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Calls for open discussion of Cardinal Kasper's address on theology of the family

February 26, 2014

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany, has suggested that the Vatican should release the full text of a lengthy address delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper during the first session of last week’s consistory of the College of Cardinals.

Cardinal Kasper, who spoke for two hours at the February 20 session, had been asked by Pope Francis to address the consistory on the pastoral care of the family. At the close of the consistory, the Pontiff thanked the German cardinal for his “profound” introduction to the topic. However the Vatican has released only a brief summary of Cardinal Kasper’s address.

Cardinal Marx, who is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on Vatican reforms, said that it was pointless to keep the text of the address confidential. Since approximately 200 copies were in circulation, he said, inevitably the cardinal’s speech will become widely available. Cardinal Marx, too, praised Cardinal Kasper for his presentation of the issues.

According to Andrea Tornielli, the respected Vatican correspondent for the Italian daily La Stampa, Cardinal Kasper challenged the cardinals to address the problem of Catholics who are divorced and remarried. The Church cannot change her doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage, the cardinal said. But pastors can and should find ways to reach out to Catholics in irregular marriages. He stressed that no situation is too difficult to allow for God’s mercy.

Cardinal Kasper expressed misgivings about proposals to ease access to annulments. He said that a streamlined annulment process would likely lead to fresh complaints that the Church was accommodating a hypocritical sort of “Catholic divorce.” But he asked whether it might be possible to allow for some sort of penitential process by which Catholics who are divorced and remarried could be reconciled with the Church, just as the early Church provided a penitential process to allow the re-entry of those who had renounced their faith to escape persecution.


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  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Feb. 26, 2014 8:12 PM ET USA

    National Catholic Register ran a detailed summary of Kasper's address which had to have been based on an actual copy of it. The thing that jumped out at me as being conspicuously absent is mention of continence or choice to live as brother and sister as relevant to the question of divorced and invalidly remarried people receiving Holy Communion. Was this issue simply put in parentheses? There is no question that under some circumstances divorced and remarried people could receive Communion.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Feb. 26, 2014 6:56 PM ET USA

    The problem with a penitential process is that the vows of marriage are a legal issue. Yes, there are moral issues involved in marriage. If I'm nasty and rude, adulterous, addicted to drink, drugs or porn, or whatever, those certainly damage a marriage. But none of them do anything to the fact that I spoke vows on my wedding day. I can confess those sins, but confessing them doesn't mean my vows are invalid. So a penitential process won't do diddly-squat to a legal reality.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Feb. 26, 2014 5:23 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Kasper's idea mentioned at the end is worth exploring perhaps, but there does seem to be a difference between the case of apostates in the early Church and the divorced and remarried now: The apostates, I assume, could not continue to renounce the faith in public after they were accepted a second time.