Cardinal Kasper: Pope’s silence on contraception in Amoris may mean approval
Update March 15, 2018: This report has been updated with a quote from Amoris laetitia about the teaching of Humanae Vitae.
ROME, March 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Walter Kasper, who spearheaded Communion for the “remarried,” is now arguing that Pope Francis’ refusal to affirm Humanae Vitae’s central teaching in Amoris laetitia may signal his tacit approval of contraception.
In a move predicted by critics of Amoris laetitia, the German theologian suggested that because the Pope’s sprawling 2016 apostolic exhortation on the “joy of love” does not explicitly mention the Church’s proscription of contraception, it may, in fact, be allowed.
Italian journalist and veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister writes that Kasper adroitly inserts this argument into his new book on Amoris laetitia, which has been recently published in German and Italian. Magister’s March 9 blog post was translated by Matthew Sherry.
Kasper claims in The Message of Amoris Laetitia: A Brotherly Discussion that with the document’s publication Pope Francis initiated a “paradigm shift.”
“A paradigm shift – Kasper writes – that does not limit itself to allowing communion for the divorced and remarried, but ‘concerns moral theology in general and thus has effects on many analogous situations,’ including none other than recourse to artificial methods of birth control,” writes Magister.
Admittedly, Kasper “does not find in Amoris Laetitia the passage – in effect nonexistent – that would explicitly legitimize the use of contraceptives,” he notes.
Pope Francis refers to Humanae vitae — Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical re-affirming Catholic teaching that deliberately rendering the conjugal act infertile through artificial means is intrinsically wrong — in Amoris Laetitia.
While the Pope does not directly quote the central teaching of the document, he nevertheless states: "From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life."
Humanae vitae teaches that "each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of human life."
"[A]ny action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means," must be "absolutely excluded," it adds. The Catechism of the Catholic Church adds that contraception use is "intrinsically evil."
But Kasper asserts the pontiff only “encourages the use of the method of observing the cycles of natural fertility,” and “does not say anything about other methods of family planning and avoids all casuistic definitions.”
From this, Kasper deduces that “in Amoris Laetitia even that which is not said may say something,” meaning, according to Magister, that it may “give the go-ahead to contraceptives, entrusting the use of them to the ‘deliberate decision of conscience’ of the individual.’”
The German cardinal is so well known for his persistent lobbying to allow divorced and “remarried” Catholics to receive Holy Communion contrary to Church teaching that his position has been dubbed “the Kasper proposal.”
Various bishops and cardinals have interpreted Amoris Laetitia as embracing Kasper’s proposal and have issued guidelines allowing “remarried” Catholics to receive Communion. Yet, other bishops, remaining faithful to Catholic teaching, have issued opposite guidelines. The result has been dissension and widespread confusion on the question.
Kasper’s current undermining of Catholic teaching on contraception is unsurprising, given the cardinal’s theological bent. Critics foresaw Amoris laetitia could lead to Kasper’s contraception proposal.
Indeed, a month after the document’s publication, Matthew McCusker described the very tack Kasper is now taking.
“On the few occasions when the encyclical Humanae Vitae is mentioned [in Amoris Laetitia] it is in the context of ‘responsible parenthood’ and the exercise of conscience by spouses in this area,” McCusker, deputy international director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, told the Rome Life Forum in May 2016.
“Such statements, which in another context might not be troubling, do give cause for concern given the false approaches to moral theology adopted in the document and the failure to clearly restate what the Church actually teaches about contraception,” he said.
Kasper’s weighing in on the matter is all the more troubling because Pope Francis has set up a commission to study Humanae vitae in the light of Amoris laetitia, as Vatican sources confirmed last June.
Its coordinator, Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, professor at John Paul II Pontifical Institute, “admits that Amoris laetitia authorizes what Humanæ Vitæ prohibits,” wrote Roberto De Mattei in an analysis.
Vatican-based theologian Father George Woodall has also explicitly warned that if the commission uses the moral principles and language Amoris Laetitia, it would recommend that Humanae vitae “should be rejected or, more likely, should not be interpreted legalistically.”
Woodall predicted that such a turn of events “would cause massive doctrinal and pastoral damage” to the Church.