The Latest on the Kasper Proposal

Is the campaign to promote Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to allow the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics simply prompted by misguided but understandable sympathy, or is it motivated by something more sinister and revolutionary? The publication of the proceedings of the “Study Day on Pastoral Practice concerning Marriage and the Family,” organized in Rome on May 25, 2015 by the presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Germany, France, and Switzerland reveals that the agenda of the Kasper proposal proponents is about a lot more than reminding people in adulterous unions that God loves them. The real issue, to put it bluntly, is the redefinition of sin. Adultery is just one of the targeted subjects; homosexuality also looms large.

One of the presenters, Alain Thomasset, S.J., is vexed by the idea that some acts are intrinsically evil: “The interpretation of the doctrine of acts called ‘intrinsically evil’ seems to me to be one of the fundamental sources of the present difficulties in the pastoral care of families, since it underlies to a great extent the condemnation of artificial contraception, of the sexual acts of the divorced and remarried and of homosexual couples, including stable ones. This appears to many as incomprehensible and seems pastorally counterproductive.”

In essence, this blurs the difference between and right and wrong. Nothing can be intrinsically evil; it all depends upon the circumstances and intentions of the persons involved. Fr. Thomasset writes that a stable divorced-and-remarried couple trying to reconstitute a family would no longer be considered as guilty of adultery. And that a “homosexual relationship lived in stability and fidelity can be a path of holiness.”

How can a Catholic theologian say this? He is contradicting the constant teaching of the Church on the objective evil of sin and the moral imputability of sinful acts. Sin has been redefined out of existence. Do whatever you want, and do not worry about outdated categories that produce guilty feelings. In fact, having guilty feelings is seen as evidence of the cruelty, and hence the falsity, of the Church’s moral doctrine. If you are made to feel guilty for doing what you want to do, then you have been robbed of freedom and are a victim of a dictatorial system.

Those who reject the doctrine of the intrinsic evil of adulterous behavior and of homosexual acts cannot possibly conceive of the mission of the Church in the same way as the Church always has. That mission is the salvation of souls. Church teaching is the sure guide for living in harmony with God’s plan, and for avoiding those things that harm our soul now, and can lead us to lose our soul at the moment of our death.

Fr. Thomasset
Fr. Thomasset

For the innovators who reject that sure and certain teaching, the Church’s mission is about consolation, reassurance, affirmation. Salvation is not a question to be considered; it is presumed. The pressing urgency for the Church now is to justify people in violating what the Church has always taught to be binding in the realm of sexual morality. In this new approach, the guilty feelings and social stigma experienced by those once considered to be living in sin are obstacles to living in tranquil harmony with God and their fellow believers. The constant and unchanged moral teaching, not the sinner, is guilty of offending God. It must be changed.

The debate about the Kasper proposal has revealed that many now terribly misconstrue the nature of Christianity. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and open the way to Paradise. Jesus did not die on the cross to offer us the false reassurance that, in the end, you can do whatever you want, no matter what He revealed to his disciples about morality and justice. The whole notion that morality depends upon what you want it to mean is a revolutionary imposition on the Church. True consolation for the sinner comes from abandoning sin, not pretending it is not wrong.

The “Study Day” proceedings conclude with an unsigned “Summary” of the discussions. The effort to redefine sin out of existence is plainly evident. We read:

The directive images of marriage and the family define an ethical point of reference of great importance whose different facets human beings can only gradually transform into reality. From another angle this principle is important: he who loves lives a transcendental experience. Some aspects that must be considered as authentic testimonies of the love of God and of the action of the Spirit are to be found also in relations of love that do not apparently conform to the norms of the Church. We must look for God everywhere! In this context the importance of theological reflection on the “logoi spermatikoi” (seeds of the Word) was stressed. Faced with these structures of reality the Church is challenged to go beyond any form of un-nuanced reflection. In relation to the thematic of homosexuality a particular challenge is here posed to which we must respond in our reflection.

In short, the doctrine of the Faith is rendered meaningless when an “apparently” immoral lifestyle such as homosexual unions are, in the estimation of the “Summary” authors, “transcendental experiences” and “authentic testimonies of the love of God and of the action of the Spirit” that reveal the “seeds of the Word” of God hidden in what “un-nuanced” reflection has wrongly condemned as gravely offensive to God.

The duty to uphold Catholic teaching is paramount for all followers of Christ, especially for the Church’s shepherds. Because the salvation of souls depends upon our knowing and living what Christ taught us. The presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Germany, France, and Switzerland have failed that duty by sponsoring this effort to redefine the mission of the Church, offering the supposed consolation of a radical “new teaching” to those whose refuse to accept and live by Catholic doctrine. This is disastrous for souls.

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City. His new book (with Diane Montagna), Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society, is now available.