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Cardinal Kasper ‘very worried’ about German Church’s ‘Synodal Way’

Cardinal Walter Kasper, in Rome in January 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Passau, Germany, Jun 10, 2021 / 03:35 am (CNA).

An influential theologian considered to be close to Pope Francis has said that he is “very worried” about the German Catholic Church’s controversial “Synodal Way.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper said in a June 8 interview with the Passauer Bistumsblatt that he hoped the prayers of faithful Catholics could serve as a corrective.

The 88-year-old German cardinal said: “I have not yet given up hope that the prayers of many faithful Catholics will help to steer the Synodal Way in Germany on Catholic tracks.”

The Synodal Way is a multi-year process bringing together bishops and laypeople to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes — raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Kasper told the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Passau, in southeastern Germany, that the Synodal Way’s organizers should have paid greater attention to Pope Francis’ 2019 letter to the German Church.

In the letter, the pope warned German Catholics not to succumb to a particular “temptation.”

He wrote: “At the basis of this temptation, there is the belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist is to reorganize things, change them and ‘put them back together’ to bring order and make ecclesial life easier by adapting it to the current logic or that of a particular group.”

Kasper asked: “Why did the Synodal Way not take Pope Francis’ letter more seriously and, as befits a synod, consider the critical questions in the light of the Gospel?”

The cardinal, who served as president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 2001 to 2010, also commented on the Synodal Way’s high media profile.

“It truly does not give a good public image,” he said. “I am very worried, but I am cautious about making a final overall judgment.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that Kasper noted that loud individual voices and groups dominated the public discussion.

“In the beginning, it may have been good to let the different opinions have their say without being filtered. But it is beyond my imagination that demands such as the abolition of celibacy and the ordination of women to the priesthood could eventually find the two-thirds majority of the bishops’ conference or command consensus in the universal Church,” he said.

The cardinal criticized not only the Synodal Way’s content but also its structure, arguing that it was hampered by a “birth defect.” He said that the process was “on weak legs.”

“It is neither a synod nor a mere dialogue process,” he commented. “Initially it is a process of dialogue, then the bishops’ conference has the floor and, finally, as far as the universal Church demands are concerned, it is the pope’s turn.”

“Moreover, every bishop is free to accept whatever he sees fit in his diocese. In view of the obvious disagreement among the German bishops, it is difficult to imagine how all of this can be brought to a common denominator.”

The theologian, who served as bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999, said that renewal could only come from an inner growth of faith, hope, and love.

In the interview, Kasper also argued that there was a serious problem with catechesis in the German Church.

“When I see what is happening in Roman parishes and in the United States, and under completely different conditions in Africa where catechesis happens, then we are a catechetical disaster zone,” he said.

“I don’t mean religious instruction in schools, which, given today’s school conditions, usually cannot be catechesis. What I am referring to is catechesis in the parish, on the occasion of baptism, first confession, First Communion and confirmation, marriage preparation, and family catechesis.”

“In places where this is done well, young people, young families with children, who can often be counted on the fingers of one hand in Germany, can be found at Sunday services.”

Commenting on the Vatican’s recent invitation to all Catholic dioceses to take part in the forthcoming synod on synodality, Kasper emphasized that one could “not reinvent the Church,” but rather contribute to renewing it in the Holy Spirit.

He said: “Synods are not a parliament, not a ‘paper factory’ that draws up long papers that hardly anyone reads afterward, nor a church regiment that says where to go.”

“Synods are gatherings in which, in crisis situations, the bishop, his presbyterate, and the faithful face the signs of the times together, look to the Gospel, and listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the congregations in prayer and in exchange with one another.”

He added: “If — as the [Second Vatican] Council formulated — a ‘unique harmony’ between leaders and believers comes about, then that is a sign of the Holy Spirit that we are on the right path.”

Pope Francis signaled his approval of the cardinal shortly after his election in 2013. Speaking on the first Sunday after his election, he praised the theologian’s book “Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life.”

The pope invited Kasper to address a consistory of cardinals in 2014 on the question of admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Holy Communion under certain circumstances.

The cardinal’s intervention influenced the ensuing debate at the family synods of 2014 and 2015, which led to the publication in 2016 of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family.

In the Passauer Bistumsblatt interview, Kasper explained his approach to non-Catholic Christians seeking to receive Communion in Catholic churches — a topical issue in German Church circles.

The cardinal said that he had never turned away a person “out of respect for the personal conscience decisions of individual Christians.”

“This has now become fairly general pastoral practice in Germany and widely tolerated by the bishops. It is not perfect, but you can and must live with it for the time being,” said the Vatican’s former ecumenism czar.

But he expressed reservations about a controversial proposal for a “Eucharistic meal fellowship” between Catholics and Protestants in Germany.

The proposal was made by the Ecumenical Study Group of Protestant and Catholic Theologians (ÖAK) in a 2019 document entitled “Together at the Lord’s Table.”

He described the text, which prompted a Vatican intervention, as primarily “an academic document” and criticized its practical application at the Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt last month.

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  1. Having Kasper as moderator is like inviting Hitler to moderate a conference between Christians and Jews. For all his wishful thinking, that wayward prelates would just figure out that they may be going to far, Kasper was one of the pioneers of process theology nearly half a century ago that held that the knowledge of God is not omniscient and is in the process of learning through history, and is, therefore, capable of changing. Half a century of theological idiocy later, we have the crisis of the German Church, and he now fumbles for words in how to really get to the point of calling heresy heresy.

  2. The apostate Cardinal Kasper is worried?

    Oh dear…more “counterfeit-katholic” theatrics from “The McCarrick Establishment,” the syndicate of apostate frauds of which “His Eminence” Kasper is the “apostate-emeritus,” handing over the 50-year-long betrayal of Jesus and his Church to fellow frauds, “His Eminence” Marx and the Pontiff Francis.

    Kasper has since 1974 published his outright denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus (calling the Gospel account of the resurrection “grotesque”), and suggested that various New Testament miracle accounts were fabrications (the command of the storm, the Transfiguration, and the raising of the widow’s son, the daughter of Jairus and Lazarus), teaching young adult readers that they “probably don’t need to believe” in those accounts.

    Kasper and Marx and the Pontiff Francis are three figureheads in the “50-year-fraud” of the “McCarrick-cult,” men who on Monday will deny the revelation of the New Testatment miracle accounts, and then on Tuesday publish declarations about “new saints” that they have certified, presumably pretending that the cattle in the pews are to simultaneously disbelieve in the witness of the martyred evangelists and apostles of 2000 years ago, and yet assent to the “contemporary” miracle accounts for the “saints” that they themselves “certify.”

    If these men had any sense of humor, they might actually feel astonished at how ridiculous they have made themselves.

  3. A welcome statement certainly by Cardinal Kasper. Although, as orthodox as it seems the source must be considered, his heterodoxy of a ‘learning’ Deity, a God who is not ‘transfixed’ by catholic theology, rather is subject to change. Surely, Walter Kasper is and has been an ardent supporter of the Great Reformer Pope Francis, a deleterious influence during the initial synods on the family. Nevertheless, persons can change. Whether this is simply a political ploy mimicking the occasional appeal to orthodoxy of a pontiff who more than occasionally casts doubts on that orthodoxy is the question. That tact has been consistent throughout this pontificate. Action ensuring adherence to Apostolic Tradition is the test. Not words.

    • We angry laity respect but sometimes find it hard to emulate your disciplined balanced judgments Father, so I hope you’re right about a change of heart, but the timing of everything is suspect. I anticipated a bait and switch with the updates to Canon Law. Whenever Francis throws a bone to tone down his critics, I expect something heterodox to follow soon after.
      This “concern” by Kasper, seems contrived to me, and combined with the letter of resignation by Cdl. Marx, where he takes refuge in confessing more collective rather than personal guilt about failures, phony in appearance and a resignation rejected by Francis, seems to be the way Francis decided to deal with the German crisis, the way all progressive elitist politicians handle a crisis. A moment of public theatre and sentimentality to sell to the masses with the expectation the public will be convinced that the matter has been “addressed,” then forget about it, and agree to just “move on” and “go forward” and eventually gravitate to an attitude of boredom that accuses anyone who ever brings the matter up again in the future of “negativity.” It’s a win/win for those deconstructing the Catholic religion. Gay travel agencies are already overwhelmed with honeymoon special packaged flights to Germany for “Catholic” weddings.

      • Edward J Baker
        Your comment from start to finish rings true. Trying to find the best, yet seeing past patterns makes a person feel like throwing up one’s hands and say, “I give up” —–yet again, “when the going gets tough the tough get going” I’m one of the tough, so, pray, fast and keep on working for the good, yet again I can be a real cynic.

    • Father Morello: Or maybe Kasper has read Vigano’s concern about meeting his maker and the need to speak truth to error. At 88, could it be that Kasper has had an illumination of conscience, you know, before it’s too late? Or maybe he’s just hedging his bets!

      • We may hope Joanne. It’s become a major emphasis of my priesthood to pray for conversions “before it’s too late” [a reading of St Catherine of Siena’s Dialogues can do that]. It helps too in turning from resentment for past injury to the wonderful positive of seeking the good that might be achieved in another. Love needs no justification beyond itself, because it’s its own justification. Grace we must assume is always at work. By choosing this pathway we never relinquish the Cross, which is integral to it.

  4. When I read these comments, I thought maybe I had misread Kasper. But maybe not. Pillarcatholic seems to think that PF basically told Marx, “Do your job”. Kasper also said where catechesis is done well, church is filled and children are present! unlike in our country (i.e.Germany). Nobody wants to imitate us.
    Aint that the truth.

  5. Kasper, along with his buddies Hans Kung and Cardinal Martini, has done more to undermine authentic Catholic teaching than any other cleric. And now he is upset that his fellow Germans, who were no doubt inspired by his own antics, are now in de facto schism, even though without Kasper there would never have been any talk of defying the Vatican on settled doctrine.

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