Inside the mind of a Kasperite

Chiesa has a revealing essay by Father Paul-Anthony McGavin, a Kasperite heretic.  The whole thing is humbug, of course, but I will try to pick out what seems to be the core humbug.

For example, the Pope’s words to seminarians of the Pontifical Gregorian University: “The theologian who is satisfied with his complete and conclusive thought is mediocre” (L’Osservatore Romano, 18 April 2014:13), seem weak in methodology, and unhelpful for young men who are still in the process of building a coherent appreciation of Catholic doctrine. Yet the sentiments in Bergoglio’s words echo Ratzinger’s mature reflections of what he found stultifying in much of the seminary formation that he experienced as a young man. This is seen in Ratzinger’s recollections published in English as “Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977”, where he portrays the theological education of his seminary years in the following terms: “The crystal-clear logic seemed to me to be too closed in on itself, too impersonal and ready-made” (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998: 44).

Denigration of logic and concern for objective reality is key to Kasperite methodology.

“When the gentiles who do not have the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law (Roman 2:14-15)”.

This is essentially a restatement of natural law. Yet it is not natural law as understood in syllogistic philosophical terms, nor in terms of positive law, but natural law as understood in a congruency between premise (which may be a deontic articulation of law as in the Decalogue) and empirics that witness to the coherence and integrity of a living witness.

“Natural law = rule that matches my feelings.”  The author proceeds to throw up dust intended to relativize the clear position of scripture and Catholic dogma.  I’ll skip this, because I want to focus on what’s distinct to the Kasperite perspective.

Nor does a noetic sacramental theology or moral theology close the issue, and Pope Francis is unlikely to be daunted by such attempts at closure or – in the expression of Joseph Ratzinger earlier cited – to accept a view of orthodox theology as “merely repeat[ing] magisterial statements of doctrine and traditional formulae”…

Although it seems a harsh thing to say, it is as though Corbett and his collaborators have never sat in the confessional…

One can thus in a certain perspective understand why those in a contra-position to Kasper use the term “adultery” in respect of divorce and remarriage. In the civil order from which I write in Australia, and in most other countries, moral categories are not evoked and the conditions for civil divorce are simply “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. In pastoral circumstances of the kind to which I have earlier alluded, the language is along the lines of: “Externally there is the ‘form’ of marriage [not referring to a form of words, as above], but not the ‘substance’ of marriage [again, not referring to language usage in the schema outlined above]; in truth, the marriage is dead”. Those who look at the issue only in canonical terms and in terms of technical sacramental theology cannot accept the description of death. Viewed from the contra-position, narratives such as I recount from penitents are simply phenomenological statements, and not “reality” statements. From the contra-position, the celebration of the marriage contract effects an ontological change – just as the valid celebration of baptism effects an ontological change in the baptised person, and just as the valid celebration of the sacred mysteries effects an ontological change that is explained as transubstantiation…

Exactly.  And how do you answer this, Mr. Phenomenology?

This is a real quandary, because the Church has never dealt simply in phenomenological terms…

in phenomenological terms one may encounter enactments of a spouse or of spouses that are starkly in contradiction to what is professed of the matrimonial state. Those in the contra-position hold that the matrimonial state remains in the face of these violations and in the face of phenomenological death. The very day after writing this section of this paper, I noticed the following in the 17 August 2014 address in Korea of Pope Francis to the Bishops of Asia:

“Then too, there is a [another] temptation: that of the apparent security to be found in hiding behind easy answers, ready formulas, rules and regulations. Jesus clashed with people who would hide behind laws, regulations and easy answers… He called them hypocrites.”

Jesus hates people who apply deductive logic to His own rules.

in his consistory address Cardinal Kasper said:
“It is not enough to consider the problem only from the point of view and from the perspective of the Church as a sacramental institution. We need a paradigm change and we must… consider the situation also from the perspective of those who are suffering and asking for help”.

Objective reality is just one perspective.

It is not my purpose here to “find a solution” – that, among other things, is the challenge of the upcoming Synods of the Church and the Holy Father in communion with the whole Church. But I will say that it is arrogant and specious to speak dismissively of the Orthodox practice of oikonomia…

Ah, yes.  Penitential adultery again.

It is engaged conversation that is needed. What Cardinal Kasper has said is not “the last word”.

How gracious of the heretics that they don’t claim to have spoken definitively.

The following quote from “Evangelii gaudium” is an example of the manner of thinking of Pope Francis that is holistic, concrete, and pastoral:

“There… exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply ‘are’, whereas ideas are ‘worked out’. There has to be a continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone… So [another] principle comes into play: realities are greater than ideas. This calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems bereft of wisdom” (n. 231).

Given what has come before, we can now understand what Francis means by “ideas” and “realities”.  He is not making the obvious statement that all concepts are simplifications or the even more obvious statement that some ideas are wrong.  “Ideas” in this case means objective reality as grasped by the mind:  Catholic doctrine and natural law.  “Reality” means “people’s desires and feelings”.  “Dialogue” means we must adjust doctrine to gratify human sinfulness.

4 Responses

  1. Unless I am misunderstanding Father McGavin’s essay, he thinks the spirit of Christianity is found in an inclination of heart- a sort of noble sentimentality, in our own day expressed via phenomenology but perhaps in other times expressed in different ways, that recognizes the yearning of individuals and makes use of definite intellectual concepts only in service of said yearnings, so long as said yearnings are not on their face frightening and violent such that a yearning for marital union is eminently acceptable whereas a yearning for serial killing would not be.

    He contrasts this approach with the modern day Pharisees. These hypocrites lack the true spirit of our religion. They place heavy burdens on the people. They serve laws and not God.

    In the broader civilization of Europe and North America, this distinction is rather pervasive. While everyone agrees that the murder of an innocent adult is contrary to the Gospel of Christ, an enumeration of laws about other areas of conduct, such as about marriage and adultery, is oftentimes condemned as emerging from a pharisaical spirit.

    There is almost no defense against the charge of being a pharisee.

  2. […] us happy.  The foulest, most degrading form of heresy, far worse than honest atheism.  “Phenomenological” impression–e.g. feeling that one’s marriage is dead, whatever the hell that […]

  3. > There is almost no defense against the charge of being a pharisee.

    Well put. Accusing other people of being pharisees is itself the Christian form of pharisaism.

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