We are obliged to RESIST! “Clear and emphatic opposition is a duty”

Everyone should review something that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document from 2003 called:

Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons

INTRODUCTION

1. In recent years, various questions relating to homosexuality have been addressed with some frequency by Pope John Paul II and by the relevant Dicasteries of the Holy See.(1) Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon, even in those countries where it does not present significant legal issues. It gives rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend to grant – legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the possibility of adopting children. The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The present Considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience.(2) Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.

I. THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE
AND ITS INALIENABLE CHARACTERISTICS

2. The Church’s teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.(3) No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.

3. The natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the Revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of nature itself is heard. There are three fundamental elements of the Creator’s plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis.

In the first place, man, the image of God, was created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female. Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological realm and has also been raised to a new level – the personal level – where nature and spirit are united.

Marriage is instituted by the Creator as a form of life in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the sexual faculty. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator’s plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.

Furthermore, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The Church teaches that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). This Christian meaning of marriage, far from diminishing the profoundly human value of the marital union between man and woman, confirms and strengthens it (cf. Mt 19:3-12; Mk 10:6-9).

4. There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.(4)

Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.(5) This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries(6) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.

Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.(7) They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity.(8) The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered”(9) and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.(10)

II. POSITIONS ON THE PROBLEM
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

5. Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

Where the government’s policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

[NB] In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

III. ARGUMENTS FROM REASON AGAINST LEGAL
RECOGNITION OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

6. To understand why it is necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions, ethical considerations of different orders need to be taken into consideration.

From the order of right reason

The scope of the civil law is certainly more limited than that of the moral law,(11) but civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience.(12) Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person.(13) Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.

It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good. Civil laws are structuring principles of man’s life in society, for good or for ill. They “play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behaviour”.(14) [NB] Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation’s perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.

From the biological and anthropological order

7. Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level of reason, for granting them legal recognition. Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race. The possibility of using recently discovered methods of artificial reproduction, beyond involving a grave lack of respect for human dignity,(15) does nothing to alter this inadequacy.

Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life.

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.

From the social order

8. Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.

The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice.(16) The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.

Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities which do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfil the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase.

From the legal order

9. Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.

[NB] Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society.(17)

IV. POSITIONS OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS
WITH REGARD TO LEGISLATION IN FAVOUR
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

10. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral. [gravely immoral]

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.

CONCLUSION

11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect

Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
Secretary

NOTES

(1) Cf. John Paul II, Angelus Messages of February 20, 1994, and of June 19, 1994; Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family (March 24, 1999); Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2357-2359, 2396; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8; Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986); Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons (July 24, 1992); Pontifical Council for the Family, Letter to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe on the resolution of the European Parliament regarding homosexual couples (March 25, 1994); Family, marriage and “de facto” unions (July 26, 2000), 23.

(2) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (November 24, 2002), 4.

(3) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 48.

(4) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357.

(5) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8.

(6) Cf., for example, St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, V, 3; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 27, 1-4; Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians, 34.

(7) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 10.

(8) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2359; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 12.

(9) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358.

(10) Ibid., No. 2396.

(11) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 71.

(12) Cf. ibid., 72.

(13) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 95, a. 2.

(14) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 90.

(15) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae (February 22, 1987), II. A. 1-3.

(16) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 63, a.1, c.

(17) It should not be forgotten that there is always “a danger that legislation which would make homosexuality a basis for entitlements could actually encourage a person with a homosexual orientation to declare his homosexuality or even to seek a partner in order to exploit the provisions of the law” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons [July 24, 1992], 14).

(18) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 73.

 

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WDTPRS: 5th Sunday after Pentecost – In redeeming us, God does not unmake us.

Today’s prayer is at least as old as the Gelasian Sacramentary.  It has survived the post-Conciliar revisions to live again on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  The version in the Novus Ordo, however, adds a comma after ut.

COLLECT – (1962 Missale Romanum):
Deus, qui diligentibus te bona invisibilia praeparasti,
infunde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum;
ut te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes,
promissiones tuas, quae omne desiderium superant, consequamur.

The insuperable Lewis & Short Dictionary divulges that affectus means “a state of body, and especially of mind produced in one by some influence, a state or disposition of mind, affection, mood: love, desire, fondness, good?will, compassion, sympathy.”  An interesting verb is consequor which means among other things, “pursue, go after, attend, to follow” and also, “to follow a model, copy, obey”.  It conveys, “to follow a preceding cause as an effect, to ensue, result, to be the consequence, to arise or proceed from.”  I am choosing to say “attain.”

There are many words of loving and longing in today’s prayer.  We have diligo, amor, affectus and we have other tangential words like cor, desiderium, promissio.  Diligo is marvelous.  Initially it means, “to value or esteem highly, to love”.  It also carries the impact of “careful, assiduous, attentive, diligent, accurate”, as in our word “diligent”.  Desiderium is “a longing, ardent desire or wish, properly for something once possessed; grief, regret for the absence or loss of any thing [or person].”

LITERAL STAB:
O God, who prepares unseen goods for those loving You,
pour into our hearts the disposition of Your love,
so that we, loving You in all things and above all things,
may attain Your promises, which surpass every desire.

This Collect pulses with longing.  When this prayer is pronounced aloud, in Latin, my ears tune in to the connection between invisibilia at the beginning and promissiones at the end.

The concepts in the prayer are presented in a climactic order.  We have a necessary unspoken starting point, logically before the prayer begins: the ways we love on our own, previous to or apart from the new character of the baptized Christian.  This is “natural” love.  The first words of the prayer draw us beyond merely human forms of love.  Those natural loves are transformed with the help of God’s grace.  We ask God to pour into His manner of loving, charity, into our hearts.  It is not that we cannot love in a merely natural, human way.  We desire that how we love may be transformed, raised up.  As we know from our Catholic theological tradition, and it is almost an axiom, “gratia non destruit, sed supponit et perficit naturam… grace does not destroy, but rather supposes and perfects nature” (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh la. 1.8.).   Our human nature was terribly wounded in the Fall from grace, but its essential goodness was not lost.  We can love in our fallen human way, but our loves can be disordered.  Grace builds on our nature, it perfects our way of loving in this life by aligning it with God’s love.

From this building up our our love in this world, then we aim in our prayer at the love awaiting us in heaven, a love beyond anything we experience in this life.  Heaven will complete our every hope and desire and surpass them.  That is how I connect invisibilia, “invisible things” and promissiones, “promises.”  We know they are there for us in heaven, but we cannot attain them yet.  We live in a state of “already but not yet” in regard to our participation in the Resurrection.  What awaits us after our entrance into the Beatific Vision is unimaginable.  We can only gasp and ache after it, long for the completion God promised.

So, I find in this Collect an ascent in and to true Love, indeed to Love personified.  But we should be wary of opposing too strongly natural and supernatural loves.

Human love, sometimes called eros, isn’t automatically contrary to “religious love”.  We are human beings, not angels.  We must avoid on the one hand the extreme of trying to profane what is supernatural by locking it into the finite, and on the other hand desiring only and purely supernatural love in this life, which would render us ineffective and powerless.  We find fulfillment of our good earthly loves in the perfect love which is only in God.  Grace builds on nature, it doesn’t destroy it.

Pope Benedict, in Deus caritas est  … God is love, his first encyclical signed on Christmas Day of 2005, reflects among other things on ancient, technical Greek terms for different kinds of love: eros and agapeEros and agape have different shades of meaning.  Agape is self-giving love.  Think of it in terms of “descending”, emptying oneself for the sake of giving to another. Eros (whence the word “erotic”) is a love which seeks to receive, to be filled from another. Think in terms of ascending, seeking to rise to fulfillment.

Both of these loves, eros and agape, are inherently good.  However, because of our fallen nature, eros can be corrupted to the disordered love of mere appetite or passion or grasping use, even in the sexual sense.  In a way, eros and agape are two dimensions of a complete love, which foresees and both giving and receiving.  Eros must be complemented with agape and elevated to the spiritual sense of Christian love, the Catholic sense of charity.  The proper integration of the love which is self-emptying and that which is self-fulfilling, which gives and which takes, comes from the infusion of God’s own love in grace.  There is a human dimension which is indispensible, but which can be complete only with God’s help.  God builds on our love, perfects it.

We therefore long for Love, we reach out to it, thirsting for its fullness, its completing, healing, transforming power.  As St. Augustine (+430) wrote in his Confessions, “our hearts are restless” until they come to their proper resting place, their fulfillment in God’s love.

In redeeming us, God does not unmake us.  He lifts up who and what we are and makes us whole again.  This is the promise which helps us live and hope in this vale of tears.  Think of the Preface for the Mass for Christmas, the day Pope Benedict signed Deus caritas est, the celebration of Love Incarnate:

“For through the mystery of the incarnate Word, the new light of Your glory dazzled the eyes of our mind, so that while we know God visibly, through Him we may be snatched up into invisible love… (in invisibilem amorem rapiamur).”

Richard of St. Victor said: “Love is the eye and to love is to see.”  Love is the key to seeing what, rather, the one who, is otherwise unseeable.  This kind of love, which seeks to give as well as to receive, which is raised to a new supernatural order by grace, also allows us to see what is loveable in our neighbor, despite our human frailty.

 

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Ed Peters on SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges

Canonist Ed Peters has comments on SCOTUS decision today.  Read the whole thing over there, but… here:

Two thoughts re the Supreme Court decision on ‘same-sex marriage’

[..]

Of course, the Court has not yet reached the end of its marriage line, for yet to come are “marriages” between siblings, parents and children, groups of people, and so on, but come they will, [….]

Anyway, I make here two points especially for Catholics.

First, we need to recall that the State has long recognized as married some persons who are not married, namely, when the State allows divorced persons simply to remarry. We have lived with persons in pseudo-marriage for many decades; so now the pool of such people is larger. [But the new members of the pool are rather like piranha when denied what they demand.] The pastoral challenges in consequence of this latest decision are greater as will be the sacrifices needed to meet them. But so far—and this is a key point—State power has not been applied to try to force Churches or their faithful to treat as married those who, by doctrine or discipline, are not married. [Yet.] This brings me to my next point.

Second, Catholic doctrine and discipline can never, ever, recognize as married two persons of the same sex, and any Catholic who regards “same-sex marriage” as marriage is, beyond question, “opposed to the doctrine for the Church” (Canon 750 § 2). I am sorry so many Catholics apparently think otherwise and I recognize that many who think that Church teaching on marriage can and should change, do so in good faith. But they are still wrong and their error leads them, among other things, to underestimate how non-negotiable is the Church’s opposition to the recognition of same-sex unions as marriage.
The Church (and for that matter our nation) will have great need of Catholics who understand and accept the teaching of Christ and his Church on marriage if the damage done by the Supreme Court today is ever to be repaired. Appreciating the infallible character of this teaching on marriage is the first step.

As for whether we succeed in righting this wrong, that’s not our concern. The question we will be asked at Judgment will be, Did we try?

There’s a challenge for the “New Evangelization”.

Posted in New Evangelization, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, ¡Hagan lío! | Tagged , , | 60 Comments

USCCB on SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges – “tragic error”

From the USCCB:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

People today can barely get to 2+2=4.  They will recognize the beauty of millennial teaching in the age of Modern Family, dumbed-down education, multiple screens … panem et circenses?

Yes, I’m upset.

Here’s a phrase that ought to be brought back and applied to more than just this generation of the ordained in these USA: trahison des clercs.

I, for one, would like to know for whom the Catholic clergy of these USA voted for in the last two presidential election cycles.

And, once again, thanks a million to you Catholics who opted to stay home rather than to vote.

Comment moderation is ON.

Posted in One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Pò sì jiù, Priests and Priesthood, Sin That Cries To Heaven, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants | Tagged , , , | 40 Comments

SCOTUS Justices on Obergefell v. Hodges

UPDATE: Neil Addison, an outstanding barrister in England, has comments on the opinions.  Given Justice Thomas references to Magna Carta, it is appropriate to link to the esteemed legal scholar.  HERE  He has some great comments.

____ ORIGINAL: Published on: Jun 26, 2015 @ 12:43

I have now read all of the Slip opinions from today’s SCOTUS decision on Obergefell v. Hodges.  HERE

In this post I will add, over time, quotes which interest me from the opinions.

The moderation queue is ON.  You can add quotes.  Be sure to note the Justice and the page of the Slip opinion.  I might allow discussion along the way, but right now I’m interested mostly in a florilegium of quotes.

Many will probably start with Justice Scalia (I get to him along the way… don’t miss it).  I’ll start with the last dissenting opinion from Justice Alito.

He starts out with a statement that the majority’s understanding of “liberty” is “post-modern” (p. 2).

For today’s majority, it does not matter that the right to same-sex marriage lacks deep roots or even that it is contrary to long-established tradition. The Justices in the majority claim the authority to confer constitutional pro- tection upon that right simply because they believe that it is fundamental. (p. 3)

As I read in another opinion, Justice Alito also mentions the shift in view of marriage involving “romantic love” (as does C. Justice Roberts p. 7).  Alito, citing his opinion in Windsor:

As I wrote in Windsor:

“The family is an ancient and universal human in- stitution. Family structure reflects the characteristics of a civilization, and changes in family structure and in the popular understanding of marriage and the family can have profound effects. Past changes in the understanding of marriage—for example, the gradual ascendance of the idea that romantic love is a prereq- uisite to marriage—have had far-reaching conse- quences. …” (p. 5)

And, here is something that I am deeply concerned about, Justice Alito wonders what the ramifications of this will be.  Note that he (like Justice Thomas in his dissent) separates this issue from “civil rights”:

Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage. [The other dissenting Justices make that point.] The decision will also have other important consequences.

It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women. E.g., ante, at 11–13. The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent. [to the “new orthodoxy”.]

Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reas- sure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. Ante, at 26–27. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. [NB] I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.  [It is interesting that when the majority mentions religious liberty in their “reassurances”, so to speak, they omit the word “exercise” of religion.  Roberts makes that point on p.28.]

The system of federalism established by our Constitu- tion provides a way for people with different beliefs to live together in a single nation. If the issue of same-sex mar- riage had been left to the people of the States, it is likely that some States would recognize same-sex marriage and others would not. It is also possible that some States would tie recognition to protection for conscience rights. The majority today makes that impossible. By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facili- tates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas. Recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn- about is fair play. But if that sentiment prevails, the Na- tion will experience bitter and lasting wounds.

Today’s decision will also have a fundamental effect on this Court and its ability to uphold the rule of law. If a bare majority of Justices can invent a new right and im- pose that right on the rest of the country, the only real limit on what future majorities will be able to do is their own sense of what those with political power and cultural influence are willing to tolerate. Even enthusiastic sup- porters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims.

Today’s decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court’s abuse of its authority have failed.

Hard to deny that.

Justice Thomas warns about “the dangerous fiction of treating the Due Process Clause as a font of substantive rights. (p. 2).   The decision, “invites judges to do exactly what the majority has done here—“‘roa[m] at large in the constitu- tional field’ guided only by their personal views” as to the “ ‘fundamental rights’ ” protected by that document. (p. 2).

Thomas has an extended discussion of what “liberty” has always meant, going back to Magna Carta.

In enacting the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the Framers similarly chose to employ the “life, liberty, or property” formulation, though they otherwise deviated substantially from the States’ use of Magna Carta’s lan- guage in the Clause. See Shattuck, The True Meaning of the Term “Liberty” in Those Clauses in the Federal and State Constitutions Which Protect “Life, Liberty, and Property,” 4 Harv. L. Rev. 365, 382 (1890). When read in light of the history of that formulation, it is hard to see how the “liberty” protected by the Clause could be inter- preted to include anything broader than freedom from physical restraint. That was the consistent usage of the time when “liberty” was paired with “life” and “property.” See id., at 375. And that usage avoids rendering superflu- ous those protections for “life” and “property.”

If the Fifth Amendment uses “liberty” in this narrow sense, then the Fourteenth Amendment likely does as well. See Hurtado v. California, 110 U. S. 516, 534–535 (1884). Indeed, this Court has previously commented, “The conclusion is . . . irresistible, that when the same phrase was employed in the Fourteenth Amendment [as was used in the Fifth Amendment], it was used in the same sense and with no greater extent.” Ibid.  (p. 6)

He makes this point, drawing on John Locke:

Even assuming that the “liberty” in those Clauses en- compasses something more than freedom from physical restraint, it would not include the types of rights claimed by the majority. In the American legal tradition, liberty has long been understood as individual freedom from governmental action, not as a right to a particular gov- ernmental entitlement. (p. 7)

And…

Far from being incarcerated or physically re- strained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.

Nor, under the broader definition, can they claim that the States have restricted their ability to go about their daily lives as they would be able to absent governmental restrictions. Petitioners do not ask this Court to order the States to stop restricting their ability to enter same-sex relationships, to engage in intimate behavior, to make vows to their partners in public ceremonies, to engage in religious wedding ceremonies, to hold themselves out as married, or to raise children. The States have imposed no such restrictions. Nor have the States prevented petition- ers from approximating a number of incidents of marriage through private legal means, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

Instead, the States have refused to grant them govern- mental entitlements. Petitioners claim that as a matter of “liberty,” they are entitled to access privileges and benefits that exist solely because of the government. They want, for example, to receive the State’s imprimatur on their marriages—on state issued marriage licenses, death certif- icates, or other official forms. And they want to receive various monetary benefits, including reduced inheritance taxes upon the death of a spouse, compensation if a spouse dies as a result of a work-related injury, or loss of consor- tium damages in tort suits. But receiving governmental recognition and benefits has nothing to do with any un- derstanding of “liberty” that the Framers would have recognized.

Sorry about the extra hyphens… btw. But you are smart.

Thomas takes up a phrase in the majority opinion, “better informed understanding”, which I think is going to be as infamous as Douglas’ emanations and penumbras in Griswold v. CT.

In a concession to petitioners’ misconception of liberty, the majority characterizes petitioners’ suit as a quest to “find . . . liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the oppo- site sex.” Ante, at 2. But “liberty” is not lost, nor can it be found in the way petitioners seek. As a philosophical matter, liberty is only freedom from governmental action, not an entitlement to governmental benefits. And as a constitutional matter, it is likely even narrower than that, encompassing only freedom from physical restraint and imprisonment. The majority’s “better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives define . . . liberty,” ante, at 19,—better informed, we must assume, than that of the people who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment—runs headlong into the reality that our Constitution is a “collection of ‘Thou shalt nots,’” Reid v. Covert, 354 U. S. 1, 9 (1957) (plurality opinion), not “Thou shalt provides.”

The majority has – like good gnostics – evolved a “better informed understanding” and “new insights”. Despite thousands of years of understanding marriage in a certain way, in every culture on Earth, the majority leans on something else.  (See also Roberts, p. 25)

Concerning the implications of the majority’s decision, Thomas points out consequences for religious liberty:

Numerous amici—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” Brief for General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists et al. as Amici Curiae 5. In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Id., at 7. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.

The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph, ante, at 27. And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so ful- filling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Ibid. Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice. (pp. 15-16)

That is the difference between “freedom of religion” and mere “freedom of worship”.  Again, as Alito said, we will be pressured only to “whisper” our views at home.  We will be vilified, even prosecuted, for expressing them in public.

Justice Scalia has a short opinion.  At the end, he doesn’t even both to say, “I dissent” (as he did yesterday to King v. Burwell, p. 21), much less “I respectfully dissent” (as other Justices usually do).  He wrote “to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy” (p. 1).

He is uninterested in what the law says about marriage.  He wants to know who “rules” now (p. 2).

Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact— and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Consti- tution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected commit- tee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav- agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im- portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

I, for one, do not welcome my black-gowned overlords.

By the way, it is a pleasure to read Scalia, not just because of the occasional acerbic comment.  If you are making notes and following the arguments, you see that each paragraph links to last.   But I digress….

Scalia say that the majority has stripped the people of democratic process, however messy.

The Court ends this debate, in an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law. Buried beneath the mummeries and straining-to-be-memorable passages of the opinion is a candid and startling assertion: No matter what it was the People ratified, the Fourteenth Amendment protects those rights that the Judiciary, in its “reasoned judgment,” thinks the Fourteenth Amendment ought to protect. (p. 4)

And…speaking about learning new meanings, etc….

The “we,” needless to say, is the nine of us. “History and tradition guide and discipline [our] inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.” Thus, rather than focusing on the People’s understanding of “liberty”—at the time of ratification or even today—the majority focuses on four “principles and traditions” that, in the majority’s view, prohibit States from defining marriage as an institution consisting of one man and one woman.

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. (p. 5)

He makes a point about the make up of the Court: “Four of the nine are natives of New York City”. (p. 6)

Fireworks ensue on pp. 6-8:

But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch. [German: “sudden revolt to take over government, like the Nazi “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923.] The five Justices who compose today’s majority are entirely comfortable concluding that every State violated the Constitution for all of the 135 years between the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification and Massachusetts’ permitting of same-sex marriages in 2003.20 They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amend- ment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since. They see what lesser legal minds— minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly— could not. They are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago,21 cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.

The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate con- curring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of the Court to do so.22 [Here is footnote 22 for your convenience… don’t miss this!: If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie. – I take that as a “No” vote.] Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent. “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.”23 (Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. [Which, where I live, it’s pretty easy to do.] Expression, sure enough, is a freedom, but anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say.) [C’mon, you libs… that’s funny.] Rights, we are told, can “rise . . . from a better informed understanding [infamy!] of how constitutional imperatives define a liberty that remains urgent in our own era.”24 (Huh? How can a better informed understanding of how constitutional imperatives [whatever that means] define [whatever that means] an urgent liberty [never mind], give birth to a right?) And we are told that, “[i]n any particular case,” either the Equal Protection or Due Process Clause “may be thought to capture the essence of [a] right in a more accurate and comprehensive way,” than the other, “even as the two Clauses may converge in the identification and definition of the right.”25 (What say? What possible “essence” does substantive due process “capture” in an “accurate and comprehensive way”? It stands for nothing whatever, except those freedoms and entitlements that this Court really likes. [Italics in original.]

Some of the phrases in the majority opinion are likely to become as famous as the “emanations” line.  And surely this “better informed understanding” and “new insights” and that B as in B S as in S has eclipsed Justice Stewart’s famous “I know it when I see it” line.

Near the end:

If the opinion is correct that the two clauses “converge in the identification and definition of [a] right,” that is only because the majority’s likes and dislikes are predictably compatible.) I could go on. The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.

***

Hubris is sometimes defined as o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall. The Judiciary is the “least dangerous” of the federal branches because it has “neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm” and the States, “even for the efficacy of its judgments.”26 With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.

Thus, Scalia.

Chief Justice Roberts has the main, longer, dissenting opinion, which JJ. Scalia, Thomas and Alito joined.

More on that later.

Posted in One Man & One Woman, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

It’s time to kneel down and pray for our nation

The Supreme Court came down in favor of same-sex marriage today.  The Slip opinions are HERE.

Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State. Pp. 3–28.

[…]

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined.

There is no provision for any state which has its own laws limiting marriage to two sexes.  Thus, this is now the “law of the land” in all 50 states.

Who wins?  Not society.  Perhaps divorce lawyers.

It may be that this was as inevitable as the night which follows the day.  I had hoped not, but with only a little hope.

We now await cases that test the bounds of religious freedom.  I’m not sanguine.

Get ready for the onslaught.

Posted in One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Sin That Cries To Heaven, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices | Tagged , | 178 Comments

Wherein Fr. Blake hits a century

No, he’s not 100 years old.

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, PP of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has a great post on his blog.  HERE

A friend of mine reports this conversation:
“Father, my boyfriend is depressed; I want you to talk to him”.
“Okay, can you tell me a bit more?”
“Yes, he left his wife and children to move in with me and now he feels guilty”
“So, what are you asking?”

This not so unusual a request. It is significant that it is a young man. I invariably get depressed young men, sometimes suicidal young men who want to speak to me about some spiritual problem, ‘I can’t pray’ or ‘I want to return to the sacraments’ or even sometimes, ‘I think I want to be a priest but…’ and then when one gets below the surface there is a whole series of broken relationships, sometimes even of children from discarded relationships. I suspect if you heard their confession none of this would figure, maybe simply, ‘Bless me for I have sinned, it has been X years since my last Confession in that time I have missed Mass over a number of years, I have been dishonest and I have been unkind at times’, maybe even I have wasted food or some other eco-sin. [Yep.]

What is often neglected, is any mention of sins against the 6th and 9th Commandment, [among others] that could be because of embarrassment, or simply as I suspect just sheer ignorance that these are totally contrary to the teaching of Jesus. In fact I have rarely married a couple which is not co-habiting, nor experienced embarrassment when they give a shared address. Admittedly a few couples are living together simply because it is impossible to buy a flat without two incomes, and some, a tiny number are trying to live chastely.

We believe in the Natural Law: sex and procreation outside of marriage, aberrant sexual behaviour, pornography, sexual fantasy, coupled with drug and alcohol use and hedonism, in general are chickens which must come home to roost. Again as the Holy Father has been saying recently the misery that so many children experience, because their parents are continually rowing or because of an absent father and in the case of boys the absence of an effective male role model, only add to feelings of guilt many young men live with. Brighton has a very high rate of male suicide, someone suggested to me recently one of the problems is those who might give help are feminised, which only adds to problem.

I get a bit concerned when priests of a certain age (which they are mostly) say, ‘we must be merciful’. The problem is that for the last 60 years we have done nothing else but be so ‘merciful’ that we have failed to be truly merciful and proclaim Jesus’ teaching, which is the ultimate and only real mercy, [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] or as Pope Francis says, ‘God’s final word is called Jesus’. For many young people, men especially, it is that they simply don’t know how to live.

Maybe someone needs to sit down and write a simple ‘Rule of Life’, I suspect such a document will not come out of the Synod! [Probably not.]

Fr. Z kudos to Fr. Blake.

Posted in HONORED GUESTS, Mail from priests, New Evangelization, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Church in Madison is alive! VIDEO

Tomorrow, 26 June, His Excellency Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, will ordain 6 men to the holy priesthood.

In the last decade or so, since Bp. Morlino has been in Madison, a fairly rural diocese, the number of men in formation has grown from 6 to 35, nearly all of them home boys.  HERE

What a difference a bishop makes!

Here is a short video about the ordination tomorrow.

His Excellency will use the portable throne which the TMSM built for Pontifical Masses. Also, tomorrow we will see in use custom made linen manutergia, made by a reader here!

To make a donation to the Diocese of Madison and to earmark it for seminarians, click HERE.

Once you click the “one time” or “monthly” button, you’ll get a menu. The St. Joseph Fund is for seminarians. Otherwise, there is a diocesan fundraising project going on that Part 1 of the WSJ article explains. Thanks in advance!

Posted in Just Too Cool, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries | 11 Comments

ASK FATHER: Our Episcopal priest recently became a nun….

This was so quirky, that I had to post it. I asked a priest friend to write a response.

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Our Episcopal [?] priest recently became a nun. She insists on wearing her habit when serving mass. Is this proper or even allowed under canon 284?. She is causing a split in our parish. We hired a priest, not a nun. Most of us are happy that she has found another calling, but we feel that when she is working (ministering) as a priest and serving God as a priest she should look like a priest, not a nun. Any thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

Fr. Z’s REPONSE:

Anglicanorum coetibus!

GUEST RESPONSE:

As a child, playing make believe was never ending fun. When I was younger, the family across the street had a large box in their garage, full of cast-off clothing. As children, we would occasionally root through the box and dress up, pretending to be adults. There was a white shirt with french cuffs in the box. At that time, the only one I knew who wore french cuffs was our family doctor. So, I would put on that shirt, and pretend to be a doctor. The other kids would come into my “office,” I would listen to their heartbeat, take their pulse, look into their mouth and invariably prescribe two or three pieces of candy that substituted for pills. It made for an enjoyable afternoon. One day, the shirt was missing. Rooting through the box, I found another white shirt and put it on, but it did not have french cuffs. My friends and I were disappointed. We couldn’t play doctor’s office without the proper shirt. It just wasn’t the same. I think we probably ended up playing “Mother May I,” or frozen tag instead.

So I know how you feel, having had a parallel experience. You’re expecting one sort of outfit, that seems to be the essential factor – and that outfit has changed. It must be disappointing.

Oh, and I wasn’t really a doctor either. I suppose the difference between our experiences is that all of my friends new I wasn’t really a doctor and wasn’t really prescribing pills. We knew we were just play-acting.

Posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, HONORED GUESTS, Lighter fare | Tagged | 31 Comments

ASK FATHER: Petrine Privilege or usual “annulment” procedure? Help!

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Is it a better option for us to seek a Petrine Privilege rather than go through the usual annulment procedure if my husband was not baptized for his 1st marriage or his marriage to me? His 1st wife was baptized but not religious or monogamous. I have recently converted to Catholicism, and he will allow me to practice my faith without hindrance. We have been “married” for 31 years & have been living as brother/sister for 14 months. The pressure on our relationship is extraordinary. Please help! My priest suggested I contact you with this question.

Your question brings up a difficult pastoral point that comes up with some regularity.

Reverend Fathers: Before baptizing someone, or receiving them into the Church, make sure their marital status is clear!  If you have questions, call the local tribunal or a trusted canonist.  We mustn’t guide people into difficult situations, and we shouldn’t baptize or receive an adult into the Church and then, later, try to straighten out a problematic marriage situation. Get the marriage situation regularized FIRST!  Then proceed with the baptism/profession of faith/confirmation/reception.

Now to the question.

A Petrine privilege, or privilege of the faith, is an indult whereby the Holy Father intervenes, using his authority as Vicar of Christ, to dissolve a non-sacramental marriage so that one of the parties can marry in the Church.

Most Tribunals recommend that people in situations like this pursue a declaration of nullity first. There are both practical and theological reasons for this.

Practically, the process of determining whether a marriage could be declared null takes place locally. Usually, this can be done in about 18 months. A privilege of the faith case, on the other hand, can be more complex.  It involves sending the documentation over to the Holy See.  It can take longer.

Theologically, it is best before asking the Holy Father if he is willing to wield the awesome Power of the Keys (remember that this is a privilege we’re asking for not a right – the Holy Father can, for various reasons, deny the request), to see if the marriage can be proven to be null. If it’s a null marriage, then the Pope need not dissolve it: it was never established in the first place.

 

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , , | 11 Comments