Cardinal Kasper recently stated that "exceptions" existed for giving Holy Communion to remarried-divorcees. Notwithstanding his confusion about the clear moral and sacramental Church teaching on this topic, what does the precedence of the post-conciliar period practically teach us about providing such "exceptions"?
We offer from DICI an introductory editorial of Fr. Lorans to the article, "Keeping up confusion on the situation of the divorced-and-remarried" which continues to analyze the problems with Cardinal Kasper's recent address to the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family held in February at Rome.
When the exception disproves the rule
At the Second Vatican Council there were no plans—in principle—to abolish Latin from the liturgy, nor to authorize Communion in the hand, but some time afterward, in the name of the spirit of the Council, exceptions were introduced depending on the circumstances, the persons, the countries…. Which means that today the exception has become the rule: everywhere the liturgy is in the vernacular and Communion is received in the hand.
In keeping with this spirit, which makes it possible to obtain in practice what is not authorized in principle, Cardinal William Kasper, during the recent Consistory on the family, proposed exceptions to the rule that does not allow divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Communion. This is not a matter of changing the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, he assured his listeners, but only of authorizing some pastoral exceptions. In other words, marriage is doctrinally indissoluble but can be dissolved pastorally.
In a while we will see that these exceptions become the rule: all divorced-and-remarried Catholics will receive Communion on the hand during Masses celebrated in the vernacular. Because in reality, since the Council, doctrine itself can be dissolved in pastoral practice.
Fr. Alain Lorans, DICI editor
(Source: DICI, 3-14-2014)
Keeping up confusion on the situation of the divorced-and-remarried
As an introduction to the work of the Extraordinary Consistory on February 20-21, 2014, Cardinal Walter Kasper, former President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, set forth possible conditions for admitting divorced-and-remarried couples to Holy Communion. At the conclusion of his talk behind closed doors, to 150 cardinals from all over the world, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See noted that the almost 2-hour long speech by the German prelate would not be made public. The text however was published on March 1 by the Italian daily newspaper Il Foglio.
In this presentation, Cardinal Kasper remarked that he “was asking questions” and that it would be up to the Synod of Bishops to “give an answer, together with the Pope”. However, in the course of the speech, these questions become proposals for a solution… and the cardinal goes so far as to spell out five conditions which, in his view, would allow the Church to consider admitting divorced-and-remarried Catholics to Communion, regarding the sacrament in this situation as a plank thrown to the shipwrecked, modeled after what the early Church may have proposed.
If the divorced-and-remarried Catholic:
- Repents of the failure of his marriage and
- Has cleared up the obligations of his first marriage, if a return to it is definitely ruled out;
- If he cannot abandon the commitments that he has made with his new civil marriage without committing other sins;
- If he tries nevertheless to live his second marriage as well as he can, in faith, and educating his children in the faith;
- If he desires the sacraments as the source of strength in his situation.
Cardinal Kasper assured his listeners—being unable to reassure them—that such a solution would not be a “general solution”.
This would not be a wide path for the masses, but rather a narrow way for what is probably the smallest sector of divorced-and-remarried Catholics who are truly interested in receiving the sacraments."
In the case of divorced-and-remarried Catholics convinced of the invalidity of their first marriage, the German cardinal calls into question the judicial path as the “sole means of resolving the problem”, since “ecclesiastical tribunals are not de jure divino[of divine right], but developed historically.” He proposes that the bishop may entrust the procedure “to a priest with spiritual and pastoral experience, as a penitentiary or episcopal vicar”. He was careful, though, to explain that “seeking the solution to the problem in a generous broadening of the procedure for determining the nullity of marriage would be a mistake”!
The head-spinning presentation by Cardinal Kasper was heartily appreciated by Pope Francis, who opened the second day of the Consistory, February 21, by stating:
Yesterday, before going to sleep, but not in order to fall asleep, I reread Cardinal Kasper’s study, and I would like to thank him, because I found in it a profound theology and the serene thought of a theologian. I also found what St. Ignatius told us about, the sensus Ecclesiae, the love of our Mother the Church…. This is called doing theology on one’s knees."
Less impressed, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declared on February 25 to journalists that the Church’s doctrine on the issue of divorced-and-remarried Catholics was clear and that it was impossible to change it. "We must seek some way of developing pastoral ministry with regard to marriage, but not solely for divorced-and-remarried persons,” the high-ranking prelate emphasized. For “we cannot focus constantly on this question alone, namely whether or not they can receive Communion.” It must not be forgotten that “the problems and the wounds are the divorce, the children who no longer have their parents and must live with persons who are not their parents,” he stressed.
Although new ways can be explored, it will have to be without going against “the will of Jesus”, Cardinal Muller pointed out, recalling the importance of the indissolubility of marriage. These new ways, he explained, must be along the lines of a deeper understanding of the doctrine for the faithful. “Many do not know it and think that marriage is merely a ceremony that you celebrate in church,” he continued. “We must help these persons who find themselves in a very difficult situation, but if marriage is indissoluble, it is impossible to dissolve it.”
“There is no solution,” he added, “because the Church’s dogma is not just any theory made up by some theologians; it is the doctrine of the Church, nothing less than the word of Jesus Christ, which is quite clear.” And he insisted: “I cannot change the Church’s doctrine.” Deploring the fact that Church doctrine is so widely misunderstood: “We cannot reduce revelation and the word of Jesus Christ just because many Catholics do not know the reality,” he declared again.
On that same day, February 25, in an interview granted to the German website www.katholisch.de, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich-Freising (Germany) and a member of the Council of eight cardinals tasked with helping the pope to reform the Curia, declared that “no decision had been made yet” about admitting divorced-and-remarried persons to Holy Communion. “The indissolubility of marriage is not a moral duty for man but a promise (sic),” the German cardinal declared; in his view the sacraments are not “disciplinary measures” but “means of healing”. In the same interview, the prelate recognized that “strong objections” had been manifested after the talk by Cardinal Kasper.
On March 1 on the website Corrispondenza romana, Professor Roberto de Mattei published an analysis of the talk by Cardinal Kasper entitled “The culture revolution of Cardinal Kasper” and explained what this revolution consists of:
The doctrine does not change; the only novelty concerns pastoral practice. The slogan, which has been repeated for a year now, reassures on the one hand those conservatives who gauge everything in terms of doctrinal declarations, and on the other hand it encourages the progressives who attach little importance to doctrine and entrust everything to the primacy of practice."
In effect, the Italian university professor continues, “Cardinal Kasper’s point of departure is the observation that there has come to be a gulf between the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family, and the convictions held by many Christians.” The method to be adopted according to Kasper, Roberto de Mattei continues, is the method followed by the Second Vatican Council on the question of ecumenism and religious liberty: change the doctrine without showing that it is being modified. “The Council,” the German prelate says, “opened the doors without violating the compulsory dogmatic tradition.”—And “the smoke of Satan” crept in…
(Sources: apic/imedia/ilfoglio/chiesa/corrispondenzaromana—DICI no. 292, 3-14-2014)