Knowing What is Important, and What is True: One Story and a Broader Context
The hype around Pope Francis continues, with pop-culture still positioning him as being on the brink of changing much that is Catholic to conform more to the secular wish-list. The UN has taken a position that the Church should “change” its teaching, as if that were possible, on same-sex marriage and on abortion, for example. Sniping from the side-lines against Church Teaching is nothing new, even from within the Church, of which German Cardinal Kasper is only the most recent example of rubbing two sticks together to spark the flame of dissent. And, realistically, that exactly describes the recent push by Cardinal Kasper to urge a ‘methodology’ for return of divorced and remarried Catholics to full Communion. We won’t know the damage of Cardinal Kasper’s efforts until the smoke clears, but his addressing the College of Cardinals would seem to have added some inappropriate level of legitimacy, raising further concerns, and increasing the need for urgent clarification. Partly, those who advocate changing Christ’s Teaching for His Church seem to gain some secular popularity, much like the unjust steward in the Bible Story, who hoped to be welcomed into the houses of those to whom he gave what was not his to give.
The Rochester Diocese over the years has not been a stranger to that phenomenon. One of the most horrific and long term examples has been Father Charles Curran’s advocacy for a wide range of sexual permissiveness in contradiction to the Church’s moral teaching. Although his mandatum to teach at Catholic colleges and universities was revoked (sending him off to a Methodist University to teach), he has long been beknighted by St. Bernard’s and, on occasion, invited to preach even to the unsuspecting people in the pew! The damage done to souls, especially in Father Curran’s encouraging contraception during the waning days of Vatican II, is known only to God.
If we had to name the age we are in, it might be called “The Licensing of Personal Sin,” which is greatly attractive to those who want to be validated in their own sin by mutual permissiveness. What is especially disconcerting is when members of Church Hierarchy become the perpetrators rather than the defenders. And it is surprising that more key members of the hierarchy are not speaking out strongly in support of Church Teaching in the subject matter addressed by Cardinal Walter Kasper to the College of Cardinals, under the guise of “pastoral care.” One has to wonder why there hasn’t been a very outspoken rejection of Cardinal Kasper, among other Cardinals in particular. But we have two!
Two members of the Heroic Hierarchy who spoke out in defense of Church Teaching last week:
LifeSiteNews’ Hilary White reported: “Italian cardinal says allowing Communion for civilly remarried is impossible” ROME, March 17, 2014 – “Not even a pope can change Catholic teaching or practice on marriage, including on the prohibition against reception of Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, a prominent Italian prelate has said. Cardinal Carlo Caffara, the cardinal archbishop of Bologna, told an Italian newspaper this weekend that this teaching comes to the Church from Christ Himself and cannot be changed by anyone, either by a pope or a synod. [Cardinal] Caffara said, ‘Do not touch the marriage of Christ. It cannot be judged case by case; you do not bless a divorce and hypocrisy is not ‘merciful. The popes have always taught that the power of the Pope does not come to this: over a ratified and consummated marriage, the Pope has no power,’ said the cardinal.”
The Catholic Church, following the words of Christ, does not recognize divorce, and in the eyes of the Church, a person who has been married, divorces and obtains a second marriage in the civil sphere, is committing the mortal sin of adultery. The teaching of the Catholic Church has always been that a Catholic in an objective state of mortal sin cannot receive Holy Communion until he has repented, given up the sin in question and received sacramental absolution in confession. According to Cardinal Caffara, “If the Church admits [them to] the Eucharist, we must give an opinion on the legality of the second marriage. It is logical. But then what about the first marriage? The second [marriage] cannot be a true second marriage, since bigamy is against the word of the Lord.”
Another prominent figure taking a strong stand in defense of Church Teaching is Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The blogspot “rorate-caeli” quotes Cardinal Burke in an interview by Raymond Arroyo: “There are many difficulties with the text of Cardinal Kasper in addressing the College of Cardinals [at the Synod Preparation meeting]… it’s a error…. I trust that the error of his approach will become ever clearer.” In the 2 minute video, Cardinal Burke states: “…it’s creating a great deal of potential disillusionment….we are talking about the very words of Christ Himself….He taught the indissolubility of marriage….” He confirmed there was much disagreement at the meeting too.
“An unjust mercy is not truly mercy. One cannot undermine human dignity in the name of mercy. Consequently, to speak of mercy in the context of marriage one must first understand precisely the reality, born out of human dignity, which is involved in this institution. There could be no true mercy, if one were to attack that reality. This reality, this good, is what the Christian tradition calls the bond of marriage, and it is precisely this bond that imparts the property of indissolubility to marriage.”
“It is … surprising to observe that the Cardinal [Kasper], referring to this indissoluble bond which he attributes to St. Augustine, makes no mention whatsoever of the link between marriage’s indissolubility and its foundation which is of divine origin. “
“The protection of this bond, even to the point of indissolubility is, therefore, the way in which God offers his mercy in marriage.”
“It is clear, however, that, for a Christian who wishes to live his or her faith, establishing a new relationship over and against the ‘sacred bond’ of marriage is an act of grave injustice against the divine bond which is already in existence.”
“This consideration is so important that Blessed John Paul II himself mentioned it in his catechesis on human love, referring to ‘the redemption of the heart’ to indicate the presence of grace in marriage which makes it possible to live out the demands of this vocation…. Analogously, Benedict XVI confirmed that ‘Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.'”
“The line of reasons explained above is not unfamiliar because it originates in the last two pontificates. Both of which gave ample consideration to the role that mercy plays in the New Evangelization. [Kasper’s] singular absence of any trace or allusion to this teaching [of the last two popes is] all the more puzzling [until] one in fact finds phrase lifted word for word from the book that Kasper wrote about the family more than thirty years ago (in 1978) and whose argument he follows, and from which he takes the proposal which he is now presenting…. Kasper’s recent address is, therefore, an old formulation, which predates Familiaris Consortio and which ignores almost all of the intervening magisterial teaching and theological scholarship. The author states that [Kasper’s argument] threatens to wreak havoc in the Church. “
“It is simply wrong to present this question as a matter of pastoral tolerance which does not extend beyond a casuistic debate between rigorism and laxity. In reality, this question puts under discussion the already settled doctrinal patrimony of the Church that is unanimously witnessed to by more than a thousand years of the Church’s Tradition.”
“By way of a conclusion one can observe that is seems evident that Kasper’s address puts in question the existence or otherwise of the indissoluble bond of matrimony; this, however, is no longer just a pastoral argument. …. In short, theologically speaking, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal is a misstep because he has hidden the underlying question. In reality he has opened a profound doctrinal question and it is necessary that every bishop who will participate at the Synod understands the key elements, and their implications….”
Without prompt correction, there is a threat to souls who are caught up in unrealistic hoping for impossible change, or even leaping ahead to take a decision themselves, expecting their situation will change. (Just like the contraception position endorsed by Father Curran, with people marrying under the assumption that Pope Paul VI would approve “the pill.” ) But one aid to rationality (not rationalization!) is a biblical quote which brings focus to the Cardinal Kasper discussion and to the perspective of what will or will not happen; i.e. the guidance from St. Paul to the Galatians 1: 6-12. St. Paul wrote:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel–not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The hierarchical split between powerful Church leaders is apparent, and both can’t be proclaiming what St. Paul called the Gospel of Christ. Such splits are exactly the way heretical breakaway sects begin. There is no point in linking to articles where members of the hierarchy have come out in support of Cardinal Kasper, since that would merely be scattering false rumors and more angst.
But a few inane quotes might be useful. One Italian archbishop told local media last week that he felt the “new paradigm” would shortly lead to the Church accepting both homosexuality and heterosexual cohabitation and premarital sex, and another outlet reported the quote: ‘I have seen and experienced many situations … and I am convinced that it is time for Christians to open themselves to diversity.’” LifeSiteNews last week reported: “Two Catholic bishops in the UK have expressed hope that the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family, to be held in Rome in October, will bring about massive changes to the Church’s approach to marriage and human sexuality.”
Let us all pray for the Unity for which Christ prayed the night before His Passion.