(Continuing from where we left off….) The final Relatio of 2014 has problems at art. 51. I quote in full:
51. The synod father also considered the possibility of giving the divorced and remarried access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Various synod fathers insisted on maintaining the present discipline, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as her teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others proposed a more individualized approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering. Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).
This paragraph has problems. First, it describes certain objectively immoral situations as “irreversible”. This smacks of despair, though it may be ambiguous.
So “sinful situation” is “irreversible” for the simple reason that no sin is inevitable. One can always avoid sins. However, what are the Fathers after? The text should make the very clear distinction between (a) a falsely married couple that plans to continue having adulterous sex, and (b) a falsely married couple, with children, which couple jointly makes a firm resolution not to commit adultery again and yet to continue raising their children. Such a decision is painful and difficult, this is no doubt true. Yet it is the Cross; it is the path of salvation at this point. It is the divinely appointed path of salvation for those who have freely travelled to their current situation. Even with such a heroic path to trod, this couple must take every effort not to cause scandal or even to reduce scandal, however this is not completely in their control. As much as possible, it should be known that this man and woman are living as brother and sister. This is the kind of distinction that can rightly guide souls in difficult situations.
Second, the Church’s insistence that those in an objectively grave situation not receive Eucharist is described in the Synod as a “discipline,” as though it were variable at the decision of prelates. But whether or not Sacrilege is permitted is not under the power of ecclesiastical law. And it is Sacrilege for a person in the state of sin to receive the Eucharist. Further, living in an objectively evil situation, or “living in sin,” is living in such a way that one is committed to acts gravely evil. So living is thus diametrically opposed to that kind of firm resolution of amendment required to receive the grace of forgiveness. Hence, if it is Sacrilege to receive the Eucharist after having committed a random act of adultery without having thereafter honestly repented with a firm purpose of amendment and received valid absolution in Confession, a fortiori is it Sacrilege to receive the Eucharist when committing oneself to a life of gravely evil acts.
We are all weak sinners, this goes without saying (I should hope). But to live in a situation geared towards the commission of sin is not simply a matter of weakness.
Someone interjects: You speak of the objective situation, but you cannot judge the subjective guilt. Response: The matter is not so simple. As John Paul II made clear in Veritatis splendor, the very commission of gravely evil acts is often called, and rightly, by the Church and theologians mortal sin. Reason: Such clear public pronouncements set the compass correctly for the poor souls who might labor in ignorance. For those who are “invincibly” ignorant that adultery is evil – what a sad state of affairs if this is even possible in our degenerate society – the response is to reveal the fullness of the truth ASAP, so that they can abandon their sad ways of living that cannot bring lasting happiness and will bring real grief.
Thus, it is quite unfortunate that the Synod would go on to speak of culpability as follows: “The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished.” Why is this so problematic? Because the Catechism is stating a matter of possibility in the static order regarding the past: It may be the case that person X has been invincibly ignorant about sin Y. This static point is not an Archimedean principle whereby to repel the Gospel truth and power! It is a simple consideration which should be utterly secondary with respect to the actual preaching of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – so help us O God!
Static and secondary! Why? Because the Son of God came, and comes, with truth and the power of grace. The point of Almighty God sending Jesus Christ into the world was not to leave the world statically in its sins. The point was to give the real and redeeming help, together with the real fullness of the truth, to those who lived in ignorance and darkness. But now the Relatio’s implication seems to be that that truth need not be promulgated, or that it is not urgent to promulgate it.
We need to lift a finger to help these people with their heavy burden. Sin is a great burden. The commission of gravely evil acts is a great burden. Bodily action that contravenes God’s law is a great burden. It is heavy. We sinners labor much. It is mercy to direct us in the path of peace; it is mercy, the first mercy: Instruction of the ignorant.
O Wicked Silence! Why do you let the lamb go off, wandering waywardly by the wolves and the waters beneath stone cliffs?