Q&A with Cardinal Kasper

As the synod on the family gets ready to open, I found this article featuring a Q and A with Cardinal Kasper, very positive and interesting.


I’m just interesting to see if we’ll finally get a clearer vision of Pope Francis. Is he really the heterodox savior of “liberal” Catholicism? Is he a misquoted and misunderstood orthodox Catholic? Is he somewhere in between? I’ve always suspected that Pope Francis has stood both extremes, but his actions during the Synod will likely reveal him one way or the other.

If we believe the Hily Spirit protects the infallible pope, we can be assured that whatever comes down is the Holy Spirits will and completely orthodox. Even if it is contrary to our fallible opinions.



We need to remember that sometimes, what we see as (at least tantamount to) dogma really is interpretation of (or deduced from) dogma. While these deductions may seem logically watertight, I sometimes get a feeling they may not be.

Now to be clear, I don’t see how the Synod could make any big changes, as I don’t see how we could conclude differently from dogma to practice. However, if we interviewed someone who lived in the 19th (or earlier) century, pre- modern psychotherapy, I would not be surprised if they described the notion of giving a suicide a Catholic burial as heterodox and something that would “never happen”. Yet here we are, burying those who commit suicide without even giving it a second thought theologically.

If anything, I think we ought to be humble regarding our understanding of dogma, and avoid smug assertions that “nothing will change”. It is true that it probably won’t. However, I’m also getting a sense that it may. So personally, I avoid strong assertions.

The only thing I know, is that the Holy Father and the bishops will be guided by the Holy Spirit during this Synod. Our duty is to pray for them, and faithfully listen to their conclusions. Other than that, speculation may be interesting, but it is not really fruitful. Neither is worrying that the sky will fall. Nor is hoping that dogma will change, because it won’t. Everything else, however, I would be careful of asserting either way.

The Cardinal was asked:

Q. Some have proposed to have an easier and quicker process of annulment of marriage. The Pope has now set up a commission to look at the annulment process.

A. Well, there are situations in which such annulments are helpful and can be made. But take the case of a couple who are ten years married and have children, in the first years they had a happy marriage, but for different reasons the marriage fell apart. This marriage was a reality, and to say it was canonically null and void does not make sense to me. This is an abstract canonical construction. It’s divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.

Of course, sometimes it can’t be proven that a marriage is/was invalid and it “does not make sense” to conclude otherwise. But, I wonder, what was his ultimate point here about that hypothetical couple? I can’t help but conclude, based on other things the Cardinal has said, that he means that the couple’s marriage will be considered valid but the Parties can still enter a new marriage anyway. …


He is the Pope. Why try to put him in a box?

He is authority itself in the Church, as was Benedict, JPII, JPI, PVI. . . . . . . . . . .


I doubt the Pope will make any infallible declarations as a result of this or next year’s Synod.


I think he is saying that the annulment process is being abused which is dishonest to the couple. We pretend these first marriages did not occur…but they did, and in his opinion it would be far better to have a true annulment process and a separate time of penance for those who remarried that shouldn’t have and a third category of people who are just barred from both and committed to the first marriage or single life.

It seems that in this comment he would like to see things tightened up.

The pope is final arbiter of Canon law and church discipline. He is guided by the Holy Spirit whenever he speaks on such issues.

But is he? Is time THE crucial factor? Nobody who stuck out a hard situation for 10 years and with kids resulting could have had a defect that prevented him/her from ever giving actual consent?

I’m not sure that’s really an improvement over case by case consideration on the merits.

I don’t think anyone said “nobody” but let’s not be blind to the tons of annulments and think that none of the first marriages were true marriages.

It seems “everybody” gets an annulment that applies. At least a lot do, so that should be looked at and perhaps adjusted where there are less annulments and perhaps another avenue.

We will see but know for sure God will guide the church.

If the pope makes any proclamations on this situation and practice whatsoever, wouldnt that be an infallible declaration by definition, since it deals directly with faith and morals?

No. From the CCC (with my emphasis):

[quote=CCC]891 "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.

There has to be a “definitive act”, which would generally be in the form of a solemn declaration. If something is declared just as a matter of discipline, opinion or pastoral statement, then it is not infallible. It is rare for a pope to speak infallibly - actually few popes do. I very much doubt the upcoming Synod would result in any infallible proclamations, as it is pastoral in nature.

Edit: That said, we can and should expect the Pope to be guided by the Holy Spirit also in his ordinary teaching and as he governs the Church. A Pope can absolutely make mistakes, and grave ones at that, but yet, we are called to obedience and trust (within reason). A change of discipline (and as such interpretation of dogma, which would be a big thing), which does not even affect those faithful who might have issues with it (as opposed to let’s say the attempted suppression of the TLM, which only affected those who were attached to it!), is hardly reason to accuse a pope of heterodoxy.

I agree with the cardinal on this point. The E. Orthodox consider divorce to be a sin, but will forgive this sin under certain conditions. However, they will not say that the couple was not married. The statistics of marriage annulments indicate that the U.S. Roman Catholic tribunals have drastically loosened the annulment process so that almost anyone can get the annulment. 1930 - about 10 marriage annulments for that year, compared to more than 50,000 annulments per year in some recent years in the USA.


We hope and pray that he is guided by the Holy Spirit but these topics don’t really have anything to do with infallibility. If they did, there couldn’t be changes in canon law and church discipline once promulgated by the Pope.



Maybe, but I think it’s more likely he doesn’t see much use to the “annulment process.” As he said later in the interview, couples, with a confessor, can decide in conscience what to do about a previous marriage and subsequent marriage. If that’s the way things can be done, nobody is ever going to bother with a nullity case.


It’s not the divorce that’s the sticking point, it’s the “remarriage.” With respect to our EO cousins, their approach merely rationalizes away Christ’s clear words that the man who marries another woman after divorcing his first wife commits adultery. All past sins can be forgiven, but NOBODY on earth has the authority to authorize someone to continue in sin.

As to ages past versus now, don’t assume nothing else changed. In earlier eras priests could and would toss out people who asked to be married in church who clearly had no intent to enter into a sacramental union. Today, most priests seem willing to grant a church wedding to darn near anybody who wants one as long as they’ve got paperwork to prove they are confirmed and aren’t already married. If anything, THAT’s the scandalous difference between today and the past.

Can anybody here REALLY see John Vianney marrying a two people who had unrepentantly lived together for years and who decided that a wedding would be a good idea “before we start having kids?” No way. He’d read them the riot act and hand out a genuine penance that would need doing to demonstrate repentance first. We’re too timid today to ASK anything of the supposedly ‘faithful.’ The impression given is that we’re just terribly glad they’ve come (and won’t you please toss something in the collection plate while you’re at it?).

Sacramental marriage is a gift and a privilege. We in the church today give the impression that it’s a happy meal toy or something of similar value. It’s sacred and it’s high time we start demanding that people respect it before they receive it. The scandal isn’t that nullity declarations are given out too easily. The scandal is that we’re negligent about allowing people to deceive themselves into believing they are getting married sacramentally when they have clear impediments.

That, theoretically, I suppose would be possible. The tribunal system was created because the issue of failed marriages is so emotionally charged that the human capacity for rationalizing to the desired outcome is almost certain. The tribunal was established to be a unbiased and rational judgment as a service to the faithful and a check and balance against one of humanity’s more obvious defects resulting from Original Sin.

But it IS fundamentally disciplinary. It could be changed to allow people to (with the guidance of their pastor alone and no paperwork) directly discern if the failed putative marriage never really was valid in the first place. And if not, they’d be free to marry.

My personal opinion, of course, would be that such a decision would be tantamount to actively inviting wolves to come live in the sheep pen. Technically, it would be a disciplinary change. In actual practicality, it would be an obvious wink and nod at the practice of serial polygamy that Christ clearly labeled as adultery.

I read the same article and found it condescending and offensive. I refer specifically to the suggestion (repeatedly made by the interviewer but blandly accepted by the cardinal) that others opposed his position merely from fear. A second example of misdirection was the suggestion that it was really the pope who was being “attacked”. It is a bit ironic that Cardinal Kasper asserted those who reject his position do so from fear that “all will collapse”, yet when his position generates just the kind of discussion he claims he wants he charges his opponents with attacking the pope. As I said, the article was less than impressive.


I disagree, and apparently from the article linked to below His Holiness the Vicar of Christ, the Roman Pontiff has also said that the annulment process in the US is “too easy and hurried.”
I agree with His Eminence Cardinal Kasper when he says: “…But take the case of a couple who are ten years married and have children, in the first years they had a happy marriage, but for different reasons the marriage fell apart. This marriage was a reality, and to say it was canonically null and void does not make sense to me. This is an abstract canonical construction. It’s divorce in a Catholic way, in a dishonest way.”
In other words, many annulments are dishonest divorces in a Catholic way, which is how many other people see it. For example, Sheila Kennedy the non-Catholic wife of the Roman Catholic Joseph Kennedy. When her Roman Catholic husband asked her for an annulment so that he could receive Holy Communion after remarrying someone else, she resisted saying that she thought that they were married all along. Her Roman Catholic husband said that the Catholic annulment process was “a bunch of Catholic gobbledygook,” and added that nobody actually believes it.

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