German Cardinal Walter Kasper has just turned 90 (on March 5, yesterday). Though he is often thought of as being a “progressive,” Kasper is also continuing to warn his fellow Catholics leaders in Germany that the “Synodal Way” cannot “re-invent the Church,” that the Church’s perennial doctrines and traditions must be respected….
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints.” —Letter of St. Jude, 1:3 (English Standard Version)
Letter #69, 2023 Monday, March 6: Kasper
German Cardinal Walter Kasper turned 90 yesterday (March 5).
And though he is getting older, he is still speaking out strongly and clearly about the need for unity in the Church, and of the possible danger of “falling into schism” if Church leaders depart from traditional Church teaching.
I appreciate Kasper very much for speaking out in this way, at this time.
1) an article about a recent interview with Kasper on this subject
2) a biographical summary of Kasper’s life, and
3) a 2022 article by the Pew Research Center on the current make-up of the College of Cardinals, previewing the make-up of the College in the event of a Conclave for the election of a new Pope.
Also, here is a link to an interesting article about a lively theological debate 22 years ago between Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
I spoke personally with Ratzinger about this debate in 2001, when it was occurring.
Ratzinger told me he and Kasper had engaged in public theological debates over disputed questions for decades as German Catholic professors of theology.
This was not harmful, Ratzinger continued, but in keeping with their work in the Church, as the task of theologians is, he said, to explore difficult questions with great honesty and freedom.
However, Ratzinger added, since he and Kasper had become high-ranking Church officials — bishops, then cardinals — they both needed slightly to “adjust” their formerly “professorial” attitude of treating all questions as matters for open, public debate, in order not to confuse or disconcert the faithful.
This, Ratzinger said, was the difference between functioning as a theologian in the Church, and functioning as a bishop, an official participant in the magisterium, that is, in the faithful teaching and explication of the faith in accord with the doctrinal tradition handed down “from the beginning.”
Kasper would eventually come to understand this difference in roles, Ratzinger said.
He concluded — after I asked him how Kasper would come to this understanding — “You will help him.”
In the following years, speaking with Kasper on several occasions, often in connection with discussions about Orthodoxy and Russia, because Kasper was then head of the office in charge of the dialogue for the unity of Christians, I did mention this conversation to him, and set forth to him what I perceived to be Cardinal Ratzinger’s view on this matter.
And at 90, Kasper is now speaking with courage as strongly as he ever has on the necessity for Catholic bishops to hold fast to the true teaching “once for all time handed down”…—RM
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Cardinal Kasper warns the German Church against a schism (link)
Monday, March 6, 2023
(edited by the editorial staff of “Il sismografo”)
“You cannot reinvent the Church,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper in an interview with the German agency KNA, referring to the proposals of the German synodal path.
The former president of the then Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity stressed that the initiative “is now subject to certain illusions,” although synodality has been part of the life of the Church from the beginning.
He noted that the synodal path does not want a schism, but it can “fall into a schism,” just like “the great powers entered the First World War more than a hundred years ago, even if nobody really wanted it.”
The need for humility
The German cardinal indicated that the synodal journey should also “take seriously the questions that come from other episcopal conferences.”
“Don’t act like you already have the truth. This always makes Germans unpopular abroad. When I meet cardinals here in Rome, they shake their heads about the Germans.”
The cardinal ruled out that the decisions of the synodal journey obtain the approval of the universal Church, even if there are individuals in other countries who think the same way. But they are by no means the majority.
This applies, for example, to the ordination of women, or to the idea of democratic participation in the governance of the Church.
The Church is not a democracy! Above all on this subject, many things have not been thought of theologically or from the point of view of tradition, Cardinal Kasper said, referring to the proposals of his compatriots.
The cardinal admits that the Church is going through an epochal revolution and it is impossible that it can continue its activity as before.
“But how the future of the Church will be in detail, none of us knows,” observed Cardinal Kasper who just yesterday, Sunday, March 5, celebrated his 90th birthday.
German bishops want change
Most members of the German bishops’ conference want to involve God’s people more in decision-making, as well as to persuade the Vatican of the reformist course of the German Synodal Path, while a minority share Rome’s profound criticisms.
This was underlined by the head of the German Episcopate, Bishop Georg Bätzing, at the end of the spring general meeting in Dresden.
The meeting took place a week before the 5th and final Plenary Assembly of the Synodal Path, which will take place from March 9 to 11 in Frankfurt.
The President of the German Episcopate predicts that “due to the opposition of various bishops, some proposed resolutions could fail.”
[End, Il Sismografo summary of a recent interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper on the German “Synodal Path,” link]
Here is an article written and published on March 2, four days ago, just before Cardinal Walter Kasper turned 90 on March 5, yesterday:
Cardinal Walter Kasper turns 90 on Sunday 5 March. There will be 26 cardinals over ninety (link)
(edited by the “Il sismografo” editorial staff)
This coming Sunday the German cardinal Walter Kasper will join the substantial group of cardinals who have passed the age of 90. From Sunday this group will have 26 cardinals
(Biographical notes – Vatican.va) Cardinal Walter Kasper, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was born on 5 March 1933 in Heidenheim/Brenz, in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart (Germany). From 1952 to 1956 he completed his studies in philosophy and theology in Tübingen and Munich.
On 6 April 1957 he received priestly ordination.
In 1961 he obtained the degree of Doctor of Theology at the Theological Faculty of Tübingen, discussing a thesis entitled: “Die Lehre von der Tradition in der Römischen Schule” (“The Doctrine of Tradition according to the Roman School”).
From 1961 to 1964 he held the position of assistant (WissenschaftlicheAssistant) to Professors Leo Scheffczyk and Hans Küng.
In 1964, still at the Faculty of Theology in Tübingen, he obtained a doctorate with a thesis entitled: “Philosophie und Theologie der Geschichte in der Spätphilosophie Schellings” (“Philosophy and Theology of History in Schelling’s Late Philosophy”).
From 1964 to 1970 he was professor of dogmatic theology at the Faculty of Theology of Münster, and held the position of dean of the Faculty from 1969 to 1970.
From 1970 to 1989 he was professor of dogmatic theology at the Faculty of Theology of Tübingen, and held the position of dean of the Faculty from 1970 to 1971. During these years, and precisely from 1975 to 1979, he held the position of presidency of the Assembly of German-speaking dogmatic scholars.
In 1979 he was appointed consultant to the then Secretariat for Christian Unity (today the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity), and a member of the Theological Department of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, the «Faith and Constitution» Commission.
From 24 November to 8 December 1985 he was Special Secretary at the II Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.
On 17 April 1989 he was appointed Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. He received episcopal ordination on 17 June 1989. He headed the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart until 31 May 1999.
In 1991 the German Bishops’ Conference entrusted him with the office of President of the Commission for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the Commission for doctrine of the faith.
In 1994 the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity entrusted him with the role of Co-President of the International Commission for Catholic-Lutheran dialogue.
In 1998 he was appointed consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
On 16 March 1999 John Paul II appointed him Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. He assumes office the following 1 June.
In 2001 he was nominated consultor of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
He is a member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
He has received various official recognitions, including the following honorary doctorates: in 1990 from the Catholic University of America (Washington); in 1991 from St. Mar’s Seminary and University (Baltimore); in 2000 by the Université Marc Bloc (Strasbourg).
In 2001 he was awarded the “Honorarprofessur” of the Faculty of Theology at the “Eberhard-Karl” State University of Tübingen.
On March 3, 2001, the Pope appointed him President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
President emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, 1 July 2010.
By pontifical appointment he participated in the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization (October 2014) and in the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on the theme The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world (October 2015).
He participated in the conclave of April 2005 which elected Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave of March 2013 which elected Pope Francis.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by St. John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 2001, of the Title of Ognissanti in Via Appia Nuova, Deaconry elevated pro hac vice to Presbyteral Title (21 February 2011).
[End, Biographical notes on the life of Cardinal Walter Kasper]
Here is an article published in mid-summer, 2022, from the Pew Research Center about the cardinals named by Pope Francis, and the current make-up of the College of Cardinals, in view of a possible upcoming Conclave:
Under Pope Francis, the College of Cardinals has become less European (link)
By Jeff Diamant
July 19, 2022
Unless his reign is short, a Roman Catholic pontiff typically appoints a majority of the men who vote for his successor. But Pope Francis’ additions to the College of Cardinals since his election in 2013 also have served another purpose — tilting the leadership structure of the Roman Catholic Church away from its historic European base and toward developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The pope recently announced that he will appoint 16 new voting cardinals (in addition to five other cardinals who are 80 or older and therefore ineligible to vote).
After this latest group is officially installed at an August 27 ceremony in Vatican City, the College of Cardinals will have 132 voting members, 40% of whom are European, down from 52% in 2013.
Francis’ appointments (including the recently announced future cardinals) have increased the overall representation of the Asia-Pacific region within the body of voting cardinals from 9% in 2013 to 17% in 2022, while increasing the representation of sub-Saharan Africa from 9% to 12%.
These figures include cardinals who were named by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II.
Francis, an Argentinian who is the first pope from outside Europe since the eighth century, still has picked more cardinals from Europe than from any other region.
Of the 83 newly appointed or currently eligible voting cardinals Francis has named so far during his papacy, 34% are from Europe, 22% from the Asia-Pacific region, 20% from Latin America and the Caribbean, 13% from sub-Saharan Africa, 8% from North America and 2% from the Middle East-North Africa region. Altogether, these cardinals appointed by Francis will make up a majority (63%) of the 132 voting members of the College of Cardinals after the Aug. 27 installation ceremony.
Among the 16 future cardinal electors Francis has chosen this year, four will represent Europe (Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom). Six will represent the Asia-Pacific region (two from India and one each from East Timor, Mongolia, Singapore and South Korea). Three other future cardinal electors are from Latin America and the Caribbean (two from Brazil and one from Paraguay). Two are from sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana and Nigeria) and one is from North America (U.S.-born Robert McElroy, archbishop of San Diego).
Given that, as of 2010, only about a quarter (24%) of the global Catholic population lives in Europe, the continent remains heavily overrepresented among voting cardinals.
By this measure, the most underrepresented region within the Church’s leadership — even with Francis’ new picks — is Latin America and the Caribbean, which is home to 39% of the worldwide Catholic population (again, as of 2010) but has only 18% of the cardinals.
[Note: This is an update of a post originally published Nov. 17, 2016, and most recently updated on Nov. 23, 2020.
[End, Pew Research Center July 2022 article on the College of Cardinals]