LifeSiteNews’ Jan Bentz has translated portions of an article by the German Cardinal Walter Kasper published in Stimmen der Zeit. In it, the curial official who has become synonymous with the proposal to give Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried makes some important revelations about the aftermath of Amoris Laetitia (AL), as well as the thinking that shaped it.
I’d like to break down several statements of importance found in the article a piece at a time.
In the first part called “Discussion regarding the binding character,” Kasper critiques Cardinal Raymond Burke for his statement that post-synodal documents by the Pope are not necessarily binding. Instead, Kasper states, “This position is refuted by the formal character of an Apostolic Exhortation as well as its content.”
The questions surrounding the authoritative character of AL continue to be among those mostly hotly contested. Close friends and advisers to Pope Francis seem intent to have the exhortation perceived as an authoritative work of the Magisterium; theologians, clergy, and prelates who recognize the dangers inherent in the document state that it simply cannot be construed as such. I would here refer you back to the arguments of two American professors of theology on this issue, which I quoted last month. First, Dr. E. Christian Brugger, professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver:
One of my seminarians recently came to me with a worried look on his face wondering whether because this was taught in a papal document he was obliged in conscience to accept it as true. I told him that Vatican II teaches that Catholics are obliged to receive the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, which the teaching of Amoris Laetitia constitutes, with a “religious submission of mind and will” (“religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium”;Lumen Gentium 25). I said this obsequium is different from the “assent of faith” (de fide credenda) required for the truths of Divine Revelation (cf. CDF, Donum Veritatis, no. 23). Obsequium means we come to the teaching with intellectual docility, giving it a presumption of truth, with a readiness to assent to it, and, if it’s moral instruction, to apply it to our lives.
But neither intellectual docility, nor readiness of will implies that we accept the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium without subjecting it to the authority of faith and reason. We are obliged in conscience to accept what’s true. The Holy Spirit guards the Church from error when she teaches infallibly, and so we can be confident that teachings taught infallibly are true. But the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the pope and bishops when they exercise their Ordinary Magisterium does not guard them from error.
And so we must always consider these teachings of the Church in the light of what we already know to be true concerning Catholic faith and morals. If after careful consideration we conclude that some teaching of the pope or bishops is inconsistent with the teaching of Christ or with moral or pastoral issues that the Church has already authoritatively and rightly settled, then we have no obligation to assent to it and we may be obliged to oppose it.
Dr Jessica M. Murdoch, a professor of fundamental and dogmatic theology at Villanova University, offers a similar take:
The basic principles of the Church’s doctrine of infallibility provide substantive guidance here. First and foremost, the Petrine ministry participates in the infallibility of the deposit of Revelation. This is crucial to hold in view, because Revelation is ultimately the criterion of truth. The special, divine assistance of infallibility is a privilege attached to the Holy Father as the center of unity of the Church, yet this privilege is always given for the entire Church. Besides the infallibility attached to the Pope’s pronouncements taught with the fullness of his supreme authority (the “extraordinary magisterium”), the “ordinary magisterium” can also be a source of infallible teaching, when it concerns de fide doctrine (concerning faith and morals), when it is marked by unity and unanimity, and when it is proposed to be definitive and absolute teaching. Not every teaching of the ordinary magisterium, however, fulfills these criteria. Some teachings of the ordinary magisterium can be fallible, and do not command interior assent of mind and will, if such teachings are clearly contrary to reason, or to the natural law, or to the divine positive law.
And in all of this one must keep ever in mind that the charism of infallibility is one of assistance and not of inspiration. In other words, the Holy Father cannot create doctrine, but can only explain the deposit of the faith more clearly.
Her conclusion, however, puts us almost right back where we started – in a confusion of cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops opposing bishops:
Ultimately, however, this level of discernment cannot be a matter of private judgment, but of magisterial decision. In case of real conflict between the teaching of various popes or between the teaching of one pontificate and natural or divine positive law, only the magisterium bears the obligation and authority to clarify any errors publicly.
Whatever Kasper and Schönborn say, this is a far from settled matter. But that hasn’t, and won’t, stop them from using this as a cudgel to force acceptance of the anti-Catholic novelties contained in AL.
According to Kasper – and indeed he is right, as evidenced by the post-synodal discussions concerning the document – critiques of Amoris Laetitia boil down to the question of “remarried” divorced Catholics receiving Communion.
As Kasper points out, the question is addressed by two different camps: One opinion is held by “conservatives,” some of whom (including German philosopher Robert Spaemann) see Amoris Laetitia as a break from the tradition of the Church, whereas others (including Cardinal Gerhard Müller) say the publication does not change the position of the Church.
Another (held by Italian theologian Rocco Buttiglione) says the doctrine of the Church is developed further but not on the line of Pope John Paul II. Yet others acknowledge a “careful development” that is paired with a lack of “concrete guidelines.” The last position among the “conservatives” is Norbert Lüdecke (Canon Law, Bonn, Germany) who says it is up to the individual conscience of the remarried divorced person to decide if he or she may receive Communion or not.
Kasper goes on to cite Buttiglione that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presents the “decisive interpretation.” This citation refers back to a publication in L’Osservatore Romano. The same position is taken by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ in La Civiltà Cattolica, among whom Kasper wants to count himself.
Kasper critiques the “alleged confusion” as having been caused by a “third party” who has “alienated themselves from the sense of faith and life of the people of God.” He continues to say that “behind the pastoral tone of the document lies a well thought-out theological position.”
Kasper appears to make an important distinction here — namely, that it is neither the “conservative” critiques nor those insisting that AL changes nothing who are providing the most substantial opposition to the exhortation, but rather a “third party”. And who might this be? The 45 theologians who have offered theological censures against the implicit heresies in the document? Publications like this one, which have asserted that the document needs not to be clarified, but rather rescinded? Any of a number of other faithful Catholic analysts, theologians, priests, or publications which have made clear the dangers in AL?
Kasper claims that those who are causing “confusion” over the exhortation have “alienated themselves from the sense of faith and life of the people of God.”
I would counter that Cardinal Kasper and his friends have alienated themselves from the Son of God Himself, and the Church He established as His Mystical Body and Bride.
The Cardinal praises the “realistic, open, and relaxed way of dealing with sexuality and eroticism” in Amoris Laetitia that does not seek to “indoctrinate or moralize.” “With a grain of salt, one can say that Amoris Laetitia distances itself from a primarily negative Augustinian view of sexuality and turns toward an affirming Thomistic view on creation.” Kasper repeats his opinion that the moral ideal is an “optimum,” yet is unreachable by many. “Oftentimes, we have to choose the lesser evil,” he states, “in the living life there is no black and white but only different nuances and shadings.”
I don’t know how to describe these remarks, other than to say that they’re just…gross. “Eroticism”? Really? What occupies this man’s mind? A papal document that intentionally does not seek to “indoctrinate or moralize”? Considering that the pope is the guardian of doctrine and the highest moral authority on earth, such a claim means that Kasper believes that the pope has utterly failed in carrying out the duty of his office.
And then we find ourselves back — yet again — contemplating the foolhardy notion of the moral law as a noble but unattainable ideal. Such excuse-making about grave sin is the work of Satan; it is a willful cooperation in moral evil, makes those who promote it accessories to the sin of others, and it leads souls to Hell.
Of course, we’ve heard the “no black and white” language elsewhere recently, from no less of an authority than Pope Francis himself:
“Future priests need to be formed not with general and abstract ideas, which are (overly) clear and distinct, but this fine discernment of spirits, so that they can help people in their concrete lives,” the Pope said in a speech to Polish Jesuits, published Aug. 25.
Seminarians and future priests, he said, “need to truly understand this: in life not everything is black and white, white and black. No! In life shades of gray predominate. We must then teach how to discern within this gray.”
Does anyone still honestly believe at this point that Francis and Kasper are not on the same page?
Kasper then takes aim at Familiaris Consortio (#84) when he says:
Instead of choosing the path of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (“who had adhered to John Paul II’s decision”) to not allow “remarried” divorced Catholics to receive Communion and instead to insist that they practice abstinence in their sexual relations, Pope Francis “goes a step further, by putting the problem in a process of an embracing pastoral [approach] of gradual integration.”
“Amoris Laetitia envisages which forms of exclusion from ecclesiastical, liturgical, pastoral, educational, and institutional services can be overcome,” Kasper explains. He posits that when John Paul II gave permission for remarried divorced to receive Communion – if they lived as brother and sister – this was “in fact a concession.” The Cardinal reasons this by saying, “Abstinence belongs to the most intimate sphere and does not abolish the objective contradiction of the ongoing bond of marriage of the first sacramental marriage and the second civil marriage.” [emphasis added]
I recall reading that section of Familiaris Consortio and struggling mightily with it; how could people who have lived together in a sexual relationship continue to live together in continence without being in a perpetual occasion of sin? We have published testimonies of the possibility of such a life lived virtuously, but this is clearly a less than ideal set of circumstances, with nothing but the will to keep couples from falling back into the sin of adultery. Kasper also notes that that Canon Law no longer levies excommunication of the “remarried,” itself an innovation of the 1983 code under the promulgation of John Paul II. In these assertions, Kasper makes the attempt to co-opt John Paul II’s own gradualism into the development of Amoris Laetitia — a claim that seems simultaneously underhanded and not without a certain measure of justification.
Kasper finally admits what we already know about the practical effects of AL on the practice of admitting the “remarried” to the sacraments:
Therefore, Kasper states that “Amoris Laetitia lays the groundwork for a changed pastoral praxis in a reasoned individual case.” Yet he also says the “Papal document does not draw clear practical conclusions from these premises.” According to Kasper, the Pope leaves the question open, and the very fact of leaving it open is “in itself a magisterial decision of great consequence.”
Kasper explains that the direction of Pope Francis is clear: “One does not need to focus on footnotes. Much more important is that the gradual integration, which is the key topic in question, is directed essentially towards admittance to the Eucharist as full-form of the participation of the life of the Church.”
Kasper quotes Francis’ statement from an in-flight press conference on April 16 wherein he responded to the question if in some cases remarried divorced can receive Communion with the poignant words: “Yes. Period.” This answer is not found in Amoris Laetitia but ‘corresponds to the general ductus.’” [emphasis added]
It seems that we have at last come full circle. In February, 2014, when Cardinal Kasper gave the consistory keynote that introduced us to the idea of a push for Communion for the Divorced and Remarried, we could see that it wasn’t just talk. Time after time, Francis made clear that he supported the agenda, at first by silence, then by action, and finally by words.
The coup is complete. They got what they wanted. And just like every other doctrinal perversion that has come along in the past 50 years, they will try to shove every understanding but this one down the memory hole and call it “development.”
Since it’s on the laity now, I implore you all: don’t let them get away with it. Fight it wherever you go. After all, Sister Lucia told us that this is the final battle. But there is hope:
[T]he final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, she added, because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. And then she concluded: however, Our Lady has already crushed its head. [emphasis added]
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.