In an interview with Commonweal Magazine in May 2014, Cardinal Walter Kasper made the staggering claim that Pope Francis thinks that half of Catholic marriages are likely invalid.
The Pope is said to have speculated that these “invalid” marriages were somehow deficient in form (how the sacrament was conducted) or in intent (the couple didn’t intend to marry as the church teaches) and thus are eligible for annulments.
The Pope has raised the profile of Cardinal Kasper, who for 30 years has been advocating for marriage reform, saying it is a kind of mercy. Kasper holds that while civil remarriages cannot be recognized by the church, asking the civilly remarried to abandon their second marriage or be excluded from Communion is untenable.
The Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Cardinal Muller, reinforcing Church teaching, has clearly stated that the words of Christ forbid remarriage, and the theology of the church proclaims that the marital union reflects the faithfulness of Christ to the church. As Muller put it, “Faithfulness to marital consent is a prophetic sign of the salvation that God bestows upon the world.”
In the interview, when Cardinal Kasper was confronted with the arguments of his opponents — namely that others in a state of mortal sin are required to confess their sins and make some kind of change to remedy their state of life — he balked at the suggestion that the civilly remarried should be required to live according to the church’s teaching, that is, with sexual fidelity to the first, valid marriage. “To live together as brother and sister?” he asked. “Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian.”
In other words, according to Kasper, Christians are too confused and ignorant to know what a marriage is. They do not understand or take seriously the vows they make. This dire reading of the signs of the times allows the “solution” that reformers like Kasper have been demanding, a de facto abandonment of the church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.
Perhaps the cardinal should speak more plainly. He is not defending the dignity of “average Christians”; he’s condemning many of his co-religionists to a life as semi-Christians. His idea of mercy is to tell believers that, in view of the way things are — pluralism and all that — there’s no need for them to live as Christians have lived before them. Come to Communion, but leave Christian heroism to the experts.
Polish Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz said that any view that dismisses so many unions as invalid reflects an “anthropological pessimism” that would hold that “it’s almost impossible to get married, in view of the current cultural situation.” If the Pope’s view is that 50 percent of Catholic marriages are invalid, it is not just an insult to our natural human ability to marry, but also an insult to St. Paul, who said that the moral law is written on men’s hearts. Cardinal Kasper’s belief amounts to nothing less than a slur on God’s fidelity. If Christians can’t expect God to help them live the married life, if they cannot expect Him to be faithful to His promises, why the fuss if we are not faithful to our own? ∎
By Hannah Roberts, from www.dailymail.co.uk