Rorate Caeli

Both Catholic and Calvinist?

Sandro Magister's newest column features the L'Osservatore Romano's interview with Cardinal Kasper regarding the standing of the late Brother Roger of Taize (+2005) in relation to the Catholic Church. It provocatively begins with the words:
Was the Founder of Taizé Protestant, or Catholic? A Cardinal Solves the Riddle.

Fr. Roger Schutz was both. He adhered to the Church of Rome while remaining a Calvinist pastor. Wojtyla and Ratzinger gave him communion. Cardinal Kasper explains how, and why.
Brother Roger was a man known for his charity, prayer and zeal for Christian unity. Nevertheless, his daily reception of Holy Communion in the Catholic Mass in Taize -- and his reception several times of Holy Communion from the hands of Pope John Paul II and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger -- coupled with his refusal to openly leave the Reformed tradition and formally convert to Catholicism, left not a few Catholics (and Protestants as well) puzzled and even scandalized. While it had been official policy since the 1960's to permit certain non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion under grave or exceptional circumstances, the spectacle of a figure of such stature being allowed by the highest authorities of the Church to publicly and frequently receive communion as a matter of course, as a normal thing, without any formal or public adherence to the Catholic Church was still unprecedented (to say the least).
Since his death, rumors of a "secret conversion" to Catholicism have continued to circulate.
In the interview, in a passage of exquisite novelty, Cardinal Kasper firmly denies that Brother Roger ever formally converted to Catholicism (emphasis mine):
In a talk he gave in the presence of Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Basilica during the young adult European meeting in Rome in 1980, the prior of Taizé described his own personal journey and his Christian identity with these words: “I have found my own Christian identity by reconciling within myself the faith of my origins with the Mystery of the Catholic faith, without breaking fellowship with anyone.” In fact, Brother Roger never wanted to break “with anyone,” for reasons which were essentially linked to his own desire for unity and to the ecumenical vocation of the Taizé Community. For that reason, he preferred not to use certain expressions like “conversion” or “formal” membership to describe his communion with the Catholic Church. In his conscience, he had entered into the mystery of the Catholic faith like someone who grows into it, without having to “abandon” or “break” with what he had received and lived beforehand. The meaning of some theological or canonical terms could be discussed endlessly. Out of respect for the faith-journey of Brother Roger, however, it would be preferable not to apply to him categories which he himself considered inappropriate for his experience and which, moreover, the Catholic Church never wanted to impose upon him. Here too, the words of Brother Roger himself should suffice for us.
As Sandro Magister explains earlier in the article:
But how does Kasper solve the riddle? He denies that Fr. Schutz "formally" adhered to the Catholic Church. And much less did he abandon the Protestantism into which he was born. He affirms, instead, that he gradually "enriched" his faith with the pillars of the Catholic faith, particularly the role of Mary in salvation history, the real
presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the "the ministry of unity exercised by the bishop of Rome." In response to this, the Catholic Church allowed him to receive Eucharistic communion.
According to Kasper, it is as if there had been an unwritten agreement between Schutz and the Church of Rome, "crossing certain confessional" and canonical limits.
The pastoral and theological effects of this admission are only about to unravel. One thinks of how some Anglo-Catholics and High Church Lutherans will view this and ask: "if Brother Roger could, why not us?"
To read the full article, please click on the link:


Paul Haley said...

There is no such thing as a fence-sitter when it comes to religion - the words of Christ come to mind: Be thou either hot or cold but not lukewarm for I will vomit thee out of my mouth (paraphrasing). But, you see, Cardinal Kasper is trying to defend the decision to give Communion to an avowed protestant. It won't wash, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is asking whether This Roger was Catholic or Calvinist or both. It has never occurred to most people that he was neither. No true Calvinist honours our Lady and believes in the Real Presence. These positions are incompatible with Calvinist doctrine.

And no true Catholic who was born outside the Church can become Catholic except by a process of conversion.

Therefore, he was neither Calvinist nor Catholic.

We could say, however, that he was a Protestant belonging to no denomination, like those who say that they believe in the Christan faith but reject 'organised religion'. They prefer disorganised religion.


Fr Ray Blake said...

If I were to apply this in my parish, what an incredibly catechetical and theological mess it would produce.

Anonymous said...

It is blasphemous to compare this man of "disorganized" religion (thank you KPTP) to the "meek Lamb", Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The real tragedy is that most Catholics will find this an "inspirational" account. Hardly anyone believes the the dogma 'eens' anymore.

Fra Stefano said...

He was a Catholic. He had come to hold the faith in it's entirety; there is just a reluctance to use the word "conversion"; there is no scandal here. He professed the faith and having been validly baptised, was a Catholic. There is no need to call his journey to full communion as a conversion; quite properly the conversion is to Christ; he entered into communion. The process is the same for the Orthodox believer.

Did he reject his Calvinist roots? perhaps not formally, but he ceased being a Calvinist and sharing communion with them in either principles of faith or in liturgy.

Let's call a spade a spade and call him a Catholic, even if he publicly did not do so. For that matter neither did Ss Peters or Paul.

Let us rejoice that he died a Catholic, in the fullness of the faith.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There was no reason why Br. Roger should have been given Holy Communion.....other than ecumenical political correctness.
If the Catholic Church, in the person of the Pope did not have the strength of conviction to deny this person Holy Communion (regardless of how He had come to his understanding of Faith), that is a scandal and a tragedy.
These Protestants come to Holy Communion in Catholic Churches during Papal events, and walk right up to the Pope with their hands crossed over their breats and bow as if to say "You won't acknowledge me with Communion, but here I stand all the same". And the Pope or those MC's during the liturgy allow for them to interrupt the Mass with their display of protest. That too, is an outrage.
Protestants should not even be allowed to get in the Communion line, and that included Br. Roger.
Regardless of how pious, holy, famous, or "saintly" he was...he still did not possess the fullness of Faith as understood in the Catholic Church, and therefore, by keeping to his reformed beliefs as well, should never have been given Holy Communion.
Br. Roger was the instigator of this scandal. John Paul II was the willing participant. The then Cardinal Ratzinger was merely a footsoldier doing as his commander did.
But it was wrong from the beginning.
And the worst thing is, the Vatican is attempting to justify it, rather than repudiate it as should be done.

Canary said...

Fr Roger believed in all the teachings of the Catholic church and was a Papalist.

His reception into the Catholic church should not be seen as a precedent for our relationship with those from other faiths (particularly Anglo-Catholics), but peculiar to him. Having such a prominent figure in such an ambiguous relationship with the Church fosters inter-denominational relativism.

Anonymous said...

Diabolical disorientation;

Here we have a liberal cardinal saying one thing and fra. stefano agreeing and putting a different spin on the situation, albeit in a more traditional manner.

What is a simple layman to believe?

Lets see - what would the church fathers say? Oh, I know - public profession to the tenants of the Catholic faith would clear this up in a NY minute.

- Joe Catholic

Anonymous said...

On Fra. Stephano's comments:

If was born outside the Church and was not received into the Church and died not havning asked to be received into the Church, then he was most certainly not a Catholic.

He did not renounce Calvinism, for it includes teachings on more things than our Lady and the Eucharist.

The first Christians did not use the term Catholic and yet were Catholics. Had they worn socks and had there not yet been a word of socks, they still would have been sock-wearers.

You don't just get to be Catholic on your own terms but on Christ's terms. And Christ speaks in the Church and through her ministers. Our Lord gave the keys to St. Peter, He did not leave them at the car wash for anyone to pick up when he likes.


memento said...

Paul, I agree. It's well known that if you sit on the fence you get splinters up your backside. You can't have it both ways. Sadly, either the man was a fraud ... or the Holy Father knew something we don't. Let's hope it was the latter.

Cosmos said...

I take eevrything Cardinal Kasper says with a grain of salt. He is an academic first and foremost and always has some intellectual agenda. He is ussually technically right in a way that is patently leading toward his perspective.

Anonymous said...

paul haley said:

"Cardinal Kasper is trying to defend the decision to give Communion to an avowed protestant."


On my back porch
With coffee mug,
October chilled,
Leaves gold as butter.

My eyes looked up,
Then came back down
On bird's black bill,
Red wings a-flutter.

He bristled preened,
Strutted on roof,
Prince of the hill
And clutter

Slipped on
Gold leaf
Gave whistle shrill...
Then fell into the gutter.

Justin C Bolger said...

Ecumenical gibberish from Cardinal Kasper. You can't have your cake and eat it too. I'm no theologian, but I know I cannot simultaneously profess Calvinism (a heresy by the way) and Catholicism. This scandal is also an affront to the witness of the many saints of the Reformation era who died for the true Faith, rather than straddle the line.

Anonymous said...

Fra Stefano,

If he were a Catholic, he would've seen the necessity for formal conversion. He wouldn't have arrogantly opined that the Church's stances somehow didn't apply to him. I'm surprised few others have noted that this seems rather arrogant.


Londiniensis said...

We must, I think, allow that occasionally, and very rarely, a man of exceptional gifts and holiness appears in whom the ordinary categories break down. Brother Roger was such a man, and - notwithstanding legalistic arguments - this was discerned by the successor of Peter. To be alarmed by the thought of "high church" protestants forming a queue is premature: let them first produce another Brother Roger. I suggest we may have to wait several generations.

Anonymous said...

It seems that a crucial issue here is the question of the unity of the Church. Again, the question of communicatio in sacris. Giving the man the benefit of the doubt, apparently he accepted the Catholic Faith (while retaining Calvinistic tendencies). What seems a more important issue is the question of what it means to enter "fellowship" with Catholics and retain "fellowship" with non-Catholics. This will touch questions of the Church's mark of unity. Additionally, even if it is handled in a theologically correct manner, there will certainly remain the possibility of scandal from an apparent denial of the unity of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of the heterodox beliefs of the neo-Modernists!

Anonymous said...

It's a serious case. I'm under the impression cardinal Kasper, et alii, are trying to push the limits and test the "subsistit in" meaning.

We know that CDF and its then prefect, cardinal Ratzinger, tried to put a curb on the fancy interpretations of "subsistit in" trying to separate the Unique Church of Christ from the Roman Catholic Church.

If Br. Roger was "Catholic" without belonging formally to the Church, we have an example of widening of the "subsistit in" ... and so our good Cardinal will be able to discover, one day, that Dr. Rowan Williams is from this odd kin of "Catholic". I smell a cunning trick to use a popular figure as Br. Roger in order to undermine a traditional reading of the "subsistit in"

However something must be clear when it comes to Br. Roger and Taizé : it was originally a Protestant community but quickly French protestants felt it was not truly protestant anymore. Most French protestants are not looking at Taizé as a "Calvinist" community. The best analogy would be with the Anglo-Catholics.


Anonymous said...

Londiniensis: Truth is a sword. The world will have a definitive encounter with the Truth at the end of time. We call this encounter Judgment, because an encounter with the Truth -- unveiled, unmistakeable, and unanswerable -- is a revelation of imperfection in everything less than the Truth.

One of the marks of saintliness is humility -- especially the humility of dreading to be seen as saintly. It is a fine thing to long for the Blessed Sacrament; not not so fine to give scandal by letting oneself be treated as an exception. "Domine non sum dignus" is more than a cant formula.


Joe B said...

But there is doubt and scandal where there need be none. This is why the Sacrament of Confirmation exists. This is an overwhelming reason why Confirmation SHOULD precede the first reception of Holy Communion. Modernists treat Confirmation as if it were an invitation to the Catholic dinner party - nice, but no formal invitation to our dinner is needed among friends.

So there is now one more in a growing list of souls gone to judgment without knowing whether she has eaten damnation unto herself. It would have been so easy to remove the doubt. But no, let's don't offend our brethren.

Confirmation saves souls. Ecumenism costs souls. No, not always, but at least sometimes.

Jordanes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.