VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will not open until Oct. 5, but some of its most prominent members are already publicly debating what is bound to be one of its most controversial topics: the eligibility of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
In an interview published Sept. 18, a proponent of changing church practice to allow such Catholics to receive Communion answered criticism from some of his fellow cardinals, suggesting they are seeking a “doctrinal war” whose ultimate target is Pope Francis.
“They claim to know on their own what truth is, but Catholic doctrine is not a closed system, but a living tradition that develops,” German Cardinal Walter Kasper told the Italian daily Il Mattino. “They want to crystallize the truth in certain formulas … the formulas of tradition.”
“None of my brother cardinals has ever spoken with me,” the cardinal said. “I, on the other hand, have spoken twice with the Holy Father. I arranged everything with him. He was in agreement. What can a cardinal do but stand with the pope? I am not the target, the target is another.”
Asked if the target was Pope Francis, the cardinal replied: “Probably yes.”
Cardinal Kasper, who will participate in the upcoming synod by personal appointment of the pope, was responding to a new book featuring contributions by five cardinals, including three of his fellow synod fathers, who criticize his proposal to make it easier for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
According to church teaching, Catholics who remarry civilly without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriage may not receive Communion unless they abstain from sexual relations, living with their new partners “as brother and sister.”