastically of Luther, not knowing exactly his theology, his controversy and the disastrous effects of this movement that has represented the destruction of the unity of millions of Christians with the Catholic Church."
His article concludes:
One thing is the desire to have good relations with non-Catholic Christians today, in order to bring us closer to a full communion with the Catholic hierarchy and with the acceptance of the apostolic tradition according to Catholic doctrine. Another thing is the misunderstanding or falsification of what happened 500 years ago and the disastrous effect it had.
What the cardinal wrote in Tuesday's article is in line with what he said in an interview in March 2016: "Strictly speaking, we Catholics have no reason to celebrate October 31, 1517, the date that is considered the beginning of the Reformation that would lead to the rupture of Western Christianity."
Cardinal Müller is known for being committed to theological orthodoxy and for lamenting the theological confusion so rampant in the Church today. He served as prefect of the CDF from 2012 until this summer, when Pope Francis did not renew Cdl. Müller's contract.
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