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Cardinal Kasper: Modernist in Our Midst?

Cardinal Kasper: Modernist in Our Midst? July 12, 2015

kasperEdward Pentin has an excellent article at National Catholic Register here in which he interviews Austrian philosopher Thomas Stark in an attempt to understand Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Put simply, Kasper’s thought is modernist through and through, although like the classic modernist, he covers it over with orthodox language. Stark explains:

My conclusion? I would say that one can clearly see that Kasper’s position is deeply rooted in German Idealistic philosophy, but I would say more so in Hegel than in Schelling.

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. He says, “Well, we are living in a time after historicism in the 19th century; history is the main framework in which we have to think and to live’” and he is quoting [Ernst] Troeltsch, who said the encounter between Christian life and Christian theology and history will be even more problematic than the encounter between theology and science that has already taken place a century ago.

In addition, he seems to just accept the status quo and says, as far as I understand him, “Well, we are living in times that are influenced by historicism and we have to live with it,” and then he historicizes truth, and does many other confusing and perplexing things along these lines, I would say.

Historicism is the heresy that supposes that the events of history have no overarching meaning or purpose. Things just happen and people have to adapt. This idea clashes with the belief that God is the Lord of history and there is a greater plan and purpose. This makes any subsequent theology very slippery and difficult to pin down.

Stark continues:

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 needs be.

Along with the belief that history has no overarching purpose is the dismissal of the miraculous. The ambiguity and confusion continues. Because history is relative and random, truth is relative. It was expressed in a particular age with a particular world view. We must re-interpret for our own age and our own scientific, modern worldview. They therefore “de-mythologize” and deconstruct the supernatural element of the faith.

Stark’s analysis

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.

The modernist believes in a re-constituted, artificial kind of Christianity.

Stark explains:

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 Peguy 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.

I have written about this phenomenon more here in an blog post called The Smoke of Satan.

This kind of philosophy and theology is poison for religion because it parades as religion but is not religion at all.

It is artificial, and if artificial, then a lie, and a subtle lie.

And we know where subtle lies come from.

Read Pentin’s whole interview here.


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