Kasper is Missing a Chance to Demonstrate Mercy – UPDATED

Kasper is Missing a Chance to Demonstrate Mercy – UPDATED October 17, 2014

Cardinal Walter Kasper today addressed his recent remarks to a group of reporters, numbered among them Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register (and Zenit). You can get the background by reading through these posts. The controversy involved his words concerning the bishops of Africa — which he brought up — and his denials about ever having spoken to Zenit (a misunderstanding) or having spoken the words that came out of his mouth (intent does matter, and it may have been innocent).

Since my German is negligible, I put out a request for something better than a hilarious Google Translate, and Leroy Huizenga was kind enough to step up and give it a go. I reprint his translation (David Mills has it, too) noting that Leroy himself calls it “rough”, given that he was working on it while tending to an unhappy baby. The translation is below, and some of it is really problematic.

Cardinal Kasper on the Zenit Audio: No Comment!

The curial Cardinal does not wish to comment on the audio recording published by Zenit. The Italian paper “La Stampa” reports on Kasper’s statements regarding African bishops and asks, “How can one one deny it?”

Rome (Kath.net)

The discussion concerning Cardinal Walter Kasper’s statements about Africa, which he gave in the framework of an interview is spreading. Although he contests it, in the interview Kasper is cited among other things as saying the following about African bishops: “They should not explain too much to us what we have to do,” kath.net reported.

Late Thursday afternoon in response to Kath.net, he stated the following: “I have never spoken about Africans in this manner and moreover would never speak in this way.” Later, however, the Zenit journalist published the audio recording and explained that there were even two other journalists with him as witnesses. Kasper’s voice is clearly audible on the audio recording and the statements were in fact reported faithfully by Zenit. On Friday morning Cardinal Kasper communicated directly to Kath.net:

“I will not comment on and certainly won’t authorize [the publication of] a private conversation that was secretly recorded, thats no interview, with two other journalists and a third [journalist] whom I don’t know at all and who also did not introduce himself personally to me. These are not proper journalistic methods.”

[The German is really a bit rough…I wonder if it was a phone call and not an email–LAH]

Media in the USA and Italian outlets have also taken up the case in the meantime. In the Italian paper “La Stampa” Marco Tosatti designates Kasper’s statements about African bishops as “inconsiderate expressions.” “If it were the case that anyone else had said such things, he would have been charged with racism without hesitation.”

The journalist from La Stampa called his Zenit-employed colleague Edward Pentin, whom he knows personally, a professional journalist. Kasper reportedly made a “bad impression.” Tosatti also indicated that Kasper spoke with the three journalists together, all of whom posed their own questions. “How can someone in such a situation then deny it?” The audio recording also happens to prove that the journalists identified themselves as journalists expressly to the Cardinal.

Kasper’s statements on Wednesday may have led to a direct intervention by Pope Francis. Several Vatican [media] colleagues who are in contact with synod participants have confirmed to kath.net that Francis learned of Cardinal Kasper’s statements about African bishops. These Vatican colleagues regard it as altogether possible that the naming of African cardinal Winfried Napier to the editorial committee responsible for composing the final synodal document on behalf of the world’s bishops could be a direct result therefrom.

Couple things: First, I don’t think Kasper is helping himself, here.

Second, let’s not forget that when Zenit published the remarks under Pentin’s byline, neither the header or the lede mentioned Africa. The headline for the now-pulled piece (!) read Cardinal Kasper: ‘Growing Majority’ in Synod Support Divorce-Remarriage Proposal”.

Vatican City, October 15, 2014 (Zenit.org) Edward Pentin | 2037 hits

Cardinal Walter Kasper has said he thinks a “growing majority” of the synod are in favor of his proposal to allow some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion.

Speaking as he came out of Tuesday evening’s small working group discussions, the German cardinal said the Pope has witnessed such problems in his own family and that he has “looked at the laity and seen the great majority are for a reasonable, responsible opening.” The Vatican has not denied that the Pope wants such an “opening” in this area.

The cardinal’s proposal to administer holy Communion to some divorced and “remarried” couples after a period of penitence has been roundly criciticsed by a number of senior Church leaders, including Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, and Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

That’s three paragraphs into the story. The African bishops only come up because Kasper himself brings it:

ZENIT: It has been said that he added five special rapporteurs on Friday to help the general rapporteur, Cardinal Peter Erdo. Is that because he’s trying to push things through according to his wishes?

Cardinal Kasper: I do not see this going on in the Pope’s head. But I think the majority of these five people are open people who want to go on with this. The problem, as well, is that there are different problems of different continents and different cultures. Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.

ZENIT: But are African participants listened to in this regard?

Cardinal Kasper: No, the majority of them [who hold these views won’t speak about them].

ZENIT: They’re not listened to?

Cardinal Kasper: In Africa of course [their views are listened to], where it’s a taboo.ZENIT: What has changed for you, regarding the methodology of this synod?

Cardinal Kasper: I think in the end there must be a general line in the Church, general criteria, but then the questions of Africa we cannot solve. There must be space also for the local bishops’ conferences to solve their problems but I’d say with Africa it’s impossible [for us to solve]. But they should not tell us too much what we have to do.

And then it’s back to his proposals:

ZENIT: There is a lot of concern about your proposal.

Cardinal Kasper: Yes, yes, there’s a lot.

It’s too bad that Zenit pulled the interview — and many are interested in learning why they did — because referring back to it, it becomes plain that this is not bad journalism; it’s perfectly good journalism and no one was out to “get” Kasper for his words on the Africans; they were almost incidental to the report. Sadly, they came across to many as condescending, and to a few as racist. Let me go on record as saying I don’t think they had anything to do with race, or that Kasper is a racist. I think if Kasper was talking about a similar group of Cardinals out of Dublin, he would have spoken similarly, because at issue was a point of view; comments that end up insulting others can often have more to do with thinking too highly of one’s own reasoning than actually thinking badly of others.

All of that said, some questions must be asked:

1) Where are the other journalists who participated in this interview, and can clearly be heard asking questions. Did they take no notes? Did they have no recording? Have they filed no reports? Then, seriously, why not?

2) Kasper’s lengthy quote here is very troublesome. He is no media naif. He describes the interview amid several reporters as “private conversation”, yet at no point did he suggest that his remarks were “off the record” or meant as background. He charges Pentin with not introducing himself at all, which he clearly did (on a busy street, perhaps it was not heard), and then makes the serious charge of a “secret recording.”

3) “Kasper reportedly made a “bad impression.” An odd sentence. I am thinking it means Kasper had a bad impression of Pentin? Why is it germane to the story?

Finally, what is getting lost in all of this back-and-forth over whether Pentin sufficiently identified himself to Kasper’s satisfaction is a simple question: why isn’t Kasper responding to this whole kerfluffle with the mercy he writes about so well, and preaches so ardently?

Rather than casting aspersions on a reputable journalist, and a credible article, why is he not taking the opportunity to demonstrate the sort of pastoralism that the synod is actually all about?

Why not clarify his remarks, refine his meaning, which would be the way to simply put an end to things?

Kasper is a theologian and a churchman of great intellectual repute. He should know better — and better than anyone — that shooting the messenger is no way to defend one’s own meaning and thinking.

If whether Kasper knew Pentin also wrote for Zenit was ever relevant to the issue, that relevance has been supplanted by a need for Kasper to demonstrate his priesthood. Before him is a pastoral, teachable moment: this is an opportunity for him to demonstrate the very Christian virtue of extending a charitable response to Pentin — who identified himself, stood among a group of journalists and reported what he heard — while also making his remarks clear for the rest of the interested church.

Something along these lines would work:

“Edward Pentin has a fine reputation as a journalist, but I am disturbed that my words — and their intent and meaning, which rested upon ideas of subsidiarity — were not best chosen, coming as they did at the end of a long day. Our brother bishops from Africa have been a source of profound inspiration for all of us and their contribution to the synod has been sorely needed and prayefully heeded. That said, the issues with which they wrangle cannot be solved at this synod, and will certainly continue to be prayerfully and faithfully pondered, as we enter into a year of contemplative reasoning.”

Or something like that.

Come on, your Eminence, if a chucklehead like me can imagine what a moment of grace might look like, you surely can, too. Sie können dies tun!

In utter sincerity, all due respect and humility, I offer the pages of Patheos to you, should you wish to say more. I would, in fact, be very glad to offer you the premier spot on an about-to-launch new channel page at Patheos, Colloquamur, Let us talk.

I am more than ever convinced that the Holy Spirit is at work in this moment, within the synod doors and outside of them, too. We must keep our eyes open, and keep watching.

Sie sind herzlich eingeladen, lieber Kardinal You are invited.

Colloquamur Let Us Talk

I have often thought Cardinals Burke and Kasper
should go on a camping trip together and have a few beers. I must say, that Burke’s response to his new assignment, which is (at the moment) considered a “demotion” (the office will be what he and the pope make of it) is precisely the right, the faithful, and the pastoral one, and a demonstration of the sorts of virtues we aim for as Christians:

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust by accepting this assignment I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

Don’t tell me the Holy Spirit is not present in this process, and working toward God’s own purposes in a predictably corkscrew manner.

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