Bum rap for Cdl. Kasper


The Vatican's chief official for relations with other Christians gave a speech Friday morning. Here's how our friends at Catholic World News led the story:

Cardinal Kasper backs "Eucharistic hospitality"

Vatican , Jun. 18 (CWNews.com) - Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has said that "Eucharistic hospitality" is licit in some circumstances.

Speaking at a major conference of German Catholics in the city of Ulm on June 18, Cardinal Kasper said that "there are circumstances when a non-Catholic can receive Communion at a Catholic Mass."

The CWN writer suggests that the Cardinal is at odds with the Pope's recent writings and Vatican directives on the question of non-Catholics and Holy Communion:
In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II devoted most of a chapter to the issue, stressing that non-Catholics should not receive Communion. The Pope argued forcefully that the practice of intercommunion is an offense against ecumenism, not an aid, because it creates the false impression that non-Catholics share the Church's teaching on the nature of the Eucharist.

In the recent instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum , the Congregation for Divine Worship reiterated that stand, emphasizing that under any normal circumstances "Eucharistic hospitality" is a grave abuse.

And as you might expect, readers chimed in with expressions of outrage:
"Kaspar is an embarrassment to Catholicism. His positions are heretical and reflective of an apostate who has lost the faith...."

"Cardinal Kasper should be given the boot out of the Vatican's door...."

"What a joke - the head of the council for Christian Unity doing everything he can to destroy unity in the Church. ..."

Now, I don't know where CWN got their impression of the Cardinal's speech, because their article does not reflect what he said on this subject. The term "Eucharistic hospitality" does not appear in the speech. The statement about circumstances in which non-Catholics may receive Communion isn't his opinion: he's citing the Code of Canon Law.

All in all, I think the CWN piece misrepresents the Cardinal's speech, so here's the relevant passage, available from the conference website (my translation):

The Question of Eucharistic Sharing

The question of sharing of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper remains. For us the Eucharist is the Sacrament of Faith. "The mystery of faith", we say, every time after the words of institution or consecration. At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer the assembled community responds to it with "Amen": "Yes, we believe," and at the reception of Communion each individual repeats this "Amen": "Yes, this is the Body of Christ". This "Amen" of course means more than a purely intellectual assent to a dogma: it is a Yes that must be given with one's life and must be clothed with a Christian life. For this reason there can be no general open invitation to Communion, even for Catholics.

The basis for admission to the Eucharist is the question of whether one can say "Amen" with the whole assembled community at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and at the reception of Communion with an honest heart: "Amen" to what happens in the celebration of the Eucharist according to the Catholic Faith; and whether one is bearing witness to this "Amen" with one's life. Luther and Calvin would not have been able or willing to speak such an "Amen", because their protest against the papacy was aimed most strongly against the Mass. Thanks be to God, we have come a fair way along with the Lutherans over this question; but even today there are still serious differences.

So the rule of thumb holds: one goes to Communion in the Church to which one belongs. There are good biblical reasons for this rule (1 Cor. 10:17) and a long common tradition that reaches all the way to the '70s of the twentieth century.

Alongside this basic rule there is a second one. The Council says: "the grace to be obtained" commends common worship in some cases (Decree on Ecumenism, 10). [Trans. note: actually #8. --RC] Similarly the Catholic code of canon law says: "The salvation of souls is the supreme law" (CIC c. 1752). For this reason canon law foresees that in certain extraordinary situations a non-Catholic Christian, providing that he shares the eucharistic faith and witnesses it in his life, can be admitted to Communion (CIC. c. 844; Instruction "Redemptoris sacramentum", 85). Naturally all the thinkable individual situations cannot be listed in the canons; canon law sets a binding framework, within which one can act responsibly as a pastor.

The Pope wrote in a more spiritual manner about the meaning of the provisions of canon law in the 1995 encyclical on ecumenism. He writes that it is "a reason for joy, that Catholic priests in certain individual cases can confer the sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick upon other Christians who do not yet stand in full communion with the Catholic Church, but earnestly desire the reception of these Sacraments, ask for them at their own initiative, and manifest the faith that the Catholic Church confesses in these Sacraments" (Ut unum sint, 46). This sentence from the ecumenism encyclical was apparently so important for the Pope that he quoted it in full in his encyclical on the Eucharist in 2003 (Ecclesia de eucharistia, 46).

I have confidence that our priests possess sufficient pastoral and spiritual sensitivity to find solutions, along the line given by the Pope, in agreement with the bishop, that do justice to the respective personal situations and varied circumstances.

To label the foregoing statement as an endorsement of "Eucharistic hospitality" is seriously misleading, and deserves a correction.

[Note: The German text of the speech is available on-line as a document in MS format.]


RC - I agree in this instance the Cardinal was judged wrongly, but this is the same Cardinal who said the Church is re-evaluating the validity of Anglican orders. One wonders if he understands papal infallibility and what the words "null and void" mean. I believe his reputation is well-earned, though he could be mellowing with age. Then again he could be getting fruitier, flakier and nuttier by the day.

Cdl. Kasper has indeed made some mistakes. OTOH, the fuss about his statement on Anglican orders might be a bit of a bum rap too, depending on what he actually said.

My first guess is that CWN may have based its story on some badly done wire-service report -- in which case CWN could be faulted for the lack of attribution.

To their credit, CWN did accept a comment from me taking them to task for the tilt of this story, and posted it among the other reader comments on the web page.

Thanks, Richard for your thoughtfulness and diligence in correcting this story and elminating yet another possible source of scandal. It makes such a difference when you read what he actually said!

Did Kasper mean that the original orders might not be null and void? If so, that would be pretty bad. Might he have meant that they were investigating the possibility that Anglican orders may have been validified in the last hundred and fifty years by a "Holy Orders infusion" from the Old Catholic schismatics? That would, as far as I know, be a legitimate thing to investigate.

TPFKAC has a point. The Anglicans have made a point of receiving, in some cases, multiple lines of Holy Orders. Some do come from the Old Catholic schismatics -- in fact, the Old Catholic schismatics have given Holy Orders to most of the "independent Catholic churches" that exist today.

I am not sure what Kasper said about Anglican orders, and as we can see some are apt to put words into his mouth he did not say or mean - his theological writings can be quite technical and highly nuanced so he must be read with care and attention. We must also avoid automatically reading the worst into people's words if they are unintentionally ambiguous or unclear. Charity is meant to extend to all aspects of church life.

As for Anglican orders a correction is needed - Leo XIII's letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury declaring Anglican orders "null and void" was not an act of infallibility (it meets none of the requirements), and the committee he set up to examine the matter was pretty evenly split on the subject. Whereas the final word HAS been said on women's ordination (No!) for example, it has NOT been said on Anglican orders.

And this is the same CWN that loves to pat itself on the back for allegedly doing bold and accurate reporting of things over which other Catholic media prefer to pass.

But, as we see again and again, in fact, their journalistic standards are pretty low. Last summer or so, I noted various examples on HMS Blog.

There you go agian with the charity in all asspects of life bit it is not easy is it Mr. Kevin Miller.

One difficulty I find about CWN's stories is that they usually do not identify the writer and often do not identify his information sources. Dom tells me that the Kasper piece came from a correspondent in Rome.

This leaves me wondering how the inflammatory term "hospitality" got put into the Cdl's mouth: was it edited in by the US staff, the Rome correspondent, or somebody else?

I've sent Dom a note about making their attributions clearer, and I think CWN's open to that sort of constructive suggestion.

Good luck, RC. They seem very happy to criticize everyone else, from Zenit on down, but their own journalism seems to get worse as the years go by, rather than better - i.e. - I haven't noticed the openness that you have. I canceled my subscription a year or so ago for that reason, and what people have pointed out to me since then only confirms in my mind that I did the right thing.

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Richard Chonak

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