The cardinal said the Pope was surrounded by 'spies' and 'false friends'

There is a climate of fear in the Curia as people worry “spies” will bad-mouth them to the Pope, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has said.

In an extensive interview with National Catholic Register, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said Pope Francis is surrounded by “false friends” who are acting like children in a boarding school by privately denouncing people they disagree with.

“I heard it from some houses here, that people working in the Curia are living in great fear: If they say one small or harmless critical word, some spies will pass the comments directly to the Holy Father, and the falsely accused people don’t have any chance to defend themselves,” the cardinal said.

“These people, who are speaking bad words and lies against other persons, are disturbing and disrupting the good faith, the good name of others whom they are calling their brothers.”

Cardinal Müller said this was happening not just in the Curia, but also in colleges and universities, where people who question Amoris Laetitia, particularly the much-discussed Footnote 351, put their careers in jeopardy.

“It’s the same in some theological faculties — if anybody has any remarks or questions about Amoris Laetitia, they will be expelled, and so on. That is not maturity. A certain interpretation of the document’s Footnote 351 cannot be criteria for becoming a bishop.”

Regarding the ongoing debate over Amoris Laetitia, the Cardinal called for dialogue and criticised those who try to silence their opponents, accusing them of “un-Christian behaviour”.

“It is a very big danger for the Church that some ideological groups present themselves as the exclusive guardians of the only true interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. They feel they have the right to condemn all people of another standpoint as stupid, rigid, old-fashioned, medieval, etc.

“Nobody can, for example, say Cardinal Caffarra didn’t understand anything of moral theology. Sometimes the un-Christian behaviour is printed in L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, or given in official organs of the media, to make polemics and rhetoric. This cannot help us in this situation — only a profound theological discussion will.”

Pope Francis, he added, should have granted an audience to the cardinals who submitted the dubia.

“The best thing would have been for the Holy Father to have had an audience before their publication. Now we have the spectacle of a trial of strength. It’s better to speak before and to deepen the questions and give good answers,” the cardinal said.

“A possibility of the solution could be a group of cardinals engaged by the Holy Father to begin a theological disputation with some prominent representatives of the dubia and the “corrections” about the different and sometimes controversial interpretation of some statements in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.”

Rumours have been circulating that Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, a close friend of Pope Francis, ghostwrote much of Amoris Laetitia. Last month, the archbishop defended the document, claiming Pope Francis wanted to “discreetly” change pastoral practice.

Cardinal Müller was dismissive, however.

“I heard that the Pope is close to certain theologians, but they cannot claim to be authoritative interpreters of the Pope. If Archbishop Fernandez makes a declaration, for instance, that’s only private. It has no more weight than the statements of other bishops — and certainly for the whole Church, he has no magisterial authority — and so it holds no more authority for me than any other theological voice.”

On the authorship of Amoris, the cardinal added:

“I don’t know if he was the ghostwriter of the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia. It is a text of the Pope, not of Victor Fernandez or of any other ghostwriter.

“In Amoris Laetitia there’s no new doctrine or explication of some juridical points of the doctrine, but an acceptance of the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. The only question is their pastoral application in extraordinary situations.”

Asked about his sacking earlier this year, Cardinal Müller maintained that he received no explanation as to why he was dismissed.

“The Pope only saw me at a routine private audience, at the end of my term, to discuss the work of the congregation, and said, “That is all.” All other explanations in the mass media are speculations,” he said.

“It is true that some time ago the Pope told me that some of his “friends” had been saying that “Müller is an enemy of the Pope.” I suppose these were anonymous accusations, and the anonymity of the accusers suggests that they were not prepared to have their arguments exposed to the light of honest and open discussion.”

He added:

“I must refute any calumnies that have originated in certain parts of the press, or from certain ultramontanist circles and Vaticanisti, and this anonymous group of false “friends” around the Holy Father who have questioned my loyalty. All my life as a priest, theologian and bishop, I’ve worked for the Kingdom of God and his Holy Church. And to present me as an enemy of the Successor of St. Peter is completely crazy and unjust.”