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The Vatican's Uncertain Trumpet

by Christopher A. Ferrara

The Vatican is at war with itself. Attempts to reaffirm Catholic doctrine at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), however timid, are immediately being undermined by the other elements of the Vatican bureaucracy charged with carrying out “ecumenical dialogue” and Vatican diplomacy.

A recent case in point can be found in the increasingly heterodox remarks of Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has set himself up as a kind of counterweight to his fellow German, Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the CDF. Kasper has just been rewarded with a red hat for his defiance of the Pope’s order to the German bishops to stop issuing certificates through Catholic “counseling centers” which women were using to obtain abortions. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, supported Kasper’s (and Cardinal Lehman’s) defiance of the Pope on grounds that the issuance of certificates used to kill children was a matter for the bishops of Germany to decide. (Sodano had to eat humble pie, however, when he was finally forced to sign a joint Vatican declaration with Cardinal Ratzinger making it clear that the German bishops’ complicity in abortion had to stop.)

Obviously swelling in his sense of power, Kasper has been more brazen then ever about undermining the faith. As I have noted in a recent column on this character, Kasper declared last February in the Italian journal Adista that “Today we no longer understand ecumenism in the sense of a return, by which the others would ‘be converted’ and return to being ‘catholics.’ This was expressly abandoned by Vatican II.” ( Is that so? Not according to my copy of the documents of Vatican II, which are far too ambiguous in this area to abandon anything “expressly.”) A few months earlier, in the German journal Stimmen der Zeit, Kasper publicly dissented from the teaching of the CDF on the primacy of the universal Catholic Church over local churches.

And now Kasper has dropped another bombshell. According to CWNews.com, Kasper has just taken it upon himself to “clarify” the teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger’s Dominus Iesus on the sole and unique mediation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of all men. Kasper, speaking as a member of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, declared that “Dominus Iesus is ‘an intra-Catholic document about interreligious dialogue addressed to Catholic theologians ... It does not enter into the Jewish-Catholic dialogue.’” Kasper added that there “is no missionary activity on the part of the Church directed toward converting the Jews.”

So, let us sum up the Gospel according to Kasper: As head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity he tells us that Protestants need not convert to Catholicism. As a member of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, he tells us that neither are the Jews obliged to enter the Church. As Kasper would have it, Saint Paul, the most illustrious Jewish convert in Church history, must have been suffering from delusions. As for the Church itself, Kasper tells us that Rome has no primacy over local Catholic churches. Kasper evidently believes that no one is obliged to be a Catholic except those who already are Catholics. In short, he deems Our Lord’s commission to make disciples of all nations to be at an end. And this is the sort of man who is put in charge of affairs of the Faith at the Vatican!

St. Paul asked a famous question most pertinent to the current ecclesial crisis: “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Cor. 14:8) No one, of course. With the likes of Kasper running the Vatican, the certain trumpet has been replaced by a chorus of kazoos. And they are all playing different tunes. May God help His Holy Church.