Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Prenatal Adoption" No! - CDF

Pace the apologetic for keeping the question of “Prenatal Adoption” open,[1] the text of the CDF’s Dignitas Personae hews to the reasoning that forbids contraception and IVF as well as the inviolability of the life of the embryo. Inviolability of human life is the easiest reason to understand, while the most difficult is the inseparability of love and life that engenders it – the relational ontological of the human person imaging the divine Persons. This works within a distinct and higher experience, but is the most ontological, profound and realist.
 This is the touch-stone of the question. Embryos cannot be inserted into the uterus of an “adopting” mother because the child will not be present as the result of an act of love, but of an act of technology. If I may assert it this way, the act of love that is life-giving trumps as moral criterion the saving of the life. Cf. #19 of DP

[1] Arland K. Nichols, “Prenatal Adoption: Did the CDF Close the Door on Debate?” Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. Number 4, Winter 2011, 26-30. Nichols says no. On my reading, the answer is yes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

GOD: The Real Topic for "The Year of Faith"

The real point at issue: God will not be known except by experience, and that experience is personal holiness. 

Whittaker Chambers 

["Witness" (Regnery 1952 449-450)]

Whittaker Chambers wrote: “I committed the characteristic crimes of my century (the 20th), which is unique in the history of men for two reasons. It is the first century since life began when a decisive part of the most articulate section of mankind has not merely ceased to believe in God, but has deliberately rejected God. And it is the century in which this religious rejection has taken a specifically political form, so that the characteristic experience of the mind in this age is a political experience… The most conspicuously menacing form of that rejection is Communism. But there are other forms of the same rejection, which in any case, communism did not originate, but merely adopted and adapted….

            “Until 1937, I had been, in this respect a typical modern man, living without God except for tremors of intuition. In 1938, there seemed no possibility that I would not continue to live out my life as such a man. Habit and self-interest both presumed it. I had been for thirteen years a Communist; and in Communism could be read, more clearly with each passing year, the future of mankind, as, with each passing year, the free world shrank in power and faith, including faith in itself, and sank deeper into intellectual and moral chaos. Yet, in 1938, I have a different ending to that life...."

“Can a Cultured Man, a European of Our Day, believe, really believe, in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ?[1] 

Benedict XVI

  I would offer in response Benedict XVI’s words at the Bundestag in Berlin last fall: At this point Europe’s cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.

As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for? I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. I thank you for your attention!

“The great proponent of legal positivism, Kelsen, at the age of 84 – in 1965 – abandoned the dualism of “is” and “ought”. (I find it comforting that rational thought is evidently still possible at the age of 84!) Previously he had said that norms can only come from the will. Nature therefore could only contain norms, he adds, if a will had put them there. But this, he says, would presuppose a Creator God, whose will had entered into nature. “Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile”, he observed.[4] Is it really? – I find myself asking. Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spiritus?

Let me repeat Kelsen’s remark: “Any attempt to discuss the truth of this belief is utterly futile,” to which Benedict retorted: “Is it really?” “Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spirit?

And he points to the cultural and scientific reality that Europe has been: “At this point Europe’s cultural heritage ought to come to our assistance. The conviction that there is a Creator God is what gave rise to the idea of human rights, the idea of the equality of all people before the law, the recognition of the inviolability of human dignity in every single person and the awareness of people’s responsibility for their actions. Our cultural memory is shaped by these rational insights. To ignore it or dismiss it as a thing of the past would be to dismember our culture totally and to rob it of its completeness. The culture of Europe arose from the encounter between Jerusalem, Athens and Rome – from the encounter between Israel’s monotheism, the philosophical reason of the Greeks and Roman law. This three-way encounter has shaped the inner identity of Europe. In the awareness of man’s responsibility before God and in the acknowledgment of the inviolable dignity of every single human person, it has established criteria of law: it is these criteria that we are called to defend at this moment in our history.”

“As he assumed the mantle of office, the young King Solomon was invited to make a request. How would it be if we, the law-makers of today, were invited to make a request? What would we ask for? I think that, even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart – the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace. I thank you for your attention!”

Prior to this, Benedict XVI had remarked in an exchange with Marcelo Pera, professor of the philosophy of science at the University of Pisa and president of the Italian Senate, that “The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the communist economy has been recognized – so much so that former communists have unhesitatingly become economic liberals – the moral and religious question that it used to address has been almost totally repressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man’s original uncertainties about God, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is till our problem today. Left untreated, it could lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger – above and beyond the decline predicted by Spengler.”[2]

All of the above has led Ratzinger-Benedict XVI to the need for a new evangelization which is the basic reason for the year of faith of 2012-2013. In this regard, he wrote in Porta Fidei: the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that I have convoked for October 2012 is The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith. It is not the first time that the Church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith. My venerable Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul on the 19th centenary of their supreme act of witness. He thought of it as a solemn moment for the whole Church to make “an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith”; moreover, he wanted this to be confirmed in a way that was “individual and collective, free and conscious, inward and outward, humble and frank”.[5] He thought that in this way the whole Church could reappropriate “exact knowledge of the faith, so as to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it, and confess it”.[6] The great upheavals of that year made even more evident the need for a celebration of this kind. It concluded with the Credo of the People of God,[7] intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past.
5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a “consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period”,[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]

My comment: It is a known fact that the year of faith was not intensely lived in 1967, and what was, and continues to be, at stake is the comprehension of Vatican II, and its first historical spin off, Humanae Vitae. Only now, it is exacerbated into a wholesale loss of the consciousness and experience of God. In consider the views of Rick Santorum – which are those of the Catholic Church in all things sexual – Andrea Peyser of the Post on Monday, February 27, 2012 commented: “In Santorum’s World, sex is for making children and abortion is murder. No exceptions. This cartoon version of the world won’t fly in 2012 America.” 

I would respond with Benedict XVI in Germany: “Is it really?” “Is it really pointless to wonder whether the objective reason that manifests itself in nature does not presuppose a creative reason, a Creator Spirit?"

[1] F. Dostoevsky “The Possessed”
[2] J. Ratzinger, Marcello Pera, “Without Roots,” Basic Books (2006) 73-74.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Message on Contraception, Without Apology

The Rev. Roger Landry in North Providence, R.I., on Thursday at the gathering Theology on Tap.


Published: February 18, 2012

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — It was last Sunday morning, and the Rev. Roger J. Landry, whose accent is from working-class Lowell, Mass., but whose college degree is from nearby Harvard, had just finished officiating at the 8:30 Mass at St. Anthony of Padua, his church in this old whaling town. After his fiery sermon attacking the Obama administration, several people in the pews applauded — a sound striking for its echoes in the cavernous, awesome church, and for its rarity. One does not applaud in Mass.
But Father Landry did not mind the enthusiasm. He is a traditionalist, and he is eager to share his opinions with his flock. This is a priest who believes official Catholic teaching about contraception, and who is not afraid to say so.

Such men may not be the exception, but it’s not clear that they are the rule. As the furor over the Obama administration’s mandate for employee health insurance has made clear, Roman Catholic bishops condemn contraception, equating some forms of it with abortion. But many parish priests are conflicted. Some disagree with the teaching, and others agree with it but avoid discussing the topic, knowing how thoroughly their parishioners have embraced birth control.

Father Landry worries that other priests’ reticence keeps Catholics in the dark on church teachings on contraception. “In most places,” he said, “they don’t hear about it because there are a lot of priests who are conflict-averse, and when you preach in a way that people aren’t pleased, not only do you lose parishioners, but you lose their budget envelopes along with them, and you’ll also get some nasty e-mails and face-to-face conversations.”

Father Landry, 41, is balding, ruddy and blue-eyed, and he speaks quickly and confidently. He gives his parishioners the stiff, 80-proof doctrine: the church hierarchy bans all artificial contraception, and the withdrawal method. The only permissible forms of birth control are abstinence and “natural family planning,” using knowledge of a woman’s cycle to restrict intercourse to times when she is unlikely to conceive.

He was just a small boy at morning Mass, watching the priest give Communion, when he first heard a whisper of a calling: “I just had the little insight as a 4-year-old that the priest must be the luckiest man ever, to be holding God in his hand and giving him to others.” He entered seminary after graduating from Harvard in 1993, and he arrived at St. Anthony’s in 2005, after stints in Fall River and Hyannis, Mass.

As a priest, Father Landry has tried, gently, to lead couples away from contraception. “I know from their having told me that many of the couples here have stopped contracepting,” Father Landry said. “In terms of the numbers, it’s probably between 15 and 20 couples who have explicitly told me that.”

Father Landry gets his message across in several ways. First, he talks to engaged couples about their plans for a family. To facilitate that conversation, he gives them a questionnaire.

“The last question,” Father Landry said, “is always ‘Are you planning to have children? Are you planning to start right away after you’re married?’ The vast majority of couples answer, ‘Yes, we definitely want to have children, but we want to wait two or three years.’ ”

The priest asks if they are aware of church teaching about contraception. “Shockingly, 50 percent of the couples that I prepare for marriage have never heard that the church teaches about contraception,” he said.

Father Landry also gives sermons on contraception, something very few priests do. He says he relies on Pope John Paul II’s argument against contraception, which he summarizes. “That God has made us fundamentally for love,” Father Landry said, “and that marriage is supposed to help us to love for real. In order for that to happen, we need to totally give ourselves over to someone else in love, and receive the other’s total self in love.

“What happens in the use of contraception, rather than embracing us totally as God made the other, with the masculine capacity to become a dad, or the feminine capacity to become a mom, we reject that paternal and maternal leaning.”

Father Landry argues that contraception can be the gateway to exploitation: “When that petition is made for contraception, it’s going to make pleasure the point of the act, and any time pleasure becomes the point rather than the fruit of the act, the other person becomes the means to that end. And we’re actually going to hurt the people we love.”
Many non-Catholics — and many Catholics — see the church’s teaching on contraception as cruel toward women. But Father Landry says it’s women who intuitively get how divorcing sex from procreation allows men to use them; in his experience, it is almost always the woman who moves a couple toward abandoning artificial contraception.

“They have a lot of times experienced having been used in their marriage or their previous relationship,” Father Landry said.

After Mass, during the coffee hour in the church basement, parishioners expressed a range of views on the pastor’s teachings.

One couple with grown children agreed that if they had benefited from Father Landry’s teachings years ago, they would have had more children. “We definitely would not have used contraception,” the wife said, “not if we had it to do over again.”
An older woman with white hair, sitting near the doughnuts being sold for $1, appeared to disagree. “Don’t get me started on him,” she said, rolling her eyes when asked about Father Landry’s teachings on contraception.

Father Landry does not think contraception is the most important issue he faces. He worries about couples living together before marriage, not to mention the poverty and violence that afflict New Bedford. But he sees the Catholic sexual ethic as crucial to his message — and not just the part about contraception.
Last spring, scenes of a movie called “Whaling City” were being shot in St. Anthony’s. During the filming, the priest noticed that the church’s rack of sexuality pamphlets was being depleted.

“I saw all the camera men and sound guys,” Father Landry said, “and in their back pockets, coming down the main aisle, one had one on pornography, the other had ‘Sex and Contraception’ hanging out of his pocket, the other one had ‘In Vitro Fertilization.’ ”
Father Landry aimed his cellphone camera at one of the men and “snapped a photo of his derriere,” he said. “Because it’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

Without These Fasts, All Others Will Not Be Accepted By the Lord

Let the eye fast from beholding objects, which are only calculated to excite curiosity and vanity; that being now humbled, it may be restrained to repentance, which before wandered in guilt. 

Let the ear fast from listening to idle stories and words that have no reference to salvation. 

Let the tongue fast from detraction and murmuring, from unprofitable and sacrilegious discourse; sometimes also, out of respect to holy silence, from speaking what appears necessary and profitable. 

Let the hand also fast from useless works, and from every action that is not commanded. 

But above all, let the soul fast from sin and the doing of its own will. 

Without these fasts, all others will not be accepted by the Lord.

- - St. Bernard of Clairvaus, Serm. 2 de Jejun. Quad

Friday, February 17, 2012

Violation of Vows of the Sisters of Life by HHS

Sisters of Life Statement Regarding the HHS Mandate

February 16, 2012

The Sisters of Life join with the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and leaders of many other religious communities, in strongly objecting to the Department of Health and Human Services rule for “preventative services,” and the “compromise” announced by President Obama regarding religious liberty.  This mandate will gravely violate the individual and collective religious liberties of the Sisters of Life and millions of others by forcing us to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception against our conscience.

The Sisters of Life is a religious community of consecrated women, founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor. Ours is a religious community founded in the United States of America by a priest who dearly loved this country, and served as a Rear Admiral and Chief of Chaplains in the United States Navy. We, too, love our country. We are grateful to be a part of its proud history, for the generosity and valor of so many who call this nation home, and for the possibilities that arise from living authentic freedom within a pluralistic society. Yet now we are faced with a government decision that is not only a grave affront to the religious liberty and rights of conscience of every citizen of the United States, but also an offense to each Sister of Life in a particular way. Every professed member of our community takes a special vow “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

In response to a call from God and to the sheer beauty and goodness of the gift of life, each Sister dedicates herself to God that all people might come to know the precious gift of his or her life, and that every human life be protected and received as an unrepeatable icon of the living God. To this end, we defend vulnerable human life in the womb from the moment of conception, supporting and upholding mothers in need through emotional, spiritual and material support during and after their pregnancies.  Because the gift of life is intrinsically linked to love, we also affirm and fully support the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church regarding marriage and sexuality. This includes an understanding that sterilization and contraception are gravely against God’s plan for human life and love, and we believe, in the end, are false promises that undermine the peace and freedom in commitment that are fruits of authentic human love.

Our special fourth vow, made in a solemn and sacred ceremony and binding on us in conscience and in the laws of the Church, is at the heart of our identity as a religious community, and is a profound expression of the religious and spiritual commitment of each of our Sisters. This new rule pays no heed to our right to live according to our vows.  Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act each of us will be required by law to obtain health insurance, or face fines.  Since this HHS mandate will require every insurer to include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and artificial contraception, we will not be able to obtain any coverage that is free from those “services,” and we will be forced to pay for them directly.  Since we are neither employers, nor employees, of any religious institution, we cannot even take advantage of the “religious exemption” contained in the new regulations or the “compromise.”

As a result, this mandate would coerce each and every individual Sister of Life to betray her religious vows.  We will be forced to pay for “services” that attack human life and deny the truth and beauty of human sexuality.  This would directly contradict our special religious vow to “to protect and enhance the sacredness of human life,” and go against everything we believe in and have devoted our lives to.  To us, it would be comparable to a law requiring a spouse to violate their marriage vows — an unthinkable intrusion upon a sacred promise.

This mandate is an offensive and dangerous infringement upon the natural and Constitutional rights of American citizens. The only just solution to this infringement of rights is to rescind the HHS rule.  We call upon members of Congress and the Executive Branch to reverse this decision as soon as possible, and we invite our fellow citizens to join with us in prayer and fasting that our Nation may be protected from this great threat against liberty.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Apropos The Editorial "Quiet Down" - Inside the Vatican - Feb. 2012

Dr. Robert Moynihan
Editor - "Inside the Vatican"

Dr. Moynihan,

   You do an excellent job as editor of "Inside the Vatican" and you have had a profound sense of the mind of Joseph Ratzinger and now Benedict XVI as long as I have read "Inside the Vatican." You finally were able to say your pre-papal piece in "The Spiritual Vision of Pope Benedict XVI, Let God's Light Shine Forth" (2005) where you communicated many fine insights and, I believe, unpublished material. I am thinking of the interview you had with him on faith and the challenge of modernity in which modernity is not to be spurned but taken up into the light of faith and purified (34-35). This insight and its publication is/was huge.

   I was just glancing quickly at your most recent editorial for the February issue of "Inside the Vatican" and it struck me that a word might be said about the notion of Christendom. Christendom is an objectified incarnation of Christian faith and life whose blue-print was an abstract epistemology and prodigious rational development in  Theology, philosophy, law, science, technology, art - in a word everything that we have always identified with Europe and the Western world. That culture and the structures that it spawned and that have supported it are in evident decay. Your supporting call to faith seconding the pope is excellent. But I sensed a wistful lamentation to the passing of Christendom and was alarmed at your references to the "structures" to "keep the house in order" such as creating cardinals, establishing "ordinariates," authorizing the old liturgy, etc. 

To be honest, I do not think that Benedict XVI is trying "to keep the house in order." Rather, I think he is trying to put the Church on a new supernatural level that is totally incarnate in this world but built on the Person of Christ as prototype of the human person. In passing, I would suggest that Christendom is an archaism of the incarnation of the faith. It represents the classical epistemology in the clash between classicism and historical consciousness the latter which the pope is opting for by his year of faith experience and silence.

   All of this has much to do with what Benedict mentioned to you in the above reference to modernity. Modernity is all about the turn to subjectivity which has been construed to be about thought to the detriment of being and reality. But faith, in Ratzinger's intellectual development (his habilitation thesis), also is a subjective phenomenon as believing person receiving the Word-Person as our Lady receiving the Word of God and saturating Him fully with her humanity. But subjectivity and person in the theology and philosophy of Benedict are not thought but being itself. Rather than subjectivism, they are the most radical realism. His presentation of the Word as realism in his October 2008 keynote address to the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God was truly (in the words of Scott Hahn) "breathtaking." 

   But that is the point. The turn to the subject in the Magisterium of Vatican II and the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI are most ontological and real. Christendom is about objectified "things" and structures from the political through the philosophical, theological, architectural, etc. As you say, "For a thousand years, Christians attempted to build a civilization centered on Christ, and the result was Christendom. In Christendom, Christ (Who is the Truth)  was central to human life...." You then wistfully remark "that world has passed away" and you wonder how we can do that again in a world "that has rejected the truth." And you answer, correctly, by "deepening our own faith." 

   My objection is not for what you said but for what you didn't say. The implication of the positive picture you paint where "the faith influenced laws and customs, art and music... the great cathedral or the music of Bach" is that perhaps we would want to retrieve Christendom. I say: what we really want, and the Church is pointing us, is to a secularity that is not secularism. Secularity is the "theonomous" centrality of the human person as image of God and "other Christ." Secularism is life without God. Secularity is the full humanity of Christ protagonized by the divine Person of the Son. The defining center is not Christ as religious figure but Christ as the meaning of the human person whose dynamic is "finding self... by gift of self" which takes place in the exercise of professional and secular work and family life. The believing person comes alive as person in the experience of transcending self in faith.

What the times are begging for, and the year of faith can be its power source, is a new secular culture that is not secularized nor Christendom, nor nostalgic for Christendom. The pope is repeating this year of faith to achieve what pope Paul VI's year of faith (1967) did not: the understanding of Vatican II and "Humanae Vitae." This may be "the time for Vatican II" which Benedict referred to in his "Ratzinger Report" (40). It cannot be understood merely by study (which has not properly taken place) because Vatican II is a subjective faith experience of the Person of Christ, which when having taken place becomes the spur to study - and implementation. Its implementation is going in a very different direction from Christendom. Rev. Robert A. Connor, 330 Riverside Dr. New York, N.Y. 10025  - email: robertaconnor@gmail. com

Jeremy Lin says his storybook run with NY Knicks is ‘a miracle from God’ 

Linsanity is in full swing in Toronto, where Knicks PG hits game-winner


TORONTO Jeremy Lin calls his rags-to-riches NBA story “a miracle from God,” adding that it is more than just a coincidence that everything is suddenly breaking right for him.

“Anytime something like this happens, a lot of stuff has to be put into place, and a lot of it is out of my control,” the Knicks phenom point guard said on Tuesday. “If you look back at my story, doesn’t matter where you look, but God’s fingerprints are all over the place where there have been a lot of things that had to happen that I couldn’t control.

“You can try to call it coincidence,” Lin continued, “but at the end of the day, there are 20, 30 things when you combine them all that had to happen at the right time in order for me to be here. That’s why I call it a miracle.”

Lin addressed a large media contingent following the Knicks’ morning practice at Air Canada Centre. He was asked about everything from his living arrangements to his meteoric rise from bench warmer to international sensation.

He was also asked about a comment Floyd Mayweather made via Twitter in which the boxer says that race, and not talent, is responsible for the attention Lin is receiving.
 Lin, who has remained grounded and humble over the past two weeks, managed to stay clear of the controversy when asked about Mayweather’s comments and if his heritage plays a factor.
“I don’t really know,” Lin said. “I’m not going to guess because I don’t have an answer to that question. (I’m) not really too concerned with what anyone says.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cardinal Francis George - Perspective on the Mission of Bishops

"(N)ews of attempts to weaken the unity between the bishops and the faithful have been reported.  This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain.  What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have.  The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them.  Others disperse.  That dynamic is clear in history and became clear also in the official visit to Rome that the Bishops of our region made this week.

Our visit has reminded us that the Church enjoys divine assistance even when she is being attacked.  It was a timely visit."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From a little known text by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger published in 1998
The pastoral approach to marriage 
 must be founded on truth

Concerning some objections to the Church’s teaching on the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful

In 1998 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, introduced the volume: “On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried”, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana in the dicastery’s series “Documenti e Studi”, 17. Because of its interest in our day and its breadth of perspective, we reproduce the third part along with three additional notes. This text is also available on the newspaper’s website ( in English, Italian, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. 
The Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 14 September 1994 concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful was met with a very lively response across wide sections of the Church. Along with many positive reactions, more than a few critical voices were also heard. The fundamental objections against the teaching and practice of the Church are outlined below in simplified form.

Several of the more significant objections — principally, the reference to the supposedly more flexible practice of the Church Fathers which would be the inspiration for the practice of the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, as well as the allusion to the traditional principles of epicheia and of aequitas canonica — were studied in-depth by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Articles by Professors Pelland, Marcuzzi and Rodriguez Luño (1), among others, were developed in the course of this study. The main conclusions of the research, which suggest the direction of an answer to the objections, will be briefly summarized here.
1. Some maintain that several passages of the New Testament suggest that the words of Jesus on the indissolubility of marriage allow for a flexible application and cannot be classified in a strictly legal sense.
Several exegetes point out critically that with regard to the indissolubility of marriage, the Magisterium cites almost exclusively one pericope — namely, Mk. 10:11-12 — and does not sufficiently take into account other passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the First Letter to Corinthians. They claim that these biblical passages speak of a certain exception to the Lord’s words about the indissolubility of marriage, notably in the case of porneia (Mt 5:32; 19:9) and in the case of separation because of the faith (1 Cor 7:12-16). They hold that these texts should be an indication that, already in apostolic times, Christians in difficult situations had known a flexible application of the words of Jesus.

In replying to this objection, one notes that magisterial documents do not intend to present the biblical foundations of the teachings on marriage in a complete and exhaustive way. They entrust this important task to competent experts. The Magisterium emphasizes, however, that the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage is faithful to the words of Jesus. Jesus clearly identifies the Old Testament practice of divorce as a consequence of the hardness of the human heart. He refers — over and above the law — to the beginning of creation, to the will of the Creator, and summarizes his teaching with the words: “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk 10:9). With the coming of the Redeemer, marriage is therefore restored to its original form intended at creation and is wrested away from human arbitrariness — above all from the whim of the husband, since for wives there really was no possibility of divorce. Jesus’ words on the indissolubility of marriage overcome the old order of the law with the new order of faith and grace. Only in this way can marriage fully become a God-given vocation to love and human dignity and the sign of the unconditional covenant of divine love, i.e., a sacrament (cf. Eph 5:32).

The possibility of separation, which Paul discusses in 1 Cor. 7, regards marriage between a Christian and a non-baptized person. Later theological reflection has clarified that only marriages between baptized persons are a sacrament in the strict sense of the word, and that absolute indissolubility holds only for those marriages falling within the scope of Christian faith. So-called “natural marriage” has its dignity from the order of creation and is therefore oriented toward indissolubility, but it can be dissolved under certain circumstances because of a higher good — which in this case is faith. This is how systematic theology correctly classified St Paul’s reference as the privilegium paulinum, that is, the possibility of dissolving a non-sacramental marriage for the good of the faith. The indissolubility of a truly sacramental marriage remains safeguarded; it is not therefore an exception to the word of the Lord. We will come back to this later.

Extensive literature exists regarding the correct understanding of the porneia clauses, with many differing and even conflicting hypotheses. There is no unanimity among exegetes on this point. Many maintain that it refers to invalid marital unions, not to an exception to the indissolubility of marriage. In any case, the Church cannot construct her doctrine and praxis on uncertain exegetical hypotheses. She must adhere to the clear teaching of Christ. 
2. Others object that the patristic tradition leaves room for a more varied praxis, which would be more equitable in difficult situations; furthermore, the Catholic Church could learn from the principle of “economy” employed by Eastern Churches separated from Rome.
It is claimed that the current Magisterium relies on only one strand of the patristic tradition, and not on the whole legacy of the ancient Church. Although the Fathers clearly held fast to the doctrinal principle of the indissolubility of marriage, some of them tolerated a certain flexibility on the pastoral level with regard to difficult individual cases. On this basis Eastern Churches separated from Rome later developed alongside the principle of akribia, fidelity to revealed truth, that of oikonomia, benevolent leniency in difficult situations. Without renouncing the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, in some cases they permit a second and even a third marriage, which is distinct, however, from the sacramental first marriage and is marked by a penitential character. Some say that this practice has never been explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church. They claim that the 1980 Synod of Bishops proposed to study this tradition thoroughly, in order to allow the mercy of God to be more resplendent.

Father Pelland’s study points out the direction in which the answers to these questions can be sought. Naturally, for the interpretation of individual patristic texts, the work of historians is necessary. Because of the difficult textual issues involved, controversies will not be lacking in the future. Theologically, one must affirm the following:

a. There exists a clear consensus among the Fathers regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Since it derives from the will of the Lord, the Church has no authority over it. For this reason, from the outset Christian marriage was distinct from marriage in Roman society, even though in the first centuries there did not yet exist any canonical system. The Church in the time of the Fathers clearly excluded divorce and remarriage, precisely out of faithful obedience to the New Testament.

b. In the Church at the time of the Fathers, divorced and remarried members of the faithful were never officially admitted to Holy Communion after a time of penance. It is true, however, that the Church did not always rigorously revoke concessions in certain territories, even when they were identified as not in agreement with her doctrine and discipline. It also seems true that individual Fathers, Leo the Great being among them, sought pastoral solutions for rare borderline cases.

c. This led to two opposing developments:

— In the Imperial Church after Constantine, with the ever stronger interplay between Church and State, a greater flexibility and readiness for compromise in difficult marital situations was sought. Up until the Gregorian reform, a similar tendency was present in Gallic and Germanic lands. In the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, this development progressed farther in the second millennium and led to an increasingly more liberal praxis. Today in some of these Churches there are numerous grounds for divorce, even a theology of divorce, which is in no way compatible with Jesus’ words regarding the indissolubility of marriage. Without fail, this problem must be addressed in ecumenical dialogue.
— In the West, on account of the Gregorian reform, the original concept of the Church Fathers was recovered. This development came to its conclusion at the Council of Trent and was once again expressed as a doctrine of the Church at the Second Vatican Council.
On doctrinal grounds, the praxis of the Eastern Churches separated from Rome cannot be taken up by the Catholic Church, as it is the result of a complex historical process, an increasingly liberal — and thus more and more removed from Ettore Goffi, «Matrimonio» (1996)the words of the Lord — interpretation of several obscure patristic texts which were significantly influenced by civil law. Furthermore, the claim is incorrect that the Church simply tolerated such a praxis. Admittedly, the Council of Trent did not pronounce any explicit condemnation. The medieval canonists, however, consistently spoke of the praxis as improper. Furthermore, there is evidence that groups of Orthodox believers who became Catholic had to sign a profession of faith with an explicit reference to the impossibility of a second marriage. 
3. Many propose to allow exceptions to the Church’s norm on the basis of the traditional principles of epikeia and aequitas canonica.
Certain marriage cases, it is said, cannot be handled in the external forum. Some claim that the Church should not simply rely on juridical norms, but on the contrary ought to respect and tolerate the conscience of the individual. They say that theological notions of epikeia andaequitas canonica could serve to justify, from moral theology as well as juridically, a decision of conscience at variance from the general norm. Especially regarding the question of receiving the sacraments, they claim that the Church should take some steps forward and not just issue prohibitions to the faithful.
The contributions made by Professor Marcuzzi and Professor Rodríguez Luño throw light on his complex problem. To this end, there are three areas of inquiry which clearly need to be distinguished from each other:

a. Epikeia and aequitas canonica exist in the sphere of human and purely ecclesiastical norms of great significance, but cannot be applied to those norms over which the Church has no discretionary authority. The indissoluble nature of marriage is one of these norms which goes back to Christ Himself and is thus identified as a norm of divine law. The Church cannot sanction pastoral practices — for example, sacramental pastoral practices - which contradict the clear instruction of the Lord.

In other words, if the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception. (2)

b. However the Church has the authority to clarify those conditions which must be fulfilled for a marriage to be considered indissoluble according to the sense of Jesus’ teaching. In line with the Pauline assertion in 1 Cor. 7, she established that only two baptized Christians can enter into a sacramental marriage. She developed the legal concept of the Pauline privilege and the Petrine privilege. With reference to the porneia clauses in Matthew and in Acts 15:20, the impediments to marriage were established. Furthermore, grounds for the nullity of marriage were identified with ever greater clarity, and the procedural system was developed in greater detail. All of this contributed to delineating and articulating more precisely the concept of the indissolubility of marriage. One can say that, in this way, the Western Church also made allowance for the principle of oikonomia, but without touching the indissolubility of marriage as such. The further juridical development of the 1983 Code of Canon Lawwas in this same direction, granting probative force to the declarations of the parties. Therefore, according to experts in this area, it seems that cases in which an invalid marriage cannot be shown to be such by the procedural are practically excluded.

Since marriage has a fundamental public ecclesial character and the axiom applies that nemo iudex in propria causa (no one is judge in his own case), marital cases must be resolved in the external forum. If divorced and remarried members of the faithful believe that their prior marriage was invalid, they are thereby obligated to appeal to the competent marriage tribunal so that the question will be examined objectively and under all available juridical possibilities.

c. Admittedly, it cannot be excluded that mistakes occur in marriage cases. In some parts of the Church, well-functioning marriage tribunals still do not exist. Occasionally, such cases last an excessive amount of time. Once in a while they conclude with questionable decisions. Here it seems that the application of epikeia in the internal forum is not automatically excluded from the outset. This is implied in the 1994 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which it was stated that new canonical ways of demonstrating nullity should exclude “as far as possible” every divergence from the truth verifiable in the judicial process (cf. n. 9). Some theologians are of the opinion that the faithful ought to adhere strictly even in the internal forum to juridical decisions which they believe to be false. Others maintain that exceptions are possible here in the internal forum, because the juridical forum does not deal with norms of divine law, but rather with norms of ecclesiastical law. This question, however, demands further study and clarification. Admittedly, the conditions for asserting an exception would need to be clarified very precisely, in order to avoid arbitrariness and to safeguard the public character of marriage, removing it from subjective decisions.
4. Some accuse the current Magisterium of reversing the doctrinal development of the Council and of substituting a pre-conciliar view of marriage.
Some theologians claim that at the new magisterial documents having to do with questions of marriage are based on a naturalistic, legalistic concept of marriage. Attention is given to the contract between the spouses and to the ius in corpus. It is claimed that the Council overturned this static understanding and described marriage in a more personalistic way as a covenant of love and life. Thus it would have opened up possibilities for resolving difficult situations more humanely. Thinking further along this line, some scholars pose the question of whether or not one could speak of the death of the marriage, if the personal bond of love between the spouses no longer exists. Others resurrect the old question of whether or not the Pope would have the capability of dissolving marriage in such cases.

Yet anyone who attentively reads the more recent statements of the Church will note that their central assertions are based on Gaudium et spes and that they further develop the teaching contained therein in a thoroughly personalist line, in the direction indicated by the Council. However, it is inappropriate to set up a contradiction between the personalist and juridical views of marriage. The Council did not break with the traditional concept of marriage, but on the contrary developed it further. When, for example, it is continually pointed out that the Council substituted the broader and theologically more profound concept of covenant for the strictly legal concept of contract, one must not forget that within covenant, the element of contract is also contained and indeed placed within a broader perspective. The fact that marriage reaches well beyond the purely juridical realm into the depths of humanity and into the mystery of the divine, has always been indicated by the word “sacrament”, although often it has not been pondered with the same clarity which the Council gave to these aspects. Law is not everything, but it is an indispensable part, one dimension of the whole. Marriage without a juridical dimension which integrates it into the whole fabric of society and the Church simply does not exist. If the post-Conciliar revision of canon law included the realm of marriage, this is not a betrayal of the Council, but the implementation of its mandate.

If the Church were to accept the theory that a marriage is dead when the two spouses no longer love one another, then she would thereby sanction divorce and would uphold the indissolubility of marriage only in word, and no longer in fact. Therefore, the opinion that the Pope could potentially dissolve a consummated sacramental marriage, which has been irrevocably broken, must be considered erroneous. Such a marriage cannot be dissolved by anyone. At their wedding, the spouses promise to be faithful to each other until death.

Further study is required, however, concerning the question of whether non-believing Christians — baptized persons who never or who no longer believe in God — can truly enter into a sacramental marriage. In other words, it needs to be clarified whether every marriage between two baptized persons is ipso facto a sacramental marriage. In fact, the Code states that only a “valid” marriage between baptized persons is at the same time a sacrament (cf. cic, can. 1055, § 2). Faith belongs to the essence of the sacrament; what remains to be clarified is the juridical question of what evidence of the “absence of faith” would have as a consequence that the sacrament does not come into being. (3) 
5. Many argue that the position of the Church on the question of divorced and remarried faithful is overly legalistic and not pastoral.
A series of critical objections against the doctrine and praxis of the Church pertain to questions of a pastoral nature. Some say, for example, that the language used in the ecclesial documents is too legalistic, that the rigidity of law prevails over an understanding of dramatic human situations. They claim that the human person of today is no longer able toThe Seven Sacraments Altarpiece (1445-1450, detail) by Rogier Van der Weydenunderstand such language, that Jesus would have had an open ear for the needs of people, particularly for those on the margins of society. They say that the Church, on the other hand, presents herself like a judge who excludes wounded people from the sacraments and from certain public responsibilities.
One can readily admit that the Magisterium’s manner of expression does not seem very easy to understand at times. It needs to be translated by preachers and catechists into a language which relates to people and to their respective cultural environments. The essential content of the Church’s teaching, however, must be upheld in this process. It must not be watered down on allegedly pastoral grounds, because it communicates the revealed truth.

Certainly, it is difficult to make the demands of the Gospel understandable to secularized people. But this pastoral difficulty must not lead to compromises with the truth. In his Encyclical Veritatis splendor, John Paul II clearly rejected so-called pastoral solutions which stand in opposition to the statements of the Magisterium (cf. ibid. 56).

Furthermore, concerning the position of the Magisterium as regards the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful, it must be stressed that the more recent documents of the Church bring together the demands of truth with those of love in a very balanced way. If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). 
1 Cf. Angel Rodríguez Luño, L’epicheia nella cura pastorale dei fedeli divorziati risposati, ibid., pp. 75-87; Piero Giorgio Marcuzzi, sdb, Applicazione di “aequitas et epikeia” ai contenuti della Lettera della Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede del 14 settembre 1994, ibid., pp. 88-98; Gilles Pelland, sj, La pratica della Chiesa antica relativa ai fedeli divorziati risposati, ibid., pp. 99-131.2
2 On this matter the norm referred to by John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, is quite valuable: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’”. See also the Apostolic Letter of Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 29.
3 During the meeting with clergy in the Diocese of Aosta, which took place 25 July 2005, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this difficult question: “those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the Sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people’s painful plight, it must be studied further”.