: Apologies, it seems we got disconnected. I was just asking if it’s okay if I record our conversation.
: Yes, it’s fine. That’s fine.
: I know you don’t have a lot of time, so why don’t we just dive in. I’ve seen
. Can you say a little bit more about that, and who is doing the manipulating?
in February to the extraordinary consistory of cardinals, there’s been a
consistent repetition of [Kasper’s] position that is trying to weaken
the church’s teaching and practice with regard to the indissolubility of
marriage. This has just been consistent, casting the synod — which was
to be on the family, directed in a positive way on family life —
suggesting that the main purpose of the synod would be to permit those
who are in irregular unions to receive the sacraments of penance and
holy communion, which is not possible. If someone is bound to a prior
marriage which has not been declared null, and is living as husband or
wife with someone else. That’s a public state of sin and therefore the
person cannot receive holy communion or go to the sacrament of penance
until the matter is resolved.
But that’s been — all along this keeps coming back, and I see more
clearly than ever that that’s how the synod is. And certainly the media
has picked up on this — very much so.
: To the question of how that’s being done, presumably the
pope was the one who asked Cardinal Kasper to frame the synod. Are you
saying that [the pope] is the one who is manipulating these proceedings?
: The pope has never said openly what his position is on the
matter and people conjecture that because of the fact that he asked
Cardinal Kasper — who was well known to have these views for many, many
years — to speak to the cardinals and has permitted Cardinal Kasper to
publish his presentation in five different languages and to travel
around advancing his position on the matter, and then even recently
and there’s no correction of this.
I can’t speak for the pope and I can’t say what his position is on
this, but the lack of clarity about the matter has certainly done a lot
: Would it be inappropriate for the pope to do that? To
structure the conversation in such a way that it is consistent with his
: According to my understanding of the church’s teaching and discipline, no it wouldn’t be correct.
: I did a story a while back reporting on a conversation
that sources relayed to me between an LGBT activist and Cardinal
Müller. In that conversation, the activist apparently asked Müller about
the possibility of the church possibly accepting some forms of civil
unions, based on some of the comments that the pope had made and some of
the positions he was understood to have taken while he was the
president of the bishops conference of Argentina. Müller reportedly
responded that [that decision] wasn’t up to the pope, it was up to “us,”
referring to the curia. In that thinking about how these kinds of
church teachings are made, can you explain to an outsider what the
relationship is between this kind of conversation and the pope’s
: Well I suppose the simplest way to put it is that all of
us who serve the church are at the service of the truth: the truth that
Christ teaches us in the church. And the pope more than anyone else, as
the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth. And so
the cardinal is quite correct that the pope is not free to change the
church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or
the insolubility of marriage or any other truth of the faith. On the
contrary, his work is to teach these truths and to insist on the
discipline which reflects the truths in practice.
: It sounds like there’s a tension, what we’re seeing play
out in this [synod]. It sounds like you’re saying there are some people
who deliberately want to change teaching. Like the people who are
supportive of some of the positions that were articulated in the Relatio
are saying that they’re trying to balance the pastoral need to find
space for people who are living outside what the church teaches is the
appropriate lifestyle, to find a way pastorally to incorporate them into
the community and to bring them more in line.
You’ve used very strong words about homosexuality; in a recent interview
you say again that homosexual acts are always wrong and evil. Is there
any middle ground, any way to make space for LGBT people inside the
church while also adhering to church teaching?
: Well the church doesn’t exclude anyone who’s of good will,
even if the person is suffering from same-sex attraction or even acting
on that attraction. But at the same time out of her love for the person
who’s involved in sinful acts, she calls the person to conversion, in a
loving way, but obviously, like a father or mother in a family, in a
firm way for the person’s own good.
There never can be in the Catholic Church a difference between
doctrine and practice. In other words, you can’t have a doctrine that
teaches one thing and a practice which does something differently. If
people don’t accept the church’s teaching on these matters than they’re
not thinking with the church and they need to examine themselves on that
and correct their thinking or leave the church if they absolutely can’t
accept what the church teaches. They’re certainly not free to change
the teaching of the church to suit their own ideas.
: But as I read the Relatio — and again I’m reading this as
a layperson — it seems like what they’re saying is [trying to
establish] a welcoming tone. While not changing the teaching, they’re
also trying to not make the primary point of contact be a fight over
these lifestyle choices. While holding up that the ideal remains
matrimony, they’re not going to be pushed out and harassed by virtue of
not being in that arrangement.
: The point is that for the church, moral teaching is never a
matter of ideals. They’re understood to be real commands that we’re
meant to put into practice. All of us are sinners and we have to undergo
a daily conversion to live according to the moral truth, but it remains
for us always compelling. It’s not just an ideal that we hold out
there, that, “It would be nice if it were this way, but I can’t do it.”
No, we’re called to conform ourselves to those truths.
That’s the difficulty with the Relatio, which is not well expressed,
and does not have a good foundation neither in the sacred scriptures nor
in the church’s perennial teachings, and also uses language which can
be very confusing.
One of the confusions is that it confuses the person with the sinful
acts. In other words, it tries to say that if the church teaches that
these acts are sinful that somehow they are turning on the people and
driving them away from the church. Well, if the individuals involved are
sincere and want to live the truth of moral law, the church is always
ready to help. Even if someone sins repeatedly, the church always stands
ready to help them begin again. But the truth of the moral law remains
and it is compelling. It’s for now, it’s for me, it’s not something out
there, some ideal out there that would be nice to realize but it doesn’t
BFN: I should ask you about the reports
that you’re being removed from the Signatura. What message is that
sending? Do you think you are being removed in part because of how
outspoken you have been on these issues?
: The difficulty — I know about all the reports,
obviously. I’ve not received an official transfer yet. Obviously, these
matters depend on official acts. I mean, I can be told that i’m going
to be transferred to a new position but until I have a letter of
transfer in my hand it’s difficult for me to speak about it. I’m not
free to comment on why I think this may be going to happen.
: Have you been told that you will be transferred?
: You’re obviously a very well respected person. That must be disappointing.
: Well, I have to say, the area in which I work is an area
for which I’m prepared and I’ve tried to give very good service. I very
much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a
disappointment to leave it. 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 that by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will
bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important. And even though I
would have liked to have continued to work in the Apostolic Signatura,
I’ll give myself to whatever is the new work that I’m assigned to…
: And that is as the chancellor to the order of Malta, is that right?
: It’s called the patron of the sovereign military order of Malta, that’s right.
: So where are we now? As I understand it, the final draft
of the Relatio is expected later today and it will be voted on tomorrow,
is that right?
: It’s scheduled to be read to us tomorrow morning and then there’s to be discussion and the final vote is tomorrow afternoon.
: I’m curious about the
revisions that happened yesterday in the English version of the
[Relatio] and none of the others. I don’t know if you can shed any light
: I only know the revisions that were suggested by the small
group to which I belonged, I haven’t seen the other ones, they were all
delivered yesterday and were studied yesterday afternoon and today for
the revision of the text. From the reports which were published, the
summary reports, I believe that there was a rather thorough revision.
: On this final stretch, you have very well respected
doctrinal experts like Cardinal Wuerl on [the Relatio] writing
committee. Do you have confidence in them going forward?
: I trust that they will produce a worthy document. I must
say I was shocked by what I heard on Monday morning, which was presented
by a very reputable cardinal, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Budapest. So
you can imagine I’m a little shaken by that, my trust is a little bit
shaken, but I am hoping that we won’t have a repeat of that.
: All right, sir, I very much appreciate you making the
time, I know you haven’t spoken with a lot of secular outlets, so I am
really honored that you’d be willing to do that for us.
: You’re welcome. Goodbye, and God bless you.