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The Modernist Shuffle?

Archbishop Müller Responds to Traditionalists' Criticisms

POSTED: 8/8/12


UPDATE: (8/10/12) It has come to my attention that the English translation I used in quoting Abp. Muller's work "Katholische Dogmatik" is incorrect. The correct translation places Archbishop Muller's words even more definitively against the Traditional understanding of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the original German text, Archbishop Muller uses the words, "Es geht nicht um..." Literally translated these words mean, "It is not about...." Thus, Archbishop Muller did not say the perpetual virginity of Mary, "is not so much concerned with specific physiological proprieties in the natural process of birth ..." Instead, he said the perpetual virginity of Mary, "is not about specific physiological proprieties in the natural process of birth ..."  

In an August 6 EWTN News/CNA article, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, new head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), makes his first brief, but substantive public response to doctrinal criticisms from Traditionalists.  Ironically, in attempting to clarify his positions, the Archbishop may end up demonstrating (intentionally or unintentionally) the mind of the Modernists towards dogma. 

In Pascendi, St. Pius X explains that the Modernists separate Faith and science in an effort to appease rationalists.  While the Modernists will recite the language of Catholic dogma and profess belief in it, it is always with the understanding that dogma itself is an expression or a symbol of a divine reality that only has true relevance when it is adapted to the faith or “religious sense” of the believer.  In our present day this “faith or religious sense” must always take into account our present rationalistic and agnostic world which questions the very idea of the supernatural. Does Archbishop Müller demonstrate this view in his responses?

On August 6, Archbishop Müller defended his view of Church teaching on the Eucharist by stating: “Our Catholic faith is very clear...that at the consecration during Mass a change occurs so that the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the whole substance body and blood of Jesus Christ, and that this change is rightly called transubstantiation. And we have refused to accept all the other interpretations, consubstantiation, transignification, transfinalisation and so on.”

So what is the “whole substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ” according to Archbishop Müller?  He explains in his 2002 book, "Die Messe - Quelle des christlichen Lebens":

In reality, the body and blood of Christ do not mean the material components of the human person of Jesus during his lifetime or in his transfigured corporality. Here, body and blood mean the presence of Christ in the signs of the medium of bread and wine.

The Archbishop also defended his view of Church teaching on the perpetual virginity of Mary stating, “The Church is also equally clear on the ‘virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus, mother of God, before, during and after the birth of Christ.’”  However, the Archbishop has previously made clear that the word “virginity” used in the formula he cites, does not necessarily include bodily integrity as it has always been held to mean by Catholic Tradition. In his 2003 work "Katholische Dogmatik. Für Studium und Praxis der Theologie" Müller claims that the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity is:

...not so much concerned with specific physiological proprieties in the natural process of birth (such as the birth canal not having been opened, the hymen not being broken, or the absence of birth pangs), but with the healing and saving influence of the grace of the Savior on human nature.

Thus, despite the Archbishop’s reciting of the Catholic definitions, the question remains as to whether the Archbishop interprets the words of those definitions to have the exact same meaning as the Church has always taught.  For even if certain interpretations of dogmas are well adapted to the “religious sense” of the modern believer or the philosopher or the scientist, those interpretations lose all value if they are not clearly and unambiguously consistent with the unchangeable original meanings given to them by the Church.

As St. Pius X warns us in Pascendi:

...the philosopher regards it as certain that the representations of the object of faith are merely symbolical...since symbols are but symbols in regard to their objects and only instruments in regard to the believer, it is necessary first of all, according to the teachings of the Modernists, that the believer does not lay too much stress on the formula, as formula, but avail himself of it only for the purpose of uniting himself to the absolute truth which the formula at once reveals and conceals, that is to say, endeavors to express but without ever succeeding in doing so. They would also have the believer make use of the formulas only in as far as they are helpful to him, for they are given to be a help and not a hindrance; with proper regard, however, for the social respect due to formulas which the public magisterium has deemed suitable for expressing the common consciousness until such time as the same magisterium shall provide otherwise.

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