Canonist Ed Peters posted at his excellent site In The Light Of The Law, an illuminating post bringing greater clarity to what heresy is and what Jesuit homosexualist activist Fr. James Martin thinks.
Peters doesn’t have a combox, but I do.
Be sure to visit Peters’ site often.
My emphases and comments.
Further remarks re Fr. Martin
Two important essays, one by Janet Smith at Catholic World Report (29 sep 2017) and the other by Dan Hitchens at First Things (2 oct 2017), along with their links to and quotes from Fr James Martin’s own words (and sometimes, as Smith and Hitchens note, to Martin’s refusal to say certain words), occasion these comments on Martin’s recent complaints (21 sep 2017) that he has “been accused of heresy, ridiculously, by some critics (I’m not contradicting any revealed truths).” There are several issues to sort out here.
First, yes, I am very sure that some [but not all] of the accusations of heresy made against Martin are, indeed, ridiculous. As are some of Martin’s accusations that, for example, among his critics: “Heresy” is a word they use as frequently as [pace Mary McCarthy] “and” and “the.” Apparently there is plenty of ridiculousness floating around out there. All purveyors of the ridiculous should cease spouting it. [What are the odds?]
To my canonical observations.
Martin’s rebuff of heresy accusations above (“I’m not contradicting any revealed truths”) suggests that either he does not know or does not wish to acknowledge that [NB] “heresy” is not limited to the actual contradiction of revealed truths. Canon 751 defines heresy as “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt” of certain truths (my emphasis [and mine!]). Thus one’s “obstinate doubt” concerning revealed truths, and not just one’s outright contradiction of such truths, can, upon proof, result in a finding of heresy. [Did you get that? “upon proof”. Note well that Dr. Peters has already pointed to Martin’s “own words”. If a person repeats some position, publicly, does that constitute a “proof”? If it doesn’t, I don’t know what does. However, in the case of a formal charge of heresy, Fr. Martin should be given every opportunity to make a clear, formal statement.]
Next, when speaking to a male questioner recently, Martin expressed the “hope [that] in 10 years you will be able to kiss your partner or, you know, soon to be your husband”. [Blech.] Any reasonable listener will conclude that Martin not only hopes that a man may someday marry a man with the Church’s blessing, but that Martin believes “same-sex marriage” to be radically possible under Church teaching and that it is a matter of regret that such Church recognition is not yet available. [I believe he truly holds that position. He talks about this publicly. That said, I hope that this sobering canonical presentation by Ed Peters will help Fr. Martin take a time out and then make a clear statement in public affirming the Church’s teaching.]
Here, I suggest, Martin effectively denies infallible Church doctrine that marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. I see only two canonical issues in the wake of his statement:
[So… it’s infallible. However… is it revealed truth? An important distinction follows…] (A) Whether the infallible Church teaching on the absolute impossibility of marriage between two persons of the same sex is itself a “revealed truth” (in which case the issue is indeed one of heresy) or whether it is a “proposition to be held definitely” (in which case the issue is “opposition to the doctrine of the Catholic Church”, but not heresy strictly speaking), with the weight of scholarly opinion, however, favoring the view that Church teaching on the male-female aspect of marriage is divinely revealed, meaning that one’s “obstinate denial or obstinate doubt” concerning that teaching would be heresy; and,
(B) Whether Martin’s comment, coming as it did during a public Q-and-A session, accurately reflects his actual position on marriage—an important point because both heresy (per cc. 751, 1364, etc.) and opposition to definitive Church teaching (per c. 1371, etc.) require a demonstration of one’s deliberateness in so holding before any penal consequences could be levied. [Martin’s response seems to be his actual position. If it isn’t, then he would have been prevaricating in so answering, which is unlikely, given everything he has said and written on the topic. Did he just “blurt” his response without thinking? I suspect that he has, indeed, thought this through.]
Either way, Martin’s shocking (as coming from a priest) comment, uttered against the backdrop of his frequent refusal to state his own positions directly (as opposed to his practice of characterizing his positions as sound, etc.) make the pursuit of clarity here very important.
Scholion on Pio-Benedictine law and the Eastern Code.
Martin’s frequent, often seemingly studied, ambiguities regarding Church teaching on various doctrinal and moral issues would have been more directly cognizable [Fr. Z kudos for the great word “cognizable”.] under the Pio-Benedictine Code of 1917 than they are under the Johanno-Pauline Code of 1983, notwithstanding 1983 CIC 209. The old Code squarely stated: “The faithful of Christ are bound to profess their faith whenever their silence, evasiveness, or manner of acting encompasses an implied denial of the faith, contempt for religion, injury to God, or scandal for a neighbor.” 1917 CIC 1325 § 1. Of course, giving scandal (CCC 2284-2287) to one’s neighbor, even if not directly scored in the new Code, is still a grave evil against [which] all should be on guard. Similarly, Canon 10 of the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches (1990) makes ‘adherence to the authentic living magisterium of the Church’ and the ‘open profession of the Faith’ matters of law. Interesting, eh? [Very.]
This was a useful post, as virtually all of Prof. Peters posts on law are.
I think that if Fr. James Martin wants to continue to preach or to speak publicly on any Church property, he should be asked directly to affirm the Church’s teaching concerning marriage. It is sad to have to say that, but he has brought this on himself by his own words and his own silences.
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