23 May 2014

"The Secret Consistory: What Happened" by Marco Tosatti, LA STAMPA





In the Secret Consistory where the divorced/remarried and the Eucharist were discussed, “Kasper’s theorem” received little consensus and a lot of criticism. Here is a reconstruction of some of the most significant and important statements. “It would be a fatal mistake” someone said, to follow the pastoral approach without referring to doctrine.

Marco Tosatti, for LA STAMPA

The Consistory on the 22nd February to discuss the family, was supposed to be secret. Instead a decision came from the top that it was opportune to publish Cardinal Kasper’s long report on the theme of the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried. In all probability [this] to open the way in prospect of the October Synod on the Family. However half of the Consistory remained secret: [that half] concerned observations from Cardinals. And maybe not by chance, as, after Cardinal Kasper had presented his long report (and as it seems it was not very light when given ,) rather a lot of voices were raised in criticizing it. So much so, that in the afternoon when the Pope gave him the job of responding, the German Cardinal’s tone appeared piqued, even angry to the many [present].

The current opinion is that “Kasper’s theorem” tends to allow permission in general for the divorced and remarried to receive communion, without the previous marriage being recognized as null. At present this does not happen, based on Jesus’ words which were very severe and explicit on divorce. People who live a full matrimonial life without the first union being regarded as invalid by the Church, find themselves in a situation of permanent sin, according to present doctrine.

In this sense, Cardinal Caffarra of Bologna as well as German Cardinal Mueller (Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith) spoke clearly. Equally explicit was Cardinal Walter Brandmuller (“ Neither human nature nor the Commandments nor the Gospel have an expiry date[…]Courage is needed to enunciate the truth even against current customs. Whoever speaks on behalf of the Church must possess courage if he does not want his vocation to be a failure.[…] The desire to obtain approval and applause is a temptation which is always present in the transmission of religious teaching.” Afterwards he made his words public). Also the President of the Italian Bishops, Cardinal Bagnasco expressed himself in a critical manner with regard to “Kasper’s theorem”; the same went for the African Cardinal Robert Sarah, Head of “Cor Unum” who at the end of his comments, recalled that in the course of the centuries even on dramatic questions controversies and divergences had existed inside the Church, but that the role of the Papacy had always been the one of defending doctrine.

Cardinal Re who was one of Bergoglio’s greatest electors, gave a very short statement, which can be summarized thus: “I will speak for just a moment, because there are future new cardinals here and perhaps some of them do not have the courage to say it, so I will: I am completely against this report.” Also the Prefect of the Penitentiary, Cardinal Piacenza said he was against it and more or less said: “we are here now and we will be here again in October for a Synod on the Family, and so since we want to have a positive Synod, I don’t see why we have to touch only on the matter of Communion for divorcees.” He added: “Since we want to have a debate on pastoral care it seems to me that we should have to take note of a widespread pan-sexualism and the attack of the “ideology of gender” which tend to demolish the family as we have always known it. It would be providential if we were lumen gentium so as clarify the situation we find ourselves in, as well as the things that can destroy the family.” He concluded by exhorting a re-reading of the catecheses by John Paul II on corporeity, since they contain many positive elements about sex, being a man and a woman, procreation and love.

Cardinal Tauran, (of Inter-Religious Dialogue) returned again to the attack on the family, also in light of relations with Islam. Likewise Cardinal Scola of Milan raised theological and doctrinal perplexities .

Cardinal Ruini was also very critical. He [also]added: “I don’t know if I understood well, but at this moment, about 85% of the Cardinals have expressed opinions apparently contrary to the layout of the report.” He added that among those who did not say anything - therefore could not be classified - he took from their silence that: “I believe they are embarrassed”.

Cardinal Ruini then cited the Good Pope. In essence saying: “when John XXIII gave his opening speech at the Second Vatican Council, he said a pastoral council could be held as fortunately doctrine was accepted peacefully by everyone and there were no controversies; so a pastoral approach could be presented without fear of misunderstandings because doctrine remained very clear. If John XXIII had been right then, the Cardinal commented, God alone knew, but apparently it was true to a large extent. This could absolutely not be said anymore today, because doctrine is not only not shared, but it is contested. “It would be a fatal mistake” to follow the pastoral approach without referring to doctrine.

So it is understandable that Cardinal Kasper seemed a little piqued in the afternoon when Pope Bergoglio allowed him to respond, without permitting, however, the start of a real debate: only Kasper spoke. To add to the criticisms aired about “Kasper’s theorem” during the Consistory, these are also building up - in a private way - towards the Pope [along with ] other public criticisms by cardinals from all over the world.

German Cardinals who know Kasper well, say that he has had a passion for this subject since the 1970s. The problem raised by many critics is that on this point the Gospel is very clear. And by not taking this into account – which is the fear – any other point of doctrine based on the Gospel would be rendered very instable, and modifiable at will.


(Source: LA STAMPA, March 24, 2014. Translation: Francesca Romana.)
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