January 12, 2015

In October, five cardinals published a book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church, that is diametrically opposed to the views of WCR's 2014 Mustard Seed Award winner, Cardinal Walter Kasper.

The first part of the book is dedicated to the biblical texts pertaining to divorce and remarriage, and the second part examines the teaching and practice of the early Church.

In neither case, biblical or patristic, do these scholars find support for the kind of "toleration" of civil marriages following divorce advocated by Kasper.

This book also examines the Eastern Orthodox practice of oikonomia (understood as "mercy" implying "toleration") in cases of remarriage after divorce and in the context of the vexed question of Eucharistic communion.

It traces the centuries-long history of Catholic resistance to this convention, revealing serious theological and canonical difficulties inherent in Orthodox Church practice.

In the second part of the book, the authors argue in favour of retaining the theological and canonical rationale for the intrinsic connection between traditional Catholic doctrine and sacramental discipline concerning marriage and Communion.

The various studies in this book lead to the conclusion that the Church's longstanding fidelity to the truth of marriage constitutes the irrevocable foundation of its merciful and loving response to the individual who is civilly divorced and remarried.

The book challenges the premise that traditional Catholic doctrine and contemporary pastoral practice are in contradiction.

Accordingly, while Kasper may be a worthy recipient of the WCR 2014 Mustard Seed Award, it is not because of his liberal, revisionist theology.

Alan Macdonald