Cardinal Kasper’s mercy

St. Paul, picking up on several of Jesus’ allegories, acknowledges in his epistle to the Ephesians that marriage is a type of the Church — that is, that marriage, while real in itself, also symbolically alludes to or foreshadows some greater reality. He thus admonishes wives to be subordinate to their husbands, as the Church is to Christ, and husbands to love their wives, as Christ loves the Church.

Yet the Church, we know too, is made up of sinners, and our sins are acts of adultery — literally, of infidelity — against our Lord and the covenant he has made with us. We are always cheating on him, rebelling against him, hiding from him, spurning, mocking, casting longing glances to the world, the flesh, and the Devil. And is our Lord not a faithful lover? Does he not continue to withstand our abuses and admonish us to be and do better? Is he not always wooing us?

I suppose we should be glad, then, that the Father is not so merciful as Cardinal Kasper, that he would spare his only-begotten Son the difficulty of our continued company.

8 thoughts on “Cardinal Kasper’s mercy

  1. Pingback: Cardinal Kasper’s mercy | Reaction Times

  2. The problem is that human beings are fallible; while temporary excommunication is an appropriate punishment for being the “guilty party” in a divorce, the lifetime excommunication imposed by Rome on those who remarry has always struck me as unrealistic. I say this as the child of a second marriage who probably would have been better off had the divorced parent remained faithful to their first wife, except for the fact that in such a case, my own existence would have been precluded. I have always felt the Eastern Orthodox view of divorce, viewing it as a terrible sin, and second marriage a disqualifier for the priesthood, to be correct and proportionate. There can be reasons of oikonomia for not even applying a temporary punishment to the divorced couple, for example, if they have children attending the church. When one confesses in the divine liturgy that one is the worst of sinners, it inclines one to forgive past mistakes, while still actively preaching against making that mistake in the future.

    My main concern with Kaspar’s approach is that I would rather hate to see the Roman church cease to view divorce as a great moral evil.

    • William G., my impression is that for what you describe to work, Roman Catholic theology would have to change pretty fundamentally. But then maybe I don’t understand Catholicism.

    • The question is not one of forgiving past mistakes, but of the refusal to stop committing adultery in the present with one’s “second spouse”.

    • There’s a few problems in your post, William. First, excommunications are neither particularly “temporary” or “lifetime,” because they aren’t punishment. They’re medicine. The purpose is to induce the excommunicate to repentance (and to shield the faithful from his baleful influence by making clear that he is not of one mind with the Church). Second, remarried divorcees aren’t necessarily excommunicates, at least not by virtue of being remarried divorcees. They are sinners, since divorce-and-remarriage (more formally, adultery/concubinage) is a grave moral evil. They are shut out of the Eucharist until they repent and reform their lives but they are not otherwise shut out of communion with the Church, as Benedict XVI was at great pains to stress. Even in remarriage cases in which there are good reasons not to dissolve the lived reality of the union (e.g., because there are children present), those couples who elect to remain continent until their situation can be regularized can continue to receive communion.

      Which is rather Bonald’s point. The issue isn’t a failure or refusal to forgive past mistakes, but an inability to sacramentally forgive a person who will not repent and reform.

      • However, the main problem with what you’re proposing is to say that sexual activity in a second marriage consists of ongoing adultery. This is not the view of the Orthodox, nor does it seem to have Biblical warrant; if its true, I myself am (literally) a bastard, because unbeknownst to my mother, my father had been previously wed. The view of the Orthodox is that the adultery has already happened with the previous marriage; the new marriage is undefiled, but the divorced partner is themselves defiled, and thus the marriage ceremony occurs with a markedly penitential character, rather than the celebratory character of a first marriage. It should also be stressed that this applies only to prior marriages contracted within the Church; civil marriages and marriages outside of the Orthodox church, should they fail, do not count, as the Church does not recognize them unless both partners are received into the Orthodox church, in which case their marriage will exist; this does not mean that such marriages are considered to be equivalent to adultery if consummated, which is clearly the view expressed above regarding sexually active partners in a second marriage.

        I simply cannot agree with the ektenia with which the Roman church insists upon implying here, or for that matter on the issue of clerical celibacy (one should note that married clergy in the Orthodox church must not be divorcees, and the need for celibate bishops is undisputed). As long as the Roman church insists on such severity regarding these issues, while at the same time tolerating a lack of discipline regarding, for example, the veneration of unauthorized Marian apparitions, I don’t see how reunion with the Orthodox will be feasible. The prospect of entering a second millennium of schism is loathsome to me, so I very much hope that the Roman church will reform itself in this respect along Orthodox lines. The whole forensic concept of sin as crime must be discarded; while some sins are by their nature crimes against what Catholic theologians love to call “natural law,” the most important aspect of sin is expressed in the Greek word for it: hamartia, or missing the mark, and we all miss the mark, that is to say, the desired standards set by God to varying extents. The problem with the Roman approach is that it is neccessary to some extent to accept the degree to which people have already missed the mark before realizing the need for theosis; only then can spiritual growth occur. The adultery clearly occurs in the divorce itself and remarriage itself, and not in the consummation of the subsequent marriage, which, while being less worthy than the first, is a fact. The ancient canons of the church allow up to four marriages; surely we should follow these ancient canons.

  3. Pingback: The pastoral road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops | Zippy Catholic


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