Almost single-handedly one cleric has turned the Church’s teaching on Communion, marriage and divorce into an international debate. For decades, German Cardinal Walter Kasper has promoted a proposal to allow divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion after a period of repentance. His controversial position has drawn intense criticism from some and rapturous support from others. Cardinal Kasper said last fall that a “growing majority” of synod members supported his position. And he has claimed to be promoting what Pope Francis wants.
The retired German bishop, former Curial official and the man often called “the Pope’s theologian,” spoke last week at a Georgetown University conference on the Second Vatican Council. During his Washington visit, Cardinal Kasper sat down with me to discuss his proposal, in depth, and its ramifications for the Church.
The interview, which will air on EWTN’s The World Over in two parts, allows the audience to enter into the mind of a man who in many ways has shaped the conversation of October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome. The cardinal’s determination to press synod fathers to embrace his proposal is clear, as is his belief that it could ultimately succeed. He told me that he is undeterred by the opposition his proposal has received from bishops’ conferences around the world. At the same time, the cardinal backs away from his earlier comments indicating papal support for his controversial position.
Has Cardinal Kasper’s proposal lost ground? Did he tout the papal endorsement too strenuously? Will his proposal succeed? Don’t miss part one of our exclusive interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper this Thursday, June 4, on The World Over.
Here are a few key excerpts from Part I:
ARROYO: As you look at the situation now, as you see the African bishops, the Polish bishops, the U.S. bishops saying there shouldn’t be a change in either practice or doctrine — you have people writing, signing petitions begging the Church fathers not to make any changes, are you confident that change might happen?
CARDINAL KASPER: Well, that’s one side, but there are many petitions also on the other; and since I know many cardinals, I know many bishops who are more on my side …
ARROYO: Your Eminence, I know you brought this proposal forward and have submitted it to the body of bishops, and you have really been out advertising it and trying to expose people to your proposal all over the world. Do you feel any responsibility for the phenomenon that people have written to me about, priests particularly, of divorced-and-remarried couples, gay couples presenting themselves after Mass and saying, “We want Communion; you should allow us to have Communion. This is clearly what the Pope wants.” Do you feel any personal responsibility for that phenomenon?
CARDINAL KASPER: Well, this is a misunderstanding, and, first of all, it was a question, and I put the question to open the debate. It’s not a proposal. And, therefore, of course a couple can come and want holy Communion. I spoke about a penitential process, a penitential way. It needs time …
ARROYO: But there’s already a penitential process. I mean, there is already the canonical process of nullity, yes?
CARDINAL KASPER: Yeah, the nullity process is one thing; I am not this. A process of nullity: This is one thing …
ARROYO: So this is another process?
CARDINAL KASPER: This is another process, but if people, well, if they have the statement of nullity, they can come to holy Communion: That’s clear.
ARROYO: But you do understand, when a Churchman like yourself, a theologian, an esteemed international figure, a Curial official says: “Here is my proposal, and the Pope agrees with me” that does cause some …
CARDINAL KASPER: Well, this I did not say.
ARROYO: Well you did say, and the quote is: “Clearly this is what he wants,” and the Pope has approved of my proposal. Those were the quotes from the time …
CARDINAL KASPER: No … he did not approve my proposal. The Pope wanted that I put the question [forward], and, afterwards, in a general way, before all the cardinals, he expressed his satisfaction with my talk. But not the end, not in the … I wouldn’t say he approved the proposal, no, no, no.
Tune in for the complete interview on The World Over at 8pm ET on EWTN.
Go to EWTN.com for the full schedule.