Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller has called on the traditionalist Pius Fraternity to cancel its priestly ordinations planned for these days. They should now take advantage of the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to fully return to the Catholic Church and send a signal that they mean business. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), Muller explained the theological and canonical situation in Regensburg on Thursday, immediately after his return from Rome.
CBA: Bishop, on Wednesday the Vatican declared the planned ordinations of the still suspended bishops of the Society of St. Pius X to be illegitimate. Is there a difference between "not allowed" and "forbidden"??
Muller: No, these are sophistical word games. No responsible body in the Vatican has in any way signaled a placet to the Pius brothers for their ordinations. The voices they refer to either do not exist or are not responsible. There is no loophole here for them to invoke.
CBA: The Brotherhood claims provisional canonical status until differences are finally resolved.
Muller: This is a flimsy theory. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of which I am a member and which will be responsible for traditionalists in the future, established guidelines two months ago. These establish what was also announced on Wednesday by the press room in Rome, namely that the consecrations are still illegal. Both candidates and ordaining bishops need explicit permission from the local bishop to do so, as is the case, for example, with religious congregations. Pope Benedict XVI. Has expressly approved this.
CBA: Another argument used by the Pius brothers to justify themselves is a kind of state of emergency.
Muller: This may be their subjective view. However, such a thing is not objectively tangible in any way. There is no external oppression of the Church, as was the case, for example, in Czechoslovakia at the time of the Iron Curtain, where priests were secretly ordained. It is true that canon law recognizes acts of necessity. But the determination of whether the conditions for this exist is in no way up to the Pius Brothers.
CBA: What is your message to the Brotherhood??
Muller: I call on them once again to cancel their priestly ordinations immediately. They should be postponed until the talks with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which have not even begun, are successfully concluded. So they could use the unique opportunity to return to the unity of the church. They would be doing the church and themselves a great favor by doing so. Their lip service, according to which they recognize the pope as an authority, must now be followed by action. If they want to be fully Catholic, this includes the recognition of the sacramental and canonical order.
CBA: The conversation about existing theological differences could go on for years, some say.
Muller: I do not agree. This should be done in the shortest possible time. After all, this is not about highly complex different theological conceptions as in ecumenical dialogue. The Pius brothers have to fit in with the Church, not the other way around. It is, of course, psychologically difficult to admit that one has been going in the wrong direction for the last 30 years. They would now have to free themselves from the web they have spun around themselves and show that they really mean business.
CBA: And if they do ordain priests?
Muller: This would be an act of recalcitrance and a sign of a lack of will for unity, which would certainly not facilitate further talks. Then the fraternity would have completely misunderstood the generous gesture of the Pope, who lifted the excommunication of their bishops.
CBA: The consecrations would be legally illegal, but still dogmatically valid.
Muller: The distinction exists, but it should not be played nasty with, as the Pius brothers have been doing so far. From its original meaning, it serves to protect the faithful when they receive sacraments. If the fraternity holds on to its consecrations at the present time, it abuses the sacraments because it does not administer them according to the foundation's purpose. Rather, it would establish a sectarian church alongside the Church.
CBA: Would renewed sanctions be the consequence?
Muller: Not automatically as in a bishop's consecration. Canon law provides for suspension in such a case, but suspended are the bishops of the Pius brothers anyway, regardless of the lifting of the excommunication.
CBA: What do you see as the biggest obstacle to the reconciliation process?
Muller: A false concept of tradition. The Pius brothers freeze tradition at a certain point and fail to recognize the connection between revelation, tradition and the Magisterium. That with the Second Vatican Council the "smoke of Satan" had entered the church, they see not as an expression of a mood, but as an absolute dogma. This is their real problem.