By Martin Barillas
BARCELONA, Spain, December 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – German Cardinal Walter Kasper, who successfully championed Holy Communion for divorced and “remarried” Catholics, said that Pope Francis feels called by the Holy Spirit to “change” the Church, which will one day include, Kasper said, “opening the door to women” at the altar.
The German cardinal told a Spanish journalist in a report published Dec. 6 during a conference in Barcelona that while priestly celibacy may remain the “law,” the Pope has the authority to ordain viri probati [mature, married men] in “extraordinary cases,” as was suggested at the recent Amazonian Synod. Kasper has frequently come to the defense of the pontiff, criticizing fellow prelates such as Cardinal Raymond Burke, who the Pope dismissed from the Roman Curia.
When asked how he would explain why women are not allowed to access the altar, Kasper said, “It is difficult to explain that today, but I believe that it is an ancient tradition that we share with the Eastern churches. But I think that, in time, the doors will be opened. Besides, there are already many ministries of the Church for which ordination is not necessary.”
Kasper went on to say, “But women are not content with that. Clearly, there are some who are raising their voice and have the right to be heard.”
The cardinal spoke at a Nov. 12-14 conference in Barcelona titled, “The contributions of Pope Francis to theology and pastoral care.” An ally of the current pontiff, Kasper said: “Those who assail the Pope are few, but with the new digital media, a mouse can become an elephant.” As to the possible effects of dissent on the Pope, Kasper said, “The Pope is quite serene because he has great interior confidence, an interior compass: the strength of the Holy Spirit.”
According to Kasper, “Francis is convinced that the Holy Spirit has called on him to change or, in other words, renew the Church. He is working on that.” As for support for the Pope within the Church, Kasper said, “The holy people, faithful to God, love the Pope very much and will not accept a return to the past.”
When Kasper was asked whether Pope Francis is in need of support, Kasper affirmed that it is so, saying that the pontiff is under “many assaults, even though the majority of Catholics and the hierarchy are very pleased with this Pope and his updating of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.” Kasper said that the Pope’s critics are few in number but powerful, saying, “with the new digital media, a little mouse can become an elephant.”
Kasper said that he is confident that the Pope’s agenda will move forward, despite some obstacles. He explained that “the people, the holy people faithful to God, like Francis says, love him very much and will not accept any return to the past.” When asked whether Francis is tired by the criticism he faces, Kasper said, “There are some who criticized some things that the Pope says or does, but with no reason whatsoever, because Francis follows the Gospel.”
As for changes in the Curia, Kasper said that even while it is centuries old, Francis has already made numerous changes. The process of change, he said, has not reached its culmination. “The Pope,” he said, “is quite serene, because he has a great interior self-confidence, an interior compass: the strength of the Spirit.” When asked whether Francis believes himself to have a specific mission to accomplish, the cardinal responded: “Yes, he is convinced that the Spirit has called him to change, or in other words, to renew the Church. That is what he is doing.”
When asked whether the recent naming of new cardinals may mean a pope like Pope Paul VI can be expected, who followed the liberalizing John XXIII, Kasper said, “The Spirit will say.” As to whether Francis has chosen cardinals to elect a successor who will continue his process of change, Kasper answered, “It is evident that the College of Cardinals has changed a great deal. There are many cardinals from the global South and many cardinals who are not known. But conclaves cannot be directed.”
Kasper said that he did not participate in the recently-concluded Amazonian Synod, of which its final document recommended that a new Amazonian rite be created in the Catholic Church, and advocated for the ordination of married men in some cases. Kasper predicted that Pope Francis will soon issue an exhortation to the Church that will go beyond the recommendations issued by the Amazonian Synod.
Kasper was behind the proposal at the 2015 Synod on the Family that divorced Catholics, who have “remarried” and are living in adultery, should be allowed to receive the Eucharist. Pope Francis’ 2016 post-synod Exhortation Amoris Laetitia ultimately sided with Kasper, using a footnote to open the door to Catholics living in second unions to receive Holy Communion. This position is at odds with Catholic doctrine affirmed by popes St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Kasper has also been criticized for seeing “elements of good” in same-sex relationships and for claiming that the Church cannot adequately explain her teachings with regard to homosexuality.