How many Cardinals does it take to condemn a heresy?
If I had been gifted with more wit by Almighty God, I'd be able to turn that into one heck of a joke. I'm sure there's at least a mediocre one in there somewhere.
As many of you know by now, Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences, has gone on record in condemnation of any proposal to change Catholic teaching on marriage as heresy. As reported on LifeSiteNews yesterday, when asked whether the Church can change its teaching on marriage without falling into grave error, the good Cardinal replied:
It is evident that the pastoral practice of the Church cannot stand in opposition to the binding doctrine nor simply ignore it. In the same manner, an architect could perhaps build a most beautiful bridge. However, if he does not pay attention to the laws of structural engineering, he risks the collapse of his construction. In the same manner, every pastoral practice has to follow the Word of God if it does not want to fail. A change of the teaching, of the dogma, is unthinkable. Who nevertheless consciously does it, or insistently demands it, is a heretic – even if he wears the Roman Purple.
Cardinal Brandmüller thus becomes the third high-ranking prelate to condemn the Kasper proposal and its attendant errors as heresy. The first to use the H-word in relation to the aftermath of the 2014 Synod was Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who quipped back in December of 2014:
Any separation of the theory and the practice of the faith would, in its formulation, represent a subtle christological heresy.
As I noted at the time, one can't help but be reminded of the comments made by Cardinal Donald Wuerl on the second day of the 2014 Synod in which he suggested precisely such a separation of theory from practice.
The second prelate to drop the H-bomb was Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, back in February of this year:
The idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice - which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads, and passions - is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I affirm solemnly that the Church of Africa will firmly oppose every rebellion against the teaching of Christ and the Magisterium.
The case seemed clear to me when I wrote the admittedly sophomoric but nonetheless uncontested article "Is Cardinal Kasper Promoting Heresy?" at the conclusion of the 2014 Synod. Now that there are three high-profile Cardinals who have come forward to condemn the heresy, I feel justified in maintaining my original conclusion.
But what is to come of these condemnations? If the position may be safely rejected as heresy, is condemnation of its promoters as heretics to follow? Cardinal Brandmüller's explicit mention of "the Roman Purple" is as far as anyone has gone in the natural progression from condemnation of the proposal to condemnation of the one who proposed it. If Cardinal Kasper remains adamant in the face of such condemnation, must we wait for the judgment of the Pope - a judgment which may never materialize - before we draw the necessary conclusion? And what would that conclusion entail? I'm no canon lawyer, but it seems to me that the canons of Trent (Session 13, Canon 11) explicitly call for the excommunication of anyone who "shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend" the thesis that one who is in a state of unrepentant mortal sin may receive Holy Communion. Does the fact that Pope Francis, in his address to the Synod Fathers wherein he admonished them "Let no one say 'this cannot be said'," appeared to have had precisely this canonical censure in mind, nullify the incurment of the penalty? And who is competent to decide?
In any event, I have the feeling that momentum is building. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that Cardinal Carlo Caffarra will be the next to publicly confirm the heretical nature of the Kasper proposal, well in advance of the 2015 Synod. If he does, I foresee a chain-reaction which will be well-nigh impossible for anyone - perhaps including even Pope Francis - to stop.