Despite his shrill warnings now about the supposed dangers of ending compulsory priestly celibacy, there was a time when vocal Amazon Synod critic Cardinal Gerhard Müller supported married priests.

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According to a text currently circulating at the Synod in the Vatican, Cardinal Muller, the ex-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (2012-2017), backed ordaining married men after a study trip to Peru in 1988.

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“With regard to the priesthood, it is necessary that there be celibate priests”, Müller wrote in the text, dated in 1992.

“But there should also be opportunities, in the hard-to-reach communities or in huge city parishes, to ordain to the priesthood religiously educated and theologically qualified fathers of families, so that they can carry out local pastoral and liturgical services”, the cardinal explained.

In his text, Müller said that such a combination of celibate and married priests wouldn’t be an affront to theology and discipline.

“Such a new conception would not contradict the tradition of the Church”, the cardinal wrote.

“For fidelity to tradition does not mean that the Church is always bound only to past history, but instead to the future history for which the Church has to exercise her always identical mission of salvation”, Müller explained.

Müller was from 1986 to 2002 the Chair of dogmatic theology of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he continues to be an honorary professor.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II named him Bishop of Regensburg, where he served until Benedict XVI called him to Rome to become the Prefect of the Church’s ‘Holy Office’ in 2012.

Pope Francis made Müller a cardinal in 2014, but decided not to extend his mandate at the CDF once his five-year term came up in 2017.

Müller continues to live in Rome and to sit on several Pontifical Councils and Congregations.


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Why it matters

Müller’s one-time support of the reintroduction into the Church of married priests is significant in that such a change is currently under discussion at this month’s Amazon Synod in the Vatican.

Müller has been a loud critic of Synod proceedings, even going so far as to allege that the Synod’s focus on environmentalism, for example, amounts to the “old paganism” of “idolatry and superstition”.

In an October 10 interview with Italy’s La Repubblica, Müller called the Synod’s proposal to ordain married men a “mistake”.

“Whoever wants to insert the practice of married priests into the Latin Church does not know Her history”, the cardinal insisted.

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