Kasper responds to criticism: "the pope approved"

This important DICI article examines the stupefying response that has been given to Cardinal Kasper's scandalous comments by several prominent voices including five cardinals.

Rome: Cardinal Kasper’s astounding response to the critiques of five cardinals

On the eve of the publication of the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ (Ignatius Press, early October), in which five cardinals respond to the proposals of Cardinal Walter Kasper to allow divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion (see: Fellay: "we cannot wait, without speaking up"), several Italian Vatican-watchers have questioned the German prelate to get his reactions even before the release of the work in which he is cited by name.

The five cardinals who criticize Cardinal Kasper’s proposals are:

  • Walter Brandmuller, former President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences;
  • Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura;
  • Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna;
  • Velasio De Paolis, C.S., President Emeritus of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs of the Holy See;
  • and Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Their essays are supplemented by the works of three other authors:

  • Archbishop Cyril Vasil’, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for Oriental Churches;
  • Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J., Scholar-in-Residence at the Lumen Christi Institute (Chicago);
  • and John M. Rist, professor emeritus of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto, former holder of the Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Chair in Philosophy at the Catholic University of America.

All of these essays were edited with an introduction by Fr. Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., President of the Patristic Institute Augustinianum (Rome). Pertinent excerpts of these essays can be read here.

The pope’s support

In an interview granted to Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli for Vatican Insider on September 18, 2014, Cardinal Kasper says that in presenting the possibility of communion for the divorced-and-remarried, he did not “put forward any definitive solution”, but he adds: “with the pope’s approval, I asked some questions and offered some ideas for potential solutions.” The prelate insists on this support from Pope Francis in the interview that he had that same day with Antonio Manzo in Il Mattino:

(I spoke) twice with the Holy Father. I got approval for everything from him. He agreed. They (the five cardinals) know that I did not do these things by myself. I cleared it with the pope, I spoke with him two times. He was willing.”

Indeed, we recall Francis’ acknowledgment of Cardinal Kasper’s report during the Consistory on February 20 of this year, in very flattering terms:

I would like to thank (Cardinal Kasper), as I found it to be a work of profound theology, and also a serene theological reflection. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what St. Ignatius described as the sensus Ecclesiae, love for the Mother Church... It did me good, and an idea came to mind—please excuse me, Eminence, if I embarrass you—but my idea was that this is what we call ‘doing theology on one’s knees’. Thank you, thank you."

Some Roman observers go so far as to speculate that the pope intervened personally in writing several passages of the German prelate’s report.

Tornielli entitles his interview with Cardinal Kasper “Kasper’s response to cardinals’ protests...”. These “protests” are in fact a well-documented scholarly volume more than 300 pages long. It would be very frivolous to claim to respond to it seriously by means of mere newspaper interviews.

Memory of the Ottaviani Intervention

Given the reaction of the five cardinals, Cardinal Kasper confides to Tornielli that this disagreement is reminiscent of the opposition of several prelates during the pontificate of Paul VI:

During the Second Vatican Council and in the post-conciliar period, some cardinals did show resistance towards Pope Paul VI and the Prefect of the former Holy Office was among them. But, from what I have been told, it was not public and pre-planned like in this case. It is a first to see cardinals who are among the pope’s closest collaborators intervening in this way, at least if we take into consideration the recent history of the Church.”

Here the German prelate is alluding—without mentioning names—to Cardinals Alfredo Ottaviani, Prefect of the Holy Office, and Antonio Bacci, who published a Short Critical Study on the New Order of Mass [Novus Ordo Missae] (September 25, 1969), in which they denounced a rite that “represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in ...the Council of Trent”.

As for the response of the five cardinals, which the German prelate describes as “organized and public”, Riccardo Cascioli puckishly points out, on his website La nuova bussola quotidiana on September 19, that

it takes only minimal historical memory to remember that the ones who launched an offensive on communion for the divorced-and-remarried, attempting to make it the sole topic of the Synod, were precisely Kasper & Company.”

He also recalls, among other things, the maneuvers and statements in late 2013 by successive presidents of the German Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch and Cardinal Reinhard Marx....

From doctrinal ecumenism to moral ecumenism

Yet the most astounding statement that Cardinal Kasper makes to Tornielli in the Vatican Insider interview is the following:

Church doctrine is not a closed system: the Second Vatican Council teaches us that there is a development, meaning that it is possible to look into this further. I wonder if a deeper understanding similar to what we saw in ecclesiology, is possible in this case (i.e., that of divorced Catholics who have remarried civilly): although the Catholic Church is Christ’s true Church, there are elements of ecclesiality beyond the institutional boundaries of the Church too. Couldn’t some elements of sacramental marriage also be recognized in civil marriages in certain cases? For example, the lifelong commitment, mutual love and care, Christian life and a public declaration of commitment that does not exist in common-law marriages.”

In other words, Cardinal Kasper uses the argument about the elements of “ecclesiality” (a church-like character) which, according to Vatican II, are said to be found in other religions, and he applies it to the case of civil marriage, where we are supposed to find elements of “sacramentality”: lifelong commitment, mutual love and care, Christian life and a public declaration of commitment... although it is outside of the Catholic marriage! So it is that doctrinal ecumenism would allow us to go so far as to indulge in a certain moral ecumenism! Cardinal Caffarra already denounced this idea in the March 15, 2014, issue of Il Foglio, in his response to Cardinal Kasper’s report:

Therefore [according to this logic] there is such a thing as extramarital human sexuality that the Church considers legitimate. But that negates the central pillar of the Church’s teaching on sexuality. At that point someone might wonder: then why not approve cohabitation? Or relations between homosexuals?”

Another cardinal’s denunciation

Cardinal Kasper will have yet another opportunity to set forth his theories, since Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, also publicly opposes communion for the divorced-and-remarried in the preface to a book that will be released on October 1 by the American Catholic publishing house Ignatius Press, a few days before the Synod on the Family (October 5-19, 2014). This volume is entitled The Gospel of the Family, repeating the title of Cardinal Kasper’s book, a print version of the report that he gave to the Consistory on February 20, 2014.

Cardinal Pell says in his Introduction:

A courteous, informed, and rigorous discussion, indeed debate, is needed especially for the coming months to defend the Christian and Catholic tradition of monogamous, indissoluble marriage.”

He goes on to explain:

doctrine and pastoral practice cannot be contradictory... one cannot maintain the indissolubility of marriage by allowing the ‘remarried’ to receive Holy Communion.”

The Australian prelate maintains that this question is correctly perceived as symbolic, both by the defenders and by the adversaries of the Catholic tradition. It is a

prize in the clash between what remains of Christendom in Europe and an aggressive neo-paganism. Every opponent of Christianity wants the Church to capitulate on this issue.”

(Sources: Vatican Insider/Il Mattino/Nuova Bussola/benoitetmoi/Apic/IMedia—DICI no. 301, 9-25-2014)