Card. Kasper gives YET ANOTHER interview to America Magazine and an Argentinian daily

Walter Card. Kasper, author of a proposal for the civilly remarried to receive Communion – and thus to create an under-class of Catholics, “tolerated but not accepted” Catholics, has given an interview – yet another – to Amerika, which has been an open and biased cheerleader for Card. Kasper’s notions, and La Nación, a major daily in Argentina.  (No, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he chose a paper that the Pope is likely to follow.)

Q. There is much interest in this synod, especially regarding how it will deal with the question of whether there will be some opening towards Catholics who are divorced and remarried.

A. [KASPER] Yes, this interest in church questions is a positive thing and we should be grateful for it. But the problem is that some media reduce everything at the synod to the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried people. The agenda of the synod is much, much broader and concerns the pastoral challenges of family life today. The problem of divorced and remarried is one problem, but not the only one. Some media give the impression that there will be a breakthrough and start a campaign for it. [Like… Amerika?  Which has been Card. Kasper’s official English Stratocaster?] I too hope there will be a responsible opening, but it’s an open question, to be decided by the synod. We should be prudent with such fixations otherwise, if this doesn’t happen, the reaction will be great disillusion.  [And who can say that that isn’t among the objectives of the Left?]

Q. Some cardinals and bishops seem to be afraid of this possibility and reject it even before the synod meets. Why do you think there is so much fear of a development in the church’s discipline?

A. I think they fear a domino effect, if you change one point all would collapse. That’s their fear. This is all linked to ideology, an ideological understanding of the Gospel that the Gospel is like a penal code.  [?!?  No, that’s not nasty.  Keep reading.]

But the Gospel is, as the Pope said in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium), quoting Thomas Aquinas, the Gospel is the gift of the Holy Spirit which is in the soul of faithful and becomes operating in love. That’s a different understanding. It is not a museum. It is a living reality in the church and we have to walk with the whole people of God and see what the needs of the people are. Then we have to make a discernment in the light of the Gospel, which is not a code of doctrines and commandments. [So, Gospel = joy.  Doctrines and commandments = … ?]

Then, of course, there is also a lack of theological hermeneutics because we cannot simply take one phrase of the Gospel of Jesus [Which we know mostly from the Gospels of MML&J.] and from that deduce everything. [We can’t take just one phrase… even if it’s crystal clear and the words of the Lord Himself?] You need a hermeneutic to see the whole of the Gospel and of Jesus’ message and then differentiate between what is doctrine and what is discipline. Discipline can change. So I think we have here a theological fundamentalism which is not Catholic.  [I think he just suggested that defense of the non-admission of civilly remarried Catholics to Communion, based on a phrase – never mind that it is the Lord speaking – is “theological fundamentalism”.  Am I wrong?]

Q. So you mean you cannot change doctrine but you can the discipline?

A. Doctrine, in so far as it is official binding doctrine, cannot change. So nobody denies the indissolubility of marriage. I do not, nor do I know any bishop who denies it. But discipline can be changed. Discipline wants to apply a doctrine to concrete situations, which are contingent and can change. So also discipline can change and has already changed often as we see in church history. [What is the message in this?  Okay, we teach that marriage is indissoluble.  Now that we have admitted that, you who are living in civil re-marriage can just pretend that the doctrine of indissolubility doesn’t apply to you because, if it did, you would feel bad.  Is that it, or did I get that wrong?]

Q. What did you feel when you learned that this book of the five cardinals was being published which attacks what you said?

A. Well first of all everybody is free to express his opinion. [Or…maybe not! We all know that this isn’t entirely true in the Church.] That is not a problem for me. The Pope wanted an open debate, and I think that is something new because up to now often there was not such an open debate. Now Pope Francis is open for it and I think that’s healthy and it helps the church very much.

Q. There seems to be fear among some of the cardinals and bishops because as the Pope said we have this moral construction which can collapse like a pack of cards.

A. Yes, it’s an ideology, it’s not the Gospel.  [?!? Read that again.  It’s an “ideology”.]

Q. There’s also a fear of the open discussion at the synod.

A. Yes, because they fear all will collapse. But first of all we live in an open pluralistic society and it’s good for the church to have an open discussion as we had at the Second Vatican Council. It’s good for the image of the church too, because a closed church is not a healthy church and not inviting for the people of the day. On the other hand when we discuss marriage and family we have to listen to people who are living this reality. There’s a ‘sensus fidelium’ (‘sense of the faithful’). [The problem is that for there to be a “sensus fidelium“, the sensus is of the fidelium… the faithful.  “The faithful” aren’t just the rank and file, just lay people.  They are also the clergy.  Also, they must be “faithful”, which doesn’t mean simply that they have some opinion or other, more or less well-formed.  Moreover, in no way can “sensus fidelium” be a matter of polling or majority opinion.] It cannot be decided only from above, from the church hierarchy, [nor can the hierarchy be excluded!] and especially you cannot just quote old texts of the last century, [Like that outdated Catechism of the Catholic Church or the even older Familiaris consortio.] you have to look at the situation today, [and then again, and again and again… tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…] and then you make a discernment of the spirits and come to concrete results. I think this is the approach of Pope Francis, whereas many others start from doctrine and then use a mere deductive method. [I think he just contrasted “discernment” and “deduction”. Is that what you read?]

Q. In a sense the synod is like a replay of the Second Vatican Council.

A. Yes, I think it is a very similar situation. Immediately before the Second Vatican Council there were Roman theologians who had prepared all the texts and expected the bishops would come and applaud and in two or three weeks it would all be over. But it didn’t happen in this way, and I think it will also not happen this time.

Q. In an Italian daily, Il Mattino, you are reported as saying that you think the real target of these attacks is the Pope not yourself.

A. Maybe it was a bit imprudent of me to say it. But many people are saying this; you can hear it on the street every day. I myself do not want to judge the motives of other people. [Watch this!] It is obvious that there are people who are not in full agreement with the present pope, [See what he did there?  The people who are defending the Church’s doctrine and discipline are against the Pope. See?] but this kind of thing is not totally new, it happened also at the Second Vatican Council. Then there were people against the ‘aggiornamento’of John XXIII and Paul VI, though perhaps not in this organized way. Even Cardinal Ottaviani, the Prefect of the Holy Office at that time, was against the intentions of the majority of the Council. [That was a dig at the present Prefect Card. Müller, head of the CDF, he being in the role of Card. Ottaviani and Francis in the role of John XXIII or Paul VI.]

Q. Many analysts think it’s not a coincidence that this book comes now precisely on October 1. There has been resistance to Francis from the beginning, but this seems a more organized kind of resistance.

A. Yes, it is a problem. I do not remember such a situation where in such an organized way five cardinals write such a book. [What this!] It’s the way that it’s done in politics but it should not be done in the church. It’s how politicians act, but I think we should not behave in this way in the church.  [Look in the mirror, Your Eminence.  You yourself put out a book.  Card. Kasper has been incessantly giving interviews.  That’s what politicians do, even as they give stump speeches.  Moreover, it was affirmed, above, that Pope Francis wanted discussion.  Card. Kasper said that himself.  It is precisely through books and articles, rather than through interviews with secular newspapers that true, working theologians discuss and debate.  Let’s review: “The Pope wanted an open debate.”  Card. Kasper now has the experience of open debate as desired by Pope Francis.  His arguments are on display for the world to see.  The other books that are coming, the “Five Cardinals” book, the “Pell intro” book, the scholarly articles in Communio, present their responses and counter arguments.]

Q. In recent weeks the Pope said we must read the signs of the times. He wants the synod to do this.

A. Yes, to read the signs of the times was fundamental for the Second Vatican Council. I cannot imagine that the majority of the synod will be opposed to the Pope on this point.

[But wait!  There’s more.  Now the press.. the media we were warned about, above, as creating expectations and conflicts that can lead to disillusionment, takes up the Cardinal’s water bucket…] Q. In recent weeks too Pope Francis, in his homilies, has spoken again and again about mercy, and insisted that pastors must be close to their people, and avoid having a closed mind… it seemed as if he was referring to people like the five cardinals and supporting you on the question of mercy.

A. I think there is often a misunderstanding on what mercy is all about. Some are thinking that mercy is cheap grace, and ‘light’ Christianity. But it is not that, I think mercy is a very demanding virtue; it is not a cheap thing. It does not take away the commandments of the Lord; that would be absurd. But as it is the fundamental virtue according to St Thomas Aquinas, mercy is a hermeneutical key for interpreting the commandments.  [What just happened?  Did he do anything to dispel the leading suggestion of the questioner? That the cardinals who are responding to Kasper are, in the Pope’s eyes “closed minded”?  Indeed, he did not.  Also, note the use of “hermeneutic” again.  See what he did?  Earlier, Kasper says that his opponents are fundamentalists, who have an “ideology”, which is about the worst thing you can have, sort of like ecclesiastical Ebola.  Card. Kasper, on the other hand, has a “hermeneutic”, by which he interprets the Gospel of Jesus (with or without phrases from Matthew and those other guys).  Then he invokes St. Thomas Aquinas.  I suspect that Aquinas would find the proposal that those who are living in an adulterous relationship are properly disposed to receive Communion simply absurd.]

Q. Some were surprised that the Pope appointed a number of very conservative participants to the synod?

A. I think he did this because he didn’t want to be criticized by selecting only those who are in favor of one position. He wants an open discussion; he wants the other group too to have their voice. He wants to be fair. He does not want to exclude anybody, but to include everybody and have all participate in the discussion. He wants to hear everyone, and everyone should have a voice. And I think this is very positive.  [Is this a different person responding now?]

Q. His understanding is that God speaks through the people and their real situations. [?  Okaaaay… and… ?]

A. Of course. That’s the theological conception in the last book of the New Testament: Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches! In the synod there should be a listening and prayerful atmosphere.

Q. Coming back to the question of communion for the divorced and remarried. Is the communion the prize for the perfect one or is it something to help the sinner?

A. We are all sinners. Nobody is really worthy to receive Holy Communion. [Nobody is worthy….  And, therefore, we shouldn’t worry about grace and mortal sin?] Communion has a healing effect. Especially people living in difficult situations need the help of grace, and need the sacraments. [John 8:11.   Ooops.  That’s just one phrase.  Here’s another 1 Cor 11:27-29.]

Q. So in terms of the sacraments, do you think that at the end of the day the decision should be up to the individual or the couple?

A. No, the sacraments aren’t only private events but public celebrations of the whole Church. The admission to the Eucharist goes through baptism and, after sin, through the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and absolution. [Which requires – from the conscious, at least – for validity a firm purpose of amendment.] Absolution is an official act of the Church, a juridical act. [Watch this…] Therefore divorced and remarried people should find a good priest confessor [do you have the players in mind so far?] who accompanies them for some time [… doing what, exactly?  Hearing their confessions, as a confessor?  Just talking to them?] and if this second, civil marriage, is solid [“solid” in what sense? “Solid” over and against a valid previous union?  Is the Cardinal suggesting that the civil marriage approved by the state now bequeaths to us some spiritual, theological data to consider?  That the civil marriage says something about the validity of the first (actual) marriage?  That the civil marriage says something about .. what… spiritual character of the second “marriage”?] then the path of new orientation can end with a confession and absolution. [And the couple is still living together… right?  With or without sexual relations?] Absolution means admission to Holy Communion. I do not start immediately with the question of admission to communion but with a penitential path. This does not mean to impose special acts of penance because normally these persons are suffering a lot; a divorce is not such an easy thing. It’s suffering. In this situation they need the help of grace through the sacraments and if they have an earnest desire and do what they can do in their difficult situation the Church should find ways to help them in a sacramental way. [This, friends, is dangerous ground indeed.]

Q. This then is a development of pastoral practice.

A. Yes, it is pastoral practice ending in a sacramental practice. [Oh no, it’s only pastoral, it’s not doctrinal.  And so what will this mean to all the people who are preparing to marry in the Church?  They will hear Father explain that marriage is for life, indissoluble.  They will then look at each and, knowing that the divorced and remarried go to Communion all the time, that this talk about indissolubility and “for life” is a shame, will just smile and nod their heads.] The Church by its nature is a sacramental reality. It’s not just pastoral counselling, it’s a sacrament and the sacrament has its own value. To say, “I absolve you” is different from giving good human counsels. It is saying: God says Yes to you and accepts you anew; you have a new chance.


There is a lot more of this stuff.  Go look at it yourselves.

By now it is clear that I don’t agree with His Eminence.

As a former Lutheran, my antennae are red hot.  This reminds me of what Luther would respond when challenged.  Luther, and lots of catholic liberals today, will appeal to a “Gospel” which is somehow over and against, beyond the Church.  They create another “magisterium” which contrasts with the Church’s institutional Magisterium.  They are “prophetic” and “of the people” which is the true locus of the Holy Spirit, whereas others are hierarchical institutional, hide-bound, book-bound, facing only the past, ideological and fearful.

I’m turning on the moderation queue.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    If we follow His Eminence’s line of thought, does this mean that once one has committed a baby-generating act, one can regret same, get rid of the child and return easily to the sacraments?

    I find it strange how he can take a truth (i.e., not taking a single line out of Holy Writ) and twist it to mean that there is no clear teaching of Scripture, only a general sense. Surely this is like the self-refuting statement “Everything’s relative!”

  2. Imrahil says:

    I’m not really discussing at all…

    just throwing in that His Eminence is mistaken in claiming that

    mercy is the fundamental virtue according to St Thomas Aquinas.

    (Isn’t he, dear robtbrown?)

    Mercy is certainly a virtue according to St. Thomas Aquinas, and a rather important one as it is immediately connected to charity – but it is charity, of course, for St. Thomas as well as for St. Paul, that is the fundamental virtue in the order of grace. Mercy flows out of charity, but it is different from charity; and when St. Thomas treats virtues as different he means they are different. He can spend an entire article in demonstrating that a couple of virtues, such as “deliberating well”, are actually different from “prudence” proper.

    [As for mercy, St. Thomas then goes on to say that the principal thing mercy actually does is almsgiving, or more specifically what is known as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.]

    As for the order of nature, the chief virtue, according to St. Thomas, is prudence. Not mercy either.

    The notion that anything really important (which mercy is indeed) must be considered the sole important thing is not Thomistic, it is 20th century theology. I like to call it nothing-butism.

    [I paraphrased from memory, only looked up one of the virtues distinct from but related to prudence, to make my example.]

  3. slainewe says:

    “Q. Some were surprised that the Pope appointed a number of very conservative participants to the synod?
    A. I think he did this because he didn’t want to be criticized by selecting only those who are in favor of one position. He wants an open discussion; he wants the other group too to have their voice. He wants to be fair. He does not want to exclude anybody, but to include everybody and have all participate in the discussion. He wants to hear everyone, and everyone should have a voice. And I think this is very positive. [Is this a different person responding now?]”

    No, same person. A person who speaks of “positions” and “openness” and “voices” and “fairness” and “inclusion;” but not Truth, and the Will of God, and the Glory of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

    I truly dread what may come out of the synod if Our Lady does not intervene.

  4. incredulous says:

    Being on the edge of a two year long breakup of a civil marriage and coming squarely back home to Catholicism, this is all very disturbing. It seems like the carrot of adultery is being dangled before my lustful eyes by a Cardinal, none the less, leaving me to perceive the source of such evil which will result in sure eternal damnation to be diabolical.

    I can’t wait to get my book and read what Burke, et. al., have written. I tire of protestants attacking all that’s good.

  5. Andrew says:

    One of the questions reads:

    Some cardinals and bishops seem to be afraid of this possibility …

    The Spanish is even harsher. For “seem to be afraid” it has “parecen asustados” – literally “they appear to be frightened”.

    Suppose an interviewer was to ask the Cardinal: “why are you so frightened of some opinions?”
    In many ways an interview can be driven by cleverly preselected questions to promote a desired end.

  6. acardnal says:

    And the “Rhine flows into the Tiber” . . . again.

    Hopefully, the bishops at the synod will listen and heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit this time and not the polluted theology of the German liberals.

  7. Deacon Augustine says:

    I think there is only one thing on which I agree with Kasper and that is the importance of reading the signs of the times. One of those signs is that there is at least one demoniac in the College of Cardinals who is willing to give a pass to the guy who ditches his wife and kids, as long as the new relationship lasts for about 6 months or so. The synod should open with an exorcism.

    Again he grossly misunderstands God’s mercy. God’s mercy is not conditioned, but it is conditional. The conditionality of mercy demands repentance – “Go and sin no more.” What Kasper speaks of is sentimental indulgence, not mercy.

    What is most disturbing, however, is the way that he twists fidelity to Christ’s teaching as being “ideological”. This is straight out of Satan’s playbook. He surely bows the knee to the father of lies.

  8. WesleyD says:

    Fr. Z, it seems to me that you hit the heart of the matter when you commented, “We can’t take just one phrase… even if its crystal clear and the words of the Lord himself?”

    The majority of Catholic universities in the West have faculty who teach that Jesus didn’t really say a lot of the things that the Church’s four Gospels claim he said. I worry that this is another row of dominoes, potentially more lethal than the issue of marriage. If Jesus didn’t say what the Gospels say he did, then all of the Church’s doctrines — on the sacraments, on Christology, on Jesus founding the Church — utterly lose their foundation.

    Vatican II stated, “Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven” (Dei Verbum 19). Packed with clarity, this sentence is totally unambiguous. But I have sat through several Scripture classes in Catholic schools where this sentence was never quoted — instead, our teachers proclaimed that “Vatican II opened the door to modern Scripture scholarship” and then invoked the all-flexible “Spirit of the Council” to justify their skepticism about Jesus’ sayings and actions.

  9. Kathleen10 says:

    This is not subtle. It is blatant. He must feel on very solid ground for some reason. This is not to toss darts, these are scud missiles, and there are quite a few of them. The tone is political. It does not sound the least generous, least of all to his fellow Cardinals, whom he has openly accused of being “fundamentalists” and defending something that is “not Catholic”.
    Personally, out of all the rhetoric, what I really dislike is when Protestants (previously) use that saw “God is still speaking” to get the liberal changes they want. To say the Gospel is not a “museum” and all that rot is to say the Gospel is open to (their) interpretation.
    I have no idea what the breakdown is of Cardinals who may feel one way versus another, but if most of them agree with Cardinal Muller…

  10. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    “Yes, because they fear all will collapse. But first of all we live in an open pluralistic society and it’s good for the church to have an open discussion as we had at the Second Vatican Council. It’s good for the image of the church too, because a closed church is not a healthy church and not inviting for the people of the day. On the other hand when we discuss marriage and family we have to listen to people who are living this reality.”

    Dear Cardinal Kasper,

    I am a man living the reality of the Church’s teaching on marriage as a covanental sacramental and permanent bond between a Christian man and woman. I have four children under 4.5yrs old and work a job that often requires 80+ hour work weeks and working up to 36 hour shifts every 5th or 6th day. My wife and I live in a city with no family support. In 2 or 3 years, my job will likely require me to move again to another city with no family support. My wife is clearly a saint for tolerating the difficulties of faithfully living the Church’s call to marital holiness and openness to life. I am trying to be a saint, too.

    Your efforts to undermine the virtue in the life and vocation my wife and I are living by making a sort of equivalence to live-in adultery is insulting and a constant scandal to me and my growing children. I try to evangelize my fellow Catholics and to engage the culture so as to build up the kingdom with people living as Jesus Christ desires us to live. I have brought two other young families into Catholic Church in the last few years, but your efforts paint me as a fool to everyone who sees me struggling with a young and growing family. Your efforts undermine the cohesive theology of marriage found in the Roman Catholic Church and replace it with the sort of sentimental internally inconsistent and cognitively dissonant theology of the Protestant sects saddens me. Coming from a divorced home of lukewarm cafeteria Catholics, it was discovering the simple and consistent Catholic sexual and marital teachings that most drew me back into the Church and into a life dependent on Sacramental grace; you would steal this from me.

    If we are discussing Catholic marriage and family, you should listen to people like me who are living this reality.


    A Son of the Church Militant

  11. FXR2 says:

    Fr. Z,
    I can only say pray without ceasing for Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper, and all of the participants of the synod. We can only pray.


  12. Mike says:

    I think that if the internet–and certain bloggers!–were around in 1962-1965, and after, the “post-Conciliar” period would not have been as destructive of Traditional doctrine and praxis.

    [You may be right.]

  13. Mojoron says:

    This site is amazing. I really don’t know how you have the time to write all this stuff. I barely have enough time to read it and UNDERSTAND it. Keep up the amazing work!

  14. Lavrans says:

    I can see two likely outcomes of this synod. One, an outcome mirroring that which followed the tremendous secular and liberal build-up prior to Humanae Vitae, namely the collective deflation of the agitated and the soft schism of indifference or quiet defiance of Church teaching on matters of human sexuality. This had deadly, eternal consequences for so many – myself included. The other, I’m afraid, isn’t positive either, and that is I could see a hard schism taking place between the German Church and her allies and that of the rest of the world. Peter will try to hold both sides together, even having greater sympathy for aged German prince and company, but to no avail. He will end up providing very little by way of content and clarity, and a whole heaping spoonful of ambiguity and confusion in his Exhortation.

  15. twele923 says:

    “On the other hand when we discuss marriage and family we have to listen to people who are living this reality. There’s a ‘sensus fidelium’ (‘sense of the faithful’). It cannot be decided only from above, from the church hierarchy, and especially you cannot just quote old texts of the last century…”

    How about texts released in the past nine months? Card. Kasper seems to have missed the ITC’s “Sensus fidei in the life of the Church” this year:

  16. RichR says:

    When someone makes the comment in a debate about what their opponent “fears” I immediately know that this person has no confidence in their argument. They must resort to labeling the other side as “afraid” because logic will not help their poor position.

    Why is the tactic of “what are you afraid of” so intellectually lazy? Here’s why:

    Fear is a paralytic. It inhibits a person’s ability to reason and act. So by even intimating that an opponent is governed by fear, what they are trying to subtly plant in the mind of observers is that their fearful opponents are obvious not acting in their right minds or being reasonable. Therefore, anything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

    This type of emotional play is. Dry common and is swallowed by the public who, for all practical purposes, is used to one-liners, sound bites, and 140-character Tweets which require no in-depth reasoning. IOW, many observers are more than happy to have a convenient excuse not to think.

  17. RichR says:

    *this type of play is very common…. Typo

  18. Sam Schmitt says:

    Cdl. Kasper claims that this can be solved through confession. But the sacrament means nothing if the penitent is not sorry for his sins and resolved not to commit them again, which means a resolution to avoid those situations which can lead to sin. This is not just a matter of canon law or mere “discipline,” but constitutes the essence of the sacrament as Christ has instituted it. One is simply cannot be forgiven unless one is sorry.

    In the case of a person who has divorced and remarried, this would mean either living apart from, or a serious resolution to abstain from any sexual relations with their second spouse. But then we are back with the current discipline. Or does the cardinal believe that one can be forgiven in confession without being truly sorry?

    The cardinal tries to cover for this by saying that “absolution is a juridical act” – which suggests (without actually saying it) that the juridical aspect of the marriage in question is somehow resolved by the absolution. But this a no more than a slight of hand – and a pretty lame one at that.

    Cdl. Kasper’s argument, such as it is, seems little more than a rhetorical opposition between “mercy” and “severity,” “law”and “gospel,” “fear” and”openness.” When it comes to actually thinking through the ramifications of what he’s saying, it simply doesn’t make any sense. I am mystified that such pathetically weak “arguments” are actually convincing anyone.

  19. Scott W. says:

    From the interview: “Is the communion the prize for the perfect one or is it something to help the sinner?”

    Wow that was a tendentious rhetorical question. Get it? People against communion for the divorced and remarried are holier-than-thou types who think communion is a reward for perfection. How do these guys sleep at night?

  20. chantgirl says:

    Cardinal Kasper’s “mercy” is utter cruelty to the innocent victims of infidelity. Why is it that the guilty get a get-out-of-jail-free card while the innocent spouse/children are left to suffer? Man needs help to do the right thing, not more ways to rationalize doing the wrong. Kasper is out of touch with the sheep. His approach is a war on women/children.

  21. Antonin says:

    Deacon Augustin wrote: “God’s mercy is not conditioned, but it is conditional. The conditionality of mercy demands repentance – “Go and sin no more.” What Kasper speaks of is sentimental indulgence, not mercy.”

    In the NT when the term “sinner” is used as in he eats with sinners, it has a specific meaning. What is NOT meant is someone who has done wrong and wishes to then repent. Even the pharisees welcomed those. What IS meant is someone who is in the midst of their sin and has absolutely no intention of changing at all. That is what caused the scandal among the religious of Jesus’s day. Jesus ate and yes CALLED sinners. The famous painting of Caravaggio captures this perfectly. Matthew is not the man with the beard as most identify, but is instead the young man at the end of the table with his head down in the midst of taking ill begotten money. He has not yet seen the face of the Lord and yet the Lord is calling him! And calling him in the midst of his sin. He will eventually move from his sin but that is not a pre-requisite. Our Lord’s invitation is the prerequisite. Peter is also pictured as the one supporting the call.

  22. jm says:

    I think this is honestly how Kasper thinks, not some political strategizing. Liberals honestly think conservatives are legalists, etc. I also feel like it is quite obvious he’s sounds exactly life Pope Francis.People’s beef is not with Kasper, but with the Pope who asked him to speak and essentially endorsed him as the Theologian of the Hour. Look, if all the Popes since Vatican II were perfectly happy to allow the vitiating of the Traditional Liturgy, than Francis wanting to radically refashion discipline should not be that shocking. He is a thoroughly Vatican II pope, and Vatican II us shot through with Modernist breezes. Very much Like Obama, Francis is a nice man with noble and very liberal intentions. One way or another, the discipline will be relaxed, whether officially or pastorally.

  23. Rich says:

    As a father and a husband in his mid-30’s (and public school teacher on the front lines of the culture wars), I can’t shake the notion that there are more pressing issues concerning the family than Communion for the divorced and remarried. Not only am I disappointed that there is such talk suggesting that immutable doctrine concerning marriage and the reception of Communion in the state of mortal sin is up for revision, but here’s also hoping that more urgent issues facing the family are addressed at the upcoming extraordinary synod.

  24. Gratias says:

    Well yes, Pope Francisco’s Synod will be like VC2 said the Liberal cardinal Kasper. Prepare for the worse.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear Sam Schmitt,

    the thing is that Cardinal Kasper is separating two things.

    It is a sin, unless excuses arise, to divorce, and it is always a sin to enter into new relationship and to “remarry” after divorce. So far Cardinal Kasper agrees (or at least I take him to); and this must be repented of with “truly sorry” and all, and forgiven.

    According to Cardinal Kasper (as I take him), the particular intercourse in the said remarriage is not, at least not subjectively, a particular sin. Although it cannot either be said to be “marriage act” in the true sense (Cardinal Kasper would agree to that too).

  26. Deacon Augustine says:

    Antonin, when I last looked, Caravaggio’s paintings had not replaced the Gospels as a source of revelation. Nevertheless, you are right to state that the call goes out to sinners in the midst of their sin – this is what is meant by saying that God’s mercy is not conditioned. However, the reception of that mercy, the benefit of it, is very much conditional on our response to its offer. This was the essential message of the readings of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the OF:

    Ezekiel 18,26 “When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.”

    Matthew 21, 31 “Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

    The tax collectors and prostitutes heard the preaching of John, believed and repented of their sins undergoing his baptism of repentance. They received God’s mercy. The Elders and chief priests, on the other hand, did not believe, did not repent and so faced the consequence of God’s justice as Our Lord so clearly warned them.

    God’s love is unconditional which is why His mercy is not conditioned – it is offered to all. But unlike His love, the reception of His mercy is conditional.

  27. PA mom says:

    That believing the literal words of Jesus with regards to marriage could be an ideology, it boggles the mind. I do not, for one second, believe the Holy Father had that in mind.. THAT is confidence, maybe even Pride, to claim to identify a nonverbal, new prompting of the Holy Spirit which nullifies the recorded, spoken words of Jesus.

    Honestly, you have to wonder at the confidence demonstrated here. The simple coordinated act of NOT discussing marriage and morality in most cases over the last many years has already gained them roughly half the Church. Not enough? We need it codified, too?

    How about Matthew 19:10-12. Has thought been given recently to who these “some incapable of marriage” (by birth (homosexual tendencies?), made so by others (bad family life?), renounced for the sake of the kingdom ( those who have been abandoned?). Who are these people and are they hearing the words of Jesus to consider them?

    Finally, I consider it an act of profound love for the Church to help guide people through this very important, maybe most important, issue of life. Earlier in a person’s life and more regularly, with appropriate gentleness and humility, would be my advice.

  28. Gretchen says:

    Cardinal Kasper is very cunning, of course. His arguments, though weak and riddled with false interpretations, will be seen as logical and merciful to many, both Catholic and non-Catholic. He knows he is playing to a supportive worldwide audience.

    This puts those who support the Church’s teachings on the defensive from the get-go. What a long slog we have ahead of us. I feel a heavy burden to know the Faith in a way that, if things were more normal, a lay Catholic might not need to feel. Perhaps that is the problem: so many do not know the Catholic Faith. I thank God for the great cloud of witnesses past, present and future who with Him, constitutes a ‘synod,’ visible and invisible that cannot be shaken. In the scheme of things, the time of Card. Kasper is but a little while.

  29. dans0622 says:

    Dr. Peters and Fr. Longenecker also blogged about this interview (I did too but not very substantively). I’ll just say that this interview gave me no reason whatsoever to rethink my position on the issue of admitting the divorced/remarried to Holy Communion. [That’s an important point. The sides are drawn.] The Cardinal, a week or two ago, lamented that no other Cardinal (among those 5 involved in the Book) talked to him about the issue. If this is how he goes about addressing his fellow Cardinals, with name-calling, I can see why they declined to speak with him.

  30. RJHighland says:

    Our Lord before he accended into heaven stated “Go forth into all nations and teach all that I have taught you and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” Since Vatican II and if this ideology of Cardinal Kasper is accepted it is not the Church spreading the Gospil of the Lord but the Church taking on the characteristics of the world. We know who the prince of the world is. Oh the smoke is getting very think inside the Church. I am praying Pope Francis pulls a Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae moment in the Church, that will help separate the wheat from the chaff. Either way this could be a defining moment in the Church. If they follow the traditional teaching of the Church the liberals will go nuts, if they deviate from traditional teaching there will be a greater split in the Church. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Vatican talks with the SSPX starting back up? [Nooooo. I doubt that most the people involved in this even remember that the SSPX exists.] If they deviate from teaching the SSPX will hammer them (what else is new), if the Synod goes along with traditional church teaching they may need them back in the Church for re-enforcement. Very interesting. The world needs the Church to be firm, we are in the mess we are in because of the weakness of Church leadership.

  31. Antonin says:

    There is a danger in the synod, in Catholic comboxes, in parishes and in dioceses that we will start talking past each other. I think this is what Cardinal Kasper is referring to. And, obviously, he being human like the rest of us is advancing his discernment. The words of Pope Benedict at his inaugaral address are important for all leaders, especially our pastors, to reflect on.

    “My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.”

  32. Antonin says:


    But on the question of divorce and remarriage, the teaching has simply not always been clear even in the NT period. Matthew differs from Luke. Paul has the Pauline privilege. It is evident that the apostles also wrestled with this question.

    Let’s talk real situations. There is a man in a drunken and addicted mind killed his child. He was sentenced and is serving time. The wife is alone, overcome with unimaginable grief and anger. So, if she marries another man, she is going to be considered an adulteress? This is the real world, the real church, and real situations and I am sure pastors of parishes, especially parishes in poor areas, have countless stories like this.

    When speaking, speak directly to this woman? What would pastors, as alter Christus here say?

  33. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Um… the Gospel does include commands and laws and doctrines. Nor is there anything wrong with the Lord’s laws. As the Psalmist says in Ps. 18/19, one of the most popular among the early Christians:

    “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
    The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
    The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
    The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.
    The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
    The statutes of the Lord are true, all of them just;
    More desirable than gold, than a hoard of purest gold,
    Sweeter also than honey, or drippings from the comb.
    By them your servant is warned; obeying them brings much reward.

  34. Unwilling says:

    Desolata, your grief at losing Infans in this horrible way will never entirely leave you; the memory of her suffering will shadow every hour and temper every happiness. You have my fraternal solidarity, but the depths of your feelings I can never plumb. My own sorrows and the challenges that I anticipate are trivial in comparison. I remember how helpless anger overwhelmed you from the time of Infans’ death. We prayed together over and over the Office of the Dead. Even in that dark hour, Christ was calling you to imitate his long-suffering by a cleansing forgiveness of that man, your husband, Maritus. I know any human exhortation to love the betraying murderer would have added more pain in that moment. That is why I sat beside you in silence, waiting for a moment when a recollection that He is with you might bring some respite to your suffering. Now, you speak of the love of Alius, whose kind actions and words have won your heart, not only in gratitude but in moving passion. His friendship, as anyone can see, has brought you some space to escape sometimes the darkness and bitterness of your condition. You can think again of the healing pleasures of manly embraces — and this is opening up in your heart bright vistas of empty longing. As you begin to overcome the emotional temptations to anger, you will now need to beware of the concupiscence to bodily needs. It is natural for you, a married woman, to feel the absence of what you have a right to as spouse. Maritus killed Infans, fruit of both your bodies. His wicked habits and monstrous deed took away from your bosom your child and from your arms your husband. Even as you struggle to quell the dregs of anger from your soul, you must struggle with the longings of mother and wife, longings that so short a time ago were fulfilled so completely. For, Maritus’ action not only robbed you of your blooming motherhood, you are likewise deprived of the intimate consolations of a marriage that is no longer a joy but a desolating trial. And this trial will continue for the rest of your life, or until one of you is gone. He has done you such great harm! And yet, you are called to forgiveness. You will need special graces to win through this long trial. It leads as before to the eternal embrace of the infinite God in the overflowing beatitude of Heaven. And the merciful Christ will provide for you. How you will find joy in such a journey, happiness, even ordinary cheerfulness, I do not know. But the Lord is with you. I am with you. The Church is with you. Terrible though your unique story may be, there are “countless stories like this”. Your witness will give heart to others. Your courage will inspire the recovery of other men and women in this kind of suffering. Your chastity will prove your dignity and strength. I encourage you to speak to Alius about your hope in Christ and ask his support as you continue on your way as a grass widow faithful to God’s call.

  35. Sam Schmitt says:


    So you’re saying that the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage is not settled? Even Cdl. Kasper thinks it is. He states very clearly that he accepts the Church’s teaching on the permanence of the marriage bond.

    And about the situation you refer to, yes, objectively speaking, the woman would be committing adultery if her first marriage was valid. The husband’s subsequent actions do not invalidate the marriage (assuming it was valid in the first place). I know this sounds harsh, but it is based on what Christ has clearly stated in the gospels and the Church is not free to change this teaching. This is obviously separate from how we should speak to the woman and deal with her plight. This isn’t about accusing and condemning people.

    But I don’t understand how, if we are Christians, we can argue that disregarding the teachings of Christ is good for anyone, even – or especially – someone in a dire situation as you have described.

  36. Is it just me, or is this all getting rather absurd? Here we have a cardinal, giving interviews that sound like it came straight from the mouth of some liberal politician hell-bent on changing the Church to suit the world. And throughout the interview he demonstrates such a vicious lack of respect for other cardinals and bishops who are supposedly his brothers and colleagues? Not only attacking them, but using exactly the same languages Protestants and liberals would use: fundamentalists, fearful, political.
    I’m sorry, but I’m simply disgusted with Cardinal Kasper. This goes beyond inappropriate, in my opinion. We need to pray hard for the Synod, and perhaps be prepared for a very bitter war ahead.

    [On second thought, I hope he gives lots more interviews!]

  37. Antonin says:

    Unwilling expresses postive understanding although I would rethink the forgiveness part. That is too complicated.

    And Sam, all I am saying is that the Church has affirmed the permanence and indissolubility of marriage. And it has also celebrated sexuality although that has often been eclipsed. And in this combox alone, I have seen the role of sex as a unitive act completely minimized. There is a lot of postive teaching on marriage, relationships, the body that the Church can and should offer. It should be good news! And yes that includes intimacy, touching. Many married couples sleep in separate bedrooms, do not even hold hands our routinely touch and hug. So the goodness of the body and the goodness of our sexual life as created by God can also be affirmed.

    At the same time, the Church has wrestled with practical pastoral issues. St. Paul and St. Matthew describe some of those. And the entire. long exposition of basis for annulments and validity takes pages and pages.

    My point is that this issue is much more complicated than simplistic postions like Kasper is undermining millenia of traditional teaching.

    But let’s return to the example and assume she becomes angry and bitter. She abandons the church for years and years. She has multiple relationships and eventually finds and settles into a relationship and gets married civilly. She then actually wants to move to forgiveness of her previous husband and turns her mind to spirituality and returns to prayer. And she comes to the parish. Her husband is a loving, Godly, man who supports her unconditionally. It is really none of anybody’s business except her confessor how they live their intimate lives and whether their marriage is regularized. All Cardinal Kasper is talking about is a plank, a life raft for people like this. And, this can be part of the internal forum. This is the discussion and I don’t think it undermines any teaching at all. Look how St. Paul and St. Matthew handled it and you can clearly see the differences and even the woman at the well in John. Jesus did not say you had one husband and four adulterous relationships. He said you had 5 husbands. He acknowledged that status.

  38. Reconverted Idiot says:

    As a recovering Marxist, imagine my surprise at recognizing my old ‘philosophy of Christianity’, drawn from Schelling, Hegel and others (what I generally call “the Hegelian reading of Christianity”), on taking a dip into the very theology of a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The one key mistake His Eminence makes, to my mind, is that he takes the Kantian position regarding the ‘impossibility of metaphysics’ as given. My position has long recognized that metaphysics is simply unavoidable, that despite having subscribed to Kant’s view, I found that sooner or later the questions addressed by metaphysics again loom large, and that bad metaphysics (whether explicit in its metaphysical intent or not) soon produces incoherence and unsound reasoning.

  39. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Cardinal Kaspar is miffed because other cardinals are publishing without first talking to him. Did he consult them before publishing his position? Of course not. As I heard it, a number of cardinals objected to his statement in the February consistory, on the spot. But he did not answer their objections, he just went ahead and published.

    Besides, he has long since been heard and rebutted on this matter, 20 years ago, by Pope St. John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Kaspar belongs to the liberal school that believes in taking as many votes as necessary. Losing just means we will have another vote. When they win, elections are over.

    Kaspar sees a new papacy as an opportune time to stir things up again. He knows from the pre-Synod survey that many people in Europe are already doing as they please, so he is well ahead in the battle between praxis and doctrine. All he needs now is for the Synod or the Pope to just waffle a bit, only fail to make a clear statement of traditional doctrine and practice, and he will be way ahead.

  40. Unwilling says:

    Antonin, thanks for the nod.
    “Jesus did not say you had one husband and four adulterous relationships. He said you had 5 husbands. He acknowledged that status.”
    Antonin, regarding Jesus’ recognition of the woman’s “husbands” you need to keep in mind the whole passage, everything he said there. John 4:17-18. The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.”
    Note that the woman says she has no husbands and Jesus says that she speaks right and truly. So, he is actually not “acknowledging” those men as husbands, but emphasizing that they were not husbands. The Gospel writers did not have scare quotes, but the function of such quotes is evident in the words: you have had five [so-called] “husbands” and [even] he whom you have now is not your husband. The woman has “lived with”, as we say now, five men. But none of them, as the woman said and Jesus agreed, were a real husband. Of course, my heart goes out to people caught up in these irregular connections. Jesus convicted the woman of porneia, but he treated her with respect and kindness. Merciful empathy does not substitute for actual matrimony. Living in sin creates grave difficulties not only in loss of the intimacy of Communion, but even worse; unable to embrace an honest “firm purpose of amendment, even access to Sacramental Absolution is lost.

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  42. The Cobbler says:

    “The notion that anything really important (which mercy is indeed) must be considered the sole important thing is not Thomistic, it is 20th century theology. I like to call it nothing-butism.”
    That’s not 20th century theology… arguably it’s just the nature of heresy from the beginning. Chesterton, making this point, gives the example that Protestantism tried to demolish everything in the Church but the Scriptures. (Now, whether any given person actually holds to such a nothing-but-ism or simply makes a big deal about something that would be consistent with or well explained by it, that’s another matter…)

    Reality can be as complicated as it wants to be (so to speak). No matter how many or how grave they are though, the complications cannot turn around and reduce the real-ness of part of that reality, such as the fact of what a marriage is and whether or not a given hypothetical/putative marriage does exist. Flip the situation on its head: If I am married to my spouse happily, however briefly or lengthily, is it merciful to say that this all hangs on whether or not we remain happy about it? If my spouse someday reaches that point where they’re happier in their realistically complicated affair with someone else than in my marriage, there are only three possible views (excluding valid polygamy as real marriage, anyway, which doesn’t sound like what anyone is suggesting): either my marriage was real until reality up and changed on me and some other marriage became real instead, or my marriage may be real but I cannot know because I don’t know if in the future some other will turn out to be real instead, or their affair is not true marriage and, inasmuch as it continues to damage and/or dishonor my true marriage, is false, unrealistic, unmerciful and unjust. Is it truly taking reality seriously to suppose either that it can change on a whim or that we can only know it in hindsight when it’s too late? If no to both, even qualified that sometimes we are mistaken (but the reality itself is there to be found at any point and not only after we find out what the future holds), then we must admit that the Church has already got this bit of reality figured out: either a marriage did or didn’t occur, and what’s right or wrong will depend on that, not how we feel about it, however complicated it may be to determine the truth. And I, for one, am glad of it, because it means I can hope to find the truth amid all those complications and because I don’t have to worry that the truth might be as fickle as my own feelings about it all.

    (I am reminded, in writing this, of a scene from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD…

    Villain: It’s just like you used to say, there’s no limit to what one man can do when he becomes something bigger. And that’s what I’ve done: I’ve become something bigger!
    Secret Agent: A part. *A part* of something bigger.
    Villain [frowns puzzledly]: Was that how that went?
    Secret Agent: You mean to tell me you did all this because you misheard my One Man speech?

    In this case, if you’ll forgive my beating a dead horse, the something bigger is truth that is more than the complications and feelings of my own relationships.)

    Here’s the thing I find remarkable about Cardinal Kasper’s discussion (if you can call it that when he never addresses his opponents’ arguments): On the one hand, he claims that he isn’t talking about changing the doctrine about marriage’s indissolubility, yet on the other, he speaks as though what needs to be repented of and forgiven is “the failure of the first marriage” and not the acting as though married to a second person despite the (elsewhere purportedly assented to by him) indissolubility of the first. Assuming that his repeated statements on the matter were not all misspoken, this must imply one or more of three things:
    1) Cardinal Kasper doesn’t believe in the exclusivity of marriage — that is, he believes you can be married to more than one person at once. Essentially, the apparent contradiction in different facets of his position is no contradiction if polygamy is only illicit and not invalid as far as marriage goes; which, I suppose, would explain what needs to be confessed, although I haven’t in these discussions heard anyone address the idea of polygamy qua polygamy.
    2) Cardinal Kasper believes that discipline and doctrine can contradict each other — that mercy means allowing people to continue sinning. Confession may for whatever reason still be necessary to impart that mercy, but “go and sin no more” isn’t. (Why the Church’s form of Confession would be less up for grabs than “what did Jesus really meeeeean behind these quotes”, I couldn’t possibly imagine, but it’s at least not inherently self-contradictory…)
    3) Cardinal Kasper simply wants to have it both ways and doesn’t care about any inconsistency or contradiction in his agenda. Perhaps he thinks logic is un-Christ-like. Perhaps he’s lying about not changing doctrine. Perhaps he just hasn’t thought about internal coherence in regard to his own views.

    If I haven’t erred in my deduction, these are the only three explanations logically possible. It’s worth noting they aren’t mutually exclusive; it could be both 2 and 3, for instance. Personally, I kind of wish he’d come out with #1 just to make this whole thing actually interesting (if only for the surprise); you know, if he isn’t going to come to recognise the error and recant, which is what we all should be praying for first and foremost.

    I think it’s particularly important to note with regard to #2 that Cardinal Kasper goes so far as to say that discipline is doctrine applied to the changing circumstances of this world and must, therefore, also change… which is, in fact, true (though how often the Church’s universal law must change depends how often there are universal circumstances that change, but that’s not at issue here). Simply because Cardinal Kasper seems to think this implies that discipline can become whatever is convenient in this world, does not make that one premise false. It’s what he leaves out that poses the problem with his logic: if discipline is doctrine applied to this world’s changing circumstances, and doctrine doesn’t change, then there’s a limit on how discipline can change, it can’t just be anything but must be consistent with the doctrine as well as with the circumstance — or, in short, the varied circumstances must be judged by the doctrine, and that is what discipline is, not bending or smoothing over the doctrine for the sake of the circumstances. But y’all knew that, I suppose.

  43. mrshopey says:

    I really wish they would pray more and do less talking.
    This also reminds me of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control that resulted in Humane Vitae, not Vatican II.
    Also, I await the response from Pope Francis because I hope to see compound, complex sentences which would indicate he got Pope Benedict’s input!

  44. robtbrown says:


    I don’t think Cardinal Kasper is at all familiar with the thought of St Thomas. Those with his background and approach often pick out a phrase or two but never become familiar with the foundation of St Thomas’ thought. The Summa Theologiae is not an Encyclopedia.

    Although some years ago I read two Kasper books on Christology, I haven’t read this one–and I cannot guarantee that I will. I will say this: It has been my experience that most who misunderstand Mercy don’t really grasp its relationship to Justice.

  45. Dcn D says:

    Kasper is proclaiming a different Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you* by [the] grace [of Christ] for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed! Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” (Gal. 1:6-10)

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