German prelate to head Vatican doctrinal congregation
July 02, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg, Germany to become prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s key doctrinal office.
Bishop Müller—who will assume the title of archbishop as he assumes his new responsibilities—replaces Cardinal William Levada, who is retiring at the age of 76. The appointment had been widely expected.
Originally ordained to the priesthood in the Mainz diocese, the 64-year-old Bishop Müller was named Bishop of Regensburg in 2002. A longtime acquaintance of Pope Benedict, he has been acting as editor for the multi-volume series that will eventually include the complete works of Joseph Ratzinger as theologian prior to his election to the papacy. He played host to Pope Benedict in 2006 when the Pontiff delivered his memorable and controversial “Regensburg lecture” at the university there.
Although he clearly enjoys the confidence of Pope Benedict, Archbishop-designate Müller has critics on both ends of the Catholic intellectual spectrum. Since his name began circulating months ago as a likely prefect for the CDF, he has come under critical scrutiny from traditionalist Catholics, who have paid special notice to his close friendship with Father Gustavo Gutierrez, a leading proponent of liberation theology. On the other hand, the radical theologian Hans Küng described his appointment as a “catastrophe.”
In becoming prefect of the CDF, the German prelate will also assume the added titles that come with that office, becoming president of the International Theological Commission, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and the Ecclesia Dei commission. He will undoubtedly be elevated to the College of Cardinals at the next consistory.
Cardinal Levada will remain a member of several important Vatican dicasteries until he reaches the age of 80. But he has indicated that he hopes to retire to his native California. He was appointed in May 2005 to assume the role that Pope Benedict XVI himself had long filled. At the time, the Pope was said to have wanted an American head of the CDF, to help cope with the enormous number of disciplinary cases involving American priests accused of sexual abuse. With the torrent of cases from the US abating, and the rise in cases involving European priests, there was no longer any special need for an American prefect.
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