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Cardinal Burke: Cardinal Kasper Is Urging a Direction Never Taken in the Whole History of the Church


Marcin Mazur/UK Catholic

Susan E. Wills - published on 10/02/14

Cardinal Burke Amazed that Cardinal Kasper Claimed to be Speaking For Pope Francis

Cardinal Burke would be the first to say that the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which begins this Sunday, needs to address a host of concerns arising from the almost universal ignorance and confusion over the meaning and goods of marriage and family. Speaking to journalists this week in a conference call arranged by Ignatius Press, publisher of “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” to which Cardinal Burke contributed an essay, the Cardinal explained:

“We have to admit that in a totally secularized society our teaching has been radically defective for the past 50 years. We must address these two things: the radical secularization of society and the sad defect with respect to catechesis.” He, and probably all the experts and journalists on the call, were hoping to explore the many other topics and potential solutions addressed in the Synod’s Instrumentum Laboris.

And yet, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal at February’s Extraordinary Consistory — to develop a process through which divorced and remarried Catholics could again receive the Eucharist — is not the elephant in the room, but a whole herd of stomping, trumpeting elephants: impossible to ignore, no matter how much one wishes they’d go away.

And because silence is not an option, as Cardinal Burke remarked, when one is faced with “things being said that are not true,” he spoke repeatedly and forcefully in defense of the truth.

At the outset, Cardinal Burke made it clear that the Kasper proposal had already been asked and answered:

The Kasper petition has been discussed already some decades ago at the time of the writing of Pope John Paul II’s exhortation on the family,
Familiaris Consortio
, and they were thoroughly discussed and the Church gave the response in accord with the Tradition.

Asked to elaborate on the direction the conversation is taking, with so much attention being paid to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, Cardinal Burke underscored how extreme he believes Cardinal Kasper’s position to be:

I certainly had serious difficulties with what Cardinal Kasper was proposing. In proposing it, he was urging a direction which, in the whole history of the Church, has never been taken, a direction which would in some way involve either a disobedience or at least a non-adherence to the words of Our Lord Himself, and no one questions the words of Our Lord in Chapter 19 of the Gospel According to Matthew.

Cardinal Kasper asked for a dialogue on his proposal and I can speak with regard to the book “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”: Nine of us decided to respond to various aspects of his request with regard to marriage as he proposed it in his presentation in the Extraordinary Consistory on February 20 -21. Without referring to my own contribution, but I must say, having read all the other contributions, they are an effective response which illumines and holds up the beauty of the Church’s teaching with respect to marriage down [through] the centuries and also shows that fidelity to that teaching has not been easy in every age, even as now there are those who want to challenge it. But the firm conviction of the authors and, really, the firm conviction of the Church is that only by attending to the truth of marriage and how that truth is lived and practiced can the Church make the contribution she is called to make to the happiness — not only in this life but the eternal happiness — of the individual members of society, and also society as a whole. If the family is not stable and strong, society itself is in great danger. We see that in our own experience.

Cardinal Burke and his coauthors concluded that “the direction proposed by Cardinal Kasper is flawed fundamentally. He erred and so I [Cardinal Burke] believe the book is a very positive contribution to get the dialogue back on track.”

When asked if the elevated expectations — arising from Cardinal Kasper’s proposal — regarding reception of the Eucharist by divorced/remarried Catholics might cause disappointment in some circles when no change is forthcoming, Cardinal Burke explained that the purpose of the Extraordinary Synod is to develop pastoral practices that will help people remain in the truth of Christ in marriage. And he recounted a beautiful experience from his youth, as an acolyte in a small, rural town. He noticed that a married couple in the parish attended Mass every Sunday, but never received Holy Communion. He asked his dad about it. The future Cardinal’s father explained in a very charitable way that one spouse had been divorced before marrying this spouse. Because the Church did not recognize the second marriage as valid and because the couple respected the Church’s teaching on the worthy reception of the Eucharist, they refrained. They neither abandoned their faith nor expected the Church to make an exception for them.

Cardinal Burke disagreed with the notion that debate over the Kasper proposal could be seen as harmful for the Church. He alluded to the many foundational points of doctrine that were very heatedly debated in early Councils (although every argument was not parsed by worldwide media). But he stressed that “it must be an honest debate in which the best research is done and that everyone [acknowledges] the ultimate commitment that we serve the truth, because if we are not serving the truth, we are not serving the Church. And for everyone to simply be silent when they see things are being said that are not true, how can they be silent? How can this be construed as being charitable or being good for the Church?”

Cardinal Burke was then asked to address an argument often made in defense of Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, that goes like this: “We are not questioning the indissolubility of marriage at all, but we simply want to change the process to make it easier for people to get an annulment so they can receive Communion.” Cardinal Burke dismissed this error summarily: “There cannot be a canonical discipline contrary to doctrine. To tamper with the discipline is not a light matter.” And, he added, “People are not stupid.” They will readily see the inconsistency between the Church’s teaching and her practice and conclude that the Church is “hypocritical.”

Adding a bit of fuel to the fire, a journalist for Reuters referred to Cardinal Kasper’s comments that people who were attacking him [a veiled reference to Cardinal Burke and the other contributors to “Remaining in the Truth of Christ”] “were attacking him to get to the Pope.” How difficult would it be to dialogue with someone whom Cardinal Burke believes “erred”? True to his reputation for speaking honestly and without guile, Cardinal Burke admitted that “to the degree that he [Kasper] bases himself on a misunderstanding of the Fathers of the Church and the Eastern Churches, the discussion won’t be easy and that hasn’t been helped by those who characterize our book as contradicting the Pope. That was not our intention.”

Then he added, “I find it AMAZING that the Cardinal claims to speak for the Pope. The Pope does not have laryngitis. He can speak for himself. We are held to obedience to the truth. It is not because I said it or Cardinal Kasper said it.” (emphasis in original delivery)

"Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church," is written by Robert Dorado, O.S.A, and includes responses by five Cardinals (Walter Brandmülle, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Velasio De Paolis, C.S., and Gerhard Ludwig Müller) and four other scholars (Dodaro, Paul Mankowski, S.J., John M. Rist and Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J.) to Cardinal Kasper’s proposal regarding reception of the Eucharist following divorce and civil remarriage. This invaluable collection in one volume of  biblical and patristic sources showing the beauty and wisdom of the Church’s teaching will be available from Ignatius Press early this month.

Susan E. Willsis spirituality editor of Aleteia’s English language edition.

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