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.