December 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — German Cardinal Walter Kasper has declared the controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia to be over.
Allowing access for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the sacraments in some instances is the only correct interpretation of Pope Francis’ contentious document, the cardinal said after the pope’s letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region in Argentina was published by the Vatican as an official act.
“With the official publication of the letter from Pope Francis to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, the painful dispute over the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is hopefully over,” Kasper said.
The “great majority of God's people have already received this letter with gratitude and may now feel confirmed (in this premise),” the cardinal wrote in an op-ed for the German language unit of Vatican Radio translated for a report by Catholic News Agency.
Critics of Amoris Laetitia are guilty of “one-sided moral objectivism” that does not appreciate “the importance of the personal conscience in the moral act,” he said.
The controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia since its April 2016 release has not only continued but was brought more firmly front and center earlier this month when the Vatican's body for promulgating Official Acts of the Apostolic See published its October 2016 issue. It contained Francis' letter to the Buenos Aires bishops, along with the bishops’ guidelines for implementing the document that permit Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried couples in certain situations.
Speculation has swirled that the intention is to make the Buenos Aires guidelines “authentic magisterium.” Meanwhile, Amoris Laetitia apologists are now asserting that Catholics must assent to the document as authoritative.
Cardinal Kasper has championed the cause of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics – despite the conflict with Church teaching – well before Amoris Laetitia’s debut.
Amoris Laetitia’s apparent tacit approval of Communion for the divorced and remarried through ambiguous language has led to varied interpretations of the document worldwide. Calls for correction and explanation include the dubia submitted last year by four Cardinals to Pope Francis requesting clarification in particular areas of the document.
Critics say Amoris Laetitia not only conflicts with foundational church teaching but with the teaching of previous popes, in particular Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II.
Cardinal Kasper said in the recent op-ed that conscience must take note of the objective commandments of God. “But universally valid objective commandments (…) cannot be applied mechanically or by purely logical deduction to concrete, often complex and perplexing, situations.”
Without specifically addressing the questions raised by the dubia, Cardinal Kasper stressed that in his opinion it was necessary to ask “which application of the commandment is the right one, given a specific situation.”
He also argued that this “has nothing to do with situational ethics that knows no universal commandments, it is not about exceptions to the commandment, but about the question of understood as situational conscience cardinal virtue of prudence.”
The distinction could be equated to that between murder and manslaughter when considering a homicide in terms of secular law, he said.
Access to the sacraments in some cases for individuals remarried without an annulment — as Pope Francis’ September 5, 2016, letter to the Buenos Aires bishops green-lights — is founded in traditional doctrine, Kasper said, “especially that of Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent.”
Thus “it is not a novelty but a renewal of an old tradition against Neo-Scholastic constriction,” he said. “As proven experts of the doctrine of Pope John Paul II have shown, there is no contradiction with the two predecessors of Pope Francis.”
Pope Francis stood “firmly on the ground of the Second Vatican Council,” Kasper wrote, “which has taught that conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. (Gaudium et Spes, 16).”
Last year, dozens of theologians sent a letter to every Catholic patriarch and cardinal asking them to petition Pope Francis to correct a list of flawed propositions in Amoris Laetitia. Roughly two dozen Catholic academics and pastors released a letter expressing “profound gratitude and full support” for the dubia sent to Francis.
To date, 250 scholars and clergy internationally have signed the Filial Correction of “seven heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments” associated with Amoris Laetitia. The correction was first delivered to the pope in August with 40 signatures.
More recently, some 30 Catholic pro-life and family leaders from 11 countries signed a pledge of fidelity to the Catholic faith that states, “If there is any conflict between the words and acts of any member of the hierarchy, even the pope, and the doctrine that the Church has always taught we will remain faithful to the perennial teaching of the Church.”