A Cardinal backtracks

A while back, the head of the Synod of Bishops, Card. Baldisseri, made some comments about a change in the Church’s teaching about marriage.

Remember my post: What is Card. Baldisseri up to?

Baldisseri is backtracking.

Bishops’ synod head: October meeting not solely about divorce

Vatican City, May 21, 2014 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, has emphasized that the next synod will not be focused exclusively on the much-talked about issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

[...]

“Regarding the possibility for the synod of bishops of changing the doctrine of the Church,” Cardinal Baldisseri said, “I underscore that the First Vatican Council’s document ‘Dei Filius’ affirmed that ‘understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.’”

The cardinal then continued: “And I also remind you that John XXIII said in the inaugural speech of the Second Vatican Council [The address is called "Gaudet Mater Ecclesia", which I quote on this blog pretty often.] that ‘authentic doctrine … should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.’”

[...]

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying, “Is this a big deal?  Isn’t this just a, you know, like, Cardinal saying what the Church says?”

Yes and no.  This is a Cardinal issuing a corrective to what he openly stated in a previous interview.

My guess is that Pope Francis is noticing the turmoil in the global MSM about the upcoming synod and the speculations about – and calls for – fundamental changes to the Church’s doctrine.

 

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28 Responses to A Cardinal backtracks

  1. Iacobus M says:

    Your thesis, then, is that the Pope is catching on to the fact that poorly considered public statements are creating problems for the Church; “loose lips sink ships”, as the old saying goes. I pray (and hope) that you’re right.

  2. CharlesG says:

    A very welcome clarification from Cardinal Baldisseri. Now if we could only get similar clarifications from Cardinals Kasper, Maradiaga and Marx and Bishop Galantino… If we can’t rely on the Holy See, i.e. the Rock of Peter, and the Cardinals attached thereto, to defend the deposit of faith, who can we rely on?…

  3. Phil_NL says:

    Good.

    In fact, I’m even say that the cardinal is now closer to veering off track in the other direction. With ” (..) there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding” he makes the implicit assumption that the meaning of sacred dogma is crystal clear. That is perhaps a bit of a tall order. On topics like the primacy of the Holy Pontiff, the assumption of the Virgin, even the nature of the Trinity itself, it took a while before the Church formulated clearly what it meant.

    Ah well, let’s assume the cardinal has in mind what everyone assumes he has in mind: clearly defined, but widely unpopular dogma. And that will stay dogma despite its lack of popularity in certain quarters.

  4. Michel MacDonald says:

    That sentence from Guadet Mater Ecclesia is never quoted correctly.
    It should read:”The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented KEEPING THE SAME MEANING AND SAME JUDGMENT is another.”
    See my comment at http://wdtprs.com/blog/2014/03/secret-consistory-how-did-other-cardinals-react-to-card-kaspers-proposals/
    for all the details.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    A start is a start. And this is a start. There is so much work that needs to be done re marriage and marriage law, that the prospect of wasting time on bad ideas is especially worrisome.

  6. Traductora says:

    I hope this is true and that the Pope is noticing the havoc wreaked by these statements. I just heard an excellent talk by Fr. Santiago Martín, a Spanish priest very active in media and journalism – he’d be sort of the equivalent of Fr. Fessio in outlook and activities – who said that if these statements indicated what was really going to happen at the Synod (the readmission of divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion), then it was inevitable that a schism would result.

    His excellent talk was about mercy, and he pointed out that mercy does not consist in hiding the truth or ignoring it with the misguided aim of making the erring individual more comfortable about his sin and error, but in adhering to the truth and offering it as a refuge from confusion and sin. Furthermore, he said that no one in the Church, including the Pope, has the right to throw aside 2000 years of teaching and doctrine, and doing so is extremely unmerciful because it leaves human beings adrift, with no light to guide them. It is also an act of extreme arrogance, reducing the aspect of God as supreme lawgiver and source of law and justice to one where He is merely a kind of buddy and consoler to us, no matter what we do – which does not help us know how we should live our lives or even help us to be happy, since sin never leads to happiness. It was truly excellent (it’s available on You Tube, in Spanish, of course).

    Incidentally, he said that if the Pope really believes that 50% of marriages are not valid, then the solution is for the Church to do something administratively for these people: have them all go to the marriage tribunals for annulments; if they say it’s too expensive, make it cheaper, etc. But don’t pretend that simply ignoring the law is the way to deal with it.

    But his reference to schism was particularly chilling. He said that it is not treason to give a warning, meaning that he wasn’t urging a schism but simply warning that schism seemed very possible to him if one part of the Church took it upon itself to simply throw over the entire legal structure of the Church. I don’t know how it would play out. By national groups? By “followers” of various bishops? And I’m not even sure the Pope would be on the schismatic side.

    But the fact that some of these bishops and heirarchs are obviously being encouraged to walk their statements back a bit indicates to me that perhaps the Pope is beginning to realize the seriousness of the issue.

  7. Jon says:

    Backtracking on orders of the Pope?
    Apparently Cardinal Kasper’s name wasn’t on that memo.
    http://www.religionnews.com/2014/05/15/cardinal-kasper-enjoying-spotlight-taking-heat-popes-theologian/

  8. Netmilsmom says:

    I’m not sure that the Bishops really care at all about a schism. They know that faithful Catholics are actually stuck. We can’t leave, we have to go along with whatever they give us. It’s only the ‘c’atholics that they fear losing. So they must “get with the program” and keep those people.
    For the rest of us, we are a captive audience, the steerage on the boat. God help us.

  9. robtbrown says:

    The Cardinal said: “And I also remind you that John XXIII said in the inaugural speech of the Second Vatican Council.”

    Remind me? His previous comments indicate that he was the one who needed reminding.

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  10. Gratias says:

    There is great fear out here that the much pubicized Synod will became a mini-Vatican III. Comunion of divorced is a reasonable aggiornamento but from there homosexual marriage is what follows, and what is sought. Gay marriage would bring a schism or many of the Faithful leaving the Church.

  11. kpoterack says:

    Well, this is good and I like to think that some of our prayers are starting to pay off. I am with Dr. Peters, assuming we avert a disaster at the Synod – and I think we will – I hope we don’t have to waste lots of valuable time on defeating bad ideas. Should people who are knowingly and willing in a state of mortal sin (and have no intention of even trying not to commit it) receive communion? No! That should only take five seconds. A no brainer. Next question.

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  13. Nancy D. says:

    It is important to note that Pope Benedict knows that a pope pledges his allegiance not to another pope, but to Christ. We need to protect our Pope.

  14. Supertradmum says:

    Schism gives power to bishops, of course. The schismatic ideas in Germany most probably are connected to the Church tax, as all citizens mark a religion to which some of the tax money goes. Divorced and remarried Catholics no longer mark Catholic and the Church suffers. I hate to be cynical, but power and money form part of the German bishops’ positions.

    This cardinal did the right thing in contradicting his statement. There will be no dogmatic changes, as the Church is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit, who has done so for 2000 plus years.

    This is my faith. To deny that the Holy Spirit is not in and with and guiding the Church, the Spirit who is the Third Person in the Blessed Trinity, would be to fall into protestant mind-sets.

    Pray for the Pope.

  15. Magash says:

    kpoterack says:
    “Should people who are knowingly and willing in a state of mortal sin (and have no intention of even trying not to commit it) receive communion? No! That should only take five seconds. A no brainer. Next question.”
    Were it only that simple. So tell me: If two baptized Protestants marry in a mainline Protestant Church, and one was previously married and divorced to an unbaptized person in a civil ceremony before they were baptized, and then one of the couple coverts to Catholicism are they in mortal sin?
    What about a Catholic who married a Protestant on the beach while no longer practicing Catholicism. Are they in mortal sin? What if the Catholic divorced the Protestant and the Protestant remarried another baptized Protestant and then converted. Are they in mortal sin?
    The point is that it isn’t simple. In the first case the first marriage was not sacramental and is probably a slam dunk invalid. Is it less invalid if the couple involved didn’t ask a tribunal? Of course not. When they married the Protestant church to which they belong divorce was not a impediment. Had they asked a tribunal they would have been told the same thing. However, as it stands now, a tribunal would have to make that determination to allow the convert to be legitimately allowed to receive communion. However is that person in mortal sin? If they were not validly married in the first case, then the second marriage should be sacramental (since they where free to marry without impediments) and were marrying another a baptized person. Do they suddenly become a mortal sinner because they seek to convert?
    True all of these situations could be resolved by taking the case to a tribunal. But the cases themselves might be many things, but simple isn’t one of them.

  16. kpoterack says:

    Magash,

    Those are all legitimate points, and if that was what the controversy was about, then I doubt many of us would have gotten too upset. Certainly not I. However, those situations were not what Card. Kasper was talking about at all.

  17. Traductora says:

    Magash, that was the point that Fr. Santiago Martin was making. If there’s a problem with the validity of marriages, which the Pope seems to be claiming, then that can be worked out administratively. But people have to go through the process, and the German bishops seem not to believe in either the process or the law of the Church.

  18. Stephen D says:

    Has anyone considered that he is not the one who is ‘backtracking’ but that he may be a ‘stalking horse’ for someone much more eminent and who has had second thoughts?

  19. Cosmos says:

    Perhaps they are just getting their terminology in line, so they can push their agenda more efficiently.

    If the plan was to make it much easier for people who are divorced and remarried to receive Communion, one way or another, this is the best way to acheive their goal.

    They can’t change the doctrine without the Church imploding on itself. But they can ignore the doctrine and make it much easier to ignore the doctrine by changing the legal regime.

    In other words, it’s much more palatable, and they will receive much less opposition, if they simply insist that they are merely making pastoral/discipline/legal changes.

    Same result, but you keep certain conservatives since everything (arguably) adds up in the books.

    Is that logically possible? Who cares! That is where the spirit is leading. Stop your arrogant intellectualizing!

  20. Traductora says:

    Magash, another thing…I believe that marriage law changed with Vatican II, mostly to make the Protestants feel better, because formerly it was not permitted for a Catholic to get married in a Protestant ceremony (and I’m not sure the marriage was considered valid if they did so). The non-Catholic partner also had to promise to bring up the children as Catholics, which I guess is now more of a suggestion, whereas once upon a time, they had to sign a document. This type of thing can be changed, and if anything, should be made stricter and less “inclusive,” in my opinion, and perhaps a lot of the problems that we now have would have been avoided.

  21. Ben Kenobi says:

    @ Magash
    “Do they suddenly become a mortal sinner because they seek to convert?”

    Perhaps the more chilling question should be – were they in mortal sin before the converted?

  22. Sonshine135 says:

    If Pope Francis is fearful of the turmoil that is being created by comments around the synod, then isn’t it his responsibility to come out and say something to comfort the flock? I sincerely pray for the Holy Father. I believe he is failing to realize just how many Catholics get twitchy in the eye when he or one of his appointees speak. Anything would help. Simply quote Humane Vitae or Pope St. JPII’s Theology of the Body. Throw us a bone!

  23. lana says:

    I don’t see how he is ‘backtracking’.All he said in the first place is that Familiaris Onsortio was old and needed updating. Given the huge changes in the last 30 years, as an example the huge shift in favor of homosexuality, I would say he is right. And it does not necessarily mean that they are going to turn things upside down.

    Anyways, I am very glad he said this and cleared up any doubts.

  24. Johnno says:

    I completely agree that statements re-enforcing the Church’s moral position (Not merely just ‘traditional’, but factual position) should be heard from Pope Francis himself. Otherwise it’s one Bishop’s opinion versus another’s and that’s how it comes off as.

    On a related note. Please pray for the Pope’s health.
    http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/Pope-Francis-health-Holy-Land/2014/05/21/id/572721/

  25. Jerry says:

    re: Magash

    > In the first situation ["two baptized Protestants marry in a mainline Protestant Church, and one was previously married and divorced to an unbaptized person in a civil ceremony before they were baptized"] the first marriage was not sacramental and is probably a slam dunk invalid.

    You are correct in stating the first marriage of one party was not sacramental; however, there is no information provided that even suggests that marriage was invalid.

    A declaration of nullity is issued when a marriage is determined to be invalid, not necessarily when it is not sacramental. When both parties are baptized Christians: all valid marriages are sacramental and all sacramental marriages are valid; when at least one party is not baptized the marriage is never sacramental but it may well be valid, even if it was witnessed in a civil ceremony (unless one party was Catholic).

    > When they married the Protestant church to which they belong divorce was not a impediment.

    The beliefs of the individuals or their organized faith has no bearing on the objective morality of the remarriage after divorce. For non-Christians whose faith community accepts divorce may have reduced subjective culpability, but I don’t think that extends to Christians because Christ was very clear on that point in Scripture, regardless of what their faith community might accept.

    The difficulty analyzing the situations you presented results from you asking whether they constitute mortal sins without stipulating the presence or absence of the subjective factors that are required for an objectively grave sin to be mortal. If one were to change your use of “mortal sin” to “objectively grave sin” the moral analysis is no longer difficult.

    > So tell me: If two baptized Protestants marry in a mainline Protestant Church, and one was previously married and divorced to an unbaptized person in a civil ceremony before they were baptized, and then one of the couple coverts to Catholicism are they in mortal sin?

    The first marriage must be presumed to be valid in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Any conjugal acts between the second couple would the be adultery, which is gravely sinful.

    > What about a Catholic who married a Protestant on the beach while no longer practicing Catholicism.

    The Catholic, practicing or not, is bound by the requirements of canonical form. Conducting the marriage on a beach might well be illicit, but is not invalid if witnessed by Catholic clergy. If there were no Catholic clergy witnessing and no dispensation for the irregularities, then the marriage would be invalid. Objectively, a grave sin; however, culpability will depend on the party’s knowledge of the errors.

  26. Magash says:

    Jerry says:
    >The beliefs of the individuals or their organized faith has no bearing on the objective morality of the remarriage after divorce. For non-Christians whose faith community accepts divorce may have reduced subjective culpability, but I don’t think that extends to Christians because Christ was very clear on that point in Scripture, regardless of what their faith community might accept.

    “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery” Matthew 5:31

    In light of that it seems that Church teaching would clearly contradict what Christ said, since Christ said that if a wife is sexually immoral divorce is okay. Now before you think I am disagreeing with the Church I’m not. I’m just saying that a rote statement saying that if you follow what Christ said what the Church teaches is simple or doesn’t require explanation of the theology is misguided.
    For example your statement on mortal sin and Protestants. Since one can only commit Mortal sin when the “object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” Since a Protestant is likely to take Matthew 5:31 literally, without taking into account Catholic theology, they lack full knowledge, and in my opinion, cannot be in Mortal sin. Except of course in the case of objectively grave sin. Nothing I have ever read indicated to me that the Church considers any sins attendant to marital infidelity or sexual immorality as objectively grave sins.
    Part of my point is that the Church is not consistent in handling of Marriage. I picked the straw man examples that I did to illustrate the complexity. As it is now in the case of a non-baptized, civilly married couple many diocese, my own included, allows the priest to make the determination on invalidity. A member of that couple wishing to be married in the Church doesn’t even have to petition the tribunal. In the case of the beach wedding the marriage is invalid, due to lack of form. It requires a petition to the tribunal, but is a fast tracked case which doesn’t even require review. This was not always the case, but only since Trent, to prevent clandestine marriage. Dr. Peters has a rather detailed explanation on his blog, as well as an on going presentation of why lack of form exemptions to validity are a bad idea.

    >The first marriage must be presumed to be valid in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Any conjugal acts between the second couple would the be adultery, which is gravely sinful.

    Yes but just because you “presume” the marriage to be valid doesn’t make it so. Conjugal acts between the second couple is adulterous only if your presumption is correct. If your presumption is incorrect then the second marriage is valid and there is no gravely sinful act. The presumption of validity is a legal presumption, not a theological presumption. As a legal presumption it has theological underpinnings, but those underpinnings are not necessarily dogmatic and are based on assumptions about the nature of civil marriage and how it relates to natural law marriage.
    My point at its heart is to question the whole “Marriages must be considered valid except when proved invalid.” A sacramental marriage, conducted by two practicing Catholics, in the presence of a cleric authorized to witness their union, and approved by their bishop should be considered valid except when an impediment can be proven. In most other cases I would hold this is not the criteria we should be using. At the present time two people can walk into a government office in Massachusetts and get “married”. It doesn’t matter if they were previously married (as long as they have a legal divorce.) It doesn’t matter if they are of the same sex. I don’t know what they’re doing , but it isn’t getting married. Since most of the people doing that (walking in that office and conducting some kind of ritual) believe that what they are doing is “getting married” and that what the same sex couple is doing is equivalent to what they are doing, I would say that what is happening is not marriage. That is because civil marriage no longer conforms to the requirements for natural marriage, and we should not be pretending that it does. That is what we do when we declare a civil marriage is to be presumed to be valid. Likewise, in many mainline Protestant Churches Steve and Roy can stand in their worship space, in front of a Protestant minister and “get married”. The other couples in that group contend that what Steve and Roy are doing is the same as what they did when they married. This means that what they did was not get married. Their idea of Sacramental Marriage no longer conforms to what the Church knows Sacramental Marriage to be. We should not be pretending that what they did is marriage.

  27. oblate says:

    I agree with Magash.

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