On 22 April, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave yet another interview about Pope Francis and his reforms. This time, he spoke with the German regional newspaper Aachener Zeitung. In this interview, the German cardinal made some candid — indeed, bold — statements which are very important in the context of the current situation of the Catholic Church.
Kasper speaks about the further Church-reform plans of Pope Francis and his intention “not to preserve everything as it has been of old.” With Pope Francis, “things are not any more so abstract and permeated with suspicion, as it was the case in earlier times” within the Church. When asked whether there is also a new tone within the Church, Kasper answers: “Yes, a new tone.” He also responds in a more positive way to the question as to whether the German Bishops’ Conference now have a “tail wind” and says: “Certainly.” And he continues, in the context of the question about “remarried” divorcees, by saying that Pope Francis has agreed with him about making some “humane decisions.” The German cardinal recounts how he once told Pope Francis about a priest whom he knew who had decided not to forbid a “remarried” mother to receive Holy Communion on the day of the First Holy Communion of her daughter. Cardinal Kasper himself concurred with that priest’s decision, saying: “That priest was fully right.” About his further conversation with the pope, he added these words: “I told this to the pope and he confirmed my attitude [with the following words]: ‘That is where the pastor has to make the decision.’” Kasper concludes: “There is now a tail wind to help solve such situations in a humane way.”
Kasper also says in this interview with regard to the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments: “The door is open. … There is also some freedom for the individual bishops and bishops’ conferences. … Not all Catholics think the way we Germans think.” And he concludes: “Here [in Germany,] something can be permissible which is forbidden in Africa. Therefore, the pope gives freedom for different situations and future developments.”
In other parts of the interview, Kasper also shows how much the pope has supported him. For example, he recounts how Pope Francis – after he praised Kasper publicly on the first Sunday after his election to the throne of Peter – told him: “I made propaganda for you!” Kasper also recounts that it was he himself who was able to convince the pope to accept the honor of receiving the Charlemagne Prize (one of the most prestigious European prizes). Kasper says: “He [Francis] shortly thereafter then further responded with these words to the question from a journalist as to why he had accepted this prize: ‘That is because of the stubbornness of Cardinal Kasper.’”
Cardinal Kasper – who himself was a member of the controversial Sankt Gallen Group – admits in this interview that, during the 2013 Conclave, Cardinal Bergoglio had once been “certainly for me also a potential candidate [for the papacy].” And he then adds that some cardinals during the Conclave had some prior mutual agreements as to who should be elected: “Some agreed in advance [about the one for whom to vote]; that is not forbidden.” Nevertheless, Kasper purportedly opposes the idea of “real factions” during a Conclave.
However, this new statement by Kasper is in opposition to what Paul Badde, a German Rome expert, had to say about such advance agreements or arrangements during a Conclave, as it had then just been revealed concerning the progressive Sankt Gallen Group itself. As I reported back on 24 October 2015:
Badde also said that, afterwards [i.e., after hearing about the activities of the Sankt Gallen Group], he had made a report about this matter, saying, in part, that this conduct clearly “violates the instruction Universi Dominici Gregis promulgated by the deceased pope [John Paul II] who, already in 1996, had put into it his new and strict rules according to which there are to be, in no way, any internal negotiations either before or during the Conclave concerning the election of the successor of a pope.”
When speaking about the ongoing reforms of Pope Francis, Cardinal Kasper does admit that there is some resistance within the Curia. He continues: “If in your editorial office everything would be [suddenly] turned upside down, there also would be some resistance.” It is important to note that this audacious cardinal also openly admits here that Pope Francis is doing just that with the Catholic Church, namely turning everything upside down. (As the pope once said in Southern America: “Make a mess!”)
Kasper proceeds to explain a little more about the methods of the pope’s reform: “He changes many things – but not only structurally. He aims especially at the mentality. Only if that [mentality] changes, will structural reforms bear fruit. But that takes time. Francis is working on it.” This acute and illuminating comment might also now be read in light of a quote just published a few days ago by the Rome Correspondent Edward Pentin in the context of Amoris Laetitia itself:
“It’s very Gramscian,” said one Church philosophy scholar, referring to the 20th-century Italian Marxist who advocated spreading Communist ideology through cultural infiltration. “The defiance of traditional orthopraxy is also an attack on orthodoxy, for every principled change of practice necessarily entails a change in principles.”
As many know, the Gramscian strategic approach (deftly invented by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci) was to gain political influence by slowly changing the culture – or, in the words of Kasper, the overall mentality. In Kasper’s eyes, the pope especially wants “to change the face of the Church – not its essence. He wants a more humane, a merciful face of the Church.”