Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kasper says Pope's synod document "changes everything"

Christopher Lamb
Vatican Insider
April 14, 2016

One of the prominent reforming voices during synod debates on the family says Pope Francis’ document following the gathering is a decisive shift for the Church.

Cardinal Walter Kasper explained that the Pope’s apostolic exhortation “doesn’t change anything of church doctrine or of canon law – but it changes everything”.

The retired cardinal has been influential on Francis’ thinking on marriage and those living in “irregular situations” and it was he who the Pope asked to address a consistory of cardinals in February 2014 on how communion might be given to divorced and remarried couples.

That address kicked off the Synod of Bishops discussions on the family, a process which lasted over two years and culminated in the publication last Friday of the Pope’s exhortation, titled “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

Speaking to The Tablet , the German cardinal said that by putting doctrine in a new prospective the document “overcomes a rigid casuistic approach and gives room for Christian freedom of conscience.”

He explained that by applying the “general vision” of the document there is a possibility of giving remarried divorcees access to the sacraments.

“It seems clear to me as to many other observers, that there can be situations of divorced and remarried where on the way of inclusion, absolution and communion become possible,” he said.

This could happen, he added, “not as a general law or as a general permission but according a spiritual and pastoral discernment judging case by case.”

Speaking more generally about the document, the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said: “I don’t like to say, ‘this is revolutionary’, because revolutionary sounds like giving up or destroying something by violence, whereas the document is a renewal and an updating of the original holistic Catholic vision.”

There has been heated discussion over whether the apostolic exhortation has allowed communion to be given to divorced and remarried couples with debate focussing on footnote number 351 where it says that in “certain cases” the sacraments can be given.

Conservatives, however, have said the text does not change anything in this area with Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk stressing that communion is still forbidden.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Raymond Burke, formerly in charge of the Apostolic Tribunal, wrote in an article for the National Catholic Review that the document was simply a personal “non-magisterial” reflection of the Pope’s.

“The Catholic Church, while insisting on the respect owed to the Petrine office as instituted by Our Lord himself, has never held that every utterance of the Successor of St. Peter should be received as part of her infallible magisterium,” he wrote.

“The only key to the correct interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” is the constant teaching of the Church and her discipline that safeguards and fosters this teaching.”

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