Walter Cardinal Kasper
PopeWatch has long regarded Walter Cardinal Kasper as the Cardinal most likely to confuse heresy with Catholicism. (That is no small feat considering some of the other cardinals in the running for that title.) His latest remark, in which he repeats the Pope’s alleged agreement with the statement that 50% of all marriages are invalid (How on Earth would either of them know?) is not heretical per se, just profoundly, profoundly stupid. Father Z quotes and comments on canon lawyer Ed Peters’ trip with the Cardinal to the woodshed:
The distinguished canonist Ed Peters writes about the reckless comments made by Card. Walter Kasper the other day at Fordham University. My emphases and comments.
Cardinal Kasper, in a lengthy interview that shows no let-up in his push to change Church discipline on marriage said, among other things, “I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.” [?!?]
I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion. Simply stunned. [As we all should be!]
Suppose the cardinal had claimed that “50 percent of ordinations are not valid”. [!] Would not such a claim, coming from an internationally-renowned prelate and attributed to a pope, have a shattering effect on the morale of deacons, priests, and bishops around the world? Would not especially those clergy laboring under vocational difficulties immediately conclude that their difficulties were the consequence of having been invalidly ordained, whereupon most of them would just give up? And would not those preparing for holy orders be paralyzed with fear over proceeding to ordination until whatever is behind such a massive invalidity rate were discovered and remedied? Of course they would.
Well, if tossing out a comment to clergy alleging rampant invalidity of holy orders would be pastorally unthinkable, by what right does the cardinal casually tell laity that 50% of their marriages are invalid—even if the pope did say it? Does turmoil among married persons in the wake of such a remark not matter to any except those who suffer it? As I said, I am stunned that such a remark was made, [IN PUBLIC! Sometimes priests will kick ideas around in private as they discuss problems today, but that doesn't mean they a) think everything they kick around and b) would be so abysmally dumb as to repeat the conversation from their pulpits on Sunday.] even if it was a mere repetition of another’s views.
But, no matter who said it—and I have no patience left for this string of ‘guess-what-the-pope-supposedly-told-me’ disclosures—let me outline several reasons why the claim that ‘half of all marriages are null’ is not just reckless, it’s also wrong.
I preface my remarks thus: I worked in diocesan tribunals for more than 10 years and concluded that hundreds of the marriage cases I saw therein were canonically null; I have been married for nearly 30 years; and I have seen, in my own family and among my closest friends, dozens of successful and failed marriages, some of those latter being canonically null, others just ruined. In short, my perspectives here are at least as professionally credentialed and as personally experienced as anyone else’s. [Haudquaquam dubitandum'st.]
1. Marriage is, before anything else, a natural contract. Any claim, therefore, about “marriage”—including the shocking claim that half of all marriages are invalid—must be true about marriage as entered into by the great majority of the world’s population; that, or it must be abandoned. So, does Cdl. Kasper really think that half of the marriages around the world are invalid? If not, he should never have expressed himself so.
2. But perhaps the prelate only had in mind sacramental marriages (marriages entered into by two baptized persons) when he asserted that half of all marriages are null. But, if sacramental marriage perfects natural marriage and if grace builds on nature, what would make Christian marriage less stable than natural marriage?
Actually, a few things come to mind.
Some Catholic marriages are invalid for reasons having nothing to do with natural law, because they were, say, entered into by boys under age 16 contrary to Canon 1084 or by renegade priests contrary to Canon 1087. But those invalid marriages represent a proverbial drop in the bucket of invalid unions; their presence hardly allows one to claim that half of all marriages among the baptized, or even among Catholics, are invalid.
Admittedly one source of canonical nullity has no foundation whatsoever in natural law, yet accounts for thousands of invalid marriages among Catholics: what I have described as the outdated requirement of canonical form. But, while this requirement allows tens of thousands of Catholics to walk away from ‘marriages’ that we would require Protestants (and indeed all non-Catholics) to honor, violation of form does not occur in numbers that would make half of all marriages, even among Catholics, let alone among Protestants, to say nothing of non-Christians, invalid. Not even close.
Or perhaps Cdl. Kasper wants to take on the “automatic sacramentality” point of Church teaching on marriage (see 1983 CIC 1055), and from there tease out a contractual invalidity argument for any sacramentum fidei attentatum sine fide, but I’ve seen nothing so complex offered yet.
Well, there is much more to say, but keeping in mind that this is only a blog post, let me conclude by reminding all that a long, long, tradition of Church teaching recognizes humans’ natural capacity for marriage, reminds Christians that the grace of matrimony adds to the stability of marriage, and presumes the validity of all marriages unless and until it is proven otherwise.
In short, the validity of marriage far exceeds the odds one enjoys in a coin toss. Continue reading
I will be updating this post as often as I can throughout the day [Last update at 10:01pm CDT]. I’ll be reporting on reactions and news concerning this groundbreaking development that came from the Vatican this morning. The Vatican issued a note explaining a new provision in an upcoming Apostolic Constitution that will allow for a structure to be in place to receive Anglicans and Episcopalians into the Catholic Church. Basically a corporate reunion!
To read the full text of this announcement from the Vatican click here.
To read the full text of the joint press release of the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Gerard Nichols, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, click here.
Reaction and news from around the world [all emphasis mine]:
Last Update of the day at 10:01pm CDT (Earlier updates further down this post)
Ruth Gledhill of the Times of London. Offers a brief history of what transpired the last couple of years between Anglo-Catholics, and those inside the Vatican, both faithful and dissident Catholics.
“Rome has parked its tanks on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lawn [Interesting choice of words, but nonetheless accurate in my opinion] after manoeuvres undertaken by up to fifty bishops and begun two years ago by an Australian archbishop, John Hepworth [The leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion].”
Rumors and rumors of rumors of an imminent end to over a thousand years of the Great Schism between Catholics and Orthodox have exploded over these past few days. If these rumors are correct then not since the Ecumenical Council of Ferrara-Florence have these great Church’s been so close to unity.
In A.D. 1054 Catholic prelate Humbert and Orthodox prelate Michael Cærularius excommunicated each other. This marks the beginning of the Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Church’s.
[Updates at the bottom of this posting]
Ecumenism today is in a sorry state. Most Protestant denominations have splintered off to the point that dialogue has become pointless. Only the Orthodox offer any hope of reunion with us, but that is a distant land where we are struggling to navigate towards.
In the meantime too many well-intentioned Catholics yell “Ecumenism! Ecumenism!” yet they know not what they say nor do. Heck, they can’t even explain it themselves.
For example I’ve stopped attending Taizé services because the only people that attend them are other Catholics. If it was intended to bring our separated brothers in Christ together then I failed to see a single one of them attend in the three years that I have been going.
Ecumenism, whatever that means anymore, is a dead cat. It’s going nowhere because it has no idea what it is. Hence the forty years of fruitless labor has produced nothing to celebrate.