Cardinal Walter Kasper has said he thinks a “growing majority” of the synod are in favor of his proposal to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion.
Speaking as he came out of Tuesday evening’s small working group discussions, the German cardinal said the Pope has witnessed such problems in his own family and that he has “looked at the laity and seen the great majority are for a reasonable, responsible opening.” The Vatican has not denied that the Pope wants such an “opening” in this area.
The cardinal’s proposal to administer holy Communion to some divorced and “remarried” couples after a period of penitence has been roundly criciticsed by a number of senior Church leaders, including Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.
Cardinal Kasper also discussed his views on the synod, and appeared to suggest that African views on homosexuality — where the issue remains a taboo — are not listened to by the Western delegates in the assembly. Noting how “impossible” it is for Western delegates to comment on African issues, he said likewise “they should not tell us too much what we have to do.”
Your Eminence, how is everything going in the Synod?
Everything is very quiet now. This morning it was on fire a little bit but of course that’s because of you – the newspapers!
Yesterday we were told the “Spirit of Vatican II” was in the synod. Do you agree with this?
This is the spirit of the Council – this is very true.
Have you seen some movement on the divorce and “remarriage” issue?
I hoped there would be some opening and I think the majority is in favor. That is the impression I have, but there is no vote. But I think some opening would be left [to happen]. Perhaps it would also be left to the next part of the synod.
Have you seen opposition growing to your proposals in the last few days?
No. In the first phase of the synod I saw a growing majority in favor of an opening. I saw it – but it’s more of a feeling. There was no vote. There will be a vote but not yet.
Do you know how the Holy Father is viewing the synod and how it’s going so far?
He has not said — he’s been silent, he has listened very carefully but it’s clearly what he wants and that’s evident. He wants a major part of the episcopacy with him and he needs it. He cannot do it against the majority of the episcopacy.
Is there any sense that he’s trying to push things in that direction?
He does not push. His first speech was freedom: freedom of speech, everyone should say what he thinks and what he has on his mind and this was very positive. Nobody is asking: what would the Holy Father think about this? What things can I say? This freedom of speech has been very alive here in this synod, more than in others.
It has been said that he added five special rapporteurs on Friday to help the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo. Is that because he’s trying to push things through according to his wishes?
I do not see this going on in the Pope’s head. But I think the majority of these five people are open people who want to go on with this. The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.
But are African participants listened to in this regard?
No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].
They’re not listened to?
In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.
What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod?
I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.
There is a lot of concern about your proposal.
Yes, yes, there’s a lot.
People are saying that it is causing a lot of confusion among the faithful, and are worried about it. What do you say to that?
I can only speak of Germany where the great majority wants an opening about divorce and remarriage. It’s the same in Great Britain, it’s everywhere. When I speak to laypeople, also old people who are married for 50, 60 years, they never thought of divorce but they see a problem with their culture and so every family has a problem nowadays. The Pope also told me that [such problems exist] also in his family, and he has looked at the laity and seen the great majority are for a reasonable, responsible opening.
But people feel the Church’s teaching is going to be undermined by your proposal if it passes, that it’s undoing 2,000 years of Church teaching. What is your view on this?
Well nobody is putting into question the indissolubility of marriage. I think it wouldn’t be a help for people, but if you look to the word of Jesus, there are different synoptic gospels in different places, in different contexts. It’s different in the Judeo-Christian context and in the Hellenistic context. Mark and Matthew are different. There was already a problem in the apostolic age. The Word of Jesus is clear, but how to apply it in complex, different situations? It’s a problem to do with the application of these words.
The teaching does not change?
The teaching does not change but it can be made more profound, it can be different. There is also a certain growth in the understanding of the Gospel and the doctrine, a development. Our famous Cardinal Newman had spoken on the development of doctrine. This is also not a change but a development on the same line. Of course, the pope wants it and the world needs it. We live in a globalized world and you cannot govern everything from the Curia. There must be a common faith, a common discipline but a different application.