Kasper’s Empty Mouthings
If you want to understand what makes Cardinal Walter Kasper and his pals tick, the best exponent I know is Dr Thomas Stark, professor of philosophy at the university of of St. Pölten in Austria, whom I met recently at the symposium by Lake Garda. Last autumn he gave a lecture in Vienna, Historicity and German Idealism in the Thought of Walter Kasper. It’s pretty heavy stuff, so I wouldn’t recommend that you plough through it unless you have quite a profound knowledge of philosophy. Later, though, in an interview with the American National Catholic Register, he explained himself in a way that even a thickie like me can understand. Here is a shortened version of that interview.
Professor Stark, can you summarize your talk for the benefit of our English-speaking readers?
… I would say that one can clearly see that Kasper’s position is deeply rooted in German Idealistic philosophy…The problem with this philosophy is the relationship between history and truth. And the problem with Kasper’s position, as far as I understand him, is that he accepts historicism [where history is seen as a standard of value or as a determinant of events] just as a fact…The problem with this sort of theology is that it is difficult to understand, not because one has to be very intelligent to understand it, but because it is not coherent, in my opinion. And one can only figure it out if one understands the language they use. …The way they attempt to intertwine all of their theories forms a sort of pseudo-dialectic that is not really logical and coherent, and they put it in such a way as to provide an opportunity to get away with novel theories without being under the critical view of the magisterium, because they can always shift to the right and then to the left, as need be.
How do we see the principles you’ve just described play out, for example, in Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to allow remarried divorcees to have access to holy Communion?
Well, this is obvious. They say, ‘We cannot change doctrine, but we must change the pastoral application of doctrine or the practice,’ which is contradictory, because you can’t change practice without altering doctrine, because practice follows directly from doctrine. So this is pure fantasy. For anyone who thinks on this for a moment, it becomes clear that it simply can’t be done. You have to change doctrine in order to change the moral teaching.
Including the Sixth Commandment and the Church’s doctrine on the holy Eucharist?
Of course. Yes. So they are essentially destroying the whole sacramental structure of the Church by pretending to be addressing mere ‘pastoral’ considerations. It is a ruse.
Do you think it is a conscious effort to subvert the Church’s teaching? Do you think they are conscious of what they are doing or that they think it’s all truly acceptable?
I have often thought about what is really going on in the minds of these people. Initially, I couldn’t figure it out, but the more I am exposed to their thought, the more I become convinced that we’re dealing with a sort of dementia.
I will give you one of the best examples: If you read, for example, what people like Cardinal Kasper and others have written about the mystery of the Resurrection, you really can’t understand what they are saying. Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead or did he not? Or is the question of any real importance? They don’t come right out and say, ‘Well, it’s not important whether the tomb of Christ is empty.’ Rather, they posit that there could be some kind of Resurrection that does not conflict with not actually knowing whether the tomb is empty or not. It’s all very vague, and the student walks away not understanding what this is all about. I always say, ‘Well, the tomb is empty. I’ve been to it very often, and I’m a witness. I’ve been in the tomb of Our Lord several times, so I can tell you that it’s empty.’ The question isn’t whether it’s empty, but how it got empty.
Do you think it’s a kind of sophism?
It is very much a kind of sophism! And I fear that the real reason for all of this is, tragically, that a lot of theologians today have simply lost not their faith, but let me put it in these words: They have lost their faith in their faith. They are people who don’t believe what they believe, and this is precisely the definition of Modernism. Charles Péguy says that Modernists are people who do not believe what they believe. And I think that it’s exactly correct. These people believe in the resurrection of Christ with no empty tomb. They believe in miracles without miracles having actually taken place. For example, Kasper does not believe in the miracles that have to do with nature — the calming of the Sea of Galilee, for example, or the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, things like that. He just believes in things like, ‘Well, there were people who were said to be possessed by demons — with the background, we don’t believe that — and Christ takes a sort of therapeutic approach to them; and this, in fact, was interpreted as a miracle, but of course these things don’t need to be taken in the literal sense.’ So the Modernists believe in miracles without miracles, in the Resurrection without a resurrection, in virginity without virginity, etc. And this is why I use the word ‘dementia’, since what they are saying violates the law of non-contradiction.
Finally, I can’t resist including the devastating conclusion to Professor Stark’s Vienna lecture, which exposes Kasper’s inconsistency merely by quoting his own words:
Whoever believes that in Jesus Christ hope has been revealed for us and for all mankind, and whoever ventures on that basis to become in real terms a figure of hope for others, is a Christian. He holds in a fundamental sense the whole Christian faith, even though he does not consciously accept all the deductions which in the course of almost two thousand years the Church has made from this message.
If that is really all, says Dr Stark, then we have a serious problem. So he finishes his lecture with another quote from Walter Kasper:
Without the courage, one could almost say the rashness, to make definitive decisions and statements, the Christian faith would be denying its own nature. But it is here that its strength and power lie. It can promise human beings definitive meaning. A Church which had lost the power to do this would richly deserve to have its preaching ignored, for it would have degenerated into empty mouthings.