Benedict elevated muller to archbishop at same time as call to rome. Church critic and tubing theologian hans kung spoke of a "catastrophic miscast".
Muller replaces in this important post in the roman curia the american cardinal william joseph levada (76), who retires. Levada succeeded joseph ratzinger as prefect of the congregation. The latter held the office for more than two decades until his election as pope in 2005.
Muller – a native of mainz – has been head pastor in the regensburg diocese since 2002. The 64-year-old is highly respected among theologians. But he is also considered a hardliner among the clergy; he has often attacked critics of the church in harsh terms. "I am not addicted to conflict, but I am also not addicted to harmony," he once said. "I simply go the way one has to go."
The catholic german bishops’ conference (DBK) reacted "with great joy" to the pope’s decision. "The german bishops’ conference is proud that one of its confreres will in future perform this important task at the roman curia," declared the DBK chairman and freiburg archbishop robert zollitsch. Muller is one of the "most distinguished theologians of the present". As a professor of dogmatics, he has shaped the contemporary presentation of the church’s faith worldwide.
The catholic theologian hans kung in tubingen, on the other hand, said of muller’s appointment, "as a prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, this narrow-minded agitator is out of place". Anyone who is interested in a contemporary proclamation of the christian message can despair of such a decision, kung told the dpa news agency on monday. "Conflicts in the scandal-ridden curia and roman church are preprogrammed with muller’s appointment."In 1979, on the initiative of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, kung was deprived of his ecclesiastical teaching authority.
Alois gluck, chairman of the central committee of german catholics (zdk), defended muller against criticism. "Bishop muller is a world-renowned theologian with a much broader range than many assume," gluck said. "He resolutely advocates that the church take care of social justice."
The state committee of catholics in bavaria stressed that in terms of content, muller was moving up to second place in the vatican, behind the pope. Muller was "with his naturally virile faith, his sense of responsibility in world politics, as well as his theological competence and his infectious humor, an ideal appointment in these difficult romano-vatican times," explained the chairman of the national committee, albert schmid.
The lay movement "we are church" wished muller "god’s blessing" for his new task, but gave him a bad report for his time in regensburg: "with the dismissal and exclusion of elected laity from diozesan bodies as well as the strict disciplining of critical priests, he very quickly created a climate of reproach and fear in his diocese," it said in the "we are church" communication. Also in his dealings with the protestant church, muller had pursued polarization and not reconciliation.
The "congregation for the doctrine of the faith," the official name of the most important vatican authority, is the successor to the holy inquisition, which in earlier centuries used violence against dissenters and critics of the church in the interest of the purity of the faith. Today it is to demand and protect the faith and moral teachings in the catholic church. It drafts doctrinal documents and takes action against religious deviation.
From his predecessor levada, muller also takes over the leadership of the papal commission ecclesia dei, which deals above all with the abrupt archconservative pius brothers. He will also preside over the international commission of theologians and the bible commission. For a long time there had been speculation about a move to rome for the theologian, who is treasured by the pope. Now it is also expected that he will soon be appointed cardinal.