VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is praising the Vatican's former chief of doctrine. In a preface to a newly published German book, the retired pontiff wrote: "You have defended the clear traditions of faith, but in the spirit of Pope Francis you have tried to understand how they can be lived today."
The book, titled The Triune God: Christian Faith in the Age-Old Era, is being published in anticipation of Müller's 70th birthday on December 31, and on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The nearly 700-page tome includes contributions from various prelates, including Cdls. Kurt Koch and Reinhard Marx, as well as notorious Synod bishop Bruno Forte, among others.
Benedict went on to say that "a priest, and certainly a bishop and a cardinal, never retires."
Müller's five-year term ended on July 2 following months of rumors that his time at the CDF was nearing an end, as he became increasingly vocal about his denunciations of attempts to change Church discipline and doctrine on marriage and the sacraments.
"I have said it many times, and I repeat it here again," he said in remarks made June 21, "Jesus established clearly, and without doubt, the indissolubility of valid matrimony. This is what we must preach, declare and explain to the Catholic faithful."
Addressing the worldwide confusion following Amoris Laetitia, the cardinal explained, "Contrition, confession and reparation are the three necessary elements for absolution. These are the immediate conditions for receiving the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ, who is the same divine Person who forgives us."
A December shake-up at the CDF caught Müller by surprise, who lost three of his best staff. According to Vaticanista Marco Tosatti, the prelate "was very perplexed, because they were good priests, and among the most professionally capable."
Müller later confirmed he had been caught off guard by the pope's move. He also revealed to the press his unhappiness at the way he himself had been suddenly let go from the CDF, explaining that Francis had communicated his dismissal "within a minute" of his decision on the last working day of his five-year term. Müller said no reasons had been given for his removal.
"I cannot accept this style," said Müller. "The social doctrine of the Church must also be valid in Rome when dealing with staff."
Some speculate tensions between the cardinal and Pope Francis began when Müller added his name to a letter of protest at the 2015 Synod, which sharply criticized the lack of transparency and consultation, going so far as to hint at an agenda. "A number of Fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions."
In his preface, Pope Benedict noted that Pope Paul VI had implemented the rule that Vatican prefects only serve for five years. Even so, the retired pontiff said Müller would continue to "publicly serve the faith" in his role as theologian and priest.
Although Pope Benedict has avoided overtly weighing in on the controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia, he has made clear there is a crisis of grave proportions in the Church today. At the funeral of Cdl. Joachim Meisner, one of the dubia cardinals, Benedict said of the times in which we live,
We know that this passionate shepherd and pastor found it difficult to leave his post, especially at a time in which the Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the Faith with determination. However, what moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even if the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.
Müller had also commented on Meisner's reaction to Müller's sudden dismissal from the CDF, speaking with him the night before he passed away: "That personally moved him and hurt him, and he saw it as damaging to the Church."
Receiving five newly made cardinals over the summer, Pope Benedict spoke with each in his native tongue before leaving them with some parting wisdom: "The Lord wins in the end."