Cardinal Brandmüller reflects on Luther, “Amoris laetitia”, the Dubia, and current situation
Dubia Cardinal urges faithful: Hold fast to tradition amid Church confusion
ROME, January 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Dubia Cardinal Walter Brandmüller is urging Catholics to hold fast to the Church’s unchanging Tradition amid today’s crisis of confusion.
In a December interview with Armin Schwibach of the German website kathnet, translated into English by Michael J. Miller for Catholic World Report, the cardinal candidly answered Schwibach’s questions about Martin Luther, the Dubia, same-sex “marriage”, transgenderism and the growing confusion in the Catholic Church.
‘A perverse rebellion’
When his interviewer asked about new challenges to the natural law, the cardinal didn’t pull any punches. Brandmüller called belief in same-sex “marriage” and transgenderism “a perverse rebellion.”
“If someone thinks that homosexual persons enter into a ‘marriage’, or that by means of surgery one can undertake sex changes and other interventions into the nature of a human being, then this is a downright perverse rebellion against the order of creation, against the nature of the human being as willed and created by God,” he stated. “To act in a way that contradicts this nature is the self-destruction of the human being.”
The cardinal said it was “worrisome” that subjectivism has been taken to such extremes, and that such an ideology was a rejection of creaturehood and a usurpation of God’s reign. “Man on God’s throne,” he exclaimed. “A grotesque, absurd, apocalyptic notion.”
On the Confusion in the Church Today
The cardinal agreed with Schwibach’s assessment of a Church in turmoil and said it was foreseen by Saint Paul. His advice was to “take our bearings” from the Tradition of the Church.
“In this situation, which was foreseen by Saint Paul—see the Letters to Titus and Timothy—the important thing is to take our bearings from the Tradition of the Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit and has found its concrete contemporary expression in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” said Brandmüller.
“Whatever contradicts this catechism—regardless of the source of the contradiction—is not Catholic truth. Anyone who believes with the Catechism and lives accordingly is on the right path.”
But despite the confusion, Brandmüller does not believe that the contemporary Catholic Church finds itself in a “historically unique situation.” He cited the Arian crisis.
“At the time of the Arian crisis—the Arians did not believe that Jesus is of the same nature as God the Father—the overwhelming majority of the bishops in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire had fallen into error. Only through the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon would this lethal threat to the faith be overcome: The Lord was and is still today in the boat—even though He seems to be asleep.”
Cardinal Brandmüller has been among the leading voices critical of novel doctrines that have been been proposed to Catholics since the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. Before he signed the Dubia regarding Amoris Laetitia, he was one of five cardinals who contributed to the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which opposed Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to permit those in irregular sexual unions to receive Holy Communion.
On the Dubia
The interviewer also asked the cardinal about the substance of the Dubia, the questions the German cardinal and three other cardinals sent to Pope Francisfollowing the publication of Amoris Laetitia. Brandmuller listed them and explained which answers would be in harmony with the foundations of Catholic faith and morals.
“1. Can a person bound by an existing bond of marriage who lives together as husband and wife with a new partner (AL 305, footnote 351) receive “absolution and Communion” in certain cases?
2. Are there absolute moral commands or prohibitions that oblige without exception and under all circumstances? (e.g. the killing of an innocent person)?
3. Is it true now as before that someone who persistently lives in adultery is objectively in a state of serious sin?
4. Are there situations in life that diminish moral responsibility to such an extent that immoral activity (in this case: adultery) can thereby be morally excused, or even justified?
5. Can a personal decision of conscience allow exceptions to the absolute prohibition of actions that in themselves are immoral?”
“As you see,” the cardinal continued, “these questions concern the foundations of the faith and of moral teaching. If we follow that teaching, then questions 1, 4 and 5 would have to be answered with an unambiguous No, and questions 2 and 3 with Yes.”
On Lutheran-Catholic dialogue
Speaking at the end of the “Luther Year 2017”, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Brandmüller said that there was no need for a Catholic “reevaluation” of Luther; both Catholics and Lutherans worked out an objective way of discussing him over 60 years ago.
“At the very latest by the end of the Nazi dictatorship ... [German Catholic and German Protestant] scholars … found a way of writing about Luther or the Reformation that relied on an objective, sober depiction of the facts, based on the historical sources and the critical interpretation thereof,” the cardinal said. “To talk about the need on the Catholic side to reevaluate Luther therefore shows plain ignorance of the actual state of the scholarship or of the relevant literature.”
Brandmüller explained that Luther’s 95 theses could be understood in a Catholic way, as the “protest of a committed priest against misunderstanding and abuse of indulgences.”
In 1520, however, Luther made his break with “elementary tenets” of the Catholic Christian faith absolutely clear. Cardinal Brandmuller found the idea that Luther could be called the “Doctor of the Church of authentic reform” questionable. Luther, he said, didn’t want to reform the Church but intended “a radical upheaval.”
“In his treatise, ‘To the Nobility of the German Nation’, [Luther] announced that he would tear down three walls,” the cardinal continued.
“He sees the first wall as the priesthood founded on Holy Orders, the second as the Church Magisterium based on a mission from Jesus Christ, and the third as the existence of the papacy. The fact that these ‘walls’ rested on a firm biblical foundation was of no interest to the angry Augustinian friar. Once he has torn down those three walls, Luther sees the collapse of the whole structure of the papal Church.”
Brandmuller called claims that this break with the Catholic Church was a work of the Holy Spirit “utterly fantastic” and can be explained only by an “absolute ignorance of the documents and the facts of history.”
He also upheld the dignity of the Council of Trent, saying that “It was and remains an Ecumenical Council, and this is, with and under the Pope, the highest-ranking organ of the Church’s Magisterium; its definitively promulgated teaching is infallible…. Its doctrinal decrees are valid forever.”