The Heavyweight Prelate Debate

December 2014

The questions of Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics and how to welcome homosexuals into parishes were the flashpoints in October’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family (see the preceding New Oxford Note), and a great many observers focused their attention on how and where these issues clash with Church doctrine and practices. But to restrict one’s focus to the immediate concerns of the synod is to risk losing the broader perspective — you know, the forest for the trees and all that. By stepping back and taking the longer view, we see that the synod is itself a flashpoint in a larger struggle within the Church — one that pits two opposing camps against each other, both of which are led by high-profile, heavyweight prelates who’ve dominated the post-Vatican II ecclesiastical landscape. The struggle involves the very definition of the Church; the main combatants are two Germans: Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper.

In an article in the National Catholic Register (Oct. 19), Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, editor-in-chief of Convivium magazine, alludes to the debates Cardinals Ratzinger and Kasper carried out in theological journals toward the end of the previous millennium and the beginning of the current one. Ratzinger, de Souza writes, “argued that the Church universal was prior to the local Churches,” while Kasper “took the opposite view.”

What bearing does this have on the recently concluded synod? The debate took on a very public nature when, in 1993, Kasper, as a bishop in Germany, issued “pastoral instructions” to his diocesan priests to allow divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion. The next year, Ratzinger, in his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), issued, with the approval of Pope St. John Paul II, a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful,” which effectively overruled Kasper’s pastoral letter. It reminded the bishops of the world that “if the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”

But that wasn’t the end of the debate; it enlarged, covering additional topics, including the nature of the Church as expressed in the 2001 CDF instruction Dominus Iesus, of which Kasper was outspokenly critical.

You have two options:

  1. Online subscription: Subscribe now to New Oxford Review for access to all web content at AND the monthly print edition for as low as $38 per year.
  2. Single article purchase: Purchase this article for $1.95, for viewing and printing for 48 hours.

If you're already a subscriber log-in here.

New Oxford Notes: December 2014

Read our posting policy Add a comment
The heretic kasper may have won this battle, but he has lost the war. Why? because Christ the Lord is reigning Head of His Church, and this heretic who butchers the Bible with mock tone along with the other biblical apostates of the PBI think, like Sennacherib, that they have made a great impression. But the truth wins out, even to their disreputable and uncanonical conspiracy to elect bergoglio as pope - but they broke the canons of Universi Dominus Gregis of Pope St John Paul in doing so. Nor can any heretic be legitimate Successor of St Peter. He is an antipope for that reason. Writers of NOR: you've lost your edge (hopefully not your salt?). You used to write as I am writing now. No more games or pussyfooting around Christ's Church; I say Anathema at Kasper the heretic and Anathema on the antipope bergoglio! Posted by: shanemattison
May 22, 2015 03:59 PM EDT
The unasked question here is if Kasper is still Catholic. I think he is not. A validly married catholic who has marital relations with a persona who is not their spouse is committing adultery and if I am not mistaken, that is (almost always) a grave sin. (The reason I say "almost always" is that a un-catechetized Catholic may not realize this and have lesser culpability) To receive the Body and Blood of Jesus with such culpability is another grave sin. Or is Walter Kasper more knowledgeable than St. Paul? net-net Walter Cardinal Kasper would make a very nice Lutheran Bishop. Posted by: altgraubart
December 31, 2014 01:21 PM EST
Add a comment