Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Little Book Carries Big Message for Families

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Little Book Carries Big Message for Families

Article excerpt

THE GOSPEL OF THE FAMILY By Cardinal Walter Kasper Published by Paulist Press, $9.95

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When he spoke--at the request of Pope Francis--in a two-hour session in front of at least 150 of the world's cardinals in February Cardinal Walter Kasper's comments about divorce and remarriage caught the room's attention.

Kasper posed two questions: Given that the current judicial process for annulling a marriage often is long and burdensome, can the church develop a more sensitive and efficient process? Given that sometimes even valid, sacramental marriages can become "irreparably broken" and one or both parties enter new, civil marriages and try to live faithfully in a church community is it right to deny them the sacraments?

To provoke discussion, Kasper answers the questions "yes" and "no," respectively He also shared ideas for approaches to these painful situations that, he said, respected the church's teachings on the indissolubility of marriage. Wide speculation ensued about whether or not the church was changing its teaching on marriage.

Too much focus on those two questions might deflect from the message of Kasper's address and its larger purpose.

The meeting of cardinals, called a consistory, that Kasper addressed was supposed to be confidential. Versions of the talk--some of questionable provenance --became available, and Kasper eventually authorized its release in German and Italian. Paulist Press has published an English-language translation in book format as The Gospel of the Family.

Kasper begins by quoting Francis' apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"), and allies himself with a major theme of Francis' pontificate: The family which "is the fundamental cell of society" is experiencing "a profound cultural crisis," and contemporary life creates situations where "orderly family life is scarcely possible. …

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