VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Walter Kasper’s Feb. 20 address on marriage to a group of cardinals, controversial for its comments on remarriage and the reception of Holy Communion, is to be published as a book this week, he says.
The booklet, Gospel of the Family, will be released in Italian and German, and will feature the text of his speech. Its 78 pages will include two additional texts from Cardinal Kasper.
In a March 10 interview with Vatican Radio, Cardinal Kasper, the president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said, “My main intention was not to speak about divorced and remarried people but to speak about the Gospel of the family.”
Of the five sections of his address, only the last was devoted to divorce and remarriage. Earlier sections focused on the family in creation and redemption, the domestic church, and sin in families.
“I think the majority of young people want stable relationships, want to live in a family,” he told Vatican Radio. “And therefore the Church has to help them, so I wanted to build up a new, better, more deep understanding of family life.”
Cardinal Kasper, who was invited to speak at the consistory by Pope Francis, said, “I told the Pope from the very beginning that I have my opinions, and the Pope encouraged me to speak about my opinions — he wanted an open discussion about an urgent problem.”
Noted Vatican observer Sandro Magister wrote March 11 in his blog “Settimo Cielo” that the cardinal’s speech generated “a very animated discussion, with numerous cardinals of the first order intervening against the thesis presented by Kasper.”
Cardinal Kasper had alleged that in the early Church, someone who entered a new relationship, even though their lawful spouse was still alive, was allowed “a life raft through admission to Communion,” and only after completing “a period of penance.” He suggested to the cardinals that while it was not a general solution, this might be a possible path for the “smaller segment of the divorced and remarried” interested in the sacraments, that repented of the first marriage’s failure, but “cannot abandon without further harm” the family of their second union.
He told Vatican Radio that he wanted to “find a way” between rigorism and laxity: “I think this can be the only approach of the Church today,” adding that he wants “a realistic application of doctrine to the current situation of the great majority of people.”
He added that there is “an abyss” between Church teaching and the convictions of many Christians: “we have to listen to people living family life,” he said.
“I maintain the full teaching of the Church but the teaching has to be applied to concrete situations,” he said in the interview. “The Church must explain in a new way what are family and matrimony in order to help people and at the same time remain faithful to the Gospel.”
Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian had critiqued the cardinal‘s Feb. 20 address when it was published in Italian daily Il Foglio, calling it “a shocking example of a cultural revolution proposed in the name of praxis.”
“In Kasper’s view,” according to de Mattei, the method to deal with the crisis of divorce is to “change the doctrine, without showing that it has been modified.”
The historian said the cardinal’s proposals would be to open the doors to “the systematic violation, on the level of praxis, of that dogmatic tradition where the words affirm it legally binding.”
“The position of the Church is unequivocal,” de Mattei added.
“Communion to remarried divorcees is denied because matrimony is indissoluble,” he said, “and none of the reasons adopted by Cardinal Kasper allows for the celebration of a new matrimony or the blessing of a pseudo-matrimonial union.”