Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Douthat, Kasper, and Communion—continuing a conversation

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 10, 2014

Ross Douthat, whose thoughts prompted one of my several recent reflections on the Kasper proposal, has continued the discussion with another good post, in which he asks and tentatively answers this important question:

When it seems that the pope is considering what seems like a doctrinal change, what is the appropriate response?

The situation poses a dilemma, Douthat concludes, and I agree—as I agree with nearly all that he says here. The key question, on which he and I differ somewhat, involves how loyal Catholics should react when they perceive a dangerous momentum toward a pastoral (or, arguendo, even doctrinal) disaster.

Since posting that comment about Douthat’s thoughts, I have returned to the Kasper proposal here and here, and I expect to post another column early next week. Douthat promises more, too, and I look forward to continuing the conversation.

For now, as a quick response to Douthat’s latest, first one clarification and then one quibble.

When I suggested that Douthat might be unduly influenced by fractious conservatives, I did not have Michael Brendan Dougherty in mind. I enjoy Dougherty’s work, and even when he takes a stance in opposition the Pope, I understand that he is trying to accomplish something useful, even while I disagree with him. If Douthat has not explored further into the dark corners of the traditionalist Catholic blogosphere, so much the better.

But I am not ready to concede that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, expressed or even implied support for the Kasper proposal in a recent interview with a Belgian magazine. Maybe he did; I haven’t seen a translation of his remarks. But the few quotes that have appeared to date in English are entirely anodyne—so unremarkable, in fact, that I didn’t think they merited coverage in Catholic World News.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: WBSM - May. 15, 2014 7:23 AM ET USA

    Many ministers of the Church do need a change in their pastoral approach of the problem. When someone says mercy toward and respect for remarried divorcees, I am afraid, many jump to the conclusion that what is meant is to let them receive communion, whereas it is the contrary. Mercy and respect toward a person in an irregular marital situation is to tell them the truth, that they are in a situation in which they can't (yet) receive. We need to find new ways to tell them that with love and mercy

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - May. 11, 2014 1:45 PM ET USA

    Carefully reading Baldisseri, some red flags pointing to change popup: "the last major document in the past thirty years about this topic." with the implication that FC (1981) has lost its relevance to the real world in the same manner as Casti Connubii (1930) lost it in fifty years. "... allow [the synod fathers] to give a more appropriate response to the expectations of the people." with the implication that the current response is no longer appropriate. Change is being baked-in.