Cardinal Muller on the Adopted Children of God

Here is the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Trent:

“By these words, a description of the justification of the impious is introduced, as being a translation from the state, in which a person is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the children of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. And certainly [this] translation, after the promulgation of the Gospel, is not able to occur without the washing of regeneration or its desire, just as it is written: ‘unless one has been reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5]” [Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, Chapter IV.]

It is dogma that those human persons who receive “the adoption of the children of God” include BOTH those who receive the “washing of regeneration” (the formal Sacrament of Baptism by water) AND those who are justified by “its desire” (a non-formal baptism of desire). These adopted children of God are therefore no longer in the state of being “a child of the first Adam” (i.e. lacking the state of grace due to original sin). Now they have the state of grace and the three theological virtues of love, faith, and hope. Justification brings them into the state of grace and confers all three infused virtues, making them adopted children of God through Jesus Christ. They have the indwelling of the Trinity.

Notice that the very same sentence includes both groups, baptized with water or baptized by desire. And we know, from the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, that the baptism of blood is the third of a total of three (and only three) types of baptism. Desire is a form of baptism, since the person desires, at least implicitly, water baptism. And Blood is a form of baptism, since the power of water baptism is from the Cross of Christ, and from His side — “and immediately there went out blood and water” (Jn 19:34).

These three forms of Baptism are a reflection of the Most Holy Trinity. Water baptism, which gives its power to the other forms of baptism, is a reflection of the Father. A baptism of blood is a reflection of the Son, whose bloody sacrifice gives power to ordinary water. Thus, the baptism of blood proceeds from the baptism of water just as the Son proceeds from the Father. And the baptism of desire is also called a baptism of the Spirit. Just as the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, so the baptism of desire proceeds from the baptisms of water and of blood, since the person who desires baptism, even implicitly, desires to be cleansed by the blood of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism with water.

[1 John 5]
{5:6} This is the One who came by water and blood: Jesus Christ. Not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies that the Christ is the Truth.
{5:7} For there are Three who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. And these Three are One.
{5:8} And there are three who give testimony on earth: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood. And these three are one.

The three forms of baptism are a reflection of the Trinity. Therefore, it cannot be the case that only water Baptism is truly effective. And it cannot be the case that water baptism is common, and the others are rare or merely theoretical. Each form must be a major path of salvation, for the three Persons of the Trinity are co-equal as God.

Jews and Muslims

Applying the above teaching of the Council of Trent is quite simple. Those persons have received a baptism of desire, implicitly, if they desire to know and love God, or if they love their neighbor selflessly (like the good Samaritan and the good Centurion).

The proof that a person has supernatural faith is sometimes found in their works of love and mercy — not that works obtain justification. The initial grace of justification is prevenient: it is accomplished by God operating, without possibility of cooperation. If an adult spends ten years preparing for adult baptism, working hard every day to learn the faith, so that he is exceedingly well prepared, he nevertheless is brought into the state of grace and is given the three infused theological virtues by a free gift of God, not something earned by him, and without any act of cooperation on his part.

{2:14} My brothers, what benefit is there if someone claims to have faith, but he does not have works? How would faith be able to save him?
{2:15} So if a brother or sister is naked and daily in need of food,
{2:16} and if anyone of you were to say to them: “Go in peace, keep warm and nourished,” and yet not give them the things that are necessary for the body, of what benefit is this?
{2:17} Thus even faith, if it does not have works, is dead, in and of itself.

Why would faith be dead without works? The works of which James speaks are acts expressing supernatural love, acts done in full cooperation with grace. The exterior acts prove that the person has not only supernatural faith, but also a faith enlivened by supernatural love and supernatural hope. And without that love and hope, supernatural faith is dead, in and of itself.

[1 John]
{3:16} We know the love of God in this way: because he laid down his life for us. And so, we must lay down our lives for our brothers.
{3:17} Whoever possesses the goods of this world, and sees his brother to be in need, and yet closes his heart to him: in what way does the love of God abide in him?
{3:18} My little sons, let us not love in words only, but in works and in truth.

Works of love of God, such as prayer, worship, obedience, seeking religious truth and living by those truths (as understood by conscience), and works of love of neighbor, such as the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy, are expressions of love, faith, and hope, and therefore are clear indications that the persons doing the works are in the state of grace. Such persons, if they are not Christians, must have received the state of grace by a non-formal baptism of desire (or blood). And this is put on display for the world to see, like a lamp on a lampstand, in many cases.

Now we cannot be certain in every case as to who has the state of grace and who does not — even if the person is a Catholic Bishop or priest. But for large groups of persons, we can know that many of them are in the state of grace, if many of them do the works which are expressions of the theological virtues. Many Muslims pray devoutly, worship God sincerely, and do works of mercy toward their neighbor. Therefore, many Muslims have the three theological virtues of love, faith, and hope, and are in the state of grace. Since they are unbaptized, they entered the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire (by loving God and neighbor, in full cooperation with grace).

Pope Pius XII: “Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death; without it, salvation and supernatural happiness — the beatific vision of God — are impossible. An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism.” [Address to Midwives, 21a].

Everyone who dies in the state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after a temporary state (long or short) in Purgatory. Justification includes the state of grace (and the wiping away of original sin). Of course, one might lose the state of grace by an actual mortal sin of commission or omission. So the positives precepts are works that are, in a sense, necessary for salvation, lest we sin by omission: keep holy the Sabbath, worship God, honor your parents, love your neighbor. But works do not have the power to save; salvation is a free gift.

The gift of salvation is given not only to Christians:

“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [Redemptoris Missio 10]

“salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her.” [Pope Saint John Paul II, All Salvation Comes through Christ]

Some persons have outwardly rejected the Christian Church, by declining to become a Christian even though they know about Christianity. But if those persons enter the state of grace by a baptism of desire, and if they avoid actual mortal sin or at least repent with perfect contrition, they can be saved. And certainly, as Pope Pius XII taught, non-Christians can enter the state of grace by an “act of love”. This is a type of baptism of desire. Now according to the Council of Trent, all who receive the baptism of water or desire are adopted child of God. This salvation by a baptism of desire is accessible to non-Christians, even those who have outwardly rejected the Church, such as Jews and Muslims.

If they love God and neighbor, they are in the state of grace due to a baptism of desire. This is proven by their works of love, mercy, and faith. Therefore, their prayers are offered to God as the prayers of His own adopted children, just as much as the prayers of God’s other adopted children, Christians, who received a baptism of water. Muslims and Jews have supernatural love, supernatural faith, and supernatural hope due to an implicit baptism of desire, by means of the love of God and neighbor. And the love of God and neighbor is the SAME TYPE of supernatural love found in Christians. For all became adopted children of God when they received a baptism of water or of desire.

The above truths are teachings of the Roman Catholic Magisterium, which all the faithful are required to accept and believe. The teaching on adopted children of God, from the Council of Trent, is a dogma. Whoever denies dogma commits heresy, at least materially.

Cardinal Muller

Below are his offensive, false, and heretical public statements, as reported by

Muller: “the faithful of Islam are not adopted children of God by the grace of Christ, but only his subjects.”

By that statement, Cardinal Muller is openly rejecting the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Trent that persons who receive a baptism of desire are also adopted children of God, like Christians, who received a baptism of water. By restricting the adoption as children of God only to Christians, he contradicts that dogma. Therefore, the above quoted teaching of Muller is heretical.

Muller: Christians “cannot pray like or with Muslims.”

The Council of Trent teaches that those who receive a baptism of desire are also adopted children of God, are also justified, and that “the charity of God is poured into the hearts of those who are justified, and is inherent in them.” This of course implies that not only supernatural love (charity) but also supernatural faith and supernatural hope are given to all who are justified, whether by a baptism of water, desire, or blood.

As adopted children of God, we certainly can pray with Muslims. For their prayer to God, their Father, is like our prayer, to God our Father. For the adopted children of God are all brothers and sisters with one another. Our prayer and theirs is an expression of love, faith, and hope. And they have the indwelling of the Trinity, just as we do, even though they do not believe in the Trinity. For God is pleased to dwell with sinners. Protestant Christians have the indwelling of the Trinity, despite substantial errors of faith and morals. Catholic Christians who have substantial errors in their understanding of the Faith still have the indwelling of the Trinity (as long as they refrain from actual mortal sin). We pray to the same God, despite differences in our understanding of God.

Muslims “faith in God and his self-revelation is not only different from the Christian faith in God, but even denies its formula, claiming that God does not have a Son, who, as the eternal Word of the Father, is a divine person, and, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the One and Trinitarian God.”

Muslims love God and neighbor, just as Christians do. And if you point out to me that some Muslims hate their neighbor, I will say the same about some Catholic Christians. But there are many Muslims who are peaceful, who are moderate in their views (not extremists), and who openly show a devout love of God and a merciful love of neighbor.

The Jews who lived before Christ had a baptism of desire, and they loved God, despite not realizing that God is three Persons. Some Catholic Saints were Jews who never were baptized as Christians: John the Baptist (ironically never baptized by the formal Sacrament), Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Joachim. (Saint Anne outlived Joachim by many years and was probably baptized Christian, as was the Blessed Virgin Mary in her later years.)

Did John the Baptist understand that God is three Persons?

{7:19} And John called two of his disciples, and he sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are you he who is to come, or should we wait for another?”

John was not even sure if Jesus was the Messiah, so he certainly did not have our understanding of the mystery of the Trinity. And do I need to point out that, as a mystery, we do not fully understand this belief ourselves. So it’s understanding cannot be a necessity to salvation.

Pope Saint John Paul II teaches that even some persons who outwardly reject the Christian Church can be saved, which means they can enter the state of grace and become implicit members of the sole Ark of Salvation, the Catholic Church. And this implies that belief in the Trinity is not necessary to obtain the state of grace and the three theological infused virtues.

Muller: Muslims “can only pray to a distant God, submitting to his will as an unknown destiny. Their prayer expresses the blind subordination to the dominant will of God. The Christian instead prays that the will of God be done, a will that we do in liberty and that does not make us slaves, but free children of God.”

Cardinal Muller has no right to stand in judgment over 1.8 billion Muslims and declare that none of them are close to God, none submit to His will as loving adopted children of God, none have the liberty of true children of God. In fact, these types of assertions, predicated as they are on the heretical claim that only persons baptized with water are adopted children of God, are also heretical.

Muller: Christians “do not view their neighbors, who do not want or cannot believe in God, as opponents or victims of the Zeitgeist to be pitied, but as brothers whose Creator and Father is the only God, the One who seeks them out.”

Unfortunately, many conservative Catholic Christians do take the above-described sinful view of their neighbors. They treat non-Christians and any Catholics or Christians who disagree with their own understanding and misunderstanding of the Faith with denigration and contempt. They even treat the Pope and the Bishops with contempt, in as much as these successors to the Apostles do not speak and act in accord with their narrow-minded and pride-filled misunderstandings of the Faith.

Jesus taught us to view persons with different beliefs from our own — the good Samaritan, the Centurion, the woman of Canaan — as loving persons who may well be in a state of grace, and filled with love, faith, and hope. But Cardinal Muller is rejecting that teaching, too. Ironically, in the same talk in which he condemns denigrating those with other beliefs, he does so himself in the way that he speaks of Muslims.

Muller claims: “even Islam has faith in the one God, but which is understood as a natural faith in the existence of God and not as faith as a virtue infused with hope and love, which makes us sharers in the life of God, ensuring that we remain in him and he in us.”

The Centurion and the woman of Canaan each had “great faith” according to Christ himself, therefore, they had faith enlivened by love and hope, and were in the state of grace. Similarly, Muslims who love God and neighbor must have supernatural love. And having supernatural love, them must also have supernatural faith and supernatural hope. Their works of love of God (prayer, worship, obedience) and their works of mercy to others prove that their love is supernatural, thus proving that their faith is also supernatural.


Cardinal Muller publicly asserted material heresy, repeatedly, by denying the teaching of the Council of Trent that persons who have received only a baptism of desire, not a baptism with water can have the state of grace, the virtues of love, faith, and hope, and adoption as children of God.

We have reached a situation in the conservative Catholic subculture where any conservative Catholic leader or teacher can accuse the Vicar of Christ of formal heresy, and yet be praised by Catholics all over the world for this grave sin against Christ himself.

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul persecuted individual believers. By doing so, he was not only persecuting the Church, but also persecuting Christ himself. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5). So it is with any Catholic who persecutes anyone in the state of grace. They are implicit members of the Church by an implicit baptism of desire, and so whoever persecutes them, persecutes Christ himself and His Church.

This implicit persecution of the Church, by persecuting loving persons who are non-Christians is made all the more clear when the same persecutors turn their malice toward Pope Francis and the Bishops who assist him. And malice is always an all-cause mortality. (I am not accusing Cardinal Muller of malice, but only of asserting material heresy. It is some of Muller’s supporters who openly express malice toward anyone whom they think has the wrong understanding on relgion.)

Now every conservative Catholic leader and teacher is treated as if he or she were above reproach, no matter how clear it is that they have committed sins of public formal schism (the Open Letter signatories and supporters) and sins of public formal heresy (by rejecting the dogma that each Pope has the gifts of immunity from grave error and a never-failing faith). But at the same time that every conservative Catholic leader is above reproach, they all think nothing of reproaching the Roman Pontiff himself, even to the extent of accusing him of material or formal heresy. (I’ve already documented on this blog the many heretical errors of various prominent conservative Catholic leaders.)

None of these conservative Catholic media outlets who give a platform to teachers of heresy and promoters of schism seem to care one whit that Cardinal Muller has contradicted the dogma of the Council of Trent. He hits all the conservative Catholic talking points. He supports them in their pride-filled schismatic and heretical rejection of Pope Francis. They hide behind his scarlet cassock, so that they will not seem like schismatics (“See, a Cardinal is on our side in hating Muslims! So we must be right!” Really? Have you not read that one of the Twelve was a devil?)

{6:71} Jesus answered them: “Have I not chosen you twelve? And yet one among you is a devil.”

So the fact that a few Cardinals and Bishops join the schismatics, who are so filled with pride that they literally think themselves to be more Catholic than the Pope, is of no avail. They are automatically excommunicated for their rejection of Pope Francis. Now Muller’s error above, as I said, is perhaps only material heresy. Formal heresy automatically excommunicates, but not mere material heresy. Formal heresy is the deliberate and knowing adherence to (or teaching of) material heresy. Muller is not excommunicated for his grave error above.

But anyone who claims that Pope Francis committed or taught heresy is automatically excommunicated for the sin of formal schism. They know that he is the Roman Pontiff, and they reject his role as Teacher and Shepherd over them. It is not sufficient to merely accept that he is the Pope. Even an atheist accepts that Francis is Pope. You must accept Pope Francis as your Teacher and your Shepherd, over your mind and heart, just as I do. You must accept the dogmas that each Pope has the gifts of immunity from (grave) error and a never-failing faith [Magisterial Teachings Here]. If you resist Pope Francis or reject his role as Teacher and Shepherd, you are in a state of public formal schism and you are automatically excommunicated under Canon law and under the eternal moral law.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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9 Responses to Cardinal Muller on the Adopted Children of God

  1. dom64verona88chrysostomos says:

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  2. Rob says:

    Islam expressly commands its spread by conquest and murder, and its maintenance by terror and execution of dissenters. To whatever extent a given Muslim is faithful to Islam and follows the example of Mohammad, he cannot be said to be selflessly loving his neighbor.

    • Ron Conte says:

      So, as a Christian, you are saying that 1.8 billion Muslims have to follow your interpretation of their religion. You put yourself in the position of judging whether they are faithful to their beliefs, AND you interpret their religion in the most negative manner possible. That is unjust. Many Muslims do not believe in spreading Islam by violence, and they do believe in loving God and neighbor. Many Muslims go to Heaven. Many Christians go to Heaven.

  3. Rob says:

    I think many Muslims do go to heaven, but it is in spite of Mohammad’s example, not because of it. He cribbed some good things haphazardly from the Jews and Christians he knew, and of course God’s grace will use any avenue necessary to reach a willing soul. But Mohammad himself, according to Islamic biographies of him, was guilty of:
    -Child abuse

    And he is considered the perfect man in Islam. If a Muslim imitated him, for instance, he would marry a six year old girl and rape her at age nine.

    • Ron Conte says:

      “I think many Muslims do go to heaven….” Ok, good. But this implies that they enter the state of grace without baptism by water. And if so, then they are adopted children of God, contrary to what Muller said.

  4. Rob says:

    But their adoption as such depends largely on ignoring or papering over the actual teachings and behavior of Islam and Mohammad, i.e. being unfaithful to Islam.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It depends on their interpretation of Islam and how they live according to that interpretation and their conscience. You can’t impose your interpretation on them.

  5. Alex says:

    Despite saying recently that pope Francis should not be called “heretic”, cardinal Muller could hardly hide his true intentions. He speculates on what is dogma and what is not, with the idea to kill any change before it has ever started. Sure the other cardinals know well what exactly are the dogmas.

    Let also remember he tried to silence Medjugorje seers in the first years of pope Francis. Including by banning their free meetings with people abroad. As if he is some sort of vice-emperor or so. Does the Vatican have such power over the normal life of the common catholics? I don’t believe so.

    I wonder, why should pope Francis continue to be so merciful with those prelates who proved times and again they were and are against Vatican II, therefore against the Holy Spirit. The millions of conservative minded catholics (out of a billion or so) are already troubled enough, already tempted enough, to be able to bear even more rebellious temptation without they themselves to stray away.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Popes have less effective power over the Bishops than most people realize. Some years ago there was a Bishop in Australia (under JP2) whom the Vatican tried to remove from his role as head of a diocese there. He had a lot of support from local Catholics, and he simply refused to comply. He withstood the Holy See for about 7 years, and he ended up just retiring. If Pope Francis were to take strong action against badly behaved Bishops, especially those with popular support, it might make the current schism worse. Bishops are successors to the Apostles, so they have some ground on which to stand if they disagree with the Pope. They are not merely the servants or mouthpieces of Peter.

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