Thursday, January 21, 2016

Divorce, Remarriage, Sin, Forgiveness - And The Metaphysics of Relation

Can the Church forgive the sin of divorce and remarriage in order to reconstitute millions of couples [trapped in a state of sin] to the state of grace and capable of receiving the sacraments, without destroying Christian/Catholic moral life? Robert Moynihan wrote the following on January 1, 2016 in his “Letters From the Journal of Robert Moynihan,” commenting on Francis’ homily that day:

“Is Francis, with his calling of the two-part Synod on the Family, and with his declaring a "Jubilee Year of Mercy," indicating in these words that he wishes to "open the doors" to that "mercy" and "forgiveness" that would enable all repentant sinners to return to participate without scandal and without shame in the full life of the Church, in the life of Christ, including receiving Holy Communion?

Is that what he was saying in this homily?

One Concern

The answer is still not clear.

We await the Pope's document, his conclusions after the two-part Synod, and his own reflection and decision on all that was said.

However, one concern, in our present cultural circumstances, is this: that a praiseworthy papal desire to assist individual men and women suffering from the personal, individual wounds of their own lives (and there are tens of millions of them) not create an opening on another front which would cause unexpected harm to men and women -- and to the truth of the faith.

This is a concern because cultural forces inimical to the faith greatly desire to gain a victory in this particular battle, a battle which is only part of a very broad-based metaphysical war against the concepts of substantial being, personhood, the soul, personal fault, sin, guilt, repentance, and holiness of life -- the concepts which underlie the entire Catholic sacramental system... the concepts which underlie the entire Catholic faith.”

Thus Moynihan:* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I would respond: 1) The forgiveness of the sin of divorce/remarriage does not do away with the ontological reality that stands against divorce and remarriage. On the contrary. Forgiveness of sin is the supreme affirmation of the person and ontologically rebuilds him/her as person. This was the thread that ran through Vatican II and was semantically expressed in Gaudium et Spes #24: "Man, the only earthly being made for himself [(and not to be used) in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God, finds himself by the sincere gift of himself. It rebuilds it because it is not what Moynihan offers as the metaphysics of person and marriage. He offers that it is “substantial being,” I would offer, rather, that the metaphysical anthropology is not “substance” but person that went through significant development in Vatican II. The human person and the meaning of matrimony from Gaudium et Spes 48-52 and in all subsequent Magisterium and Canon Law (c. 1055) underwent development from substance as thing-in-itself (the Greek mind from Aristotle to the present day) to Christian being-in-relation. The Church has understood the meaning of the human person as constitutively relational as “for” other, and not “in-self.” This transformed the explanation of matrimony from a contractual relation between individuals to a covenant of persons. Relation for individuals is metaphysically accidental; the relation of husband and wife is constitutively relational as self-gift.

                    The dynamic of relation as constitutive means that the person cannot be person except by being related to and develop as person without transcending self as gift to other. This is the meaning of “communion” magisterially. Hence, the act of forgiveness does not do away with the ontological density of the human person, but rather constitutes it. Therefore, forgiveness builds and rebuilds the person to be capable of fidelity and giftedness. In a word, forgiveness builds the enlightened metaphysics implicit in the meaning of person in Vatican II. Hence, I would simply like to offer to the thinking such as Moynihan’s that we are working with a different epistemological horizon and metaphysical constitution. Consequently, instead of leaving the moral horizon in shambles after restoring people to grace [pace that it was not this way – divorce – from the beginning], if the pope opts for forgiveness with the necessary conditions of repentance, etc. and ability to approach the sacrament of the Eucharist and living a full Chistian/Catholic life.

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