June 9, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – As opposition builds to his well-organized campaign to permit adulterers in “difficult circumstances” to receive Holy Communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper is now denying that the pope has given his support to the idea, claiming that it is merely a question that the Supreme Pontiff wishes to see debated.
In an interview with the Eternal Word Television Network’s Raymond Arroyo broadcast on June 4, Kasper was confronted with his claim made last year that “Clearly this is what he (the pope) wants.”
“Do you agree with that still and are you speaking for the pope?” asked Arroyo.
“No, no, no,” responded Kasper. “Of course I spoke beforehand with the pope … and he was in favor to open the debate, but not a certain proposal. And I did not ask him what he wants, but he wanted to touch the problem and to open the debate. This he wanted and this I did, but then I had the impression he was, more or less, he agreed (in) what he said afterwards with the Cardinals. It was not against his opinion, but I cannot say that I have now made the proposal of the Pope.”
Kasper’s proposal is that people in difficult circumstances who have remarried civilly after a divorce should be given Holy Communion at the discretion of their parish priest and following a period of penance, despite the Catholic Church’s perennial teaching that remarriage after abandoning a valid and sacramental marriage constitutes adultery. Kasper has repeatedly hinted and even explicitly stated that his view on the matter is shared by the pope, a claim that has been reinforced by numerous public and private statements by Francis himself or attributed to him.
In the same interview, Arroyo recalled that “at the time of the Synod (on the Family) there was some reportage where you were saying that you were speaking for the pope and you understood his mind,” and asked, “Was that an exaggeration or do you stand by it?”
“That’s an exaggeration,” responded Kasper. “I was expressing his mind in the sense that he wanted the debate about all these problems. He is for openness and for frankness and he says it’s not, does not help to suppress the questions.”
As Arroyo continued to question him, the cardinal appeared to be increasingly exasperated and defensive, and at one point denied that he had made any proposal at all. Responding to Arroyo’s observation that priests were contending with divorcees and even homosexuals who were demanding that they receive Communion because “this is clearly what the pope wants,” Kasper responded: “Well this is a misunderstanding, and first of all, it was a question, and I put the question to open the debate. It’s not a proposal. And therefore, of course a couple can come and want Holy Communion. I spoke about a penitential process, a penitential way, it needs time.”
“But you do understand, when a churchman like yourself, a theologian, an esteemed international figure, a curial official, says ‘here is my proposal and the pope agrees with me,’…”
“Well I did not say that,” retorted Kasper.
“Well you did say, and the quote is: ‘Clearly this is what he wants’ and ‘the pope has approved of my proposal,’” responded Arroyo.
“No, he did not approve my proposal,” the cardinal replied. “The pope wanted that I put the question, and afterwards, in a general way…before all the cardinals. He expressed his satisfaction with my talk, but not in the end, not in the special question. I would not say that he approved the proposal, no, no no.”
Second thoughts from the pope?
Cardinal Kasper’s new, more ambivalent posture regarding a proposal he has so aggressively promoted for two years in tandem with Pope Francis, and his retreat from his claim that the pope supports him, may indicate that Francis is having second thoughts on the matter.
Although the pope has never explicitly stated that he supports the specific content of Kasper’s proposal, he has repeatedly allowed Kasper to make such claims publicly without any correction, and has given the cardinal numerous opportunities to promote his ideas on marriage to cardinals and bishops. He has also indicated repeatedly in his own public statements that he is very amenable to Kasper’s thinking on the topic.
Just four days after his election in March of 2013, Francis heaped praise upon Kasper’s book, “Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life”, which lays the theological foundations for his communion-for-adulterers proposal. Calling Kasper a “a talented theologian, a good theologian,” he said that the book “did me good, so much good.”
By February of the next year, Francis had called an Extraordinary Consistory of the cardinals introduced by Kasper himself, in which he openly advocated communion for invalidly “remarried” Catholics in difficult situations. Despite the concern and outrage expressed by many cardinals, Francis again heaped praise on Kasper the next day, calling his ideas “deep theology.” He added, “It did me well and I had an idea; and excuse me if I embarrass Your Eminence, but the idea is: this is called doing theology while kneeling. Thank you. Thank you.” A month later, Kasper published a book with his consistory address and placed the pope’s words on the back cover.
The pope then made the topic of Kasper’s proposal the main point of discussion at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, in which great efforts were made by the organizers of the event to promote Kasper’s position, despite intense opposition from a large number of participants. Immediately before the synod, Kasper gave an interview in which he claimed that he had “agreed upon everything” with the pope. “He was in agreement,” he added. “What can a cardinal do, except be with the Pope?” Later in the same interview he added, “I agreed with the Pope; I spoke twice with him. He showed himself content.”
Kasper’s new attitude regarding the pope’s position dovetails with the pope’s own increasing public reticence regarding Kasper’s proposal. Following a massive and sustained outcry from clergy and faithful against the proposal, the pope no longer makes statements urging more laxity towards people in illicit unions and has increasingly spoken in favor of traditional marriages, urging larger families and denouncing gender ideology. His statements about the second synod, scheduled for this October, have become increasingly vague, and he has recently hinted that he no longer seeks to give Communion to the divorced and “remarried.”
In response to a reporter’s question regarding such cases during a March interview, Francis responded that “we are not fixing anything” by allowing Communion. “What the church wants is for you to integrate your life into the life of the Church,” he added.
In the same interview the pope offered a different, more modest proposal: permitting such couples to act as godparents at baptisms. “What testimony will this give the godchild? The testimony of saying, ‘Look dear, I was mistaken in my life, now I'm in this situation. I am Catholic. The principles are these. I do this and I'll accompany you.’”