Is Pope Francis turning away from Kasper and to Caffarra?

Sandro Magister has some analysis of the lead up to next October’s Synod on the Family.

It might surprise you.

The Synod Market Index. Kasper Down, Caffarra Up

Even Pope Francis is distancing himself from the former and taking sides with the latter. And staying on good terms with Cardinal Müller. And promoting the African Sarah. All unyielding defenders of the Catholic doctrine on marriage

ROME, March 20, 2015 – “This does not resolve anything,” Pope Francis has said with regard to the idea of giving communion to the divorced and remarried. Much less if they “want” it, demand it. Because communion “is not a badge, a decoration. No.”

In his latest big interview Jorge Mario Bergoglio threw cold water on the expectations for substantial change in the doctrine and practice of Catholic marriage, which he himself had indirectly fostered:

“Overblown expectations,” he called them. With no more references to the innovative theses of Cardinal Walter Kasper, which he had repeatedly extolled in the past but now seems to be keeping at a distance.

Click to buy!

On the other hand, for some time now Pope Francis has looked with growing attention and esteem at another cardinal theologian, who upholds ideas on the “Gospel of marriage” that are perfectly in line with tradition: the Italian Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna. [Caffarra was a contributor to the Five Cardinals Book™.]As a professor of moral theology, Caffarra was a specialist in marriage, family, procreation. And this is why John Paul II wanted him at the head of the pontifical institute for studies on marriage and the family that he created in 1981 at the Lateran university, following the 1980 synod dedicated precisely to these themes.

So a stir was created last October by the exclusion of any representative of that institute[!] – which since its foundation has spread all over the world – from the first session of the synod on the family.

But now this gap has been filled, because last March 14 Pope Francis appointed among the advisers of the general secretariat of the second and last session of the synod, scheduled for October of this year, none other than the vice-president of the pontifical John Paul II institute for studies on marriage and the family, Professor José Granados. [Although we have to look at the other people who were appointed.]

As for Caffarra, if the Italian episcopal conference does not elect him this May among its four delegates at the synod, the pope will certainly see to including him among the synod fathers, as he did for the previous session.

The archbishop of Bologna is one of the five anti-Kasper cardinals who assembled their ideas in the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ” published in Italy by Cantagalli on the eve of the last synod and now translated into ten languages. [Buy in USA HERE Buy in UK HERE]

And right from the start he was one of the most determined and incisive critics of the bombshell speech read by Kasper at the consistory of February 2014:

In this extensive interview with “Il Foglio” published on March 15, 2014, Caffarra said among other things, with regard to communion for the divorced and remarried:

“Those who advance this hypothesis do not have an answer to a very simple question: what about the first marriage, ratified and consummated? The proposed solution leads one to think that the first marriage remains intact, but that there is also a second form of cohabitation that the Church legitimizes. Therefore there is an extramarital exercise of human sexuality that the Church considers legitimate. But with this comes a denial of the cornerstone of the Church’s teaching on sexuality. At this point one could ask oneself: so why not approve cohabitation at will? So why not relationships between homosexuals? This is not only a question of practice, it also touches upon doctrine. Unavoidably. One may say that it doesn’t, but it does. Not only that. It introduces a custom that in the long run determines this idea in the people, and not only among Christians: there is no such thing as an absolutely indissoluble marriage. And this is certainly against the Lord’s will.”

Further below, in its entirety, is Caffarra’s latest position statement on marriage and family: a conference he gave last March 12 in Rome at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

But first it will be helpful to recall other facts that highlight the growing approach of Pope Francis toward Kasper’s critics.


Read the rest there.

Is the tide turning, or is this a tactic?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. annalisa says:

    “Is the tide turning, or is this a tactic?”
    neither the one nor the other, I bet is a Magister’s wisfull thinking.

  2. snoozie says:

    “…which he himself had indirectly fostered:”

    indirectly??? Give me a break!

  3. govmatt says:

    There were a lot of folks worried about whether there would be problems with a reigning Pope and a Pope Emeritus contradicting one another, but it looks like the bigger problem is the reigning Pope contradicting himself. Are we sure that Pope Francis doesn’t have a secret identical twin who is Pope Monday, Wednesday and Friday?

  4. paladin says:

    Please, Holy Spirit… let this be You, working to get through to our well-meaning, but confused, Holy Father…!

  5. RobS says:

    God bless and preserve our Holy Father!

  6. J_Cathelineau says:

    With Francis you never know. But let me say that today he received in private audience the ultra liberal Roberto Carlés, the 33 yrs old ultra-ultra liberal candidate to the argentinian Supreme Court endorsed by our marxist government with the acquiescence of Pope Francis. Carlés is an LGBT activist, openly pro-abortion. In the meeting was present too Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, a liberal spanish mason, president of the International Comission Against Death Penalty, former director general of the UNESCO.
    I think that north-american catholics should be very ready for the papal visit to Washington and the agenda (or aliance) that seems that will be developed from that serie of meetings (Obama, Congress, UN). It will be Seamless Garment galore. (thanks to american bloggers for let the rest know about the SG thing and concept)
    In diario La Nación (in spanish)
    The good point is that local fanaticism for the papacy (aka papolatry) is plummeting and many questions are arising.
    Just get alert. And lets pray i am wrong about it.

  7. Sounds like a variant of that joke. Q. “What do you call one discredited heretical cardinal?” A. “A good start.”

  8. mburn16 says:

    I expect this whole matter has turned into a far bigger headache than the Pope wanted or expected.

  9. rodin says:

    I join paladin in that prayer.

  10. Brian K says:

    Real signs of hope? Or simply throwing a bone to faithful Catholics to keep them in the pews till after the fait accompli? I suspect we won’t know for sure till the ink is dry on Pope Francis’ summary document after the close of the Synod this fall.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Brian K: I suspect the ink will be dry on any summary document long before the Synod opens.

  12. Bosco says:

    You posed the question, Father: “Is the tide turning, or is this a tactic?”

    My take is that there is no turning of the tide at all. This is but one more example of theological coquetry on Francis’ part, meant solely for public consumption and to disarm would-be critics.

  13. juergensen says:

    This is great news. Don’t know why so many are so cynical. Keep praying that the Holy Spirit fill Pope Francis with the wisdom and strength to squelch the heretics from Germany.

  14. gracie says:

    Fool me once, shame on you.

    Fool me twice, shame on me.

  15. Elizabeth D says:

    Bishop Morlino steadfastly and calmly maintains (and said again yesterday at a Relevant Radio event I attended) that the truth will win, and seems unworried about Pope Francis (ALL his comments about PF are very favorable). Regarding what he submitted to Rome regarding the upcoming Synod, he said what he wrote was what we would want him to write!

  16. Gregorius says:

    At the very least, the Holy Father made it clear at his closing remarks last year that he is at least not unaware of the criticisms of the +Kasper et alii position. I am not too worried, and I don’t see any reason to try and see if the Pope has any hidden motives, particularly as his actions and appointments speak loudly enough for themselves.

  17. Stephen Matthew says:

    I think, in a way, with Pope Francis we have a pastoral pope in the same way Vatican II was a pastoral council. That is to say, it will do sweeping things, but not actually touch the substance of anything dogmatic in any new way.

    John Paul II was the great Philosopher Pope of this age, and presented key insights into a human and Christian anthropology through his theology of the body and very importantly through is time of suffering and perseverance later in life. He taught us more about how to be human and the basics of how to think in the present age.

    Benedict XVI was the great Theologian Pope of this age, he presented to us key thoughts on understanding unchanging doctrine in a changing world, in how to worship God in Sacred Liturgy, He who is timeless while living in a time that is passing away. Benedict taught us more how to believe and how to worship.

    Franics, I think, may be the great Pastoral Pope. He may say things that challenge us, not to violate the teachings of the Church, but how to make the teachings of the Church into a real and living and loving thing in this age. Pope Francis may be the one to teach us more how to love in concrete and messy realities, how to actually be pastoral, and I think he is teaching more about the private devotional life than his predecessors.

    Truthfully, I think Francis is somewhat the every-man pope. He is not a philosopher, nor a theologian, nor a canonist, nor a liturgist. He is truthfully more like the average Jorge. Francis followed two giants, and is probably the only “average” priest of the Counciliar period who will rise to that level. We remember the greatest writings and actions of the prior popes, and largely forget most of what was written or said by prior popes (especially what they said unofficially!). Let us adjust our expectations before we injure ourselves.

  18. Justalurkingfool says:

    It is simply being cunning. No man of character, not at his age or in his position, is duplicitous and unclear. It is neither change nor tactic. This is integral to this man’s being, whether it is the fruit of his parents’ teaching or his own chosen development.


  19. Robbie says:

    I’d like to think the tide is turning, but I’m going to take a wait and see approach. For the time being, I’m going to view this as a tactic meant to turn down the heat. And let’s not kid ourselves, the heat has been turned up significantly lately. Just read the most recent statement from the Polish Bishops.

    Maybe the tide is beginning to turn, but, then again, just today it was announced the Pope will dine with homosexuals and transgendered inmates at a prison. I know the position is love the sinner and hate the sin, but it seems the boundaries are being pushed along a long front.

  20. Uncledan says:

    OK, time for us to step up. Time for an online rosary rally for our Pope! Tomorrow, any time, any place. Just try to say an entire rosary for the Holy Father. Anyone going to mass can offer it up for this intention as well. Easy enough? Who’s on board with me? I hope to see four other people and I’ll be number 5.

  21. The Cobbler says:

    If we want to look for hidden motives, I can think of at least one that I haven’t heard any opinions on, one that’s not a conservative or liberal thing, nor even a Catholic vs. Protestant thing.

    Francis has done a lot to support those who would have “mercy” on a second(-while-the-first-still-lives) “marriage”.

    He has also eschewed many of the signs of the papacy and preferred to be referred to as the bishop of Rome — and done a pretty good job of getting those who are most likely to be faithful to the Church’s authority to talk about the limits of the papacy.

    Eastern Orthodoxy has “mercy” for second(-while-the-first-still-lives) “marriages”, and would prefer that the Pope were nothing more than the bishop of Rome.

    Now, wasn’t Pope Francis supposed to have a good relationship with the Eastern Orthodox? And would it not explain why he’s all over the place on liberal vs. conservative and even Catholic vs. Protestant issues, if he were simply not thinking about them nearly as much as about Catholic vs. Orthodox issues?

    Don’t get me wrong: I do not for a moment think that Pope Francis is really a closet Orthodox or even that there would not still be oddities and discrepancies to explain under this theory also. I’m just saying that if we’re going to wonder what on Earth the man is trying to loose in Heaven, we ought to consider all the possibilities, right?

  22. The Cobbler says:

    P.S. “In the meeting was present too Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, a liberal spanish mason, president of the International Comission Against Death Penalty, former director general of the UNESCO.” It’s good to realize that Masonry has fallen from conspiracy to destroy the Church all the way down to merely conspiracy to keep a few more criminals running around.

  23. Benedict Joseph says:

    Regretfully, after two years of continual disappointment, I can’t put much hope on the natural level that the the Magisterium will be maintained. Evidenced here is an all too familiar craft being employed since the beginning of the Council. Grace does always triumph, but often it takes longer than I like. Won’t it be wonderful if I am wrong.

  24. Bosco says:

    This whole Francis milieu, moment, and message wants a soundtrack. My choice would be one that was released in 1969, a Vatican II era song made popular by Neil Diamond. “Brother Love’s Travellin’ Salvation Show.”

    “…Take my hand in yours,
    Walk with me this day
    In my heart I know, I will never stray…

    Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
    Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies
    And ev’ryone goes, ’cause everyone knows
    Brother Love’s show.”

    Just sayin’.

  25. iamlucky13 says:

    “This is not only a question of practice, it also touches upon doctrine. Unavoidably. One may say that it doesn’t, but it does.

    The portion I bolded strikes me as subtly important. With the modern distortion of logic that has taken root, saying it doesn’t is enough for many people to fully rationalize a position.

    This allows them to rationalize saying the proposed change doesn’t touch doctrine by simply declaring as much, thus sidestepping the more basic question of whether doctrine is changeable. As a result, trying to explain the doctrinal issues raised by reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried is viewed as an attempt to distract the intended audience from the main issue since arguing that the proposal would change doctrine contradicts what was established by declaration.

    This is nothing new. This is how abortion has been rationalized for decades. We don’t have to prove that an unborn human being is not a human being before we can kill him or her. We can be certain they are not human beings because we said they are not human beings (and besides, it is an indisputable corollary of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” that a fetus “has no rights until proven to be a person beyond a reasonable doubt,” which was the legal criteria used in Roe-v-Wade, and has close parallels to the basis used in the Dred Scott decision).

    Having accepted such logic in a life-or-death matter, it’s little surprise to see the logic presented again for a less vital matter such as whether a person who made a solemn vow before God to one person exclusively can make the same vow to another person without undermining the doctrine describing that vow.

  26. Reconverted Idiot says:

    I found the Sandor Magister article very interesting, and following the reference in Cardinal Caffarra’s position statement quoted at the end of the article, I soon found myself at First Things reading the article by George Weigel. It is a very well reasoned presentation of the situation as it stands.

    Meanwhile, on a somewhat related note, I find that Extraordinary synods are not the only thing to receive a little doctoring from the Vatican press office. If true, then this is indeed scandalous. To my mind it points another arrow in the general direction of the need for reform within the Vatican’s organs, as it were. Given that such reform is part of His Holiness’s stated agenda, and in the light the opinions of some more of the balanced and better informed sources out there, I cannot but continue to hope and pray for Pope Francis in what must be a very difficult time for any Pope.

    Some may accuse me of wishful thinking, but this much is evident: if it were the Pope’s intention to have a “freewheeling debate” and to spend time taking stock afterwards, or even if he had hoped to let the proverbial German cat throw itself out of the bag that it may show its claws in the light, then he is in an excellent position to gather real data in order to make properly informed decisions going forward. It has to be our duty to pray the right outcomes to that end, that His Holiness may receive timely information and that the Holy Spirit may grant him the insight we’d all so dearly love him to exercise.

  27. excalibur says:

    The tide is turning. The prayers of the faithful are heard. Keep praying, as simple as three Hail Mary’s a day, for the Synod.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

  28. Latin Mass Type says:

    I’m with you uncledan.

    Extra Rosary for the Holy Father on Saturday!

  29. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Reconverted Idiot — Actually, the General Audience format for the last fifteen years and more has been that the Pope reads a fairly long talk in Italian, and an Italian priest/monsignor greet the Italian pilgrims by reading out the names of their pilgrim groups. (Cue music when the bands and choirs are named, cheering from schoolkids, waving flags from parishes, etc.)

    Then a priest who speaks another pilgrim language (like Spanish, Polish, English, German) reads a short summary of the Pope’s talk in that language, or the Pope reads it himself. The summary will be about a paragraph long. The priest reads out the names of the pilgrim groups speaking that language.

    And so on. The summaries are always much much shorter, so they leave out a lot.

    What goes into the summaries and what is left out is generally determined by the Pope, although of course it’s possible that other people have input.

  30. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Reconverted Idiot,

    Thank you for the Toronto Catholic Witness link! Stephen Matthew thinks the Holy Father “may be the great Pastoral Pope”, while I have a stronger sense of that with both Pope St. John Paul and Pope Emeritus Benedict, but perhaps much evidencc of the extent to which it is clear is being successfully obscured by devious bureaucrats! Talk about 80-some-percent eclipses…(?!)

  31. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Sandro Magister’s immediately previous post available in English also looks interesting in this context, though I have so far only read the introduction and not the anthology itself:

  32. donato2 says:

    I read the interview that Magister cites and in it Pope Francis clearly is trying to tamp down the expectations of the Kaspar camp. Austen Ivereigh, who probably knows more about Pope Francis than anyone else in the English speaking world, has opined that it would be a mistake to assume that Pope Francis favors the Kaspar position concerning communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.

    My hunch is that Pope Francis has taken stock of the political strength of the Kaspar camp and has concluded that it is not sufficiently strong to “push the envelope” very far. The talk of schism may well have had an impact.

    The faithful need to keep pushing to make evident the clear sense of the faithful on this matter. There is a long way to go.

  33. DonL says:

    I’m still confused. If we allow unrepentant adulterers and sodomites to the sacraments, shouldn’t we also allow rapists, child molesters, assassins, and …well, all baptized heretics–or will we choose to discriminate, pastorally speaking?

  34. Supertradmum says:

    I am saddened and shocked a bit by the lack of charity on this posting towards the Pope. Everyday, I pray on the rosary, instead of for his intentions, that he will fall in love with the TLM. Why not? I suggest those who think they are holier than he is can join me in this prayer. I am convinced that he is changing, or coming out more as not as progressive as he may have been, as he accepts his Petrine Office.

    We are all in a battle against evil, 24/7. And, the Pope is taking a lot of flak in his role. I cannot imagine living in the Vatican and having to put up with all the heretics who work there. Should we not be doing penance and praying for him instead of critizing every statement he makes? This is the real meaning of charity. I hope in the movement of the Holy Spirit in his life.

  35. ASPM Sem says:


    “Maybe the tide is beginning to turn, but, then again, just today it was announced the Pope will dine with homosexuals and transgendered inmates at a prison. I know the position is love the sinner and hate the sin, but it seems the boundaries are being pushed along a long front.”

    Mark 2:15-17

    Jesus dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.

  36. Reconverted Idiot says:

    Suburbanbanshee – many thanks for that additional detail.

    Venerator Sti Lot – couldn’t have put it better, especially in the light of Suburbanbanshee’s clarification of the underlying procedure (or should I say “praxis”– which apparently never negates content, according to some).

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  38. pgepps says:

    With serious hope I pray that our Holy Father has all along been trying to “smoke out” the various misconceptions and useful ideas on many hands, in order to make sure there is a full discussion, and to establish that there is a disputed matter to need clarifying, before speaking to the matter with helpful clarity. I really do hope, with good reason, though not without some fear that we are really facing some danger and confusion, that we are going to see a helpful utterance at the end of this whole, somewhat unsettling, process.

  39. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Well said, pgepps!

    Thinking out loud, and pretty generally, a danger with any longer-term strategy is that one’s life is not in one’s hands, and one might not get to make what was intended clear, directly, oneself. One way to counter this would be to write/record/film a ‘testament’ spelling all out and entrusting it to someone (or morethan one) to produce if one did not live to clarify. It is the stuff of thrillers and detective stories that if one did, there may be those who would very actively try to prevent it ever being made public.

    But let us hope and pray for there being a good, didactic strategy!

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