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CRUX: Cardinals jousting in public? Been there, done that

20. sept. 2014

John L. Allen Jr., Crux, skriver bl.a. 

Five high-ranking cardinals have published a book pushing back against Kasper’s view that Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment — meaning a declaration from a church court that their first union was invalid — ought to be able to receive Communion and the other sacraments of the church under certain circumstances.

The opposition features Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who is Francis’ finance czar, and whose muscle under this pope was recently confirmed when he managed to get his protégé named his successor as the Archbishop of Sydney; Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a German who serves as the pope’s doctrinal czar; and American Cardinal Raymond Burke, a hero to Catholic traditionalists and cultural warriors everywhere.

On the other hand, Kasper also doesn’t lack for allies. Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of Francis’ council of cardinal advisors, is one, and Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, is another.

Ravasi recently used a Vatican news conference to say that even the earliest Christian communities recognized exceptions to the ban on divorce.


  • It’s important to remember that however amusing it may be to see top Catholic officials trading barbs, to some extent it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing, because a Synod of Bishops is merely an advisory body to the pope, who remains the supreme decision-maker.

Frankly, cardinals can think whatever they want to about who should and shouldn’t be able to receive Communion. Under Catholic law, however, there’s only one person who has the authority to tweak those rules, and it’s the pope.

Canon 331 of the Code of Canon Law, the body of law for the Catholic Church, states that the pope has “supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power,” which basically means that the buck stops on his desk for pretty much everything.

As a result, the only meaningful question heading into next month’s Synod of Bishops isn’t what Walter Kasper or Gerhard Müller thinks, however fun it may be to watch them trade blows.

The question is what Pope Francis thinks, and assuming he addresses the synod at some point, as other popes have done, perhaps we’ll get a hint of which way he’s inclined to go. Francis has already called another, larger synod for 2015, so no immediate decision is expected, but we may get a hint of which way he’s leaning.

Assuming that happens, it will be real news. For now, cardinals jousting in public? Always fun to watch, but fundamentally … been there, done that