The Catholic Thing
Cardinal Kasper, Continued Print E-mail
By Fr. Gerald Murray   
Thursday, 22 May 2014

The effort by Cardinal Walter Kasper to change the Church’s discipline regarding the inadmissibility of divorced and remarried Catholics to Sacramental Communion – and thus necessarily her teaching on the nature of sin – continues apace. Having argued before an assembly of cardinals in Rome in February that the Church’s immemorial discipline of refusing to give Holy Communion to those living in an adulterous second marriage must be cast aside, Cardinal Kasper has taken to promoting this idea further in speeches and interviews.

In a May 7 interview with Commonweal, for example, he continued to develop his argument. At one point, Kasper is asked about the question posed by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, “What happens to the first marriage?” He answers: “The first marriage is indissoluble because marriage is not only a promise between the two partners; it’s God’s promise too, and what God does is done for all time. Therefore the bond of marriage remains. Of course, Christians who leave their first marriage have failed. That’s clear. The problem is when there is no way out of such a situation.”

A few observations: If the bond of marriage remains, then the obligation of fidelity to that bond remains. Whether the “failure” that led to the separation of the spouses can be attributed to one or both of them, the bond remains. Faithfulness to God and to the word given to one’s spouse requires that adultery be avoided, and even more, that a pseudo-marriage with another person not be entered into.

The failure of the marriage may or may not mean that a spouse has failed. God will forgive a spouse who admits being a cause of a separation, yet that forgiveness is predicated upon a resolve to either re-establish common life with one’s spouse, or if that is not possible at the present, to refrain from any sin against the unity and exclusivity of marriage.

Kasper’s claim that there are times when “there is no way out of such a situation” is simply not correct. Fidelity is always required in marriage, and is the only Christian way to deal with difficulty, and even tragedy, in married life.  Any other “way out” is a false way.

             Cardinal Walter Kasper

He states further:  

The second marriage, of course, is not a marriage in our Christian sense. And I would be against celebrating it in church. But there are elements of a marriage. I would compare this to the way the Catholic Church views other churches. The Catholic Church is the true church of Christ, but there are other churches that have elements of the true church, and we recognize those elements. In a similar way, we can say, the true marriage is the sacramental marriage. And the second is not a marriage in the same sense, but there are elements of it – the partners take care of one another, they are exclusively bound to one another, there is an intention of permanence, they (sic) care of children, they lead a life of prayer, and so on. It’s not the best situation. It’s the best possible situation. 

More observations: An adulterous union is never “the best possible situation” for anyone. The “elements of a marriage” praised by Kasper all come at the expense of the “marriage in our Christian sense.” They are essentially counterfeit, as they are ways of living and acting that are owed exclusively to one’s spouse, and cannot be simultaneously shared with anyone else. You cannot have two spouses at once. A civilly re-married Catholic is in no way “exclusively bound” to the new spouse, since he/she remains bound to his/her true spouse.

There can be no real “intention of permanence” because there is no marriage either requiring or permitting permanence, merely a substitute relationship that is carried on in contradiction to the existing permanent bond. Did not the spouse who is civilly remarried intend permanence when he/she made his/her marriage vows before the Church to the spouse he/she no longer cohabits with? That intention can be disregarded, but it cannot be withdrawn; it remains in force.

Later in the interview, Kasper adds: “In no way do I deny the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. That would be stupid. We must enforce it, and help people to understand it and to live it out. That’s a task for the Church. But we must recognize that Christians can fail, and then we have to help them.”

Here we see that Cardinal Kasper’s proposal involves a clear departure from the teaching and practice of the Church: When a Catholic spouse no longer shares common life with the other spouse, the help that the Church offers is not the facilitation of adultery, but rather the call to fidelity accompanied by the graces offered through prayer, the worthy reception of the sacraments, and the bearing of one’s cross in union with Christ.

The idea that the Church should recognize a pseudo-marriage as an expression of God’s mercy is a contradiction of the Gospel. A married person may have failed to preserve the unity and common life of his marriage, or been the victim of the failure on the other spouse’s part. In either case, God’s mercy will not be found in the Church giving permission to commit adultery in good conscience.

This is why the only possible solutions for those who now regret having entered into an invalid second marriage are: 1) to apply for a declaration of nullity of their marriage if grounds for such exist; 2) to break off the adulterous union; 3) or if this is not possible for serious reasons, then to live as brother and sister and no longer engage in adulterous behavior.

Cardinal Kasper is correct in stating about the indissolubility of marriage, “We must enforce it, and help people to understand it and to live it out.” It is regrettable that he fails to see that his proposal does the exact opposite.

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY, and a canon lawyer.
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Comments (25)Add Comment
written by just wondering, May 21, 2014
One wonders what will be left of the Catholic Church when Cardinals like Kaspar and Dolan ( with this Bravo to the football player openly pronouncing his homosexuality) have fully implemented their novelties at odds with Catholic doctrine. Is there any wonder that Pope Francis has made the public statements he has. These cardinals were in the conclave. I know SSPX gets very little respect on this website but everyday the evidence mounts that they were/are right about Vatican II.
written by Carlos Caso-Rosendi, May 21, 2014
I understand that Cardinal Kasper was instrumental in designing an "ecumenical mass" devoid of Consecration, a "mass" (lowercase intentional) designed so that non-Catholic Christians or even non-Christians could participate. I also understand that he willingly delivered a document to the Holy Father in Rome on behalf of a group of people who wanted to sanctify homosexual unions. I read about these two things at one time or another in last ten years, if I am not right I ask to be corrected. Now he proposes another angle to attack the Sacrament of Marriage.

I am not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination but I detect in the actions described above a certain anti-sacrament tendency. Personally, if all or any of those deplorable actions reported are true, I would like to know if we are about to abolish the Sacraments.

I ask the commentariat here if this is a sign of a schism that is about to occur. In fact we have two churches, one where Veritas reigns, and another where Caritas justifies anything.

I would appreciate to have a "V" displayed in those churches and parishes adhering to Holy Tradition and the Catholic Church of the Ages. It will make my life much easier.
written by Ken Tremulous, May 22, 2014
Interesting, Father, that your post comes one day after Ross Douhat's column "Against Walter Kasper (I)" in the NYT. One thing you don't mention that Douhat does, admittedly only in passing, is that the present Pope has expressed vague sympathies with Cdl. Kasper's thinking.

What can this mean? Why are commentators like yourself and Douhat not willing to grasp this nettle?
written by rtjl, May 22, 2014
"The second marriage, of course, is not a marriage in our Christian sense. And I would be against celebrating it in church." Yeah, right. We all know that statement is incomplete and we all know what is really meant.

"The second marriage, of course, is not a marriage in our Christian sense. And I would be against celebrating it in church. For Now. But once the people get used to the idea of second marriages and used to them and accommodated to them, then we can celebrate second (and third and fourth) marriages in church."

This is just the principle of gradualism in operation. Get people to accept a seemingly smaller change as a step towards getting them to accept wholesale change. I'm not buying it.
written by Manfred, May 22, 2014
Thank you, Father, for a forceful, orthodox and well argued article. I would only add that Cdl Kasper's sobriquet is: The Pope's theologian. Who is the real source of this thinking?
written by schm0e, May 22, 2014
Everyone wants to be a reformer.
written by Tom Piatak, May 22, 2014
An excellent piece.
written by Jameson, May 22, 2014
"But there are elements of a marriage. I would compare this to the way the Catholic Church views other churches. The Catholic Church is the true church of Christ, but there are other churches that have elements of the true church, and we recognize those elements."

Fair enough, but this would seem to prove the opposing view. The Church does not allow Christian communities (e.g. Disciples of Christ, Methodists etc) to partake of the Holy Eucharist, even though they have "elements" of the Christian gospel. Perhaps Cardinal Kasper addresses this somewhere, but in the excerpt above this point jumps out. If the Church yields in this matter, why not allow non Catholic Christians to participate in Communion??
written by Walter, May 22, 2014
Fr. Murray, your own logic gives Cardinal Kasper an opening. Sexual relations with a non-spouse is indeed a serious sin, but your argument to live together as "brother and sister" reduces marriage to a licensed sexual union and nothing more. Does not living together as "brother and sister" with a non-spouse while your true spouse lives elsewhere also profane the Sacrament of Marriage? (See Matthew 5:28, or Jimmy Carter's 1976 Playboy interview). Your rationale - "if this is not possible for serious reasons" - is exactly the rationale that Cardinal Kasper would use.
written by David Brandt, May 22, 2014
There does seem to be an element of- bait & switch? What in the good Kdl's argument cannot be repurposed to justify celebrating, and admitting to Communion the parties to, same-sex unions? The implications of a Kasper Dispensation prance nimbly in the direction of husband-and-husband priests co-pastoring parishes.
written by Athanasius, May 22, 2014
Cardinal Kasper seems to have become pastoral to the extreme, throwing doctrine away as long as people feel good. I am, really, do we believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, or don't we? If so, then we must put him and his truth first and foremost in our minds. If God is perfect love and perfect truth, then how can we expect to find happiness by taking another road?

I have found in my life that sometimes the toughest part of following the Church's teaching is not the actual day-to-day carrying out of the teachings, but the initial decision to do so. We have been taught that God will not give a cross any heavier than the grace he gives us to bear it. As such, we should not have to water down the message in our attempts to help people, for such will not be real help.

As an aside, I have noticed much commentary from the visitors to this site against Vatican II. Having actually read the documents myself, I find no standing for this. There may have been much silliness in the Church in the last 50 years, but this was not because of but in spite of the council. Further, who are the "illuminati" that claim the authority to decide that this council was invalid? Did Jesus mislead us when he said the gates of hell would not prevail against our Church? Have faith in Christ, and in his promise to protect his bride through the ages.
written by Paul, May 22, 2014
Divorced and re-married Roman Catholics given permission to receive Holy Communion could be the wake-up needed. I'm not holding my breath though, because I haven't heard of any pro-choice Roman Catholics being denied. Years ago when I noticed huge problems, I asked my Dad "what would have to happen before you conceded the "Church" crossed the line". His response of "ordaining women Priests" shocked me. He is so sure his "Church" is "The Church" he is blinded to reality.
written by Bill Hocter, May 22, 2014
Are we heading for a two tier Church? At face value it doesn't seem very Catholic. I understand we should be faithful and enduring in marriage for God and not just for private benefit. But, In justice, you have to give people who stay loyal to the Sacrament and each other) something more than a hearty handshake.

How about a fourth level of Holy Orders for the "A" Team with "special secret ceremonies"? A gated community in Heaven (complete with HOA)? Sounds great, doesn't it? :(

Do we really want to remove one more obstacle to the scourge of divorce?
written by Maria Perez, May 22, 2014
Thank you Father, for a brilliant piece. While I will probably be castigated for saying this, it's sad that these cardinals have been endorsed by the Pope. Yes, no one wants to admit it, but silence is approval. Since he says nothing and does nothing to stop it, he is responsible for it. But since in the new Pope's church there seems to be no evil greater than calling an evil evil (i.e. gossiping, speaking against each other, disagreeing, etc..--which is a lot like "see no evil, hear no evil, correct no evil"), Cardinal Kasper goes on pontificating his ridiculous ideas of false mercy that would make a mockery of not one but probably all the sacraments. May God have mercy on us and grant us the strength to defend the truth and the church and not flee for fear of the wolves such as Cardinal Kasper and all those who would cheapen God's grace by declaring it insufficient. St. Thomas More, pray for us.
written by convert, May 22, 2014
Just a personal note and I do agree with Father. When I was brought into the church, my mother who had been divorced from a drunk who beat her. My dad was protestant. Father told me I was a bastard in the eyes of the church. I took in a breath or two and the questions flew. My mother was raised as and was a Traditional Catholic and we were all brought up as Catholic. My father had no problem with that. So it might take the wind out of your sails move on. The church is the church and the stability is that she is as she has been....and God willing will always be.
written by Chris in Maryland, May 22, 2014
Amen Father Murray, faithful to the Truth.

This moment in the history of The Church will be a litmus test for the generation of Bishops who ascended after Vatican II, and will be the watershed monent of the post-Vatican II Church.

Just this month, Cdl. Kasper, a prominent member of the progressive wing of post-Vatican II Bishops, and perpetual opponent of Cdl. Ratzinger / Pope Benedict, allied himself with Elizabeth Johnson of Fordham and like-minded "catholics," such as Laurie Brink, both of whom deny the Divinity of Christ. In 2007 Ms. Johnson, a neo-gnostic theologian at Fordham U, wrote a book of theology called "Quest for the Living God." Fordham U stabbed faithful parents and students in the back by making it a main text in the core requirement theology course for Fordham undergrads.

On 30 March 2011, the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee condemned Johnson’s book for “misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors” that do “not accord with authentic Catholic teaching on essential points.” They stated that Johnson's book “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel” when it addresses doctrine of the Trinity.

What exactly are we supposed to believe about the intentions of Cdl. Kasper, and those who are promoting him?
written by Seanachie, May 22, 2014
Perhaps these various arguments indicate why annulments are so freely given..."a way out".
written by Myshkin, May 22, 2014
I'll just remind readers of TCT that at his very first Angelus, Francis conspicuously plugged Kasper's recent book on mercy, hailing him as an "on the ball" thinker. And at the pre-Synod meeting in February, he thanked Cdl. Kasper for his address saying it was "profound theology, serene theology," which reflected the "sensus ecclesiae... that love for Mother Church, right there" contained in the teaching of no less than Bergoglio's own spiritual father: the Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola.

"This is called doing theology while kneeling," the Pope Francis said of his chosen theological keynote speaker ... and so this is not simply about Cdl. Kasper's marriage opinions. Cdl. Kasper is but the glove -- the hand is the present Pope. How can commentators like Douthat and Father Murray (and one might add Dr. Ed Peters on his canon law blog) write as if these facts were not known?

What is to be done if the Pope goes against the Magisterial teaching of the Church in the name of pastoral sensitivity? Fr. Murray should not be ignoring what's really happening on this issue pretending its all just Cdl. Kasper ...
written by Rick Fitzgibbons, May 22, 2014
Cardinal Kasper's comments that,"...Christians who leave their first marriage have failed. That’s clear. The problem is when there is no way out of such a situation” fail to recognize that, in fact, healing is possible for most troubled marriages. This challenging marital journey involves uncovering the marital conflicts in each spouse, a commitment to work on weakness by growth in virtues and grace, a loyalty to the goodness in one's spouse, daily forgiveness and a deeper trust that the Lord's love supports the sacrament of marriage.

In one major study, couples who somehow managed to endure unhappiness at one marital stage typically emerged five years later in good shape: “Two of the three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later. Just one out of five unhappy spouses who divorced or separated had happily remarried in the same time period.”
Linda Waite, Don Browning, William Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Lou. & Scott Stanley, Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages (New York: Institute for American Values, 2002), p. 6.
written by Peter Shafton, May 22, 2014
Bravo, Fr. Murray! Our Lord's Church needs many more priests like you who have the guts to stand up for Him, and His Bride the Church.

Although learning about the carryings-on of the likes of Cardinal Kasper does not make inspiring reading; we do need to know how we are being exposed to the workings of the Father of Lies. However, rather that panicking and wondering why nothing appears to be done to bring these people to task, I suppose we should remember our Saviour’s words in the Gospel, when he told us that the weeds should be allowed to grow alongside the wheat – till the day of judgement.

For our part, we need to pray; for our Holy Father, our Church, and especially for those members of the Church who appear to be minions of the Evil One.
written by Rod la Rocque, May 23, 2014
The German Church (of which Cardinal Kaspar is a part) has for a long time been in defacto schism with Rome. It is just now under this new Pope that the leaders of this schism feel bold enough to come out of the shadows.
The paradox here is that these heretics are allowed access to the Catholic media and give lectures in parishes and churches in Germany and around the world, yet the SSPX, which has never changed or taught anything against the faith or traditional practice of the Church gets labelled as schismatic because they in conscience can't go along with the modernist zeitgeist - which even more strangely has already been condemned by popes over and over again.
Seriously, the truth is stranger than fiction - and much more bizarre.
written by Joe M, May 23, 2014
In the Catholic Church, dispelling error is easy. The Pope simply has to speak. In this case, Kasper seems to be speaking for the Pope. So why vilify him? The detailed take down here is right but misguided. It is the Pope primarily, and not Kasper, who needs schooling. But no one will say that, since modern Catholics are papal Yes-men. What other wondrous things shall Francis do? Sad.
written by John, May 24, 2014
The Church is definitely entered into bizzaro-world.
If one has a devotion to the faith as it was taught for 1700 years, they are called names like "self-absorbed neo-palagian, Pharisee, crypto-Lefebvreian, etc).
For the commenters jumping and defending Vatican II (@Athanadius) , as one who has also read the documents. There is no doubt the Catholicfaith prior to the ccouncil cannot be reconciled to the church we see now.
The devrees on ecumenism, (salific properties in all of the worlds religeons), Sancrosanctum concillium (the mass of paul VI is totally different than the mass of Pius V, regardless how reverent or even if done in Latin, the mass is quite Luthetan/Anglican), the document on religous freedom is also a radical departure from the faith of 2,000 years.
As a result of the problematic council, when paired with the times led to a complete crisis that continues today.
You can criticize the post conciliar church without being a sedevacantist (I assume this is the root of your "Illuminate" statement?
Although, as stated, being a Catholic who is attached to the faith of 2,000 yeats prior to the council is clearly one that will get you called names (the ADL produced pejorative "radtrad", and if your religious order is attached to this faith and flourishing (Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and now the sisters) you must be crusjed.

The modernist dissident heresy, previously condemmed as the "synthesis of all heresies" has found a home in the post-conciliar church.

Sancte Leo XIII, ora pro nobis!
written by Chris in Maryland, May 24, 2014
Joe M:

I think you are right in pointing to what MAY BE the source of the problem. The problem may not be one man, Cdl. Kasper. Cdl. Kasper has publicly allied himself with Elizabeth Johnson of Fordham (and other like-minded "Catholics," like Laurie Brink) who deny the divinity of Christ. Note I say "allied." Cdl. Kasper has stated publicly (and I agree with him on this), that the documents of Vatican II are intentionally ambiguous, allowing divergent interpretations.

The proposal to allow communion for Catholics "divorced and re-married" has been an issue pushed by Kasper and other German bishops since at least 1993.

Cdl. Kasper has been called a "clever theologian" (e.g., by Pope Francis). He is too clever by half. In predictable fashion for "progressives," he is willing to ally himself with "Catholics" who go so far as too deny the divinity of Christ.

In his "Apologia Pro Vita Sua," John Henry Newman wrote that when saw that the Anglican Church was willing to ally itself with heretics who rejected the teaching on the nature of Christ, that was the liberating REALIZATION that convinced Newman to enter the Catholic Church.

Now Cdl. Kasper is doing the exact same thing as the Anglican Church observed by Newman in the 19th century - he has allied himself with heretics, to help win support for what he has long proposed.

So what are Catholics supposed to think about Cdl. Kasper's devotion to "The Way, and The Truth, and The Life?" Kasper may be thought clever, and seems to craft his own theology, by carefully avoiding outright rejection of the truth. What he and so many others seem to want is an accommodation with Jesus himself. He wants his cake (his status in the Church) and he wants to eat it too (remake The Church in his image).

He is willing to have a Church where Jesus is "The Way and The Truth and The Life," as is willing to assent to The Truth, as long as we don't have to live The Way and The Life.

In short - regardless of what he really wants - Kasper, and those like-minded, are proposing that The Catholic Church drive over the cliff.
written by Thomas, May 26, 2014
Is this real concern with divorce and sacrament of marriage?
Married couples who practice some form of natural family planning and do not use contraception, have less then 1-2% chance of divorce. Obvious reason is the Procreative and Unitive are intact.

Why doesn't the Cardinal place his focus there? Perhaps with a statement that only couples who use lawful forms of birth control are living out the sacrament of marriage? Why instead the attempt to water down marriage?

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