German cardinal Gerhard Müller has said the Protestant Reformation was not a “reform” but a “total change of the foundations of the Catholic faith”.

Writing for Italian website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said modern-day Catholics often discuss Martin Luther “too enthusiastically”, mainly due to an ignorance of theology.

His comments come after the secretary-general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, reportedly said “the Reformation carried out by Martin Luther 500 years ago was an event of the Holy Spirit,” adding: “The Reformation corresponds to the truth expressed in the saying ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda’”.

Cardinal Müller strongly contradicted this view, however, saying it is wrong to think Luther’s intent was simply to fight abuses in indulgences or the sins of the Renaissance Church, the Cardinal said.

“Abuses and bad actions have always existed in the Church. We are the Holy Church because of the grace of God and the sacraments, but all Church men are sinners, all need forgiveness, contrition, and penance.”

Instead, Luther abandoned “all the principles of the Catholic faith, Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, the Magisterium of the Popes and Councils, the episcopate.”

It is therefore unacceptable to say that Luther’s reform was “an event of the Holy Spirit” because “the Holy Spirit helps the Church to maintain its continuity through the Church’s magisterium”.

Cardinal Müller also touched on “today’s confusion” in which “many have come to overturn reality: they believe the Pope infallible when he speaks privately, but then when the popes throughout history have proposed the Catholic faith they say that it is fallible.”