Hitchens: We were told not to worry.

At First Things, Dan Hitchens nailed it.  Look at this.

When communion for the remarried was reintroduced into Catholic discussion a few years ago, we were informed that it was a “pastoral” and “merciful” initiative. Those of us who pointed out that the Church had condemned the idea were told not to worry. Doctrine would be untouched, it was said. The question was merely how to apply the unchanged teaching to a diversity of circumstances.

But as the proposal slowly spreads, and as Rome wavers, it is increasingly clear that the abandonment of traditional practice will only create more suffering and confusion. In trying to get round the Church’s teaching, bishops and theologians are inventing a new set of restrictions, [NB] whose consequences are harsher than anything that the most rigidly judgmental traditionalist could dream up.

Committing adulterous sex bars one from the sacraments: So Catholics have believed for the last two thousand years. To skirt this doctrine, it has become necessary to distinguish fit adulterers from unfit ones. The fit ones, by various forms of “discernment,” will be encouraged to take communion and also commit adultery. The unfit ones, also by a process of “discernment,” will be barred from communion.


Well done.

You might remember that, back when the Kasper Proposal was introduced even before the first disastrous Synod on the Family, à la Kasper I dubbed that “discernment/fitness” outcome as

“Tolerated But Not Accepted”.

Hitchens refers to harshness.

The condescending Kasperite Solution creates another class of sinner in the Church.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. PTK_70 says:

    Not a rhetorical question: who in a position of authority has literally said that adulterers may be admitted to Holy Communion?

    Not everyone who can be lumped into the “divorced and remarried” category is ipso facto an adulterer. This really depends on the validity of the first nuptial arrangement, no? Marriage tribunals have had (still have) the task of declaring this or that contested marriage to be null, i.e., not a marriage at all. Now with Amoris (so it would seem to this opinionator with a smartphone), a door has been opened to another way: a low-cost, no-frills, in-house discernment of the validity of a previous nuptial arrangement. Under the guidance of a priest-confessor, you more or less discern for yourself whether the previous marriage was valid or not.

  2. Cafea Fruor says:

    The fit ones, by various forms of “discernment,” will be encouraged to take communion and also commit adultery.

    Funny, I always thought the most fundamental rule of discernment was to do nothing against the teaching or authority of the Church.

  3. pseudomodo says:

    I pray that we have not created another category of Bishop whose authority is “Acknowledged But Ignored”.

  4. tho says:

    There was a time when the Baltimore Catechism answered all of our questions. Since VII you have to have a canon lawyer on speed dial.

  5. Sawyer says:

    I think what’s behind much of this is a creeping belief in universal salvation. If everyone is saved and it’s just a matter of what degree of beatitude someone will enjoy in heaven, then earthly behavior and sin can’t jeopardize salvation. Therefore mortal sin isn’t a concern, people who insist on upholding universal moral norms regarding grave sin are considered rigorists, adultery and other grave sins (soon to be officially pastorally accompanied and tolerated) aren’t a big deal, and it’s not possible to receive Communion unworthily. If you consider that the people behind writing and interpreting and applying Amoris laetitia might believe in universal salvation, then everything they advocate, criticize and promote makes sense because, in their view, earthly behavior doesn’t ultimately mean all that much in terms of eternal consequences.

    Conflict arises from trying to maintain the concept of mortal sin, hence distinguishing between “fit adulterers and unfit ones”. Do away with mortal sin, which seems to be something that is implicitly advocated by the pro-Amoris crowd, and the conflict vanishes. But you logically can’t do away with mortal sin unless you first believe in universal salvation.

  6. Catechism says:

    I speak as one who has been on both sides of this issue. I had a very pastoral Irish priest who told me not to bother with an annulment petition for my previous marriage and that I was welcome to receive communion. I was happy to hear that and after all, a priest had told me I was good to go, right? Well, a few years later on a retreat, I ran into a priest in the confessional who wouldn’t give me absolution because I was divorced and remarried. How dare he was my first thought. His strong (and correct) stand in that confessional hit me like a punch to the throat. I ended up submitting my annulment petition to the tribunal a month later. I was very nervous…what if they told me that my first marriage was still valid? What I would do at that point? Well, I had to make the decision to surrender to the will of the Lord. I received my declaration of nullity and had my subsequent marriage convalidated. What a feeling! Since then, my wife and I now have five children and strive to follow the teachings of the Lord and His church AT ALL TIMES. I realized that if the Lord isn’t the Lord of your marriage, then he isn’t really the Lord of anything in your life. Thank God for strong priests who preach the truth. Go to confession! I am a better man, father and husband for it.

  7. teomatteo says:

    “…the Church had condemned the idea were told not to worry. Doctrine would be untouched,”
    Right. That line of Cattle Krud was similar to the line just a few years ago re: SSA disordered behavior, “we just want to do what we want in our bedrooms and not have anyone tell us what is right or wrong. That is all we want” .
    Liars both.

  8. Aquinas Gal says:

    The first rule of discernment is that we can never discern whether or not to commit a sin. Sin is never an option.

  9. Nan says:

    So nice to be in a parish with a priest who knows, and tells us, that he’s on the hook for our salvation.

  10. george says:

    “Not a rhetorical question: who in a position of authority has literally said that adulterers may be admitted to Holy Communion?”

    All those prelates who say that those who have not had their first marriages found invalid by a tribunal, yet are married and having marital relations, may yet receive Christ in the Eucharist.

    “Not everyone who can be lumped into the “divorced and remarried” category is ipso facto an adulterer.”

    You are correct, technically. However, the discussion isn’t really about those who are “divorced and remarried,” yet have had their initial “marriage” found to be invalid. Those are not “remarried” but are then simply “married.” The discussion is about those who have no declaration that their first marriage was invalid but contracted another “marriage” anyhow. They are in an objective state of adultery.

    “Under the guidance of a priest-confessor, you more or less discern for yourself whether the previous marriage was valid or not.”

    The initial marriage was either valid or it was not. There isn’t any “discerning,” only “determining.” It is not for the sinner and his/her confessor to determine the state of the initial marriage. Besides, marriage is a public statement. It must be judged valid or invalid publicly.

  11. Fallibilissimo says:

    The idea of creating two classes of sinners can be a real consequence of this recent allowance. However, the solution could be to simply level the playing field and admit more people in similar circumstances to receive Holy Communion. If that’s the primary concern, then that would be the logical solution.
    Rather than focusing on objective acts, whether or not we are aware of having committed grave (matter) sin, the discipline of the Church can shift to one that focuses more on the subjective state of the soul. I must admit, it does seem to resonate with my reading of what St Paul says in Corinthians.
    My guess is that this isn’t really the concern we have about the disciplinary innovations of AL. The real concerns are more likely:
    -it can readily be understood as a change in doctrine
    -it rattles the faith of people who were accustomed to a mode of doing things, which informed their belief (boy that sounds familiar; lex oran….)
    -it will weaken the resolve of those who wanted a more stealy resolve against the licentious ways of our days regarding sexual morality
    -many do not trust the state of priesthood to provide orthodox and solid council in the “internal forum” which can seriously harm the soul of the faithful.

    And finally, the one that concerns me the most: if this shift to the subjective occurs, it may give the impression that sinful behaviour is acceptable and in line with the moral order. I’m genuinely worried about the upbringing of children here, particularly when one considers the near omnipresent topics of homosexuality and gender theory that have taken the western world’s attention with the speed of lightning. As same-sex couples (and other non-conventional couples) are consistently being made as if living an analogous relationship to actual marriage (an erroneous impression), nothing in the logic of emphasizing the subjective over the objective, precludes some same-sex partners in an active sexual relationship from receiving communion. In fact, it isn’t to be excluded, as a mere hypothesis, that someone in an active homosexual relationship could possibly be in a state of grace. Right? In fact, I can imagine some cases where that may just be the fact. At any rate, how could the Church possibly monitor and evaluate the quality of the council given in these “internal forums”? At this point I’m not even primarily concerned with the members of the same sex couple in question. I am however horrified that these relationships which are harmful to their “adoptive children” will become accepted and encouraged. I’m already seeing how something of this spirit is being accepted in Catholic circles and it is gravely mistaken, though I have no doubt it comes from a place of understanding and compassion. But too much is at stake. Quite frankly, my own trust with authorities has been shaken over the years. We are all called to obey and obey we must, but it’s hard to trust some people to actually have good interests in mind. I trust and like Pope Francis and I assume I may differ with many who have lost trust in him and who have grown to dislike him. I’m saddened that this is a reality today and I would always invite everyone to look at this man’s heart with fresh eyes. I think, yes particularly in the traditonailist press, he’s been given a hard deal. However, though I trust him, I genuinely don’t know if I trust others as much as he does.

  12. TonyO says:

    Now with Amoris (so it would seem to this opinionator with a smartphone), a door has been opened to another way: a low-cost, no-frills, in-house discernment of the validity of a previous nuptial arrangement.

    PTK, the line of attack goes much, much farther than “I believe my first marriage is null”. AL will be applied to people who know darn well the first is valid – all they have to do is say “but I have discerned that in my circumstances it is better for me to sin. ” And for gays in homosexual sex, and for those never married who are living together in sin, etc. The outer reaches of interpretations of AL make it no longer necessary to pretend that your behavior isn’t against the “norms”, all you have to say is that even so, that behavior is your “generous” response to God and what He asks of you “right now”.

  13. iamlucky13 says:

    “If the Lord does not show signs contrary to the decision taken, then, with freedom, accept it.”

    Fr. James Martin had rather dismissive words for this kind of discernment in response to Fr. Thomas Weinandy believing he was called to write an open letter to Pope Francis. Others (whose writings often serve a piscatorial purpose), had more inflammatory comments, but this is what Fr. Martin said:

    “If one’s idea of discernment is seeking signs like this, then why would one trust, say, a divorced and remarried Catholic to consult his or her conscience about whether it is permissible to receive Communion? It is no wonder that discernment seems so arbitrary to some people. And so frightening.

    Discernment for Francis is not about seeking signs. Even Jesus opposed this (Jn 4:48). Indeed, this is one of the first hazardous practices one is trained to spot as a spiritual director, because it comes dangerously close to superstition, magic or divination.”

    I therefore expect Fr. Martin will write a similar article opposing the Braga proposal.

  14. JustaSinner says:

    I always thought the Devil would come as the leader of legions of lawyers!

  15. PTK_70 says:

    @george and TonyO….Not a point by point response, but rather some items which underlie my earlier post.

    Until someone in authority says exactly (or near-exactly) this: “Adulterers are welcome to receive Holy Communion”, I am going with the contrary (i.e. “adulterers are NOT welcome to receive Holy Communion”) as a hermeneutical key to understanding Amoris.

    Of course, before Amoris, the Church, by standard practice, reserved the determination of the validity of a marriage to a tribunal. What I am suggesting is that Amoris has – in a roundabout way – extended the privilege of discerning and determining the validity of a prior nuptial arrangement to the penitent faithful and his/her priest-confessor. Saying that, I refrain from passing judgment on the prudence of such an approach. However, when your starting point is the presumption that over half of Catholic marriages are not valid, this approach makes more sense. (Imagine the resources that would have to be expended to scrutinize umpteen million marriages worldwide.)

  16. David says:

    Someone above said the current crisis is encouraging belief in universal salvation. I would put it another way — it is encouraging disbelief in the existence of Hell. Can we really ask an intelligent person to believe that in a major question of Catholic morality someone ended up in Hell in 1952 for something that is not a mortal sin any more in 2018?

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