On Doctrinal Questions, Francis Favors Cardinal Müller over Cardinal Kasper

A recent post from Sandro Magister introduces his report on a book-length interview with Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller by asking a question. This is how he poses it: “The prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith refutes the ideas of those who want to permit second marriages with the first spouse still alive. He is backed up by Cardinal Sebastián, who also disagrees with Cardinal Kasper. But whose side is Pope Francis on?”

What we don’t get from Magister is an answer to his own question, so you can have one from me. Whose side is Pope Francis on? He is on Müller’s, not on Kasper’s: he will continue to defend the tradition of the Church in this matter, as he has already done.

We need to begin, however, by asking why it is that the question is being asked in the first place. The doubts over the line the Pope will take, especially at the forthcoming Synod on the family, derive mostly from the Pope’s exceptionally warm response to an address delivered by Cardinal Kasper to a consistory on the family which took place in March, in which he expounded his view that Communion should be given to the divorced and remarried. This event was not public and its proceedings were supposed to be confidential.

But there was no way they were going to remain confidential after the Pope, the following day, genially applauded Kasper’s speech (though not, it is to be noted, necessarily its conclusions) in the following words: “Yesterday, before going to sleep—although I did not do this to put myself to sleep—I read or rather re-read the work of Cardinal Kasper, and I would like to thank him because I found profound theology, and even serene thinking in theology. It is pleasant to read serene theology. And I also found what Saint Ignatius told us about, that ‘sensus Ecclesiae,’ love for Mother Church. It did me good and an idea came to me—excuse me, Eminence, if I embarrass you—but the idea is that this is called ‘doing theology on one’s knees.’ Thank you. Thank you.”

It was of course soon all over the secular press that the Pope was getting ready to allow Communion for the divorced and remarried. This conclusion seemed to be confirmed by reports that an Argentinian woman, who had written to Pope Francis to ask if she could be readmitted to the sacraments even though she was divorced and had entered into a civil partnership, was claiming that the Pope rang her up, introducing himself as “Father Bergoglio,” and after a 10-minute chat said she could “safely” receive Communion. Her partner then leaked these details on Facebook. It’s a highly dubious story, denied by the Vatican, but that too was all over the secular press.

So why am I so sure that the Pope does support Cardinal Müller’s insistence that there will be no change in the teachings of the Church, despite his warm words about Kasper’s speech? For a start, Kasper’s speech is such that you could find it interesting, even to be commended as an intellectual exercise, without agreeing with a word of it. It’s tentative, speculative; I didn’t exactly find it “serene” (incidentally, I seriously wonder if the Holy Father wasn’t teasing Cardinal Kasper when he said that “It is pleasant to read serene theology”; he’s known for his sense of humor) and if Pope Francis had actually agreed with it, wouldn’t he have used rather different wording?

In an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times on Kasper’s proposal, which is roughly that a second “marriage” might be tolerated but not accepted, Ross Douthat comments that “whatever individuals and pastors decide to take upon their own consciences, declaring the reception of Communion licit for the remarried-but-not-annulled in any systematic way seems impossible without real changes—each with its own potential doctrinal ripples—to one or more of three theologically-important Catholic ideas: The understanding that people in grave sin should not generally receive the Eucharist, the understanding that adultery is always a grave sin, and/or the understanding that a valid sacramental marriage is indissoluble.”

If he actually did effect some change of the kind being fondly touted by liberal Catholics, Pope Francis would be either dissolving important Church teachings into incoherence, or else changing them in a way that mainstream Catholics firmly believe that the Pope, any pope, cannot do.

Anyway, I confidently predict that there will be no change and that the Holy Father is NOT preparing the way for one. It’s a matter of his entire attitude to the Church’s doctrinal tradition. Not once has he cast any doubt on his support for what the Church teaches. I draw your attention to one of his little sermons, preached at his daily Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in January, and reported on this site but otherwise unnoticed, in which he made it quite clear that fidelity to Church teaching is a fundamental part of belonging to the Church and that we cannot, in his words, use Church doctrine “as we please.”

He defined the three “pillars” of belonging as “humility,” “fidelity” and “special service.” He said that fidelity was the “second pillar: “Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching; fidelity to the Creed; fidelity to the doctrine, safeguarding this doctrine. Humility and fidelity. We receive the message of the Gospel as a gift and we need to transmit it as a gift, but not as a thing of ours: it is a gift that we received.”

Quoting Pope Paul, he said it was “an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to be with Christ at the margins of the Church. It’s not possible. It is an absurd dichotomy. We receive the Gospel message in the Church and we carry out our holiness in the Church, our path in the Church. The other is a fantasy, or, as he said, an absurd dichotomy.”

“Fidelity to the Church, fidelity to its teaching”: it really is what he believes, as all committed Catholics do. So don’t worry about the Synod; it will come and go and be forgotten. The Church and her teachings will go on and on, in saecula saeculorum, the latest moral and intellectual fashions forever receding into the past. In Chesterton’s unforgettable words…

It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom—that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared August 5, 2014 in the Catholic Herald of London and is reprinted with permission. Pictured above is Cardinal Gerhard Müller at a press conference last February announcing his new book. (Photo credit: CNS photo; Max Rossi / Reuters.)

Dr. William Oddie

By

Dr. William Oddie is a leading English Catholic writer and broadcaster. He edited The Catholic Herald from 1998 to 2004 and is the author of The Roman Option and Chesterton and the Romance of Orthodoxy.

  • Dick Prudlo

    I think I find in Mr. Oddie’s commentary more of a “Oh, I hope he doesn’t agree with Cardinal Kasper.” For Bishop Frank, theology, I think is a stranger. His thoughtlessness on matters of great import have many of us not wanting to hear one more word. Let us just wait and see for the debacle in October to “Modernize the Family” with the great words of our Holy Father being provided by Fr. Lombardi in complete and total explanation of what He meant. Just can’t wait.

    • Standtall909

      Wow, you are correct about that……sometimes I just want to ‘tune him out’. And I am a little in fear of this upcoming Synod. This entire controversy reminds me of the birth control issue that came up with Paul Vl. As far as I can recollect, he was mulling it over and ‘discerning’ if you will which seemed to give the Church permission to go with it. Then came Humanae Vitae, which the Cardinals promptly rejected. As I have said before, give the Church an inch or even a hint of maybe an inch, and some of our Prelates take ten miles. I think with this as well, therein lies the problem. The Holy Father is giving too many ‘maybe’ cues. Not good.

      • Standtall909

        Oh, and BTW, I hope Mr Oddie is correct in his theory too.

        • Standtall909

          Excuse me… ‘Dr.’ Oddie:)

  • I need someone to explain to me the charitable interpretation. From where I sit, it looks like indifferentism. And I pray it is not.

    • lifeknight

      Me too.

  • publiusnj

    The Pope’s comments, or rather the reportage about those comments, have bothered me greatly. I lived through the 1960s and saw the Great Edifice of American Mainline Protestantism crumble over the issue of Divorce. No Protestant of any note stood up to the push for “divorce liberalization” and within ten years or so, No Fault Divorce was the Law of the Land (or actually of the states). Only one institution stood in opposition: Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. Then the next assault was on Abortion. Once again, the Crumbling Edifice of American Protestantism buckled. Even the Southern Baptists originally endorsed Roe v Wade. Christ’s Holy Catholic Church stood tall and called liberalized abortion a sin–maybe not as courageously and forensically efficiently as I would have liked but clearly and more loudly than any other institution. The assaults have continued to come; most recently on “Gay Marriage.” Throughout it all, the Church has continued to express Traditional Morality in a way no other institution does. As Dr. Oddie’s compatriot Margaret Thatcher once noted: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO GO WOBBLY.

    It won’t gain the Church any respect, nor are many divorced-remarried Catholics likely to become faithful sons and daughters of Holy Mother Church once they learn that their obstinacy in insisting on their way has won out. It will simply convince the opponents of Traditional Morality that even the Catholic Church can be rolled if enough pressure is exerted. NOW IS THE TIME TO MARCH TOWARD THE SOUND OF THE CANNON.

    And the real harm will be to those of us who have seen in the Holy See of Rome that assurance of remaining within the Apostolic Tradition that only it has been recognized as being able to give. At least since 180 AD when Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons defined it as that assurance. Adverrsus Haereses 3:3:2.

    • Jacob

      I wouldn’t worry. The gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church in 2,000 years, just as our Lord promised (even with wicked popes), and the Pope is still infallible in matters of doctrine and morals.

      The Church has taught that divorce and remarriage is adultry and hence mortal sin ever since Christ Himself taught it, and it is settled Doctrine. So is the doctrine that to recieve Communion in a state of mortal sin is sacrilege.

      The Pope not only will not change it, he CANNOT change it if he wanted to do so. God won’t allow it, as that would mean the gates of hell have prevailed, Christ’s promises mean nothing, and so the Catholic Church and Christianity itself is false.

      I don’t believe that. Do you?

      • publiusnj

        One of the things I have learned in life is not to try to predict the future. I do believe in the Infallibility of the Pope, and of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. My concern is more with loose language than False Doctrine. So, I will be concerned and I will pray for Christ’s Church and our pope in particular. That is all I can do. I will leave the Guidance to God. He wouldn’t have it any other way, anyway.

      • Assyrian Church of the East

        Or it could mean that the [Roman] Catholic Church is not the True Church of Christ.

        There are other viable candidates, you know. An obvious one for the typical person raised Roman Catholic is the Eastern Orthodox Church. Their history extends back to apostolic times too. And most Catholics never stop to consider whether their viewpoint on what divides them from the Roman Catholic Church might not be correct. Yet, if you think about it, it is not at all obvious on the face of it why the Roman Catholic Church should be true, and the Eastern Orthodox in error, rather than the other way around.

        Other viable, though less obvious (on account of their relative obscurity), candidates are the Oriental Orthodox Church (better, though misleadingly, known as the “Monophysite” Church) and the Assyrian Church of the East (better, though misleadingly, known as the “Nestorian” Church).

        For those Catholics who are growing increasingly insecure in their faith in Christ under Pope Francis, I warmly encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the Eastern Churches, along with church history, especially insofar as the historical record is relevant in impartially adjudicating the historic basis of division among these four rival claimants to the title “True Church.”

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          That is why I have always found the position of the SSPX to be a curious one. They claim that Rome has innovated on the true faith, which they maintain. But the Armenians and the Copts will claim that the SSPX have embraced innovations on the apostolic tradition that they alone have faithfully preserved; so will the Assyrians and the Orthodox will accuse them of tampering with the Nicean Symbol. The SSPX will retort that their doctrines and practices are legitimate developments, not innovations.

          Now, by what test are these rival claims to be judged? If Vatican II departed from the true faith, why cannot the Nestorians of Syria insist that the Council of Ephesus (which the SSPX accept) did so too? Likewise, the Armenians and the Copts will maintain their ancient protest against the Council of Chalcedon. The Orthodox accept no council later that Nicea II. On what possible grounds will the SSPX defend the later ones?

          How can one avoid the vicious circle of “The true church is that which teaches the true faith” and “The true faith is what the true church teaches”? Catholics have a simple answer: “The faithful, be they many or few, be their doctrine apparently traditional or apparently innovatory, be their champions honest or unscrupulous, are simply those who are in visible communion with the see of Rome.” (R A Knox) It is a test remarkably easy of application; just what one would expect of the criterion of a divine message, intended for all, regardless of learning, capacity or circumstances.

  • russell snow

    I agree with this analysis. I do not think that the Holy Father would appoint Cardinal Muller as prefect for the congregation dealing with matters of doctrine and than ignore him. I think this is a similar situation which prevailed before Bl.Paul VI teaching on artificial contraception. The world was sure he would embrace it. The world was mistaken. As always the world, the flesh, and the devil are a work in this matters, but they never prevail when it comes to matters of doctrine.

    • bonaventure

      There is a significant difference between Paul VI and Francis.

      Paul VI was seen as a reactionary by the media (in comparison to John XXIII), while Francis is seen as a progressive by the media (in comparison to John Paul II and Benedict XVI).

      Unfortunately, Francis is giving signals that he may indeed be “the one” whom the liberals expect (with theologically shallow comments, off the cuff remarks, etc), while Paul VI never allowed himself to be perceived as such. The media never expected anything from Paul VI, and they thoroughly hated him even before Humanae Vitae, while they “love” Francis, and he seems to relish their adulation in spite of all his apparent humility.

      • Jacob Suggs

        Pope Francis is not as precise as Benedict, it is true, and his style is very different. He is very much the extrovert. However, to accuse him of false humility is unfounded and silly, and to say that he may attempt to change Church teaching is even more so.

        These “signals” you see are no more than you buying into the picture the media is painting too much. Don’t do that. You’ll save yourself a lot of worry and embarrassment over false predictions of falling skies if you’ll assume that the Pope is Catholic, and take any reports to the contrary as false until absolutely proven otherwise.

        • accelerator

          “,…until absolutely proven otherwise.” Quite odd those words have to be written at all. Of course assume the best of the Pope, but also don’t engage in rhetorical plastic surgery when interpreting his words. Francis’ loose canon approach has been unhelpful, to say the least. cover boy of Rolling Stone and The Advocate. Hard things to explain away.

          • Jacob Suggs

            You misunderstand. The “absolutely proven” standard is not because there is some problem with the Pope that requires that we give him the benefit of the doubt, but because there is a problem with us if we’re the sort of people who are quick to think the Pope isn’t Catholic.

            Or in short, the problem is not that Pope Francis was mentioned in Rolling Stones, but that Catholics trust Rolling Stones more than their Pope.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          Good analysis. I love Benedict partly because of his “Jesus of Nazareth” books & other Christological works (which made me realize the central of Christ which I was previously unknown to me as a lukewarm cradle Catholic) & the other part because Benedict is a giant among introverts (which I am also) so he gave me a good reassurance & model of how introverts also belong in the Body of Christ. I owe Benedict a lot. Although I miss Benedict (who is now introvertly living in some Vatican corner & praying for us), I can’t help but love our Pope Francis, what a gift to the Church. I too am confused why people who claim to be very Catholic have such intense dislike & even hate sometimes. Benedict (Nursia) & Francis (Assisi)- 2 of my favorite saints. The popes did well in choosing their names & have lived up to their legacies, thank you Jacob.

          • TerryC

            I think that part of it is a wish by some Catholics for a burnt earth approach to the secular world. They want a pope who will go on International TV and expressly excommunicate any Catholic politician who has ever in any way shape or form supported anything from contraception to R rated movies. Then they want a statement that anyone who isn’t Catholic is going to Hell.
            I, of course, exaggerate, but only a little.
            They tend to forget that the western media twists everyone’s words to support their liberal culture of death agenda.
            I think some would prefer that Francis stay locked in the Papal Apartments like PIus XII, with only heavily doctrinally vetted documents and speeches being released to the world. Not exactly reflective of the Great Commission.

            • Assyrian Church of the East

              I would say that your characterization is no exaggeration at all in some cases, particularly among “Traditionalist” Catholics inclined to reject Vatican II and the Novus Ordo mass.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      How I wish our Pope Francis would take the megaphone away from Cardinal Kasper & the likes. People like that Cardinal only confuse Church teachings among the faithful (who are already confused enough) & raise fall ideas to divorced-remarried Catholics who will inevitably be disappointed if they buy into those lies. Is not part of charity being clear? Why do people want to change Catholic dogmas, doctrines & morality? Why not just accept them in humility & go forward & grow? Catholic youth in parishes should be made to read & study GK Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, “The Everlasting Man” & “St Francis of Assisi”. If youth groups would do it (instead of clapping hands), then we would see a more invigorated Catholic youth who will not stop going to Mass & being faithful & would know the garbage many in the culture (& even schools) are teaching.

  • NormChouinard

    Good article. I rather like the closing Chesterton citation from Orthodoxy (written while he was still Anglican). I think it is clear that Francis would agree.

  • Daniel P

    Are any resident theologians to answer a simple question?

    Here’s the question: If an Orthodox believer in a second marriage becomes Catholic, are they permitted to receive communion? Are they considered to be in a valid marriage?

    • fredx2

      If I understand you correctly, you are asking about someone who is not Catholic. They have been married, then divorced, and remarried. Then, while they are in that second marriage, they decide to convert to Catholicism.

      Here is what a PDF available online from the Archdiocese of Batlimore says:

      “Does Divorce Affect my Entrance into the Catholic Church?

      “Please remember that a divorce alone would not affect, or hinder in any way, your entrance into the Catholic Church. However, if you are divorced and remarried a question does arise. We presume and respect all marriages, even one which ended in a civil divorce. Every prior marriage must be examined, since each is presumed to be a lasting, lifelong commitment. Until it is shown otherwise, you would not be free to enter into another marriage without the appearance or occasion of serious sin. If you are divorced and remarried, the sacraments of initiation which you desire to receive may need to be delayed until a Tribunal has examined your prior marriage(s) and issued a decision.”

      From “Divorce & Remarriage for Those Entering the Catholic Church”

      Search for “Catholic convert who has been divorced” on Google and this should give lead you to that pdf.

      • Daniel P

        No, I’m asking specifically about an Orthodox convert. You see, my understanding is that the CC accepts the Orthodox sacrament of marriage as valid across the board. So it seems puzzling if the CC accepts a second marriage as valid while the person is Orthodox, but then says it is invalid once the person converts.

        • JP

          I could be wrong, but the convert must comply with Church teachings. In the case you point out, the convert cannot have relations with his second wife if he wants to go to communion. The exception being if the Catholic marriage tribunal has examined the first marriage and rules that it was not a true “marriage”.

          In a normal context, the RCC does recognized the Orthodox marriage sacrament. But, that isn’t necessairily so with 2nd marriages.

          • Daniel P

            Thanks! I’m still interested in more authoritative documentation on this, if you (or anyone) can point me in the right direction.

            • TerryC

              I don’t believe there is a more authoritative document in that the same canon law applies as for anyone entering the Church from outside.
              That is if the person is baptized then the first marriage is presumed valid. The common action would be to petition the tribunal to declare that the first marriage was not valid. If that is found to be true, then the second marriage would be valid, since there was no impediment to it. And if both persons were Orthodox it is also Sacramental.
              The only difference between a member one of the Orthodox Churches and a Protestant is that as the member of a Apostolic Church their Confirmation is also valid. It does not touch on the validity of multiple marriages.

              • Daniel P

                Thanks, Terry!

  • John O’Neill

    Unfortunately Francis has opened the door to much doubt about orthodoxy in the Church. There is much confusion and the media especially the Anglo American media love twisting his words and projecting their own atheistic secularism on to him. Benedict XVI always spoke and taught with precision and clarity and for that he was hated by the Liberal American Catholic Church.

    • Vinnie

      With regard to the media, they do that with everybody and everything, not just the Pope.

    • Jacob Suggs

      The doubt is not generated by Pope Francis as such, but rather by the human tendency to always believe the sky is falling. The media thrives on controversy, but only because people buy into it. (Thus my general approach that anything you read about the Church in the press is wrong until proven otherwise.)

      • John O’Neill

        Point taken; but it still does not explain why Francis allows this to happen. He is an intelligent man and must know what the media will do with his murky theological pronouncements and he should prepare to circumvent the attacks that he knows will be coming.

    • Marcelus

      . The other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…”Benedict XVI

  • fredx2

    It seems to me that the Pope views the doctrine of the church as a great mountain, unmovable and permanent. But he is smart enough to know that we need to be pressing, testing, to make sure we know exactly where that mountain begins and ends – particularly on matters that seem confusing to people.
    He is not against testing the doctrine from time to time to see if it has been developed correctly in the past. If the doctrine still holds, fine, he can live with that.
    That is where some go wrong. They think that he is out to destroy doctrine. He isn’t. He just wants to make sure that doctrine has been interpreted correctly, and has been implemented correctly.
    So, he is perfectly content to let the CDF make final decisions on things. He knows he is not the world’s greatest theologian.
    He was reported to have urged religious to push the boundaries, and if a letter arrives from the CDF, well, you explain what you have to explain, and move on. Some took this as encouragement to disregard the CDF. Far from it. Not once did he say anything remotely like that. In fact, it appears he was saying that the CDF is the final authority, but don’t let fear of them keep you from doing important work. If you are out of bounds, they will let you know it. You adjust, do what they say, and move on.

    Also, this is one of the world’s greatest quotes:

    “But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”

  • Were someone to obtain a church annulment after every civil divorce and after their sixth annulment, choosing to marry in the church, would they be entering their first or seventh marriage?

    • bonaventure

      In your case, there would be no marriages at all (even if you remarried 100 times), since Canon Law does not permit the marriage of the profoundly mentally deficient.

    • Gladys H. Mariani

      IF and only IF the annulments were valid, he/she would be entering a first VALID marriage. The ROTA is composed of fallible humans; therefore, I am sure there are quite a few invalid annulments that have given the green light to quite a few supposedly first church marriages. The good thing is that God knows the truth. When those who have remarried in the church after having obtained annulments based on deception are called home by their Eternal Father, I ‘m afraid all hell will break through (pun intended) unless they have contritely confessed their sin.

  • What, are we taking bets now? I follow Müller. I follow Kasper. Aside from how amusing it is to see pundits of every stripe claim that they “get” this honey badger pope, the crux of the matter is that faithful Catholics should not have to wager on his course of action, in the first place. If Kasper is gunning for a true defection from the Church’s teaching, why is it even an open question whether Francis will follow him? Oh, what’s that? Because the pandemic of pastoral ultramontanism leads us all to believe that maybe the traditional teaching is not, after all, de fide? Oh, I see. Kasper is much better at this game than we are, and he’s in fine fettle (cf. also the boost given to the likes of Boff, Gutierrez, Fagan, Brockmann, Suenens, et al. by this soup-sandwich papacy). This post-conciliar ambiguity is by now a feature, not a bug, and is why references to the pope’s reverence for doctrine are a complete red herring. The whole point of this tumult and the synods is to spread the impression that the doctrine on this matter is, in fact, not settled. Once the pope tells us what the doctrine is, where the Church’s margins lie, then, and only then, can we respect the Church as teacher. Francis is directly responsible for the unceasing waves of scandal and dissension that are literally threatening the souls of Catholics, but that fact is drowned out by the droning fleet of professional Catholic pundits who feel it’s their sacred duty to uphold the normalcy bias and praise this Golmar/Zelig/Rorshach papacy.

    • BXVI

      Exactly! Pope Francis’ thought seems to be infected with strains of sentimentalism, modernism, relativism, progressivism, universalism, indifferentism and — dare I say it?? — even Marxism. I am not saying he is purely as sentimentalist, modernist, relativist, progressive, universalist, indifferentist or Marxist. But his thought (can we even call it a coherent philosophy) seem to be influenced by all of these ideologies. It is clear that he chafed under St. JPII and even moreso under Pope Benedict because he detests what he perceives to be a kind of “authoritarianism” that attempts to “control” people’s beliefs and to make the Church’s doctrine into an unchanging “monolith” (quotes are his words). One of the biggest projects of his papacy is encouragement of debate and discussion. He thrives on ambiguity, despises “small t” traditions, and thinks we should too.

      • Daniel P

        Even … Marxism?

        For shame!

      • Marcelus

        Marxism? Wow! Really the Pope is infected by communists. . Please.

    • elarga

      Honey badger? What does that mean?

      • Elliot Bougis

        “Honey badger pope” was a meme that quickly became attached to Francis after his election, esp. with reference to his foot-washing novelty 1.0. Sine then, it’s just become more obvious. He just don’t care, he’ll do whatever, etc., so it’s largely futile to predict or rationalize his neo-Jesuit brand of catechetical chaos. This pope will do whatever in hell he feels the Spirit is calling him to do at the moment, which is why Oddie’s orthodox hedging is as tragic as it is adorable.

  • BXVI

    Dr. Oddie, I fear you are wrong. If the Pope diagreed with Kasper, he would not have made him the keynote speaker at the meeting of bishops to plan the synod. And, he could easily clear all this up with a simple statement such as: “Of course, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal, while well-meant, is an impossibility.” But he has not done that and he won’t. The only question in my mind is how much Pope Francis thinks he can get away with after the synod without fomenting an outright rebellion against his papacy. If 90% of the bishops are vehemently opposed to Kasper’s “solution” then he will feel constrained and his “modifications” will be limited. If he feels he has something like evenly divided support and opposition, he will run with it. This synod is going to be very bad for the Church. The doors have been thrown wide open for discussion of many things that should be considered closed subjects by now. It will be ugly.

    • Marcelus

      Francis asked Kapert to raise questions on family, not proposals. I remember Francis aid exactly that. You may be wrong consideringthis is some kind if plot by the Pope waiting to see which way the wind blows.

      • bonaventure

        Why even raise questions on the family? The Pope would do the world a great pastoral service if he simply (since he seems incapable of deeper theological thought) reaffirmed the structure of the family, and ignored the subsequent bashing by the liberal western media.

        • Giovanni Cattaneo

          As Pope Francis would say “Who is he to judge?”

  • elarga

    If this is an open-and-shut question of dogma, why was it allowed to be opened up for debate in preparation for the synod, and why is it on the synod’s agenda? The most charitable answer I can come up with is that is a clever political move in response to what I understand to be massive dissent on the question in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe. The Vatican had to do something to defuse it, and so has opened it it up for discussion with the full intention of reaffirming the dogma, and in the process (hopefully) teaching the Germans and the rest of the world exactly why it must stand. The result should be to silence the dissenters once and for all, for afterward they will not be able to say that their petition was ignored.

    • Crusader

      I so hope you are right. Would that I had stronger faith.

  • AcceptingReality

    Dr. Oddie, thanks for your articles! I thoroughly enjoy them. I have a question for you and for all the readers here: Does anyone really think that the remarried-but not-annulled are not receiving communion regularly anyway? And many with their pastor’s consent? The modernists simply thumb their noses at Church teaching and do what they please. Heterodox priests give a wink and nod and the, ahem, faithful think all is right with God and the world.

    • elarga

      You raise a good point. We all know — almost for a certainty — that the communion “lines” in our parishes include many, many communicants who are carrying loads of unconfessed mortal sins, yet either do not know what a mortal sin is, or don’t think it really matters and that they have a “right” to receive. Just compare the lines at the confessional to the lines for communion on Sunday morning, and it’s obvious that we’ve already got a big, big problem of either lousy catechesis or outright disobedience by the faithful. Or both.

    • Gladys H. Mariani

      Whether the divorced and “unrightfully” remarried are presently consuming the Holy Eucharist -with or without their confessors, pastors or bishop’s PRIVATE approval is completely beside the point. Any Catholic that advises anyone to commit sin, is in mortal sin himself/herself. If that Catholic happens to be one with shepherding duties such as confessors, pastors and bishops, I hope he will repent and confess before death. The point here is doctrine. That is, the public teaching of the truths of the Faith. The Pope, as visible head of the Catholic Church, is supposed to feed God’s sheep with right doctrine. If by being “secularly pastoral” he happens to confuse the sheep, woe is he! That is the point!

  • Rene

    A significant problem with Pope Francis is that a lot of his assurances that he is faithful to his responsibilities as the vicar of Christ show up in little sermons that only a few pay attention to. In contrast, his confusing statements show up in interviews that the secular media and the liberal Catholics pay a lot of attention to, and use to further their own agenda. Is this really helpful to the Church? I may be wrong, I may be stupid, but I do not think this is helpful.

    • Jacob Suggs

      The statements are generally not actually confusing, if you read them under the assumption that the Pope is in fact Catholic (which should be the default assumption), but in any case I think you put the cart before the horse here. You say that the statements that get turned into controversy show up in high profile places, and the ones that support Catholic doctrine in low profile places. But “high profile” just means “talked about.” So these high profile interviews and such only become so because someone found some half baked way to twist what the Pope said to sound like a refutation of Catholic Doctrine. And this wasn’t unique to Pope Francis, though it is more common than it was with his predecessor, at least, due to a difference in the men’s style.

      Case in point from Benedict – really, really, long interview, covering wide range of topics condensed in the news to “Pope says condoms are good now.” (To which a sane person should reflexively reply “yeah, right.”)

      • Rene

        Thanks for your reply. I would say, however, that the default assumption is that he cannot change Catholic doctrine. He may, however, be a very poor communicator, which may explain why all the confusion. The man’s style appears to be that he makes ambiguous statements that are easy to misinterpret. .

  • Douglas Pearson

    I wonder if this is what it felt like too wait for the Pope Paul VI to address contraception in the 60’s… faithful Catholics biting their nails and “progressives” in gleeful anticipation only to be let down and form a wall of dissent. I think our Holy Father was not prudent in his comments.

    • Anonymous

      Spot on. That’s EXACTLY how it was in the late 1960s. The sense of disengagement was palpable. I always wondered what led up to it–now I’m beginning to understand.

      • Crusader

        Except this time I believe the world is going to get the answer it wants instead of the Truth.

  • sybarite123

    No teaching about Marriage will change. However a priest, dealing with an individual couple, has to be ‘Pastoral’. He is pastoral without compromising the Church’s Teaching, but by adapting it to the couple’s ability to absorb that teaching. In this way a priest can gradually lead the couple to the Truth. Better to give a little than to give nothing and alienate the couple from the Church, perhaps for ever. Also IMO if there is any ‘sound reason’ to doubt the validity of the 1st Marriage, and no resolution of doubt by an annulment in a reasonable amount of time(one month!), then the priest can give permission to live as a married couple. A doubtful obligation is no obligation at all in the face of foregoing marriage itself since marriage is a human right. Of course, in all this, the priest has to avoid giving scandal to those not acquainted with this particular couple’s situation. From Canada.

    • Guest

      Your so called pastoral solution is exactly the type of reasoning we are all afraid will happen. It turns the moral law upside down.

      • Marcelus

        Take a look at the guidelines or doc. Laboris for the synod. You will find over and over and over again that ‘pastoral’ regards the way the doctrine has to be brought to people since most do not know It or twist it to suit their needs. Particularly on SSM and divorce and the rest. Pastoral is NOT a replacement for doctrine but rather a way to bring doctrine to the Faithful differently

        • Guest

          I was not talking as out that document but the “proposal” from the poster.

    • bonaventure

      Marriage is not a human right. NO ONE has the “right” to marry. In the Church, marriage is a sacrament that is given ONLY if a man and a women meet very specific criteria. If they fail one criterium… there could be no marriage.

    • TerryC

      This is absolutely not factual. The priest can indeed be pastoral. If the couple can afford it and they have no minor children, they should be counseled to keep separate households while awaiting the response of the tribunal, which is most likely going to take a year. In this case they may receive Communion (after confession of their past cohabitation.)
      If they have children, then for their sake and to prevent scandal the priest may counsel them to continue to cohabitate as platonic brother and sister, while waiting for a decision from the tribunal.
      If they are unable to do either, do to moral weakness, the priest, in an attempt to be pastoral should remind them that they are living in sin, but that their state should not prevent them from coming to Mass weekly, though it precludes them from receiving Communion. They should also be encouraged to petition the tribunal for resolution of their situation.

    • Marcelus

      That’s exactly what I think. And it’s based on the doc. Lasboris that was issued and made public a few months ago. If you read it at least leaf thru it, you’ll find that ‘Pastoral’ assistance appears mentioned over and over again, as a tool to bring doctrine to people. Where the churches teaching is not understood it people feel Is optional, always taking about Catholics, then a pastoral way to explain it would be the right approach. I was surprised to see that sort of reasoning after so much talking

  • bonaventure

    I wouldn’t be so sure about Dr. Oddie’s conclusion in spite of all Francis’ quotes from John Paul II.

    After all, it appears that Bergoglio already flipped twice on the issue of homosexual “marriage:” (1) When, after comparing homosexuality to a destructive behavior that comes from the devil, he was ready to accept “civil unions” while still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and (2) when he came out with his now notorious “Who am I to judge” statement.

    So, if he apparently flipped twice on homosexuality (or at least was willing to accommodate the liberals), who’s to guarantee that he will not flip on communion for the divorced, and side with the liberals instead?

    After all, there will be a major fight among the bishops during the Synod (and not only on communion, but also on homosexuality), and Francis has already proven himself to be rather weak theologically, especially on moral issues.

    • Marcelus

      How was he ready to accept civil unions? Been in Argentina in the last 10 years? Pope is above and beyond the non Catholic branding of liberal -traditional. Far rrrrrr beyond that. But lots fall to see that

      • Guest

        The Pope said he is not a right winger. That was his terminology. He did not say he was not a left winger.

        • Marcelus

          Oh well he is a priest he doesn’t run for office. And he got asked that by the way, nobody asked him are you a leftist? You’ll get the same Answer I suppose. Making a mistake a big one mixing politics with religion in America

          • Marcelus

            And I recall since people questioned that, that he’s clearly said Marxism is wrong and Marxism stole much from Christianity so..

      • bonaventure

        There are credible witnesses that in 2010, when Jorge Bergoglio realized that Argentinian liberals will legalize homosexual “marriage,” he came forth with a proposal to legalize “civil unions” as a compromise.

        So first, when he feels strong, he (rightly) calls homosexuality as coming from the Devil, but then suddenly when his position is weakened he is ready to compromise with the homosexualists — in fact, he was ready to go all the way to give them legal rights comparable to marriage.

        Personally, I do hope that the above is just a rumor, and that Bergoglio never supported “civil unions” (as some of his defenders claim). However, I am afraid that such political expediency and flip flopping seems to be in character with Francis’ continuous thoughtlessness. Have you already forgotten his “Who am I to judge” comment?

        • Marcelus

          Well I’m Argentinean and live here, don’t know if I will fit your credible witness category but what you mention is simply not true. I recall those days and he had a tough time much like some bishops in the US go thru now.and the who am I to judge ? Refers to the action not the person. Kind of means, I don’t care, but it’s hard to explain. It does not only approval .Not many get it and yes is a localism here in Argentina. Like it or not he was raised here.

          • bonaventure

            I never lived in Argentina, but the reports I heard about his support of “civil unions” are totally credible. I would challenge you to research it at the very source… which would be easier for you since you are in Argentina (or actually, that may make it more difficult, since Argentinians today will naturaly tend to censure and repress any honest research as to what Bergoglio really said about this issue). Anyway, I believe you may not like what you find out, just as I do not like the many things I find about some high-ranking U.S. bishops whose orthodoxy I never questioned in the past, ex., Cardinal Dolan from New York. The more I hear them speak on contemporary moral issues, the more I perceive them going straight into relativism, just as Jorge Bergoglio seems to do.

            Thanks for clarifying the “Who am I to judge” expression, and the common/daily meaning of this expression in your country. But then I would say, that the Pope SHOULD CARE about the issue of homosexuality, since it is the defining moral issue today (along with abortion)… and as the Head of the Church, Francis should have had a very serious answer to it, rather than wave it off with a hand saying “I don’t care.”

            Anyway, many things and issues will be clarified shortly, as the Pope and the bishops will soon convene to the Synod. My prayer is that I am wrong to suspect Francis, and may the Lord forgive me. My fear is that he may turn out to be the theological weakling that he portrays himself to be… of which the consequences may be disastrous.

            • Marcelus

              -Ohh Im 48 and I’ve followed Bergolio’s performance for years. That may not convince you I suspect, but well, It’s just an opinion.Im here right now and the church has not turned into You may go ahead and google, nothing gets suppresed today ,so whatever you may suspect exists is somewhere to be found.
              I can post many of Archbsp Bergoglio’s statemnnets and lettters on these matters, and you may be surprised to see they are not much different from any of the former Popes, even stronger sometimes, but never have I seen anything the likes of which you mention, other than, yes, some press picking up a word or phrase and giving it a twist.
              People tend to consider him a theological noob as if he started yesterday somehow.Unlike Benedict for instance,who was the best theologian in more than a century,but was considered distant and somehow “cold”, lacking the fatherly approach the pope needs to have good or bad. at least here and I suppose in much of the rest of the world, particularly after Jp2. Do not forget 50% of the world’s catholics are Latinamericans.
              And you may be proven wrong indeed. Will have to wait till the synod then.God Bless you-.

              • bonaventure

                Yes, I do believe that the Synod may unveil some things and put uncertainties to rest. And in spite of all my suspicions and pessimism, I hope and pray to be wrong.

                Thanks for your answer (as well as the previous answers), because it does clarify a few things. I agree with you that you are much better positioned than I to speak about Bergoglio/Francis.

                Thanks & God bless you too,

                Bonaventure

  • Gladys H. Mariani

    The alarm of many Catholics over Pope Francis’ reactions to C. Kasper’s narrative is very reasonable. If Pope Francis were not the Pope, but a college professor, his admiration for some of C. Kasper’s statements or the “serene theology” behind them would be easily understood. However, Pope Francis is the visible head of the Catholic Church and the One everyone looks at when questions and issues of the Faith are brought up. That is precisely why, the Pope must be extremely careful about what he says or does (body language) especially when the public eye is trained on him. It should not surprise anyone that his enthusiam for C. Kasper’s narrative has been understood by the many divorced and “unrightfully” remarried Catholics as a sign of a soon-to-be-announced reversal of Catholic doctrine. By the same token, the alarm of many bona fide practicing Catholics over what seems to be a sign of apostacy should not surprise anyone. Considering all that has happened after Vatican II (many examples of outright apostacy by many bishops, priests and religious), it should not surprise anyone that many present-day Catholics seem to consider it probable that a sitting Pope could be an apostate. Precisely because that is the present state of affairs, I believe Pope Francis should study his predecessors and copy their discretion. It is frankly idiotic to expect Pope Francis to behave like St. John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. He is Pope Francis and should and will bring his own style and flavor to his papacy. That is as it should be. However, a very healthy dose of discretion and common sense should be part of that style and flavor.

  • pbecke

    ‘Not once has he cast any doubt on his support for what the Church teaches.’

    You’ve changed your tune, Mr Oddie.Not so long ago, Francis was givnging you a severe bout of the collywobbles over his doctrinal remarks.

  • Jdonnell

    We need to have the door opened, not to let in varmints but to clear the air. Modern life has to be faced up to–geographical mobility, urbanity and the increased cost of raising children who don’t help on a farm, etc. Those who got into marriages that turned out to be a mistake and who get divorced and remarried (based on “not good for man to be alone”) should just quietly keep on going to Communion and being part of their parishes, if they can do so in good conscience. Oldie’s strictness ignore what is going on. Driving people out of the Church is the last thing that should be going on.

    • TerryC

      Yes, because keeping them sitting in the pews is more important than ensuring they get into heaven.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    This business regarding the remarried is like marijuana, it’s a gateway issue so the Church at the Synod will “address” the hardcore issues such as . . . . .

    DISHEARTENED & DISCOURAGED IN BANKRUPT DIOCESE OF STOCKTON

  • Giovanni Cattaneo

    Funny I remember the days when Catholic teaching was expressed with “we declare, we decree, we define. etc.” and heresy expressed and heretics them selves were said to “let them be anathema.”

    Today however their error is described by the Bishop of Rome as “serene theology” and hence we are to believe that it is a condemnation you know by reading between the lines. I think I prefer the old way best.

  • Katalina

    The argument that its always the media’s fault is getting tiresome. Look at the Pope’s own words which has been seen on other blogs as being in contradiction to the CCC. What he said to the Pentecostals and Fundamentalist borders on if not is the serious Sin OF Indifferentism which is against the virtue of Faith. I am seeing this same reaction of the GOP who wanted to honor him but many said he was and is too LIBERAL. He says one thing.to Catholic audiences and something different to non Catholics and Non Christians. The man is a South American Jesuit don’t forget. The only people he does not show mercy towards are the Mafia and the Traditional Catholics like the FFI and now a suspended Priest in Paraguay on some phony Charge of Sex Abuse. He also does not and will not meet with people he disagrees with like Angela Scola. If he does not like a person or situation he is indisposed.

    • Marcelus

      The priest had already been expelled from the Us on child molesting charges before getting kicked out of Paraguay. The issue south the FFI started with Benedict and its deals with internal divisions and financial issues. And what and how is a south American jesuite exactly ?

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