Streams

The Pope's Theologian

Monday, May 05, 2014

Walter Kasper, German cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and author of Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life (Paulist Press, 2014), talks about his book (that got a good review by Pope Francis) and the shift in emphasis from judgment to mercy in the church today.

Guests:

Walter Kasper

The Morning Brief

Enter your email address and we’ll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.

Comments [35]

bb

Grew up in a very conservative Catholic crowd that does not believe in contraception and attend a very small, orthodox Catholic college. Also spent the first decade of my marriage trying to practice NFP, and one of my closest friends is a Napro NFP practitioner. I know a lot of people who have practiced NFP as their only form of birth control for decades, and most of them have found it extremely stressful to their marriage. Usually it is more like 10-14 days of abstinence, and more importantly (from a stressor perspective) is the fact that the abstinence must occur at precisely the time the wife desires her husband the most. Frustrating that desire month after month, decade after decade (I myself had 10 pregnancies in the first decade of my marriage--my health gave out, and we were completely tapped out at 6 living children; my chronic disease makes future pregnancies extremely unwise) has not been conducive to most marriages I know. It can create resentment on the part of the woman, whose husband doesn't believe she is really that sexually attracted him him given that she can't make love when it actually really, really appeals to her. While I know that there are some women whose desire levels remain fairly stable throughout their cycles, this is not the experience of all of the women I know well enough to talk about such things.

I've heard every argument (not to mention the ad hominem) in the book, but at nearly a quarter of a century of marriage, I look around at the NFP-following couples I know and feel nothing by sadness for the vast majority them. Most of them simply do not have the kinds of marriages others desire. One of my NFP-practicing friends recently told me she knows that none of her children will choose that lifestyle, given the poor state of her own marriage and the extreme stressors they have been under (now pregnant with #9 at the very cusp of menopause, in very stressful circumstances).

I know there are some people who love NFP--in my experience, they are about as common as those people who love weird, restrictive diets but feel it has caused miraculous changes in their lives. Good for them--I'm happy such people have found something that works well for them in their lives, but to think your average person on the street is going to find the same miraculous results from the same very-restrictive lifestyle (whether diet or NFP) is not realistic.

I'm all about people trying it out, but if you think most average people are going to find grand marriage success with NFP, I think you are bound to be sorely disappointed. Life is hard, and most people are just trying to get by day-to-day. We do the best we can in the here and now and hope that God will be merciful to us on judgment day for not being able to live the lives of saints. It is refreshing to hear Francis and other church leaders acknowledging that what real people are actually capable of in this fallen world needs to be taken into account.

May. 07 2014 05:46 PM
jon pressley

This is nothing but heretical garbage being given a soundstage in a secular manner. Kasper's heretical views on marriage are completely and utterly both anti-traditional, anti-Canonical, and in the end anti-Catholic. How did we get to a point where a Cardinal of all people can openly question not just established Dogma or Doctrine, but the words of Christ Himself. If this garbage goes through, I can see a schism in the immediate future.

May. 07 2014 05:34 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Thanks to Brian Lehrer for having Cardinal Kasper on!

May. 06 2014 08:03 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The prohibition of artificial birth control can be understood, actually, very easily: the Church teaches that God created sex in such a way that it is meant to unify the couple, and to generate life. To deny either purpose, unity or openness to life, is to distort the sexual act (and leads to lots of problems). But a couple can decide that the time is not right for a child, for economic or other reasons, and in that situation they have recourse to having sex during the infertile period of the woman's cycle, which is most of the month and which can be calculated using NFP.

May. 06 2014 08:03 AM
Ed from Larchmont

And Brian Lehrer continued to be funny ... then he asked 'Well ... one can be merciful without God ... what's all this about God ... and Jesus?'

It's as if one said to the Chief Rabbi 'What's all this fuss about Passover?'

(This can be shown, though. There is one place where God is absolutely not present, and that is Hell. Originally it didn't exist, but God had to create it for the fallen angels, so they would have a place where they wouldn't have to endure his presence. And there is no mercy in Hell.)

May. 05 2014 04:14 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Brian Lehrer is funny - he asked, in effect, 'Is this discouragement of the use of birth control really a good idea, in the 21st century?'
It's like if he had the chief Rabbi of New York as a guest and asked 'What about this ban on eating pork all about?'

It is a tragedy that people don't understand or follow the teaching of the Church on contraception, 80-85% of married Catholics have used artificial birth control at one time or another. It happened after the Council. And we see what Pope Paul wrote in Humanae Vitae would follow if contraception (which was universally banned in before 1930) was allowed, including abortion.

Catholics who disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception need to read more about it, it's very sad, to be separated because of this one issue. Current natural family planning, unlike in 1960, is actually very good and more reliable than artificial methods, see Napro technology and family planning. It only means abstinence for 7 days out of a month, is that so much? And for very good reasons.

May. 05 2014 03:41 PM
Donald J. Sepanek from Bayonne, NJ

I do not believe that mercy and justice are complimentary. I see them as opposing impulses. Justice is more of a socially sanctioned revenge - a balancing of the scales through punishment. I am not arguing right and wrong here, only the linguistics.

May. 05 2014 03:00 PM
RCT from NYC

I left the Church many years ago and, except for a period when I was caring for my elderly mother, who was observant, haven't gone back. Many of my cousins, however, remain observant, as do some of my friends.

The Church hierarchy is well aware that something like 99% of American Catholics use birth control -- and not the rhythm method, which we laughed at when I was a kid, regardless of whether we were observant Catholics. I know not a single Catholic woman or couple -- not one -- that does not or, during child-bearing years, did not use birth control. I'm sure that some very obedient Catholics exist, even in the NYC metro area, but they sure didn't hang out with us.

Nor have any of the moms -- church-goers all - told their daughters not to practice family planning. On the contrary, the moms paid for the pills.

If the Church hopes to win educated converts in the 21st Century, it should change its tune. Meanwhile, if you're not Catholic, and think that the majority of Catholics buy this nonsense; think again. Almost no one does and no one gives it a second thought, either. Brian showed this guy too much deference; he should have been interviewed by my cousins.

May. 05 2014 12:11 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Did Brian Lehrer hear the last word Cardinal Kasper used - casuitical? Not a good word to apply to someone's questions.

May. 05 2014 11:48 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Mercy is also not the same as pardon. Sometimes punishment is the merciful action. Mercy is love.

May. 05 2014 11:41 AM
me

What catholic bigots you are. Brian you are so ignorant regarding the Catholic church. The CARDINAL Showed you mercy

May. 05 2014 11:30 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The Church doesn't require couples to stay together to death - an unhappy couple can live apart, but can't remarry.
Please Brian Lehrer, we don't have time to teach people Catholic theology, see Pope John Paul's 'Theology of the Body', it would take 5 years to show you why the Church teaches what it does.
And the Church shows mercy by teaching the truth. Mercy does not contradict the truth.
There is birth control - natural family planning, an a judgment of the family about children.

May. 05 2014 11:29 AM
John A

I was convinced to go back to church by Americas all-war-all-the-time stance starting 12 years ago. If we're going to be the Romans of this era, a counterforce is (again) needed.

May. 05 2014 11:28 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Cardinalem traditum loci nihil novi.

May. 05 2014 11:28 AM
Ed from Larchmont

For example, it's only when we encounter the love of God can we love others, same with mercy. But people have goodness by nature, though sinners.

May. 05 2014 11:25 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Without God, and Jesus, there is no power to enact mercy.

May. 05 2014 11:24 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Can't simplify things too much. Mercy goes way beyond the Golden Rule.

May. 05 2014 11:23 AM
jm

Speaking of which, if the focus is "compassion," I hope Pope Francis is considering excommunication of every GOP politician who also identifies as a devoted Catholic.

May. 05 2014 11:23 AM
jm

I wish Pope Francis well, but I haven't yet been convinced to come back to the Catholic Church.

May. 05 2014 11:21 AM

Only a Jew could have said things like "Love your enemies" or "Turn the other cheek" or "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and of course get crucified for it in the end. Could you imagine a German or a Mongol or a Japanese samurai saying such things? Only a Jew could be so nuts! But my mother was saved in WWII by true Christians so I am thankful that some GEntiles took Jesus seriously.

May. 05 2014 11:20 AM
David from Montclair

What is the difference between mercy and lovingness?

May. 05 2014 11:18 AM

"We are all sinners." Speak for yourself, dad.

May. 05 2014 11:18 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Hung up on this eh? It can be worked against but as with anyone crime is always possible for someone to commit.

May. 05 2014 11:16 AM
Ed from Larchmont

This has nothing to do with the sexual abuse scandal.

May. 05 2014 11:14 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Mercy is not an abandonment of justice. Mercy and justice will kiss. Mercy is offered to men, but men have to accept it, and the one who offers it.

May. 05 2014 11:14 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Maybe it's a linguistic question, but I'd say that in English, at least, the word "mercy" does have to do w/a power relationship. People appeal for mercy to people who have the power to harm them.

May. 05 2014 11:11 AM
MT

This is all about rebranding. Compassion is a brand taken up by the Buddhists, so the Vatican can't use it in their marketing, so they're left with "Mercy". Of course this suits the mentality of the RC Church, because Mercy is based on a power relationship, where the one in power bestows the mercy. Of course, in days gone by the good old Vatican used to sell "Mercy" in the form of indulgences, a very lucrative business. Bet he's nostalgic for that, to help pay all the current lawsuit bills. The deeper truth that it is the people who will need to show mercy to the Vatican for them to have any chance at redemption, seems lost on the average Cardinal - this one included. The fact that he called compassion "passive" shows how poorly he understands these issues, which is not surprising at all.

May. 05 2014 11:10 AM

The Good Samaritan story is not understood from the Jewish point of view. Who were the Samaritans? They were the descendents of those the Assyrians had brought in from other parts of their empire to displace the 10 tribes of the Israelite state that the Assyrians destroyed in 722 BC. The reason they came to be called Samaritans is because Samaria was the name of the capital city of the northern Kingdom of Israel. After the Assyrian conquest all that was left was the Kingdom of Judah which was itself destroyed about 150 years later by the Babylonians who also took Judah into captivity.
Anyhow when the Jews returned the Samaritans made life tough for the Jews as the Palestinian Arabs do today.
So a "good Samaritan" was a dead Samaritan to most Jewish eyes at the time. But in this story a Samaritan does a good deed while other Jews, supposedly better people, fail to do and ignore the man laying on the road. So Jesus brings up the story of the good Samaritan to show that a gentile can be as good if not better than a Jew at times. It was to upbraid his fellow Jews, as was much of what He said.

May. 05 2014 11:06 AM
John A

Ed, it's not about You.

May. 05 2014 11:05 AM

The Good Samaritan story is not understood from the Jewish point of view. Who were the Samaritans? They were the descendents of those the Assyrians had brought in from other parts of their empire to displace the 10 tribes of the Israelite state that the Assyrians destroyed in 722 BC. The reason they came to be called Samaritans is because Samaria was the name of the capital city of the northern Kingdom of Israel. After the Assyrian conquest all that was left was the Kingdom of Judah which was itself destroyed about 150 years later by the Babylonians who also took Judah into captivity.
Anyhow when the Jews returned the Samaritans made life tough for the Jews as the Palestinian Arabs do today.
So a "good Samaritan" was a dead Samaritan to most Jewish eyes at the time. But in this story a Samaritan does a good deed while other Jews, supposedly better people, fail to do and ignore the man laying on the road. So Jesus brings up the story of the good Samaritan to show that a gentile can be as good if not better than a Jew at times. It was to upbraid his fellow Jews, as was much of what He said.

May. 05 2014 11:05 AM
Robert from NYC

Well as I've read, "Cardinal Burke emphasized that the lack of respect for human life is rooted in a lack of respect for the conjugal act, urging a firm acceptance and promotion of the Church’s teaching on the transmission of life and contraception." But does he forget that that lack of respect was/is displayed by the church's pedophiles. Surely pedophilia goes against all that "the church" stands for, yet much was done to hide and ignore this sinful and hateful practice to anyone not a pedophile, and in the end it enables the continuance of the disgusting practice. Or does he see that as the "conjugal act"!? I think and hope not.
As for JPii he just about dissolved and eliminated in 20+ years, all the good that John XXIII brought to the church in only 5 years. I don't put much worth into what Burke says but beware of his influence.

May. 05 2014 11:04 AM
Ed from Larchmont

No doubt you will discuss the papal phone call, but, as Cardinal Burke said, we haven't heard the contents of the call from either person directly, and the also the pope does not make doctrine via phone call.

May. 05 2014 09:19 AM
Ed from Larchmont

So Pope Francis, much as we love him, is carrying forward what his predecessors did: Cardinal Dolan writes that John Paul II was the soul of the Church, Benedict was the mind of the Church, and Francis as pope is the heart of the Church, but they all have preached about mercy.

(And let's not be fooled, you are interviewing Cardinal Kasper because you want to speak with someone who wants to change a Church doctrine.)

May. 05 2014 08:16 AM
Ed from Larchmont

To say that Pope Francis, much as we love him, is reorienting the Church from judgement to mercy is only true if one hasn't been paying attention: the Church has always preached mercy, but starting with now St. Pope John XXIII the stress on mercy has been very pronounced, the world needs it. Mercy is 'love in action', God's love to man is usually experienced as mercy. St. Faustyna began the Divine Mercy devotion at the direction of Jesus in the 1930s, a divine answer to fascism, and now St. Pope John Paul II established the feast as the Sunday after Easter and made it a world-wide devotion (from Poland). He was known as 'the Mercy pope' and he said the greatest day of his life was when he canonized St. Faustyna and established this feast.

May. 05 2014 08:13 AM
Ed from Larchmont

To call Cardinal Kasper the pope's theologian is a bit of a stretch, he has worked for many years in ecumenical dialogue and interfaith relations. He made the news recently when, with the upcoming Synod on the family in October, he argued that divorced and remarried Catholics should have access to Communion. He put forth his position before the Synod starts so people can think about it. It's a radical position which is unacceptable (see Cardinal Burke and others), but he is on the right track of the need of a new pastoral approach directed to divorced and remarried Catholics. And the purpose of the Synod is to unify and strengthen and update the Church's pastoral approach to the family, which is under serious attack, especially in the West.

May. 05 2014 08:09 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.