Cardinal Walter Kasper — the most infamous member of the German episcopacy — appears to be just tingly with anticipation for the coming apostolic exhortation on marriage and family. Ed Pentin reports (with my emphasis):
According to the Italian newspaper Il Terreno, the German theologian told an audience in the Italian city of Lucca on Monday evening that in a “few days (March 19)” a document of about “two hundred pages will be released”.
It’s not clear if, by saying “released”, Cardinal Kasper meant that the document, called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, will be published on Saturday, or be signed by Pope Francis and published later once it is translated, as usually happens with such documents.
Until now, sources in Rome have said the document will be signed on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, but the actual date of publication has remained unknown.
The cardinal, whose theology Pope Francis has often lauded, went on to say that in the document the Holy Father will “definitively express himself on family issues addressed during the last Synod, and in particular on the participation of the divorced and remarried faithful in the active life of the Catholic community.”
He added that the apostolic exhortation will represent “the first step in a reform” that will mark the “turning of a page” in the Church’s history “after 1,700 years.”
“We must not repeat past formulas and barricade ourselves behind the wall of exclusivism and clericalism,” Cardinal Kasper told a packed aula in Lucca’s Real Collegio, adding that the Church must live in the current times and “know how to interpret them.” He then spoke about giving more opportunities for women to serve in Church administration.
In a 2014 speech that opened discussions on the Synod on the Family, Cardinal Kasper introduced the possibility of the Church admitting civilly remarried divorcees to Holy Communion after a “penitential period”. Since that time, he has regularly spoken up the proposal, implying that Pope Francis will change the Church’s pastoral practice in such a way.
Two hundred pages? Saints preserve us! It seems a recitation of the 6th commandment, a quote from Matthew 19, and few references to Casti Connubi, Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio could pretty easily do the job. Even with filler, it could weigh in at less than five pages.
But Modernist theologians spray empty words like aeronautical chaff, hoping to mask the scent of heresy from the faithful by means of circumlocution. If it follows the usual course, there will no doubt be any number of solid reiterations of Catholic thought on marriage to pad out the tome, giving cover to the positivists while encrusting the rotten core with a veneer of orthodoxy. The sheer volume of words will, in any case, cause all but the most fervent-minded to despair without ever reading the whole thing. It reminds me of the 10,000+ page, 11 million+ word “Affordable Care Act,” about which U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
I’ve already addressed the coming exhortation and why we should be concerned about it, but having Kasper excited about something is almost equivalent to ominous portents in the heavens. So I’ll ask you, if you’re of a mind to prepare yourself, to return to the events of last year and begin your understanding where the Synod left off. I’d like to focus your attention on four things:
FIRST, Pentin says that his sources in the Vatican have indicated that the exhortation will draw heavily from the Synod’s final report. You may recall that earlier this week, Voice of the Family issued a detailed analysis of that report, along with a summary of their specific concerns. At 41 pages, it’s not quite as much of a slog as 200 will be, but it’s nonetheless a time commitment. Still, if you want to bone up, this is probably a good place to start.
SECOND, I would like to remind you of my post-mortem on the Synod. At the time, we were hearing great whoops of glee from the establishment Catholic media about how the “conservatives won” at the Synod. In fact, the opposite was true:
Yes, the final relatio, so far as we know (since we’re still waiting for a final English version) does not have anything heretical in it. And I guess, if you have low self-esteem, and believe, like a sad but loyal dog, that as long as you’re not being kicked you’re experiencing real love…well, then you might be a little excited about this. But the document isn’t a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates on the doorstep of the faithful. After three weeks of trench warfare, it represents — in the most optimistic interpretation — a stalemate. At worst, it’s a significant loss of ground, inasmuch as it fails to address the rampant speculation that has infested the Church for the past 20 months that the pastoral practice on the reception of communion by the divorced and remarried will be changed.
If THAT wasn’t the backdrop for this document, it’d be uninteresting to pretty much everyone. But that is what led to its creation, and we can see just how hard they worked to keep orthodoxy at arms length…
Whatever else you want to say about them, the bishops and popes of the conciliar and post-conciliar Church have learned how to do one thing with astonishing skill: like straw spun into garbage, they churn out official documents full of language so bereft of definitive meaning that it forms a pulsing nexus of perpetual aggiornamento; an everlasting gobstopper of theological novelty that somehow manages to pass the scrutiny of every so-called “conservative” Catholic to come down the pike, solely on the basis that it isn’t explicitly heretical.
We have breathtakingly low standards.
Did anyone truly expect a deeply, openly heterodox text? Does anyone believe that this ends here? Does anyone think that Pope Francis — the same pope who imposed two apostolic letters to streamline annulments without the consultation of any relevant dicastery, without speaking to any of the canonists at the Apostolic Signatura who should have vetted the jurisprudence therein — has really been put in his place by “conservative” Synod fathers? Does anyone think that his concluding speech signaled defeat – a speech which lashed out at those “dead stones” who care about doctrine, promoted cultural and moral relativism, and said that “the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness”?
This is not over. We didn’t get the cure to this fatal disease, we got an obvious placebo. Stop celebrating, because the next wave is already coming, and no matter how exhausted we are, the fight goes on.
The heretics in the Church are not cowed. They are more empowered than ever. Those who advanced heterodoxy at the Synod were not disciplined – nor were they, as so many wishful-thinkers speciously tried to convince us, brought to Rome by Pope Francis to be “smoked out.” They are his friends. They helped get him elected.
Meanwhile, there are no shackles in sight for Kasper, Daneels, Marx, Cupich, Bonny, Forte, Baldisseri, Koch, Coleridge, and the whole wretched hive of scum and villainy who can’t seem to leave Christ and His Mystical Bride unmolested. In fact, Kasper feels that the Synod was a win. Cardinals Marx and Schönborn and Archbishop Koch were pleased. Fr. Thomas Reese was pleasantly surprised by the real exploitability of the “internal forum” language:
What is remarkable about the three paragraphs dealing with divorced and remarried Catholics is that the words Communion and Eucharist never appear. Yes, that’s right, they never mention Communion as a conclusion of this internal forum process.
So what does it mean? A conservative might interpret it as closed to Communion because it was not mentioned in the text. A liberal might interpret it as including Communion since it is not explicitly excluded in the text.
I think that the truth is that Communion was not mentioned because that was the only way the paragraphs could get a two-thirds majority. Like the Second Vatican Council, the synod achieved consensus through ambiguity. This means that they are leaving Pope Francis free to do whatever he thinks best.
Hats off to the drafting committee that found exactly the right language to achieve consensus even if it does not give a definitive answer to our questions.
Sorry for the long blockquote, but every bit of that is relevant. In fact, the original post is, I think you’ll agree, worth re-reading. Kasper’s exuberance today is no difference than his exuberance in October. Remember when Cardinal Marx suddenly and inexplicably reversed his position that the German Church wouldn’t be cowed by the Synod’s outcome? Remember when they decided to lock down the Synod and put everything in the hands of the Holy Father, who had the final say? Remember how I told you that it was all because they knew the final outcome was in Pope Francis’ hands, and they knew something we didn’t?
They have dragged this out for a long time, and to good effect. How many people do you know who are still hot under the collar about the Synod? We have a short attention span, and we’re dodging too many other bullets.
But it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with the facts, or we’re going to get blindsided.
THIRD, let’s recall the giant Trojan stalking horse Pope Francis floated to Eugenio Scalfari in November. This is a key point to understand, and we should look for language very much like this in the final document:
The diverse opinion of the bishops is part of this modernity of the Church and of the diverse societies in which she operated, but the goal is the same, and for that which regards the admission of the divorced to the Sacraments, [it]confirms that this principle has been accepted by the Synod. This is bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.”
FINALLY, I ask that you consider, once again, Francis’ implied permission that, having evaluated their consciences and spoken to God, Lutherans — who are forbidden under normal circumstances from intercommunion by Canon Law — could present themselves for Holy Communion at a Catholic Mass. This operating principle will undoubtedly be mapped over to any permission given to the divorced and remarried:
Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations. Always refer back to your baptism. “One faith, one baptism, one Lord.” This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.
Pope Francis, in addition to handing the power at the Synod to the worst of the worst in the episcopacy, has been dropping clues left and right about what he’s planning to do for months. His “hermeneutic” is right there, out in the open, if you only look for it. While it’s possible that he’ll push the envelope even further, it is a safe bet that the above is the kind of thing we can expect at the very least: neither forbidding nor explicitly permitting, but opening the door and telling people, “Eh, if you want to go through and you’ve prayed about it, I won’t stop you. (Wink, wink!)”
Or put another way: “If someone is divorced and remarried and he searches for the Lord in Communion and has good will, who am I to judge?”
I make no claims of being a prophet, but the handwriting is all over the wall. I cannot say with certitude exactly how things will play out. But this exhortation is, in a very real sense, a kind of D-Day for the Church. There is simply no evidence whatsoever, after two years of this assault on Christ’s teaching, that the exhortation will do anything to strengthen the Church’s positions on marriage and family.
There is ample evidence, however, that it will do just the opposite. How severe a wound will be dealt remains the question on everyone’s mind.
It’s entirely possible, as is indicated in Pentin’s report, that the exhortation will be signed this Saturday but not come out until after Easter — possibly on Divine Mercy Sunday (because everything is Mercy™.) We can’t know for sure, and even my contacts who are close to the Vatican say they don’t have answers. They’re keeping this one close to the vest.
If you’re not already doing so, now is a very good time to start praying.
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.