Saturday, March 15, 2014

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A while back, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the former head of the of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, gave a speech on the family at the Vatican.  Robert Fastiggi found much to praise in Kasper’s speech but was greatly worried by Kasper’s suggestion that some way ought to be found for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion:

Cardinal Kasper states that it is not divine law (iure divino) that cases of the divorced and remarried must only be handled by juridical means. He wonders whether the bishop might not entrust these cases to a priest with pastoral and spiritual experience as a type of penitentiary or episcopal vicar. This evasion, though, of the Church’s juridical process seems to have many potential dangers. If the priest is going to make a declaration of nullity of the prior putative marriage, on what basis can he make this judgment other than through the Church’s canon law? 
How, though, is an individual priest better able to apply canon law than an ecclesiastical tribunal? If, though, the job of the designated priest is to decide whether or when divorced or remarried couples can be admitted back to Holy Communion on what basis does he make this decision? If he admits them back to the reception of Holy Communion without a firm resolve to remain continent, then it seems that a concession is being given to have sexual relations with someone other than one’s sacramental spouse. This, though, seems like permission to commit adultery, which is contrary to divine law!

Cardinal Kasper appeals to Pope Francis’ Jan. 24, 2014 address before the Roman Rota in which the Holy Father emphasized that the pastoral and juridical dimensions should not be placed in opposition. In light of this, Cardinal Kasper points to the spiritual needs of divorced and remarried Catholics. He wonders whether the encouragement for them to receive “spiritual communion” instead of sacramental communion makes any sense in light of the fundamental sacramental structure of the Church. If these divorced and remarried Catholics can make a spiritual communion with Christ in spite of their situation, why can they not receive the sacramental communion of the same Christ? The simple response to the Cardinal’s question is that those who persist in grave sin are not to receive Holy Communion (CIC, canons 915–916). 
Having conjugal relations with someone other than one’s spouse is a grave or mortal sin because it is adultery. Proper care for the human person can never give way to a permission to sin. If the Church allows divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, this would mean either that marriage is not indissoluble or that adultery is not a mortal sin. As John Paul II writes in Familaris consortio, 84: “If these people [divorced and remarried Catholics] were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” The rules of the Church are grounded in the teachings of Christ, which are directed to the true good of every individual. There is no contradiction between applying the teachings of Christ and care for the true good of each person. It is no doubt difficult for divorced and remarried Catholics to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. Their hunger for the Eucharist, however, might motivate them to turn to the Church to see if their prior putative marriage was truly valid. Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion would eliminate the need for such an inquiry because the Church could allow them to receive Holy Communion without a declaration of nullity.

Dale Price was equally alarmed.

Put as politely as possible, Cardinal Kasper’s proposals leave an empty, sham notion of marital indissolubility on the sacramental books while effectively gutting it.

Be that as it may, make no mistake–they are a frontal assault on the Catholic claim to indefectibility.

How alarmed was Dale?  This alarmed.

Should they become Catholic practice, I don’t see how I could in good conscience remain a Catholic.

On the one hand, I guess you can make the case that Cardinal Kasper may just have been spitballing here, that these are mere suggestions and that it’s foolish to worry about something that may well never happen at all.  On the other hand, many of us know from bitter experience that the Episcopalianization of any church always starts small.

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