“There are not a series of rules made up by the Church; they constitute divine law, and the Church cannot change them.”

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Today in the liberal Italian daily Corriere della sera there is an article about the forthcoming book Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church (in English by Ignatius Press HERE – UK link HERE).  The books is being rolled out in Italian soon and so the daily jumped on it.

As a matter of fact, this is why – I think -the news of Card. Burke reassignment was leaked.  I digress.

I didn’t expect a good presentation by Corriere, but it was remarkably fair.   The best part about it is that, unexpectedly, it stuck to the issues and quoted exactly the right bits from the introductory chapter by the editor, Fr. Robert Dodaro.  I’ve read nearly the whole book, by the way.

Corriere‘s headline faltered badly in a couple respects:

«No alla comunione ai divorziati» … “No to Communion for the divorced”
Cinque cardinali contro le aperture … “Five Cardinals against openings” (like saying opening up to the “divorced”)

The problem isn that the Church says that the “divorced” can’t receive Communion. They can. If, however, they are not in the state of grace, they can’t, just like everyone else. If the divorced subsequently get a civil marriage, that’s a problem. And it isn’t as if the Cardinals are “closed” to “openings”. They, however, are defending Catholic doctrine. That is what this fight is really going to be about.

That said, without translating the whole of the Corriere piece, here are the bits from Dodaro’s chapter which they quoted:

Remember: The clearly stated purpose of the book is to respond to the ideas brought up by Walter Card. Kasper. The Pope stated that he wanted people to study the problems that were raised. He got exactly what he asked for.

An extended quote from Dodaro’s introduction:

The authors of this volume jointly contend that the New Testament presents Christ as unambiguously prohibited divorce and remarriage on the basis of God’s original plan for marriage set out in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. The “merciful” solution to divorce advocated by Cardinal Kasper is not unknown “in the ancient Church, but virtually none of the writers who survive and whom we take to be authoritative defend it; indeed when they mention it, it is rather to condemn it as unscriptural. There is nothing surprising in that situation; abuses may exist occasionally, but their mere existence is no guarantee of their not being abuses, let alone being models to be followed” (p. 80). The current Eastern Orthodox practice of oikonomia in cases of divorce and remarriage stems largely from the second millennium and arises in response to political pressure on the Church from Byzantine emperors. During the Middle Ages and beyond, the Catholic Church in the West resisted such efforts more successfully and did so at the cost of martyrdom. The Eastern Orthodox practice of oikonomia is not an alternative tradition to which the Catholic Church can appeal. Oikonomia, in this context, rests on a view of the indissolubility of marriage that is not compatible with Roman Catholic theology, which understands the marital bond as being rooted ontologically in Christ. Hence, civil marriage following divorce involves a form of adultery, and it makes the reception of the Eucharist morally impossible (1 Cor 11:28), unless the couple practice sexual continence. There are not a series of rules made up by the Church; they constitute divine law, and the Church cannot change them. To the woman caught in adultery, Christ said, “[G]o and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). God’s mercy does not dispense us from following him commandments.

Let me underscore some things.

First, watch coverage of this issue and watch for words like “rules” and “policies” when the Church’s perennial, divinely founded teachings are described.  The Church could change mere “rules”.

Second, just because something happened in the past, that doesn’t mean that what happened was either good or accepted.  This is key to understanding the flaws even about the claimed ordination of female deacons.  On p. 17 of Remaining, in the introduction chapter, Dodaro cites a former professor of mine in Rome, Fr. Giles Pelland, SJ.  This concerns Card. Kasper’s flawed methodology in presenting his (flawed) support from ancient sources for his proposals.  I’ll quote Peland:

In order to speak of a “tradition” or “practice” of the Church, it is not enough to point out a certain number of cases spread over a period of four or five centuries. One would have to show, insofar as one can, that these cases correspond to a practice accepted by the Church at the time. Otherwise, we would only have the opinion of a theologian (however prestigious), or information about a local tradition at a certain moment in its history—which obviously does not have the same weight.

In a nutshell, it is possible to find any number of isolated incidents of this or that aberrant practice in the ancient Church.  We see this in our own day.  Just because some group does or says X today doesn’t mean that it is accepted Catholic practice or teaching.  A serious problem arises when you try to found your arguments on those isolated aberrant practices as if they were accepted.

Next, note the comments about Eastern oikonomia and the influence of political pressure.  We cannot, as Catholics, simply cave into secular ways and expectations.  Anglicans, for example, have hitched their ecclesial community to the State.  We don’t do that.  We cannot simply give away divinely founded perennial teaching under the pressure or the expectations of “the world”.

I’ll be writing more in the days to come, but here are a few points to ponder as you watch the press.

This new book is a HUGE DEAL.  It isn’t easy reading, but it pays dividends.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. McCall1981 says:

    I don’t have the book yet, but I’m impressed at how straight forward and hard hitting Card. Pell’s introduction seems to be:
    Cardinal Pell rules out change on Communion for divorced, remarried

    [Card. Pell’s introduction is in a different book! There are THREE books coming out around the same time. The most important is Remaining (for short), but the others are good too. I have advance copies and I am looking at them. The book in which Pell’s intro appears is here…]

    The Gospel of the Family: Going Beyond Cardinal Kasper’s Proposal in the Debate on Marriage, Civil Re-Marriage and Communion in the Church

  2. CrimsonCatholic says:

    @Fr Z, I didn’t know if this is the appropriate place for this but Hell’s Bible is surveying Catholic’s that have been divorced. You may want to share this. They are allowing comments and feedback in it as well.


  3. kpoterack says:

    Fr. Z.

    I know that you want us to order the book (and that I have asked this question before), but is there anything that we can do to get this (and other related books) to the bishops at the synod? I only ask this because (according to Amazon it won’t be available until Oct. 7, after the synod has already begun), and this is cutting it awfully close. (Also according to Amazon Card. Mueller’s book length interview won’t be available until Oct. 27 – after the synod is done.) Can we be assured that the book will be made available to the synod fathers? Or not? If not, would it be inappropriate for each of us to pick a bishop and purchase a copy and send it to him in Rome.

    Just asking because I am perplexed at all the effort going into this – and the late dates of publication.

  4. dmwallace says:

    Just noodling on some theological matters that I hope get covered by bishops (but probably not):

    – “What therefore God has joined together (syzeugnymi/iunxit), let not man put asunder (chorizeto/separet)” (Mk 10:9). How does this square with things like the Petrine privilege in which a marriage ratum et non consummatum can be dissolved by the power of the keys?

    – The theology of the sacrament of Marriage vis-a-vis the East/West difference in who confers the sacrament on whom, e.g. in the Byzantine tradition there is no exchange of vows.

    – The Western practice of declaring the nullity of marriages as a juridical/canonical act that is fallible in se.

    – The placement of faith in a marriage per Benedict XVI’s address to the clergy of Aosta (July 25, 2005): “I would say that those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the Sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly-complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people’s painful plight, it must be studied further.”

  5. Pingback: New book on marriage an essential | iPadre Catholic Podcasting

  6. Mojoron says:

    As an annulled Catholic who rarely went to a Catholic church after my original divorce and a remarriage to a Lutheran, I rarely went to my wife’s church with her because I knew that Lutheranism was not the true church. My wife finally convinced me that I needed the Catholic Church and offered to convert if I were to apply for an annulment and she would as well (she was also previously divorced). Even then, while we both were waiting for a decision, I felt uncomfortable going to church without receiving the Eucharist. It wasn’t until I talked to several other annulled Catholics, and my parish priest, that my being uncomfortable at Mass would be part of my penance for being away all those years. Having said all the above, I can certainly understand the issue of receiving the Eucharist as a divorced Catholic and I can also say that to change the “rules” to allow divorcee’s the Eucharist is wrong. Period. Like Fr. Z has said on numerous occasions, sometimes you can’t correct a bad decision and you will just have to live with it. Just offer it up for your soul, but keep going to Mass.

  7. Ioannes Andreades says:

    It’s important not only to emphasize what the truth of the matter is but also to explain why the truth matters. Why is lifelong marriage good, even when so many marriages have gone wrong? Marriage is a way in which mercy is showed, to most of us the most profound, constant, and intimate mercy we will be showed in our lives. Is the Church being merciful to a husband when it allows the woman who divorced him in order to remarry to carry on sacramentally as though nothing has happened?

  8. Matt Robare says:

    As I noted to a friend recently, before the Council of Trent it wasn’t uncommon for rural priests to be illiterate. That would seem to be a “tradition” according to Card. Kasper.

    Also, notice how that when trying to undermine a teaching of the Church, reaching far back into the past and calling it a tradition is fine — but support the EF and you’re living in the past.

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