Cardinal Kasper, Communion, and Divorce—Again | Dr. Samuel Gregg | Catholic World Report
The German prelate continues to make unconvincing arguments for his tolerate-but-not-accept propositions
Despite the steady stream of scholarly critiques emerging in response to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s specific proposal concerning the admission to communion of Catholics who have been divorced and civilly-remarried, the German theologian continues to publicly defend his position with statements that are, to put it charitably, very debatable and problematic. The latest examples were cited in a recent article circulated by Religion News Service. To illustrate the contestability of these statements, let’s consider them one by one.
Even a murderer can confess and receive Communion, as Kasper likes to note.
Yes, indeed. A murderer—or a thief, or a liar, or an apostate, or an idol-worshipper, or an adulterer—who confesses his sin and, crucially, resolves to “go and sin no more” (Jn 8:11) is restored to fullness of communion with Christ and His Church. Hence they are in a state whereby they can approach the Lord’s Table to receive His Body and Blood.
That, however, is completely different from, from example, a Catholic who, although sacramentally married to another person, has (1) contracted a civil marriage with someone else, (2) has regular sexual relations with that someone else, and (3) declines to cease engaging in such relations. Such a person is, objectively-speaking, a persistent adulterer.
Christianity has always taught that adultery is an intrinsically evil act, no matter how well-intentioned the participants or extenuating the circumstances. And until a person freely chooses to cease engaging in adulterous acts, he remains in a state of mortal sin. To persist in mortal sin damages our communion with Christ, and this, as no less than St. Paul states (1 Cor. 11:27), has consequences with regard to the sacrament of Communion.
Kasper said he was confident that the process of debate that Francis had launched on the topic of family life and sexuality would in the end produce some significant reforms, in part “because there are very high expectations.”
Pope Francis recently clarified that, like Benedict XVI, he wants to look at the annulment process. That may or may not produce changes in the way the Church handles annulments. But “high expectations” in themselves are not an argument for change in Church teaching or canon law. Some people—most of them, it seems, from Western Europe—may have expectations concerning the admission to the sacrament of Communion of divorced and civilly-remarried Catholics who decline to abstain from sexual acts with their civil partner. Yet as the events surrounding the encyclical recently praised by Pope Francis—Humanae Vitae—illustrated, it is one thing for people, even many Catholics, to have expectations, and quite another for those expectations to be confirmed as consistent with Catholic faith.
He noted that the church has often changed, or “developed,” over the centuries, and quite recently in the 1960s when, for example, the Second Vatican Council reversed long-standing teachings against religious freedom and dialogue with other believers.