February 11, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – The pace of significant events in the Church seems to have quickened over the last several weeks. The New York legislature voted for and Governor Cuomo signed the “Reproductive Health Act” which allows abortion up to the moment of birth. Calls by an outraged laity for either the bishop of Albany or Cardinal Dolan of New York to excommunicate Cuomo and Catholic state legislators who voted for the measure have fallen on deaf ears (see Time to “Bell, Book and Candle” them all). This news was soon followed by word Pope Francis co-signed an outrageous document in Abu Dhabi which asserts that God willed the diversity of religions. The document, entitled “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” states at one point (emphasis added):
“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.”
Now, this document and its statement, affirmed by the Pope, seems impossible to reasonably reconcile with the Lord’s statement of Himself that “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). All religions taken together, in one belief or another, ultimately are in contradiction to one another. A Dominican theologian interviewed by LifeSite News said: “The various religions say incompatible things about who God is and how He wants to be worshipped. Therefore they cannot all be true. Therefore God, who is truth, cannot will all religions” (see LifesiteNews, “Pope Francis under fire for claiming ‘diversity of religions’ is ‘willed by God,” by Diane Montagna). Also regarding the Pope’s affirmation about the God-willed diversity of religions, the same LifesiteNews article quotes the same Dominican theologian, who says of it: “in its obvious sense is false, and in fact heretical.” Elsewhere, expanding on the same theme, Professor Josef Seifert asks:
How can God from creation on have willed that men would fall into sin, worship false gods, become victims of errors and superstitions of all sorts, that they adhere to subtly atheist or pantheist religions such as Buddhism, or to religions cursed by the Old Testament and attributed to demons and demon-worship?
How can God, who wants his disciples to go out and preach to the whole world and baptize them, have willed any Christian heresy, let alone religions that deny the faith of which Jesus says to Nicodemus that he who believes in Him will be saved and he who does not, will be damned (John 3,18)? If we read the Old and the New Testament, or look at the universal teachings of the Church on the divine command, given by Christ himself, to preach the Gospel to all nations, on the necessity of baptism and faith for salvation, etc., the opposite is clearly the case. (Source: Gloria TV, “Grave Concerns About Pope Francis’ Abu Dhabi Document” by Professor Josef Seifert)
In his article, Professor Seifert’s requests the Pope retract his error, but if he does not, he writes (emphasis added): “…I am afraid that Canon Law may apply according to which a Pope automatically loses his Petrine office when professing heresy, especially when he professes the sum-total of all heresies” (Source: Gloria TV, “Grave Concerns About Pope Francis’ Abu Dhabi Document” by Professor Josef Seifert).
In addition to the above responses, and that of Bishop Schneider (see here), Cardinal Müller published a “Manifesto of Faith” released by LifeSiteNews and other outlets on February 8, 2019. It has been out for several days already, and as others have already provided detailed commentary on it I will just make a few observations.
Before looking at Cardinal Müller’s “Manifesto,” let us first look at something Cardinal Eijk said, back in May 2018. In May 2018, Cardinal Eijk wrote a piece in the National Catholic Register on the controversy in Germany over communion for non-catholic spouses of Catholics. Commenting at the time on the failure of Pope Francis to intervene on the side of orthodoxy in the matter with clarity, Cardinal Eijk opined and then quoted the Catholic Catechism (CCC 675):
“Observing that the bishops and, above all, the Successor of Peter fail to maintain and transmit faithfully and in unity the deposit of faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, I cannot help but think of Article 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“The Church’s ultimate trial
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.””
(Source: National Catholic Register. “Pope Francis Needed to Give Clarity on Intercommunion” by Cardinal Willem Jacobus Eijk)
As I noted when I quoted the above in a prior article (see here), while Cardinal Eijk does not state the explicit proposition, one might not be faulted for at least inferring he intended to associate Pope Francis, personally, with the “religious deception” referenced by CCC 675 [NB: Also of interest, Cardinal Burke–like Müller in his “Manifesto” (as we will see below) and Eijk (see above)–has also suggested the possibility we are in the end times (e.g., see here).]. That was just my take at the time on what he said. But now, as I noted on twitter (see here) soon after the release of the Manifesto, Cardinal Müller makes a similar reference to CCC 675 and seemingly to Pope Francis who has not answered the Dubia (NB: It should be noted that the Pope is no where mentioned by name in the Manifesto of Faith) when he says (emphasis added):
To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, “the price of their apostasy” (CCC 675); it is the fraud of Antichrist. “He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice; for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved” (2 Thess 2:10).
Cardinal Müller speaks of “these and the other truths of the Faith” regarding which there is an apparent silence. What are “these truths“? In the Manifesto’s preceding paragraphs, Cardinal Müller rejects various errors, such as God willing the diversity of religions (e.g., Müller says in part, “Therefore, the first letter of John refers to one who denies His divinity as an antichrist (1 John 2:22)...”). Further, with an obvious reference to Amoris Laetitia and echoing the same line as Cardinal Eijk on communion for non-Catholics, Cardinal Müller–following the traditional teaching of the Church– rejects communion for the divorced and remarried and for non-Catholics (e.g., Müller’s Manifesto of Faith says in part, “From the internal logic of the sacrament, it is understood that civilly remarried divorcees, whose sacramental marriage exists before God, as well as those Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Faith and the Church, just as all who are not properly disposed, cannot receive the Holy Eucharist fruitfully (CCC 1457) because it does not bring them to salvation. To point this out corresponds to the spiritual works of mercy.”).
Thus, Cardinal Müller’s statement that “to keep silent about these truths” (i.e., “these” errors include allowing civilly remarried divorcees and non-catholics to receive communion) and “to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns;” points the finger squarely at Pope Francis–something obvious to all readers, though Cardinal Müller never mentions him by name in the Manifesto of Faith. But, clearly enough, Cardinal Müller’s statement also must include all bishops, priests and theologians, who keep or have kept silent on these same questions of error. Further on, the Cardinal, citing scripture, explicitly states the responsibility of bishops and priests to speak out against error:
As workers in the vineyard of the Lord, we all have a responsibility to recall these fundamental truths by clinging to what we ourselves have received. We want to give courage to go the way of Jesus Christ with determination, in order to obtain eternal life by following His commandments (CCC 2075).
Let us ask the Lord to let us know how great the gift of the Catholic Faith is, through which opens the door to eternal life. “For he that shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation: The Son of Man also will be ashamed of him, when He shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). Therefore, we are committed to strengthening the Faith by confessing the truth which is Jesus Christ Himself.
We too, and especially we bishops and priests, are addressed when Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, gives this admonition to his companion and successor, Timothy: “I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the living and the dead, by His coming, and His kingdom: Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry. Be sober.” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
Obviously, the Cardinal’s Manifest of Faith is significant statement in itself. It certainly has raised the ire of Pope Francis’ acolytes on twitter (e.g., Austen Ivereigh, Massimo Faggioli). While this document might be simply a one-off statement by the Cardinal, personally–and I could well be wrong–but I believe this Manifesto of Faith is a harbinger something more–something much more significant. Now, granted, I have been optimistic in the past that a correction would come–indeed, long before now. But, last summer, based on comments made by Bishop Schneider I concluded any idea or plan for a correction had been dropped (see There will be no formal correction). Yet, Cardinal Müller’s Manifesto of Faith gives me reason to see a glimmer of hope that a correction may be soon forthcoming.
How does the Manifesto of Faith give a renewed glimmer of hope that there will be a correction? The possibility the Manifesto of Faith was in the works prior to the “Human Fraternity” document suggests it has a grander purpose than Cardinal Müller’s stated purpose: “In the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith, many bishops, priests, religious and lay people of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation.” (NB: more on the timing later on in this post). While the preceding statement appears to set a limit to the purpose of the Manifest of Faith, the internal logic of the document–whether intended by Cardinal Müller or not–suggests something more significant is required than issuing a mere “public testimony.” Rather, based on the wording and flow of the Manifest of Faith, it seems to me that the internal logic might be stated as follows:
(1) There is “growing confusion about doctrine.“
(2) Various errors exist in the minds of some in the Church today, inclusive of errors in the sacramental order (i.e., communion for civilly remarried divorcees and for non-Catholics) and in the moral order (i.e., the commandments and the natural law);
(3) “To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns.”
(4) but, “we bishops and priests” are admonished by the words of Paul to Timothy that they will be judged by God (“I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the living and the dead, by His coming, and His kingdom“);
(5) Therefore, “we bishops and priests” must, as Paul tells Timothy: “Preach the word…reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil thy ministry” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
What Cardinal Müller says in his Manifesto of Faith is all true, but it is ultimately meaningless in practical terms if all just remains words–and not action–and that’s the end of it. One mere document–without followup–does not sufficiently fulfill the duties required of a Prince of the Church in a moment of history such as this. The force of the internal logic–intended by Müller or not to have a broader goal–argues that to keep the silence which has been kept till now (i.e., by the pope and the bishops) is to be a participant and an agent of the apostasy–for which the bishops and priests, as shepherds of the Lord’s flock, will be judged harshly. The Cardinal’s citation of CCC 675 and reference to “apostasy” serves to underline the utmost seriousness of the moment.
Therefore, it seems to me the obvious conclusion to draw from the internal logic of the Manifesto of Faith is that Cardinal Müller and all other bishops and priests must, now, publicly resist the specific errors outlined in the “Manifesto” (e.g., communion for civilly remarried divorcees and non-Catholics)–i.e., there must be a public correction of errors and their source. The moment, possibly the end-times, requires it. So, this is why my hope has been rekindled that a “correction” of Pope Francis might be coming. Cardinal Müller, who in past times–e.g., after the release of Amoris Laetitia–seemed resistant in some ways to the actions of the Dubia Cardinals, has now gone even further than they. Thus, his Manifesto of Faith seems a signal to other “moderates”– previously resistant to a “correction”–that the moment has come to sign on to an effort that will soon be made public.
Why do I think soon? Unlike Bishop Schneider’s or Professor Seifert’s recent commentary, Cardinal Müller’s Manifesto of Faith does not appear, in my opinion, to have been specifically intended as a response to the “Human Fraternity” document signed by Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi. Granted, Müller’s statement addresses it, obliquely, but the Manifesto of Faith focuses on much more than it (e.g., communion for the divorced and remarried, etc). In addition, the Manifesto of Faith, according to reports on LifeSiteNews was originally scheduled for release on February 10, the eve of the anniversary of the announcement of Pope Benedict’s resignation and the anniversary of Cardinal Müller’s ordination as a priest. Furthermore, the Manifesto of Faith was translated into over a half dozen languages–which takes time and coordination. Given the above considerations, it appears to me that Cardinal Müller’s Manifesto of Faith was in the works prior to the release of the Pope’s “Human Fraternity” document. That is to say, the Manifesto of Faith was not originally intended as a rebuttal of it. While the Manifesto of Faith may have been modified to address the “Human Fraternity” statement; in my view, the latter is not what triggered Cardinal Müller to pen his document. Thus, the Müller’s originally intended target was Amoris Laetitia and other papal errors, not the “Human Fraternity” document–though it was modified to do so.
All the above suggests to me that Cardinal Muller was operating on a different timetable. A timetable for something else that involved “public resistance” to error by bishops and priests…a something else for which his Manifesto of Faith is intended to help prepare the way. That something else would be the public and formal correction of Pope Francis. Of course, this is only speculation, but it appears to follow from the internal logic of his document. Also, I do find it curious at about the same time Cardinal Muller published his public testimony that Cardinal Burke officially launched an internet site to serve as a platform for communication with the faithful (see here). Coincidence? Perhaps (NB: But, in my former field of Intelligence it was said: “There are no such things as coincidences”). But, I hope not! It is a glimmer…a hint only perhaps..but a glimmer of hope that the next move on the chess board is a public correction of Pope Francis. But, now, this correction must include all of the issues and or errors related to Pope Francis and doctrine, inclusive of his putting Christianity on par with all other religions.
However, we may still hope that Pope Francis will take some positive inspiration from the Manifesto of Faith and break his silence and speak with the voice of St. Peter. Let us pray for Pope Francis that he remembers the Lord’s words to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).