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Cardinal Müller: Benedict XVI was ‘disappointed’ at my removal

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller is met by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after being elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Francis in 2014 (Getty)

Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was “disappointed” that the cardinal’s position as the Vatican’ doctrinal chief was not renewed.

In an interview with the press agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, which has been published in Die Welt, Cardinal Müller is quoted as saying that Benedict was “enttäuscht” (disappointed).

Benedict appointed Cardinal Müller in 2012 as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position Benedict himself had held from 1981 to 2005. The Vatican says the CDF’s role is to “spread sound doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines.”

In the last 50 years, it has been customary for the prefect of the CDF to continue until he resigns or reaches the age of retirement. Pope Francis, however, replaced Cardinal Müller at the end of his five-year term with Archbishop Luis Ladaria.

Two weeks ago, Cardinal Müller said that his removal was abrupt, and announced with only a minute’s notice. Pope Francis “did not give a reason,” the 69-year-old cardinal said. “Just as he gave no reason for dismissing three highly competent members of the CDF a few months earlier.”

Cardinal Müller contrasted this approach with the Church’s social teaching. “I cannot accept this way of doing things. As a bishop, one cannot treat people in this way,” the German cardinal said.

The cardinal had attracted criticism during his term after upholding the Church’s traditional teaching on Communion and divorce. However, he had also criticised the four cardinal who submitted dubia to Pope Francis asking for clarification of Amoris Laetitia.

In the new interview, Cardinal Müller says that he was not sure why he had been removed from office.

He also criticises the culture within the Vatican as sometimes exhibiting a “scheinheiliges Papstdevotion”, which might be roughly translated as “sanctimonious papolatry”.

“Every Catholic, especially every bishop and every cardinal, has a positive and constructive relationship with the Pope,” the cardinal said. “But that is anything but courtly behaviour and an obsequious manner [subalternes Getue], against which Pope Francis has always spoken.”

The cardinal said that a personality cult around the Pope was a possible harmful side-effect of the media.

Cardinal Müller said that when he arrived at the Vatican, he was often seen as a “typical German theology professor, who doesn’t understand that 2 plus 2 can equal 5 as need be.” But he said he had “never been” a conservative or “hardliner”, or an opponent of the Pope.

The cardinal also defended the CDF’s record on disciplining priestly abusers, saying they had operated a zero-tolerance policy and that “It is simply not true that we have been negligent in the prosecution of such crimes.”