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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Will the real Cardinal Kasper please stand up

Cardinal Walter Kasper is on a book tour in the US (Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life) ... he's sometimes referred to as Pope Francis' theologian and the pope has said he's been influenced by Kasper's book. You can listen to an interview with him about his book here.

I'm not sure what to make of him. Yes, he seems progressive ... in the interview he even says that the church is "not against birth control at all" and that using birth control is up to one's personal conscience ... but when I think of Kasper, I think of a couple of events from the past ....

In 2006 he gave a talk to the Anglican Communion's House of Bishops in the UK warning them against ordaining women bishops ... you can read his address here and NT Wright's response to his talk here.

And in 2010, in anticipation of B16's visit to the UK, he made some fairly mean-spirited remarks ...

What Cardinal Walter Kasper said about the UK

The interview, in news magazine Focus (published on 13 September) has provoked a storm of protest in Germany and the UK ... When asked why so many Britons had expressed resentment towards Pope Benedict, the cardinal replied: "England is today a secularised [literal translation], pluralistic country. "When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country," Cardinal Kasper told Focus .....

The reporter asked Cardinal Kasper why the Pope was opposed to the planned equality of treatment of homosexuals in Britain. "The question is whether we can accept partnerships of same-sex [couples], and regarding this issue, the Church has for centuries defended the understanding of marriage and family which equates to the order of God," he replied .....

So what is the Pope setting out to achieve in the UK? "He wants to work on the difficult dialogue with the Anglican community. He will discuss possible fields of co-operation," said the cardinal. And when asked, will women priests ever be ordained in the Catholic Church? Cardinal Kasper's response was blunt: "The decision of John Paul II was so clear-cut that I don't expect that." And not even in 100 or 200 years? "I am not a prophet. But I don't think so," said Cardinal Kasper. He added: "Have a look at the Protestant churches: they don't have celibacy and they have women priests. But are they doing better? The Anglican Church has also taken on formidable problems with these new developments. I wouldn't wish those problems on my church." ...

Andrew Brown commented on Kasper's comments here: Cardinal Kasper reveals the Vatican's true beliefs ...

[He was] the man who in 2008 urged the Anglican communion to take a stand against homosexuality. And his remarks fit into a conservative view of Britain, one which would have appealed to John Henry Newman in his conservative moods. And it is Newman who the pope has come here to beatify.

Britain today, said Kasper, is "a secularised [translation corrected] and pluralist country. Sometimes, when you land at Heathrow, you think you have entered a third world country."

The standard liberal remedies for the church's decline hold no attraction for the cardinal. "Look at the Protestant churches," he said: "They have married priests and women priests, too. Are they doing better? The Church of England has also taken on terrible problems with these developments. I wouldn't wish those problems on my church."

This is not only stupefyingly tactless, and wrong (the Church of England has 600 priests in training, half of them women; the Roman Catholic church here has 39), it is also bizarre, in view of the pope's initiative last year to welcome married Anglican clergy, if they are opposed to women priests.

The Church of England, Kasper believes, has been brought to the point of schism and collapse by compromise with the spirit of the age. He says: "There is a crisis of values and direction in western society which has its roots in the Enlightenment, and was given added impetus by the radical movements of the 60s. And because the churches live in this society, their faith is weakened."

This view will horrify many English Catholics. For the liberals in the English church, the reforming Second Vatican Council of the 60s opened the church to learning from the outside world, and the last two popes have attempted to drag down again the iron shutters which once kept the church distinct. But to Pope Benedict and his circle, the council showed it had learned all the necessary lessons of the 500 years since the Reformation. Now it is time once more for the world to learn from the church ...

Kasper refused to apologize.

So, is Kasper the merciful and liberal theologian of the Francis era, or the conservative anti-gay, anti-women, anti-pluralist, not-veryi-ecumenical theologian of the Benedict era?


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