It would seem that a new heresy is being created before our very eyes. What is this new heresy? If Arianism was named after the priest and theologian Arius, who championed the denial of Christ’s divinity, it seems fitting to call our present corruption of Catholic belief, “Kasperism” – inasmuch as it has been promoted most vigorously by the German Cardinal Walter Kasper. What is Kasperism? It is the view that dogma is to be left intact in theory, but may be contradicted in practice.
Many are already familiar with an example of Kasperism, which has come to be known as the “Kasper Proposal” – a proposal that affirms the indissolubility of marriage in fact but contradicts it in practice, by allowing adulterers to receive Holy Communion as a “pastoral” provision. Kasperism, however, should not be equated solely with the Kasper Proposal. Kasperism is, in fact, a much larger threat than the Kasper Proposal itself, as it may apply to any doctrine, not just the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage.
To give an example, it may also apply to the issue of sodomy. Most Kasperites won’t go so far as to say that sodomy is a virtue in theory because they know what the church teaches on this matter, but in practice they wish to treat it as if it weren’t immoral. Concerning the issue of sodomy, Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica exemplified Kasperism when he said:
“There must be an end to exclusionary language and a strong emphasis on embracing reality as it is. We should not be afraid of new and complex situations. … The language of inclusion must be our language, always considering pastoral and canonical possibilities and solutions.”
Here, Fr. Rosica doesn’t deny that sodomy is a sin. And he doesn’t have to, as the end game is still the same – get rid of “exclusionary language” and sodomy will be accepted in practice.
Another example may be found in the Holy Father’s recent call to decentralize the church. In this call, Pope Francis doesn’t actually say that the pope no longer has supreme and universal jurisdiction, because to say so would go against the doctrinal formulation of the First Vatican Council:
“We teach and declare that, according to the gospel evidence, a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the lord…Therefore, if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole Church militant; or that it was a primacy of honor only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our lord Jesus Christ himself: let him be anathema.”
Instead, Francis has indicated that he intends to simply act as if this weren’t true in practice and – voila! — the doctrine of Vatican I is as good as gone. The Holy Father states:
“The second level is that of Ecclesiastical Provinces and Ecclesiastical Regions, Particular Councils and, in a special way, Conferences of Bishops. We need to reflect on how better to bring about, through these bodies, intermediary instances of collegiality, perhaps by integrating and updating certain aspects of the ancient ecclesiastical organization. The hope expressed by the Council that such bodies would help increase the spirit of episcopal collegiality has not yet been fully realized. We are still on the way, part-way there. In a synodal Church, as I have said, “it is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound ‘decentralization’.”
As nobody has ever suggested that the papacy should micromanage everything that takes place in the territory of the local bishop, this is a straw man used to advance an agenda that undermines papal primacy. And yet, without a specific refutation of the doctrine, any challenge to such action would be met with a personal affirmation from Pope Francis of what the church teaches on this matter. Through the Kasperian lens, it is possible to both admit that a doctrine exists and to contradict it in practice. Infallibility is thereby preserved, but the practical result is just as effective as if the teaching could actually be changed.
We all know that the Church is rife with heterodox prelates who wish to destroy the Catholic Faith as it has existed for twenty centuries, changing it to suit their own purposes and desires. It has become clear that they would even change the Church’s dogmas. They have nonetheless been frustrated in this effort, which would place them under the anathema of the First Vatican Council:
“Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.”
The solution they have devised is simple and effective: they will not deny dogma. They will even affirm it. They will then treat it as though it does not exist by finding reasons why “mercy” or “pastoral concern” demands it must be circumvented in practice. In an earlier time in the Church, their calculated casuistry would have had them branded as heretics and defrocked; but this is not such a time, and they know very well that they may perform their dance around dogma with impunity.
If Kasperism is the heresy I believe it to be, it is the most dangerous sort of error ever invented by Satan. Why? Because it is untouchable. Arius and his followers made no denial of their belief that Christ was not eternal or of the same substance as God, but rather, merely a creature. They were confronted for what they believed, and for the error they taught. Kasperians, on the other hand, pride themselves on dissimulation. They make a great show of upholding the letter of the law, while utterly destroying it in spirit. If one were to say to the Kasperians, “What you are saying contradicts dogma!”, they would merely respond, “No! We affirm the dogma.” In so doing, they effectively disarm those who would seek to point out their errors, forcing them to make the case that they are liars and spreading confusion in their wake. For this reason, Kasperism ought to be fought with even greater vehemence than the Arian heresy, for it is much more deceptive in nature, and has the potential to do even more harm.
Will a future pope condemn this pernicious error as a heresy? Time will tell. But we must not wait in our attempts to combat it. Souls are at stake.
Michael Lofton is a Latin Rite Catholic working on a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Christendom Graduate School. He has appeared on EWTN’s The Journey Home, SiriusXM Radio and Radio Maria.