The Catholic Church has behaved like Pontius Pilate with regards to Catholics who are divorced and remarried, a prominent cardinal has said.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has called for remarried divorcees to be admitted to Communion, told the French daily Le Figaro that the Church has sought to “wash its hands of a difficult problem”.
In an interview that was published on the same day as the Vatican released the working document for October’s Synod on the Family, the cardinal said: “if God is merciful, then the Church must be.”
Cardinal Kasper explained that a lot of bishops who don’t make “much noise” have told him they are in favour of a shift in church teaching regarding the treatment of civilly remarried Catholics.
He said the key question for the remarried divorcees receiving Communion was whether there was “grave sin”, and to clarify this, a dialogue with the individual was needed, he said.
The cardinal added that the Church had been given the power by Christ to decide whether this was the case.
This has echoes with an interview the Archbishop of Accra, Charles Palmer-Buckle, gave earlier this year where he reflected on Matthew 16:19, in which Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” and pronounces: “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
“The Church can therefore loose or bind because this lawful power has been given it by Christ,” Kasper said.
Archbishop Palmer-Buckle cited a Protestant friend who interpreted this passage to show that Christ gave them the power to unbind people in some marriages.
“I think we are going to look at what ‘the power of the keys’ could mean in this context,” the Ghanaian prelate told the Aletelia news website.
Ahead of last year’s synod Cardinal Kasper put forward proposals for admitting the divorced and remarried to Communion, and Pope Francis has praised a book the cardinal has written on mercy.