Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bishop Muller of Regensburg: A New Head for La Suprema Soon

It would seem that one of Pope Benedict’s most trusted advisers may soon be allowed to enter semi-retirement and a German prelate who is a close friend of His Holiness will in consequence require to make an early appointment with Gammarelli, Sartoria per ecclesiastici, via S. Chiara, Rome (just behind the Pantheon). A couple of weeks ago, on Tuesday, June 12, it was announced from Rome that the Holy Father had made some appointments to three of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia. To two of these he appointed new members while to the other he appointed consultors (all such appointments are for a period of five years, the quinquennium, and may be renewed at papal discretion up until the appropriate age limit). In this newly published list, one name stood out above all others: Gerhard Ludwig Muller. And it stood out for one very simple reason: it appears twice. It is in fact not all that unusual for a name to appear two or three times in these lists. Rarely, a name has even appeared four times or more. However, when a prelate is appointed as a member to more than one dicastery, it is almost invariably a newly created cardinal being put fully to work in service of the Holy Father. But Gerhard Ludwig Muller is not a Cardinal. He is Bishop of Regensburg, Germany. But likely not for too much longer. Already a member of both the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (reappointed December 20, 2007) and the Pontifical Council for Culture (appointed January 17, 2009), Mgr Muller now also finds himself a member of both the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. While it is most unusual to find a diocesan ordinary (that is Bishop) a member of multiple dicasteries, this is no ordinary ordinary. Now in his 65th year (birthday on Hogmanay), Mgr Muller has been Bishop of Regensburg since 2002. Schooled in Philosophy and Theology at Mainz, Munich and Freiburg, from the latter in 1977 he graduated Doctor of Divinity. His thesis on the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer was supervised by Karl, later Cardinal, Lehmann. In March of the following year, aged 30, he was ordained priest and went on to work in three different parishes while undertaking teaching duties at various institutions. In 1986, he was appointed to the chair in Dogmatic Theology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he remains an honorary Professor to this day. Mgr Muller has written more than 400 works in various forms and on diverse topics, including dogmatic theology, ecumenism, revelation, hermeneutics, the priesthood and the diaconate. Appointed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as a member of the Sixth Quinquennium of the International Theological Commission (1999-2004 roughly, I think), Blessed Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Regensburg on October 1, 2002. He received episcopal consecration during the month following, on the 24th, at the hands of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, successor to Pope Benedict as Metropolitan Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Both a student and a close personal friend of the father of Liberation Theology, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Mgr Muller visits Latin America at least once a year and has spent several weeks there living on a farm to experience for himself the hardships and hardness of peasant life in Peru. But this has made absolutely no difference to his personal friendship with Pope Benedict. Indeed, the Holy Father has recently entrusted to him the task of editing his “Opera Omnia”, the collection of all his writings in a single, many-volumed edition. Ever since Cardinal William (Bill) Levada celebrated his 75th birthday on June 15 last year and was required by canon law to submit his resignation to the Pope, it has been rumoured that an announcement of this being accepted is imminent. It is no great secret that Cardinal Bill hopes soon to return to California. Equally, it is no great secret that Pope Benedict does not want to lose one of his most trusted advisers. So it may well be that His Eminence will be freed of the onerous responsibilities associated with leadership of the Holy Office, only to find himself promoted to the order of Cardinals Bishop; quite possibly as Dean of the Sacred College. There is precedent to suggest that the appointment of Mgr Muller to these new positions indicates that he will soon find himself permanently based in Rome. In 2008 Mgr Raymond Leo Burke, Archbishop of St Louis, Missouri, was appointed a member of both the Congregation for the Clergy and the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. These appointments followed upon his earlier appointment as a member of the College of Judges of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. A few weeks later he was named Prefect of the Signatura and was created Cardinal Deacon of Sant’Agata dei Goti at the next consistory (November 20, 2010). If, indeed, it proves to be the case that Mgr Muller is imminently Romeward bound — and the most likely date would be once the 13th ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the “New Evangelization” has been held in Rome in October — then it is almost certain that his future base of operations will be located within the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio, often referred to as “the Palace of the Inquisition”, as successor to Cardinal Levada as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, often referred to as La Sprema. (La Suprema because it was formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition and the later, from 1904, as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office. By the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus promulgated by Blessed Pope John Paul II on 28 June 1988 the name of the dicastery was changed to the present form.) Bishop Muller would on appointment be named a titular Archbishop requiring a first visit to Gammarelli’s. A second will be required when he is created Cardinal Deacon at the next consistory.

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