Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Kasper to Anglicans

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 14, 2008

I have mentioned Cardinal Walter Kasper’s address to the Anglican bishops assembled at the Lambeth Conference several times, but I have only recently been able to study it myself in depth. It constitutes the Catholic Church’s formal statement to the Anglican Communion on the state of Catholic-Anglican relations in the wake of growing Anglican support for the ordination of women and homosexuality, including homosexual unions.
Cardinal Kasper is not only a sympathetic head for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, but he has the reputation of being somewhat liberal. While I would not go so far as to place him at odds with Benedict XVI, I think it is fair to say that he sometimes used to find himself in marked disagreement with Cardinal Ratzinger before his election, and his public comments tend at times to suggest that undercurrents of disagreement continue.
But this provides all the more reason to note the welcome candor (for an ecumenical address) of Cardinal Kasper's remarks at Lambeth, which can easily be captured in a series of quotations. Taken in order, they conveniently summarize the talk:

  • "From the very beginning we should...keep in mind what is at stake as we proceed to speak about faithfulness to the apostolic tradition and apostolic succession, when we speak about the threefold ministry, women’s ordination and moral commandments. What we are talking about is nothing other than our faithfulness to Christ himself, who is our unique and common master."
  • "[The progress of past years] leaves me all the more saddened as I have now, in fidelity to what I believe Christ requires—and I want to add, in the frankness which friendship allows—to look to the problems within the Anglican Communion which have emerged and grown since the last Lambeth Conference and to the ecumenical repercussions of these internal tensions."
  • "In our dialogue we have jointly affirmed that the decisions of a local or regional church must not only foster communion in the present context, but must also be in agreement with the church of the past, and in a particular way with the apostolic church as witnessed in the Scriptures, the early councils and the patristic tradition."
  • "It also seems to us [the Catholic Church] that the Anglican commitment to being 'episcopally led and synodically governed' has not always functioned in such a way as to maintain the apostolicity of the faith and that synodical government misunderstood as a kind of parliamentary process has at times blocked the sort of episcopal leadership envisaged by Cyprian [St. Cyprian, cited earlier]…."
  • "The Catholic Church’s teaching regarding human sexuality, especially homosexuality, is clear as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2357-59. We are convinced that this teaching is well founded in the Old and in the New Testament, and therefore that faithfulness to the Scriptures and to apostolic tradition is at stake."
  • "He [Pope John Paul II in settling the question of the ordination of women] concluded, 'I declare that the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.' This formulation clearly shows that this is not only a disciplinary position but an expression of our faithfulness to Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church finds herself bound by the will of Jesus Christ and does not feel free to establish a new tradition alien to the tradition of the church of all ages."
  • "[F]or us this decision to ordain women implies a turning away from the common position of all churches of the first millennium, that is, not only the Catholic Church but also the Oriental Orthodox and the Orthodox churches. We would see the Anglican Communion as moving a considerable distance closer to the side of the Protestant churches of the 16th century, and to a position they adopted only during the second half of the 20th century."
  • "While our dialogue has led to significant agreement on the understanding of ministry, the ordination of women to the episcopate effectively and definitively blocks a possible recognition of Anglican orders by the Catholic Church."
  • ”It now seems that full visible communion as the aim of our dialogue has receded further, and that our dialogue will have less ultimate goals and therefore will be altered in its character. While such a dialogue could still lead to good results, it would not be sustained by the dynamism which arises from the realistic possibility of the unity Christ asks of us or the shared partaking of the one Lord’s table for which we so earnestly long.”

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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