(Continuing from where we left off….) The final Relatio of 2014 then turns to healing wounded marriages. It states:
The pastoral work of charity and mercy seeks to help persons recover and restore relationships. Experience shows that with proper assistance and acts of reconciliation, though grace, a great percentage of troubled marriages find a solution in a satisfying manner (art. 43)
That many wounded marriages recover through human labor in response to God’s grace is an aid to our hope. We need not despair over any wounded marriage. When I say “not despair” I by no means mean we can or should be ever “optimistic”. Sometimes one partner is so set on not repairing the relationship that restoration of the original relationship is practically impossible. But here is where we must not despair. Because the marriage, if ever it was valid, remains valid until the death of one of the spouses. It cannot be dissolved. This is the teaching of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is why so much human effort, in response to God’s grace (hence, prayer and mortification above all), is required. Even if one’s spouse deserts and it appears would never return, one must remain faithful to one’s vows. In this chastity is one’s own healing. In this suffering, the heart that cries to God wins grace from God that one day, before death, the wayward spouse might repent of the evil, embrace God and flee the sin. Witness St. Catherine of Genoa, whose unfaithful husband eventually became a devout Catholic.
The labor for this repentance – this also means return in the Greek (metanoia) – requires neighborly love. The Synod cites Pope Francis:
“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’, which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ex 3:5). The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting a closeness and compassion which, at the same time, heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life” (Evangelii Gaudium, 169)
This metaphor of taking off the sandals points to the fact that God wants each person to be with him in heaven. God wants to dwell within each person. Thus, each person is at least potentially a Temple of God. Hence the image. Our worship, however, goes to God alone.
Art. 46 rightly stresses that primary pastoral concern belongs to those unjustly suffering. Those who have been abandoned by an unfaithful spouse. And esp. the children, in each case victims.
Art. 47 broaches the issue of annulments. Many fathers called for a streamlining of the process. There may be particular cases that would make such streamlining attractive and suitable, but as a rule of law there may well be great repercussions for such a change. A few summary words on annulments. Recall that it is not a divorce. It is a mere “declaration” that there never was a bond.
Further, here are some key considerations: 1) They are not infallible declarations; hence, the care of the process is very important; for, every effort must be taken to make sure a mistake is not made, lest people go on to live in objectively problematic situations because of a false ruling by a hasty ecclesiastical judge. 2) Those approaching a judge for nullity must examine their consciences and speak the whole truth. They shall be judged if they concoct evidence in the favor of nullity. God is not mocked nor deceived. 3) A declaration of nullity can be appealed by one of the spouses.
Finally, another word about annulments should be said. It is notorious that some chancery offices bend over backwards to make sure that any nullity case goes through successfully. My wife heard an official say something to the effect of, “We will find a way to find it null.” This is not reassuring that cases are being handled objectively.
Art. 48 goes on to speak of diocesan “counselors” available to speak with couples about whether or not their marriages are valid. This is troubling. If one is being highly abstract and idealistic, one might see this as a no problem idea. But if we put on our practical thinking caps, we can see that getting a bunch of lay people out there to be “counselors” to people who are struggling in their marriages – and looking for solutions – is dangerous. What lay people will do this task? Will they be those who love the Church and embrace all her teachings? Or Or those who are very loosely loyal to the Church and want to see annulments speed up and practically equal divorce? Once again, we see a kind of “idealism” in this synod falling short of sobriety.
Art. 49 praises the divorced who have not gotten remarried for witnessing to the fidelity due to the bond. (Actually, I put this stronger, but that’s what the paragraph is getting at.)
But art. 50 turns round to those who do get “remarried” and states:
Language or behavior that might make them feel an object of discrimination should be avoided, all the while encouraging them to participate in the life of the community.
A few comments. First, the advice is true, but almost a truism. Why? Because of course everyone should at all times be loved with charity. At all times. If I were to look at a divorced and remarried person with disgust, if I were to look at an immodestly dressed person at Mass (or wherever) with disgust at his/her person, I should testify to the absence of charity in my heart. I should testify to myself even as murderer. Yes we have to put it this harshly. The neighbor and I are both heading to hell.
What alternative do I have? Only to be chummy with such people? Never to mention the problem with their situation? Never to show them the fullness of truth? Only bury this fullness under the bushel of my own “tenderness” towards them?
All this nonsense would be yet again another act of murder. Because in this way, I say to them secretly: “You are incapable of reform. So, you’re going to hell. But meanwhile, let’s have an espresso and you tell me some of those hilarious drinking stories that make me laugh.” In this case, once again, we are both on our way to hell.
But these are not the only alternatives. The right alternative is to proclaim with charity the truth, the fullness of the truth, so that this person can emend his life, repent, and receive the life of grace. Was John the Baptist violating Arr. 50 of the Synod when he denounced Herod and Herodias for their wicked adultery?
But someone will say: You need to unfold the truth gradually, so their dim eyes can adjust.
You have a point. However, note the WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE. The WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE is the situation of massive ecclesial silence in which we live. The Gospel in its fullness is not preached, for the Gospel is never preached when the Law is not preached also. And now the Law is hardly preached fully (o, bits and pieces are, but not the whole law, not the fullness of the law, esp. not the natural law as it touches people in the hobbit-sized issues with which they can immediately and personally deal now; the social issues of just and unjust structures are, while not negligible, not readily implementable in ways that are clearly black and white, unlike adultery and masturbation and unnatural sex, which the Church clearly teaches to be gravely and per se evil). In this WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE few people’s consciences have any right bearing. All have gone astray. All call good evil and evil good. Witness the celebrations over the June 26 Supreme Court travesty. People are celebrating this as a victory for “Love”. They are even proclaiming Pope Francis their hero. I have already said that if one uses the words of Pope Francis in order to come to this conclusion, one is showing that one does not know the Tradition that Pope Francis is called to serve. One is ignorant and blind of the truth of Catholic faith. And ambiguous words used to “defend” one’s errant conscience will be of no use on the final judgment, when God reads the law according to its full truth and not according to human sympathies.
IN such a WORLD-CIRCUMSTANCE, we have need of John the Baptist clarity. Please Bring clarity, O Lord, before it is too late, and we perish in the flood as did the people at Noah’s time (on some Jewish interpretations of the causes of God’s judgment before the flood, see this Jewish commentary on the flood, at p. 213, and 2nd Enoch chap. 34.). Presently, we are languishing in moral turpitude, sleepy, too sleepy to wake up, we violate the very first precept of natural law – Do Good – because we are not serious and do not seek to know “What is the good that I must do, so as to be righteous in your sight?”. We are thus swimming in immorality at the very first precept of the natural law. (Perhaps he shall not see me. Perhaps he shall not judge me. Meanwhile, this little bit of pleasure is my One and my All.) John the Baptist, come once again and wake us up to repentance.