Who knows?

There has been considerable discussion over the last year or two concerning the question of admitting Catholics in a second marriage to the Eucharist. I summarise this by the statement of Pope Francis in 2016: In his September 5, 2016 letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis endorsed their interpretation of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia, saying that the bishops’ document “is very good and completely explains the meaning of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”

The document by the Buenos Aires bishops, entitled “Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia”, allows communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, saying that in “complex circumstances” when the remarried couple could not “obtain a declaration of nullity,” the priests can nevertheless move forward to grant them access to Holy Communion.

On the other hand Cardinal Müller recently affirmed that the Catholic Church is the “instrument of salvation”, that heaven and hell are eternal, and that moral teaching is essential to the path of salvation. He said that the divorced and remarried cannot receive the Eucharist if in a sexual relationship. (This is, in effect, confirmation of what the Church has traditionally taught.)

So what do you think? Behind this particular issue lies a broad and important question with regard to Catholic moral teaching. Briefly, the basis is the Natural Law. Or, to put it another way, if we follow the requirements of our nature, we flourish; if we go against our nature we damage ourselves, and often others. Traditionally adultery has always been taken as against the nature of marriage – which is not surprising given that Scripture is equally clear on the matter.

It looks to me as if Francis, and those who agree with him, are arguing that the established principles of natural law may not apply in certain circumstances. Presumably there is reason to argue that in such cases the importance of sexual expression in the second marriage may be seen to be closer to human flourishing than abstention. This is not entirely novel: Josef Fuchs SJ, the great natural law theologian, accepted the possibility of artificial contraception after he had discussed with married women their understanding of flourishing as it might occur in marriage.

Are we moving towards a situation in which the morals laws, as they are described, for instance in the Catechism, should be regarded as strong guides rather than absolute rules. And what might be outcomes be?

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Pope Francis, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Who knows?

  1. galerimo says:

    Really? The basis of Catholic moral teaching is the Natural Law? I think you are referring to Scholasticism here and not the word of the incarnate Son of God .

    Jesus as the revelation of God’s love is, for us, The Way, The Truth and The Life. Our ability to respond to that Incarnated revelation of God – our responsibility to Jesus that is, is also to respond with love in the lives we live. We do not hear Jesus telling us to “follow the Natural Law in order to flourish”. Our world exists within the context of this shift of emphasis and meaning.

    What was standard in “Scholasticised” catholic moral teaching concerning Marriage were the terms of primary and secondary ends of marriage.

    At Vatican II, (Gaudium et Spes), we saw that language quietly dropped with marriage being spoken of in terms of friendship, a free and mutual gift which the spouses make of themselves to each other, ‘a gift proving itself by gentle affection and by deed’, a mutual self-giving which is ‘uniquely expressed and perfected through the marital act’ (para. 49).

    Having children ‘does not make the other purposes of marriage of less account’, indeed. In fact we find in the Council’s that marriage is ‘not instituted (that is to say, by God) solely for procreation’ (para. 50). This is the broader and older context within which the question ought to be examined.

    It is not one bit helpful to hold an academic prism of compliance with the Natural Law over the lived experience of people who aspire to be brothers and sisters in and with Jesus and whose lives are complicated, for all sorts of reasons, by relationships that do not fit neatly into legal categories.

    Such juridical thinking has been abandoned in seminaries and universities. Since Vatican II much has been done with new methodologies and theologies as fascinating as they are diverse, and as challenging as they are valid. This New Wine of a Church facing the Pastoral needs of the modern era does not fit the old Skins of rigour coming from medieval times.

    Jesus is always focused on individuals. He attends to men and women in the personal and individual circumstances of their lives. He is not a theorist and longer represented by Greek thought patterns and scholastic terminology, useful as they were in there time.

    And we should be like that too when he set out to talk about “divorced and remarried who cannot receive the Eucharist if in a sexual relationship”.

    • Coconuts says:

      This New Wine of a Church facing the Pastoral needs of the modern era does not fit the old Skins of rigour coming from medieval times.

      I don’t know, the church where I was in the UK was diminishing, there were less than 10 members of the congregation who were under 50 and who were not Polish. Where I am now the Catholic and Orthodox churches are full, including of young people, the Orthodox ones seem to be getting fuller, notwithstanding the fact that rigorous and ‘medieval’ is probably an accurate way of describing what the Russian Orthodox church is like.

    • Quentin says:

      Thank you for this, Galerimo. Perhaps it would be easier if we used capitals for the codified definitions of the Natural Law. Many examples of this in the Catechism, of course. But we cannot love ourselves or our neighbours without respect for natural law (small letters). It’s good to hear that seminaries etc, are taking the distinction into account, and I trust they are aware that their new approach is a great deal more complex and demanding. It actually requires making moral judgments — much harder than simple obedience. I assume that Cardinal Müller belongs to the older generation.
      Personally I retain an interest in Proportionalism despite JPII’s views on that. What think you?

      • David Smith says:

        Quentin writes:

        // It’s good to hear that seminaries etc, are taking the distinction into account, and I trust they are aware that their new approach is a great deal more complex and demanding. It actually requires making moral judgments — much harder than simple obedience. //

        A relativist approach is always a much more lenient approach, because it assumes, ultimately, that there are no absolutes, no goods and no evils. Every obstacle can be talked around and away. In the West, relativism is the quasi-official philosophy of our time. Modern Western man admits of no absolutes. That’s already led Protestant churches into practical doctrinal dissolution, their “beliefs” reduced to consonance with whatever may be the prevailing secular outlook.

        So, Quentin, I’d be disinclined to say that relativism makes religion more difficult, because there’s necessarily more moral parsing work to do, but, rather, much easier. True, there’s more work for the lawyers, since they’re forced to stand on their heads and do logical somersaults to arrive at the desired conclusions, but in the end, the people get the lenient answers they want.

        The Church I see developing is a very ego-friendly church, very flexible, very doctrinally supple. We’ve seen that recently, I suppose, in the Vatican’s resolution of the problem presented by the conflict between Chinese Catholics loyal to Rome and those willing to compromise with the official atheist regime. The Vatican’s chosen to go along to get along.

        I’m reading Sodoma, by Frédéric Martel, published just the other day. Reading it in French means my progress is slow – I’m just getting into Chapter 2 – but I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a fascinating and sympathetic read. Clearly, if one makes what I think is the sensible assumption that the author’s not simply making it all up, the uppermost church hierarchy has long been living a relativistic life, at least so far as sexuality is concerned. Say one thing and do another, rationalizing smoothly that there’s no conflict, so long as you don’t get caught in the snares of the old-fashioned culture to which it’s often necessary to pretend allegiance. Francis, apparently, dislikes the hypocrisy but quietly applauds those who steer carefully away from the snares.

        So far as the eucharist issue is concerned, that’s almost certainly going to be resolved, in the short term, by the Vatican’s simply looking the other way and, in the long term, by a legalistic approval of the path of least resistance.

      • Coconuts says:

        In the West, relativism is the quasi-official philosophy of our time. Modern Western man admits of no absolutes. That’s already led Protestant churches into practical doctrinal dissolution, their “beliefs” reduced to consonance with whatever may be the prevailing secular outlook.

        I don’t think it can really be relativism, because only some people (a minority) in Western countries do hold to a genuinely relativistic viewpoint. It seems more like some mobile set of absolutes that often aren’t compatible with traditional Christianity.

        But, I think it is true that trying to remain ‘relevant’ in the way that mainline Protestant churches have been attempting, all you end up with is doctrinal dissolution, you don’t even seem to gain or retain membership, the decline may even accelerate.

        As I said in the other post, from what I can see in Eastern Europe it looks like trying to stay relevant to secular trends is not all that important, possibly it isn’t what people look to Christianity for as such. Somewhere along the line though some social change happens (maybe rising incomes, improving healthcare, increasing life expectancy into people’s 90s?) and the major churches just start to decline in membership whatever they do.

        I wouldn’t be so negative as galerimo about scholasticism and Natural Law, there is bad scholastic philosophy and moral theology, but there is great scholastic philosophy and moral theology as well. It would probably be more useful nowadays because it is a way of talking with non-believers and people with weak or limited commitment and can be a way of challenging prevailing ‘Kantian’ attitudes to religious belief, where it is seen as just something with a kind of moral utilitarian value.

      • galerimo says:

        Thanks Quentin.

        I think I would be aligned more closely with JPII’s position on Proportionalism, however it is a move in the right direction – just not far enough in my opinion.

        The reason I say this is because of the underlying tenets of a metaphysics that goes along with this Natural Law (upper case – pace Quentin!) affirming view. The Graeco/Scholastic foundation that served the Church well in its time falls short on the emphasis on the subject and more person centred and relational based thinking of our own time.

        I fail to see how (below) this can be conflated with “relativism” or how the large numbers in attendance at churches is any basis for denying the value of such an inclusive and diverse Pastoral view.

        Remember the big crowds that went to mass in the 50’s while all the while we had a scandal of abuse raging that was kept well out of sight. What on earth does Church attendance have to do with faith?

      • Coconuts says:

        The reason I say this is because of the underlying tenets of a metaphysics that goes along with this Natural Law (upper case – pace Quentin!) affirming view. The Graeco/Scholastic foundation that served the Church well in its time falls short on the emphasis on the subject and more person centred and relational based thinking of our own time.

        How much is this actually about the metaphysics? The comments about being subject centred and relational thinking sound more drawn from counselling or psychotherapy.
        The Greek church always took a much more permissive line on divorce and remarriage than the Latin one, Orthodox churches still do. (Though not for any modernity related reasons).

        When Scholastic theologians were discussing issues like this the main reference points would be scripture, church tradition and the writings of the fathers. The idea that you can only be married once and divorce is not possible is an old one in the Latin tradition, I think dating back to antiquity.

        It is this long tradition as much as anything particularly Scholastic that has to be put to one side.

        I fail to see how (below) this can be conflated with “relativism” or how the large numbers in attendance at churches is any basis for denying the value of such an inclusive and diverse Pastoral view.

        Producing some sort of metaphysical view based on existential philosophy or therapeutic psychology could motivate the idea that this is some brand of relativism and moral subjectivism.

        As I understand it German bishops have played a prominent role in bringing this question under discussion, because they are concerned that it is driving people away from the Church, and they have this problem with declining congregation numbers.
        Remember the big crowds that went to mass in the 50’s while all the while we had a scandal of abuse raging that was kept well out of sight. What on earth does Church attendance have to do with faith?

        I’d have thought that church attendance was a foundational element of Christian faith and community, without which Christianity as such will disappear over a generation or two. This is something you can actually see happening in the West.

        These sex abuse scandals continued into the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s… Not surprisingly in some ways when in this period prominent secular moral authorities (in psychoanalysis, existential philosophy and so on) were actively campaigning for the abolish of the age of consent and the normalisation of man-boy sexual relationships.

      • galerimo says:

        The Pastoral crisis that the Church is confronted with in the rate of breakdown in Christian
        Marriage is within a very different world context to the Middle Ages.

        Scriptures, Tradition and the Church Fathers are seen today in a light, much deeper in its understanding, thanks to the advances of great scholarship in all these areas.

        Scholarship that recognises cultural differences, as well as the value of different faiths in the context of an evolving Catholic Tradition, have moved us further than we were as a church five hundred years ago.

        Equally the engagement with and understanding of our own times began in earnest with the breadth of vision that was opened up in Vatican II.

        Subsequent Theologie(s) continue to be developed in response to a far more diverse and some previously little known areas of human experience. Birth technologies, modern warfare, communications, gender, Economics, degradation of the Planet – to mention a very few. All rapidly developing and expanding in a way not accommodated by a foundational metaphysics that grew sciences prior even to the Enlightenment.

        Church Pastoral responses will make more sense to our contemporaries if they are informed by categories of contemporary thinking.

        The question here is not about the rights and wrongs of divorce. The question is about the application of the principles of the Natural Law to the Pastoral needs of Christians whose marriages are now broken.

        Reading here I get the impression that counselling and psychotherapy are seen to be lesser than or have little value to add to whatever medieval solution could possibly be applied in the Pastoral situation of real need – such as the need for the companionship of Christ in a sacramental life shared by a couple in difficult, even tragic circumstances.

        If church attendance was really foundational to faith and community then how come the big numbers of the 60’s dwindled so rapidly instead of growing larger Catholic faith communities in the 80’s and 90’s.

        Perhaps the big numbers were created by a fear based exclusive leadership unable to provide much in terms of a real personal sense of fulfilment when it came to following Jesus. And modern people decided to go elsewhere.

        Or maybe they were asking questions that needed answers not covered in the medieval manuals of moral theology.

        Sadly the church sexual abuse scandals I mentioned needed no support from secular voices calling for the abolition of the age of consent. They happened within a very, very legalised system of belief, regardless of age or gender. May God forgive us all.

      • Coconuts says:

        The Pastoral crisis that the Church is confronted with in the rate of breakdown in Christian
        Marriage is within a very different world context to the Middle Ages.

        We do not seem to be talking about anything to do with the Middle Ages. In respect of marriage, the teaching on marriage being discussed is Christ’s own. Interpreting that appears to be causing the problems.

        The basic differing interpretations have been known since antiquity.

        Subsequent Theologie(s) continue to be developed in response to a far more diverse and some previously little known areas of human experience. Birth technologies, modern warfare, communications, gender, Economics, degradation of the Planet – to mention a very few. All rapidly developing and expanding in a way not accommodated by a foundational metaphysics that grew sciences prior even to the Enlightenment.

        Is there a terminology issue here?

        Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with basic ontology, ‘being’ in its most general terms. It’s certain that philosophy has continued to develop since the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment, but the things you mention don’t seem to have a massive or decisive relationship with developing views in metaphysics, most of them are still ‘in play’ (including the Aristotelian and Neo-Scholastic ones).

        The same situation applies with moral philosophy, especially in the Catholic Church.

        Church Pastoral responses will make more sense to our contemporaries if they are informed by categories of contemporary thinking.

        Many contemporary ways of thinking in metaphysics and moral philosophy are just incompatible with Catholicism. (Like, all of the ones which are atheistic).
        The idea of the existence of Natural Law itself may be in doubt. It is founded on a teleological view of nature which a lot of modern philosophy rejects.

        The question here is not about the rights and wrongs of divorce. The question is about the application of the principles of the Natural Law to the Pastoral needs of Christians whose marriages are now broken.

        But the question does appear to be basically about the rights and wrongs of divorce and adultery.

        It looks like the problems are around cases in which a divorced person remarries (I suppose in a civil ceremony of some kind?), is sexually active in the new marriage, and wants to go on receiving the Eucharist at the same time.

        There doesn’t seem to be any issue with divorced people not in that situation continuing to receive it.

        Reading here I get the impression that counselling and psychotherapy are seen to be lesser than or have little value to add to whatever medieval solution could possibly be applied in the Pastoral situation of real need – such as the need for the companionship of Christ in a sacramental life shared by a couple in difficult, even tragic circumstances.

        No, they are not valuable metaphysically ; they aren’t useful for addressing metaphysical questions.

        Counselling is a kind of instrument which is supposed to be value neutral, the individual people are helped to decide what is important to them and how to realise it. That isn’t an option for Catholic priests really; there are secular organisations for it.

        But what kind of difficult or tragic circumstances are these? If someone divorces, remarries and is sexually involved with their new partner I imagine they are finding that new relationship fulfilling. So the tragedy must relate to the past marriage and the need of the person to find happiness via a new marriage? Dealing with that concerns the teaching of the Church on remarriage and adultery.

        If church attendance was really foundational to faith and community then how come the big numbers of the 60’s dwindled so rapidly instead of growing larger Catholic faith communities in the 80’s and 90’s.

        Christianity in Europe has been facing some deep-rooted existential challenges since the 1960s (even if the process started a lot earlier). None of this is at all confined to Catholicism; all the main Western denominations have faced the same issues, despite their differences.

        It just seems obvious that more people have Christian faith and belief in the US, in Mexico, in Poland, where I am in Belarus at the moment than in a country like the UK, France or Sweden where church attendance is low. People might believe in various things in these countries, just not Christianity as much anymore.

        Perhaps the big numbers were created by a fear based exclusive leadership unable to provide much in terms of a real personal sense of fulfilment when it came to following Jesus. And modern people decided to go elsewhere.

        In the churches I used to attend in the UK 70% or more of the British congregation was made up of people who would have grown up in the 40s, 50s and 60s; when the church was apparently dominated by fear-based exclusive leadership. Those absent are from later generations, when the Church is supposed to have become more enlightened.

        I think many decided to give up on Christianity because either they find worldviews or lifestyles that are incompatible with it more attractive/plausible, or they find it pointless. Filling Catholicism with secular things that people like, but which are incompatible with Christian Revelation, is not likely to be a successful option to counter this.

        (Arguments about pointlessness are a clear criticism and challenge that atheists and secularists can pose to Christians: where does the content of your worldview actually come from? And, if it proves to be largely secular, beholden to secular trends, in conflict with the greater part of the Christian tradition, they will be able to argue that the Christianity is a nominal thing and you are really a secularist.)

        Or maybe they were asking questions that needed answers not covered in the medieval manuals of moral theology.

        This ‘medieval’ terminology again is not relevant because the ‘medieval’ era in Church teachings about marriage evidently stretches up to the 1980s.

        Divorce and remarriage are not a new phenomenon which has only recently become known in the world. I’ve already noted that it is in Greek theological manuals from late antiquity, besides medieval times. Earlier ecumenical councils produced canons regulating divorce and remarriage in the 7th century.

        Though what is being proposed here could possibly be a lot more radical than all of that.

        Sadly the church sexual abuse scandals I mentioned needed no support from secular voices calling for the abolition of the age of consent. They happened within a very, very legalised system of belief, regardless of age or gender. May God forgive us all.

        These scandals seem to be characterised by leaders in the church ignoring or neglecting their own teachings (one reason they are so surprising, the relevant teachings seem to have been clearer to lay people).

        In the secular world action to reduce child abuse takes a highly legalised form; it is being done through a lot of regulation.

      • galerimo says:

        It is certainly a painful thing to make the tectonic shift from the middle ages mind set to the world where we have to present the truth of our faith to eager, enquiring contemporary minds.

        A very intellectually satisfying synthesis though it may offer, Medieval Scholasticism is founded on a reality (metaphysical) that no longer matches the very sciences it founded.

        Ours is a fluid world with ever expanding boundaries. It needs testing and not just “a priori” observation in that medieval style.

        Do I detect a Thomist style? The way the paragraphing addresses each point, “sed contra” along the lines of a typical Aquinas thesis. A “dead” give away!

        But seriously, I insist that the point is not about marriage and divorce. It is about the Pastoral need of those who have suffered a breakdown in their most significant relationship. When they wish to remain with the supportive, sacramental structure of their Church can we honestly say “no”, on Jesus’ behalf?

        To place this need within a context of “Natural Law” while seeking a solution falls very short indeed. It could be seen as dismissing the values of some more person centred disciplines of our own time. To claim such as “incompatible” with a Church response stops the dialogue of genuine seeking, dead in its tracks.

        The Pastoral response seeks to take account of a complex situation by placing the loving mercy of Jesus front and central.

        In an astonishing way and still prophetic, Vatican II shifted our reflection on our faith as Church. We focus directly in relationship to the joys and hopes, the real griefs and anxieties of our world and especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way.

        People here are correctly asking over and over again the simple question, “what would Jesus do? And, in my opinion it boils down to that precisely.

        Not starting with the Gnostic/Dualistic arguments inherited from ancient times and thrashed out with more and more cerebral refinement throughout the middle ages.

        Before we get to an academically erudite solution we need to pay more attention to our context. If it was ok for Jesus to take his place in an historical moment in time for the enunciation of truth then we too must do the same as his sisters and brothers in our own time too?

      • Coconuts says:

        It is certainly a painful thing to make the tectonic shift from the middle ages mind set to the world where we have to present the truth of our faith to eager, enquiring contemporary minds.
        A very intellectually satisfying synthesis though it may offer, Medieval Scholasticism is founded on a reality (metaphysical) that no longer matches the very sciences it founded.
        Ours is a fluid world with ever expanding boundaries. It needs testing and not just “a priori” observation in that medieval style.

        The first paragraph sounds a bit sanctimonious. I don’t follow what you mean by the use of the term metaphysical and why (and in the name of what?) you are launching attacks on Scholastic metaphysics as such. I doubt there is much point in continuing to discuss it.

        One reason that there is revived interest in Scholastic metaphysics at the moment is because of the return of Aristotelian perspectives to contemporary philosophy and contemporary philosophy of science.

        Do I detect a Thomist style? The way the paragraphing addresses each point, “sed contra” along the lines of a typical Aquinas thesis. A “dead” give away!

        It is a style that I see in internet discussions where people are interested in discussion, about, say, philosophy and religion. Plenty of them with atheists, who are unlikely to be Thomists.

        But seriously, I insist that the point is not about marriage and divorce. It is about the Pastoral need of those who have suffered a breakdown in their most significant relationship. When they wish to remain with the supportive, sacramental structure of their Church can we honestly say “no”, on Jesus’ behalf?

        The question of communion for the divorced and remarried is what most of the O/P and this thread has been about.

        The problem is that Jesus says no to divorce and remarriage on his own behalf. This was when he was faced with a situation in which the Pharisees were teaching that divorce and remarriage was okay.

        The Church has always taught that receiving the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin is not possible, it also teaches that Christians can only be married once (following Christ’s teaching). People who remarry and are in an active sexual relationship with their new partner therefore appear to be in a state of mortal sin according to current teaching.
        Saying that, somehow, because of their pastoral needs, they can be both remarried, sexually active and receiving the Eucharist, and that the Church somehow recognises this second marriage (in some kind of informal and unspecified way?) seems to introduce major confusion into Catholic teaching on marriage.

        This is significant for any married Catholics thinking of divorce and for any unmarried Catholics thinking of marrying, because a marriage in which divorce is a clear option will be different to one in which it isn’t.

        To place this need within a context of “Natural Law” while seeking a solution falls very short indeed. It could be seen as dismissing the values of some more person centred disciplines of our own time. To claim such as “incompatible” with a Church response stops the dialogue of genuine seeking, dead in its tracks.

        Whether what is being proposed is any real ‘dialogue’ or genuine seeking, or just obscuring the teaching of the Lord through confusion is what is at issue in the first place.

        The ‘problematic’ teaching on remarriage and divorce predates medieval times and has been successively reaffirmed by up to recent times by JP II, Benedict and in the post-Vatican II Catechism.

        Before we get to an academically erudite solution we need to pay more attention to our context. If it was ok for Jesus to take his place in an historical moment in time for the enunciation of truth then we too must do the same as his sisters and brothers in our own time too?

        There is nothing really erudite about recognising the potential incoherence and contradiction in the current teaching on this.

        Besides being a man in a historical moment, Jesus was God The Son, the eternal and unchanging Word, whose teaching, in his own words, is going to outlive the universe itself. Nothing has been said to indicate that somehow divorce in the 21st century is a radically different thing to divorce and remarriage at other periods of history, including Jesus’ own, and that his direct teaching on it should not stand.

        Nothing has been said as to why the current ‘solution’ offered is superior to just admitting that the Greek fathers and the Orthodox Church has had the correct teaching on this all along and the Latin Church has been wrong. I think if communion for the divorced and remarried is what is wanted something like this has to be done.

  2. George says:

    I am a lay Catholic which means I don’t understand a lot of the technical language being used here. But 1. you can only be married to one person at one time. If a divorcee “remarries” and they are allowed to participate fully in the Church, without any challenge to the original marriage, how can they be married to anyone but the original spouse? They may well have obligations of comfort and support to the second family, but not a marriage. 2. Mark at least is clear on this. The other Gospels allow exceptions but they are limited, unclear, and may correspond best to modern annulments. 3. How much simpler things would have been if Henry VIII could have got his divorce. But he didn’t, because the Church held to the traditions of ten or more centuries. 6 centuries later, why abandon those traditions? Fashion is not a sufficient reason for abandoning Scripture or Tradition.

    “The document by the Buenos Aires bishops, entitled “Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia”, allows communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, saying that in “complex circumstances” when the remarried couple could not “obtain a declaration of nullity,” the priests can nevertheless move forward to grant them access to Holy Communion.” This doesn’t necessarily contradict what I said. It is conceivable that the would-be communicant can convince the priest that he or she has good reason to believe that the original marriage is invalid, but they are not objectively clear enough for a canonical tribunal. Isn’t this what is known as “internal forum”?

  3. David Smith says:

    George writes:

    // 6 centuries later, why abandon those traditions? Fashion is not a sufficient reason for abandoning Scripture or Tradition. //

    For a certain type of mind – increasingly common, I think, throughout the West – tradition is always suspect, and always, so to speak, guilty until proven innocent. “Fashion” is renamed “progress” and advances confidently under that banner.

  4. John Thomas says:

    Relativism: didn’t Pope Benedict (when still a cardinal) refer (correctly in my view) to the TYRANNY of relativism (or the totalitarianism of relativism, depending on your translation of his German). Christianity going the way of relativism lays itself open to the tyranny of those who hold power (secular powers, of course).
    Natural law: Surely gay couples will be able to argue that their relationship facilitates their “flourishing”.

  5. Alasdair says:

    Are you really saying to my friend Carol “no you cannot enter here and worship God fully as you long to do, in the manner of your Christian upbringing unless you renounce your husband of 35 years and with whom you have had your 4 children?”
    If you are saying that, then please tell me where you think Carol should go instead at 10am on Sunday mornings, and on the evening each week when she gives her own time willingly to lead activities at the parish hall. Among the options – in case you were wondering – are the nearby University Islamic Centre, and “Universalist” Church, which as far as I can tell is for atheists.
    I will pass your recommendation on to her with your blessings. Meantime I will try my best to explain the reason for your decision, in terms of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia and Natural Law.

    • George says:

      ‘Are you really saying to my friend Carol “no you cannot enter here and worship God fully as you long to do, in the manner of your Christian upbringing unless you renounce your husband of 35 years and with whom you have had your 4 children?””

      I am not saying that. As I said, Carol may well have an obligation of comfort and support arising from the second “marriage”. That may mean continuing to love and look after the man and the children, without sexual relations.

      But yes, sometimes following Jesus is hard.

  6. Nektarios says:

    Before I say anything else, I would like to address a comment ‘Coconut posted; ‘In the West, relativism is the quasi-official philosophy of our time. Modern Western man admits of no absolutes. That’s already led Protestant churches into practical doctrinal dissolution, their “beliefs” reduced to consonance with whatever may be the prevailing secular outlook.’

    Also, he posted: ‘But, I think it is true that trying to remain ‘relevant’ in the way that mainline Protestant churches have been attempting, all you end up with is doctrinal dissolution, you don’t even seem to gain or retain membership, the decline may even accelerate.’

    He is quite right of course where churches have turned away from the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice to liberal secular demands.
    When I read through the thoughts in this posting, it is clear the Roman Catholic Church is equally in the same boat as he claims the Protestants are in.

    It is also clear, that the understanding of ‘one Church’ does not refer to one religious institution, namely the Roman Catholic Church at all in Scripture, for example, Scriptures refer to the Churches in Galatia, and, the Apostle John refers in the Book of Revelation, to the seven Churches in Asia.

    • Alasdair says:

      Nektarios says “It is also clear, that the understanding of ‘one Church’ does not refer to one religious institution, namely the Roman Catholic Church”. His evidence is from Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation, and refers to churches which could not have been planted by Peter. Also the Celtic church, brought to Scotland by Colum Coille (Columba) did not owe its origins to Rome aithough in later generations it came to be under the “Catholic” umbrella.
      Furthermore, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under “Profession of Faith – The Church Is One” we have:
      “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church. — Christ’s Spirit uses these churches and ecclesial communities as a means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ entrusted to the Catholic Church”.

      • Nektarios says:

        Alasdair

        I cannot hold to your last four lines of your posting which it looks like you are quoting someone else?
        It really is rather tiresome this constant propaganda about the supremacy of the Roman Catholic Church, especially in these liberal and intolerant and scandalous days.

        It begs the question of what is a Christian and what constitutes a Christian Church? What constitutes a Christian Fellowship? What constitutes Priesthood within the Christian Church and how it is to conduct itself?

        As usual, we are moving away from the topic of Natural Law.

  7. Nektarios says:

    Quentin wrote in his preamble to this topic; ‘It looks to me as if Francis, and those who agree with him, are arguing that the established principles of natural law may not apply in certain circumstances. Presumably, there is a reason to argue that in such cases the importance of sexual expression in the second marriage may be seen to be closer to human flourishing than abstention. This is not entirely novel: Josef Fuchs SJ, the great natural law theologian, accepted the possibility of artificial contraception after he had discussed with married women their understanding of flourishing as it might occur in marriage.’

    What Pope Francis thinks about anything on Church matters is irrelevant if it does not hold to the Apostolic doctrine Teaching and Practice. Natural Law as Quentin refers to it, is not part of Apostolic Doctrine Teaching and Practice as such therefore appealing to Natural Law as such is suspect on several counts which I won’t bore you with only to say it is an intrusion into peoples lives and certainly will not be accepted by the liberal and the more secular of society who are not truly Christians.
    Here Pope Francis gives himself away, He is liberal, he is secular, He is also a communist and Globalist in his recent comments which is getting him into deep water with many Cardinals and Bishops.
    He is not interested in the Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice at all it would seem.

    Natural Law as laid out, is rather superficial, perhaps we might go into that later.

    • David Smith says:

      The Wikipedia article on natural law begins:

      // Natural law (Latin: ius naturale, lex naturalis) is a philosophy asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature—traditionally by God or a transcendent source—and that these can be understood universally through human reason. As determined by nature, the law of nature is implied to be objective and universal;[1] it exists independently of human understanding, and of the positive law of a given state, political order, legislature or society at large. //

      Of course, the authors proceed at length to complicate that definition, but it’s good enough for me. I have plenty to do in life without playing in theological and philosophical tangles. Most of us do.

      Natural law, as defined above, seems to me to be a simple subset of common sense. In our badly over-educated culture, common sense is looked down on. Therefore, I conclude, no right-thinking modern person will give a second thought to natural law, except, perhaps, to disparage it. From what I’ve read, the current pope is a right thinker. Nuff said.

  8. ignatius says:

    Lets just ponder one or two things up regarding Carol, Pope Francis and Scholasticism.

    Firstly, I’m not convinced that Jesus went in that much for scholasticism since it can be fairly well argument that clinically rigorous, logically scrupulous thinking, however useful, is a beast that needs confining carefully within a kennel when it comes to considerations of mercy. I do not think that pastoral judgement is trumped by scholasticism, nor is pastoral judgement any more ‘relative’ than the approach of Natural Law/scholasticism, Mercy as I remember, triumphs over justice but neither are relative

    Regarding Carol I once thought that Carol should definitely be admitted to eucharist till I heard a story from a lady who had divorced her husband and married his brother! This lady told me she had long been reconciled to Church and was heavily involved in parish life, but she did not take eucharist, receiving a blessing instead. She held no rancour towards the church and her refraining from eucharist itself was a willing abstinence. This willingness is always true as there is nothing to stop a parishioner going somewhere they are es known and joining the queue along with the rest.
    So Carol is perfectly free to make her own decision, no one is telling her anything, there is more to it than that.

    As to Pope Francis, he is a man, but I think from his writings he is on the right lines with this:
    “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” This seems to me a pretty succinct summing of paragraphs 296-299in Amoris laetitia. In a sense we are faced with these and wider issues weekly, in stark relief, at our Mass in prison.

    As a postscript, is it humanly possible to be a “liberal/secular global communist” all at the same time???

    • David Smith says:

      Ignatius writes:

      // As a postscript, is it humanly possible to be a “liberal/secular global communist” all at the same time??? //

      Oh, sure. In a non-prescriptive world, words mean whatever you want them to. And the mind is far more complex than our little labels make it out to be. You want a little up with your down, black with your white? Yours for the taking.

    • John Candido says:

      I certainly think so, Ignatius. The viewpoint of some adherents of the broad mass of ‘liberal/secular global communist’ is revolutionary, but a lot of people who identify as Marxist or communist are not of this violent or coercive persuasion.

      I am thinking of American Professor Richard D. Wolff, who is self-described as a Marxist economist or a democratic socialist.

      He is a graduate of Princeton, Stanford, and Yale universities.

      He does not support anyone who is violent, and he is not revolutionary.

      He is a supporter of freedom, human rights, the rule of law, democracy, voting, and private property.

      While Karl Marx and lots of his followers believed in a worker’s revolution, Richard Wolff does not believe this but sees capitalism as inherently unstable and will implode by itself some day in future.

      Wolff states that capitalism has an economic downturn every 4 to 7 years.

      His main policy setting is similar to the British Labor party’s support of worker co-operatives and would like to develop this sector in the United States.

      http://www.rdwolf.com

  9. John Candido says:

    The above link to his website is incorrect by one ‘l’. It should be http://www.rdwollf.com

  10. John Candido says:

    I wish that I could go in and edit or delete my own posts. https://www.rdwolff.com/

  11. Alasdair says:

    “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” is how worship ends in many traditions.
    Perhaps the priest should add ” – and while you’re at it, do not put any obstacles in the way of others trying to do so, and especially not scholasticism and logically scrupulous thinking”.

    • George says:

      “do not put any obstacles in the way of others trying to do so, and especially not scholasticism and logically scrupulous thinking”.If we are throwing out not just Scripture and Tradition but also Reason (aka logical thinking) then even an Anglican doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

      https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/authority-sources-anglicanism

      But please remember, it’s not a question fo judging Carol or people like her. Judging others is also not allowed.

      • Alasdair says:

        As Ignatius says “I do not think that pastoral judgement is trumped by scholasticism” or, I’d add, trumped by certain groups’ interpretations of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Logical thinking etc.
        Jesus certainly didn’t think so, otherwise the “Woman Caught in Adultery” – (John 8 : 1-11) would have been stoned to a bloody pulp.

      • Coconuts says:

        In the case of the woman caught in adultery, Christ was challenging their interpretation of the Mosaic law.

        In his teaching on marriage and adultery, Christ affirms the Mosaic law but in a stricter way.

        I’d add, trumped by certain groups’ interpretations of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Logical thinking etc.

        Why not stone her after all? It is only the interpretation of scripture, Tradition, Reason, Logical thinking etc. by certain groups that suggests that it is wrong.

      • George says:

        I appreciate that my interpretations of Scripture, Tradition and Reason are fallible. But why shouldn’t I trust them more than the “pastoral judgements” which have arisen in the last few years? Who is the pastor, and how is he competent to judge?

  12. Iona says:

    Alasdair – and Ignatius – I have known two or three “Carol”s over the years, and yes they attend Mass, and involve themselves in parish life, and one who had children by her second marriage was bringing her children up as Catholics. They did not take Communion (though did go forward for a blessing) and presumably did not go to Confession either since they could not be said to have a firm purpose of amendment with regard to their second marriage.

    • David Smith says:

      Sounds good. Humble, respectful of rules, willing to accept consequences of individual actions, engaged positively in community, forward thinking. When the church’s hierarchs decide to give others in the same dilemma a pass, they’re spitting on the Carols of the world, adding penance on top of penance.

    • Alasdair says:

      Quoting John 6:53-58
      “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
      So the elders of the church have taken it upon themselves to choose who will be raised on the last day, and who will not.

      • George says:

        “So the elders of the church have taken it upon themselves to choose who will be raised on the last day, and who will not.” I don’t know if there are any Feeneyites lurking around here, but I guess that everyone else accepts that God has ways of saving people outside the sacraments. The Gospels of course indicate that the thief on the cross was saved, despite presumably not receiving the Eucharist.

  13. P B Machin says:

    The large number of erudite replies indicates that this latest question has attracted more comments than positive answers perhaps.
    I found myself wondering if our Lord – returning as He promised – asking someone to dine with him – would preface the invitation by questioning the diner’s current marital status?

    • George says:

      “I found myself wondering if our Lord – returning as He promised – asking someone to dine with him – would preface the invitation by questioning the diner’s current marital status?” Good point. I don’t think He would. I also don’t think he would ask to see the diner’s baptism certificate. Do you think anyone, baptised or not, is invited to the Eucharist, whether on not they are prepared to follow Christ? Or would you agree with me that when Jesus gave the Eucharist to his closest disciples he was offering something more special than your average meal?

  14. David Smith says:

    I wrote:

    // In the West, relativism is the quasi-official philosophy of our time. Modern Western man admits of no absolutes. That’s already led Protestant churches into practical doctrinal dissolution, their “beliefs” reduced to consonance with whatever may be the prevailing secular outlook. //

    Coconuts replied:

    // I don’t think it can really be relativism, because only some people (a minority) in Western countries do hold to a genuinely relativistic viewpoint. //

    Relativism is as relativism does. I don’t have to write books on robbery to be a robber.

    • Coconuts says:

      They usually aren’t relativists in a meaningful sense though. A real relativist will have to accept that, say, being openly committed to racism, discriminating on the grounds of gender and sexuality etc. can be equally morally valuable as rejecting these behaviours because it all depends on the person and their personal viewpoint or circumstances.

      This isn’t what happens, even in the West, for the most part, you don’t find many people with these kind of views about important moral issues.

      • David Smith says:

        // This isn’t what happens, even in the West, for the most part, you don’t find many people with these kind of views about important moral issues. //

        You don’t find them because they’ve been frightened and forced into hiding. The slightest deviation anywhere, in present or past, from officially correct language damns the speaker, the writer, the thinker as a sexist, racist, homophobe, a member of whatever category is currently proscribed, and subjects him to public ostracism and hell on earth.

        And once a normal person has been psychologically browbeaten like this for long, he’ll accept his punishment and purify his thoughts.

  15. John Nolan says:

    The Church’s practice of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried is based not on Natural Law but on Sacred Scripture, and was reaffirmed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio (1981). He also cites a pastoral reason – the faithful should not be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

    When Amoris Laetitia came out in 2016 Cardinal Müller pointed out that it did not contradict traditional teaching and certainly did not endorse the ‘Kasper proposal’. He still holds to this line.

    Pope Francis is not known for clarity of thought and expression but even he is aware that he cannot oppose Scripture and Tradition, or overturn the explicit teaching of a predecessor whom he himself canonized.

    • David Smith says:

      // Pope Francis is not known for clarity of thought and expression but even he is aware that he cannot oppose Scripture and Tradition, or overturn the explicit teaching of a predecessor whom he himself canonized. //

      I’d not be sure of that. Relativists are mental eels. They can slip out of any contradiction, easily, almost without conscious thought. I can see him – or someone in his group more articulate than he – explaining that the church, not he himself, canonized JPII, and that, anyway, saints live in their time, not ours, and that the times have changed and the best thinkers have evolved away from JP’s thinking. Also, that tradition is always in need of correction, and that scripture improves itself the more closely the approved scholars examine it.

      • John Nolan says:

        I don’t think PF is a relativist. I do think he has an agenda which he is determined to push through in the short time remaining to him. Precisely what constitutes that agenda is not explicit, but elements of it can be gleaned from what his close confidants (Fernandez, Spadaro, Baldisseri, Rosica, Kasper et al.) have let slip. And for orthodox Catholics it is indeed a cause for concern.

        Rosica actually posted on his blog that since Francis is ‘free from disordered attractions’ he can rule as an individual without reference to Scripture or Tradition. This is of course heresy and flies in the face of Vatican I; Rosica deleted the post, but not quickly enough.

        However, PF knows he is being watched – he’s not the sharpest knife in the box, but has a certain cunning born of his Jesuit and Argentine upbringing which will probably rescue him from disaster. And he is the pope, so will be given the benefit of the doubt.

  16. Alasdair says:

    When Coconuts says:
    (February 25, 2019 at 11:53 am)
    “Why not stone her (the woman caught in adultery John 8 : 1-11) after all? It is only the interpretation of scripture, Tradition, Reason, Logical thinking etc. by certain groups that suggests that it is wrong” he makes his point powerfully by reductio-ad-absurdum. I’m assuming he is not an advocate of stoning!
    My wife (best described as an evangelical Roman Catholic) pointed out to me that at the end of the incident described, Jesus says to the woman “Go and sin no more” which means that her circumstances are different from people who are in second marriages, who will continue to sin – if that’s how we view it.

  17. Nektarios says:

    It seems some are of the view that Natural Law is irrelevant, some ignore it, and moralists see it as immensely important. Let us go into it, not just reading what I am saying here, agreeing or disagreeing but within ourselves.

    It seems odd perhaps to ask first, is your brain individual, by that I mean, separate in every way from the brains of others? Let me put it to you, our brain is the brain of the whole of mankind in its functions, with its feelings, fears, anxieties, sorrows &c.

    That brain of mankind is functioning as it does within the confines of the culture, religion and political governance. But it is still the brain of mankind.

    What changed in man and also the function of his brain was the Fall. With that came all the sins we think often it so modern but can be traced back to the Fall. This, in turn, led to disorder. With the disorder, many sought some order amidst the chaos.

    This order, as given to Moses was an external order and was enforced with external rites, sacrifices and fasts, but inwardly mankind was not changed. Man’s sorrow, darkness, fears, anxieties and death remained.

    When it comes to Natural Law, it is a quasi-religious philosophical approach to disorder. As this Natural Law is also external, and by some imposed it can only bring conflict and conflict is just disorder by another name. It is powerless to change Man inwardly.

    The imposition of Natural Law has led many to great sorrow especially in the complexity of marriage and other relationships within the Church.

    Natural Law is a powerless blunt instrument as far what the soul needs or requires.

  18. Nektarios says:

    Further on Natural Law:

    Natural Law as I said is an external imposition. Being so, it is an imposition laid by another on others with tragic effects and changes nothing.

    Natural Law makes its demands and claims with well-argued philosophical arguments. This in turn
    to whoever adheres to Natural Law is divided within. That is what one should, or ought to be by the spurious claims of Natural Law and what actually is going on within the person.
    This, in turn, leads to conflict within and ramifications without leading as it does to great turmoil,
    sorrow, anxiety, fear and possible mental illness.

    Since mankind, since the Fall already experiences all these effects, why was it deemed necessary
    to impose Natural Law? It only compounds matters and makes matters worse.

    I can only conclude that it was certain religious and philosophical individuals or groups wanting to exercise power over their fellow human beings or Christians making their lives a misery.

  19. David Smith says:

    George writes:

    // I appreciate that my interpretations of Scripture, Tradition and Reason are fallible. But why shouldn’t I trust them more than the “pastoral judgements” which have arisen in the last few years? Who is the pastor, and how is he competent to judge? //

    Indeed. We’re all blind, groping in the dark.

    “et si sensus deficit, ad firmandum cor sincerum sola fides sufficit”

    How hard faith is in these materialistic times. Apparently, it once came easily to a cor sincerum. Modern man has been cursed with a belief in the certainty of logic and with the noise of billions of voices talking all at once.

  20. Nektarios says:

    David Smith

    Sorry to interject, and to disagree with you.
    You wrote, ‘Modern man has been cursed with a belief in the certainty of logic and with the noise of billions of voices talking all at once.

    There is only certainty when logic is mechanical and repetitive, add to that the mechanical repetitive
    voice and noise of billions all talking at once then obviously this is not faith as delivered to us by the Lord Himself and His Holy Apostles is it, just opinions.
    It is dangerous for the soul trusting to opinions which only leads to confusion. What the Apostles have handed down to us is not opinions but the revelation of God’s Salvation, by means of Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.

    Liberals ignore what the Apostles taught thinking they themselves are the modern day authority.
    I sometimes wonder if they are Christians at all, just religious opinionated people.
    Unfortunately, because we are in a day of small things, the faith of many is weak and the liberal people, especially in ministry, run roughshod over the people of God. There is a reckoning by God on that day if not before.

  21. David Smith says:

    Coconuts writes:

    ////
    // Sadly the church sexual abuse scandals I mentioned needed no support from secular voices calling for the abolition of the age of consent. They happened within a very, very legalised system of belief, regardless of age or gender. May God forgive us all. //

    These scandals seem to be characterised by leaders in the church ignoring or neglecting their own teachings (one reason they are so surprising, the relevant teachings seem to have been clearer to lay people).
    ////

    I suspect that one reason why some or many homosexual priests and seminarians evidently felt free to disregard what most of us saw as clear sexual prohibitions was that, as hierarchs or aspiring hierarchs who had been schooled in theological complexities and subtleties, they felt themselves above what they saw as the crude rules and norms that bound the less theologically educated Catholics who were the laity. Also, they believed that they had been taught, at least indirectly and by example, that there was, indeed, a semi-official double standard in the church from which they were tacitly permitted to benefit. They looked around them and concluded that Rome had no objections, so long as they didn’t let the secret slip and give cause for scandal.

    As far as the non-homosexual priests were concerned, those who took their pleasure in females or small children, I don’t imagine that there was anything, or much, at work but the double facts of celibacy and privileged access, the second of which is likely to lead to sexual misbehavior among any similarly situated group of men, in or out of the church.

    • Alasdair says:

      David says “they believed that they had been taught, at least indirectly and by example, that there was, indeed, a semi-official double standard from which they were tacitly permitted to benefit”.
      “Nudge Nudge Wink Wink” culture permeates all institutions, where once, the laity and the public naively assumed only the highest standards of professional integrity to exist.

    • George says:

      The horrible abuse scandals are a painful subject. I don’t suppose I shall ever forget the moment earlier this week when I was reading an account of Cardinal Pell’s trial and the thought flashed into my mind “He’s guilty, isn’t he”. Of course the thought may have been wrong. I trust the Australian courts and pray that justice will be done, and for Cardinal Pell, and for the alleged victims. But I would rather such things were not grist to the mill of doctrinal debates like this one.

      • Nektarios says:

        George

        Quite so.
        The Apostle tells us that such things should not be even be mentioned among you. That is among all those who belong to Christ and the Kingdom of God.

        Far from stifling debate, silence on this is the recognition of the sinfulness of such behaviour.

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