Sandro Magister at his blog Chiesa explains how Cardinal Kasper has emerged victorious in his quest to give Communion to Catholics in adulterous marriages:
The German Option of the Argentine Pope
ROME, April 28, 2016 – The definitive confirmation of Pope Francis’s endorsement of the German solution to the crucial question of communion for the divorced and remarried has come from Germany’s most famous cardinal and theologian, Walter Kasper, in an interview published on April 22 in the Aachen newspaper “Aachener Zeitung”:
An interview summarized in English here:
Thanks to the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Lætitia” – Kasper said – the German bishops now have “a tail wind to help solve such situations in a humane way.”
And he recounted this revealing episode. Some time ago, a priest of his acquaintance had decided not to prohibit a remarried mother from receiving communion herself on the day of her daughter’s first communion. And he himself, Kasper, had helped that priest to make this decision, certain that he was “absolutely right.” The cardinal then reported the matter to the pope, who approved of the decision and said: “That is where the pastor has to make the decision.”
So “the door is open” for admission of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, Kasper continued. “There is also some freedom for the individual bishops and bishops’ conferences. Not all Catholics think the way we Germans think. Here [in Germany] something can be permissible which is forbidden in Africa. Therefore, the pope gives freedom for different situations and future developments.”
Between Kasper and Jorge Mario Bergoglio there is much more than just the occasional contact.
In his last in-flight press conference, on the way back from the Greek island of Lesbos, Francis said he had felt “annoyance” and “sadness” over the importance given by the media to communion for the divorced and remarried.
And yet this has happened precisely on account of the pope’s decision to entrust to Kasper – for decades the leader of proponents of a decisive change in this matter – the opening talk at the consistory of cardinals in February of 2014.
That dramatic consistory was followed by two synods that laid bare the stark divisions within the Church hierarchy. But in Francis’s mind, the script was already written. And it is that which can now be read in “Amoris Lætitia,” the centerpiece of which is precisely the eighth chapter, composed in the typically vague and shifting form of Jorge Mario Bergoglio when he wants to open and not to close a “process,” but that now is leading Kasper and the Germans to say with absolute certainty that they have “the wind at their backs.”
Of course, not all the cardinals and bishops of Germany agree with Kasper. Fellow cardinal and theologian Gerhard L. Müller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, is also German, and has made it known repeatedly – most recently in a book issued a few days before the publication of “Amoris Lætitia” – that he is in radical disagreement with those who, by absolving the divorced and remarried and admitting them to communion, in point of fact undermine the foundations not of one but of three sacraments, marriage, penance, and the Eucharist.
But by now it is as clear as day that for Francis Cardinal Müller isn’t worth a thing, in spite of his role as guardian of doctrine and of the useless toil with which he sent the pope dozens of corrective notes for the draft of the exhortation, which had been given to him in advance merely by virtue of his office.
In fact, for the official presentation of “Amoris Lætitia” to the world on the day of its publication, the pope called not Müller but another cardinal and theologian of the German-speaking area, Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna.
And a few days later, during the flight from Lesbos to Rome, Francis once again proposed Schönborn as the main exegete of the post-synodal exhortation, he being a “great theologian [who] knows well the doctrine of the faith,” as the pope described him. To the question of whether for the divorced or remarried there now is or is not the possibility, formerly precluded, of receiving communion, the pope responded with a peremptory and for once unmistakable: “Yes. Period.” But he recommended that none other than Schönborn be consulted for a more detailed reply.
And not by accident. Because at the synod last October it was precisely the archbishop of Vienna, in agreement with Kasper, who thought up in the “Circulus germanicus” the formulas of apparent respect for the traditional magisterium of the Church but at the same time open to change – capable of getting around Müller’s objections – which then went into the “Relatio finalis” of the synod and finally into “Amoris Lætitia,” always in that deliberately ambiguous form that however now allows Kasper’s party to chant victory and Müller and the others on his side to suffer a scorching defeat.
On opposing side of the victorious German solution there has been only one bishop so far who has reacted by going right to the heart of the question, not simply entrenching himself behind the “non-magisterial” nature – and therefore able to be interpreted only in the light of the previous magisterium of the Church – of “Amoris Lætitia,” as Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, for example, has instead decided to do.
This bishop is, curiously, also of German ancestry. He is the auxiliary of Astana in Kazakhstan, Athanasius Schneider.
The complete text of the remarks by Bishop Schneider came out in Italian on April 24, on the online agency Corrispondenza Romana” directed by Professor Roberto de Mattei:
And in English the following day on the blog “Veri Catholici”:
On the question of communion for the divorced and remarried, Schneider’s criticism of the “confusion” produced by “Amoris Lætitia” is very tough.
“The confusion reaches its apex,” he writes, “since all, whether the supporters of the admission of the divorced and remarried to Communion, or those who oppose them, sustain that the doctrine of the Church in this matter has not been modified.”
Schneider sets up a comparison with the spread of the Arian heresy in the 4th century. In 357, the confusion reached the extreme when Pope Liberius endorsed an ambiguous formula concerning the divinity of Jesus, which made Saint Jerome say, describing the state of disorientation at the time: “The world groaned and found itself, with shock, to have become Arian.”
At that juncture – Schneider notes – “St. Hilary of Poitiers was the only Bishop to undertake grave remonstrations with Pope Liberius for such ambiguous acts.”
But today as well – continues the auxiliary of Astana – the situation is such that some might exclaim like Saint Jerome: “The whole world groans and finds itself, with shock, to have accepted divorce in practice.”
So just as in the 4th century “St. Basil the Great made an urgent appeal to the Pope of Rome to indicate with his own words the clear direction to obtain finally a unity of thought in faith and charity,” so also today “one can consider legitimate an appeal to our dear pope, Francis, the Vicar of Christ and ‘sweet Christ upon earth’ (St. Catherine of Sienna), so that he order the publication of an authentic interpretation of ‘Amoris lætitia’, which should necessarily contain an explicit declaration of the disciplinary principle of the universal and infallible magisterium in regarding to the admission to the sacraments for the divorced and separated, as it has been formulated in n. 84 of ‘Familiaris consortio’.”
Which at no. 84, “incomprehensibly absent from ‘Amoris lætitia’”, says:
“Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who… take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”
Under the circumstances it nevertheless appears unlikely that Pope Francis would accept such an appeal.