Renowned theologian and author, Father Brian Harrison, O.S, of St. Louis, Missouri, in a talk he recently gave in St. Louis on March 22, 2015, at the annual St. Joseph Dinner-Forum hosted by the group Credo of the Catholic Laity, discussed the Kasper proposal and patiently refuted it.
First, he declares:
…”the Kasper Proposal” – is, in my estimation, the gravest single moral and pastoral issue that has confronted the Catholic Church in the half-century that has now elapsed since the dispute over contraception erupted with renewed force at the end of Vatican Council II.
From the outset, he states clearly:
Like contraception, Communion for the divorced and remarried is not an issue that is, so to speak, self-contained. Rather, it is the kind of issue in which any change to the Church’s existing teaching and/or discipline would not stop right there, but rather, would have a profound and far-reaching ripple effect on other fundamentally important areas of Catholic morality and sacramental practice.
Father Harrison then calmly examines the proposal as it was put into the final Relatio of the Synod of Bishops in October 2014, namely to readmit “remarried” divorcees to the reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion, after they have undergone a period of penance, taking into account “the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that ‘imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological and social factors.’” (Relatio, Paragraph 52).
Father Harrison shows then step by step that all these listed categories of reasons why a possible “remarriage” could be less sinful than what was described by Our Lord Himself in the Gospels are, indeed, not applicable to the specific case of the sin of adultery. He argues convincingly that someone who enters a second marriage outside the Church will do so deliberately, knowingly, not rashly, and without any overwhelming fear or sense of threat to his or her life. Nor can this new bond be convincingly described as an attachment or habit that cannot be broken.
He also points out that, by the very fact that Cardinal Kasper himself proposes a period of serious penance for those “remarried” couples, shows that he – and with him then also the penitents themselves – are very much aware of the grave sinfulness or disorder of the act of adultery. Father Harrison points out that exactly this form of penitence should make the seriousness of the sin even more evident, which thus makes a remaining in that perilous state even worse:
…the idea of granting some Catholics permission to continue committing what they know is objectively gravely sinful, on the presumption that their defective consent will stop it from being imputable as such – would introduce a revolutionary, subjectivist premise into the Church’s moral teaching and discipline.
Finally, he also warns of the disastrous effects that such a procedure of laxity would have upon those couples who now still hold on to their marriage vow in spite of their having a troubled bond:
Catholics in valid but troubled marriages would be deprived of an important incentive to persevere and try to restore a loving conjugal relationship. The Church’s actions would speak louder than her words, and everyone would interpret her revised legislation as giving them the following ‘advance notice’: ‘It’s OK. If you’re convinced your first marriage is ‘dead’, you can go ahead and get divorced, find a new partner, and get civilly married. Then, if you can’t get the first marriage declared null and void, no problem! As soon as you have at least one child with your new partner, come to the diocesan family life center and we’ll set up a merciful penitential process for you to go through, after which you’ll go to confession, receive absolution, and be able to receive Communion happily ever after while living intimately with your civil spouse!’
Father Harrison also shows how such a lax attitude of the Church toward sin would then thereby also affect other sinners such as those living just in cohabitation without any form of marriage. He says:
Since that civil marriage, after all, is not valid on God’s sight, why not extend this new ecclesiastical ‘mercy’ to some couples who are just ‘living together’? Pope Francis himself, who I am afraid has not kept secret the fact that he personally would like to implement the revisionist proposal, has already been reported, without any subsequent denial issuing from the Vatican, as having recently sent a message to a divorced Argentinian woman who is now living in outright concubinage with another man that she has the Pope’s personal permission to start receiving Communion again. What will come next? Holy Communion for fornicators living in ‘trial marriages’? Why not Communion for at least some homosexual couples?
Most importantly, at the end of his talk, Father Brian Harrison went on record and publicly declared that he as a priest would refuse to give absolution to “remarried” divorcees:
The inclusion of sacramental confession in the ‘penitential process’ proposed by revisionists will require from priests what I believe would be a sacrilegious abuse of the Sacrament of Penance. For they will be expected to give absolution, and thus permission for Holy Communion, to some persons who confess being in a sexual relationship with someone other than their true husband or wife, but who have no purpose of amendment; they admit to the priest their intention to continue in that sexual intimacy. And the priest will be expected to grant absolution on the flagrantly false pretext that the penitent is not and will not be in mortal sin because he or she is supposedly not giving a full and free consent to these illicit sex acts. I feel I should conclude this talk by going on record as stating that I myself, with the help of God, will never profane the Sacrament of Penance and violate my own conscience by giving a sacrilegious absolution to someone in that situation, no matter what higher authority in the Church might tell me to do so. May God, through the mighty protection and intercession of Saint Joseph, Head of the Holy Family, preserve his Church from endorsing Cardinal Kasper’s iniquitous revisionist proposal.