Criticism of Pope Francis’s 2016 document on family life – which offers a cautious opening for divorced and remarried couples to receive the Eucharist – is “ridiculous,” according to one of the pontiff’s closest cardinal advisers.
Speaking Monday on the Italian television show Stanze Vaticane, 85-year-old German Cardinal Walter Kasper said the discussion of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia “has been reduced to the discussion of a footnote…and this is ridiculous.”
The footnote in chapter 8 of the document seems to open the door for some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.
Kasper’s latest book is The Message of Amoris Laetita: A Fraternal Discussion, originally published in German, which recently came out in Italian translation.
(Kasper was also the author of Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, which was recommended by Francis during his first Angelus address as pope in 2013.)
The cardinal told the television show “it is good to start a fraternal discussion [on Amoris Laetitia], to create peace.”
“This is my intention, to create a peace, to begin at a place of at least mutual understanding, because it is not worthwhile for the Church to be divided between friends and enemies,” he said.
Kasper said that Amoris Laetitia is important to help young people find happiness in their lives, and that the discussion of the controversial footnote has overshadowed this fact.
“I’ve been in pastoral ministry for quite a while, and I’ve learned a lot in the confessional: There are very different situations among people and it’s not possible to make a general law for all people,” he said. “We need to discern the concrete situation in front of us, and then we may have a different outcome.”
Kasper said that although the commandants of God are universally valid for all situations, they must be applied to the specific situation, “and this is the tradition of the Church.”
The issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried seemed to be definitively settled when the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – then under German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI – issued a document in 1994 saying the practice could not be allowed.
However, Francis seems to have re-opened the question, and in 2014 asked Kasper to address a meeting of cardinals about the subject in 2014.
The proposal to change the Church’s practice was even known as the “Kasper Plan” during the two Synods of Bishops on the family held in 2014 and 2015.
It has been strongly opposed by some members of the hierarchy, and four conservative cardinals presented Francis with four “dubia,” or questions, on Amoris Laetitia, asking the pontiff to clarify his teaching on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.