In a Monday interview with the German press, Müller revealed that Pope Francis had communicated his dismissal "within a minute" of his decision on the last working day of his five-year term. Müller said no reasons had been given for his removal.
"I cannot accept this style," said Müller. "The social doctrine of the Church must also be valid in Rome when dealing with staff."
The former chief of doctrine had spoken with Cdl. Joachim Meisner, one of the dubia cardinals, the night before he died, and said Meisner had been "deeply affected" by Müller's dismissal. Meisner passed away Wednesday at age 83
"That personally moved him and hurt him," Müller said, "and he saw it as damaging to the Church."
Müller made clear, however, that he would not be joining the ranks of papal critics. "Some think yes, they might pull me from the carts of a papal-critical movement," he remarked. But he recognizes he remains "responsible for the unity of the Church" and wants "to prevent polarization as far as possible."
He clarified that he would remain "always loyal to the Pope."
Müller's five-year term ended on July 2, 2017, following months of rumors that his time at the CDF was nearing an end, as he became increasingly vocal about his denunciations of attempts to change Church discipline and doctrine on marriage and the sacraments.
"I have said it many times, and I repeat it here again," he said in remarks made June 21, "Jesus established clearly, and without doubt, the indissolubility of valid matrimony. This is what we must preach, declare and explain to the Catholic faithful."
Addressing the worldwide confusion following Amoris Laetitia and various dioceses using it to open up Holy Communion to those in adulterous or homosexual relationships, the cardinal explained, "Contrition, confession and reparation are the three necessary elements for absolution. These are the immediate conditions for receiving the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ, who is the same divine Person who forgives us."
[Cdl. Müller] was very perplexed, because they were good priests, and among the most professionally capable. He declined to obey, and asked the Pope for a private audience. He had to wait because the meeting was postponed several times. Finally he was received. He said, "Your Holiness, I received these letters, but I have not done anything, as these persons are among the best in the Congregation. What have they done?" The answer was: "I'm the pope, and I don't have to give reasons for any of my decisions. I've decided that they must go, and therefore they must go." He stood up, extending his hand, signaling that the meeting was over.
Müller later confirmed he had been caught off guard by the pope's move.
Some speculate tensions between the cardinal and Pope Francis began when Müller added his name to a letter of protest at the 2015 Synod, which sharply criticized the lack of transparency and consultation, going so far as to hint at an agenda. "A number of Fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions."