January 26, 2015

The Church's pastoral practices have always been rooted in mercy and compassion. The manner in which these are expressed varies. However, the essence of every Church doctrine remains intact.

Cardinal Walter Kasper challenges the interconnectedness between doctrine and pastoral practice. In his haste to honour Kasper with the Mustard Seed Award ("Kasper honoured by WCR as Church 'mustard seed'," Dec. 29), Glen Argan overlooks legitimate concerns about Kasper's proposal that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can receive Communion without annulment.

Kasper's proposal is based on the principle of "graduality": the idea that a remarried Catholic can commit to gradually relinquish a sinful practice and return to the sacraments, even though there is still the intention to live in what the Church considers an adulterous relationship.

Consistent with Church teaching, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have said a pastoral practice formulated on a principle of graduality cannot be justified; the Church has no authority "to tolerate what is impossible to accept."

Kasper argues that allowing divorced-remarried Catholics to receive Communion would not change Church doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage or the inviolability of the Eucharist. This obfuscates the relationship between doctrine and practice.

Doctrine and practice are intrinsically linked – when one is changed, so is the other.

Also, Kasper is inclined to modify the essential biblical links between mercy and fidelity, and that of truth and grace so they conform to a cultural understanding of these concepts.

Shaping pastoral practices upon the secular understanding of these fundamental concepts undermines the integrity of sacramental life.

Pope Benedict cautioned that charity easily degenerates into sentiment; the result is that "a tyranny of kindness" replaces mercy.

The latest instalment of a possibly heretical theology promoted by Kasper fails on scriptural and doctrinal grounds. It demeans the causes for which martyrs have died and glosses over nearly 2,000 years of Church tradition.

Eugene & Daria Malo