You have to pay attention to language, especially in the hands of libs. They twist and they turn. They set you up with implicit premises which you might breeze right by. They lead you astray and into the dark places where mortal sin lurks.
A few days ago a concerned friend sent me from the English language weekly of L’Osservatore Romano (which happily almost no one reads anymore) a piece by Fr. Gerald J. Bednar of the Diocese of Cleveland about “Mercy and law in ‘Amoris Laetitia’. I wrote a draft post about it at the moment, and then said, “Nahhh… no one will read that. It’s too long for most people and – hey! – it in English L’Osservatore!”
However, it has returned to my mail box.
The problem with correcting bad texts is that you have to write ten times as much as the bad stuff to do it. Hence, I will limit myself to pointing out a few serious problems with Bednar’s offering. After that, you can do your own work pretty easily… if you care to look at it more.
It’s mostly blah blah, but it is insidious if you are not paying attention. He bumps along, recycling clichés, and then we find the phrase:
“mercy listens to the voice of Jesus”
He places law, on one side, and “the voice of Jesus”, way on the other side of the tennis court. See what he’s doing?
I am going to move a little fast here (time presses me) and this will be clunky, but you will quickly see what the problem is.
Bednar describes a man who leaves his wife, “obtains a civil divorce and marries another.”
No. He does not marry another. He does something civilly called marriage, but it isn’t really marriage. There dire consequences for Catholic theology and, frankly, truth and common sense, if we accept his premise. Let’s see some of his work, with my emphases and comments. He is talking about a divorced and “married” guy…
He admits his sin, and seeks pardon and forgiveness. What does conversion require of him? Must he leave his second wife [HUH? What’s a “second wife”, if the first and real wife is alive?] and their children to return to his first wife? What if his first wife has remarried? [Ummm. Same problem.] Is there no way for the repentant husband to stay in the second “marriage” and still receive Communion? [YES! There is a way. He can “stay” with her and the kids (other than those he had with his wife) as brother and sister, remoto scandalo. Also, let’s ask: must be amend his life or not?]
He goes on… watch the language…
The traditional response [Blow all that dust off! After all Familiaris consortio 84 is over 30 years old.] to this unfortunate circumstance requires him and his second wife [There it is again. No. The second woman is not his wife. NB: If she truly is his “second wife”, as he says, then there remain only two possibilities: either 1) there is no such thing as indissoluble marriage, or 2) he can be married to two wives simultaneously, which is polygamy. So, Fr. Bednar, is this guy he married to two women simultaneously?] to live in a “brother- sister” relationship — denying to each other [?!?] normal conjugal relations. [Ummm… “conjugal” is going to involve being “married”. Right?] Some circumstances may indeed call for such an arrangement. Some may not. Some couples may want their family [wait… they are not married, so how are we defining a Christian family now?] to continue to grow, and may recoil at the very idea of simulating the sacrament. [They ARE simulating matrimony! And he is saying that living as brother and sisters is pretending to be married. Good grief.] Can nothing be done?
Bednar seems to want the civil marriage to have the same effect as sacramental marriage.
Along the way he throws in some stuff about a “Spirit-guided institution” which we are to link that to “voice of Jesus” which he started with.
He seems to argue that Jesus and the Spirit want us to ignore what Jesus said.
There is in his piece some discussion of the Pauline and Petrine Privileges. He seems to be saying that if there can be such Privileges, well then, marriages are perhaps not so easy to define as indissoluble. After all… its the voice of Jesus in Spirit filled institution. Right?
Both privileges are not so much commentaries on the indissolubility of marriage as they are affirmations of the centrality of mercy.
The problem with his argument is that both of those Privileges concern a good even higher, more fundamental than marriage. The real point of the Pauline and Petrine Privileges is not “mercy”, but rather foundational importance of baptism and salvation. The Privileges are about the Faith.
No one is saying that Francis is trying to make a new doctrine. They are concerned that AL gives the impression of denying doctrines that cannot be denied, i.e., as the indissolubility of marriage and the necessity of Communion in grace and the imposes of give absolution to unrepentant sinners. Denying the voice of Jesus, rather than listening for it.
Along the say Bedmar tries to argue that relaxing Sabbath laws shows that Jesus is merciful and, if he is merciful, marriage laws can also be relaxed. The problem with claim is that Jesus upheld Sabbath laws but rejected interpretations of the laws.
“The issue is not whether divorce is permissible. Clearly it is not. The issue is whether a second marriage [No!]must be characterized continuously as adultery. That precise question has not been addressed before, not even in Familiaris Consortio. [YES. It has been. It is adultery. Otherwise, why must they live as brother and sister. Having sex would make it adultery.] Pope Francis shows mercy to those who come to realize all too late that their actions have offended the moral order. [Which doesn’t change the fact that they offended the moral order and are still offending the moral order!] After they confess their sin, [with a firm purpose of amendment of the sinful lives?] must they settle only for a simulated marriage? [No! 1) They aren’t being forced. 2) They are not married!] If there is no reconciliation, as years pass, the situation of the parties may change. [Their “situation”?] Mercy may call for leaving the second marriage in place. [There it is AGAIN. Some Orthodox think that marriages die even though the spouse didn’t die. THAT is NOT Catholic teaching and Pope Francis can’t make it Catholic theologian. This could be admission of Orthodoxy through the back door]
He goes on to talk about “opponents” and “rules”. Get it? He leaves out the part that the “rule” came from the Lord.
Folks, again, this is a little shotgunned, but you get the idea.
The main things to take away are these.
You can’t just invoke “the voice of Jesus” and “Spirit filled” and get away with illogical hogwash.
You must use language precisely. We have to talk about the civilly remarried. Without that “civilly” we get into huge trouble. What he wrote, taken at face value, assuming that he is fairly intelligent and means what he wrote, leads to two possible outcomes.
If some divorced guy was truly married to his first wife, and then goes out and marries a second wife, and you give that guy and his second “wife” the sacraments without they have a firm purpose of amendment then the consequence is that there is either 1) no indissoluble marriage and/or 2) we now have recognized polygamy.
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