Cardinal Walter Kasper has said the main purpose of his speech to cardinals gathered for last month’s consistory was to deepen the theological understanding of the family.
The cardinal’s speech, which introduced the forthcoming Synod on the family, is featured in The Gospel of the Family, a book to be published this week in German and Italian.
The speech caused controversy when it was leaked to the press last week because of its allusions to a more relaxed attitude to divorced and remarried Catholics.
Speaking to Vatican Radio March 10th, Cardinal Kasper insisted the main purpose of his speech was to “deepen the theological understanding of challenges facing the family.” While the Church must remain faithful to its teaching on the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, he said, it is vital to “help, support, encourage” those experiencing difficulties in their family life.
“I told the Pope from the very beginning that I have my opinions and the Pope encouraged me to speak about my opinions – he wanted an open discussion about an urgent problem,” the cardinal said. “My main intention was not to speak about divorced and remarried people but to speak about the Gospel of the family …. I think the majority of young people want stable relationships, want to live in a family….and therefore the Church has to help them so I wanted to build up a new, better, more deep understanding of family life.”
“Then I spoke also about the situation when people fail with their family life….and the Church has to be close to them, to help, support and encourage them and there my proposal (was) to find a way between ‘rigorism’ (strictness) – which cannot be the way of normal Christians – and a pure ‘laxism’ (leniency),” he said. “I think this can be the only approach of the Church today.”
He insisted he was adhering to the full teaching of the Church but said the teaching has to be applied “to concrete situations, as Jesus did it and as Pope Francis does it very often.” The doctrine of the Church “is not an ideology in the clouds but God wants to be present, close to his people,” he said.
“It’s obvious if you see the answers to the questionnaire of the secretariat of the synod to see that there is a difficulty, an abyss [so] the Church has to bridge this abyss,” he continued. “It does not mean pure appeasement policies, but the Church must explain in a new way what is family and matrimony in order to help people and at the same time remain faithful to the Gospel.”
The German cardinal said he does not like to speak of revolution. “There were doctrines of the Holy Office before the (Vatican) Council against ecumenism, yet the Council found a way not to destroy or negate the doctrine, but to find ways to interpret it in an adequate way,” he said. “And I ask myself why it could not be possible also with other doctrines.”
He recalled that Blessed John Henry Newman wrote a famous essay on listening to the faithful in matters of faith. “Therefore we have to listen to people living family life – not just listen to people living in celibacy – both belong to the people of God, but the great majority are not these people,” he said.
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