The thinking behind the much-debated working document for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region is a “projection” of European theological thought not in accord with Catholic theology and needs to be corrected “in a more Catholic way,” Cardinal Gerhard Müller has said.
In comments to the Register to be broadcast on EWTN Poland, the prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said priestly celibacy cannot be changed (some involved with organizing the synod wish to ordain married men in the Amazon region) “as if it were only an external discipline, as it is deeply connected with the spirituality of the priesthood.”
Furthermore, the German cardinal sees an obvious “connection” between the agenda for the Oct. 6-27 synod and the “synodal path” proposed by some German bishops as a means to modify the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. He also discusses Pope Francis’ recent letter to German bishops, why he wrote his “Manifesto of Faith” in February, and why Pope St. John Paul II’s teachings appear to be given less attention during this pontificate.
Your Eminence, what are your views on the instrumentum laboris for the Pan-Amazon synod?
It’s only a working document, it’s not a document of the magisterium of the Church, and everybody is free to give his opinions about the quality of the preparation of this document. I think there isn’t a big theological horizon behind it. It has been written mostly by a group of German descendants and not by people who are living there. It has a very European perspective, and I think it is more of a projection of European theological thinking upon the people of the Amazonian region because we heard all these ideas 30 years ago.
Not all of the ideas accord with basic elements of Catholic theology, especially the conception of religion. We have the conception of a revealed faith, historically realized in the Incarnation of the Word of the Father in Jesus Christ, infused by the Holy Spirit. But the Catholic Church is not a religion as a natural relation to transcendence. We cannot understand the Catholic Church only within the frame of a concept of religion. Religions are made by man, they are impressions, means, rites of anthropological desires and thinking about the world, but our faith is based on the revelation of God in the Old and New Testament, in Jesus Christ. We, therefore, have to correct this thinking in this document in a more Catholic way.
Critics have said this document takes its starting point from the trials and sufferings of the people of the Amazon and not Revelation and Christ himself.
It can start with suffering of the people, but this is not the starting point of the Catholic faith. We begin with baptism, and we confess our faith to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ himself came into the world, and his cross takes on all the suffering of the world. But it’s another thing to begin with people and then to relativize revelation only as an expression of European culture. That is absolutely wrong.
There is also a focus on theology that some critics believe is basically a “cultural recycling of liberation theology.” Do you agree this document possibly represents a push to pass liberation theology through the back door?
Liberation theology is a wide concept, but liberty is the basic element of our faith because we are saved, we’ve been freed by Jesus Christ from sin, liberated from distance from God. This [liberty] also contains the healing of worldly elements and dimensions, but we cannot convert the approach of Christ and his cross and his taking all the suffering and sins of the world on himself to an immanent approach, as then, in the end, we relativize Revelation as only one expression of the Greek-Roman culture. It’s the wrong approach.
Liberation theology is a Catholic theology that begins with Revelation, that begins in Holy Scripture, in the Tradition, the magisterial life of the Church, and we cannot put the stress on a new hermeneutic that is alien to the Catholic faith.
So you would argue that liberation theology per se is okay, but it can be used in different, unorthodox ways?
It can be understood as Christians taking over responsibility for society, integral development. We are not only interested in the world, but in the center of Revelation, which is communion with God, beginning in this life, and also the radiance of the good works that God made for us.
But we cannot convert Christianity, the Church, to being an NGO only for a worldly development, so that immanent development is the center of our faith. Our faith is in relation to the Triune and personal God.
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