Samuel Gregg on two manifestations of Walter Card. Kasper

I direct the readership’s attention to a good piece by my friend Samuel Gregg in which he takes a close look at Walter Card. Kasper’s newest book about mercy.

Kasper’s book is not, apparently, what one might assume it is.

However, Kasper is sending contradictory messages out through the mainstream media, in interviews, talks, etc.

How to reconcile these two, seemingly disparate Kaspers?  Gregg has some ideas.  I think he is on to something.


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  1. SimonR says:

    Well, by virtue of Samuel Gregg’s thoughts on the book “Mercy”, I have ordered one today from Amazon.

    It better be good at over £17!

  2. Brooklyn says:

    I have just started to read this book, and I think it is amazing. Pope Francis said he was very influenced by this book, and it definitely shows. I have come to feel that Divine Mercy is the driving message of the Church today, and we cannot understand the contemporary Catholic Church unless we understand this. This seems to be the basic premise of the Cardinal’s book.

    I downloaded it from Amazon Kindle, a little less expensive.

  3. kpoterack says:

    Brooklyn, if you are correct, than this throws into a better light the Pope’s invitation to Card. Kasper to speak to the consistory. Also, I found the review fascinating in that it indicates that Kasper (at his best) is one of the best arguments against Kasper (at his worst).

  4. Cosmos says:

    Alright, Kasper has finally discovered the “key” that just might make this whole Catholic thing work!

  5. Dundonianski says:

    This is a first rate précis analysis of Kaspar-the final well arrowed question that the real Walter stand up begs me to speculate that this question be also appropriate to Francis! Given that he ( Francis) specifically tasked Kasper to address the cardinals AND that he (Francis) described Kasper’s address as ” serene theology” suggests that he (Francis) is entirely comfortable with Kasper’s presentational content and theology. There will be challenging intellectual/canonical conundrums for us bloggers (and the really important players) later this year methinks!

  6. mrshopey says:

    I had read elsewhere that it was confusing at best that his book was ok, but the speech he gave led you to believe otherwise – not excluding the way he answered about the Church not being against contraception. And then not clarifying when asked.
    Also, it seems wrong that he would then praise a theologian that is clearly outside of our beliefs and say they should examine his (meaning work?). Maybe not his work, but what he is saying is problematic.

  7. benedetta says:

    To determine where this Cardinal is really coming from, I think it is quite simple. One should look at the entirety of his life and witness as well as what he is saying in the fullest contexts.

    As with what the media has been doing with Pope Francis, I think at the end of the day much of what has been quoted with great abandon of his recent visit is divorced from the full context. Very much so. As lawyers sometimes may say, the interviews were all “result-oriented”. Lacking thoughtful consideration of the entire and holistic whole. Also, vaguely smacking of entrapment…

  8. benedetta says:

    I wonder how it came to be that Brian Lehrer/wnyc booked Cardinal Kasper for his show? Does wnyc generally contact Cardinal Burke for interviews when he is in town?

  9. benedetta says:

    From what I was able to catch of the interview, it was the typical pretentious and enforced ignorance of the msm (tens of millions of abortions are just fine with us…but we’re not obsessed…): “Aren’t the Church’s teachings on sex just a bunch of rules for rules’ sake at this point?”

    Can anyone imagine the same question put to any other believer or atheist “Isn’t your belief system just a collection of rules for rules’ sake?” and, “At this point?” Can you imagine anyone preparing for an interview with a major figure in any world religion and evincing in the formulating of questions, no clue for the teachings of that major world religion whatsoever? Nice use of “respect” and “tolerance” and “diversity” that.

    I really have to commend the Cardinal for his patience and kindness. I have him in my prayers. It’s too bad he didn’t mention St. Faustina on Brian Lehrer…maybe they will get around to covering her around the time of the next papal visit? Or no…

  10. The Cobbler says:

    Does Cardinal Kasper vs. Cardinal Kasper remind anyone else here of the videogame trope where you have to fight a shadow version of your own character?

    …No? Ok. I’ll just be over here working to finish my underwater fortress.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    I do not know how much of this text was written by Cardinal Kasper, but it is not to be missed.

    1. Man: A Mystery

    The Church’s confession of faith begins with the two small words “I believe”. Just two small words, and yet they are exceedingly rich in content. The two words “I believe” are decisive for our whole life. For who am I? From what, why, and for what purpose am I? Can I really believe? That is, can I trust? What should I believe, and whom may I believe and trust? Perhaps I should like to believe, but is there not better reason to be distrustful? Does not anxiety overcome us often enough? Do we not have occasion for skeptical reserve? Can I commit myself in faith to a definite religion or confession? Can I say the first words of the Church’s great confession of faith, the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed–the words “We believe”?

    Our lives flow along, day by day, week by week. Normally, everything has its place and its order, until one day the question arises: What really is the purpose of it all? Adam, where are you?

    Even a small child awakening to consciousness will ask adults question after question. What is that? Why is that so? What is that for? Even the parents often do not have a good answer and feel that many things that earlier seemed self-evident to them are not really so. In adolescence, people begin to discover their own identities. From then on, they want to shape their lives for themselves. They protest and question the adult world. In the criticisms of their maturing children, many parents feel themselves called into question. Every generation, and even more so every historical epoch, has its own manner of seeing things and develops its own way of life. We are experiencing this upheaval today in an especially clear way. What remains? What can we pass on? By what can we orient ourselves? Where can we find a foothold, some ultimate meaning for our lives?

    The question about the meaning of life is posed differently for each of us. It can arise as the question about happiness. We experience happiness in so many different ways: when our work turns out well, when we are successful; we experience it in being with a person we love, in a good deed and in service of others, in sport and play, in art and science. We know that we cannot make happiness and that it can fade away very quickly. Bitter disappointments can set in. What then? What meaning does life have then? What is true human happiness anyway? The question about the meaning of existence is posed even more intensely in the experience of suffering, whether my own suffering or that of another–whether incurable disease, sorrow, loneliness, or need. What meaning is there in the suffering of so many innocent people? Why is there so much hunger, misery, and injustice in the world? Why so much hatred, envy, deceit, and violence? Finally, there is the experience of death, when a friend, an acquaintance, or a relative is suddenly no longer among us or when we are confronted with the thought of our own death. What comes after death? Where have I come from? Where am I going? What will remain of what I have struggled for?

    Our answers to these questions are never fully satisfactory. Man ultimately remains a question and a deep mystery to himself. That is his greatness and his burden. His greatness, because the question about himself distinguishes man both from inanimate objects, which are simply present at hand, and from the animals, which through their instincts are closely adapted to their environment. Questioning constitutes human dignity: we are conscious of ourselves and know that we are free to give a direction to our lives. But this greatness is also the burden of being human. For us, life is both a gift and a task; we ourselves must shape it and take it in hand. The meaning of being human is not immediately given with our being. Being human is a journey, then, into the wide open and the unforeseeable.

    We can repress the question about meaning, run away from it, or dismiss it as unanswerable. There are many ways to do this: a flight into work, activity, consumption, sex, pleasure, alcohol, or drugs. In fleeing, we deceive only ourselves; we run away from ourselves. The meaning of being human is a question which belongs to our dignity precisely as humans. If we no longer posed the question about ourselves, we would regress to the level of clever animals. So the question is posed unavoidably for us: What is it to be human? Where have we come from? Where are we going? This is the old catechism question, old and yet always new: For what purpose are we on earth?

    (From The Church’s Confession of Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, published by the German Bishops’ Conference, main text by Professor Walter Cardinal Kasper, translated for Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987 by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, pages 15–16.)

  12. Father Bartoloma says:

    This book was written and was originally published during the pontificate of Benedict XVI. It is the English translation that is coming out now. Cardinal kasper relates that during the conclave, his room was across from Cardinal Bergoglio’s room and that the future Pope had read the then recent Spanish translation and was very complimenary. Again though: the book itself was written and published in the much different atmosphere during the Ratzingerian papacy.

    Fast-forward to the present with Cardinal Kasper on a book tour in a very different atmospher, under a very different Pope, and with the (who would have ever thought it) unofficial designation of Cardinal Kasper as the “Pope’s theologian”.

    My take is that the real Walter Cardinal Kasper is the one who now is very loquacious and frank on these present book tours and at these various institutions. This is the “Francis effect” on Cardinal Kasper. I don’t buy that it is all a bunch of “oops.. He misspoke” and “oops, something got lost in the translation or mixed up with his English word choice or German accent.”

    I think that his remarks on this book tour, whether official or conversational in interviews and chats with those who will quote him or tweet out his words, are very much intentionally chosen. I believe that those remarks are even more important than the book that he is “on tour promoting”.

  13. benedetta says:

    Charles E Flynn, thanks for that. Isn’t it a pity that the distorted presentations of the Cardinal recently in the news barely touched upon the heart of what Cardinal Kasper has been saying, for all his life it seems.

    I echo Brooklyn’s comment. Personally I have found countless opportunities to invoke the Divine Mercy in my own life since about 2007, at times almost constantly.

    I believe few Catholics could endure what I have had to face without the benefit of Divine Mercy, which, in addition to helping me to withstand attacks, has also I’m certain showered countless souls with grace and love far beyond whatever I could do to help them through whatever their confused obsession. If this is the future for people who like myself attempt to live their faith, even while still a sinner as much as the next, then the Church will continue on in holiness and love into the next millenia. “Jesus, I trust in You.”

  14. benedetta says:

    Many say that women’s ordination is the holy grail of dissident groups. But perhaps the stairway to heaven for this collective is to undermine the sacrament of marriage in the first instance? Why suddenly does this crowd so publicly and frenzied like push this narrow issue?

    I believe he has done excellent things as a Cardinal. But maybe he is very wrong to say that “heroism isn’t for the average Christian”. At the end of the day how many people seek after heroism. It is not really a matter of whether the opportunity will present, it seems, in these times. It is more a matter of what our response will be.

  15. benedetta says:

    There certainly is a hollow ring when for decades the Church has scorned the notion of supporting Catholic families in its advocacy, catechesis, sacraments, schools, institutions, media, for many decades. The time for mercy to be applied is in formation of Catholic youth, hard Catholic identity, teaching the truth and not scandalizing children about it, teaching the virtues, teaching prolife holistically, helping Catholic youth to avoid the sordid and broken culture that is being foisted upon all American youth, encouraging healthy Christian friendships. It’s hard to find any credibility from this group asking for the imprimatur on civilly divorced and remarried when the same group did quite a very little in any form to prevent the attacks on the family that have been long in coming and waged war on it for several decades now. The Church is a field hospital now, it’s true, but in the battle, where was florence nightingale? Even now it is not too late and this group balks even at throwing their considerable clout behind, prolife, what’s not to like in letting the next generation live?

  16. benedetta says:

    The Church’s focus when it comes to a synod on the family should be on Catholic youth. How not to repeat what has occurred. Acknowledge what divorce does to families and find practical ways to support sacramental marriages and families. Encourage Catholics to marry in the Church.

  17. Pingback: Two Cardinals = One Modernist | Mundabor's Blog

  18. Brooklyn says:

    Excellent interview that Father Matt Malone does with Cardinal Kasper about his book on mercy that you can watch on YouTube. The interview takes places in beautiful St. Paul’s Church in NYC. This interview was just recently done while the Cardinal was in NYC and gives great insight into his theological views.

  19. benedetta says:

    Nice. I have great admiration for Cardinal Kasper and am grateful for his profound witness over the years. Perhaps the magazine will do one with Cardinal Burke one of these days, also a theological heavyweight in our American contemporary church. Both Cardinals, like our Holy Father himself, are greatly concerned for a renewal of Catholic support for the family and particularly youth.

  20. benedetta says:

    I like also how Cardinal Kasper acknowledges in all these press occasions of the last two weeks how much more needs to be done to support Catholic marriages and help them to continue intact given the failure of the foisting of some of the secularist ethos upon Catholics from within the Church. It’s really bizarre that many refuse to pick up the complete message the Cardinal presents on marriage to seize upon and push just one isolated aspect, at the expense of the dire need that Catholic youth find themselves in today with very little at levels of so much Catholic media, university, parishes, etc in terms of encouragement to live a sacramental life. Particularly shocking given that the pastoral initiative that adopted unquestioningly the popular ethos as good enough for Catholics has been a total disaster. It seems that some would seek to push the relatively narrow question of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics at the expense of a deep renewal of the sacrament of marriage, from the very roots and heart of the Church. I wonder why some allowed themselves to become so preoccupied in this quite closed minded manner.

  21. benedetta says:

    In the commonweal interview, Cardinal Kasper said “I am not in favor of women’s ordination.”

  22. benedetta says:

    Here, in Pope Francis’ own words, is what this Synod on the Family is all about:

    “This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task.”

    And further on: “May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”

    It seems that the argument put forth in these last couple weeks by the usual elitist and relatively few faketivist American dissidents is, as usual, that affected innocent children who are damaged by adults’ poor choices do not in fact matter, and, that even if their scars are ongoing, that adults who have left their sacramental marriages to commit adultery and rewound children over and over despite the amicable adult secular domesticated customs and rituals and following the letter of the law, ought to be given the Church’s stamp of approval, even if completely removed from sacramental theology and pastoral reality which must take into account children. Perhaps it is not such a bad thing if a child of such a situation observes their parent refraining from receiving communion and instead joins him or herself to a penitent communion with Christ. Perhaps pastorally that would have an altogether healing effect. The way of self pride of the ones in power may not in fact always be the best way pastorally for all involved.

  23. Vecchio di Londra says:

    One might say of the good Cardinal’s current position, that he respects marriage and the family so much, he’s happy for Catholics to have several of both.
    Many commentators are delighted with the book’s orthodoxy: I find its propagation right now raises some questions.
    The book’s *relatively* orthodox content is partly explained by the fact that Kasper wrote and published it during the papacy of Benedict XVI, a rigorous theologian who (Kasper knew) would brook no ambiguity or hint of heterodoxy from a Cardinal. And Kasper also knew that as a German fellow-theologian Benedict could of course easily read and precisely understand the book as soon as it was published in 2012. And that he would be looking for a sign that Kasper had moved on from his rebellious stance of 1993: the notorious ‘Letter’ to which Ratzinger had taken strong public exception.
    Kasper’s position at the recent Consistory was radically different from the book’s tendency: much more modernist and maverick, reverting to the convictions on remarriage and the Eucharist that the Cardinal was well-known for having had from the 1970s. So why is Kasper now eagerly promoting the English translation of a book that he knows does not reflect his current or previous viewpoint?

    Could it be a Trojan horse?

    As for that passage from the Catechism quoted by Charles Flynn above, I’m afraid the very idea that German Catholics (or catechized non-Catholics) have to plough through that stuff left me shaking my head. It is very typical of Kaspar’s written style.
    “This is the old catechism question, old and yet always new: For what purpose are we on earth?”
    Oh? is it? was it? Actually, I recall the ‘old Catechism’ question framed a little differently…:-)
    Just scan quickly through that whole German Catholic Catechism passage again: in all those 757 words all about man and his quest for himself and for his own meaning, do you spot any word missing?
    Quite a short word? Three letters? Begins with ‘G’?

  24. snoozie says:

    Father Bartoloma,

    What an EXCELLENT analysis….reads spot on. Thank you for that, and God bless and protect you.

  25. benedetta says:

    Father Bartoloma,
    So you are in agreement with Vecchio di Londra.

    I will say that given the book, Mercy, published under Bendedict XVI, and then seizing upon all these dissident outlets for this raging “book tour” at this particular moment in time…and then with all of those outlets focusing in interviews on quite narrow interests compared with those of the universal Church seems…rather curious, no? Did he also sit for an interview with the N C Register? EWTN?

  26. benedetta says:

    According to these statistics, the future of the Church is already here…considerably lower rates of divorce as compared to the general population. Is this really the appropriate time for the Church to completely change the sacramental character of marriage itself? By swimming against the popular tide, Catholics are already showing that they value marriage in a different way. Given the incredibly odds against young marrieds in our times, that young Catholics have managed to lead the way on behalf of the communion of the family in this way really says something about what is possible and hopeful and pastorally important in the contemporary Church. One cannot doubt that pastoral outreach to divorced is necessary, and of course in our times the stigma that one would have experienced say during the 50s is comparatively nill.

  27. anna 6 says:

    I had the same thoughts as Father Bartoloma after reading the Gregg article. Only he expressed them far more eloquently than I could.

  28. RJHighland says:

    After reading the Gnostic Books I realized that the majority of what they wrote was solid teaching, the things that stand out though are those few passages in those books that divert from the teachings of the Apostles/Church. The Cardinal’s writings should not be praised because he is actually presenting some or mainly Catholic teaching in his book, he is a Cardinal of the Church isn’t he? What should be condemned are the areas where he twists or does not present accurately Church teaching especially his talking points. Judas was good most of the time it is just that one decision and action he made that possibly altered his place in eternity and the view of him in the hearts of the faithful. Hey but maybe being occasionally right is the new standard for the Church, looking forward to his Canonization to be put up there with John XXIII and John Paul II the icons of Catholic teaching in the late 20th century. I think we should take another look at Hans Kung there is potetial there, he may have actually gotten something correct.

  29. robtbrown says:

    RJHighland says:

    After reading the Gnostic Books I realized that the majority of what they wrote was solid teaching, the things that stand out though are those few passages in those books that divert from the teachings of the Apostles/Church.

    Although there is no Gnostic Deposit of Perfidy, nevertheless, Gnosticism denies explicitly or implicity: 1) That God is ontologically sovereign and created all things; 2) That God took flesh, having a human nature.

    Both are the pillars of the Christian Church.

    BTW, the Fourth Gospel says that Judas was a thief.

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    “The Church’s Confession of Faith: A Catholic Catechism for Adults” does not mention God in its opening pages because its structure is to describe in great detail the other answers to the age-old question, and to show how they are defective.

    I wish the book were in print, and I wish I could find the passage that says something to the effect that “the mystery of God is revealed as the mystery of a boundless love that pours itself out forever.”

  31. kay says:

    So as one other website says I have to read Francis through Benedict now I must read Kasper through Kasper?

    Why can’t these men say what they mean and mean what they say instead of hiding behind “translation misfunction” or “different pope different meaning”. Such nonsense. We the laity bend over backwards trying to understand the words on high as if we each need a Rosetta Stone on a daily basis. Its getting to the point of absurdity and I’m getting to the point of tuning out and not caring. Good grief says Charlie Brown.

  32. RJHighland says:

    I wasn’t saying that Card. Kasper is proclaiming Gnostic doctrine, just saying he uses the same literary technique. Fill your writing with some truth and throw in a few curve balls that are false teachings to confuse and mislead the faithful. I treat his writings like the Gnostic books or writings of Arias or Luther, fun to read to see where they go off the rails but not to find the truth or as a guide in my understanding of the faith. Like Card. Kasper they were inside the Catholic Church I just do not see them as being very good shepherds. But that is just my opinion. How has his flock been doing over there in Germany under his guidance, are they seeking orthodoxy or heterodoxy? Are they standing up against the world or moving with the world? You can tell alot about a shepherd by his flock. Is his branch of the Church bearing good fruit or are they in need of serious pruning? If they are in need of a good prunning is it wise to seek guidance from the man that is not willing to be a good gardener but has let his garden go wild? I pray for God’s mercy understanding that He is a just judge. The four last things are: Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell, not the three last things : death, mercy, heaven.

  33. robtbrown says:


    I was not referring to Cardinal Kasper (I read a couple of his books some years ago) but rather to the notion that the majority of Gnostic writings are solid teaching. The Gnostics, who were the first Modernists, thought that the Gospels contained great stories. They didn’t think they were true, but would produce a kind of spiritual enlightenment.

  34. RJHighland says:

    Your correct, solid probably was poor word usage. How I ment it was as you read them they are in the same style as the Gospel’s as you read along they sound fine, you are comfortable with the characters so to speak, then they take a differant tact at some point that just isn’t consistant with the teaching or our Lord and His Apostles, often subtle but when you read it you know that it is not right. I am of the belief that Satan most often works in subtleties some of my favorites are Luther changing “…saved by faith.” to “…saved by faith alone.” in Romans or the Jehovah’s Witnesses changing “…the Word was God.” to “…the word was a god.” in John 1. Doesn’t take much to try to validate a new heresy. Sadly I see too many of the same type of subtleties in the Vatican II documents and teachings of many of the leaders in the modern Church, Card. Kasper being one of them and Karl Rahner was the master at turning something very simple into something very confusing and complex. How did something God taught to some Jewish fisherman become so complicated and easily twisted?

  35. RJHighland says:

    Wow, I just opened Jeremiah and started reading and I had opened to Jeremiah 8 starting at verse 4 it talks of Israel’s Conduct being Incomprehensible. Fantastic read it seems to apply directly to Cardinal Kasper and sadly so many of the post Vatican II Bishops and Popes. The most applicable line would be: [How can you say, “We are wise we have the law of the Lord”? Why, that has been changed into falsehood by the lying pen of the scribes!] Tell me history doesn’t repeat itself.

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