Kasper: Pope Thinks 50% of Marriages Not Valid
For the record. In an interview with Cardinal Kasper in Commonweal.
CWL: In your address to the consistory, you ask whether we can, “in the present situation, presuppose without further ado that the engaged couple shares the belief in the mystery that is signified by the sacrament and that they really understand and affirm the canonical conditions for the validity of the marriage.” You ask whether the presumption of validity from which canon law proceeds is often “a legal fiction.” But can the church afford not to make this presumption? How could the church continue to marry couples in good faith if it assumed that many of them were not really capable of entering into sacramental marriage because they were, as you put it somewhere else in your speech, “baptized pagans”?
Kasper: That’s a real problem. I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid. Marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament presupposes faith. And if the couple only want a bourgeois ceremony in a church because it’s more beautiful, more romantic, than a civil ceremony, you have to ask whether there was faith, and whether they really accepted all the conditions of a valid sacramental marriage—that is, unity, exclusivity, and also indissolubility. The couples, when they get married, they want it because it’s stable. But many think, “Well, if we fail, we have the right.” And then already the principle is denied. Many canon lawyers tell me that today in our pluralistic situation we cannot presuppose that couples really assent to what the church requires. Often it is also ignorance. Therefore you have to emphasize and to strengthen prematrimonial catechesis. It’s often done in a very bureaucratic way. No, we have to provide catechesis. I know some parishes in Rome where couples have to attend catechesis, and the pastor himself does it. We must do much more in prematrimonial catechesis and use pastoral work and so on because we cannot presuppose that everybody who is a formal Christian also has the faith. It wouldn’t be realistic.