The other day at Crux there was a piece by Fr. Paul Keller about a theoretical (Deo gratias) case study in which the writer – basing himself on the objectively unclear notions of Amoris laetitia Chapter 8 – figures out how to give Holy Communion to a woman living in a publicly known permanent state of adultery. The piece is characterized more by probably well-intentioned sentimentality than reason and knowledge of the Church’s law and perennial teaching.
Keller’s piece once again raised in my mind the question of why the Knights of Columbus are bank rolling Crux.
Enter Ed Peters at his splendid blog In The Light Of The Law. Peters pull Keller’s offering to pieces and exposes the errors.
Read the Crux piece first, keeping in mind that this is what we are going to hear a lot more of in the future. Then read Peters’ piece, keeping in mind that this is what we ought to be hearing a lot more of in the future.
Here is a key bit:
Amoris assumes, without ever quite stating it, that individual consciences (which, yes, can be very complex, and often deal with hard cases, and are never fully knowable to another, and might be only partly informed, and so on, and so on), are the final arbiter of whether a would-be communicant must be given the sacrament, as if only Canon 916 (which most people would recognize as being the canon that looks at conscience) were on the books, and by which canon one could, in some hypothetical case, see an objectively grave sinner approaching for holy Communion without that act itself being sinful, while Canon 915, meanwhile, which requires minsters to make a distribution decision in accord with objective criteria, simply does not exist.
The pervasive and steadfast refusal of nearly all “Amoris supporters” (I dislike the term but it saves time) to face squarely the ancient tradition behind and unambiguous rule of Canon 915 is what dooms virtually all defenses of Amoris so far to irrelevance at best and to pastoral and even doctrinal disasters at worst.
However, there is something buried in Peters’ presentation which all confessors (i.e., priests with the faculties to receive sacramental confessions) should understand.
One of the worst sins/crimes a priest can commit is that of solicitation in the context of confession of sins against the Sixth Commandment. Can. 1387. says: “A priest who in the act, on the occasion, or under the pretext of confession solicits a penitent to sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is to be punished, according to the gravity of the delict, by suspension, prohibitions, and privations; in graver cases he is to be dismissed from the clerical state.” Pretty serious, right?
I strongly suspect that most confessors who read that canon, when they were taught about that canon way back when, assume that it means solicitation for themselves. However, the canon is not limited to themselves. It means solicitation – period. That means that if the confessor recommends, condones, approves, etc., sins by the penitent against the Sixth Commandment with anyone (including with the civil spouse with whom the penitent lives in adultery), then that confessor is guilty of the delict described in can. 1387!
Fathers, did you get that? More HERE.
A compounding of the mischief is envisioned in a set of reasonable-sounding hypotheticals posited in a post by Phil Lawler this morning at Catholic Culture.
We must pray hard, I think, for I can’t imagine anything short of a miracle that will repair the wreckage to sacramental discipline that Amoris Laetitia has wrought. No amount of denial or selective interpretation is going to put the genie back into the bottle.
How could such a thing even be proved? It is confession after all, and no one is there to testify except for the one who was confessing, and that doesn’t seem like enough proof to discipline a priest. Right?
It often seems to me that we spend a lot of time stressing the importance of a well formed conscience and asserting its primacy. But I’ve yet to hear a bishop, pastor, or theologian address the common misconceptions about what a conscience is or even offer a competing definition. Article 6 of Part 3 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1776 and onward) provides a general definition, but the rhetoric necessary for our specific time and situation still needs to be applied.
Bl. Cardinal Newman, who is quoted by the Catechism on the subject of conscience, offers what is perhaps the best explanation of what the conscience is versus what it is not, as well as how it is to be exercised versus how it is not to be exercised. The downside to his writings, however, is that their language and rhetoric will not likely be accessible to the average person. But they may be of great use in crafting the rhetoric we need here and now. Chapter 5 of Newman’s “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk” and Sermon 5 from “Sermons Preached on Various Occasions” contain the bulk of his writings on the subject. Both can be accessed at http://www.newmanreader.org
Keller states that one of the reasons that Irma is not bound by her previous marriage is that she was at the time of her marriage just a “cultural Catholic.” Isn’t that what the modern Church preaches and encourages us to be? Cultural Catholics That the Church can be changed and adjusted to account for every cultural situation and now it seems it can be chanced and adjusted to personal conscience as well.
We have lost sight that the primary purpose of the Church is the salvation of souls. To lead people out of their objective sinfulness and to God the Father through God the Son. The Eucharist is the “source and the summit” of our Catholic faith. We strive to get to it, I don’t know of any hill or mountain that can be summited without some degree of effort, some trails are much harder than others. We have lost all sense of accountability and have no sense of the idea that God requires something from us. We are not on this earth for earthly comfort.
I don’t recall Christ ever teaching that we are all destined for comfort on this earth, for life without difficulty. That was not the example he set or asked us to live by. He taught that our greatest joy in life comes through doing the will of the Father. Not that the Father exists to bring us great joy in life. Have we lost sight of Heaven? Do we not believe it is real anymore? When the only pastoral approach held up by many priests is to accompany us to good feelings instead of bringing us on the path to discernment of what the Fathers wills for our life and get us to Heaven.
I agree with AL in this sense. We absolutely need to accompany people in the objective state of sin. We need to walk with them on a path and that path absolutely needs to lead to the sacraments. We can’t however as a Church move the sacraments further up the path to give the false idea of progress, in that case we will certainly lose our own soul, and possibly that of the person we meant to help as well.
When the rich man approached Jesus and Jesus asked him to give up all his possessions and to follow him, why did Jesus let the man leave sad? Why didn’t he say, “wait! I need to pastorally accompany you? come walk with me anyway, you have no accountability here.You don’t really have to do what I asked you to do if it is too hard. ”
Ask any missionary martyr. Many of whom died horribly painful deaths, and many who also watched others die horribly painful deaths on account of what they taught them. They understood that the mission was not primarily to bring comfort, food, supplies and good feelings to people (although that is very worthwhile) but primarily the mission is to get their souls to heaven. “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? ” (mt16) (it seems many would exchange it for a place in line about 3/4 through Mass)
This is the third temptation of Christ! To have and give earthly comfort to all the peoples of the earth, only ignore the will of the father! If Christ had wanted us to not suffer, to not have to worry about the difficulty of being divorced and civilly remarried he could have ended it then.
Sometimes we have to do what is difficult, like the possibility of loving and being married to someone that is to weak to live that same faithfulness, but once spouse’s sin can not authorize the other spouse’s. I pray that I will never be faced with that particular situation, I also pray that in all situations I will be granted the strength to set my own will aside and do what God is asking. And let’s all pray for those tempted with compromise.
The link to Dr. Peters’ blog post works but the link on his blog to the 2011 article in Homiletic and Pastoral Review does not go to the article. I think they have redone their website. I diligently looked for it in the archives but could not find it.
It sounds interesting. We were just talking about the priest’s sin of solicitation at Catechism class last night in another context.
So, would the priest who told my cousin, who was married TWICE outside the Church and hasn’t been to Mass regularly in over 40 years, that HE (the priest) wanted my cousin to go ahead and receive Holy Communion now that he is going back to Mass again, be guilty of solicitation as well, even if not in the context of the Sacrament of Penance?
This document opens up cans after cans of worms. I just can’t fathom this continuing without a “fraternal correction.”
I am going to make, and post, a PDF of the HPR article. Give me a couple days. Best, edp.
I read Fr. Paul Keller case study and this passage really bothered me:
Irma tells me, “For all these years at every Mass when it was time for communion, I have felt as if Jesus turned his back to me. Today, for the first time, I felt as if Jesus embraced me and told me that he loved me!”
Through all my struggles and sins in the past 12 years whenever I did not recieve communion at Mass I never once felt that Jesus was turning his back on me.
I generally appreciate Dr. Peters’ contributions, but in this case I am reminded of a phrase used by my high school (CSC) English teacher:
There comes a point at which erudition ipso facto becometh obfuscation.
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Lawler describes three priests whose counterparts most Catholics have encountered at one time or another. But how about hypothetical parishioners, A and B, both divorced, civilly remarried, for whatever reason don’t have annulments and wish to receive absolution and Holy Communion?
Pastor says to A: I appreciate that your first marriage was an impossible nightmare from which you had to remove yourself. Now you have found happiness. The new teaching of the church offers you compassion and accompaniment, not rules and judgment. We will move ahead as if your first marriage did not happen.
Same pastor says to B: You have told me that you engaged in an extramarital affair which led to your eventual divorce from you wife, leaving her to raise your children alone, and that you are withholding financial support to have more money for your new wife. While I have compassion for you and wish to help, I cannot condone that situation.
A and B meet in the church basement and compare notes, then talk to other parishioners – some of whom think A contributes more money than B.
Don’t worry, this will never happen because no pastor in his right mind would set himself up for it. Once A is approved, B comes with the package.
I personally wince every time a see the boilerplate in my parish bulletin where it says to marry at the church one must register nine months in advance. While I don’t know exactly what manner of catechism occurs during those nine months in this particular church, in others I understand it can be quite dreadful, including an instance in a neighboring archdiocese where engaged couples were invited during a Mass to stand and share with the others how they fell in love.
Since a sacramental marriage is dispensable and optional for A and B, if I were contemplating marriage, why not just ignore the nine months and drop into the courthouse for a ceremony that is simple and cheap? And I ask that seriously.
And there, my friends, is the inevitable application of Amoris Letetia.
I read Father Paul Keller’s essay which was filled with the sentimentality of “let’s feel sorry for Irma, but let’s ignore mean old drug addict gangster Francisco.” Then I read Dr. Peters’ frisk which was “so heartless and dispassionate and unkind and uncaring,” except it was Dr. Peters who wrote, “What if Francisco shows up one day, sober and repentant, willing to make amends and do the right thing?”
Yeah I paraphrase, because I identify with Francisco, being myself a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. In the end, it is Father Keller who is unmerciful and unkind, not Dr. Peters. And one last thing: thank God that my AA sponsor and his sponsor, a Franciscan priest and my priest confessor in early sobriety three decades ago, were NEVER the merciful and kind Father Keller. Otherwise, I would have been dead under a railroad bridge with a heroin needle in my veins. God, please save me from such mercy and kindness. (Sorry for the sarcasm – I can’t stand this dripping wet sentimentality that puts cocaine up the nose and heroin in the veins and booze down the gullet. Sex in adultery or drugs in the blood – it’s all equally addictive.)
Father what do you mean when you say “Keller’s piece once again raised in my mind the question of why the Knights of Columbus are bank rolling Crux.”
You don’t think the Knights should be bank rolling Crux?
I haven’t really been following Crux lately. I know there was some real junk on there several months ago before the Knights started funding it instead of the Globe, but hopefully it has improved.
Ed Peter’s arguments are excellent as always.
Maybe I missed it, but the priest in the hypothetical might be or become aware of the “irregular” nature of Irma’s marriage outside of the confessional simply because the wedding was outside the Church. Upon that alone, Irma’s situation quickly unravels. No convalidation is possible because Irma is simply already married regardless of any (flawed) rationalization on her part or that of her priest.
How convenient that the hypothetical case coincided exactly with the essay question.
Thank you Dr. Peters for clarity; seeing the errors is usually easy, untangling them in the half-briars not so easy.
Read the canon again. Contraception and sodomy are also sins against the Sixth Commandment. There’s a whole lot more solicitation going on than people realize.
I don’t understand people like Father Keller.
In his contrived scenario, the underlying question, and the first question, is whether the person involved, Irma, is married to the person she is presently having a sexual relationship with (purported husband #2).
If she is not married to him, yet they are engaging in sexual activity, then it is not possible for her to receive Holy Communion.
The Church states that she is not married to him; ergo, she cannot receive Holy Communion. Regarding the reception of Holy Communion, the analysis ends there.
Until the situation is somehow rectified, there can never be any other result that is in line with the teaching of Jesus Christ.
“…once again raised in my mind the question of why the Knights of Columbus are bank rolling Crux.”
Because the Knights of Columbus are just as corrupt as the rest of the Church in America, that is why.
When it comes down to it, most US bishops, Knights of Columbus, “Catholic” charities, “Catholic” relief services, etc., are mostly in “it” for the money – they may not want the money for themselves, but they want the praise from others and self-adulation that comes from re-distributing the money. And by “it” I mean “refugee” re-settlement and support for illegal immigrants (who trample on the dignity of the American citizen, I might add; illegal immigration is contrary to the social justice of the American citizen, whereas border walls, Muslim refugee bans, deportation, etc., are all charitable ways to support the dignity of the American citizen). Crux is merely a propaganda tool to gain support for Muslim refugees and illegal immigrants.
Before it was owned by Knights of Columbus, it was well-documented that Crux was merely a propaganda tool for the American Democrat Party (which planned on gaining more tyrannical power through trafficking Muslim “refugees” and Latino immigrants). Democrats know that 70% of “Catholic” Latinos vote in favor of the tyranny (and other grave evils – see: Democrat Party believes trafficking of aborted-baby-body-parts is ethical) of the American Democrat party, while 80% of Muslims vote in favor of the same. Crux was a tool to boost support among “Catholics” for the Democrat Party.
Knights of Columbus probably recognized the opportunity to continue the propaganda of the American Democrat Party’s support for Islam and trafficking of migrants, and thus, they bankroll the American Democrat Party’s pet propaganda wing.
Of course, those groups are engaging in a form of human trafficking – using refugees and migrants for profit (see: refugee re-settlement is multimillion dollar industry for USCCB, charitable groups), job security, future votes for the Democrat Party, self-adulation, praise from others at cocktail parties…I mean the USCCB’s quarterly meetings… etc. – which is gravely evil.
Indeed, the “lovers-of-money” are not always wealthy people. It is often those who don’t have money (bishops, priests, “charitable” organizations, etc.) who are the Pharisees, and it is often those who don’t have money who turn the Church into a den of thieves and a money-changing operation (by collaborating with one of the most evil entities in history, the Democrat Party). Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver; Catholic Charities et. al. sell Him for a lot more, but they still sell Him nonetheless (yes, there is a grain of truth in their charitable work, but spreading Islam in America through refugee re-settlement is a grave evil; spreading Islam for money is selling Jesus to those who despise Him).
The Knights of Columbus might give lip service to things like religious freedom or abortion, but when it comes down to it, their obvious focus is aiding in the American Democrat Party’s human trafficking (under the guise of refugee re-settlement and amnesty). It would take more space to argue this, but the evidence is available.
When my wife and I attended pre-Cana, I asked the young associate priest-facilitator “has the Church’s stance on birth control changed?” He replied: “Follow your conscience”. So I did. I couldn’t imagine a loving God “forcing” me to have child after child. So after two, I “followed my conscience” and got a vasectomy.
Later, like Irma, I learned that the Church had NOT changed her teaching on birth control. I felt shame and remorse for having done that, violating God’s clear command, and closing myself off to whatever graces He might have had planned for me.
I repented, confessed and returned to the Church, but with the knowledge of having mutilated myself which I will count as my deepest regret.
Fathers, please, give your people the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. It might be painful for you, and for them. They might leave your parish and go to a more “progressive” priest. But you and Fr. Kumbaya will both be judged before the seat of Christ, and I want him to tell you: “Come in my good and faithful servant”.
The differences raised by Dr. Peters over Canon 915 seem to be based on different views of the facts of the case rather than differences over doctrine or canon law.
Fr. Keller wrote that he could not withold under 915 because he only knew of the woman’s prior marriage because she told him in Confession
To which Dr. Peters comments in a footnote:
I’m puzzled by Dr. Peters’ next-to-last sentence, which seems to suggest that witholding under 915 is required even if no one in the parish knows of the prior marriage (and the priest knows of it only under the seal of Confession?).
Dr. Peters last sentence appears to be based on Fr. Keller’s statement that when Irma arrived from El Salvador, several years ago, she lived with family members who were already in the USA. However, Fr. Keller didn’t mention where in the USA they live or that they are members of his parish. On the contrary, he said that, other than himself, “no one else in the parish” knows of Irma’s circumstances.
If there were a danger of scandal, he could tell them to go to a parish where they are not known to receive Communion – as he might to a couple living as brother and sister.
Pray fast, I don’t know if you are a Knight of Columbus. I am a 3rd degree, my council is fairly active in pro life causes and supporting clergy. While I am disappointed with crux and very rarely read Crux, I do read the Columbia. Columbia is the Knights of Columbus magazine, and every month, the articles are on board with the Church.
So true, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick (who commented “There’s a whole lot more solicitation going on than people realize.”)
A former “gay” man has constantly cautioned about priests who “accompany” practicing homosexuals by telling them to settle down with one man in a committed relationship…and come on back to the sacraments. Sounds like it could be solicitation to me.
Somehow I wonder if all this AL talk is mute anyway. Has anyone every actually heard of an annulment being denied? In this country anyway? Sure it might take a couple tries and 5 years but everyone I have ever known who has ever had the desire for one was eventually able to attain one.
AL is about laziness. Parishioners who are to lazy to go through the proper process, and Priests that are to lazy to truly accompany hard cases and desire an easy solution to keep them in the pew.
“Pastoral accompaniment” like Fr. Keller’s simply forgets the reality of grace and the need for prayer which both work to help penitents keep the commandments. Keeping the commandments is the ESSENTIAL perfection of charity, without which no one gets to heaven. The Council of Trent condemned the proposition that God commands the impossible:
CANON XVIII. If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.
Sess. VI, c. XI:
“… no one ought to make use of that rash saying, one prohibited by the Fathers under an anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able; whose commandments are not heavy; whose yoke is sweet and whose burthen light.”
Father Keller’s assessment admits mutually exclusive realities: 1) “Irma’s Christian commitment is evident…” and 2) that if Irma keeps the commandments, it “might endanger the faithfulness and the continuance of their relationship which would certainly not be for the good of their child”.
No doubt, her Christian commitment may require sacrifice and entail pain. Ask Jesus Crucified! But since when are sacrifice and pain harmful to souls committed to God?
This is one of the many dis-connects with ideas stemming from AL and Keller’s brand of accompaniment.
What is Carl Anderson up to?
Why did they adopt Crux?
Why is John Allen regarded as some jewel in Catholic journalism?
Why are they hermetically sealed? No comments allowed?
What a sad situation, if not a betrayal.
The weird thing about Ed Peters’s whole position here is exactly that it is so legal. [Hence, it is also PASTORAL.]
Which is to say, he consistently has posited Canon 915 as the barrier, even while admitting there are complicated cases of conscience in which 916 wouldn’t apply.
So, basically (correctly) disagreeing with the crowd whose argument seems to basically be “there’s no way such a person can be in a state of grace or think themselves so in good faith.”
But the thing is, canon 915 is just a canon, after all. Yes, Peters vaguely hints at the idea that it’s “rooted in doctrinal realities,” but that’s not quite the same as such a canonical regimen of communion-withholding being required by divine law in all its specifics.
It seems to me that if Canon 915 is all that’s standing in the way in Peters’s mind…then all it would take to satisfy him is if the Pope came out and officially legislated that a civil marriage or cohabitation are no longer to be canonically considered as sufficient to consider sexual sin (which in itself takes place in private, after all) “manifest” (at least when it comes to 915; I understand their are issues relating to presumption of sexual activity in annulment contexts which still might want to keep this standard in place). Or, more to the point, just change the canon such that priests are allowed or enjoined to defer to the forum of conscience as long as the situation is not well known in the parish, or as long as there is no formal excommunication, etc.
But somehow I doubt that would satisfy most of the objectors.
What we are experiencing at this moment is the work of four Popes.
In the Summer of 1968, when 52 diocesan and religious priests in the Archdiocese of Washington signed a declaration rejecting the teaching of Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle suspended them–including his own confessor.
I don’t know whether O’Boyle understood at the time that he was preventing the crime of solicitation, but he was publicly clear that he believed himself duty-bound to prevent false teaching.
Paul VI cut O’Boyle off at the knees, and no subsequent Pope has taken steps to prevent the appointment of dissenters to the episcopate.
Dan, Tribunals do give negative decisions. Many also quietly suggest to those that petitioner withdraw their case if the evidence for nullity is weak before the case ever goes to judgment. This is because once a case has been judged and given a negative, that ground can never be used again – and of course the Tribunal is examining the marriage on what would be the most likely ground. Weak cases are also rejected by the tribunal at the outset if there is no evidence or the marriage is manifestly valid. The “quietly withdrawn” cases and the “sent back before even getting processed” never appear anywhere, but it happens all the time. You don’t hear about negatives because people do not want to publicize that result – but negatives do happen.
The solution to so much of this is to encourage people to approach their diocesan tribunals. At least then there is an objective assessment of the marriage. And if nullity is determined, the fuzzy AZ problem disappears.
Why is this so complicated? These folks divorced, then eyes open, entered into what they knew to be against Church teaching. They know the two choices they now have. No amount of wishing it to be otherwise can change what Jesus taught, and Holy Mother Church will continue to teach and uphold that truth.
Great point about Cardinal O’Boyle – and Paul VI’s treatment of him – Fr. Fitzpatrick.
So much flows from what happened in that hour.
The problem is how she feels. Everyone else gets to do this and I can not. (To many people taking communion.) Does she understand that she is committing sin? If she did than the problem would not she can not receive communion, but that she is sinning. If he allows her to partake, then she will believe she is not sinning. If she is sinning and he allows her to partake he has added more sin and sinned himself by leading her down a road to sin more. She must understand this. She might feel bad now, but is it worth sinning more.
She also needs the knowledge of what happens if her husband shows up repentive. How would she feel then. The same goes for all those who decide to move on. What happens if that person decides to repent? Personally, I never thought about him. I think most people have forgotten about the “bad guy” of these stories. Are we, Christians all about forgiveness.
After a certain amount of time doesn’t he have to be declared dead? It would take time and not easy, but isn’t he probably dead?
With thanks and respect to Dr. Peters, I should like to submit, there is an Error 0 as well;
“Amoris Laetitia is a Legal Instrument”
In contrast to the Exhortation’s tendency to gloss over many points of Tradition and Magisterial precendent, the Exhortation does not pretend to establish new law nor abolish old. Treating it as if it did certainly does plenty discredit to what good it does contain.