The cardinal criticized not only the Synodal Way’s content but also its structure, arguing that it was hampered by a “birth defect.” He said that the process was “on weak legs.”
“It is neither a synod nor a mere dialogue process,” he commented. “Initially it is a process of dialogue, then the bishops’ conference has the floor and, finally, as far as the universal Church demands are concerned, it is the pope's turn.”
“Moreover, every bishop is free to accept whatever he sees fit in his diocese. In view of the obvious disagreement among the German bishops, it is difficult to imagine how all of this can be brought to a common denominator.”
The theologian, who served as bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart from 1989 to 1999, said that renewal could only come from an inner growth of faith, hope, and love.
In the interview, Kasper also argued that there was a serious problem with catechesis in the German Church.
“When I see what is happening in Roman parishes and in the United States, and under completely different conditions in Africa where catechesis happens, then we are a catechetical disaster zone,” he said.
“I don’t mean religious instruction in schools, which, given today’s school conditions, usually cannot be catechesis. What I am referring to is catechesis in the parish, on the occasion of baptism, first confession, First Communion and confirmation, marriage preparation, and family catechesis.”
“In places where this is done well, young people, young families with children, who can often be counted on the fingers of one hand in Germany, can be found at Sunday services.”
Commenting on the Vatican’s recent invitation to all Catholic dioceses to take part in the forthcoming synod on synodality, Kasper emphasized that one could “not reinvent the Church,” but rather contribute to renewing it in the Holy Spirit.
He said: “Synods are not a parliament, not a ‘paper factory’ that draws up long papers that hardly anyone reads afterward, nor a church regiment that says where to go.”
“Synods are gatherings in which, in crisis situations, the bishop, his presbyterate, and the faithful face the signs of the times together, look to the Gospel, and listen to what the Holy Spirit says to the congregations in prayer and in exchange with one another.”
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He added: “If -- as the [Second Vatican] Council formulated -- a ‘unique harmony’ between leaders and believers comes about, then that is a sign of the Holy Spirit that we are on the right path.”
Pope Francis signaled his approval of the cardinal shortly after his election in 2013. Speaking on the first Sunday after his election, he praised the theologian’s book “Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life.”
The pope invited Kasper to address a consistory of cardinals in 2014 on the question of admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to Holy Communion under certain circumstances.
The cardinal’s intervention influenced the ensuing debate at the family synods of 2014 and 2015, which led to the publication in 2016 of Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family.
In the Passauer Bistumsblatt interview, Kasper explained his approach to non-Catholic Christians seeking to receive Communion in Catholic churches -- a topical issue in German Church circles.
The cardinal said that he had never turned away a person “out of respect for the personal conscience decisions of individual Christians.”