These days, the Universal Church is wending her way to the end of the liturgical year, which can be a bittersweet time for believers. As the days shorten and natural light diminishes, we are asked to remember the myriad witnesses who have gone before us “marked with the sign of faith.” Our long, rich history calls to mind so much suffering, so much joy, and so many challenges over the centuries. It has always been thus.
In an appropriately melancholy mood after a beautiful Mass for the feast of All Saints, I pondered the latest synod and what transpired–especially the proposals which suggest we have been remiss in the way we understand sin.
Knowing well that the pastoral innovations being offered are meant to invite more people into communion with the institutional Church, I came up with a list of questions whereby we can gauge the if this is indeed the likely outcome. If we’re to give a fair hearing to all proposals, we have to ask whether a relaxation of discipline surrounding the sacraments will actually benefit souls now and in the future. These are some of the questions that arose concerning “the Kasper Proposal”:
- Will it make us love God more, and lead us to wonder at the mystery of Trinitarian love?
- Will it lead to more contrition for our neglect of God and uncharity to neighbour?
- Will it make us weep with gratitude over the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf?
- Will it make us want to live virtue at the expense of self?
- Will it clarify for us the narrow path amidst a fallen world?
- Will it inspire us to go out to share with others God’s tremendous gift borne of love?
- Will it link us more closely to the witness of countless martyrs over many centuries?
- Will it make manifest the continuity and cohesiveness of the sacramental life?
- Will it forge deeper bonds of unity with the family of God that transcends time and space?
- Will it help us to decrease so that Christ may increase in each of us?
- Will it lift our eyes above our limited human horizon and direct us to a deeper joy?
- Will it make clear to our neighbour the reason for being Catholic?
- Will it make any sense at all, given Catholic history up to this point–or would it establish a rupture, separating us from Trinitarian love, the ranks of the blessed, long-standing sacramental theology, the nature of sacrifice, the reason we are called to the narrow path, and the cohesive unity of the entire Christian life?
Conversely, does the pastoral solution proposed by Cardinal Kasper make it easier for us to commend ourselves for lives that are merely “good enough,” to settle for mediocrity, to withhold the efforts necessary to go against the most inborn grain? Does it encourage us to set aside the ancient witness of those who we now believe to have misunderstood the demands of the Christian life, to marginalize the rigorous, and to send to the periphery those whose sacrifices cannot cohere with our own? Is it possible that such an approach would fracture the historical view, and change the prism of understanding, so that the unity of Catholics over the centuries of our Church becomes impossible? What does this do to the Mystical Body of Christ in which we are invited to partake–even as a path to sanctification?
To whom do we pray for help and guidance–or have we come to believe we can do without the intercession of the saints? How do we worship a God who allowed such errant confusion in the past; who sent His Son to die a cruel death when it may not have been necessary, and who uttered words that divided rather than affirmed? And finally, is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass even necessary in such a religion, to such a people, in such an atmosphere where love grows organically from the ground up, springing whole in the hearts of those who know better than to believe the constructs embedded in our ancient (read: outdated) creed?
I’m sure readers can add to this list of questions, and ponder the answers. My evaluation leads me to believe that the Kasper Proposal makes rupture more likely than unity, confusion more likely than consolation, and chaos more likely than order. We have always seen some measure of disorder around us–such is the nature of a fallen world–but disorder in theology cannot bring people confidently to God, Who is their only hope.
Authentic mercy depends on contrition, which in turn depends on knowing the truth about sin. If the answer to the questions above show that truth is marginalized, then all the talk of “mercy” is for naught. Disunity will be inevitable, and it remains vital for us to cling to that which leads us to communion with the Mystical Body–even if it is whittled to a shard–for communion with Christ and His bride is the bastion of truth and salvation in every age.