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The Kasper Apostasy

THE EDITOR

 

The new approach that Catholic scholars are taking to Jesus and the scriptures ... reflects the presuppositions and procedures [of] Catholic scholars like ... Walter Kasper.... Many of the conclusions of [this] 'liberal consensus' conflict sharply with traditional Catholic doctrine. ... [It's] major achievement ... seems to be bringing the church to what can be called the end of Catholicism.... [The point] is not to salvage Catholicism or Christianity but to let go of them... to help people leave the church with a good conscience.

- Thomas Sheehan, The New York Review of Books,1984
 

[A] divine intervention in the sense of a directly visible action of God is theological nonsense. (Jesus the Christ, 1974)
• God’s relation to Moses in the Burning Bush is not “I Am,” but “I am with you. I am for you.” (7/5/14)
• The Church is not against birth control at all. ... it’s [the couple's] personal conscience and their personal responsibility. (5/5/14)
• So if [the divorced-and-remarried] can receive spiritual communion, why not also sacramental Communion? (5/5/14)

- Cardinal Kasper
 

In the past few days I have been reading a book by... Cardinal Kasper, a clever theologian, a good theologian... And that book did me a lot of good.

   - Pope Francis, 17/3/13

 

Spanning forty years, this thread of quotations pretty much underlines and sums up the current state of play as detailed and analysed in recent editions. We could, therefore, pronounce a simple, emphatic "Oremus!" — and leave it at that.

However, Cardinal Kasper's influential re-emergence under Francis requires elaboration. Especially when the looming Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (5-19 October) — called to discuss "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation" — is being primed for Kasper's hobbyhorse: Communion for the divorced-and-re-remarried.

The Modernist proposition

Last February, at the Pope's behest, the notorious German enumerated to an Extraordinary Consistory of around 150 cardinals, his long-held proposal to sanction that sinful pastoral practice.
Typically, the undermining of the indissolubility of the marriage bond, and related Catholic dogmas pertaining to the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, was presented as a trifle: a "merciful" granting of hard-case "exceptions."

Sounding more like the king of snake oil salesmen than a prince of the Church, Kasper posited no significant doctrinal change or damaging ramifications at all, selling the supposed "exclusion" of a divorced-and-remarried person from receiving Communion as an "exploitation of the person," while suggesting an oh-so-reasonable compromise: that "the smallest sector of divorced-and-remarried Catholics who are truly interested in receiving the sacraments" might be admitted to "the sacrament of penance, and then of Communion," if the person concerned:

  1. Repents of the failure of his marriage and
  2. Has cleared up the obligations of his first marriage, if a return to it is definitely ruled out;
  3. If he cannot abandon the commitments that he has made with his new civil marriage without committing other sins [— these, he recently explained, involve "The breakup of the second family. If there are children you cannot do it. If you’re engaged to a new partner, you’ve given your word, and so it’s not possible."]
  4. If he tries nevertheless to live his second marriage as well as he can, in faith, and educating his children in the faith;
  5. If he desires the sacraments as the source of strength in his situation.

For the diabolically-disoriented Cardinal, in other words, marriage is doctrinally indissoluble but can be dissolved pastorally. The same sulphurous approach he has adopted to ecumenism and religious liberty with the blessing of his favourite pastoral Council, which, he says, "opened the doors without violating the compulsory dogmatic tradition."

The papal patronage

Once again the open dialogue the Holy Father likes to tout was nowhere in evidence. Instead, to underscore his own stance, not even a token orthodox speaker was chosen to counter Kasper's two-hour marathon. According to German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, after the address "strong objections" were posed by numerous cardinals, effectively pricking this trial balloon sent up by our über-collegial pontiff to test the collegial temper. Undeterred, Francis then praised Kasper effusively, opening the second day of the consistory (21 February) with this spurious thumbs up:

Yesterday, before going to sleep, ... I re-read Cardinal Kasper’s study, and I would like to thank him, because I found in it a profound theology and the serene thought of a theologian. I also found what St. Ignatius told us about, the sensus Ecclesiae, the love of our Mother the Church…. This is called doing theology on one’s knees.

On the contrary, Holy Father, this is to confuse doing theology on one's knees before God with doing apostasy kneeling before the world! Meanwhile, on the pope's behalf, the dean of the assembled cardinals, ex-Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, was stressing consistory confidentiality and swearing all to secrecy ... with the exception of one Walter Kasper. While his brethren duly kept their counsel, Kasper immediately announced publication of his address in Germany and Italy. He was also granted final right of reply to his opponents in the consistory.

The Catholic response

Providentially, the editor of Il Foglio, the Milan-based neo-conservative daily, upset the liberal apple cart. On 1 March he published the speech worldwide, together with an objective critique by historian Roberto de Mattei. Citing the Church Fathers, de Mattei shredded Kasper's specious appeal to early Church practice to justify his perverse cause.

Since his thinly-disguised Modernist assault on the Faith cannot withstand Catholic critique, Kasper exploded, venting his spleen on Vatican radio, then sounding off in the Pope's L'Osservatore Romano, all of which leant further authority to his position. But at least de Mattei's clear analysis was now available to shed comforting light on the modus operandi of the Kasper-led revolution, which he summarised as follows:

The doctrine does not change; the only novelty concerns pastoral practice. The slogan, which has been repeated for a year now, reassures on the one hand those conservatives who gauge everything in terms of doctrinal declarations, and on the other hand it encourages the progressives who attach little importance to doctrine and entrust everything to the primacy of practice.

By paying lip service to orthodoxy (right belief) and positing sinful practice as orthopraxis (right action), Kasper seeks to disguise his profound incoherence and hyprocrisy. Shortly after the election of his papal patron, for instance, he wrote in L'Osservatore Romano (12/4/13) that the Church "needs to defend the faith against pluralism and postmodern relativism, as well as the fundamentalist tendencies that run from reason." Yet what could be more irrational than his undoing two thousand years of Sacramental Theology of Matrimony and Penance in order to accommodate the relativistic/pluralistic postmodern world he supposedly deplores; to construct a slippery slope to ever more concubinage, Eucharistic sacrilege, and sola scriptura protestantisation?

Déjà vu

Having conjured up a 'problem' and proposed conditions for its solution, the disingenuous Kasper says he is merely "asking questions" and that it will be up to the Synod of Bishops to "give an answer, together with the Pope." In fact, he is cranking up the pressure, stressing that expectations are already raised and great disappointment will ensue if they are not fulfilled. It's the familiar Modernist ruse: heighten expectations, entrench the aberrant practice, and thereby neuter the eventual reaffirmation of Church teaching. The long interval between Paul VI's requested examination of contraception by his Birth Control Commission and his proclamation of Humanae Vitae is a prime example.

Like the rest of the dissident majority on that Commission, Patty Crowley felt "betrayed" when Pope Paul rejected their Kasper-like capitulation. "If, as in the majority opinion of the commission, birth control is not intrinsically evil, and if it is clear that the majority of Catholics are practicing some form of birth control, how can the official Church continue to uphold the statements of Humanae Vitae?" she fumed in 1993, still oblivious to the Holy Spirit having kept her ruinous relativism at bay. 

Crowley protests far too much, of course, since she lost the battle but won the war. As we all know, by 1968 the liberal praxis had well and truly trumped the belatedly affirmed doctrine. When Humanae Vitae was finally published, a clerical friend had joyfully phoned his orthodox Aussie brethren to share the good news. He was rocked by their contrary response. In anticipation of a positive verdict they had been giving a confessional thumbs up to the Pill for years. Far from rejoicing, they were dismayed. 

It seems like déjà vu all over again. Just as Paul VI upheld the Faith despite himself, so too Francis, his liberal heir, will defend the Holy Eucharist by affirming Christ's clear and merciful teaching on marriage. Officially, orthodoxy will prevail. That much is certain. The uncertainty lies with an unpredictable, not to say partial, pontiff. Will he sanction a quid pro quo? Perhaps convene a post-synodal commission to keep Kasper's proposal on the boil?

Regardless, the hype is once again laying recalcitrant seeds.

The propaganda tour

A Pascendi caricature, the 81-year-old Kasper was renowned for subverting faith and morals long before John Paul II appointed him President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2001, where he ran amuck for a decade (CO, passim). He had been banging this particular drum for many years before he clashed with Cardinal Ratzinger on the matter in 1993. But he has never been told to cease and desist. So it is hardly surprising that since February he has ramped up the agitation, using the promotion of his new book as a platform to push his consistory proposal in America, during many talks and interviews with his fellow dissidents. Herewith some snippets from his 7 May Commonweal interview which interweaves the Communion issue with hackneyed calls for reshaping the intolerant, dogmatic, oppressive Church of dissident imaginings:

Commonweal: Has [injustice] been the case inside the church itself, especially with respect to the way the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has dealt with certain theologians?

Kasper: How can the church be sacramental, a sign and instrument of mercy, when she herself doesn’t live out mercy? ... John XXIII said that we must use the medicine of mercy within the church. ... We have a sacrament of mercy—the sacrament of penance, but we have to reevaluate it, I think. And it has to be done in social behavior and in social works. Pope Francis has said we must become a poor church for the poor — that’s his program. In this respect, he begins a new phase of the reception of the council.

Commonweal: ... those who conceive of the church as a club for the pure. How dominant is that view among church leadership today?

Kasper: ... John Paul II offered his mea culpas — for the teaching office of the church, and also for other behaviors. I have the impression that this is very important for Pope Francis. He does not like the people in the church who are only condemning others. When it comes to the CDF’s criticisms of some theologians, there was not always due process. That’s evident, and here we must change our measures. This is also a problem when it comes to the question of Communion for divorced and remarried people, which is now under consideration in preparation for the Synod of Bishops this autumn.[...]

Commonweal: Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, was given a great deal of space in Il Foglio to criticize your proposal. He has one question for you: "What happens to the first marriage?"

Kasper: ... the bond of marriage remains. Of course, Christians who leave their first marriage have failed. That’s clear. The problem is when there is no way out of such a situation. ... God does not justify the sin. But he justifies the sinner. Many of my critics do not understand that distinction. I respect those who have a different position, but on the other hand, they must see what the concrete situation is today. How can we help the people who struggle in these situations?

Fencing in the uncatechised faithful even as he boasts of freeing them, Kasper insists there is "no way out" of their "concrete situations." Certainly not, he implies, if they are foolish enough to take Our Blessed Lord at His dogmatic word: "What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" [Matt. 19:6]. No extolling the rewards in this life and the next for fidelity to that Divine injunction for Walter!

Enslaved to worldly fads and fashions, both pastoral and academic, he writes off the sacramental means that make such fidelity possible — as also the grace won by prayer, suffering and sacrifice — as unrealistic for modern man. "To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this," he claimed before negating the very idea. "But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian. That could also create new tensions." Heaven forbid the salvific possibility!

"Perhaps the cardinal should speak more plainly," suggested columnist Michael Brendan Dougherty. "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."

Insofar as Kasper himself, as we will see, is at very least a semi-Arian, promoting semi-Christianity by projecting his heretically hollowed-out faith and limited horizons onto everyone else makes perverse sense. On and on he went about pastoral realism and tolerance throughout his US tour, all the while depicting himself as a merciful crusader sorely tried by an Inquisitorial Vatican. Typically, at Fordham University on 5 May, he accused the CDF of seeing "some things a little bit narrower," adding with a laugh: "I also am considered suspect!" He flatters himself. "Suspect" yet never disciplined, he has peddled his poison all the way to a red hat and, finally, public endorsement by the Supreme Pontiff.

The invalidity ruse   

To say that Walter Kasper and Jorge Bergoglio are reading from the same ideological page would be gross understatement. A fact Kasper was keen to confirm at every opportunity. When Commonweal raised his consistory argument about married couples being incapable of entering into sacramental marriage because they were "baptised pagans," he eagerly replied: "I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid."

A ridiculous figure with catastrophic connotations, it denotes a deep cynicism beneath the joyful papal veneer. Dougherty rightly commented that

The pope's own reported view that 50 percent of marriages may be invalid is another sign that clerics at the highest level of the Church regard the vocation of family as simply beyond the reach of many of the Church's members. Kasper continued, "Many canon lawyers tell me that today in our pluralistic situation we cannot presuppose that couples really assent to what the church requires. Often it is also ignorance."

In other words, Christians are too confused and ignorant to know what a marriage is. They do not understand or take seriously the vows they make. Poor things. 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. And it justifies this change — or at least, smooths its reception — by too eagerly embracing a conservative premise: The culture of marriage has gone to the dogs.

[...] In the context of adjudicating annulments, 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. And it's an insult to God's grace to imagine that our own age is somehow different, that we cannot depend on God's help to live out the vocations He gives us.

Semantic subversion 

In doing down the CDF at Fordham University, the bullet-proof Kasper was sure to reinforce this meeting of minds. He told his audience that after the pope praised him and his book by name just days after his election, "an old cardinal came to him and said, ‘Holy Father, you cannot do this! There are heresies in this book!’" As Francis recounted the story to Kasper, he said, the pope smiled and added: "This enters in one ear and goes out the other." Obviously so. Heresy, it seems, is of less interest to Francis than Walter's dedication to papal pet subjects like pastoral theology, dialogue, and mercy.

As a measure of his untouchability, the Cardinal then professed his "esteem" for two notorious feminist apostates, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza and Elizabeth Johnson. Only a few days before, Cardinal Müller had condemned the rebellious Leadership Conference of Women Religious for granting an "Outstanding Leadership Award" to Johnson, describing it as "an open provocation of the Holy See."

Could the Pope's new favourite author/theologian care less? As if channelling Francis, he said: "If you have a problem with the leadership of the women’s orders, then you have to have a discussion with them, you have to dialogue with them, an exchange of ideas. Perhaps they have to change something. Perhaps also the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith] has a little bit to change its mind. That’s the normal way of doing things in the church. I am for dialogue. Dialogue presupposes different positions. The church is not a monolithic unity." 

His profane conformity ever belying his maverick image, when the politically and emotionally correct Cardinal is not pushing false dialogue, he is hawking false mercy. And that, wouldn't you know, is the subject of his book which the Holy Father plugged at his first Angelus address in March 2013.

Entitled Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, it was published this year in English by the notorious Paulist Press of America. Hence the U.S. visit, during which his maudlin concept of "mercy" was reinforced with equally subjective outpourings on "justice" and "freedom": all at the service of his grand vision of pastorally-deconstructed Sacraments. To place the self-serving verbiage in corrosive context, let us juxtapose one seemingly harmless yet typically loaded comment in the Commonweal interview, with a more candid sentiment by another infamous clerical dissident (and sodomitical activist) 93-year-old Michele De Paolis of Foggia.

Kasper: Mercy ... goes beyond justice. Justice alone can be very cold. ... To forgive is my freedom, and the other is free to accept it or not. 

De Paolis: The new obedience to the gospel is free, responsible and conscious. ... [I]t aims for a new Christian spirituality of joyful acceptance of yourself ... knowing that homosexual love is [God's] gift, which is not less than the heterosexual.

Just as Francis duly rewarded Kasper's "good" and "clever" theology with the consistory address, so he recently kissed the hand of the morally anarchic De Paolis after concelebrating Mass with him at his Santa Marta residence: "(unbelievably) he kissed my hand! I hugged him and wept," De Paolis informed his Facebook friends. As with Kasper, there is nothing merciful, liberating or just about lending papal credibility to a cleric who defiles the priesthood and betrays the High Priest. "Today," shouts De Paolis, "the Church's attitude to homosexuals is strict, inhuman and has caused much suffering by claiming that homosexuality is sin. Some church people say, 'It is acceptable to be gay, but they must not have any relationships, they cannot love each other'! This is like talking to a plant, and saying, 'you cannot bloom, you may not bear fruit.' That already is against nature!"

The scandal of this pontifical patronage cannot be overstated. But the point here is simply to note the semantic means to illiberal ends. As Joseph Sobran once explained in "pro-choice" context:

The rhetoric of free procedure is only a cover for a substantive goal... They want freedom for certain practices because they want the practices, not the freedom. When the practices are established, the freedom can be dispensed with. The actual goal is always to maximise the practice, first by allowing it, then by encouraging it, and finally by mandating it.

Whether sodomy or Communion for the divorced-and-remarried, the perfidious ends justify the weasel-worded means. It is only to distract attention from the flood of additional sacrilege it would clearly provoke and cement (à la marriage annulments) that Kasper has wrapped his proposal in Mercy: a book that represents his latest attempt on behalf of the so-called liberal consensus "to help people leave the church with a good conscience," as his liberal comrade Thomas Sheehan happily confessed in 1984.  

The neo-Arians

At that time a professor at "Catholic" Loyola University in Chicago, Mr Sheehan went off message and bluntly proclaimed the liberal agenda in a review-article titled Revolution in the Church. Hailing his heros Karl Rahner (who finally lapsed into pantheism) and atheistic philosopher Martin Heidegger (for whom "a faith that does not constantly expose itself to the possibility of unfaith is not faith at all"), Sheehan cut through all the faux-humility and deceitful claims of his Modernist peers. His article is worth revisiting because it places the particular assault on marriage in the liberal round. Under constant attack from so many directions and sources for so very long, one easily forgets the unflagging fundamental aim: the deconstruction of Our Lord Jesus Christ and "the end of Catholicism." Reviewing a work by Hans Küng in the June 1984 New York Review of Books, Sheehan rejoiced that

The dismantling of traditional Roman Catholic theology, by Catholics themselves, is by now a fait accompli. In their most vigorous intellectual renaissance since the high Middle Ages, Catholic theologians and exegetes have awakened from a long hibernation and in scarcely two decades have marshaled the most advanced scriptural scholarship — until recently the work mainly of Protestants — and put it at the service of a radical rethinking of their faith.

.... In Roman Catholic seminaries, for example, it is now common teaching that Jesus of Nazareth did not assert any of the divine or messianic claims the Gospels attribute to him and that he died without believing he was Christ or the Son of God, not to mention the founder of a new religion.

The "longstanding anathema of Protestant higher criticism" was gradually set aside to allow the adoption of Protestant "scientific" scriptural methods, explained Sheehan, so that

the evolution of early Christian faith came to light, [and] Catholic scholars began publishing the conclusion, startling to many, that the Gospel accounts of the claims Jesus supposedly made to be Christ and God did not come from his own mouth but were interpretations his followers created in the decades after his death.

The new approach that Catholic scholars are taking to Jesus and the scriptures I shall call, by way of shorthand the "liberal consensus". By that I mean the scientific methods employed and the conclusions generated by Catholic exegetes and theologians internationally recognised in their fields, the ones who hold the chairs, get the grants, publish the books, and define the limits of scientific exegesis and theology in the Catholic Church today. This liberal consensus reflects the presuppositions and procedures that Catholic scholars like ... Raymond E. Brown ... Walter Kasper... Edward Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, and hundreds of others use when they do their research....

[...] Many of the conclusions of the "liberal consensus" conflict sharply with traditional Catholic doctrine. Today, for example, one would be hard pressed to find a Catholic Biblical scholar who maintains that Jesus thought he was the divine Son of God who pre-existed from all eternity as the second person of the Trinity before he became a human being. Strictly speaking, the Catholic exegetes say, Jesus knew nothing about the Trinity and never mentioned it in his preaching.

So much for Matthew 28:19! — "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Ideologically blind to such raging contradictions that shatter the party line, Sheehan blustered on:

[...] Most likely Mary told Jesus what she herself knew of his origins: that he had a natural father and was born not in Bethlehem but in Nazareth, indeed without the ministrations of angels, shepherds, and late-arriving wise men bearing gifts. She could have told her son the traditional nativity story only if she had managed to read, long before they were written, the inspiring but unhistorical Christmas legends that first appeared in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke some fifty years after her son had died.

Moreover, according to the consensus, although Jesus had a reputation as a faith healer during his life, it is likely that he performed very few such “miracles,” perhaps only two. (Probably he never walked on water.) And it seems he ordained no priests and consecrated no bishops, indeed that he did not know he was supposed to establish the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church with St. Peter as the first in a long line of infallible popes. In fact, Jesus had no intention of breaking with Judaism in order to constitute a separate Church. Rather, he restricted his mission to Jews and called on his disciples to repent, to celebrate the dawning of God’s kingdom, and perhaps to expect the imminent arrival of an apocalyptic figure called the “Son of Man,” whom Jesus never identified with himself.

This "liberal consensus" is just another name for the second "magisterium" dreamt up and touted by Karl Rahner SJ. A sort of Star Chamber composed of pontificating Walter Kasper clones, it sits in judgement on Christ's Magisterium, dispensing endless guilty verdicts for Magisterial failure to meet the Chamber's heterodox and heretical demands. As the Sheehan piece underlines, however, the individual benchmarks (a symbolic papacy, women priests, Communion for the divorced-and-remarried, et. al.) all rest upon the Benchmark: the mere Humanity of Christ. Which is to say that the apostasy of the "liberal consensus" in its myriad guises, personified by Cardinal Kasper, is fundamentally Arian.

Denying or downplaying the Divinity of Christ was the gateway to pantheism for Karl Rahner, who forged the dissident path for Kasper & Co. The spiritual father of the "consensus" credited with inspiring "the revolution" of "radical change in the articulation of Church teaching," Sheehan explained that "For Rahner, there is no afterlife, no duration beyond experienced time ... [and] ultimately no one can say of himself whether he believes in God or not. ... In general, Rahner serves up a demythologized and slimmed down Christianity.... For example,... that the resurrection of Jesus is not at all a 'historical' event entailing the 'resuscitation of a physical, material body,' but rather is simply the 'definitive salvation' of [His] concrete human existence by God."

Rahner's pantheistic descent explains everything about the Arian and semi-Arian presuppositions of his theological progeny, even if they are still loathe to declare them. Responding to critiques of his essay by his liberal peers (a number of whom were understandably annoyed by his candour), Sheehan noted the silence, at once deafening and telling, on its central point: "the question of Jesus' alleged Resurrection from the dead... and [it] also touched on the discrepancy between what Jesus of Nazareth apparently thought he was, a special but very human prophet, and what orthodox Catholic believers now take him to be, the divine Son of God, eternally consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit. ... none of the Commonweal respondents has chosen to discuss that matter," barked Sheehan, fed up with their dissembling.

The Kasper Apostasy

In 1984, the findings of these apostates were uncontroversial "outside Roman Catholicism," sniffed Sheehan. This included Kasper's "finding" that the miracles of Jesus, as related in his book Jesus the Christ and cited by Sheehan, were little more than urban legends, since "A divine intervention in the sense of a directly visible action of God is theological nonsense" (Paulist Press, 1977, p. 95). "But within Catholicism," Sheehan added, "the hegemony of the liberal consensus is extremely controversial and risks splitting the fold of the faithful into rival camps."

Thirty years on, the hegemony remains, still occasioning disputes and splits. But it would be a stretch to call it "extremely controversial" when the head of the very Magisterium it seeks to supplant is steeped in its nostrums and lauds its spokesmen. In light of this convergence, Sheehan's conclusion was prescient:

Some would say that the consensus has simply reinvented the Protestant wheel; others, that it has gone further and jumped aboard the Protestant cart. In any case, this rediscovery seems to be bringing the Church to what can be called the end of Catholicism, that is, to the limits of what it can say about God and the human condition.

[...] Even though the liberal consensus has pushed Catholic theology to the point where it seems to break down, Catholicism continues to go on. In some measure this is attributable to the Church’s quiet but momentous shift of emphasis from orthodoxy to “orthopraxis” since the Second Vatican Council. For centuries the Church presented itself as the bastion of truth about Jesus and God, and as the infallible interpreter of scripture and tradition. But now that the very presuppositions of that infallibility are being questioned, the Church, without abdicating orthodoxy, is gradually recasting itself more as the guide to moral action, almost (but not quite) as if it had come to agree with Wittgenstein: “I believe that one of the things Christianity says is that sound doctrines are all useless. That you have to change your life.” The Church’s gradual shift of concern away from theoretical questions and toward social, political, and moral issues like nuclear warfare, abortion, and liberation theology — whatever one thinks of the positions — is, I believe, one of the major consequences of the undoing of traditional theology.

Nonetheless, the future of Catholicism as an intellectual and not just as an activist enterprise has become a pressing issue. Perhaps the current regime in Rome will slap a few more wrists in a futile effort to stop the liberal movements launched by the Second Vatican Council. But it is more likely that, as the Church approaches the beginning of its third millennium, things will continue to follow the trajectory of the last two decades: an entrenchment of conservative forces in their shrinking pockets of power; the vigorous advancement of liberal exegesis and theology in scholarly circles; and the equally vigorous pursuit of the social gospel where issues of politics and morality are concerned.

All in all, a pretty accurate forecast, especially the "vigorous pursuit of the social gospel." Harriet Murphy's summary update of feminist agitation within the Church echoes the same Arian-fuelled deconstruction articulated by Sheehan and manifest in the agenda-cum-apostasy of feminist ally Walter Kasper. It is, after all, the Modernist sine qua non for reducing Catholicism to just another man-made, time-bound "-ism," subject to evolutionary flux and change like all the rest. Since if Christ is not Divine and did not know Who He was or What He came to do, then we are not bound by His decree on the indissolubility of marriage, nor by other patriarchal constructions (the male priesthood) and proscriptions (against contraception, abortion and sodomy). 

Whatever his protestations to the contrary, that is the reductio ad absurdum of Kasper's current campaign. Once we understand the Arian reference point, the simple purpose of the various demands becomes crystal clear. And that, as the peeved Sheehan shot back at liberal critics disturbed by his airing of their hidden designs, "is not to salvage Catholicism or Christianity but to let go of them... to help people leave the church with a good conscience." Is not that the Kasper Apostasy in a nutshell? Helping the likes of the divorced-and-remarried to leave the Church doctrinally, morally and spiritually, without leaving it physically? 

The "process"

Every corrupting item on the liberal laundry list — being ticked off one by one en route to the Broad Church of apostate dreams — derives from this denial of the Divinity of Christ, and consequent rejection of the authority He delegated to His Church. It is the key to Pandora's Box. The unleashing of the Social Gospel and every heterodoxy, heresy and perversion. Hence the inclusion of sodomy in the Vatican survey sent out to dioceses worldwide in preparation for the October Synod. The four questions that comprise Section 5 canvass the views of the faithful "On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex." A Christ-denying nod to sins that cry to Heaven, an Italian report described the immediate impact:

Prompted by a new Vatican questionnaire seeking views on family issues including same-sex couples, a representative of the Diocese of Padua held a landmark meeting in December with a gay Catholic group. Luigi Pescina, a spokesman for the group, said members were told that local church officials would now aim to "strip ourselves of prejudice and fear" and "open up a relationship of exchange and enrichment" with local gay Catholics.

Though still a minority reaction in Italy, the report cited many more diocesan examples of sodomitic acquiesence provoked by the survey. The pope's kissy-kissy concelebration with "gay" champion Fr De Paolis has only served to turbo-charge that advance and every other interrelated liberal compromise. No wonder Kasper is cock-a-hoop. Like Sheehan before him, he has seen the future, and it's Arian. Buoyed by his new papal protector, he assured the Commonweal readership that

Pope John XXIII only had five years, and he changed a lot. There was also a point of no return with Paul VI. Pope Francis cannot do everything by himself; he thinks in categories of process. He wants to initiate a process that continues beyond him. He will have the opportunity to appoint, I think, 40 percent of the cardinals, and they're the ones who will elect a new pope. In that way he’s able to condition a new conclave.

A truly frightening prospect. But the key word here is "process." In context, this reduces the Church from a Mystical Body, an organism for sacrifice, to a sterile talking shop. Francis "wants the church to have a more synodical structure," enthused Kasper. "We’re not having just one synod on marriage and the family — but we’re going through a synodical process" [Kasper's emphasis]. Which is to say a lengthy talkfest incorporating three stages: the Extraordinary Synod of 2014, the World Meeting of Families in September 2015, and a second Synod in October 2015.

Within that "process," Kasperites are pinning their hopes on euphemistic discussions about sacrilegious "Communions" and sodomitical "Unions" supposedly based on the "voices of the faithful" as heard through a loaded Vatican questionnaire. "These are changes that have met with some resistance, of course, but there are also many who are in favor of them," Kasper assured Commonweal. "So the pope, very determined, goes on. If he's given a few years, he will do something."

Portents

"If," indeed. Ecclesial history is littered with examples of hostile popes suddenly being taken to their early reward and their victims saved by the election of more friendly ones. Things can change overnight. And portents great and small have not been lacking!

In late January 2013 a dove of peace released by Benedict was viciously attacked and taken out by a seagull. Weeks later and more ominously, within hours of the papal resignation two huge lightning bolts struck the dome of St Peter's. The following January, two white doves of peace were chased and hacked within an inch of their lives by a big black crow and a seagull after their release by Francis, as a huge Angelus crowd looked on in horror. And once again the minor portent was soon magnified, when a 21-year-old man was crushed to death after a massive iron cross erected in 2005 in honour of John Paul II collapsed, just a week before that problematic pontiff's canonisation.

De jure and de facto

In any event, the "conservative forces" (of orthodoxy and tradition) have proved far more resilient than Sheehan anticipated. Judging by the initial reaction to Kasper's consistory address, he and Francis have a battle on their hands. Cardinal Ruini observed that "about 85% of the cardinals" are against "the main lines of [Kasper's] report." The rest, he said, "are embarrassed" by it.

Moreover, several days after the consistory, no less an authority than Cardinal Müller himself stated that the Church’s doctrine on the divorced-and-remarried was clear and irreversible. "We must seek some way of developing pastoral ministry with regard to marriage," he said, "but not solely for divorced-and-remarried persons... we cannot focus constantly on this question alone, namely whether or not they can receive Communion." He also stressed that "the problems and the wounds of the divorce" must not be forgotten, especially "the children who no longer have their parents and must live with persons who are not their parents." Maike Hickson's ensuing article develops this crucial point, among other "problems and wounds."

Despite desperate appearances, therefore, it would seem that the reservoir of Catholic faith and commonsense is far from empty. We might also draw hope from the happy ending that followed the liberal scare of 1985.

In that year, Father Walter Kasper, no less, was chosen by John Paul II to be the Special Secretary, or theological consultant, to the Extraordinary Synod he called to evaluate the impact of the Second Vatican Council. It was the observation of ex-Jesuit Peter Hebblethwaite that rescued Catholics from despair over the pope's choice. As so often happens after great liberal expectations of a coup, Hebblethwaite complained in the National Catholic Reporter (13/12/85) that the orthodox content of the Synod's Final Report "came about because no [dissident] theologians were present." True, he added, Walter Kasper was there, "but he departed muttering that his theological services had not been called upon."

Alas, since Francis is attuned to those "services" we can be sure they will be availed of this time around. And if the Final Report of the 1985 Synod stymied the "liberal consensus" de jure, we hardly need reminding that its destructive agenda raged on de facto. Like many, Michael Brendan Dougherty fears a similar outcome:

My prediction is that the synod will issue a document strenuously claiming to affirm the indissolubility of marriage, while instituting a practice that contradicts it. The remarried will be encouraged to examine their consciences and consult with pastors in the hope of having Communion. The practical effect will be a new perceived "right" for the divorced to approach the altar, and much acrimony for any pastor who objects in any case, not only from his parishioners, but from his bishop as well.

And the sodomitical element? Now that sexual deviancy (aka "same-sex unions"/"civil unions") has been factored in for synodical discussion — though not, we may be sure,to discuss Randy Engel's request  for "an independent Papal Commission of Inquiry into Homosexuality and Pederasty in The Catholic Church" —  the long-term de facto damage is anyone's guess.

Nonetheless, we must pray that the 1985 neutering of Fr Walter and the "liberal consensus" extends this time to both orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Even as we continue to beseech heaven for a Crisis Pope untainted by the Modernist curse and willing to confront the enemies within, not tolerate or laud them; a clear-eyed pontiff determined to send all the Kaspers and feminist 'Kasperettes' to ecclesial Coventry. Only when, in God's good time, our prayers are answered and that sainted papal soul arrives will the neo-Arians be faced down, all their presuppositions and demands anathematised, and the long-awaited restoration of Catholic faith and life begin. For as Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote and history confirms: genuine freedom, justice, peace and unity can only be maintained and recovered by authentic mercy dispensed in

the time-honoured way: the [charitable] anathema against all heretics. This is the way the Church has survived, kept her identity, through all centuries... True unity can be restored only by the conversion of the heretic — or at least his submission — or by his excommunication.

 

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