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.