Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Consistory Cardinals Opposed to the Kasper Report

I have just finished translating the following post from the estimable Italian-language blog, Muniat Intrantes Crux Domino Famulantes, published by Don Luciano Micheli. I found it fascinating and heartening. It’s long, but I hope you will be glad to have persevered with it.

UPDATE: Rorate Caeli has also posted a translation of Marco Tosatti's article, which he wrote for La Stampa. Do go to the Rorate post: it contains other encouraging material. Let us be of good heart!


Is Doctrine the Enemy of Pastoralism?

The Secret Consistory: What Happened.
Following the road of pastoralism without making reference to doctrine.

In the Secret Consistory, in which the “Kasper theorem” of the divorced-remarried and the Eucharist was discussed, there was very little agreement, and many criticisms. Here is a reconstruction of some of the most significant and important interventions. “It would be a fatal error”, someone said, to wish to go along the road of pastoralism without making reference to doctrine.

Marco Tosatti writes:

The Consistory of 22 February, to discuss the family, was supposed to be secret. But it was decided at a high level that it would be opportune to make public Cardinal Kasper’s long report on the subject of the Eucharist for the divorced-remarried. It was probably done to open up the way in anticipation of the October Synod on the family. But half of the Consistory remained secret: and it concerned the interventions of the Cardinals. And not by chance, because after Cardinal Kasper had set out his long report (not very easy listening, from what it seems) several voices were raised to criticise it. While in the afternoon, when the Pope gave him the task of responding, the German prelate’s tone appeared to many to be piqued, not to say angry.

The current opinion is that the “Kasper theorem” aims to say yes, that in general the divorced-remarried can receive Holy Communion, without the former marriage being recognised as invalid. At present this does not happen; based on Jesus’s very severe and explicit words about divorce. A person who leads a complete matrimonial life without the first bond having been considered invalid by the Church, finds himself, according to the present doctrine, in a permanent situation of sin.

It is in this sense that Cardinal Caffarra of Bologna spoke clearly, as did the German Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Just as explicit was Cardinal Walter Brandmuller (“Neither human nature, nor the Commandments, nor the Gospel, have an expiry date. It is a work of courage to state the truth, even against the current mores. A courage that anyone who speaks in the name of the Church must possess, if he does not want to fail in his vocation … The desire to obtain approval and praise is an ever-present temptation in the dissemination of religious teaching … ” and following this, he made his words public.) So too, Cardinal Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops, expressed himself in a critical manner toward the “Kasper theorem”; as did the African Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of “Cor Unum”, who recalled, at the end of his intervention, how in the course of the centuries, even on dramatic questions, there have been disagreements and controversies within the Church, but that the role of the Papacy has always been that of defending doctrine.

Cardinal Re, one of the great electors of Bergoglio, made a very brief intervention, which can be summarised thus: I am taking the floor for a moment, because the future new Cardinals are here, and perhaps some of them do not have the courage to say it, so I am saying it: I am completely opposed to the report.

Cardinal Piacenza too, the Prefect of the Penitentiary, declared himself opposed to it, and said, more or less: We are here now, and we will be here in October for a Synod on the Family, and so, as there is a desire to hold a Synod, I don’t see in fact why we have to deal only with the subject of Communion for the divorced. And he added: Since we want to have a pastoral discussion, it seems to me that we should take note of a very widely diffused pan-sexualism, and of an aggressive promotion of the ideology of gender which aims to unhinge the family as we have always known it. If we were the light of the nations, it would be providential to explain what kind of situation we find ourselves in, and what can destroy the family. He concluded by exhorting his audience to take up once again the teachings of John Paul II on the body, because they contain many positive elements on the subject of sex, of being a man, of being a woman, and on procreation and love.

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

Cardinal Camillo Ruini was also very critical. He added: I do not know if I have made a good note of it, but up to this moment about 85% of the Cardinals who have expressed themselves appear to be opposed to the direction of the report. He added that, among those who said nothing and could not be classified, he gathered from the silences “that I think they are embarrassed”.

Next, Cardinal Ruini quoted the Good Pope, saying, in essence: When John XXIII gave the opening address of Vatican Council II he said that a pastoral Council could be held because, fortunately, doctrine was peacefully accepted by all, and there were no controversies; hence it was possible to give a pastoral edge without fear of being misunderstood, since the doctrine remains very clear. Whether John XXIII had been correct at that moment, the prelate commented, only God knows, but apparently, to a large extent, perhaps it was true. Today this could not be said any longer in the most absolute manner, because not only is doctrine not shared, but it is fought against. “It would be a fatal error” to wish to go along the road of pastoralism without making reference to doctrine.

It is understandable, therefore, that Cardinal Kasper seemed a little piqued, in the afternoon, when Pope Bergoglio allowed him to respond, without, however, allowing the emergence of a real confrontation: only Kasper spoke. Add to this, that other criticisms of the “Kasper theorem” are being added to those raised in the Consistory; privately to the Pope, or publicly, on the part of Cardinals from every part of the world. German Cardinals, who know Kasper well, say that he has been passionate about the matter since the 1970s. The problem raised by several critical voices is that the Gospel is very explicit on this point. And the fear is, that not to take account of it would render any other point of doctrine based on the Gospel very unstable and modifiable at will.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Outflanking the Maginot Line

Unsurprisingly, and I dare say like many others, I am finding the prospect of the forthcoming synod on marriage and the family rather oppressive. With all the pressure by Cardinal Kasper and others, the thought, “It’s like the Maginot Line”, keeps popping into my head.

From various websites I have looked at (including a short Wikipedia article here), I have learnt that the Maginot Line itself was far from being a ridiculous thing, as it has sometimes been painted. It was a series of impressive and varied fortifications, its chief and most substantial presence being along France’s border with Germany, from which country France considered it had most to fear.

I say “the Maginot Line itself”, because my reading has taught me something I had not known: that the French preparedness against the Germans extended from the Maginot Line as far as the English Channel, by means of a series of weaker fortifications, some of which were natural features of the landscape such as forests.

The French thought that in the event of an advance by Germany, the Maginot Line, by acting as a buffer at the frontier between the two countries, would give them enough time to advance to meet the Germans by way of Belgium. But in fact it was the Germans themselves who advanced through Belgium, sweeping on into France, and simply bypassing the Maginot Line.

It is fortunate that the Church’s unchanging teaching is not limited by geography: but that does not allay my fears that certain prelates wish to attempt to outflank it by a blitzkrieg of false pastoralism.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Correcting the Erroneous Idea that "Catholic" Means "Inclusive"

I have seen this mistaken view expressed a few times, including on blogs. The blogger presents evidence that the Church’s teaching is being openly rejected, and that the clergy or hierarchy seemingly do nothing to correct the dissent. A commenter says: “Why do you want to exclude your fellow-Catholics who think differently from you? Surely the Church should welcome all views. After all, the word Catholic means inclusive.”

And the answer is, No it doesn’t: not in the Church's sense of the word. Certainly this is one of the meanings given to the word in an ordinary dictionary. But the Church's meaning is more precise, as I’m sure my readers know, being defined as universal.

The English Penny Catechism can’t be beaten for brevity:
The Church is Catholic or universal because she subsists in all ages, teaches all nations, and is the one ark of salvation for all.
The Catholic Encyclopedia gives an interesting and detailed account of the origins of the word Catholic as applied to the Church. In whatever context the term is used, it is clear that the Catholicity, the world-wide reach of the Catholic Church, is inseparable from Her true teaching. You will see what I mean if you read the whole article.

The Encyclopedia was published in 1917, a few years after the death of Pope St Pius X, who had issued detailed warnings against Modernism, described as the synthesis of all heresies. Bearing this date in mind, it is fascinating to read its dismissal of the idea that the Church can find room both for true teachings and their rejection. Here is the relevant passage, to which I have added a few paragraph breaks for ease of reading.


"It should be said that among some confused thinkers of the Anglican communion, as also among certain representatives of Modernist opinions, an interpretation of the Catholicity of the Church has lately come into fashion which has little connection with anything that has hitherto fallen under our notice. Starting with the conception familiar in such locutions as "a man of catholic tastes", meaning a man who excludes no rational interest from his sympathies, these writers would persuade us that a catholic church either does or should mean a church endowed with unlimited comprehensiveness, i.e. which is prepared to welcome and assimilate all opinions honestly held, however contradictory.

"To this it may be answered that the idea is absolutely foreign to the connotation of the phrase Catholic Church as we can trace it in the writings of the Fathers. To take a term consecrated by centuries of usage and to attach a brand-new meaning to it, of which those who through the ages had it constantly on their lips never dreamed, is to say the least extremely misleading.

"If this comprehensiveness and elasticity of belief is regarded as a desirable quality, by all means let it have a new name of its own, but it is dishonest to leave the impression upon the ignorant or the credulous, that this is the idea which devout men in past ages have all along been groping for, and that it has been left to the religious thinkers of our own day to evolve from the name catholic its true and real significance.

"So far from the idea of a nebulous and absorbent substance imperceptibly shading off into the media which surround it, the conception of the Fathers was that the Catholic Church was cut off by the most clearly defined of lines from all that lay outside. Its primary function, we might also say, was to set itself in acute opposition to all that threatened its vital principle of unity and stability.

"It is true that patristic writers may sometimes play with the word catholic, and develop its etymological suggestiveness with an eye to erudition or edification, but the only connotation upon which they insist as a matter of serious import is the idea of diffusion throughout the world."

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Protection of the Holy Eucharist and the Role of the Church Usher

A fine post on Dr Joseph Shaw’s LMS Chairman blog set me thinking about what may (and probably will) lie ahead. This is the result.

Dear Fathers, Pastors of souls, I’m sure you will agree that there are times when you have to think like a civil servant.

I’d like to think that every priest has planned ahead, and worked out in advance how he is going to deal with the publicly unrepentant who stand in front of him at the altar steps, daring him to refuse them Holy Communion.

A soldier is well trained to deal with unexpected and critical threats, and so must priests be, in the spiritual sphere, especially in these dark days. I do not know whether bishops usually guide their clergy in such matters. I hope they do. But if not, it would be as well for priests to be (oh, cringe at the jargon) proactive.

When planning for these contingencies, it would be sensible also to recruit some of the burlier members of the congregation to serve on a roster of church ushers.

I sometimes try to imagine how I might react if I were in the priest’s shoes when faced with this situation. I can think of a few requirements. A quick assessment; taking command of the moment; a decisive response; a refusal to be cowed; genuine concern for the soul in front of you; standing on your authority as a priest of God and guardian of His Body.

I suppose the priest could say, quite simply, “Please return to your place”, or something similar. That might be sufficient, as well as tactful: the would-be communicant would know the implications of the priest’s words.

If the person refused to move away, I can envisage something stronger, such as “I will not give you Holy Communion”, and even, if the person persisted, “For the sake of your soul, I will not give you Holy Communion.” This would be turning into a horrible experience for the unrepentant person (as it would for the priest), but that would be more salutary for him than if he were to add the sin of sacrilege to his defiance.

Finally, faced with continuing refusal to move aside, the priest would be well advised to have his Burly Ushers close by, to apply their own persuasion.

After that, there is the question of the bishop’s reaction if he were informed of the incident. Now that is the great unknown. But at least in my imaginary diocese the priest would be able to produce his plan (already pre-approved by the bishop, naturally), which I hope would encourage the bishop to believe that he handled the crisis well. Civil service thinking, you see.

Times are grim, but at least we can all be prepared.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Even the most valiant soldier can sometimes get the wobbles

This, as you may have guessed, is about Michael Voris and ChurchMilitant.TV. In particular, I’d like to comment on the reports that the mission statement or policy of that organisation specifically precludes any criticism of the Pope.

Let us say, hypothetically, that there might be a Pope whose words or actions on occasion caused confusion or dismay to orthodox-minded Catholics. Those same words or actions might be interpreted by the heterodox and by those who rejected the Church’s moral teachings as a licence to continue on their false path.

If an orthodox Catholic broadcaster with a clause such as CMTV is said to have, were to find itself living and working in such a pontificate, one could reasonably imagine that it would experience a dilemma.

Paul withstood Peter, and the lay faithful, within their capacity, have the right to speak out when their Catholic antennae tell them that something, from whatever source, is just not right. Always subject to correction of genuine misunderstandings, of course, and assuming the sincerity of all involved.

If such a scenario ever came to pass, a few things occur to me. (Readers may think of additional things.) The broadcaster’s management board would be well advised to revisit its blanket “No criticism of the Pope” clause. As it stands, it would not allow them, or their presenters, the specific authorisation to criticise Papal words and deeds while continuing to deny them the right to criticise the man: to speak frankly about the former while displaying genuine respect and love for the latter.

They could, I suppose, leave the clause as it is while interpreting it with a kind of reservation: since it refers, as it stands, only to the Pope and not to his words or actions. There is a risk in this. It could be asserted by their opponents that they were ignoring the “no criticism” clause as though it were a dead letter. Such criticisms would have a grain of truth. But they would be a bit bare-faced. Dissenters have attempted to do this very thing, far more seriously (and have largely succeeded in practice) in regard to the moral teachings of the Church and Her associated disciplines. In general, though, it may not be a good idea.

It would be better, I think, for the broadcaster’s controllers to be completely up-front about it: to re-word the clause so that it clearly permits one kind of criticism while forbidding the other kind. If they were to do that they would at least be able, as one or two people used to say where I worked, to “cover their backs”. In this situation, it might be a sensible move.

Sad, isn’t it, that such measures might become necessary at some point. All CMTV are trying to do is to engage in the noble work of defending the faith of Christ’s Church.

God bless Michael Voris, who is such a valiant soldier.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

“Kasper’s encore: Either it happens as I say, or no synod”

This is my translation of an interesting post on Sandro Magister’s blog Settimo Cielo, entitled as above. I thought a few things were worth highlighting in bold.


Cardinal Walter Kasper is very angry at the publication by Il Foglio on 1 March – and disseminated in additional languages by www.chiesa - of his report to the consistory on 21 –22 February, in favour of Communion for remarried divorcees. This may be because the daily newspaper edited by Giuliano Ferrara has ruined the scoop the cardinal was already planning with the approval of Pope Francis, with the publication of his own report in the form of a short book, to be published by Queriniana.

But on 11 March it was L’Osservatore Romano which was the second media outlet to anticipate the issuing of the booklet, publishing almost in their entirety two other unpublished texts of Kasper, taken from his participation in the consistory, at the end of the discussion.

It was a very lively discussion, with many first-rank cardinals speaking against the theses maintained by Kasper.

In his reply to the critics, the German theologian and cardinal called on the tradition of the Church in support of his theses, and on the Eastern principle of “oikonomia”, on the Western principle of “epicheia”, on the equiprobabilism of St Alfonso Maria de Liguori, on the concept of prudence in Thomas Aquinas, and on the “sensus fidei” of the Christian people considered by Newman.

And he concluded with an either/or. Either the synod on the family will produce a change, or else it will be much better not to convene it at all:

“Regarding this question of ours, there are great expectations in the Church. Without doubt we cannot respond to all the expectations. But if we were merely to repeat the responses which have already been given, presumably going back forever, that would lead to a very serious disappointment. As witnesses of hope we cannot let ourselves be guided by a hermeneutic of fear. Courage, and above all, biblical openness (parresia), are necessary. If we do not want this, then we should rather not hold any synod on this subject, because in such a case the subsequent situation would be worse than it was before.”