Rorate Caeli

The Synod on the Family, Kasper and the Rebels:
the “Call for Mercy in Concrete Situations.”

The Church’s teaching on divorce is a hot topic from which no one can escape.  A good starting point to understand what is going on is a well-balanced article that appeared at the end of last year on La Bussola Quotidiana (The Daily Compass) by Matteo Matzuzzi that sketches and frames the essential terms of a debate that is unfolding.  This debate was stirred up by a paper written by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising at the beginning of last November that was a real attack against the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Msgr. Gerhard Ludwig Müller.  There is a paradox in all of this, since the latter, whose position anchors him to first principles, is well known for his allergic reaction to Tradition. 

Someone else who is involved in this debate is Cardinal Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the Unity of Christians, who in the past few days opened, as the Pope wished, the Extraordinary Consistory on the Family.  On this occasion he said:  “I have offered a theological introduction to the beauty of the family.  We must begin with this in order to deal with the rest, including those burning problems that exist.  I have also spoken about the thorny problem of Communion to divorced persons who have remarried, but in terms of a situation that is complex. “  But in a recent interview, it seems that Kasper has joined the group of “rebels” as identified by the author of the Bussola article.  At the conclusion of the interview, with his words carefully reported as he spoke, Kasper indicated that the discussion has expanded with another request from the Church in Germany regarding the involvement of the laity in the election of bishops.

Archbishop Marx made clear to the Bavarian bishops in assembly that not even the head of the former Holy Office “can stop the debate” on the fundamentals of dealing with Catholic marriage in a pastoral way, adding that “at the Synod everything will be discussed”, and that “at the moment it is not possible to say what the results of the debate will be”.  Evidently aimed at his critics was the long “contribution to the discussion”(this terminology comes from L’Osservatore Romano] written by the Prefect, Müller himself, and published in the daily publication of the Holy See on October 22, 2013.

Müller’s response stresses that, (from the Synod), “something will be said to the great number of the faithful who do not understand why a second union is not accepted by the Church”.  By saying this he is tamping down the great foment that is rising in anticipation of the Synod, with the reaffirmation that “matrimony represents an act that is personal and free in reciprocal consent” through which “there is founded through divine right an institution that is stable, ordered to the good of the married couple and to their offspring, and that does not depend on the judgment of man.”  Marriage is “indissoluble”, so much so that one risks “ the banalization of mercy” if one thinks that “God could not do anything but pardon”.  This is because “in addition to mercy, to the mystery of God belong also holiness and justice.”  The Prefect of the CDF adds that therefore “if one does not take the reality of sin seriously, one cannot mediate mercy to anyone at all”.

But Marks expressed his disagreement, affirming that:  “To define divorce as a moral failing is inadequate”.  The Prefect for the Doctrine of Faith consigned his remarks in this regard to the daily Passauer Neue Presse, affirming that he had no intention of closing debate because “the teaching of Christ and the Church cannot be the object of discussion”.  In fact, the religious Credo should not be confused with a party program that is able to be developed according to the desires of those belonging to this party”.  Pastoral responsibility “must be based on doctrine”.

The same concept had been expressed and emphasized as well by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Segnatura, which deals with the problem of nullity of marriages.  “Müller has simply restated what is the teaching of the Church that cannot be changed. To disseminate the idea that there will be a radical change, that the Church will cease to respect the indissolubility of marriage, is mistaken and damaging.”

As Matzuzzi (La Bussola) emphasizes, there is a division and it is evident.  To conclude this excursus, I will reprise his words:

Marx, Zallitsch and Gebhard Fürst are not the only ones asking for a quick about face in the pastoral handling of marital situations.  On Friday Cardinal Kasper also chimed in with his own words.  Kasper is the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, a famous theologian, greatly admired by Pope Francis who mentioned him in his first Angelus.  Kasper, in an interview published in the weekly, Die Zeit, said that he was quasi certain that in a short time persons who were divorced and remarried would be able to approach the Sacraments.  In fact the Cardinal reaffirmed the necessity of “reform, modifications and openings” on certain themes and underlined that the divorced and remarried should have the possibility of “fully participating in the life of the Church.”  This is a vision diametrically opposed to that of Müller, who had just closed the possibility for the Catholic Church to adopt the Orthodox praxis that provides for the so-called “second possibility” to those divorced and remarried. “This is against the will of God” wrote the Prefect of CDF first in Tagespost and then in L’Osservatore Romano.

 That the Church in Germany is what preoccupies the quondam Holy Office today is shown by two new initiatives:  the memorandum signed by the director of the Karl Rahner Academy, Bernd Wacker, and the letter from the Kölner Kercheninitiative…in which they asked the Pope to open the procedure for the election of a bishop to the laity as well.  At Christmas, in fact, the conservative Cardinal, Joachim Meisner, will be 80 years old and soon will retire after five years of postponement.  Gerhard Müller has made clear that to change the rules of the procedure is not possible, as (above all) it would run the risk, many times spoken about by Francis in his public homilies, of understanding the Church as “an organization made up by men”. Instead, said the Prefect in an interview in Passauer Neue Presse, “the election of a bishop has nothing to do with struggles for power, the sharing of powers, and the achievement of power on the part of a faction that is ideologically narrow and that destroys the unity of the Church.  The bishop—added Müller-- is chosen by Christ and constituted by the Holy Spirit.”

Translated by Father Richard G. Cipolla. Source:  Chiesa e post Concilio blog (February 25, 2014)