Cardinal Muller is now in a state of public formal schism, and is automatically excommunicated.
Muller has publicly declared that he will not accept any teaching of a Pope or Ecumenical Council, not even an ex cathedra (infallible) papal teaching, if it is contrary to his own theological opinion on whether women can be ordained as deacons.
The theological argument that he presents to support his opinion on women deacons is irrelevant. Perhaps the Magisterium will decide that his opinion is correct. Even so, he is automatically excommunicated for public formal schism, and he would remain so, even if the Magisterium decides he is right — because he rejected the authority of the Magisterium over himself, and exalted himself above the office of the Roman Pontiff and the authority of Ecumenical Councils.
The Magisterium has decided that Jesus Christ did not give His Church the authority to ordain women to the priesthood (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, n. 4). This teaching is widely considered to be infallible. And since a bishop is a kind of priest, and a pope is a kind of bishop, the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as priests or bishops, nor can a woman be a valid pope.
Thus, on the question of the ordination of women as priest or bishop, Muller should have said that the Magisterium will never give approval for that type of ordination, as the Magisterium has already definitively decided the question. He erred gravely by publicly declaring that IF the Magisterium decided by an INFALLIBLE decision of a Pope or Council to ordain women as priest or bishop, the ordination would be invalid as the teaching would be a grave error. Such a declaration proposes that the Magisterium can err gravely despite issuing a teaching which meets the conditions for infallibility.
Therefore, on the point of women being ordained as priest or bishop, Muller has publicly declared a heresy by speaking as if the infallible teaching of a Pope or Council could ever possibly err on a matter of faith or morals. So even though the Church lacks the authority to ordain women as priest or bishop, Muller sinned gravely by proposing that the infallible Magisterium could err gravely on the subject.
To be accurate, the teaching is that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. The arguments that Muller makes are not the reason given by Ordinatio Sacerdotalis for the male-only priesthood.
As a matter of fact, the Magisterium has never decided the question of whether the Church possesses the authority to ordain women to the diaconate. There is no such document. No Council or Pope decided the question infallibly, nor even non-infallibly. It is an open question. And Muller lacks the authority to close the question by issuing a definitive teaching.
So the position of faithful Catholics must be, first and foremost, that they will accept whatever the Magisterium decides on this open theological question. That is my position as well. I will accept whatever the Magisterium decides, whether it decides that the Church does or does not possess the authority to ordain women as deacons.
The absence of ordained women deacons in the history of the Church is not definitive. Perhaps the Church possesses this authority, but simply has not yet used it.
So until the Magisterium decides the question of ordained women deacons, the faithful may opine that the Church does nor does not have that authority. My opinion is that the Church does possess the authority. But I’ll accept whatever the Magisterium ultimately decides.
Unfortunately, the conservative Catholic subculture has exalted itself above the Magisterium, and has begun to issue pseudo-dogmas on open theological questions. For example, the subculture decided that it is heresy to say that the diversity of religions in the world is positively willed by God, rather than only permissively willed. But the Magisterium teaches no such thing. In another example, the conservative Catholic subculture has rejected the dogma that the grace of God prevents every Roman Pontiff from ever teaching or committing heresy.
Cardinal Muller has committed public formal schism by openly stating that he will reject any decision of the Magisterium, even an ex cathedra (infallible) statement by the Roman Pontiff or an infallible teaching of an Ecumenical Council, if that decision is contrary to his own understanding.
LifeSiteNews: Cardinal Müller: No pope or council could permit female deacons, ‘it would be invalid’
” ‘The Magisterium of the Pope and of the bishops has no authority over the substance of the Sacraments,’ the Cardinal states. ‘Therefore, no synod – with or without the Pope – and also no ecumenical council, or the Pope alone, if he spoke ex cathedra, could make possible the ordination of women as bishop, priest, or deacon. They would stand in contradiction to the defined doctrine of the Church,’ he continues. ‘It would be invalid,’ he adds.”
Why is this statement by Muller both heretical and schismatic? It is heretical because he proposes that a Pope or Council teaching infallibly could nevertheless err gravely: “They would stand in contradiction to the defined doctrine of the Church”. Um, no, they wouldn’t, as Popes cannot err gravely, nor at all when teaching ex cathedra, and the same is true for Ecumenical Councils.
It is schismatic because he rejects even the possibility that he would accept a teaching that was contrary to his own understanding. He declares publicly and in advance that he will reject and consider invalid any decision on this grave matter of faith that is contrary to his own understanding. It is also schismatic because he presumes to declare that he himself has the authority to decide this question, but Popes and Councils do not. Putting himself above Popes and Councils means that he is not submissive to their authority. And rejection of submission to the authority of Popes, and certainly also Ecumenical Councils, is schism by definition.
Since the Cardinal is well aware of Church teaching on heresy and schism, his errors are formal heresy and formal schism, therefore carrying the penalty of automatic excommunication.
Any Roman Catholics who side with Cardinal Muller in his rejection of the authority of Popes and Councils are therefore also guilty of heresy, schism, and grave scandal.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.
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