While Germany has the potential to be a major European leader, the Church in the country must take a strong stand to insist on moral direction as well, said Cardinal Gerhard Mueller in a recent interview.

“Germany is the leading country economically but we need leadership also in the moral-ethical orientation,” said the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He warned that “most of the European leaders and people in authority are too much linked with certain ideologies,” such as support for abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage. “They think this is the progress of humanity but it is a regression.”

Mueller spoke to Catholic Outlook, the diocesan newspaper of Parramatta, Australia during a recent trip to the country to give a talk to a group of priests.

In the interview, published July 23, Cardinal Mueller responded to a question about the German bishops’ conference pushing to allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some cases.

“Unfortunately, our bishops are thinking more in categories of politics and power and not in this line of the New Evangelization,” Mueller said.

“Intercommunion is not possible, absolutely, objectively, is not possible because the Communion is the sacramental representation of the communion in the Faith,” he said. “If you don’t have full communion in the Faith, it’s not possible to have full communion in the sacramental expression, especially in the Eucharist.”

“[W]e cannot say it is all the same it is enough to have a religious feeling, or sentiment that we are belonging together,” he said. “That is very good but it’s not enough for the sacramental communion and therefore I hope the German Bishops will find the way back to more a religious and spiritual understanding of the Church and to respect also the fundamentals of the Catholic Faith, that cannot be changed.”

Cardinal Mueller also spoke about the relationship between Church and state. Government has a proper role and limitations, he said, cautioning that not all legal actions are moral.

“The power of the state must be responsible to the transcendent, to the higher law and reality,” he said.

Government’s power is not absolute, but must adhere to natural moral law, which is universal, he said. Efforts to violate this natural moral law — for example, by legalizing abortion or attempting to require priests to violate the seal of confession — are unjust.

The Church can help society understand the foundation for a democratic, pluralistic state, Mueller said: “The state must be tolerant and accept all the diverse, different religions but on the basis of human rights and the natural moral law.”

“We as the Catholic Church are the promoters of religious freedom, not only requiring it for ourselves. We are not a lobby for ourselves, but we are the promoters of this natural right, which everybody deserves: religious freedom derived from the natural moral law and freedom of conscience.”

The Church also contributes to society through the development and promotion of Catholic Social Doctrine, education, and workers’ rights issues, he said.

In engaging with modern challenges, Catholics should be careful not to fall into the political labels of conservative and progressive, the cardinal said.

“It is absolutely necessary that we overcome this distinction, this schism in the Church, as well as in the other Christian communities where we have this problem,” he emphasized.

“The Word of God is this reality who unites, unifies everybody. We are not divided in parties… we all united in the one Body of Christ, we are members of the Body of Christ, Christ is the head of His body, which is the Church herself.”

The division between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics, Cardinal Mueller said, “is against the Holy Spirit…[who] unites the Church and is the antidote against the divisions and separations.”

Following the Holy Spirit’s guidance in humility is critical, he continued.

“Nobody, even the Pope and a council, has a direct line to the Holy Spirit because they are not receiving a new revelation. There is one revelation, forever given in Jesus Christ and therefore our basis is Holy Scripture.”

“We can say nothing, nor establish a doctrine or an understanding in the Church that is against the words of God in Holy Scripture and the expression of Catholic tradition,” he emphasized.