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No, Newman cannot be used to defend Kasper

Fr. Robert Barron suggests elsewhere that Cardinal Kasper’s proposition to allow divorced and "remarried" Catholics to receive Holy Communion in the name of mercy should be judged by the criteria that Blessed John Henry Newman developed in his Essay on the Development of Doctrine. Cardinal Kasper would in intellectual honesty have to respond to Fr. Barron that Newman’s criteria have nothing to do with his proposition.  He would respond that he is not advocating changing the Church’s teaching, the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage and its sacramentality.  He is advocating a change in pastoral practice on behalf of those who are divorced and "remarried" Catholics to receive Holy Communion.

Change in pastoral practice has nothing to do with Newman’s understanding of development of doctrine.  If Newman were with us today, he would tell us that what is going on is the ever encroaching of that “liberalism in religion” that he so strenuously fought against his whole life, as an Anglican and then as a Catholic.  Cardinal Kasper is the first to affirm, very often, that he fully supports the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage based on Jesus’ own clear words in the Gospel of Matthew.  What he is proposing is a change in pastoral practice that would essentially, according to common sense, absolutely contradict the Church’s teaching on the Sacraments of Marriage, Penance, and the Eucharist. 

This has nothing to do with development of doctrine.  It has everything to do with a violation of the principle of non-contradiction and the cynical cleavage advocated between doctrine and praxis.  For this enterprise, Newman cannot be invoked as a possible support.   

He would be, and is, shocked by the thought.

Fr. Richard G. Cipolla, DPhil

[Original posting time: 12 p.m. GMT]