The following information comes from the report of a trustworthy German source, who spoke to OnePeterFive on condition of anonymity. He quotes an eyewitness who recently sat with Cardinal Müller at lunch in Mainz, Germany. During that meal, Cardinal Müller is alleged to have disclosed in the presence of this eyewitness certain information about his final meeting with the pope, during which he was informed that his mandate as Prefect of the CDF would not be renewed.
According to this report, Cardinal Müller was called to the Apostolic Palace on 30 June, and he thus went there with his working files, assuming that this meeting would be a usual working session.
The pope told him, however, that he only had five questions for him:
◦Are you in favor of, or against, a female diaconate? “I am against it,” responded Cardinal Müller.
◦Are you in favor of, or against, the repeal of celibacy? “Of course I am against it,” the cardinal responded.
◦Are you in favor of, or against, female priests? “I am very decisively against it,” replied Cardinal Müller.
◦Are you willing to defend Amoris Laetitia? “As far as it is possible for me,” the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith replied: “there still exist ambiguities.”
◦Are you willing to retract your complaint concerning the dismissal of three of your own employees? Cardinal Müller responded: “Holy Father, these were good, unblemished men whom I now lack, and it was not correct to dismiss them over my head, shortly before Christmas, so that they had to clear their offices by 28 December. I am missing them now.”
Thereupon the pope answered: “Good. Cardinal Müller, I only wanted to let you know that I will not extend your mandate [i.e., beyond 2 July] as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith.” Without any farewell or explanation, the pope left the room. Cardinal Müller at first thought that the pope left in order to fetch a token of gratitude, and thus he waited patiently. But, there was no such gift, nor even an expression of gratitude for his service. The Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, then had to explain to him that the meeting was over, and that it was time for him to leave.
In an interview with German newspaper Passauer Neue Press, Müller revealed additional information that appears to support the above-described abruptness of his final meeting with the pope:
Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller said, “communicated his decision” not to renew his term “within one minute” on the last work day of his five-year-term, and did not give any reasons for it.
“This style [sic] I cannot accept,” said Müller. In dealing with employees, “the Church’s social teaching should be applied,” he added.
There is little about Müller’s dismissal from one of the Catholic Church’s most prominent ecclesiastical offices that isn’t unusual. As respected Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti noted in his important July 7 essay for First Things, Müller’s departure from the position at age 69 — well before the mandatory retirement age — was “a gesture unprecedented in the Church’s recent history.” Over the past six decades, Tosatti noted, “prefects of the Church’s most important congregation (it has been called La Suprema) have retired due to age or health reasons, or have been called, in the case of Joseph Ratzinger, to become the pope.” None during that time has suffered the indignity of simply being unceremoniously let go.
One anecdote recounted by Tosatti from his own conversations with friends of the German cardinal gives particular credence to the emerging picture that Pope Francis has long treated the prefect emeritus with contempt:
It appears that Müller experienced life under Bergoglio as a sort of Calvary. This, despite Müller’s statements—he has been a good soldier to the end, and even beyond.
The first step of Müller’s Calvary was a disconcerting episode in the middle of 2013. The cardinal was celebrating Mass in the church attached to the congregation palace, for a group of German students and scholars. His secretary joined him at the altar: “The pope wants to speak to you.” “Did you tell him I am celebrating Mass?” asked Müller. “Yes,” said the secretary, “but he says he does not mind—he wants to talk to you all the same.” The cardinal went to the sacristy. The pope, in a very bad mood, gave him some orders and a dossier concerning one of his friends, a cardinal. (This is a very delicate matter. I have sought an explanation of this incident from the official channels. Until the explanation comes, if it ever comes, I cannot give further details.) Obviously, Mūller was flabbergasted.
Like Marco Tosatti, we have sought but may never be able to provide an explanation of the incident of the five questions from official channels. We can only say that our sources are not given to idle speculation. They are confident that the events transpired as they have been described.
For now, it is enough to note that under the present circumstances, even the skeptical would have a hard time dismissing a report of such an incident. The stories coming out of the Vatican are more incredible each day — and even the worst of them seem not to merit comment — or more importantly, correction — in the eyes of Church officials.