I hate to be the kind of guy who spoils the plot to a good story, but the headline is true. Cardinal Walter Kasper, at the end of the interminable arc through which his earthly existence is at this very moment winding, will have a day where he does not wake up. Death comes for us all, but at age 83, it will most likely come for the troublesome German cardinal sooner rather than later.
That day — contrary to a rather tasteless April Fool’s post by a certain, rather unabashed Catholic blogger — is not today.
In my haste this morning, as I finished up my morning routine of coffee and prayer (in that order; I’m a work in progress), I received an email with a link to a story that reported the (alleged) untimely demise of this particularly heterodox prelate, and in that moment, I completely bought it: hook, line, and sinker. And as a social media junkie from way back, I did what I often do when unexpected or shocking news appears on my radar screen: I went to Facebook to talk about it. Here is my post this morning, entirely before I realized that what I was sharing was just a sick joke:
Within less than a minute, my sleep-deprived brain, no doubt gathering up a few caffeine molecules that were by then making their way through my bloodstream, raised a red flag.
You’d better verify this, I thought.
And of course, the whole thing was an elaborate ruse, and I was a rube for believing it. Still, I wound up leaving the post up, unedited, for about an hour, just to see what the reactions of others would be. In the comments, I admitted it was a joke, but not everyone who saw it read that first. Instead, they received the full force of the shock, just as I did. Their reactions varied. Most thought it was a cruel joke. Some scorned the very idea of April Fool’s Day. A few admitted that the news brought them guilty relief.
I was somewhat surprised by my own reaction.
I felt knots form in my stomach. Far from relief, I felt a kind of nauseating terror. Terror for the soul of Cardinal Kasper, who I imagined having to answer for the abuse of his episcopal authority and for leading people into sin, and away from Catholic truth. Can you conceive of having to stand before Our Lord’s Judgment Seat, answering for such things?
There was also something else. Admittedly, the part of my brain that deals with tactical issues immediately began assessing the difficulty this death would pose in any attempt to interpret the coming exhortation, which has been so closely associated with Kasper. But this was an automatic response. The redirect was clear: we spend so much of our time combating heterodox prelates and the scandals that they cause, it can be easy to only think of them in terms of “the opposition.” In so doing, we forget to pray for them.
To be honest, it can even be easy to not want to pray for them. To have a feeling that they deserve whatever they get.
But don’t we all deserve hell? Don’t we all commit more sins than we should ever be forgiven? Yes, destruction of the teachings of the Church from a position of ecclesiastical authority is particularly public and egregious, but how many of us, if our sins were made known, would bring similar scandal, at least to those who know and love us?
Cardinal Walter Kasper is arguably one of the worst prelates in the Catholic Church today. He is an enemy of true Catholic belief on a number of issues. But he is also a man — and even moreso; a member of Christ’s sacred priesthood, and a recipient of the fullness of Holy Olders. He was created by God, is loved by Him, and is willed by Our Heavenly Father to enjoy beatific vision forever. The price for his sins have already been paid by the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, if he would only accept this, and turn his heart to God.
A day will come that such an announcement won’t be just a joke; Cardinal Kasper will really be dead. What then?
Will he repent first? Will he accept God’s mercy — God’s true mercy — before it’s too late?
I ardently hope that this will come to pass. No matter how hard it can sometimes be, no matter how much it may even revolt us, we must remember these men in our prayers and sacrifices. We must pray for their conversion and salvation.
You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:43-48