The Crisis facing the Catholic Church Today

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, attending a conference at the Pontifical Angelicum University in Rome on June 13, 2015.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, attending a conference at the Pontifical Angelicum University in Rome on June 13, 2015. (Bohumil Petrik/CNA.)

Cardinal Müller: Church Crisis Comes From Abandoning God, Adapting to Culture Attending the FOCUS 2020 Student Leadership Summit, Cardinal Müller celebrated Mass Jan. 1 for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Catholic News Agency

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The crisis facing the Catholic Church today has arisen from an attempt – even by some within the Church – to align with the culture and abandon the teachings of the faith, said Cardinal Gerhard Müller  Jan. 1. “The crisis in the Church is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God,” the cardinal told thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).

“The poison paralyzing the Church is the opinion that we should adapt to the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, and not the spirit of God, that we should relativize God’s commandments and reinterpret the doctrine of the revealed faith,” he said. He cautioned that even a number of people in the Church are “longing” for a kind of Catholicism without dogmas, without sacraments, and without an infallible magisterium.

Cardinal Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, celebrated Mass Jan. 1 for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In his homily, he reflected on the human desire to embrace substitute gratifications when God is set aside. “But the one who believes needs no ideology,” he said. The one who hopes will not reach for drugs. The one who loves is not after the lust of this world, which passes along with the world. The one who loves God and his neighbor, finds happiness in the sacrifice of self-giving.”

“We will be happy and free when in the spirit of love we embrace the form of life to which God has called each one of us personally: in the sacrament of marriage, in celibate priesthood, or in religious life according to the three evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience and chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” he continued.

Cardinal Müller stressed that thanksgiving is a key part of the Christian life. At the start of the new year, he encouraged Catholics to voice gratitude for all of creation, for sending Christ into the world as our savior, for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Catholic Church, the gift of family, and all the other blessings that can be easily taken for granted.

“As Christians, we have a musical awareness of life: In our hearts resounds the song of thanksgiving of being redeemed. Its melody is love, and its harmony is joy in God,” he said. Rather than placing hope in fate, he said, the Christian recognizes that suffering is inevitable, but can still find joy in Christ, who also suffered and opened for us the door to eternal life.+

In these challenging times, however, scandals in the Church and a crisis among traditionally Christian societies in the West have led many to anxiously wonder whether the rock on which Christ built his Church is crumbling, the cardinal said. “For some, the Catholic Church is lagging behind by 200 years compared to where the world is today. Is there any truth to this accusation?” Calls for modernization demand that the Church reject what it holds to be true, for the sake of building a “new religion of world unity,” Cardinal Müller warned.

“In order to be admitted to this meta-religion, the only price the Church would have to pay is giving up her truth claim. No big deal, it seems, as the relativism dominant in our world anyway rejects the idea that we could actually know the truth, and presents itself as guarantor of peace between all world views and world religions.”

The post-Christian society welcomes these efforts to reconstruct the Church “as a convenient civil religion,” the cardinal said. The antidote to secularization within the Church is a life of faith, lived in the enduring truth of Christ, Cardinal Müller told those present. God, who is eternal, cannot be changed by the whims of society, he stressed.

“In the concrete human being Jesus of Nazareth, God’s universal truth is concretely present here and now – in historical time and space,” Mueller said. “Jesus Christ is not the representation of some supratemporal truth: He is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ in person.”