Monday, May 19, 2014

HOW FEARFUL ARE ORTHODOX CATHOLICS ABOUT ENGAGING IN A MEANINGFUL WAY WITH THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH THE CHURCH'S MORAL TEACHINGS


I sense a great deal of anxiety from orthodox Catholics about the direction Pope Francis will lead the Church in terms of the traditional, "not open to change" moral teaching of the Church.

This anxiety was revved up a bit with the hand-selected by Pope Francis, head of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Galantino, who said some interesting things this week and was a bit pastorally off-base about a couple of things:

Rocco Palma of Whispers in the Loggia writes the following on his blog today:

What's more, an already rich subtext has become even more eventful over recent days. Still settling in as Francis' de facto agent at the conference's Rome headquarters, the CEI's new secretary-general Bishop Nunzio Galantino made waves after encouraging the church to discuss hot-button internal issues "without taboos" in an interview with an Italian newspaper group.

Citing "married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, [and] homosexuality" as examples, Galantino qualified the remark by adding that any discussions of the kind can only "start from the Gospel and give the reasons for their proposals." In any case, both in the Italian and English-speaking commentariats, the primary reaction was drawn by the bishop's statement – in response to a question about the CEI's prior investment in "non-negotiable values" – that "I don't identify myself with the inexpressive looks of people reciting the rosary outside clinics which practice the interruption of pregnancy, but with those young people who are against this practice [i.e. abortion] and fight for the quality of people's lives, for their rights to health care and work."

Bloggers of the orthodox ilk and the secular media did not seem to highlight or report in any way what I have highlighted in red above.

I know from my relatives in Italy, that the Church is pastorally insensitive to them. Now we have to keep in mind the Italian mentality about family and especially children. I had relatives tell me that when they called a priest to go and baptize a dying baby the priest asked them if the parents went to church, which, of course, with a majority of Italians, they didn't, although they would consider themselves Catholic. When the priest learned this, he did not go and the baby died without baptism. There was no pastoral outreach to this family whatsoever. This seems to be quite common in Italy, where the Catholic Church is dying.

I also learn from my Italian relatives that they are somewhat "anti-clerical" because of the Church's involvement in politics, not just from local bishops, but all the way to the Bishop of Rome. During the reign of Pope Paul VI, he tried to keep the laws of Italy in place that prevented divorce, period. He failed and the law passed. But the Church's so-called political activism to prevent legal divorce for Catholics then faced with a living arrangement that could not be pastorally addressed by the annulment procedure created more anti-clericalism amongst rank and file Catholics and continued to drive a wedge between them and the Church.

Now don't get me wrong. I am opposed to Catholics who have separated from remarrying again outside the Church and when they do, I try hard to help them in a pastoral way to find a solution to their situation in the Church, first through the Church's annulment process.

In Italy, prior to the divorce law being changed, a Catholic could not apply for an annulment since you must be divorced in the first place to attain one. On top of that, Catholics who couldn't get divorced, left their spouses to live with their new loved one in an adulterous relationship. There were no laws to protect the spouse and children of these sad situations. So the adulterer could get away with it without having to care for the ones he or she left behind.

All of this calls into questions the Church's moral positions and leads to a denigration of them.

So, despite Bishop Galantino's pastoral insensitivity to pro-life activists, and his call that there be no taboos to discuss issues in the Italian Church but in light of the Gospel and what it teaches (and keep in mind that when a bishop says this, it is not just "sola Scriptura" that he is speaking but within the context Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law).

Apart from Holy Communion for those in objective adultery whose marriage is presumed to be a valid, life long sacramental marriage, the hot button issue for Catholics in the USA today is that of homosexuality.

Catholics, a significant number of them, rank and file and academics, see no difference between a person who loves members of the other sex and desire marriage with one of them or more of them, and those of same sex attractions who have the same desire for marriage with one of the same sex or more of them. 

How in the face of this do we help families and friends of those who are homosexual, and actively so and some of whom seek to be married to understand the Church's position and to do so in a way that is convincing?

Do parents, siblings, relatives, friends and aquaintances have to disown, shun and hate sons and daughters who are homosexual. And how do we call any homosexual or heterosexual who is sexually active to chastity?

And what lines should not be crossed in interfering with the private sexual lives of consenting adults. As for me, I don't see myself as a policeman or a voyeur. I don't think about my parishioner's sex lives and I don't relate to them based upon the fact they are gay or straight. Their identity to me is not a sexual orientation and practices, but who they are as created in the image and likeness of God, but fallen because of Original Sin and the actual sin this leads them to practice.

Should parents love their children because they are gay or straight and make that the basis of their identity? Or should they love their children because they are their children and created in the image and likeness of God. Should they love their sin, mind their own business (for adult children) and not be preoccupied by their sex lives?

And this brings us to the most hot-botton issue. Homosexuals want to be considered normal with the normal rights to marriage as heterosexuals. For the most part, apart from social acceptance, they want legal protection for their partnerships that are accorded to heterosexual marriages.

The Catholic Church will never call homosexual partnerships or legal unions marriage. We can't even call the second marriages of heterosexuals without an annulment marriages either. 

No one bats an eye at legal recognition of second marriages by the state, which in the eyes of the Church aren't marriages, but legal unions, moral or immoral, depending on actual sex taking place or not.

Same sex marriage, my clairvoyance tells me, will be the law of the land and very, very soon and in every state. How do we deal with this as the Church without becoming preoccupied by the sex lives of consenting adults, be they heterosexual or homosexual?

37 comments:

Gene said...

Every heresy in history "started from the Gospel and gave reasons for its beliefs."
All this "talking around" issues by the Pope and his minions could just be a way of loosening things up so that some radical change might be more acceptable after being floated long enough and with enough casuistry to make it palatable. Just saying'...

Anonymous said...

Father,

I have followed your posts about the Church and the Papacy even during the time of the reigh of Pope Benedict XVI and up until now in this time of Pope Francis.

I can see your point that we Catholics need to respect and love the Holy Father even if we do not agree with everything he says...

But what amuses me is the seeming tendency in some of your posts to explain away difficult and controversial aspects of this current Pontiff. I know you are just trying to be loyal. But do you really need to be always on the defensive side with whatever this Pope does or says? I think, and you know it too, that the Pope is human and is not a god, and therefore his actions is not above scrunity nor above the Gospel and Tradition itself...

I know, I know... the Pope is the final authority, and that there is no appeal against the decision of the Roman Pontiff. But I just would like to mention to you that you seem to be so ultramontane these days to the point of burying your head in the sand with what seems obvious. Pope Francis and his spokesman needs to make themselves clear. And they clearly have problems with how they use their teaching authority. And this Pope's vaya con lio thing is something he himself and his spokesman needs to explain... because all this uproar has no other source than the seeming heretical actuations of the Pope himself.

And to fellow Catholics, yes we need to tread carefully when criticizing the Roman Pontiff. For he is the Vicar of Our Lord here on earth after all... But for those on the other side, pls. avoid the ultramontane blindness. We don't have to lick the dust off the Pope's shoes just because he is the highest authority of the Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You should see some of the comments about the Holy Father I delete. They attack him and his integrity and most do so like fundamentalists who quote certain passages of Scripture but out of context.

I do not want to encourage the ugliness of progressive Catholics toward Pope Paul VI in 1968 when he put breaks on their moral relatives with Humanae Vitae with neo orthodox Catholics doing the same to Pope Francis. I would say defend or give a good apologetic for what one presumes he says of which they disagree without insults to the Holy Father. I fear his off the cuff remarks that are quite pedestrian and non academic do not serve the Church or the papacy well and simply create divisiveness especially leading to out of context conclusions. I can write that without insults that are personal.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Moral relativism not relatives

Anonymous said...

For decades Catholic bishops around the globe, in every diocese, hid,covered up and ignored the evil of pedophilia committed by priests. Now these same men are trying to silence the voice of faithful Catholics for making known their concerns about scandalous lives of the clergy, their heresy, their complete dismissal of the souls that were entrusted to them, their bad example. It's unfortunate that these same men didn't put in the effort to stop crimes committed by priests as they are doing with promoting sacrilegious communion among the laity. Because that is exactly what they are doing.

Gee Father is this to much truth for you to publish. I for one do not believe in "emperor worship" but since you seem quite sensitive to any perceived negativity towards Francis I was careful not to include any. I hope my post passes the Pravda review.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In the same period many acts of sex abuse took place in the family with older siblings and parents and others and it was covered up too to prevent scandal and protect good old dad or mommy or maybe uncle , aunt or older brother from going to prison. And on top of that 13 year old girls could get married legally especially if they were pregnant with their adult boyfriend's child in the south and well into the 70's and it is common in other pats of the world in antiquity and today. As with the bishops of the recent past who covered up for abuse as dysfunctional families did and still do, should we even try to understand that cultural and religeous or non religeous context on the nuclear family and the Church family or do we demonize all as you do?

Anonymous said...

Father are you trying to excuse, or rationalize the behavior of men on a worldwide level with the above comment? And the big difference is that laity that committed these crimes were imprisoned. How many bishops went to jail? I think it would be a great act of humility, since Francis personally took responsibility for the pedophilia of priests, that he voluntarily go to prison to expiate their sins and show the world that he is sincere.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

You are deliberately misrepresenting what I wrote. If an abuser was turned in by his wife rather than covered up by her, he went to prison if found guilty although laws are stricter today, week or non existent in the recent past with a strict statute of limitation! All kinds of priest abusers are in prison but not their spiritual father the bishop? Why is that? Because there were and are no civil laws that were broken! It is the legal system that was the enabler demonize the civil authorities if you must demonize. The only one unjustly convicted of civil laws that did not exist is the priest vicar of priests in Philadelphia whose conviction was rightly overturned. New laws can't be retroactive!

rcg said...

To answer the question, "Not al all." But what is being discussed is whether conservatives are correctly interpreting Church teachings and, secondly, if there is any result from ignoring Church teachings.

Henry said...

Father McDonald, I think the pertinent question is not why no bishops are in jail for their coverups--which you explained adequately--but why the USCCB has taken no public action to condemn or even rebuke offending bishops. Though it has undertaken a PR full court press with its actions against offending priests. (Not to mention its odious VIRTUS program that many feel is simply an attempt to dodge legal liability and to shift the blame to lay people and away from the homosexual priests and bishops who are the actual culprits.)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There is no canonical provision for that which you describe and is seldom or ever done by bishops to bishop publicly. Only the pope can do that.

Henry said...

Fr. McDonald, I don't thinks that's an adequate reason, Many if not most of the USCCB's actions are taken in the absence of specific canonical provision. Including, I believe, their whole policy in reaction to the sex-abuse situation.

Not a canonist myself, but I suspect there is no canonical barrier to the USCCB policing its own ranks somehow, in this and other matters. You're certainly right, that the bishops don't do this. In my view, the fact that they do in fact turn a blind eye to any and every aberrant behavior of their own, is one reason for the sorry state the Church is in.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Like it or not only a bishop is accountable only to the pope, that is our system. What bishops publicly criticized Cardinal Law?

Gene said...

Meanwhile, back in Ireland, the Bishop of Cork has come out in favor of same sex marriage. Now, get this…the Bishop of CORK and same sex marriage. The jokes just write themselves…LOL! Of course, Ireland is becoming a joke in itself.

Anonymous said...

Wow! So you are saying that bishops who protected / enabled priests who raped children didn't break any laws. Did they commit a sin? Would you consider it a "minor mortal sin" or just a plain old mortal sin? And even if they didn't break a law enacted by a government are you trying to say that those bishops should remain in power? That's incredible. You people still don't get if. YOU ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW AND YOU CAN'T RAPE OUR CHILDREN!

John Nolan said...

Gene, the Bishop of Cork you are referring to is Paul Colton, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, not John Buckley, the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. The CofI was disestablished in 1869 and is part of the so-called Anglican Communion, although compared with the CofE it's decidedly 'low church'.

When the English hierarchy was restored in 1850 an Act of Parliament prevented Catholic Bishops from assuming the territorial titles held by bishops of the Established Church, so it's less confusing this side of the Irish sea. In the case of Liverpool and Birmingham, which have a Catholic archbishop and an Anglican bishop, the Anglican diocese was set up after 1850 (Liverpool in 1880 and Birmingham in 1905).

Gene said...

Meanwhile over in Italy, 26 Italian women who are in sexual relationships with Priests have written Pope Francis asking him to make celibacy optional. This is not satire. You cannot make this stuff up. The joke potential here is just phenomenal!

There once was a Priest named Rex
Who was considered a master at sex,
With the queen he was dating
Her ladies in waiting,
And the nuns were all nervous wrecks.

Henry said...

"Like it or not only a bishop is accountable only to the pope, that is our system. What bishops publicly criticized Cardinal Law?"

Which illustrates my point. Even in our "system", there ought in the cause of common decency to be something bishops can do other serve as enablers of the bad actors among them. But at this point I see no point in discussing what Pope John Paul II did or did not do in his final years of debilitating infirmity.

George said...

No resolution of any issue can be arrived at if by doing so,God's law is transgressed. This doesn't mean that family members who differ in their views on sexuality cannot get along. The Church cannot accommodate itself to error though. Just like with ecumenism. The Church can never merge with any other ecclesial body outside of her which has fundamentally different theology. That does not mean that there can't be co-operation between the Catholic Church and some other religious group on common interests and concerns. Catholics can get along and pray for those who are outside the boundaries of the Church. They just cannot exact a price from us for doing so that we can never pay. If the history of the Church tells us anything it is that with the grace of God it is possible to hold to the faith and the Church teachings even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Careful Gene. "Church of Ireland" = Protestant. This is not the RC Bishop of Cork. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/republic-of-ireland/church-of-ireland-bishops-backing-for-samesex-marriage-welcomed-30284602.html

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I am referring to civil law. If bishops had broken civil law they would have been prosecuted by now. Moral law was broken not sure of canon law.

George said...

No priest or bishop exists outside the boundaries of criminal or civil law (although I suppose the papal legate is insulated by diplomatic immunity). It sure would have made things easier for the Church if the priests who abused minors had been arrested and tried (as some eventually were), even though a lot of bad publicity would have had to be endured.

Gene said...

Oops…but, it would not have surprised me at all were it were the Catholic bishop...

Anonymous said...

And I mean "doctrine" ambiguously to refer to something else since we are all Southern here and trying to be polite

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the prosecutors who comment here will agree that not being prosecuted is not commensurate with not having violated the law. It's rather clear to me that certain bishops, at the very least, should have been prosecuted for obstruction of justice. The government probably could have come up with a decent conspiracy case if they bothered.

And I say that as a criminal defense lawyer.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Given the witch hunt that has led to many priests being falsely accused, even in death, I find it hard to believe that some prosecutor hasn't prosecuted a bishop. If it is possible, under the law as it was at the time of egregious disregard for the safety of children, they would have done it. The closest they have come to doing it was with the Vicar of priests in Philadelphia who assisted the cardinal in moving priests about. They applied a law that did not exist at the time of what was going on to him retroactively and he was convicted. The conviction was overturned for obvious reasons--the law wasn't broken because there was no law governing this at the time.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

What I am trying to say in pointing out that the laws were weak is that the demonetization if there most be demonetization should be directed to the law makers. Also, we have a terrible tendency today to place upon previous generations awareness and prejudices we have today that they didn't have. If the law allowed a teenage girl of 13 who got pregnant at 12 by her adult boyfriend to get married, isn't the problem the law or is it custom. The BVM consented to be the mother of God at the age of 12 or 13. It was a cultural norm.

So much concerning sex is cultural, especially age. We don't get that in the 21st century especially as it concerns teenagers and adults who either love them or use them in previous generations and still today.

Catholic said...

I have represented many alleged child molesters in my career. The cases are often specious even when the time from incident to allegation is mere days. The passage of 20 or 30 years makes these alleged priest-incidents all the more difficult to prosecute (and to believe).

So to the extent bishops took action to delay the allegation being made, there is obstruction. That doesn't mean the allegation would have been credible. But just because there wasn't a specific law addressing it doesn't mean they couldn't have been prosecuted for something.

Based on conversations I've had with trustworthy priests, I think the odds are better than even that a large number of priests and bishops were involved in a massive cover up involving homosexuals amongst their ranks as well as child predators. Those are, in my estimation, two different problems, though. I do think they're rooted in the same mentality: both groups enter the priesthood for a nefarious reason-one to try to avoid acting on version inclinations or to facilitate that, and the other to be in a position of power over potential victims.

It's my understanding, though, that at the time, many in the Church and out were overly confident in certain psycho-analytic techniques that have been disproven or discredited since. Hopefully the screening and removal process are better now.

(I'm the Anonymous above. Neglected to sign that one.)

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Going back 30 and 40 years and more, law enforcement often treated clergy, doctors and teachers differently and in Catholic areas such as Boston turned priests over to the bishop. At the same period parents of abused children did not want the law involved for the sake if preventing scandal and also protecting their children from more trauma in court. The cultural context of avoiding scandal was extremely strong and is a part of what you describe also.

John Nolan said...

The great majority of sexual delicts amongst the clergy of the Latin rite involve, as they have always involved, relations with women. Clerical concubinage is as old as the Church herself. As it is a disciplinary matter it is dealt with by the local Ordinary according to Canon Law. It is a known fact that there are certain women who are attracted to men of the cloth; married Anglican clergy are not immune, and the tabloid headline 'Vicar admits his affair with choirmistress' is not uncommon. Catholic priests may have undertaken not to marry (celibacy) but are as tempted to fornication as are the rest of us - in the old days bishops would have ensured that priests' housekeepers were old and ugly, whereas I know of at least one PP who has employed a single 20-something, which is surely asking for trouble.

Solicitation of penitents was regarded as a crime which merited the attention of the Holy Office (because it was the abuse of a Sacrament) and yet the 'foulest crime' (crimen pessimum) identified in Crimen Sollicitationis (1962) involved homosexual acts of an obscene nature (in other words all of them). Interestingly, the other two crimes in this category are bestiality and obscene acts with pre-pubescent children of either sex. One can just see the headlines nowadays: 'VATICAN EQUATES GAY SEX WITH BESTIALITY AND PAEDOPHILIA'

By following secular trends and being too tolerant of homosexual behaviour, allowing a 'gay' subculture to flourish in seminaries (and overlooking the activities of the likes of Rembert Weakland), the post-V2 church authorities showed the same spineless relativism they brought to everything else. When Cardinal Ratzinger read the files from the US he was visibly shocked, and yet the measures he quite rightly and speedily introduced were denounced as 'homophobic' by the mainstream media.

The bishops' culpability is in trying to cover up a situation which they themselves had allowed to develop in the first place.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It is a moral culpability to say the least, the cover-up though has meaning that is legal and I think the legal advice to American bishops was it was not their responsibility to report the crime, but rather the parents, who many cases didn't do it. So should they be prosecuted. Laws in most USA states have changed since the 1980's were bishops are required to report if they learn of something not in the confessional, such as personnel issue of sex abuse of anyone when the law is broken. In Georgia, a clergy of any denomination who has sex with an adult can be prosecuted, but not before the law came into effect.

John Nolan said...

'In Georgia, a clergy [sic] of any denomination who has sex with an adult can be prosecuted'. Would you like to expand on that? Enforced chastity on Baptist ministers of either sex? Does it apply to rabbis? What if he/she is married to the adult in question? Is fornication now a criminal offence in the state of Georgia? Even Cromwell didn't go this far.

'In the land of the boll-weevil/Where the laws are medieval' (Tom Lehrer, 'Dixie').

WSquared said...

I can see how behind every archly clerical priest or layperson is the fear of being irresponsible. It's an understandable fear, but it is wrong, and not just pastorally insensitive, to deny the dying baby of which you speak the Sacraments: never underestimate the power of the Sacraments-- think of those whose parents, for whatever reason, had them baptized, who came into the Church or back to the Church. We should never, ever lie about or misrepresent what the Sacraments are, but God works through them. All He needs is an "in." It's often surprising where He finds it. To bring the Sacraments to people while nurturing their understanding of them suggests a theology of encounter and engagement. That said, it is also dishonest for anyone turned off by clericalism to make the sins of others an excuse for non-practice and unbelief: we're all sinners-- if the sins of others are an excuse or reason for your unbelief, then think about what everyone else in the Body of Christ across time and space could say about you.

That baby was not born in ideal circumstances but he or she is not to blame. Clericalism is fearful and shortsighted: think of the potential of bringing the wayward back to the Church and to orthodoxy; it's a point of entry in terms of evangelization. To smell like one's sheep is to live and work among the flock: it does not mean wallowing in the mud with them, but it does mean getting into that mud up to the elbows in order to bring them out of it. To be a shepherd still demands knowing how and where to lead the sheep to safety, having waded in to rescue them. Christ carries the sheep upon His shoulders, but He also disciplines them.

Observe what Pope Francis did while still Cardinal Bergoglio when it came to unmarried couples with children: he baptized the children and then invited the couple to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony directly afterward-- this is not "I'm okay, you're okay," and it most certainly is not the touchy-feely accommodation that many North American laypeople expect when they treat parishes and priests as venues and vendors-- the customer is not always right; what the Church offers everyone is simply not for sale. Pastoral "sensitivity" with no real sense of direction is itself pastorally insensitive.

How do we deal with this as the Church without becoming preoccupied by the sex lives of consenting adults, be they heterosexual or homosexual?

Well, what is human sexuality actually for, and what are we consenting to? Like any of the gifts God so generously gives us, we should not abuse it. It's important to emphasize that the Church does not say "no" to good things, but "no" to their abuse. And we are capable of abusing sexuality, just like we are capable of abusing everything and anything else-- usually by presuming that we can do whatever we like, having equated it with love. This sort of abuse is also the result of any and all false dichotomies that frequently arise in any and all Catholicism-related discussions, despite what the Church actually teaches.

Oddly enough, we may have to get at it in a way that is indirectly direct: not to fixate on it and hammer away at it or even pussyfoot around it, but to always point to the bigger, more coherent, and holistic picture while also pointing out time and again that the Sacraments enable us. "God is Love" also implies that there are things that are contrary to Love, and how Love restores right order in the work of salvation.

Depending on what it is, it may also be imperative to point out to the faithful what the Church DOES NOT teach as well as what she does: we have yet to recover from the confusion directly after Vatican II-- "pray, pay, and obey" and "kumbaaya" are bad in and of themselves; taken together, they are potentially lethal. I highly suspect that Francis often throws everyone for a loop because he assumes that we already know this stuff and expects us to cast out into the deep.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JN, I should have qualified what I wrote that a clergy member breaks the law by having sex with a parishioner in a professional relationship with that person in the same way that a professional, such as a doctor, or lawyer or whatever has sex with one of his/her clients. There is a conflict of interests and perhaps an abuse of power.

WSquared said...

Should parents love their children because they are gay or straight

Yes. Without question.

and make that the basis of their identity?

No. That would be contrary to the fullness of the truth of the human person. God sets the standard of holiness and what it means to love and live to the fullest as a human being, and He therefore judges. But He also enables a person to live according to the standard that He Himself sets.

Or should they love their children because they are their children and created in the image and likeness of God.

Yes. I think the latter part of my last response (hopefully) speaks to what this would mean in practice.

Should they love their sin, mind their own business (for adult children) and not be preoccupied by their sex lives?

There are going to be situations where not "minding our own business" becomes unavoidable, because the situation makes it our business.

Apart from free will and its abuse thereof, a son or daughter who is cohabiting with a boyfriend or girlfriend, gay or straight, has no business demanding that our "loving" and "respecting" them entails violation of our beliefs and our faith. They may not demand that their hurt feelings come before the souls of others, especially if they claim to "respect" and "tolerate" others who are different from themselves. As for "not hurting other people's feelings," they themselves have failed their own standards and criteria in a trice.

Respect and love must go both ways, and "don't impose your morality/religion on me!" is also a door that logically swings both ways: morality is always an imposition. The issue is what is being imposed and why. Parents may welcome their sons or daughters' boyfriends or girlfriends into their homes, but they are well within reason to set specific boundaries-- for example, insisting on separate rooms. To will the good of the other as other is to think on both the material and spiritual plane simultaneously. And for our part, we have to get beyond just condemning the sin if we are to help others move forward. Drawing the boundary but then reaching over it is different from hiding behind that boundary or not drawing it at all.

Children who were raised Catholic may have chosen to not marry in the Church. But they may not demand that everybody else celebrate mortal sin. There are ways that parents can support the relationship between the couple without shunning them, and I think it's to know what the Church offers them while praying for them and being patient: one can approve of the match while disapproving of the way they are going about their marriage. And please-- there should be no reduction of what the Catholic Church teaches and why to bourgeois suburban respectability and our "reputation." Everybody already knows that this type of social stigma no longer exists, and it's not what Catholicism is about, anyway. The scandal lies not primarily in what's "not respectable" but in calling evil good and good evil.

Also, a civil ceremony can be convalidated, and part of the problem is the widespread lack of basic Sacramental theology among Catholics. No wonder Holy Matrimony gets reduced to a "church wedding" that is merely one aesthetic choice among many. Catholics don't get married in the Church just because it affords us "nicer wedding photos."

WSquared said...

Speaking about the Sacraments-- from Baptism to Holy Matrimony-- becoming overblown family events, Pope Francis also recognizes that the Sacraments are not commodities and that so many people worry about money: laypeople and priests who work in parishes need to be aware of how many couples don't get married in the Church because they fear they "can't afford it." There needs to be some sensitivity toward those situations, none of which need to be reduced to officiousness and superfluous formality.

Of course, there are some less scrupulous folks who will squawk about how the Catholic Church makes things too expensive, even as they have money to spend on a DJ, but there, I guess one asks the Holy Spirit for guidance.

It is just something else in general that affluent, bourgeois suburbanites who blow off Church teaching on certain issues already treat the parish church as a venue and Father and his staff as vendors, and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony as just a nice "church wedding"-- a pretty, frilly ceremony with pious platitudes about how God somehow "makes official" and signs off on whatever nonsense we do in the name of "love." Many of them think it's just quaint aesthetics-- one photography website cited a couple as "Catholic"; they did not get married in the Church, but thought they'd acknowledge their "Catholic roots" by having some stained-glass church windows at their outdoor ceremony. Don't even get me started on how many well-meaning secularist friends and secular-leaning Catholics told me that I didn't need to go through all the formal "fuss" of a "church wedding."

We don't need to encourage reduction of the Sacraments to aesthetics among the poor, who feel alienated if parish staff turn them away. And this often goes for almost all of the Sacraments: sometimes, we let bureaucracy get in the way. We miss very real evangelization opportunities if we don't address stumbling blocks like these.

I have self-professed hippie-pagan friends who were actually surprised when I said that my husband and I did not marry in the Catholic Church out of any "formality" or "respectability," and that even though we did get dressed up, we could've just shown up in our Sunday best and had a picnic in the park or a barbecue in the backyard afterwards, and the Church would not have refused to marry us. Or, we could've just had the Nuptial Mass and buzzed off directly afterward. A lack of those trimmings might've disappointed or upset one or two family members, but not the Catholic Church. The point is to get back to basics and then move forward from there.

The mother whose children Cardinal Bergoglio baptized was single, in mortal sin, and had those children via several different fathers. But he (I believe) heard her Confession, baptized her children, and then celebrated with them afterwards with soda and sandwiches. His pastoral theology is on point: it has nothing to do with "changing Church teaching" on this, that, or the other thing, but showing people that Jesus is with them, wants them to receive Him, will enable and strengthen them, and will put things right.

When it comes to things like the annulment process as well as divorce and remarriage or any irregular canonical situation, people need to know that the Church does not abandon them or cast them out, but will walk with them-- some things cannot be fixed in an instant, but they can be put right eventually through patience, prayer, and never losing sight of God's Presence. When we remember that this is about the salvation of souls, the nature of the end game changes.

John Nolan said...

Fr AJM, thanks for the explanation. For a doctor or lawyer to have consensual sex with a client would be regarded as professional misconduct and dealt with by the appropriate professional body. To make it a criminal offence would appear to be draconian and possibly unconstitutional. A few years ago the age of homosexual consent in England and Wales was lowered to 16, despite the measure being rejected by the House of Lords. At the same time a law was passed making it a criminal offence for someone in a 'position of trust' to have sexual relations with a person (of either sex) between the ages of 16 and 18. This was really to protect adolescent boys from exploitation by predatory homosexuals, but its effect was to criminalize what was previously professional misconduct. So a teacher who resigns his position in order to marry a 17-year-old pupil will still be jailed if it can be proved that the relationship began while she was still a pupil, albeit over the age of consent.

This violates an important principle, viz. that the criminal law should apply equally, regardless of the status of the perpetrator.