Vatican sources deny that Pope is upset over cardinals' marriage book
Catholic Church sources have dismissed rumors that Pope Francis is
annoyed by an Ignatius Press book critical of Cardinal Walter Kasper’s
position on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried.
The French Catholic newspaper La Croix said Sept. 17 that “a senior
source close to the Argentine Pope” claimed that Pope Francis would be
“annoyed by the publication of this collective work.”
However, sources close to the Pope denied this claim, telling CNA that the Pope is not even aware of the book.
The book, from Ignatius Press, is titled “Remaining in the Truth of
Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.” It is a
collection of essays on the pastoral approach to Catholics who have
divorced and civilly remarried. Authors of the essays include five
cardinals as well as other scholars.
Contributors include Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Raymond Burke,
prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal
Walter Brandmuller, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for
Historical Sciences; Cardinal Carlo Caffarra of Bologna, one of the
closest theologians to St. John Paul II in questions of morality and the
family; and Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, president emeritus of the
Prefecture for Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
The book is set to be published next month, around the time that the
Synod of Bishops will be meeting in Rome to discuss issues involving the
The Ignatius Press book’s introduction says the essays in “Remaining in
the Truth of Christ” are responses to Cardinal Walter Kasper’s 2014
book “The Gospel of the Family,” which includes his advocacy of giving
Holy Communion to some Catholics who have divorced and civilly remarried
without an annulment.
Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder and editor of Ignatius Press,
responded sharply to claims by Cardinal Kasper in an email exchange with
CNA. He drew from Cardinal Kasper’s Sept. 18 interview with Italian
newspaper La Stampa, responding point-by-point to the cardinal’s
In the interview, Cardinal Kasper complained of learning about the book
from journalists who had received advance copies of it. The cardinal
said that he had not received an advance copy, adding, “In my entire
academic life nothing like this has ever happened to me.”
“You chose to leave academia to enter public life. Get used to it,” Fr. Fessio responded.
The priest also referenced Cardinal Kasper’s statement, “If cardinals
who are the closest collaborators of the pope intervene in this
organized and public manner, at least in regard to the most recent
history of the Church we are facing an unprecedented situation.”
“Well, you did something unprecedented,” Fr. Fession replied. “And it
was organized and public. Well, it was supposed to be done in secrecy,
but then you published your consistory intervention as a book.”
Furthermore, Fr. Fessio responded to Cardinal Kasper’s statement that
his consistory remarks had not offered “a definitive solution” but
rather “posed some questions and offered considerations for possible
“Well, what are you complaining about then?” Fr. Fessio asked. “You got
some answers and some responses to your considerations. Or weren’t
those the answers you were expecting?”
Controversy over the subject arose when Cardinal Kasper delivered a
prominent two-hour address to the February 2014 cardinals’ consistory,
which focused on the topic of the family. He has advocated his positon
in other interviews and speeches as well.
During the consistory speech, Cardinal Kasper asked “is it not perhaps
an exploitation of the person” when a person who has been divorced and
remarried is excluded from receiving Communion. He suggested that for
“the smaller segment of the divorced and remarried,” perhaps they could
be admitted to “the sacrament of penance, and then of Communion.”
In an interview with Italian newspaper Il Mattino published Sept. 18,
Cardinal Kasper charged that some bishops in the upcoming synod “want a
Catholic doctrine is “not a closed system” but “a living tradition that
develops,” he said, adding that he is not “the target of the
controversy,” but rather that the Pope “probably is.”
The contributors to the Ignatius Press book write that the Bible and
the Church Fathers do not support the practice advocated by Cardinal
Kasper. The authors say that there is no contradiction between “genuine
mercy and compassion” and Catholic doctrine and pastoral practice.
Catholic teaching is “based on the teaching of Jesus himself,” they say,
according to the Ignatius Press summary of the book.
The contributors also consider the Eastern Orthodox approach to divorce
and remarriage and Catholic resistance to it. They find “serious
theological and pastoral difficulties” in the practice.
Coverage of the rumors surrounding the Ignatius Press book has been
prominent among those who speculate or assume that Pope Francis intends
to side with Cardinal Kasper’s position at the bishops’ synod.
Pope Francis himself has reaffirmed the indissolubility and lifelong
nature of Christian marriage, such as his April 2014 remarks to the
bishops of South Africa.
“The holiness and indissolubility of Christian matrimony, often
disintegrating under tremendous pressure from the secular world, must be
deepened by clear doctrine and supported by the witness of committed
married couples,” the Pope said, stressing that these truths must be
taught “with great compassion.”
Other critical evaluations of Cardinal Kasper’s position have come from
Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Congregation for Bishops prefect
Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal George Pell, the last of whom is on
the council of nine cardinals who are special advisers to Pope Francis.