Cardinal Kasper: Latin theology is a 'prisoner' of commutative justice [CWN]

In an address delivered at a conference on the spirituality of mercy and forgiveness hosted by the ecumenical Monastic Community of Bose, Cardinal Walter Kasper said that “the …


I agree with him. I don’t believe God punishes. That’s us projecting our own desires onto God.


Were Bibles shipped with about 500 pages missing? God Himself (Jesus) said God punished.

This central and fundamental theme [mercy] has been unpardonably neglected by systematic theology and reduced to a small paragraph under justice… God should condemn and punish the evil and reward the good. What a poor and miserable idea of God, of a God compelled to act according to our ideas of justice, a God who is an idol of our concepts, an executor and prisoner of our requests of an order imagined just!

There is so much incorrect in this quote I don’t know where to start.

In addition to being careful to not assign our own notion of justice to God, and expect Him to act accordingly, it seems we have to be equally careful to not assign our own notion of mercy to God, expecting Him to act accordingly.

In other words, it seems to me that we can be just as misguided in how we understand God’s justice as we can be regarding His mercy.


The Old Testament must be understood that it was written within the tribal theology of the times.

Jesus words were speaking to people raised in that tribal theology.

However, the revelation of God’s mercy didn’t end with the death of the last Apostle, but continued a spiritual evolution as defined by people like Theilhard De Chardin and of which we have seen in the more recent saints like St Theresa of Lisiuex, St Faustina and Mother Teresa.

The OP article is good in explaining this spiritual evolution.


This sounds like not merely an evolution in the understanding of justice and mercy. It sounds, in your view, like a revision of the doctrine of divine revelation, which is usually said to have ended with the death of the last apostle. There are of course, private revelations, which are non-binding. And there is growth in understanding, which is not divine revelation. But as far as I know, Cardinal Kasper has not commented on the theology of revelation.

Read the article, its in accord to what Cardinal Kasper stated.

Not a change in doctrine, but a better understanding of the spirit of the doctrine over the literal reading of the law.

The deeper understanding comes as we hear the words of Jesus through the Saints and the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis is a an example of that deeper understanding.


From Dives in Misericordia, by Pope St. John Paul II:

The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy.”

Ain’t that the truth! God bless Cardinal Kaspar in this case for continually challenging our firmly established certainties.



Seems to me the Cardinal’s statement is, itself, an overstatement, something akin to the condemnation of “pre-VII” prayer, concept of sin, liturgical practices, etc. It’s not that he’s totally right or wrong, it’s just that he is too dismissive of the Latin Church’s view of God’s mercy. After all, Ste. Therese was Catholic too, and had a very clear view of sin, forgiveness and mercy. She didn’t just invent it from nowhere. Nor was she relativistic.

One of the hazards of churchmen taking too many liberties with even the expressions of Catholic doctrine is that they can encourage relativism. The danger today is not so much that people are excessive in their view of sin, but that they rationalize their way out of it altogether. Denial, not rigidity, is today’s hazard. And with denial comes a lack of penitence.

One doesn’t have to be gloomy about it. One can be joyful in one’s penitence. But one really does need to admit to one’s wrongs.

Seems to me that God will act according to His own notion of mercy and justice.

Matthew 25: 31-46 (emphasis mine):

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

If you go to confession with a contrite heart, one’s sins are forgiven. How can our conception of God be any more merciful outside of the impossibility that some sins become acceptable?

I think this is a huge point. We can go to confession as often as we want! If I commit a sin, as long as I am contrite I can receive forgiveness…unlimited number of times! Talk about mercy!

Exactly, it is certainly not the Church, nor Catholic Theology, that exhibit any lack of Mercy. I suppose the only place where it has been relegated to a backwater is in those who do not make use of Confession.

As far as Theology being a ‘prisoner’ of commutative Justice, that only would be true of one accepts Christ as a Redeemer.

If there is no commutative Justice, there is no need of a Redeemer, and to speak of someone as being a Redeemer would be a meaningless gesture, as there is no injustice to be Redeemed from.

And no such thing as Mercy, as there is no redress due that the offender could be relieved from.

I do like how Pope Francis always strongly encourages Confession.

The idea that Jesus was speaking to the time in which he was on Earth denies the divinity and eternality of Christ.

And saying the same of the OT also denies the idea of it being divinely inspired.

If Jesus is the all powerful eternal divine word of God then his words and truth should exist at all times. Because Jesus, as God, would know what his words meant in 32 AD as well as in 1033, as well as in 2015 as well as in 3032 as well as in 3000 BC.

If he didn’t know, then he isn’t God. He’d just be some guy talking to some Jews in the First Century.

If it’s True then it’s always True. If it isn’t always True, then it’s not True.

I have to say, some of the Cardinal’s writings puzzle me to say the least. I read an article about him that described a book he once wrote called *“Jesus the Christ.” *In which, he cast doubts about the validity of some Gospel stories. Among them, the transfiguration, the walking on the water, stilling the storm, raising the dead, draught of fishes, feeding of the five thousand. You can read the article here. And when you read it, please keep in mind the bolded below;

***The Church has been abundantly clear in its teaching regarding the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture. Pope Leo XIII solemnly taught that “it is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred.” This teaching was repeated by the Second Vatican Council, particularly in reference to the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts. In its declaration on the Sources of Revelation, it decreed:

“Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold, that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation until the day He was taken up into heaven.” (Dei Verbum, 19)***

Peace, Mark

When the priest a person confesses to, lacks mercy in how he treats them, which was common and still exist according to some posters in the Spirituality Forum.

That person will have a lack of understanding of God’s mercy for the priest represents Christ.


Theologians don’t take Scripture literally as you’re suggesting here, but must interpret the text in accordance with the culture and history of when it was written.

What Jesus said was to the people of His time for them to understand, and theologians discern through study of the culture and history the correct interpretation.

What Jesus taught was timeless, but his revelation didn’t end when he ascended into heaven and being such, the Church is continually guided by the Holy Spirit.

The Church no longer sends heretics to the stake, and Popes don’t lead armies into war against political opposition as they did in the past.


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