by Felix Neumann
“Let not your heart be troubled!” is the slogan that Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller places at the head of his “Manifesto of Faith.” He issued this, according to the introduction, at the request of many of the faithful “in the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith.”
The brief manifesto is not lacking in certainties. The cardinal, uninfected by any postmodern doubt or ambiguity, states what the reality is. Cardinal Müller’s heart is not troubled. His Yes is Yes, his No is No.
Shortly thereafter his great counter-force in the college of cardinals, the resistant Cardinal Walter Kasper, who as former officer for ecumenism is well versed in dealing with ambiguities, issued a critique of Müller’s manifesto.
Where Müller gives a Yes to the truths of the faith, Kasper relentlessly gives a But: Yes, we believe in the trinitarian God. But what about the Jews and the Muslims? Cardinal Kasper’s heart is not troubled. He puts out into the deep.
The two positions stand unreconciled next to each other: the one a lighthouse against the “zeitgeist,” the other calm in the face of the uncertainties of the present.
It is easy to project these fundamental differences within the church onto a political left-right schema. But a distinction of this sort is not productive – not least with a view toward the horizon of redemption, about which the two distinct cardinals are united.
Already over ten years ago, Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the order of Dominicans, provided a formula for these fundamental hermeneutical differences among Catholics which is not easy to grasp with worldly political categories. He spoke of “Kingdom of God Catholics” and “Communio Catholics.”
According to Radcliffe, the first have a deep sense for the pilgrim People of God on their way to the Kingdom of God. They emphasize openness and the action of the Holy Spirit even outside the Church. Freedom and justice and mercy are important to them.
The others, the Communio Catholics, want to strengthen the community of the Church. They emphasize Catholic identity and are skeptical of the shallowness of modernity. They value order and truth and clarity. It is clear: Müller belongs to the Communio Catholics, Kasper to the Kingdom of God Catholics.
Already in 2006 Radcliffe lamented the lack of discussion between these two groups. Today the problem is greater. A Kingdom of God Catholic can hardly comprehend the uncertainty and the fear of confusion which Müller stands against. A Communio Catholic can hardly comprehend how unworried the other side is about pluralism and the dissolution of certainties.
Neither of these positions is simply “right” or “left,” “orthodox” or “heterodox.”
Radcliffe wrote then that the split can only be healed when we strive to understand why others think the way they do. He wrote nothing about manifestos.
Up until now, the method of Francis is to keep silence about such controversies such as the dubia and Vigano’s explosive letter. Supporters and opponents wish that he would clearly position himself – in this, there is no lack of clear positions in the church. In his office of unity, it would be the Pope’s place to state his position: not as a judge between the positions, not as one party, but as a bridge-builder who promotes dialogue.
Felix Neumann is on the editorial staff at katholisch.de. This piece is published in translation with his kind permission.