Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the Vatican's former doctrinal czar, warned against Catholics who long for a "meta-religion" of world unity in a January 1 homily in Phoenix.
Some Catholics want the Church to modernize, abandoning its doctrines for the sake of building a "new religion of world unity," Müller warned thousands of Catholics gathered in Phoenix for the 2020 Student Leadership Summit hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS).
"In order to be admitted to this meta-religion, the only price the Church would have to pay is giving up her truth claim," the cardinal told the students. "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 world welcomes these efforts to remake the Church "as a convenient civil religion," Müller said.
The German cardinal tied his remarks to claims by the late Jesuit cardinal Carlo Maria Martini that the Church was "200 years behind the times" and needed to modernize in order to catch up.
"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?" Müller asked the group.
It is surely no coincidence that Pope Francis had cited this same quotation in a positive sense just days before Christmas in an address to the Roman Curia, calling for "epochal change" while insisting that resistance to change always hides some mental disorder.
"The Church has remained 200 years behind the times. Why has it not been shaken up? Are we scared? Fear instead of courage?" Pope Francis cited Martini to the Curia, adding that these are words that "should make us think."
"There is always a temptation to fall back on the past," Francis continued in his Dec. 21 address, "because it is more reassuring, known and, certainly less conflictual. Yet this too is part of the process and the risk of undertaking significant changes."
It would not be unreasonable to suggest that Cardinal Müller's homily Wednesday was in fact a response to the pope's call for modernization.
According to Müller, the crisis facing the Catholic Church today has arisen from attempts to align with secular culture while abandoning the teachings of the faith in the process.
"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 said.
"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," he said, "that we should relativize God's commandments and reinterpret the doctrine of the revealed faith."
Some people in the Church are "longing" for a Catholicism without dogmas, without sacraments, and without an infallible magisterium, Müller proposed.
In his homily, Müller told the students that the antidote to secularization within the Church is a life of faith, since people of faith do not crave the gratifications that the world offers.
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 said.
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