The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, has lamented a Protestantization of the image of the Catholic priest. Catholics are no longer aware that there is an “essential difference” between the ordained priest and, as Protestants call it, the priesthood of all believers. The Vatican daily “L‘Osservatore Romano” published the piece by Müller on Thursday, October 31, a day of historical importance for the Protestant Reformation. The text consists of excerpts from a speech the archbishop gave on Wednesday in Palermo for the introduction of the 12-volume collected writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI in Italian.
Müller gave as a reason for the current crisis in the priesthood the opening of Catholicism to Protestant scripture scholarship of the 1950s and 1960s, without recognizing the prejudices contained therein. This allowed the radical critique of cult and the priestly mediator role to enter into Catholicism. Furthermore, the biblical foundation of the priesthood was called into question.
According to Müller, the criticism of mandatory celibacy in the Catholic Church is a consequence of an insufficient understanding of the sacrament of ordination. Priestly celibacy is no longer seen as “an eschatalogical sign of the coming reign of God,” but as “the relic of a past history which is hostile to the body” and as the main reason for the priest shortage.
The archbishop sees the “radical disorientation of Christian identity” in the West as a further cause of the priesthood crisis. This is the result of a philosophy that no longer has a “transcendental horizon.”