A Layperson's View
|His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper|
Usually, a question like the one posed in the title of this article would be rejected outright as too hyperbolic - hystrionic, even - to merit serious consideration. A Cardinal - a prince of the Church - promoting heresy? Balderdash! And a mere layperson presuming to pass such a judgment? Poppycock! However, given the recent series of events, I think it's time for the question to be posed in all earnestness, by laypersons and clerics alike: Is Cardinal Kasper promoting heresy?
According to the Catechism, heresy is "the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith, or an obstinate doubt concerning the same." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2089) In other words, a heretic is one who "has been baptized and claims to be a Christian, but who pertinaciously denies or doubts a truth which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith" (Dictionary of Canon Law, pg. 103)
The Council of Vatican I provides us with the criteria of what a Catholic must believe:
By divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium. (Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 3:8)
From this, we can define dogma as "an opinion or belief authoritatively stated, a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted by the Apostles in the Scriptures or Tradition, and proposed by the Church as an article of faith, to be accepted by the faithful." (New Catholic Dictionary, pg. 303)
Now, there are three premises of central importance to the issue of the permission of divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion:
- Divorced and remarried persons are guilty of adultery.
This is a truth revealed by God (Matthew 5:32; Luke 16:18) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2384; Council of Trent, Session 24, Canons 5 & 7).
- Adultery is a grave sin.
This, too, is a truth revealed by God (Exodus 20:14) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2380).
- Persons guilty of grave sin are not to receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental confession.
This is also a truth revealed by God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30) and proposed by the magisterium of the Church to be believed as such (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1385; Council of Trent, Session 13, Canon 11; Code of Canon Law §915-916).
Judging by the criteria mentioned above, it seems safe to conclude that all three of these statements are dogmas which must be believed with divine and Catholic faith and that, therefore, to deny - or even to obstinately doubt - any one of them would be, per definitionem, heresy. In fact, regarding the last, the Council of Trent went as far as to say that, "if any one shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated" (Session 13, Canon 11).
These three statements, taken together, lead to one - and, in my estimation, inescapable - conclusion: divorced and remarried persons are not to receive Holy Communion. To suggest otherwise would be to deny one or more of the dogmas upon which the conclusion is based and, thus, to commit the sin of heresy and, possibly, an act worthy of immediate excommunication.
We return to our question: Is Cardinal Kasper promoting heresy?
Cardinal Kasper is on record as saying that, in some circumstances, he would offer Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. In fact, in 1993, he released a pastoral letter along with Bishop (now Cardinal) Karl Lehman and Bishop (now Archbishop) Oskar Saier which granted permission to divorced and remarried Catholics in Germany to receive Holy Communion on the condition that they perform a "serious examination" of their conscience. He and his fellow German bishops proceeded to give Holy Communion to such persons until the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith saw it necessary to intervene in 1994 with its Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful. Despite the intervention, Caspar never yielded in his support of this position, and has continued up to the present, made obvious to all at the 2014 Synod on the Family. It would seem, then, that Cardinal Kasper does, indeed, maintain that at least some divorced and remarried Catholics should be permitted to receive Holy Communion.
Barring some glaring fault in the logic of the above considerations, that would mean that Cardinal Kasper is, as a matter of fact, promoting heresy. Openly. Obstinately. Defiantly.
And what are we to make of one who promotes heresy?
Granted, it is not fitting for a mere layperson - who is also certainly not without stain - to come to such a conclusion regarding a prince of the Church. Believe me, gentle reader, I do not enjoy passing such a judgment, and do so only after a great deal of consideration. Meditating upon the four last things, I ask myself: What account will I have to make of this action before Our Lord on the Day of Judgment? I do not wish to condemn Cardinal Walter Kasper; on the contrary, I pray for his conversion. But I cannot reconcile the position he is so vigorously promoting with what I believe to be irreformable, divinely revealed truths. Moreover, I feel morally compelled to warn my fellow Catholics that what we have before us here is not merely "misguided moral theology," but rather heresy of the kind Pope Leo XIII spoke when he said "there can be nothing more dangerous."
Redemptor mundi, miserere nobis!
Redemptor mundi, miserere nobis!
Note: I would not be surprised in the least if a canon lawyer were to point to this article as a prime example of why lay persons should not presume to engage in canon law. But if I have erred in my thinking - which I readily admit is certainly possible - I would appreciate someone explaining to me where, exactly, the error resides. Upon such explanation, I would gladly retract the article in its entirety.