- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2014

Changes in the Catholic Church have begun to drive apart traditionalists and reformers — a divide that was apparent this week when The Catholic University of America hosted two cardinals to share their thoughts on what can be done to maintain the core of Catholicism, and how Pope Francis can lead the church in the 21st century.

Speaking to a standing room only audience Thursday at the university’s Caldwell Auditorium, Cardinal Walter Kasper said Francis “wants to initiate a new beginning for the church.”

“It’s important a church is not self-centered, not revolving around itself, but a church on the move,” said Cardinal Kasper, 81. “Mission is paradigm for the church. Francis wants to leave behind … the self-centered, pitying church immersed in its own suffering. Pope Francis was elected pope in order to lead the church out of the crisis which has become evident. Pope Francis is a man of … patience. He takes it seriously. He’s not obsessed with achieving short-lived results.”

Earlier this week, Cardinal Gerhard Muller, 66, also spoke about Francis’ comments on the “missionary mandate of the church.”

“When we adopted this writing, this pastoral … and missionary style would reach everyone without … exclusions. But the messages has to include the essentials,” Cardinal Muller said in a speech Monday. “In order to preserve this pastoral goal and missionary style, it would be important to preserve what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing, and at the same time, most necessary.”

The cardinals’ visits come during public upheaval in the church, spurred in part by Francis and notably last month’s Extraordinary Synod of Catholic Bishops at the Vatican, where church leaders were divided on how the 2,000-year-old faith should respond to 21st-century issues like gay marriage and divorce.

In mid-October more than 200 prelates and laypersons gathered in Rome for two weeks to discuss family matters. The synod’s final document laid out an agenda for next year’s meeting, promising to explore ways in which to promote traditional teachings on marriage while also welcoming people in non-traditional situations.

Last week Pope Francis made headlines for saying evolution is “not inconsistent with the notion of creation.” And earlier this week he voiced concern for the lengthy, and at times unfairly expensive, annulment process for divorced Catholics.

Amid the news, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, said in an interview with Vida Nueva publication, “there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder.”

“Now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith,” Cardinal Burke told the Spanish weekly.

In his Catholic University speech, Cardinal Muller referred to Pope Francis’ use of the expression “reverence for truth.”

“Perhaps reverence for truth also … includes the skill of learning how to receive traditional wisdom,” said the cardinal, a traditionalist in the faith. “Receiving, understanding, interpreting so as to conserve … the very idea of tradition.”

“The truth must be translated in a way that offers the opportunity for people to give of themselves unreservedly,” Cardinal Muller said. “One cannot live in the freedom of truth unless one has given oneself to the truth. This is the point of Christian truth.”

Cardinal Kasper, a reform-minded prelate, admitted that Francis “is a pope of surprises,” and that there are some who “do not really trust this new style.”

“For more people, it’s the beginning of a new spring,” he said. “For others, it’s a temporary cold spell.”

Cardinal Kasper is president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and a former visiting professor at Catholic University.

Cardinal Muller is prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, meaning he has the “responsibility of maintaining the integrity of faith,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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