Ross Douthat on candidate Quisling Kaine (D-VA) and on Francis’ papal doctrine dance

At the NYT (aka Hell’s Bible) see what Ross Douthat has to say:

Dilution of Doctrine

LAST weekend Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee and a churchgoing Catholic, briefly escaped obscurity by telling an audience of L.G.B.T. activists that he expects his church to eventually bless and celebrate same-sex marriages.  [Quisling.]

In short order his bishop, Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Va., had a statement out declaring that the Catholic understanding of marriage would remain “unchanged and resolute.” [That’s not enough.  CAN. 915!]

In a normal moment, it would be the task of this conservative Catholic scribbler to explain why the governor is wrong and the bishop is right, why scripture and tradition make it impossible for Catholicism to simply reinvent its sexual ethics.

[NB] But this is not a normal moment in the Catholic Church. As the governor was making his prediction, someone leaked a letter from Pope Francis to the Argentine bishops, praising their openness to allowing some divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive communion.

The “private” letter was the latest move in a papal dance that’s been going on since Francis was elected. The pope clearly wants to admit remarried Catholics to communion, and he tried by hook and crook to get the world’s bishops to agree. [There Are Fifty Ways To Rig A Synod.] But he faced intense resistance from conservatives, who pointed out that this reform risked evacuating the church’s teaching that sacramental marriages are indissoluble and second marriages adulterous.

The conservative resistance couldn’t be overcome directly without courting a true crisis. So Francis has proceeded indirectly, offering studied ambiguity in official publications combined with personal suggestions of where he really stands.

This dance has effectively left Catholicism with two teachings on marriage and the sacraments. The traditional rule is inscribed in the church’s magisterium, and no mere papal note can abrogate it.

But to the typical observer, it’s the Francis position that looks more like the church’s real teaching (He is the pope, after all), even if it’s delivered off the cuff or in footnotes or through surrogates.

That position, more or less, seems to be that second marriages may be technically adulterous, but it’s unreasonable to expect modern people to realize that, and even more unreasonable to expect them to leave those marriages or practice celibacy [continence] within them. So the sin involved in a second marriage is often venial not mortal, and not serious enough to justify excluding people of good intentions from the sacraments.

Which brings us back to Tim Kaine’s [BOOOOO!] vision, because it is very easy to apply this modified position on remarriage to same-sex unions. If relationships the church once condemned as adultery are no longer a major, soul-threatening sin, then why should a committed same-sex relationship be any different? If the church makes post-sexual revolution allowances for straight couples, shouldn’t it make the same ones for people who aren’t even attracted to the opposite sex?

An allowance is not the same thing as a blessing. [Ummm…] Under the Francis approach, the church would not celebrate second marriages, and were its logic extended to gay couples there wouldn’t be the kind of active celebration Kaine envisions either.

Instead, the church would keep the traditional teaching on its books, and only marry couples who fit the traditional criteria. But it would also signal approval to any stable relationship (gay or straight, married or cohabiting), treating the letter of the law like the pirate’s code in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies: More what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

The cleverness of this compromise, in theory, is that it leaves conservative Catholics with that letter to cling to, and with it the belief that the church’s teaching is supernaturally guaranteed. Thus there is no crisis point, and less risk of imitating Anglicanism’s recent schisms.  [We don’t know that.]



Read the rest there.

Kaine is a quisling.  Can. 915 should be applied.


At The Spectator, Damian Thompson has reacted to Douthat.  Let’s enter n medias res (with my usual treatment – “ZISK”):


Douthat is surely right that the Pope planned to relax the rules dramatically, but last year’s synod of bishops sent him a clear message that it wanted the communion ban upheld. Having called the synod, Francis had backed himself into a corner. There were, however, a few ambiguities in Amoris Laetitiadeliberate ones, we can now see – that allowed liberals to argue that, if you read between the lines, the Pope had changed the rules.

That’s what the Argentine bishops have just claimed, spinning the document so far in a liberal direction that it’s almost unrecognisable. But not unrecognisable to its author, Francis. He barely had time to read the guidelines – sent to to him in a semi-finished state – before he said:

‘The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.’

There are no other interpretations. Uh? As Dan Hitchens points out, ‘the bishops of Poland and Costa Rica have said they’ll stick to the established practice; so has Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and – in a document released last week – the six bishops of Alberta, Canada.’ They won’t be changing their minds. [And more bishops will do this, too.]

According to the bishops of Buenos Aires, couples living in sexually active second marriages don’t need ‘permission’ to receive the sacrament. They should, however, exercise ‘discernment’ guided by a priest. You’ll need to read the whole text to grasp their convoluted argument.

The episode raises some puzzling questions. Here are a few of them. It’s too early to be confident of the answers.

• Why did Francis approve a highly contentious draft document in such a rush? Some of the Pope’s critics describe the Bergoglian modus operandi as ‘Jesuitical’, meaning manipulative. But the Society of Jesus is intellectually subtle; this looks more like moving goalposts in the middle of the night and being caught in the spotlights. It’s bizarre. You can’t help wondering if someone close to the Pope had a hand in drawing up the guidelines for Francis’s former diocese, which might mean that he was familiar with them long before September 5.

• Are the Buenos Aires guidelines on communion for the divorced-and-remarried intended for the whole Catholic Church? After all, they’ve received the papal imprimatur. Unlikely, at least in the short term. The Polish and African bishops aren’t about to let a pope with such a rudimentary grasp of theology overrule the verdict of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel: ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her’. Francis must realise this. Is he therefore happy to tolerate ‘local’ solutions to pastoral problems – in other words, a Catholic Church in which doctrine is geographically adjusted, as it is in different provinces of the Anglican Communion and rival Orthodox patriarchates? Moving to that structure won’t be a smooth experience and the church won’t be very catholic if it happens. Is Francis so convinced of his own position (whatever that is) that he’s ready to countenance schism?

• Could this startling pronouncement herald a shake-up of the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Francis doesn’t hide his low opinion of its prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a conservative appointed by Benedict XVI. If Müller were sacked and replaced by, say, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn – an Austrian nobleman and former Ratzinger protégé who has turned into a liberal waffle-merchant in his old age – then the Buenos Aires guidelines could be infiltrated into middle-of-the-road dioceses. (Westminster, for example, where the local bishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has been described as ‘probably the leading papolator in the college of cardinals’.) This would still raise the spectre of schism.

• Alternatively, might the Pope simply lose interest in the divorced-and-remarried question? Don’t rule it out. Fr Raymond de Souza argues in the Catholic Herald, that Francis has a habit of making impulsive, sweeping decisions and then reversing them. He asks: ‘Does the improvisational, non-consultative mode of the Holy Father’s reforms mean that he can move fast, going back to fix up the details later? Or does it mean that he simply goes back, undoing what he had proposed to do for lack of proper preparation and attention to detail?’ To put it differently, is Bergoglio a Machiavelli or a Baldrick?

Interesting reactions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. KatieL56 says:

    Yes, Kaine is a Quisling. Yes, canon 915 should be applied. . .as well as applied to Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and the innumerable (c)atholic politicians swarming in our government circles. But will it be applied? In this “Mercy year?” Any year before the Second Coming? I doubt it.

    Unfortunately, and I say this with tears running down my cheeks, while we know Christ will triumph, and the Truth will prevail, right now we live in demon-occupied territory and those who should be shepherding and leading us have to a great degree either drunk the Kool-Aid themselves or are still playing the ‘make nice’ that many of us aging Boomers and Great Generations were brought up on: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, “Don’t make waves”, “Easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar’. . .because we were taught to TRUST authority, we were taught to trust our priests, our bishops, our elected officials, and we were taught to FOLLOW THE RULES. And we live in an age where rules are, yes, guidelines (“The Ten Suggestions, if they work for you”), a world in which Winston Smith would feel right at home, where Newspeak has taken over every medium of communication, and where the ‘wise serpents’ have managed to convince the guileless doves that even though it looks like what the serpents say is completely opposite to what the doves say, it’s really exactly the same thing if you squint really hard and just make a few tiny little adjustments in attitude, and so it’s all good in the end, and who are we to judge anyway?

    And so we pitiful few who hold to the One True Catholic and Apostolic Faith as opposed to the Many Good Christian Ways of Making Our Faith Journey Loving and Happy, pick our battered selves up from the latest breathless asinine tripe about what Pope Francis has said, what HuffPo or the Fishwrap say Catholicism is now doing right, or needs to do right, what our priests and bishops in between congratulating us on being the best people EVUH by showing up, or just being alive, try to slip in about what we ‘now’ believe, what our families and friends gleefully tell us that “we always KNEW you were wrong saying X and now the Church is finally telling you you’re wrong too”, and we pray another rosary, go to Adoration, listen to some chant, read Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth and pray for HIM, and we read Lamentations because hey, at least somebody there knew what we were feeling like now, and we keep on hoping that God will be REALLY merciful and help us through another day. Because quite frankly, HE is the only one on whom we can absolutely depend.

  2. Jenson71 says:

    Needing a clarification on using Canon 915 on Tim Kaine: your position is that because he made a prediction the Church would change its doctrine regarding marriage, he should be refused Holy Communion?

  3. Gaetano says:

    Visit any nominally Catholic college or university. The schism is already here, they just haven’t left yet.

  4. rmichaelj says:

    Not to speak for our host, but candidate Kaine’s proabortion views have been noted in previous posts.

    In regards to possible schism or pseudoschism from conservatives- practice does matter. We are usually the ones who emphasize protection of and transmission of the faith through the family. If it is perceived that our children’s faith is under attack, you might very well see a large number of people “going into exile”.

  5. Seamus says:

    Instead, the church would keep the traditional teaching on its books, and only marry couples who fit the traditional criteria. But it would also signal approval to any stable relationship (gay or straight, married or cohabiting), treating the letter of the law like the pirate’s code in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies: More what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

    This “solution” is the one the Episcopalians tried for several decades. Then they decided it was silly (and probably “unkind” and “unwelcoming”) not to celebrate those second “marriages.” So they started celebrating them, which made it that much easier to celebrate same-sex unions once the Zeitgeist swung in that direction.

  6. Fr. Andrew says:

    Most striking line was towards the end:

    And how effectively can a church retain the lukewarm or uncertain if it keeps its most controversial teachings while constantly winking to say, “Don’t worry, we don’t actually believe all that?”

    I suppose those who petitioned NYTimes to have Ross removed would think this is no problem at all.

  7. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Canon 915 is not to be “used.” It is to be obeyed. Denial of Communion is not a penalty. It is not something a bishop or pastor MAY do. It is a canon they MUST obey. To disobey Canon 915 is ALWAYS GRAVE MATTER, because it is always a cause of grave scandal.

    That’s right. All but about ten bishops in the U.S. are habitually walking around obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin, because they refuse to obey Canon 915.

  8. ldunne says:

    Kaine is a quisling. Can. 915 should be applied.

    It will not be. Perhaps, the canon should be revised to allow for blustering and demurring, instead.

  9. JonPatrick says:

    In a sense this is nothing new because it goes back to the official ruling on contraception in 1968 by Pope Paul VI (Humanae Vitae) where the Church’s official policy was that artificial contraception was sinful but looked the other way in practice. This was the fundamental shift in society (separation of sex and procreation) that once established led to the other changes – no fault divorce, cohabitation, open same sex relationships and the promotion of the latter to “marriages”, as Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae. This separation of doctrine and pastoral practice has been going on for a long time.

  10. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    The problem with using rhetorical questions to drive one’s point(s) is pretty obvious in this piece. What, exactly, is Douthat saying?

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    I think what Douhat is trying to say is that we have a Pope who is basically saying, “Keep on moving along folks. Nothing to see here. move along.”

    But we do know (instinctively) that something is happening here.

  12. norancor says:


    From Catholic Answers:

    “Sins against the Holy Spirit are mortal sins that harden a soul by its rejection of the Holy Spirit. Six sins are in this category. They are despair, presumption, envy, obstinacy in sin, final impenitence, and deliberate resistance to the known truth.”

    Let’s apply this basis precept to the situation at hand. There are now Catholics publicly and plainly advocating for the adoption of the moral scheme of oikonomia to justify bishops and priests being told to allow divorced and “remarried” Catholics to go to Confession and receive Communion.

    This ongoing, intentional act of the will has the following dimensions:

    1. They are encouraging, or at least acknowledging, an air of despair of the state in life for those who have civilly divorced and remarried, as if it were the Church’s fault that they could not received Communion.
    2. They now have a willingness to presume forgiveness of the sin of adultery for those Catholics who have “remarried” civilly.
    3. They are encouraging the harboring of envy by adulterers for those who can receive Communion in a state of grace.
    4. This idea of oikonomia will support the divorced and remarried so that they remain obstinate in their sin.
    5. In committing to this oikonomia shell game, adulterers can ignore their adulterous lives and so live out a life of sin leading to dying impenitent.
    6. Collectively, these actions on the part of Catholic priests, bishops, and laity… show a clear, obdurate, and deliberate resistant to the known truth. The teaching on marriage is clear and present in the Deposit of Faith from the words of Our Lord in Scripture and the martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist and countless other Saints, all the way down to its reiteration of dogma in Familiaris Consortio by Pope Saint John Paul II.

    Christ is the Divine Logos – the Embodiment of Truth Itself. Impugning the known Truth is impugning Him – Personally. No Catholic can be complicit in such behavior, otherwise we become accomplices to these people’s words and actions. They have already become accomplices to the sins of adulterers, in all nine ways:

    1. Counsel: Giving advice or direction to the evil-doer;
    2. Command: Ordering or inducing another to commit sin;
    3. Consent: approving of the sin, before or after its act;
    4. Provocation: Inciting or urging one to commit sin;
    5. Praise or flattery: Inciting or urging one to commit sin by praise;
    6. Concealment: helping one to commit sin by offering to conceal the crime;
    7. Partnership: Sharing the fruits of another’s sin;
    8. Silence: Not speaking out when we should, or not acting to prevent sin when obliged;
    9. Defending evil: Attempting to justify the evil actions of others.

    The most noxious heresy embedded in Modernism is the idea that dogma and the Deposit of Faith can be “unmade” by interpretation or by applying an erroneous idea that truth is relative to time and place, and thus changeable. This intent to elaborate on and modify the Deposit of Faith, even on a single point, COMPLETELY UNMAKES the ENTIRE Deposit of Faith, which is a reflection of Christ, Who is Truth. Why? Once a single point – any jot or tittle – of Christian doctrine is allowed to be denied by reinterpretation, then there are NO points of doctrine that can be believed. Every point of doctrine becomes logically subject to invalid and immoral reinterpretation in a manner which violates the principles laid down by Bl. John Henry Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.

    Such actions by Catholics make them guilty of DE FACTO heresy because their actions denote their beliefs. It is not necessary to explicitly deny the antecedent principle if you deny that principle explicitly with your daily practice. How you live, is how you believe, and unfortunately, how you pray, or don’t pray as the case may be.

    The doctrines on marriage have already been settled and can never be reformed.

    Roma IAM locuta est. Causa IAM finita est.

  13. gloriamary says:

    What I don’t understand is WHY the Pope and some Bishops are so intent on admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion. Meaning no disrespect, is it that they want to appear merciful? That they want their own way? Is it diabolical disorientation? I am seriously trying to understand. To put it bluntly, what is in it for them?

  14. Charles E Flynn says:

    There are people on the left who are deeply offended, to the core of their being, by the idea that anything that has been handed down to us, including the Deposit of the Faith, is beyond human manipulation, preferably by people just like themselves.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear gloriamary,

    well, all bubble talk set aside, what I think they are actually driving at (adding the precision for them) is the Catholic principle of “non datur perplexitas”, there in any moral choice whatsoever, and no matter what a person may have done to bring herself into a situation, at least one way to choose that does not commit sin. (So far so right.)

    So now, they think people may be in a situation where they the demand to break the new partnership is too hard to be obligatory, or even (they might perhaps think) such a course would be positively sinful (on account of family obligations), and brother-sister-relationship not an option (especially given that there is a third party here that will have to agree to it).

    To admit them to Holy Communion just happens to be the thing that expresses what they intend to express, “your situation may not be ideal, but God is not going to throw you in Hell for it”, which is the actual issue here.

    Or to put it shortly: it is not mercy (properly speaking). Of course not: mercy is about welcomin a repentant sinner home. It has no diabolical intention. It is not even rebellion (there have been rebellious undertones in that debate, but they are not the core of the issue).

    It is plainly a dispute in good old casuistry (though they don’t like the term) about the moral qualities or disqualities of certain acts. With some side-issue about how much of Church law is changeable and how much isn’t*.

    (Hence the wonder about how strict they are in other issues – say, about the refusal of some to Contribute to a comfortable Church upkeep – is not, if we look at it closely, justified. They are strict, more strict perhaps than old-fashioned Confessors, ifthey actually do think someone does know or must know the obvious just thing to do and is so stubborn not to do it, or so stupid not to see it. Not so here.)

    [*I don’t think any Catholic in his right mind would argue that a mortal sinner, absent the current Church law forbidding it, might approach Holy Communion; but whether the responsible authorities in the Church could not change the Church’s law to assume such-and-such people to be mortal sinners regardless whether they are or not (which is precisely the point of can. 915)… that is actually a good deal more debatable.]

    One thing that I find especially curious: all of them, and many of their argumentative opponents, don’t question the axiom “if we can let’s do it”, or resp. “if we could, we’d go ahead at high speed to do it, but alas we can’t”. On the other hand, isn’t it possible that it is good that people who, after a failed marriage, console themselves with an illegal one, should be deprived of another (far higher) consolation that those sticking to their marriage bond get?

  16. stuartal79 says:

    Can someone please explain what Mr. Thompson means when he refers to Cardinal Nichols as “papolator” ?

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