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.