Déjà vu from Card. Kasper and Jesuit-run Amerika Magazine

Jesuit-run Amerika Magazine has run more from Card. Kasper in support the divorced and civilly remarried receiving Holy Communion.  This is the “tolerate but not accepted” solution, which, through “mercy”, would see these people as a sort of second-class Catholic who, after they are sorry for what they have done, can be tolerated at the Communion rail, even though we don’t accept their adulterous state.

I’m not sure how many times Amerika has served as Card. Kasper’s agent in this, but it’s a few by now.  This new piece has the date of 15 September, but, at the bottom, we read that it is base on what they published last May.  No kidding.  First Pete and now Repeat.

The tune hasn’t changed much.  This is part of the “mercy” campaign I predicted would get into full-swing as we got closer to the Synod on the Family in October.  And, just you watch, people who uphold the Church’s doctrine and discipline, will be accused of conducting a war on mercy.  Those who say we must use the lens “mercy” so as to re-read what the Lord taught and what the Church has always affirmed will be accused of being “ideological”.  Just watch.

In any event, let’s glance at a few snips from Card. Kasper’s latest Pre-Synod Repetition.  Jumping in media res:

“[T]he church must proclaim the mercy of God; it must concretely provide people with God’s mercy in the form of the sacrament of reconciliation; and it must allow God’s mercy to appear and be realized in its entire life, its concrete structures and even in its laws.

This is code language.  Words like “structure” bring to mind, what?  For example, class struggle.

His Eminence then seems to ramble for a bit about the rich North and the poor South.  In a nutshell, we of the North (bad and unmerciful) must treat the South (poor and therefore good) with mercy.  We are, therefore, supposed to make some changes and be “merciful”.  In material terms that means give them money through changing all sorts of structures. However, Kasper gets back at it in the next section.  I am sure you can predict it: Just like we of the cold and merciless North must make changes to aid the materially poor of the South, then we of the merciless law-and-doctrine-defending-spiritual “North” (where it’s cold, I guess) must make changes to laws, and I suppose to doctrine, to “structures”, so as to show spiritual mercy to the spiritual “South”, that is, the divorced and remarried.

Simple.  Get it?

Thus, the Cardinal:

“The question many ask is: What does this mean for the church itself and its behavior not only toward those who are poor in a material sense but toward people within the church who feel neglected, put aside, marginalized and excommunicated—if not in a strict canonical sense, then in a de facto sense—because they are not allowed to take part in the table of the Lord? Often one asks: What about people who are divorced and remarried?

So the breakdown of church discipline can in no way appeal for support to Jesus and the New Testament. But because church discipline is in keeping with the meaning of the Gospel, it must also be interpreted and applied according to the sense and spirit of the Gospel. For this reason, Paul makes it clear that the punishment of expulsion is meant to force the sinner to reflect on his or her conduct and to repent. If the sinner regrets his or her actions and repents, the community should let gentleness again prevail (2 Cor 2:5-11). Punishment is the last resort and, as such, is temporally limited. It is the drastic and final means used by mercy.

Here is the problem with this.

In order to receive Holy Communion, we must be properly disposed.  If, after divorcing and not obtaining a declaration of nullity (thus, you are still considered married), you have entered into a civil marriage, you have committed a mortal sin. You are living in the state of sin if you are having relations reserved to marriage.  The word “adultery” is not reserved only to what the guy who cheats on his wife.  That’s what people tend to picture when they hear the word “adultery”.  When Christians hear “adultery”, they think of the way the adulteress was almost stoned by those legalist meanies whom Jesus put to shame with His mercy.  But “adultery” includes more than sneaking around.  Keep that firmly in mind.   Jesus told the adulteress to amend her life (πορεύου καὶ μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε). The civil marriage (after divorce without decree of nullity) is also an “adulterous” relationship, even though there is no sneaking around, even though it looks very respectable, and even if the couple is working really hard at it.  Bottom line: if you – anyone – are not willing to change your situation, if you – anyone – are not willing to “amend your life”, you remain not disposed to receive Communion.   The sin could be X or Y, but the consequence is the same: you aren’t properly disposed to receive Communion.

The inability to receive Communion is a consequence of not being in the state of grace.  It is NOT a punishment.

That’s the key, but let’s see just a bit more from the Cardinal (as if we haven’t see it before):

Such an understanding of church discipline as the bitter but necessary medicine of mercy conforms to a tradition that understood Jesus Christ, in light of his miraculous healings, as doctor, healer and savior; a tradition in which the pastor, in particular the confessor, is understood not only as a judge, but primarily as a doctor of the soul. This therapeutic understanding of church law and discipline leads us to the fundamental issue of how to interpret and explain church law. That is a broad field that we cannot treat here in a comprehensive way, but only from the perspective of the relation of church law to mercy. [Jesus told the adulterous woman, to “sin no more”.  Jesus did not approve of the woman at the well having … how many husbands was it?]

Law and Spirit
So, canon law is not against the Gospel, but the Gospel is against a legalistic understanding of canon law. Canon law should be interpreted and applied in the light of mercy because mercy opens our eyes to the concrete situation of the other. Mercy shows that the individual is not only a case that can subsumed under a general rule. On the contrary, it is essential for Christian anthropology that before God we are not a “plural”; every person and every situation is singular. So we have to find solutions that are just and equitable at the same time. If we do not, then—as the Romans put it—summa ius [ummm… ius is neuter, not feminine.  summum ius, right? lex is feminine and ius (jus) is neuter.  But I suppose, in mercy, we can just make ius be feminine.  I’ll tolerate that in this article, though I won’t accept it.] (highest justice) can become summa iniuria (highest injustice).


He goes on to talk about, again, oikonomia.  YES, he does it again.  He has not yet received the memo: oikonomia is not a solution.  As a propaedeutic for how oikonomia does NOT work to solve this situation click HERE.

This is more of the same thing we have heard and read from the Cardinal for the umpteenth time.  And Amerika, once again, has a new editorial in support of this.  Déjà vu.

I suspect that the Cardinal and the editors of Amerika, just as their former editor, Thomas Reese, SJ (now with the Fishwrap – he had a meltdown about this yesterday), have seen the list of the participants in the October Synod of Bishops and they know that they have lost. Their notions can’t garner the 2/3 vote that would be needed to make such proposals to Pope Francis.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. McCall1981 says:

    Card. Napier has also reaffirmed his support of the traditional teaching and said that the Synod will not satisfy the secular media’s desire for big changes, particularly with regards to communion for the divorced/remarried.


  2. cyrillist says:

    Love the way the cardinal doesn’t bother to capitalize the word “church.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

    [No, not really. I think that is the editor’s style-sheet for Amerika.]

  3. benedetta says:

    No doubt, for the last fifty years or so at least, Catholic marriages, and the families they create, have been under assault. As these folks are vying in a national publication to persuade the ordinary layman like myself as to this facet of their agenda to create changes to doctrines, I would be much more apt to listen to their arguments if they had shown themselves, for the last fifty years, to be advocates and friends of Catholic marriages, children and their needs, particularly those of the poorest, in the first place. Insofar as they have bought into the violent and elitist agenda propped up as “feminism” that states that only expansive celebration of slaughter of a child in utero guarantees the dignity of women for all times and places, I will not be listening or considering their urgent appeal on this.

    Further, in my experience, divorced, without regard for annulment, seem to have, a) quite a large number of pastoral outreaches at their disposal via the Church, more than children have access to solid Catholic education or worthy liturgy, and, b.)no stigma attached to their predicament and c.) receive communion quite easily at any rate as their favored priests do not withhold it. As this group has gone its merry way without regard for anyone else which the mercy of our Faith has already provided for quite beautifully in doctrine already, it is to laugh that they would now couch their agenda in terms of doctrine, pretty much any doctrine at all.

    Social justice begins in the womb. It begins with attending to the youngest and most vulnerable among us. Anyone who betrays those little ones really has no right to purport to speak on behalf of mercy for anyone else, to serve an agenda to change doctrine of the Church.

    After tens upon tens of millions of children have been led to slaughter while these “teachers” have looked the other way in order to promote so many other things, whom do they think is now remaining to agitate for their special needs?

  4. benedetta says:

    I could also pen a few lines…perhaps down the road…about restorative justice, and mercy. About treatment imposed, which is far worse, far worse, than making one feel “marginalized”. Worse things can happen, and we survive. We pick up our crosses, every day, and work out our salvation and find perhaps a brand new never before lived experience of God’s mercy, the peace the world cannot give apparently. So as some complain about this or that finer point, some of us are just trying to get our lives back together after catastrophe. Were they there…? Again, some have looked at the wounds, not been ashamed to look and see, and served to bound up, to lift up. Others rub salt, and continue to, and others pass right on by concerned with so many things of their own choosing. “The quality of mercy is not strained…” It is not just a fine word to invoke, like compassion, or justice, or peace. All of these are experienced, by some of us, with great abundance.

  5. acardnal says:

    I find it interesting that this topic of ‘the family” is going to be discussed at twoSynods – an Extraordinary Synod in October 2014 and at the Ordinary Synod in October 2015. Is this a usual practice? According to the USCCB website, this is only the third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held since Vatican II.


  6. ChrisRawlings says:

    I would be amazed if the Kasper proposal garnered the support of even 25% of the synod participants. Cardinal Kasper is trying to guide a sail boat into a tropical storm, which, of course, is just as it should be. The Holy Father’s selections for the synod would indicate his willingness to entertain a full and robust debate on the matter, but that list includes some of the brightest and surest defenders of the Church’s teaching, like Cardinals Caffara and Sebastian Aguilar, as well as Cardinal Scola of Milan. I feel very comfortable with those three cardinals, as well as the likes of Cardinals Pell and Burke, standing for the teaching of the Church.

  7. Robbie says:

    The Catholic liberals/progressives/modernists feel they have the wind at their backs. Maybe they don’t, but they seem to think they do and they’re acting as if they do. Regardless, they are pushing at every fissure within the Church and, if just one cracks, the whole wall holding them back could easily follow. Their strategy isn’t just limited to this topic either. Just the other day, Thomas Reese wrote an editorial in Amerika about his hopes for the new head of CDW. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty, much like what we continue to read from Cardinal Kasper and Amerika on communion for divorced and remarried.

  8. cyrillist says:

    @Fr Z: “No, not really. I think that is the editor’s style-sheet for Amerika.”

    Okay. In that case: Love the way that Amerika doesn’t bother to capitalize the word “church.” Kind of says it all, doesn’t it? ;-)

  9. Deacon Augustine says:

    “For this reason, Paul makes it clear that the punishment of expulsion is meant to force the sinner to reflect on his or her conduct and to repent. If the sinner regrets his or her actions and repents, the community should let gentleness again prevail (2 Cor 2:5-11).”

    I am furious that a Cardinal of the Church can be so pig-ignorant about the word “repent”! Does he not understand that repentance – metanoia – means to turn back from the sin with the intention not to repeat it? If a divorced and remarried Catholic repents of their adulterous relationship, it does not mean that they continue in it, but rather that they get out of it.

    He seems to confuse repentance with feeling guilty about something, but not having the least intention of changing the cause of that guilt. He is as much use as a chocolate tea-pot.

    However, his presence at the synod is not the most objectionable. How can the Pope invite Daneels to be a voting member – the very man who covered up for abusers in Belgium and leaned on victims to keep silent? What right has this devil got to be anywhere near a synod on the family when he is a spiritual murderer of the child victims of clerical abuse? Has the hierarchy really learnt nothing from all the suffering they have caused and facilitated?

  10. Dennis Martin says:

    Their aim is to repeat 1968, namely, to jinn up (Catholic and general) public opinion for change being the path of pastoral virtue and mercy, then when no change takes place (as it will not) to use the reaffirmation of a teaching that goes back to Jesus as a hammer against the recalcitrant bishops, upping the pressure for change. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, hoping that some years from now, the dam will burst.

    They don’t get the part about the gates of hell not prevailing (they think it was just a metaphor); they don’t really believe in an indefectible Church, in the Mystery of the Church as a living, divine and human organism. To them She is merely a sociological aggregate, whose merely political leaders which will eventually break under the bombardment.

    It’s a good thing that America magazine is only metaphorically playing the role of the gates of hell. I was worried for a while.

  11. bposullivan says:

    It’s interesting that Father Spadaro, a Jesuit whose interview with the pope appeared in America magazine as well as the magazine he directs, has been appointed a member of the Synod, along with Cardinal Kasper. Pope Francis seems to want the Kasper/America point of view to be strongly articulated at the Extraordinary Synod, even if he he hasn’t arranged for it to have a 2/3 supermajority. I’m not sure that a supermajority even matters that much this time around; I thought that any formal proposals would come, after further consideration, at the Ordinary Synod next year. Out of the 2014 synod, it seems like what any particular faction would want is for their ideas to be included, at least as possibilities worthy of further study, in the final message and especially in any exhortation subsequently written by the Pope. And I’m guessing that one of the reasons Archbishop Fernandez, Pope Francis’s protege from Argentine, is vice chair of the commission on the message is to make sure that the message includes proposals that are at least attempts at “merciful” change. So, respectfully, I think it might be a little premature to say that either side has “already lost.”

  12. frsbr says:

    So, if the divorced and remarried “can be tolerated at the Communion rail,” does that mean that we must install Communion rails in order to be tolerant? THAT would be merciful.

  13. SimonR says:

    I think that the Kasper Doctrine is gravely deficient and very wrong. But the Pope personally appointed Cardinal Kasper to the Synod on the Family. And the Pope described in glowing postive terms Cardinal Kasper’s speech to the Cardinals earlier this year:

    “Yesterday, before falling asleep, though not to fall asleep, I read, or re-read, Cardinal Kasper’s remarks. I would like to thank him, because I found a deep theology, and serene thoughts in theology. It is nice to read serene theology. It did me well and I had an idea, and excuse me if I embarrass Your Eminence, but the idea is: this is called doing theology while kneeling. Thank you. Thank you.”

  14. jacobi says:

    “ the divorced and civilly remarried receiving Holy Communion.”

    We are all talking too much about this, loose talk about whether or not the Church can change its teaching.

    The Church cannot change its teaching.

    Divorced and remarried people are living in a state, objectively speaking, of Mortal Sin and may not under pain of further Mortal sin and Sacrilege receives Holy Communion. Any priest who permits this, now or after whatever comes out of this Symposium, is complicit in that Mortal Sin.
    Of course many priests, bishops and laity may well use this Symposium to alter their stand and allow it.

    These people will no longer be Catholic and will be in grievous, heretical schism from the one True Church, whoever they are.

  15. jhayes says:

    Cardinal Kasper says:

    First I want to note: the word mercy is often misunderstood and misused. This happens when one confuses mercy with feeble indulgence and with a weak, laissez-faire pseudo-mercy. The danger then exists of making cheap grace out of God’s precious grace, which was “purchased” and “earned” with his own blood on the cross, and of turning grace into a bargain-basement commodity. That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant when he stated, without mincing words: “Cheap grace means the justification of the sin and not the sinner…. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession….”

    No theologian, not even the pope, can change the doctrine of the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. On the contrary, we all have reason to help and support people to be faithful to marriage for their own good and for the good of their children. So doctrine cannot be changed and will not be changed. But doctrine must be applied with prudence in a just and equitable way to concrete and often complex situations

  16. HeatherPA says:

    This Synod may, ok probably will be one of the catalysts that begins the chain reaction of events that produce the “smaller, holier Church” our dear, dear Holy Father Benedict XVI foresaw and spoke of.

    Obviously, some of the learned don’t grasp the Church CANNOT change teaching in this matter. Are they being deliberately obtuse?

  17. frroberts says:

    We have lost the sense of the relationship between love and truth. In God’s providence, perhaps this synod will help us find a way to bring the two back together.

  18. C’mon guys, don’t be so hard on the Kardinal. Various dioceses, after all, have been accepting known paedophiles at the ‘Communion rail’, and indeed at the altar, for ages. They’ve certainly shown them plenty of mercy by covering up their crimes, and allowing them to move from place to place to repeat their offences.

    So why not extend that to the more respectable classes of sinner as well? I don’t see why not. Nor can Walter Kaspar, obviously … (Note to self: find out what respectable class of sinner I am eligible to join, and join it, pronto).

    But seriously, could someone please buy the good Kardinal a tie-dyed kaftan and a fondue set, so that next time he speaks publicly, he will at least look the part? This North-South income-redistribution thing – is it me, or does the room smell really strongly of the 1970s?

    Poor man. What a lot to pray for.

  19. “Yesterday, before falling asleep, though not to fall asleep, I read, or re-read, Cardinal Kasper’s remarks. I would like to thank him, because I found a deep theology, and serene thoughts in theology. It is nice to read serene theology. It did me well and I had an idea, and excuse me if I embarrass Your Eminence, but the idea is: this is called doing theology while kneeling. Thank you. Thank you.”

    Which is funny, because most people reading Walter Kaspar’s comments on anything tend to then lie awake for a long time, staring at the ceiling, and seething inwardly.

    Mind you, the Holy Father is a much holier human being than I am.

  20. TNCath says:

    If the Holy Father, after consultation with the Synod, decides to change Church practice towards the divorce and remarried, what will he say to all those that for the past twenty to two thousand years were denied Holy Communion? Will he say, “Sorry, we were wrong. It’s ok now”?

    I predict no change in Church teaching here. And this will be THE ISSUE that will haunt Pope Francis’ papacy as Humanae Vitae did Pope Paul VI. Ironically, it may actually save Francis’ papacy from history. But, who am I to judge?

  21. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Excuse me if I am being very obtuse, but when Fr. Z writes

    “If, after divorcing and not obtaining a declaration of nullity (thus, you are still considered married), you have entered into a civil marriage, you have committed a mortal sin. You are living in the state of sin if you are having relations reserved to marriage”

    is he addressing one thing, or two?

    Is the second sentence a specifying gloss – ‘id est’ – on the first?

    Or is the first saying that, you have committed a mortal sin merely by having entered into a civil marriage, even without any intention of having relations reserved to marriage, but instead resolutely living ‘as brother and sister’?

    If the first is saying this, what is the exact explanation of why this is so? (I can think of plausible reasons, but that does not mean I’ve hit upon the answer!)

  22. Norah says:

    The approval for the use of contraception, under certain circumstances, voted during the Lambeth Conference of 1930 did not come out of the blue; there had been years of internal discussion about the subject until the objectors were worn down. So too, many may be hoping, that approval of the reception of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried will be discussed and discussed until the opposition is worn down or, like female altar servers and communion in the hand, Rome may be presented with a fait accompli and weakly cave in.

  23. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    After quaesivi above, I ran into this story:


    Not exactly what I had in mind, but if these chaps are Catholic, will they be committing a mortal sin? Should they be excluded/have they automatically excluded themselves from Communion? If Mr. McIntosh’s prognstication prove only too true, and they divorce, can either of them subsequently marry an otherwise canonically eligible spouse?

  24. Matt Robare says:

    If Card. Kaspar, et al, believe that reception of Communion in cases of adulterous relationships of divorce and civil remarriage should be permitted based on mercy, would they take their reasoning to its fullest extent? It seems to me like the same reasoning would do away with the entire Sacrament of Reconciliation: “You didn’t go to Confession this week? That’s okay, because of mercy it doesn’t matter.”

  25. lelnet says:

    In Card. Kaspar’s world what, I wonder, is to come of mercy for those who absolutely count on the Church as the sole surviving bulwark against the universal proliferation of all that is evil commanded by the present culture? If the Church betrays Christ so nakedly…where shall we go then?

    It would be well to remember that the Church owes at least as much mercy to those, as described by the ex-Orthodox monk in your last post, who are not actually _participants_ in the adultery, but are nevertheless _affected_ by it. “Shut up and get over it” is the only message we in such a position ever hear from any source…except the Church. For many, that one reassurance that someone, somewhere, knows what is going on to be wrong, is all that keeps us going day to day.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Getting “married” when you’re already married is a mortal sin. It’s lying to your “spouse” and the world (or encouraging your “spouse” to lie to support your lie), and it’s faking marriage as well as bigamy.

    Each time you have sex with your “spouse” while both actually married and “married,” it’s a mortal sin of adultery for you (and for your “spouse” if your bigamy is known to the “spouse”).

    Living in a state where you are continually committing mortal sin is called living in sin.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Venerator Sti Lot:

    Since your example is two heterosexual best friend guys getting “married” to win a radio contest that gives away a trip to a sports event…

    Whether they are Catholic or not, they are “simulating marriage” which could be a mortal sin. If the Church regards their action as a political/humorous protest against unjust laws, or a despoiling of people offering money for lewd purposes and hence protecting other people from temptation to sin, it could be regarded more leniently. Civil disobedience of unjust laws is permitted by the Church. So yeah, even if they stay “married” for a couple years and take advantage of it for tax purposes and the like, they might be okay.

    It would be important for them to make it clear that they weren’t having sex, so as not to cause scandal. But they are doing that pretty thoroughly.

    Now, if they were Catholic and they met some nice Catholic girls and wanted to get married to the girls, from the Church’s canon law point of view they would never have been married. A simulated marriage between people who can’t get married is no marriage at all. Obviously they’d want to clear up whether the simulated marriage counted as mortal sin or not, so going to Confession would be important. From a Catholic point of view, I don’t think they’d have to get a civil divorce, but from a civil law point of view (and so as not to allow the ungodly any hold on them with civil bigamy prosecutions), they’d probably want to do so.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thank you for the lucid reflections!

  29. Vecchio di Londra says:

    North and South: the income re-distribution and debt pooling of sin?..:-)

    ‘Tolerated but not accepted’ is rather like the way the police deliberately turn a blind eye to certain kinds of drug crime and theft, because pursuing them would be too much like hard work.
    Cardinal Kasper, like so many modern theologians and sociologists, clearly feels that language is just a malleable servant.
    ‘”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

    Lewis Carroll: ‘Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There’ (1871)

  30. Bob B. says:

    I have to say that all of the things going on in the Church have caused me to start re-reading The Jesuits, by Malachi Martin. It’s been since 1987, when it was published, but I wonder if even he (a former Jesuit) could have envisioned what has happening.

  31. Pingback: Synod for the Family: Remarried and Divorced - BigPulpit.com

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