Is polygamy now acceptable?

March 07, 2014
Source: District of the USA

We briefly examine the implication of Cardinal Kasper's recent comments made about matrimony, divorce and Communion during the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family.

Pastor's Corner for March 9, 2014

Recently on February 20th, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a lengthy speech during the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family held in Rome and attended by about 150 cardinals, as well as Pope Francis.[1]

Despite that the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi announced that Cardinal Kasper’s talk would not be published since “it was a ‘starting point’ of discussion on marriage and the family, and not a final word", nevertheless, the Italian Il Foglio Quotidiano very quickly printed the address as a “Vatican Exclusive” eliciting discussions about “the problem of the divorced and remarried.”[2]

Church doctrine on remarriage of divorces

Christ said that marriage is an unbreakable bond. In Matthew 19:3-12, Christ specifically ruled out divorce, saying,

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

Whoever puts away his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if the wife puts away her husband and marries another, she commits adultery" (Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18).

Following Christ’s condemnation, the Church has always affirmed that remarrying after divorce or separation was sinful. This is exemplified by her Code of Canon Law (of 1917) which imposed an automatic excommunication on those who marry before a non-Catholic minister (Canon 2319). The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (of 1884) explains how this applies to divorcees who remarry. Church law moreover denies Christian burial to public sinners (Canon 855), and among these are included those known to be remarried divorces.

The Church is the salt of the earth and a sign of contradiction. Her impeccable moral principles based on the natural law and the Ten Commandments (e.g., Thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not desire thy neighbor’s wife) flies in the face of a permissive society where liberty translates as license. However, such behavior in the long (or not so long) run speeds up the downslide of societies. Contraception has led to abortion; abortion to divorce; divorce to civil unions of all kinds. Families and children are under direct attack from such immoral legislations.

Would a slackening of Church rules and of God’s commandments prove merciful? Some object that the Church is merciless to those who made difficult decisions due to painful circumstances. Yet, for these, as for all sinners, the Church has applied the balm of the Faith and understanding and offered them the support she bestows on all sinners. Indeed even public sinners are apt to receive succor from Holy Mother the Church, but it is adapted to each case and circumstance. In the case at hand, the Church has always made the proper distinctions between notorious and hidden cases, between those locked in a free or necessary cohabitation, with the prerequisite that they live chastely as brother and sister to be able to receive any sacrament. Such demands though (not so uncommon in lawful marriage bonds) do not stand a hearing for a world sunk in filth.

The comments of Cardinal Kasper

Cardinal Kasper is well known among the neo-modernist theologians. His earlier book Jesus the Christ reveals a brilliant brain but thoroughly heretical. He raises doubts on the Virgin Birth, denies Christ’s divinity, His Ascension and the infallibility of the Church which has altered Revelation.

In the present conference, he suggested that the current situation is analogous to that of the Second Vatican Council on issues of ecumenism and religious freedom:

Without violating the binding dogmatic tradition, the Council opened doors. We can ask ourselves: is it not perhaps possible that there could be further developments on the present question as well?"[3]

He added that “we cannot presuppose that that spouses” understand the conditions which make for a valid marriage, and asked if the presumption of validity “is not often a legal fiction.” In light of this, he suggested that instead of questions of nullity being decided by a tribunal, “As an alternative, one might think that the bishop could entrust this task to a priest.”

He also claimed that in the Early Church, when someone entered a new relationship even though their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penance had available… a life raft through admission to Communion.”

Likewise, the sacraments should be made available to the few seriously prepared couples:

A divorced and remarried person:


  1. if he repents of his failure in the first marriage,
  2. if he has clarified the obligations of the first marriage, if it is definitively ruled out that he could turn back,
  3. if he cannot abandon without further harm the responsibilities taken on with the new civil marriage,
  4. if however he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith,
  5. if he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation, should we or can we deny him, after a period of time in a new direction, of metanoia,[4] the sacrament of penance and then of Communion?"

Comments from

It is revealing to hear Kasper use the ‘developments’ on ecumenism and religious freedom at Vatican II to force a similar ‘development’ on the question of concubines. The dogmatic contradiction of Church teaching which erupted in the post-council is the model for more obvious contradictions now erupting in the moral arena.

The presumption that modern day couples getting married ignore what marriage is seems odd: it is an indirect condemnation that the Church has not done her job of teaching the faith for the last 50 years. And what is Kasper trying to argue? Is it that majority makes the truth, and therefore we need to annul with a sweep of the hand all these “legally fictitious marriages”, against the sacred vows emitted by the couples?  But will not the remedy be worse than the malady? Instead of strengthening the family bonds, the Church will simply loosen it to equate it to the status it had in Israel before Christ’s time.

Kasper pretends that the early Church practice was indulgent to these cases. However, he fails short of bringing up any magisterial text and would be quite unable to do so. The laxism of a local bishop under some pressure was not unheard of in the early Church where the local authority was king and communications with other local bishops or the Pope all too slow.

The last Kasperian blow which smashes to pieces the vestiges of the Catholic marriage is the admittance of successive polygamist to the sacraments. Those who put themselves in a de facto situation of sin are inapt to receive absolution and Holy Communion. The question is not a legal matter but an inherent contradiction. There is a logical impossibility in granting forgiveness to a person who, not being committed to changing his life, shows no firm purpose of amendment and therefore no real sorrow for his sins.

As to Holy Communion, it is only a post-Vatican presumption that one is required to receive Communion at every Mass, while the confessionals are left untouched. For centuries of the Church people received rarely and yet understood that they benefitted from the spiritual goods of the Church. By way of illustration, Cardinal Burke had tirelessly insisted that the Church’s teaching and law on giving Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” including politicians who support abortion, is perfectly clear.

If Pope Francis was struck by the serene tone of the theological conference, we may yet worry that Christian family life is slowly being serenaded into the sleep of death.


1 Source and citations are from CNA’s article of March 4, 2014, “Cardinal Kasper’s speech on divorce, remarriage, and Communion”.

2 Quote is from Il Foglio under the title of “The Bible, eros, and family: Creation excludes absolutely the theories of gender. Man and woman are joined together and are invited to become a family unit, to social virtue, to the search for felicity”. It is noteworthy that in the same special edition, a rebuttal by Roberto de Mattei against Cardinal Kasper’s words was published, “What God has united: Kasper cannot erase history and doctrine with “a resounding cultural revolution and practice”.

3 This quotation and ad infra from the previously cited CNA article.

4 A Greek term from the New Testament meaning “to repent” or “repentance”, which ironically (as used in this case by Cardinal Kasper) was uttered by Our Lord when He declared, “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).