Monday, February 6, 2017


Over the years, if you have read this wildly popular blog, you know that I am very sympathetic to the development of the "Internal Forum" within the context of the Sacrament of Penance.

Let me place the parameters upon it that I feel are important and in fact I borrow as well as I can remember from our now deceased retired bishop, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard:

1. The External Forum for someone in an illicit second union must first be exhausted with no decision rendered because of technicalities such as no witnesses to corroborate what the petitioner and respondent have testified.

2. Thus the petitioner or respondent are in limbo because no definitive decision can be rendered in favor of the Sacramental nature of the marriage that has ended in a civil divorce. Let me be clear, if the External Forum states that the Sacramental nature of the marriage that has ended in a civil divorce is in fact a Sacrament, case close--the person cannot be admitted to Holy Communion while carrying on the marital act with someone who isn't their spouse. The only way toward full integration into the Sacramental life of the Church is for the illicit union to end or for the couple to live as brother and sister ceasing and resisting in the bogus marital act.

3. However, if no decision can be rendered in the External Forum, then the person who feels in good conscience that their presumably illicit union is a valid marriage (legally as it concerns Church Law) then in the context of Confession which the penitent has initiated, not the priest, seeks an internal solution where the person without interference from the priest makes a decision of conscience to return to Holy Communion after seeking the advice of the priest who then gives the person absolution and counsels them to receive Holy Communion where no scandal will be given to others. However, the priest should also caution the penitent that the priest isn't given them permission but the penitent is taking things into their own hands and will be the one to face their maker at their death and personal judgement. In other words, the priest divests himself of the wrath of God at his death and judgement.

4. The priest is not allowed to blessed what is presumed an illicit union.


What distresses me about Chapter 8 is that it doesn't insist on the External Forum first and the internal forum as I describe above. It seems that the person in an illicit union and their spiritual director, a priest or bishop, can come up with a decision to return to Holy Communion solely on a decision of conscience. Absolution is given without recourse first to the External Forum.

Logically then, and no one is even talking about this, is if a person can return to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion without the procedure I describe above (which I admit is not codified in Canon Law but has been a pastoral solution for decades) then why in the name of God can't the priest "validate, (convalidate)" that illicit union? If one can receive Holy Communion without moral repercussions, why not the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony for that outwardly illicit and thus adulterous civil union?

And if the logic is that the penitent not the priest and thus the institutional Church, is the one to decide on the morality of their acts and in good conscience decides  to receive Holy Communion, such as those  in civilly recognized same sex unions, why then can't the Church bless those as the Sacramental of Holy Matrimony? Just asking.


Rood Screen said...

It seems to me that the question of the internal forum (a term with applications beyond determining sacramental validity) is not much at issue here. The real controversy is over allowing a person known with certainty to be in a valid marriage, but who lives in an adulterous relationship, to receive Holy Communion.

But the point remains. If a person is not validly married, but cannot prove this to a tribunal due to existent but inaccessible evidence, then some solution should be available.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Logically then, and no one is even talking about this, is if a person can return to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion without the procedure I describe above (which I admit is not codified in Canon Law but has been a pastoral solution for decades) then why in the name of God can't the priest "validate, (convalidate)" that illicit union?"

Because, it seems to me, the act of convalidating (blessing) the marriage is a PUBLIC action of the Church while the return to the sacraments is a PRIVATE matter.

TJM said...

In the Middle Ages returning to the Sacraments was a public matter. Remember sack clothe and ashes on the steps of the Church?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Receiving Holy communion is public too! What is to stop a priest from privately validating an illicit union which he does according to his conscience for anyone in an illicit union gay or straight?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

This is what Francis said just this morning concerning the Decalogue! Certainly this applies 100 fold to small minded canon laws and equally to natural law!!!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Forgot to paste francis' quote:
Open your heart, do not take refuge in the rigidity of the Commandments.

TJM said...

the "ridity of the Commandments?" Wow, does the Pope have Alzheimers?

Dan said...

"the "rigidity of the Commandments?" Wow, does the Pope have Alzheimer's? That little footnote is not the fruit of Alzheimer's. It is a cleverly applied lever to uproot Catholic moral thought as we know it and replace it with a construct more acceptable to modern sensibilities. How far this will go is anyone's guess.

Victor said...

In my experience, it takes two to tango. That is to say, hearing both sides of the marriage breakdown story is like hearing two different stories, often each with an exaggerated sense of reality. If the external forum is inconclusive, the confessor would almost certainly hear only one story and thus be blind to lead the blind off the cliff. The internal forum would be just another product of this subjectivist modern world which would rather profane the Eucharist than hurt the feelings of a penitent. If the penitent truly believes in his/her innocence after the external forum is inconclusive, then there is always spiritual communion available and God will judge its validity. God's mercy is not about the Me, as in the Me generation which cannot fathom the postponement of gratification in this case of a "deserved" communion, but about the righteous working hard to be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Indeed, as Fr. Hunwicke on his Mutual Enrichment blog asked the other day, why should Discernment, Accompaniment, Gradualism, and Conscience apply only to adultery and not to the other 9 Commandments as well? Is not trying to circumvent the sinfullness of adultery opening the door to circumventing the sinfullness of all the other sins? Why, all of a sudden after 2,000 years, has adultery become an issue again?
But I guess the 10 commandments ought not to be taken seriously if sins are reduced to mere subjective feelings of innocence or guilt, as opposed to the ridgidity of following the 10 commandments in conformity with reason. In this post-truth subjective world, it seems feelings trump reason.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dan you are right and that is why I play the devil's advocate about the logical conclusion of such a theology with its intended results. The pope knows what he is doing and it is exactly was liberal Protestants in the Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian Churches did but in an over by vote way rendering their already fractured and impotent denominations even more so. The same is in store for us.

In to this, the pope is 1970's personified. There were debates and angst in the 70's that the Beattitudes did away with the Commandments! This led to sentimentality infused Catholicism and coloring book Catholicism most of whom reared on this kind of Catholicism no longer practice!

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Father, this is where I must respectfully disagree with Pope Francis. I hope, honestly hope, he didn't intend to just shove aside laws/doctrine/codified things as barriers to the Church and Christ. In addition this IS Scripture, the Word of God, and no one, not even he, can add or subtract from it under pain of Mortal Sin, as the Commandments are part of Exodus.

However, as I've said before, he has to wake up and realize this is NOT the way to win hearts and keep those decent faithful in the Church from straying to Radical Traditonalism that makes one self-schismatic and losing their salvation. He should have, lest they be to blame, told his English translators to change his meaning. I sympathize with him chastising (rightfully so) those radicals who use Church doctrines/dogma as beating clubs to police people and take the place of the TRUE Magisterium, all while committing their own acts of Satan, such as gossip, slander, etc. These people (whom sadly resist and TRUTH from any source) ruin the Latin Mass/Traditonal Catholicism.

However, this quote goes too far, and is a broad stroke brush bordering on willful disobedience to Scripture. It should NOT have been real Eades as is, but edited purposely with a balance of literal and dynamic equivalence.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The decision in conscience to receive communion is private.

We do not "privately" validate marriages. As with all marriages, it is a public act of the Church.

A private matter and a public act aren't comparable or equivalent.

Jusadbellum said...

When things don't make sense, I often think that perhaps we're missing the cultural nuances. Could the Pope's rather breathtaking comment on the Commandments be akin to hyperbole and not meant literally? Do Argentines or Italians do this?

"Don't hide behind the commandment to not commit adultery". ahhhh OKayyy. does this play out? Being too Grand Inquisitor on someone we know who had a public marriage in our parish, then a public divorce, and then became known through the grapevine to be "seeing" someone else..... and then we start seeing the couple in the pews on Sunday.

Suppose we learn from his ex-wife that no annulment was even sought. What are random laity to conclude by his publicly holding hands with someone not his wife except that he's an adulterer (regardless of what he might feel about it)?

Scandal is not a state of emotion. Scandal is any act or omission that would lead people to conclude that some sin or evil is no longer a problem. It's the normalization of sin that is the scandal.

TJM said...

If a bishop with guts barred a fake catholic, like Nancy Pelosi, from receiving Holy Communion, it would be a public matter.

Jusadbellum said...

Ok, I've done my homework. Here's the actual text:,_receptive_to_gods_gifts/1290724

As you can see, he's again talking about the Pharisees multiplying the LAW and thus - in continuity with Jesus' own exegesis on this problem - pointing out that not all of the Pharisee's rules and laws were of the same weight. Our Lord pointed this out by underscoring that some Jews would declare their wealth as being "for the Temple" and consequently would fail to take care of their impoverished parents.

Thus they made the Commandment of honoring father and mother subservient to a derivative law about maintaining the Temple priesthood.

He also underscored this in their scrupulous obedience on the details of tax on spices....but their ignoring the spiritual works of mercy.

So in THIS CONTEXT, the Pope is echoing Jesus but in a less clear, more vague and thus more easily misunderstood way.

Unless someone can draw a straight connect the dot arrow from these sorts of trite Papal meditations and right wing conservative Catholicism I'm not going to get too upset. The Pope isn't talking about me. Or people like me. We're not the one's hyperventilating about minute details while ignoring intrinsic evils.

Consider: the progressive (political and theological) have and are justifying what was forever considered mortally sinful: contraception, divorce, adultery, abortion, masturbation, sodomy....and they are actively embracing Islam and Muslims as though the doctrine was Amish-like peaceful/harmless and Muslims are "misunderstood harmless minorities" when in fact Islam and those Muslims who sincerely follow the doctrine have constituted the longest enduring threat to Christianity in world history.

It's pretty hard to argue that progressive Catholics are thus all about Love and "just following Jesus" when at a minimum one would actually care about people obeying Jesus' commands if they in fact cared about loving Jesus.

Thus again, even if Pope Francis thinks his words are directed at conservatives, I say that in the absence of clarity, we can interpret his words however we see fit. And by the way I see fit, he's making us the heroes and the other side the Pharisees.

Show me where I'm wrong! :-)

Anonymous said...

John 14:15-

"If you love me, keep my commands"

King James 2000 Bible: John 8:42

"Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me."

It is clear as day and many more similar content quotes can be found from Jesus. It seems, the HF fails to keep up with the Book.

Love is keeping the commandments. The new teaching is spelled LUV never having to confess and say you are sorry


Gene said...

Jusad...funny you should mention the Grand Inquisitor, a classic exchange from "The Brothers Karamazov, "If there is no God, then all is permitted." We are there, with a Pope and a large number of Catholics behaving as if there is no God. A corollary...if all is permitted, there is no Church.

rcg said...

What about being our brother's keeper? I don't need to be nosey to notice something looks bad. I should tell a guy that it looks bad because (syllogism alert) he wants to be in full communion, he therefore must care about his relationship with God through His only Church, so he he cares about the Church and Her children and does not want to lead them astray. So I tell him that what he is doing looks odd, so what's up? If he wants to march up the front of the nave and touch the Body of Christ in front of everyone then he better not tell me it is none of my business. Marriage is a public event. I seem to recall secret marriages are something we should avoid. So while I can give him space to settle his issues with the woman the marriage involves us all.

Let's say there is someone coming around talking to his wife while he is away. Long deployment. She's lonely and the guy is just being friendly. Back to rule #1: the marriage is a Sacrament, it is public, it is in my Church with some of her children, my brother and sister if you will. Do you think he would appreciate me sticking my nose in to that situation when he can't be there? We can't be sometimes Catholics or we are not being Catholics at all.