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How Many Theologians Have Forgotten the Elements of Faith?

In light of the Filial Correction and its aftermath, we are witnessing how faithful Christians who have always adhered to the Church teachings are being accused of contradicting themselves. It is alleged that not adhering to the wildest interpretations of Amoris Laetitia and other papal or episcopal statements contradicts Catholic obedience.

In the light of this attack, it seems necessary to introduce a brief clarification. Christians do not follow men or human institutions or cultures, except as far as it is required by the divine order. Christians obey God, definitely and most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, God and man. If we obey the pope and the bishops, it is not just because of who they are or their position, but because Christ’s revelation commands this and because they serve Christ’s revelation.

Faith in Christ’s revelation is, thus, the ground of obedience. It is not that we believe because of obedience to men in authority; rather, because we believe, we obey. Our allegiance goes with God and His revelation, and only through them with human beings, no matter what those human beings’ office might be.

This is so since the beginning. Paul corrected Peter precisely because Paul’s faith in Jesus Christ taught him that Peter was in the wrong, although Peter was the highest visible authority of the Church.

We can give another example with a thought experiment. If the French Catholics had disagreed with the revolutionary authorities in some points in 1789, and, in obedience to their bishops, they had voiced their disagreement, and if after the publication in 1790 of “The Civil Constitution of the Clergy,” their bishops had submitted to this clear violation of the divine constitution of the Church and commanded the faithful to submit, the French faithful would have been coherent in disregarding their bishop’s commands. Why? Because their bishop would be rebelling against the divine constitution of the Church. Obedience to God and Jesus Christ would demand that the faithful disregard the commands of the rebellious bishops.

In the case of theologians, the adherence to divine revelation and to God is intellectually articulated. This is why normally the popes and councils have not defined any statement as an article of the faith before the statement was seriously discussed and shown as being in conformity with divine revelation. The official Magisterium of the Church has been respectful of the requirements of the intellect within the field of theology.

But in a time like ours, it seems necessary to remind Catholic theologians of the requirements of logic and metaphysics, those indispensable disciplines that, taught by Hegelians, Nietzscheans, Heideggerians, and Gadamerians, they have learned to despise.

One of these theologians who despise logic and metaphysics is, without a doubt, Walter Cardinal Kasper. He and his ilk want to wiggle out of a real intellectual discussion by postulating that “truth” as the conformity of things and intellect is no longer (?) relevant or possible. According to him, as according to Nietzsche and Cratylus, everything is in flux, everything is historical, and nothing is exempted from this flux. For this reason, one cannot state anything that could possibly have the value of truth in all times. Therefore, I conclude explicitly what is implicit in Kasper’s work: in each age, Christians should conform themselves to what the powers that be tell them they must believe. Why would you take the trouble to see if something is in conformity with God’s nature or with man’s salvation according to revelation if there are no beings or “metaphysical structures” exempted from the flux of history – if there is no truth? [1]

But Cardinal Kasper and those in his camp do not mention what their father Nietzsche perceived full well. Human beings cannot rid themselves from the “illusion” of truth – the very use of language is a denial of the universal flux (The Twilight of the Idols, “‘Reason’ in Philosophy,” 5). So the statement of the universal flux is just a radical option against language and against reason. And the deepest motive of this option is the hatred of God: “‘Reason’ in language — oh, what an old deceptive female she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar” (ibidem).

But, my dear Cardinal Kasper and the likes, we as Christians do not want to follow Nietzsche’s rebellion against the Eternal God! Thus, we require that whoever wants to impose upon us a statement as a tenet of our faith proves that such statement is true – that is to say, is contained in Revelation.

Now, truth can be analyzed into its elements. These elements might be different in different disciplines, according to the realities they deal with. Demonstrative truth is analyzed into principles (axioms, definitions, and postulates) and reasoning. Truth accepted by faith must be analyzed into that which has been revealed. Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, Saint John the Evangelist.

Revelation is known through Scripture and Tradition. By “Tradition” we mean the teachings of the apostles and those saintly and wise authors who gathered the apostolic wisdom up to John of Damascus. The Magisterium is at the service of revelation and is not its master (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 10). But when the Magisterium of the Church has defined something solemnly as contained in Revelation, the Catholic theologian must abide by that definition.

The Council of Trent has defined several of the currently disputed points on the sacraments of penance, Communion, and marriage. One cannot be called a Catholic if one does not abide by the definitions of the Council of Trent.

We are Catholics, Christians, by the grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God – not by any mere man, no matter what his office might be. So we must abide by the teachings of revelation not by a vague “feeling” of following Jesus’s compassion (as some theologians have asked of Christians recently). Theology is a serious and difficult discipline, the goal of which is to unveil the Truth contained in revelation and to serve it. Certainly, its goal is not to place Christians under the intellectual or ideological fashions of the age or the world.

Any theological discussion, to avoid nonsense, has to strive to show what the true teachings of revelation are. Any theological discussion, to avoid nonsense, must give real arguments that can be evaluated intellectually by the other party and must intellectually answer the arguments of the other party. Any other way of discussing is just an unmerciful bullying, disrespectful of the dignity of the human intellect and of the dignity of both revelation and the faithful who adhere to it.

[1] See a good presentation of Walter Kasper’s “Introduction to Christian Faith” in Thomas Heinrich Starc’s “German Idealism and Walter Kasper’s Theological Project.”

51 thoughts on “How Many Theologians Have Forgotten the Elements of Faith?”

  1. “Walter Cardinal Kasper … and his ilk want to wiggle out of a real intellectual discussion by postulating that “truth” as the conformity of things and intellect is no longer (?) relevant or possible.”
    Does that impossibility of attaining or knowing the truth include the statements out of Cardinal Kasper’s mouth?

      • Follow the link to end note 1 and you will see plenty of literal quotations from his “Introduction to Christianity.”

        For example, he says: “Unlike other widespread concepts of truth, truth in the Bible,” Kasper maintains, “is not simply a question of finding agreement between thought and reality (adaequatio rei et intellectus ). Biblical truth is rather an event in which the original presupposition is proved valid. Truth cannot, in the Biblical sense, be retained. It would be more correct to say that it presents itself and that it is directly connected with history.”

        This means that he holds that the Heideggerian way of conceiving “truth” and the Marxian, Nietzschean and Heideggerian rejection of truth as correspondence between the intellect and reality.

      • Other examples of Kasper’s statements which Stark quotes:

        “In general, truth can never be expressed in a single statement, and a dogma never settles a theological issue once and for all.”

        “It is perfectly possible for dogmas to be one-sided, superficial, vindictive, stupid, and premature.”

        “The things that happen in history are theologically not mere stirrings on the surface of an eternal ground of being, not a fleeting shadow of the eternal, but the real nature of “things” themselves. There is no metaphysical structure of order to be disentangled from all the detail of history and salvation history. […] History is the ultimate framework of all reality.”

        These quotations are more difficult, but I simplify their meaning in my piece.

        • Kasper was born March 5, 1933. Is that untrue or have I just cite the single exception necessary to invalidate his proposition?

          By the way; if the date seems familiar it, should.

  2. I’m a revert, currently undergoing the year long process (or longer) of an annulment for a marriage I was in 22 yrs ago. I married a Catholic who was not practicing, but wanted to “marry in the church”, so I converted after a mere 4 weeks of catechesis. I literally did not even KNOW an annulment was required when I left the church prior to my 4 yrs of marriage to my unfaithful husband (he never once stepped foot in the Catholic church after our wedding day). So obviously Amoris Letitia is of keen interest to me. I am abstaining from the Eucharist daily….even though I attend Mass daily and have come to realize the power of the Eucharist since my return to the church in June 2017. I was informed that I needed to abstain from ALL sacraments in July of 2017 until my annulment could be determined by my diocese Tribunal. Now, my priest, my advocate and even the secretary of the Tribunal office agrees that my case meets the requirements of an annulment on not one, but three possible grounds, yet I still have to submit to exclusion until such a time as my case can be heard. Now obviously, you can’t have unrepentant people just partaking of the Eucharist without any examination of their lives….but keep in mind, those of us who ARE actually aware of our past sins, who ARE repentant cannot even go to confession until we essentially wait in a long, long line before we even get our day in court. Go ahead and rant against the Pope, thought I personally believe doing so is the definition of disobedience for the laity, but be aware that your ranting and defiance of the Pope the the Lord himself has placed in authority is causing folks like me to shed tears daily and btw, we are crying out to the Blessed Mother multiple times a day to correct those in the church that defy the vicor of Christ.

    • I’m confused by your account here.

      Were you civilly married more than once?

      Upon what grounds are you now saying your current or prior marriages were invalid?

    • Did you re-marry? You never really stated as to why you cannot receive Communion. Getting a divorce is not automatic grounds to prohibit you from taking Communion.

      One hundred years ago you never would have been granted an annulment. Christ is our Lord and not the Papacy. Christ Himself said that whoever he has joined (man-wife in marriage) let no man put-asunder.

      • He also said “What you have joined together I consider joined together and what you put asunder I consider put asunder” By YOU he means His Church.

        • Do you want to cite that, please?

          10 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

          2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

          3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

          4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

          5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’[a] 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8 and the two will become one flesh.’[c] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

          • Ah. Well I think the actual quote is “what you bind on earth is bound Heaven.”. But we should take for granted that when the apostles committed the Word to writing, they took for granted that nobody would ever try to bind something in contradiction to Christ’s teachings and commands, which they are now.

          • This is exactly like the OT, when God tells man that he can kill and eat meat. God says it is because of the hardness of your heart that I allow you to eat meat. God then told man that animals will fear you from now on. We still eat meat.

        • Dear Alice, Christ gave Peter and the College of Apostles the power of teaching the truth. But, as the II Vatican Council has taught (DV 10), the Successors do not have the power to change Revelation, they can only declare what is contained in Revelation. And that is what the Successors have always done. That is the nature of their ministry.

    • Should the truth cause me to shed even untold floods of tears, then by the grace of Almighty God, let every last one of them be shed! For my Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To be found in Him is worth all.

    • If you are not engaged in ongoing sinful behavior such as a conjugal relationship in a “second” marriage, I cannot accept that you are not allowed to go to confession, and if you are in the state of grace there is no reason to be abstaining from Holy Communion.
      If, on the other hand you are now in a sexually active relationship without benefit of an annulment you must cease sexual activity, maintain continence, go to confession and you can receive Holy Communion.
      After you get the annulment and receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony conjugal relations may be engaged.
      Through no fault of your own, it is reasonable to assume, you have been poorly catechized. Catechesis was eradicated in the post-conciliar era. You have a right to catechesis, and if you cant’ get it from you parish priest pick up the Catechism, Holy Scripture and access good internet resources.

    • “Go ahead and rant against the Pope, though I personally believe doing so is the definition of disobedience for the laity, but be aware that your ranting and defiance of the Pope that the Lord himself has placed in authority is causing folks like me to shed tears daily and btw, we are crying out to the Blessed Mother multiple times a day to correct those in the church that defy the vicar of Christ.”

      How cynical your attempt to shame those who would object to falsehood.

      I doubt the veracity of your story, however IF it’s true you have my compassion despite manic projecting of your
      personal issues in which you ignorantly sweep aside honest, healthy, decent debate around Church issues by
      lover’s of the Truth.

    • First of all, dear Christi, I do not “rant against the pope”. I did not even mention the actual teachings of the pope on this piece.

      Second, I think James answers you sufficiently below. If you are not canonically married, according to FC 84 and the Council of Trent you may not Confess your sins unless you abstain from sexual intercourse. I have a cousin who did this for years, obeying FC, and lived an examplary life, despite her early sins.

    • The Catholic Church presumes all marriages – even natural marriage – are valid. The bar to prove otherwise is very, very high – at least it used to be. One should not presume, or worse, expect that a decree of nullity will be issued. The facts you list (a short marriage to an unfaithful husband entered decades ago after a brief catechesis), although very tragic, are not sufficient grounds for an annulment and anyone who advises you otherwise is not being faithful to the Church’s long-standing teaching on the binding nature of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. A marriage made in haste to an unsuitable cad is not grounds for an annulment unless he was a close relative or you were coerced in some manner. An annulment does not magically “dissolve” a bad, but otherwise valid marriage. A decree of nullity declares the marriage never existed in the first place.

      Either someone is seriously misinforming you or you’re leaving out certain facts (like you’ve entered into a second civil marriage), but a civilly divorced Catholic can return to the Sacraments – all you must do is undertake a serious examination of conscience, repent and confess your sins in the Sacrament of Penance, especially those related to the divorce, and you can receive the Eucharist. You cannot receive the Blessed Sacrament, however, if you have entered a “second” marriage – unless you refrain from sexual intercourse with you’re new “husband.” But even then, it would cause scandal because people would rightly assume you were engaging in marital relations. A good priest would then advise you to receive the Eucharist privately or perhaps, at a distant parish, so as not to scandalize the faithful who know your situation. Sadly, easy annulments and AL have given people the impression that they’re entitled to a decree of nullity just because their marriage was difficult or otherwise didn’t work out, thereby diluting one of the most beautiful and essential truths of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony – its irrevocability.

      There is something else you don’t seem to understand. Pope Francis may be the Vicar of Christ on earth but he is not Christ the King, the Sovereign Priest – and Jesus Christ was pretty clear on the indissolubility of marriage. Our first obedience is to God, not man. We have great saints who were martyred for their defense of the indissolubility of marriage (e.g., St. Thomas More & St. John Fisher). It might do you well to research their lives and meditate on their deaths to understand true suffering. If we love God, we must keep all His commandments even if – especially if – they’re hard. God wants more for us then we can possibly understand. He may be calling you to be a great saint, a suffering visible witness to the consequences of a singular, but irrevocable, promise made in haste years ago. If you entered your marriage with knowledge and consent, you are still married in the eyes of the Church. Don’t settle for earthly pleasures. Set your sights on the Beatific Vision!

    • If you are not remarried or you are remarried and living as brother and sister you are not excluded from communion, this was so way before Pope Francis who would say yes to Communion if you were remarried and not living as brother and sister, which in the case of Holy Communion would be a sacrilege. The Catholic Church does not exclude anyone from Confession. Annulments verify if a sacramental marriage actually took place, and therefore does not refute the Gospel in any way as some would like to believe, unless someone is not truthful. This is and has always been the teaching of the Church although some would say they have been granted more frequently, which is true but it does not mean people who seek one are wrong to do so if they are acting in good faith. Pope Francis in doing away with the 2nd tribunal review is opening the flood gates to abuse and doing injury to all those involved, and annulments in general.

      • A tribunal seeks evidence of invalidity. They do not investigate “sacramentality.”

        All valid marriages of two baptized persons are “sacramental.”

    • Who is “defying” him? Am I supposed to nod my head in agreement like a braying jack*ss when for some he says “who am I to judge”; but calls others “bloodsuckers” or “Pelagians”? How about when he meets with the likes of Castro but declares people who build walls not to be Christian? Am I not to notice how he has enemies (Cdl Burke or Cdl Sarah) and either ignores or publicly humiliates them?

      What you call defiance is confusion, the truth of the matter is that in this day an age; people catch on. As for the validity of defying a Pope, let’s not forget how as the Archbishop of Buenos Aries, he took aim at Pope Benedict for the Regensberg address; as an aside-Benedict erred in not using the full weight of the Papal Office to bury him. We also see the difference between the “A” team and the “B” team.

      Popes are infallible in limited circumstances; they do not enjoy plenary infallibility or impeccability. Christ said I know my sheep and my sheep know me .

    • What you write is confusing. Like others here, I have to think you’ve left out important details. I don’t know where you are, but I am not aware of any “long, long line” anywhere while awaiting a judgment of nullity that is as clear as you pretend yours is. Your use of the words “rant” and “defiance” seems to give your game away and hints that there is fundamental dishonesty in your post.

      • I got an annulment a number of years ago when I returned to the Catholic Church. I wasn’t Catholic at the time I got married, my husband wasn’t either and we were married in a civil ceremony by a probate judge, so it was pretty cut-and-dry. I don’t remember how long it took, but it wasn’t very. I too think there are some important details missing from this story. So, what gives?

        • I know. I’m also thoroughly familiar with the process leading to a declaration of nullity and know that what we see in Christi’s post is manipulative propaganda; she’s withholding facts to pad her case and perhaps even exaggerating certain matters.

    • I am a Catholic theologian. Prof. Casanova is correct. We obey the pope and those in positions of authority in the Church NOT because of their person or their position. We obey them because God has commanded us, through Divine Revelation, to do so. They hold their positions for one purpose only — TO SERVE AND DO THE WILL OF GOD, which is expressed in His revelation of the Truth — Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. When anyone in authority deviates from the expressed will of God, on that particular point we are BOUND by our baptismal and confirmation vows to DISOBEY that authority, including the pope, precusely because that individual has disobeyed the revealed truth and will of God and we are required to obey God FIRST above all other creatures. In Amoris Laetitia, Francis explicitly declares that exhortation NOT to be an expression of his Magisterial authority. Nevertheless, in that document he explicitly advocates and promotes Catholics to violate God’s law. In doing so he willingly and purposely disobeys God’s expressed will. Thus, both because he has disobeyed God’s will and because he hinself has stated that Amoris Laetitia is not Magisterial and, therefore, we are not required to obey it. We, therefore, are NOT being disobedient to the pope.

      Now, you may receive the sacraments while you wait for your diocesan narriage tribunal to render its decision PROVIDED THAT. 1) you have not remarried OR 2) if you have remarried that you and your spouse are living as brother and sister. If you and your spouse engage in conjugal relations THEN YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF GOD’S LAW and the Magisterial teaching of the Church. In this case, even if your priest or bishop tell you otherwise, you MUST NOT receive the sacraments until the marriage tribunal has declared your previous marriage invalid. To do otherwise is to commit the mortal sin of sacrilege, which would add to the mortal sin of adultry, and, thus, would place your immortal soul in grave jeopardy.

    • Your story is impossible to follow. It is impossible to tell when you were and were not a Catholic, and when you were and were not married, or to whom, or why you are not receiving Communion.

    • You are ranting against Jesus. He said that anyone who marries another after divorce commits adultery. If you are truly faithful then you will be living as brother and sister until the church makes a ruling. You cannot claim ignorance now. And even “ignorance” can be culpable negligence.

  3. Mr Casanova, your 7th paragraph is confusing. Before the clause listing the Hegelian, nihilists, etc, I believe you need to insert the word “they” in reference to the theologians. Otherwise it seems the paragraph says the nihilists,etc. followed the laws of Metaphysics. What you mean is modern theologians, weaned on the Nihilists, despise metaphysics.

  4. “Christians do not follow men or human institutions or cultures, except as far as it is required by the divine order. Christians obey God, definitely and most fully revealed in Jesus Christ, God and man. If we obey the pope and the bishops, it is not just because of who they are or their position, but because Christ’s revelation commands this and because they serve Christ’s revelation.”

    Lawyers have an expression: hard cases make bad law.

    In the present time we are being tested by a hierarchy that is at best vexatious.

  5. Excellent piece, Prof. Casanova.

    I have thought for a long time that Kasper’s version of “God” is a god who is subject to history. He is a god who learns as he goes along, who is not eternally simple and perfect. He is a god who has been remade in man’s image and likeness. To all intents and purposes Kasper is an atheist.

  6. I read the three books that Pope Benedict wrote while he was Pope. In one book he said the CC teaching was a mixture of Philosophy and Christianity. He explained that the Christian Church turned in a slightly different direction from the Jewish understanding, using Philosophy. I am not doing a good job of explaining it, the book is in storage, but the part of mixture of….. is correct.

    • Did not st Thomas equinas introduce Aristotelian philosophy into the church? He made some enemies when he did that too although one of the things I like about educated Catholics is their ability to think critically.

  7. To what extent cardinal Kasper follows his professor J.R. Geiselmann’s theses on tradition and scripture each being “complete”? According to this, one can do without tradition as Scripture is “materially sufficient”.

  8. “The Council of Trent has defined several of the currently disputed points on the sacraments of penance, Communion, and marriage. One cannot be called a Catholic if one does not abide by the definitions of the Council of Trent.”

    What a great statement — thank you!


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