Dear Fr. Bob,
Thank you for your e-mail. I read the article and your comments and here are some brief thoughts in no real order:
1. The Church was willing to give up England to defend the indissolubility of marriage after Henry VIII petitioned, unsuccessfully, for an annulment of his legitimate and valid marriage. Did St Thomas More and St John Fisher die for no reason? Should they be un-canonized for defending something that is indefensible? Are they to go down in history as ‘martyrs without a cause’?
2. Properly speaking, divorce doesn’t exist in the Church. A person is either free to marry, in religious vows (not free to marry), or married.
3. Entering into the sacrament of marriage is not a sin, so it cannot be ‘absolved’ when a person attempts to enter into another marriage, while still being bound in the first marriage. The sin is the infidelity to the marriage covenant that they have entered and have promised to be faithful to.
4. If the church did have the authority to absolve the bond of marriage in confession, would she also have the same authority to absolve the vows that a cleric took at his religious profession or ordination by just going to confession, and without the formal process of laicization? Could a priest, then, go to confession, have contrition that he was ordained, and then leave the confessional and be ready to marry?
5. How many times can a person be ‘forgiven’ of a passed marriage? Once, twice, three times? Why stop there? Marriage is not the problem, but the answer.
6. If Ratzinger has this metaphysics based on Christ and not on the categories of the Greeks, why didn’t he allow for a ‘second’ marriage? Also, if Fr. Robert Barron is of the same metaphysics as Ratzinger, why hasn’t he come out in support for a ‘second’ marriage?
7. The Fathers and the great Scholastics used metaphysics to help illuminate and explain the faith in a coherent and clear way. They tried to show the unity of knowledge, something that our world has lost. Metaphysics have never replaced the faith that the church received in the Scriptures and the Tradition. There have been occasions when some Scholastics went too far with their philosophy, but they were condemned by councils or local bishops. The goal is always to preserve the faith as the Church has received it.
The novelty of the Nouvelle Théologie was that it presented the faith in a different way, but it presented the same faith. We may speak about the Eucharist in terms of ‘substance’ and ‘accidents’ or in terms of the ‘Sacrifice of the New Covenant, or the ‘Bread of Angels’, all affirm the real presence of the same Christ. The underlying reality is preserved, while the explanation changes.
The Protestant historian of Dogma, Adolf Von Harnack, said that the Council of Nicea, in 325, represented the triumph of Greek Metaphysics over the pure Christian faith, with the definition of God the Father and God the Son as homoousios (ὁμοούσιος). But as Fr. Bernard Lonergan pointed out, this definition, as presented by the Council, would have been rejected by the Greeks because it goes against their understanding of hypostasis (ὑπόστασις) and its relationship to being (οὐσία). St Athanasius used the language of person and being, but not as the Greeks understood them. He used their language, but the reality that he was affirming was something that came from the Scriptures and Tradition, namely the divinity of Christ.
8. What then do you do with the words of Christ: “'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder.” And again: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful), and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Mt 19:5-10, Mk 10:2-12). Why didn’t Jesus say, repent, and you can enter into another marriage?
9. St John the Baptist died defending the indissolubility of marriage. Herod ‘married’ his half-brother’s wife, but his half-brother Philip was still alive. She was not free to marry and thus was committing adultery. When St John the Baptist spoke of this public sin, he was put to death.
10. Would this be a legitimate development of doctrine? Cardinal Newman on this subject, proposes seven marks: 1) Preservation of type; 2) Continuity of principles; 3) Assimilative power; 4) Logical sequence; 5) Anticipation of the future; 6) Conservative action on its past; 7) It’s chronic vigor. It seems like it is not a legitimate development because it proposes the opposite of what the Scriptures have always taught.
Not sure if that is what you were looking for, but hope that it helps. As you know, I am always happy to discuss.