Monday, February 20, 2017


Crux commentary hits the nail on the head. I would also add the problems include arrogance, pride and subterfuge. There is need for true humility in the face of Truth and it has nothing to do with ecclesiastical clothing or living in a motel or palace!


A pastor says the ‘Amoris’ mess on Communion must end

A pastor says the ‘Amoris’ mess on Communion must end
(Credit: Stock image.)
From the in-the-trenches perspective of a pastor, the welter of competing guidelines and interpretations of 'Amoris Laetitia' is a mess. Why can't the pope reaffirm timeless Catholic teaching, and set to work to revise the rules for annulments to reflect contemporary pastoral realities?

The course of true love never does run smooth, and neither does any papal pronouncement about love. The tsunami caused by Humane Vitae- Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on birth control- still continues to ripple around the world, and the waves of emotion over Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia also don’t look like they’re subsiding anytime soon.
The worst thing about this controversy is that we now have different bishops and cardinals expressing contradictory interpretations of the document.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller says divorced and re-married Catholics can’t come to communion. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio says if they’re well-intentioned, it’s okay. The Archbishop of Malta decides that in certain circumstances those who are remarried after divorce may “participate in the Eucharist,” while the Archbishop of Philadelphia thinks otherwise.
Beneath the battle of words is a clash between objective truth and subjective interpretation. Catholic doctrine and canon law is based first and foremost on the objectivity of truth, but recognizes the subjective aspect in the application of that truth.
A moral action is always objectively right or wrong according to natural law and the law revealed in Sacred Scripture and the church’s magisterium. However, a person’s culpability for a wrong action can be lessened or increased according to the subjective aspects of intention and circumstances.
Let’s say two men are zooming down the highway at ninety miles an hour where the speed limit is sixty-five. There is no argument that both have objectively broken the law. However, one man has been drinking and is racing his buddy in a hot sports car. The other man is frantically trying to get his daughter to the emergency room because she has had a terrible accident.
Both men broke the law. The first man’s guilt is great. The second man’s guilt is so negligible that it doesn’t exist. The circumstances and intent vary the person’s culpability, but they do not change the fact that both men broke the law.
Those who are wrestling with the ambiguities of Amoris Laetitia are really wrestling with the clash between the objectively sinful situation of a divorced and remarried person, and the subjective level of culpability determined by their intentions and circumstances.
Those who favor a kinder, more cuddly approach would like to bend the rules to accommodate difficult subjective circumstances. Those who favor a stricter discipline insist that the objective situation cannot be dispensed with a hug and the wave of a hand.
The fact that this clash exists is exacerbated by what Pope Benedict XVI called “the dictatorship of relativism.” We live in a society where many believe there is no such thing as objective truth, or if there is, one cannot express it in a concrete and binding way.
Situational ethics has swept our society so that most people think anything goes as long as you mean well and do not seem to be hurting anyone else. In an age where every truth is shifting and every opinion is supposed to be as valid as the next, it is difficult for people (including Catholics and Catholic clergy) to accept that people should be bound by their objective condition.
Sentimentalism is another form of relativism that clouds the issue. The sentimentalist makes his judgement according to feelings, not facts.
Sympathy for the divorced and remarried person who means well, is a sincerely spiritual person and apparently a “good Catholic” swamps the situation, and compels a pastor to make a subjective decision. The concept that an individual (even if they are in a subjectively sympathetic situation) should submit themselves to the objective discipline of the church seems unthinkable.
That Pope Francis is ignoring the clear questions he was asked, and continues to sidestep his responsibility as Supreme Pontiff to clarify the true teachings of the Church, is only making matters worse.
His encouragement to embrace “grey areas” in a recent address to religious superiors is worrying. Grey is only possible because there is such a thing as black and white. Pastors can only grapple with the grey areas when they have the black and white guidelines to do so. We can only wrestle with the subjective realities if we have clear, objective teaching as a rule and guide.

As a pastor myself, I am on the front line when it comes to the tragedy of marriage breakdown.  At least once a month I face the marriage mess. I deal with the broken hearts, broken families, broken lives and wounded children, and do the best I can to bring Christ’s reconciliation and healing while wrestling with the strictures of our faith.
What would help me and other pastors enormously is not continued vague, well-meaning documents from bishops that contradict the teaching of other bishops. Instead, I wish for action.
Müller is the doctrinal chief. Why is it impossible for the Holy Father to affirm the timeless teaching of the Church, and then set a team to work to revising and updating the annulment process? The rules for validity of marriage can be re-examined and arguments could be made that in the unprecedented modern age there are new norms and expectations that should apply to marriage.
The marriage tribunals are where we apply the objective rules of the timeless gospel to the ever varied, subjective situations, and that is where we should focus our efforts.


Gene said...

The breakdown of marriage in our country ( due to many causes already discussed ad nauseum) is the single most disturbing aspect of our modern society. Christ's words about marriage and divorce cannot be side-stepped. The Church's timeless wisdom regarding marriage and divorce is an important witness against the cultural trend and against the dominant secular mentality. It may seem rigid (it is rigid) to a couple of generations of self-indulgent, narcissistic, morally bankrupt cultural flotsam, but it is the last hope of a dying civilization.

It is too easy to get a divorce. I remember, as a kid in the 50's and 60's, how scandalous and stigmatized divorce was a big deal and it was discouraged, at least by social pressure if nothing else. I also remember that some states even instituted a six-month waiting period with a counseling requirement for couples seeking a divorce. This did not last long. But, divorce should be discouraged and it should be more difficult to obtain one. This would encourage couples to work on the marriage and try to save it. A favorite approach of your new issue so-called marriage counselors is to say, "Well, you should not stay together just for the sake of the kids." BS! The Hell you shouldn't! I know a number of couples who have worked out a problem marriage and managed to stay together on some kind of mutual respect/help-mate basis for the sake of the kids. Responsible, mature adults can do this and the kids are loved and nurtured. The parents derive some nurture (and some mutual gratification) from their interaction with the kids, as well. I have seen this many times.

I remember another BS approach I learned in Marriage and Family psych courses. Here is the scenario: You ask each spouse, usually in an individual session, "if you were in a lifeboat and it tragically came to pass that you could only save your child or your spouse, which would you save?" The "correct" answer is that you save your spouse, the reasoning being that, if you do not feel that way, the kids will "drown," so to speak, in the failed relationship. There is a lot wrong with this, but ponder it for yourselves.

The Church is right to insist on the priority of marriage and the sinfulness of divorce. Any Pope or Priest (or psychologist...the secular priests of our day) who introduces doubt or ambivalence about this issue is completely irresponsible and a heretic.

Anonymous said...

Who started this "confusion" and who is allowing it to continue? Hummmmmm. Who is allowing error to spread and put peoples souls in danger? Who wants this confusion to continue spreading? Who is determined to turn the Catholic Faith into the Anglican church? One person is responsible and we all know who it is.

Jusadbellum said...

The confusion spreads. LOW INFORMATION PEOPLE hear a filtered down version that basically says that so long as they FEEL good about their behavior which in previous generations would have been considered mortally sinful, that their conscience is determinative of right and wrong.

And this isn't going to be sequestered into the nice little box marked "a man who divorces his wife and remarries an awesome super-babe with whom he's raised 3 beautiful children" and is now actively helping a local parish as a super-couple....which would implode should husband and new wife have to live celibately.


It's already prompting people to throw caution to the wind and embrace their other moral vices as things beyond their control - porn, masturbation, all manner of gay relationships, swingers, polyamory, etc. as all a-OK because "even the Pope says it's OK".

Now we of course know that "the Pope" says no such thing....but inso far as theologians wave their hands, throw smoke and conclude "in this's OK", the LOW INFORMATION PEOPLE infer that their case is also this 'special case'.

Any why shouldn't they conclude that their case is 'unique and special' when we've been taught that "God loves us just the way we are" (uh, no, God loves us. But not "just the way we are" if we're sinners, else God wouldn't have said "repent and believe the Gospel")

rcg said...

Gene makes several good points. Mainly that the children are not a by-product of the marriage but a gift of it. If I chose my wife over the children in a lifeboat she would toss me over instead and I would be grateful for it.

Many of the bishops sound like a bunch of Protestants arguing about Catholicism. Of course it is possible for a divorced and remarried person to recieve communion but it is a case by case issue and it is not a process in itself but there is a process to investigate it. Heck, this is how you deal with speeding tickets, why is this so hard to understand?

My wife and I were friends with a couple who got divorced. The husband was/is an idiot who was always telling me he would eventually get divorced because his parents did and marriages just end. I tried to convince him otherwise but failed. After the divorce the woman stayed in contact and converted to Catholicism, my wife is her godmother, and married another close friend of ours. They are still married and have lots of kids and a great life. That was an easy one since the original couple were not Catholic. But all of the elements being discussed today are there to evaluate. Finally, it is possible to do something that prevents full communion but does not prevent all other participation. Do you feed and clothe the poor? Do you respect the aged? Are you charitable and present Christ to others? And if you still were unable to approach for communion yet longed to out of the depths of your heart and still you did these things out of your love of Christ I expect you are closer to heaven than many people who meet the criteria for communion.

Jusadbellum said...

That's an interesting question rcg. Suppose a Jim Crow southern racist was a loving husband, father, and citizen, caring for the poor in word and deed. His only fault was his occasional tendency to don white sheets and terrorize poor black folk on the weekends. Otherwise he was the most polite gentleman you'd ever want to meet.

Are we to conclude that he's a better Christian than the hypocrites in communion line?

See, if adultery is no big deal because the man does a lot of corporal works of mercy on the side, then all manner of sin is 'no big deal' and the only thing that saves us are these corporal works of mercy "for the poor".

But here's the thing.... I don't believe we can make the case from the Gospel that a man is justified purely by being nice to the poor.

It's a good thing to do corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But if you do all that AND persist in adultery (or racism, or robbery, or murder, or idolatry....) in what way can we declare the person a living saint?

Quite a few of the pedophile priests did ALOT of things "for the poor". Many ran soup kitchens, gave away hundreds of thousands of (other peoples) money and got accolades from the media and their peers for their love of the poor and disenfranchised. But they were still living double lives hurting children. Are we to ignore their sins on account of their objective acts of kindness to others?

rcg said...

Jusad, yep that is right. In the case of people journeying to Christ through the Church for the first time the method of resolving the problem is completely different than for those who made the commitment and confessed the truthes of the Church only to change course for some reason. The challenge for us is to keep the people who have broken their vows from giving up on themselves and Grace. So if they determine to do all of those good acts not instead of fixing their marriage or in some sort of barter, but as part of their acknowledgement that that is what God wants done, then they have made a huge leap. I do not know how this matches with their inability to correct their marriage situation, but if they will also confess that they should not take communion then they are in a much better state of understanding than before.

Jusadbellum said...

rcg, it's simple...if I'm awake enough to be in a Catholic Church as a baptized Christian and I have entered the Church as an adult, there's little chance of me NOT realizing that my prior marriage and divorce and subsequent remarriage might just be a problem.

Now, I'm the first person to advise all converts to check with a priest and/or canonist about that prior marriage to see if the prerequisites were in evidence for a genuine sacramental covenant.

I can't imagine an adult convert to the Catholic faith won't have been accompanied by his sponsor and pastor to the point where this history will come up and be dealt with.

If they do look at his Christian marriage (say, as a Baptist) to a wife also a Christian and determine that it has the signs of a valid covenant, then notwithstanding his subsequent marriage and family, we are at the crossroads where the Lord's clear command stands out.

It sucks. It's awfully hard. It's a real cross. But if the original covenant is a genuine sacrament, it follows that discipleship of the Lord commands either a restoration of the bond....or failing that, a life of celibacy because in the eyes of the Lord, He and his original wife are still married and we don't accept Polygamy.

So we don't "reward" John Smith's adultery because he's started financially supporting our soup kitchen or Justice and Peace ministry to outlaw (only American) nuclear weapons. No. We care about his genuine status before the Lord and care more about his fidelity to the covenant than about his FEEEEEEELINGS.

It's not easy to be celibate - most priests are (and should be) heterosexual. It's not easy to be chaste. A lot of us married men have had to live periods of abstinence due to illness or injury. It would be SO pleasurable if we gave ourselves permission to have flings on the side or justified mutual masturbation but those acts would be against our covenant too. So if we care about our friendship with Jesus more than our feelings, we'll pick up our crosses and help others carry theirs rather than hold out false hope.