I found this lecture compelling. The crisis concerning divorce, annulments, separation, Church and state, etc., is deep and vast. One must study the issues carefully. Towards that end, I include this video lecture by Bai MacFarlane.
I found this lecture compelling. The crisis concerning divorce, annulments, separation, Church and state, etc., is deep and vast. One must study the issues carefully. Towards that end, I include this video lecture by Bai MacFarlane.
Absolutely absurd to entertain offering communion to those in the state of mortal sin.
I heard at Mass today the following verse from the just man: “When evildoers assail me, to devour my flesh, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall,” I was consoled and took comfort.
For the Bible teaches us to read the Psalms as hymns of Christ, either speaking of himself or speaking in the person of a sinner. Here, Christ speaks of himself and also in the person of the victim. But let us hear this speaking in a Eucharistic key. Christ is lamenting that wicked men who have not yet repented of their malice are approaching to consume him in the Eucharistic species. This rends his heart for two reasons. First, it is sacrilege that defiles his August Sacrament. Second, it is hurtful to the very persons who do this. For this is a sacrament of union. Yet, one cannot embrace one’s friend in union when one has offended him mortally, until one first apologizes in the proper way. This proper way is repentance and reception of the Sacrament of Confession.
O Lord, spare the sinner this injustice to you and this injustice to himself. Let not the wicked devour the flesh of Christ.
Let us pray that bad pastoral advice will not be taken and that the pastors of the Church will maintain in their pastoral practice the true teachings of Holy Mother Church. Let us pray that there is no schism over this matter. Let us pray that false hopes are made sober and yet the strength of God enables that sobriety not to despair.
For God can do what man cannot do. If man cannot obey the law without grace, yet “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Rom 8).
Every theory of justification and righteousness that avoids the perennial validity of the LAW is false and heretical. It is false to say that one is “just” even while one is not internally just, even while one fails to keep the commandments. That has been the Lutheran error.
Likewise, it is false to say that the Law no longer applies to us. That is the Gnostic error and the modern “there is no sin” error.
But against both of these errors: The wrath of God is revealed against all unlawfulness (Rom 1)
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Gal 6:7f.
Since Christ shall never abandon his sheep, we must pray that the Church will weather this present crisis; that foolish advice and permissions, if (it is unthinkable) they should be enacted, would be ignored by the wise and that those who wish to be true pilgrims, not counting the cost against them, would repent of their evil past, find a way to get out of their situation of sin, take up a new way of life, the way of the cross, leaving behind the former things, and press on ahead in the loving embrace of God. Only thus would they be fit vessels for the Eucharist.
Only thus would they not regret inwardly as they receive outwardly the Bread of Life but they would receive inwardly as they receive outwardly the Bread of Life. This time, no whips and scorns from conscience, which does not deceive those who deceive it not! This time, truth and kindness shall have met. And the end of this way is life. Let us pray that there will be wise heroes to trod a true path, difficult though it be. For with Christ, all things are possible for me.
O Pastors of the Church, Despair not of the Sinner: Him were you sent really to heal. To him you were sent, not to lie, not to give false hope, vain hope, but to awaken from sin as from slumber, to invite to a journey of hope not death, eternity in beatitude not damnation.
Now, even if such an apparently foolish decision were made, There remains a question.
Who that wanted to approach God would follow the permission?
It would not be recommendable. If a pastor were to counsel someone to take advantage of such a permission, would not the person who truly wanted to be right with God want, deep down, to quit his situation of sin and go to confession with the firm purpose of amendment before receiving the Eucharist? Then it would be a joy, the joy it should be, not a mixed thing, not an occasion of sadness, or worse, judgment.
Is it not lamentable that we have come to such a low state as this, entertaining the possibility that those living in sin should be admitted to the Eucharist? How does this solve things? Why should anyone tell people that it is “Ok” that they are in a state of sin or living in sin?
If we do this, we cover up the actual state of affairs for them. We repress their consciences, which go on whipping their confusion anyway. For the conscience always speaks, though man tells tales. And this is exactly why sinners who hear preachers / believers stating, “It is ok; it is not a sin” have reason to hate this preacher. For the preacher is trying to enjoy a cup of coffee with the sinner, while the sinner sips poison unto death. The preacher just wants to “be with someone in peace,” yes, with someone who is going to hell. And the sinner knows this. Thus, he has good reason to hate the preacher. Unless the preacher abandons the faith altogether. But to remain in the faith, supposedly on the journey to heaven, while letting the neighbor go to hell – how is that supposed to make the sinner feel better? What are you after, you preacher who preach lies? What is your prize? Where is your treasure?
It is lamentable that we should strip the sinner of his dignity. For if we set the bar falsely for them, if we suggest that sinners are beneath Christian dignity, beneath the dignity of real sons and daughters, we strip them of their dignity. Why demean them with our pessimism?
We do do this, when we fail to say, “REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND.” When we fail to preach truth, we imply, “You are not able to abide by the Law of God; let’s just set the law aside; don’t pay attention to it. If the sin is venial, this is bad enough; but if it is mortal, this is very terrible indeed. While they are on their way to death, their physical death, all the while dead in the first death of sin as they drag their bodies with them towards that physical death, we whisper in their ears, tickling them with what they want to hear while they live a false dream of sin without consequences. We tell them they are OK precisely in their sinful state, so that they go forth and plunge to their final death, the everlasting death of damnation.
How is this pastoral?
If a pastor were to counsel someone living in sin to receive the Eucharist, how would that be good advice? How would it be pastoral? Would it not be the exact opposite of pastoral?
To pastor is to lead to Christ. If such advice leads to a sin against the Sacrament of the Eucharist, how could it be pastoral? Now, the Holy Spirit does not ensure that all pastoral advice will be good advice. Rather, if a priest is holy and wise, his advice is very likely to be good advice. Thus, those who seek holiness should solicit the counsel of priests who are holy and wise.
Sometimes pastors do give very damaging advice. For instance, if a priest were to tell a contracepting person, “Contraception is ok; it is not a sin,” this would be very damaging advice. It would cause the person to sin. Again, a confessor might tell a young man who masturbates, “It is ok; it is not a sin.” But such judgments are false. And the confessor is obligated to know they are false. Such judgments can lead a man to hell!
So, pastors can corrupt the lived lives of the faithful through their foolish counsel, even if their taught doctrine be not corrupt. Through their advice and counsel, they can lead astray. Let us pray that those in authority such as bishops and priests will grant only wise permissions and will do what must be done in terms of pastoral advice, thus providing the pilgrim flock with the Bread of Life and the Doctrine of Purity. This is Pope Francis’s prayer.
But if a pastor were to counsel one living in sin to receive the Eucharist, would he not fail to feed his flock and to guide it and guard it by not preaching the requisite conditions for the reception of the Eucharist? By pretending that sin is no longer sin. By pretending that a pastoral declaration, “You are ok” is enough to justify a man in God’s sight. But it is not enough. Sin remains sin, though we try to cover it with our declarations. Only God can erase sin. And he has instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation for this purpose.
And the valid reception of that sacrament requires firm purpose of amendment. Otherwise, the man who approaches that sacrament, and intends to go on living in sin afterwards, is making a mockery also of this sacrament. Thus, he sins twice. And should he receive the Eucharist, three times.
If wholesale pastoral permission were given to a group of people living in sin to receive the Eucharist, how on earth would such permission be for their eternal welfare? Would it not be an ecclesial corruption? Would it not be the abdication of the proper role of pastors? Would it not be to leave the flock to the very wolves, to the Lion who prowls about seeking whom to devour?
We must pray that so foolish a decision would not be made.
It is time to re-issue a number of posts regarding the topic of the synod. Hence, I re-issue this one.
Should those Living in Sin be counseled to receive the Eucharist?
Well, a prior question is: Would one living in sin be wise if he or she were to receive the Eucharist? The answer is a resounding, “No.”
Why not? I have stated why not in a previous post. To sum up, if my bearing in life is against the will of God, then I am opposed to his loving embrace. The Eucharist is his loving embrace. Therefore, if I receive him in the Eucharist while living in sin, I do violence to him. I offend him. I trample his will. I negate his holiness. I mock his law. Therefore, I bring down his anger upon me.
There can be no excuse for doing this. And the consequence is everlasting alienation. That is, it is a grave sin to receive the Eucharist while in a state of sin. Much more while “living in sin”.
Now, the Magisterium is at the service of the Word of God. The Magisterium is not a “source” of revelation. Scripture and Tradition are the vehicles of the transmission of the one Word of God. The Magisterium is the servant of this Word and is strictly bound by it. See Dei verbum.
All right counsel in the Church must adhere to this Word of God. There is no such thing as “pastoral” advice that goes against this Word of God.
Therefore, if a priest were to advise that one who is living in sin receive the Eucharist, such advice would be very unpastoral. I have already argued this out in a previous post. Of course, if rumors of such counsel are running around, we would do best to consider that we do not know all the facts and that maybe there is not much behind the rumors. And then pray for our own souls.
What is impossible to understand is that some bishops are actually considering the possibility of the Church officially allowing divorced and remarried persons to receive the Eucharist. How could this be a good pastoral decision?
We must recall Church dogma: A valid sacramental marriage cannot be broken by any finite power whatsoever, not even by the hand of the Pope. Therefore, no really married Christian couple can ever break their bond. A divorce for them is a figment of the imagination, an impossibility. FULL STOP. Thus, if they attempt to “re-marry” they are day-dreaming a lie, a sham; their second marriage is a total sham. Their sexual relations with this new partner are adulterous. In that these people commit to a life in which such sins are readily available, they are “living in sin”. They meet the classical definition of “living in sin”. Now, the end of any mortal sin is death. But living in sin is a state of impenitence already anticipatory of damnation. This is most serious indeed.
Why on earth would any bishop consider allowing persons in such a dreadful state to embrace the Lord of Life in his Most Holy Sacrament?
I issued this a while ago but thought it timely to re-issue it again. A “streamlining” of the process of annulments ought not obscure the solemn doctrine of the Church and the very serious responsibility in conscience that everyone has to be entirely honest in this process. Also, ecclesiastical judges ought to be called to conscience in their decisions. God forbid man should try to deceive God!
The solemn and irreformable teaching of the Church: No authority whatsoever can break the marital union that God establishes between a baptized man and a baptized woman. A valid and consummated sacramental marriage cannot be broken even by the hand of St. Peter. This is the solemn teaching of the Holy Church.
Now, the practice of granting annulments makes some think that the Church is breaking that bond, sanctioning divorce. The appearance is deceptive. An annulment is simply a “declaration of nullity.” It is an appointed authority’s declaration that in fact no bond ever took place. Therefore, annulment is not Catholic divorce. It is simply a declaration of fact that there was no bond, not a breaking of a bond. If there was no bond, then the person whose non-marriage was declared to be just that, a non-marriage is free to marry. However, not all are approaching the matter in this way. Many approach annulments as though they were “Catholic divorce.” This is an egregious error. Let us look at some very important points for moral and pastoral concern that should go into a Catholic approaching such a matter.
All sacramental marriages are unbreakable. They last until the death of one of the spouses. They cannot be broken. Therefore, each spouse must be faithful until the death of one dissolves the marriage. Faithful means, negatively, not having intercourse with any other person than the spouse. Faithful means, positively, tenderly loving the spouse, etc.
What to do in the case of serious spousal abuse? Serious spousal abuse – say physical harm is being done, etc. – calls for a solution. One solution is separation. “Separation” is not divorce. Separation is “separation from bed and board.” The two spouses no longer live in the same dwelling. However, each is called to that fidelity that the bond entails as solemn obligation. Infidelity is mortal sin! And mortal sin has everlasting damnation as its consequence, unless it is repented. Repentance entails, minimally, the firm purpose of amendment. That is, I must, if I repent, decide with determination, “I will not commit this sin again.” Short of that, my repentance is only regret. The fidelity must last because the bond still obtains, until one or both die. However, the abusing spouse has forfeited in practice his use of the matrimonial rights. He has forfeited his right to have intercourse with his wife. Thus, she is freed of her obligation to have intercourse with him. The bond remains, the rights forestalled. This is not divorce. It is separation. (Some states in the United States even recognize a reality called separation and distinguish it from divorce.)
Annulment is not separation. For annulment is the declaration that there never was a bond.
But who is it who “declares” a marriage null? Only an ecclesial judge of the Catholic Church. Now we come to the crucial issue: Is this judge “infallible”? BY NO MEANS. He judges the case in virtue of the evidence presented. It is possible that he makes a mistake. If he makes a mistake, does the marriage become null? NO IT DOES NOT. No judge “performs” anything. The judge can only “declare” something. And if he declares what is false, he does not make it to be true. This point has pastoral implications about which almost no one speaks.
But one must speak of these implications. These implications mean that all parties must give as fair and objective a testimony about the facts as possible. Should anyone approach the judge with a deceptive intent, they sin against Almighty God and violate already the sanctity of marriage. If one wanted to “manipulate” the judge, “manipulate” the Church into granting an annulment, one essentially is treating the process like divorce and therefore trampling on the fidelity proper to marriage and running roughshod over the holy bond of matrimony. This is a sin. Further, such sins could lead to a false outcome. And a false outcome does not change the truth. Therefore, a false outcome might invite the other spouse, let us say the other one is “innocent” of deceptive intent, to lead a false life – to remarry when in fact the bond really exists, even though the judge erroneously decided.
Because no judge is infallible in these matters, there always remains the possibility that either spouse might appeal a declaration of nullity to a higher court. True story: The Protestant spouse of an important US senator actually believed in her heart that the declaration by the court in Boston was false, that the judge declared something in error. She thus appealed to the Roman Rota. I do not know whether the Rota ever issued a decision on her appeal. However, she retained that right.
And God bless her for taking marriage so seriously. She gives us all a lesson. No one should approach annulments with a cavalier attitude. Rather, one should examine one’s conscience very solemnly before ever approaching a canon lawyer, much less the bench of a judge. One should examine oneself before God. That examination must involve the desire to do God’s will, not my own. The “desire to manipulate” is totally contrary to a Christian approach and already indicates sin, and probably grave sin.
If one determines that one’s conscience is clear, one must present evidence as accurately and as fully as possible. If one misleads the judge, lies, is dishonest in any way, one must stand in the judgment of Almighty God on the last day. If one “won” a decision of nullity by crafty deceit, Almighty God knows the truth. If one “won” a decision falsely and then went on to another marriage, one is guilty of trampling the first marriage. One cannot justly acquit oneself of guilt here. Therefore, one is guilty should one go and remarry on these grounds.
These points have implications for the judges and canon lawyers. They must take their duties as duties before God. They must take them very seriously. If they have the attitude of “we can get this nullified” or “we can get a declaration of nullity on anything,” then they shall stand before the Judgment seat of Almighty God. God is not mocked!
The problem is, the practice of annulments in America seems very close to, if not is, a mockery in many cases. It appears a mockery on a couple of fronts. On the one hand, priests are pressured to marry about anyone who presents themselves desiring marriage. Most priests have very little say in being able to delay or deny couples who present themselves. Even when they have serious grounds for doubting the potential spouses’ capacity to contract a marriage validly. Now, there is a serious reason priests are under this pressure. The reason is that the members of the Church are blessed with free access to the Sacraments. A priest cannot forbid someone from receiving Holy Communion unless he has clearly established legal grounds for doing so. The people have free access to the Sacraments. And this principle is most important. However, it does seem that this principle can be taken to an extreme, if priests cannot in practice delay or refuse to marry people who really have little maturity for the serious duties of marriage. On the other hand, annulments are readily granted. And often for reasons of “immaturity.”
Let us reflect on these two facts. If very many Catholic couples can get their marriages declared null, especially for reasons of “immaturity,” then very many Catholics are premising their lives on a falsity. They get married, premising their life on the idea that they were mature enough to undertake this life. But then when the going gets tough, they easily get out of this tough obligation and go on to another marriage – supposedly they are more mature because they have left a difficult task! The priests had to marry them a couple of years ago, and now the canonists and the judges have to declare that false marriage “null”.
This double practice … how does it not make a mockery of the sacrament?
Finally, let us reflect on this message. If X% of Catholic marriages are easily annulled for grounds of immaturity, then we can forecast that 2X% of Catholics are immature people, incapable of the serious commitment of life, and so far untrustworthy of intimacy. They are like adolescents. Sure, they have free will, but not for the total gift of self. But they expect to be treated as adults at the same time.
(Note, by “Catholic marriages” I indicate marriage of two Catholics. This could be applied analogously for all sacramental marriages.)
Pius XI – A Great Pope of Immortal Memory – presents the infallible dogma of the Church that marriage, whether sacramental or merely natural, is a divine institution in his masterful Casti connubii:
“5. And to begin with that same Encyclical [i.e., Arcanum, of the Great Pope Leo XIII], which is wholly concerned in vindicating the divine institution of matrimony, its sacramental dignity, and its perpetual stability, let it be repeated as an immutable and inviolable fundamental doctrine that matrimony was not instituted or restored by man but by God; not by man were the laws made to strengthen and confirm and elevate it but by God, the Author of nature, and by Christ Our Lord by Whom nature was redeemed…”
The result? No merely human authority – not even the state – has any legislative or judicial authority whatsoever over the bond of marriage! Period. Thus states the Pontiff:
“and hence these laws cannot be subject to any human decrees or to any contrary pact even of the spouses themselves. This is the doctrine of Holy Scripture; this is the constant tradition of the Universal Church; this the solemn definition of the sacred Council of Trent, which declares and establishes from the words of Holy Writ itself that God is the Author of the perpetual stability of the marriage bond, its unity and its firmness.”
Nor are the spouses themselves free to construe the bond as they will. Their freedom concerns their entry or non-entry into this covenant. Once they enter it, they have no freedom whatsoever to break it or manipulate it. Their freedom within the horizon of the bond is to grow in love, to give themselves to each other, to actualize (by God’s grace) a unique societal unity that can never be repeated. Each marriage is a world of beauty if lived well. The pope:
This freedom, however, regards only the question whether the contracting parties really wish to enter upon matrimony or to marry this particular person; but the nature of matrimony is entirely independent of the free will of man, so that if one has once contracted matrimony he is thereby subject to its divinely made laws and its essential properties (art. 6).
That the state has no authority over the bond does not, however, prevent the state from forbidding false notions of the bond, those that contravene either nature itself or also the divine positive law of the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ:
8. From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base unions which are opposed to reason and to nature….
Catholics distinguish sacramental marriage – any valid marriage between validly baptized Christians – and natural marriage: any valid marriage between partners at least one of whom is not baptized. (There is no possibility of a merely natural marriage for partners both of whom are baptized. A marriage between the baptized is either valid or invalid. If valid, it is sacramental.) This distinction involves a hierarchy. The natural marriage is, while intrinsically indissoluble, extrinsically dissoluble. That is, by divine appointment, an authority can be given the power to dissolve it. We say “extrinsic” because no couple has authority to break its own bond (i.e. every bond is “intrinsically [by the partners] indissoluble”).
But only divine appointment allows for the dissolution of a consummated merely natural marriage. Moses and the Old Testament priests served that function when the covenant functioned before Christ. Now that the covenant functions only in the Catholic Church, the keeper of the One True Religion, it is only the Catholic Church that has any authority over the dissolution of a natural bond. Pius XI:
35. And if this stability seems to be open to exception, however rare the exception may be, as in the case of certain natural marriages between unbelievers, or amongst Christians in the case of those marriages which though valid have not been consummated, that exception does not depend on the will of men nor on that of any merely human power, but on divine law, of which the only guardian and interpreter is the Church of Christ.
But this authority, the Catholic Church, has absolute no power to break a consummated sacramental bond. She is not God but his servant!:
However, not even this power can ever affect for any cause whatsoever a Christian marriage which is valid and has been consummated, for as it is plain that here the marriage contract has its full completion, so, by the will of God, there is also the greatest firmness and indissolubility which may not be destroyed by any human authority (art. 35).
The upshot of the infallible Catholic teaching on marriage: No other union than that of one man and one woman, for life!, is a marriage. All other so-called unions are shams. No laws but God’s laws are valid concerning the bond. And no laws attempting to create a new bond have any validity of law whatsoever. Instead, all laws that contravene the divine institution are the hot air of deluded minds. God help us all.
A podcast on Holy Matrimony, treating the following:
1. The superiority of Virginity to the State of Matrimony.
2. The Three Blessings / Goods of Sacramental Marriage.
3. Sacramental Analysis of Marriage
4. Causal Analysis of Marriage
5. Consequent and related teachings
Many today are of the opinion that deceased infants who never received baptism can be saved. Hence, they have a hope that this is possible.
The issue is complex.
One important text that presents a difficulty for such a hope is the Council of Florence, an ecumenical council.
It declares, “Concerning children, because of the danger of death, which can often happen, when there cannot be for them another remedy except through the sacrament of baptism, by which they are saved from the dominion of the devil and adopted as sons of God, [the Church] admonishes parents…” not to delay until the 40th day.
(And how many people delay for several months these days.)
Note that the text delares: cum ipsis non possit alio remedio subeniri, nisi per sacramentum baptismi. There cannot be for them another remedy than baptism.
Can this text be squared with the hope for their salvation in Christ?
I do think this is a very sobering text.
We also have the declaration of the Church that “The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds” (Florence, Old Denzinger # 693). This “different kinds of punishment” is understood to mean that such infants, not having personally sinned, are punished with the absence of vision. They are, many propose in a kind of Limbo. They enjoy natural rest, but have no awareness of their supernatural loss.
The category “Only original sin” means infants: Those who never acted freely but died without baptism. Now, this category is empty if every infant who died without baptism is saved. But it is rather unfitting for a Church teaching to be simply empty.
Hence, it is theologically safer to say that no such infants are in heaven. Perhaps there is warrant in some cases to hope and pray for their salvation. For instance, a devout Catholic couple who has lost a child. They intended to Baptize the child. Perhaps Almighty God in his mercy will save this child.
This much is certain. That there is no promise made to these infants. Thus, the weakest statement we can make is: Church has no knowledge that they can be saved. A stronger reading of Florence is that the Church has declared that she knows that there is no remedy.
How far we are today, with our presumptions, from such sobriety. Delay not their baptism. Thank God for his mercy, do not presume on it.