Lets just call the proposed ‘pastoral exception’ what it is: vicious cruelty

March 17, 2014 § 42 Comments

61. However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their external affairs should be the occasion for a much more calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.”[48] — Pope Pius XI, Castii Connubii

There is lots of hubbub these days about making a possible “pastoral exception” that endorses[1] divorced and “remarried” Catholic couples persisting in their adulterous relationships but still receiving communion.  (Other Catholics who persist in adultery will presumably be left out of the pastoral exception).

I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome of the Extraordinary Synod itself or the Pope’s actions afterwards.  The Pontifical Commission on Birth Control recommended material heresy, but the end result was the affirmation of orthodoxy in the form of Humanae Vitae.  That kind of thing could happen again; or something else entirely unexpected.

But there isn’t anything inherently impossible about the Church doing something phenomenally unloving and harmful in its pastoral practice and discipline. Further undermining our public understanding of marriage would be incredibly cruel and vicious, especially toward people in very difficult situations who struggle daily to do the right thing.  Giving people an “easy way out” toward sacrilege and self-destruction is not merciful.  It is the opposite of mercy: it is a way of patting ourselves on the back about how wonderful we are as we march God’s children into the pits of Hell.

And the bishops who make that choice will ultimately pay for it.

——

[1] Receiving communion, for those who do not know, is on the “honor system”.  Nobody is going to check paperwork and make sure that everyone in the line is receiving properly.  So this is about what the Church officially approves and endorses as practice, not about relaxing the current tight security of the Communion line.

§ 42 Responses to Lets just call the proposed ‘pastoral exception’ what it is: vicious cruelty

  • peppermint says:

    what’s the point of remarriage? You’re already committing adultery; now you add in some blasphemy and confuse everyone about what the sacrament means.

    Divorce and remarriage is what lead to gay marriage. When people stopped thinking that marriage was about raising children, reinterpreting it as a sterile pledge between two people that really nobody else should care about, denying to gays what was permitted to 50-year-olds became empty bigotry.

    I used to think that gays and old divorced people should get married.

  • Zippy says:

    peppermint:
    The homosexual affinity of the subject, and its connection to patting ourselves on the back about how loving we are, are very real. This is not about getting the jackbooted thugs to stop patrolling the Communion line. It is about having unrepentant adulterers come strutting “out of the closet”, which is not good for anyone, and which is especially and acutely cruel to those who are struggling to do the right thing.

    A man struggling with homosexual tendencies or an ‘irregular’ couple struggling to do the right thing and live “as brother and sister” are already in an isolated Hell in modern society, clinging to the rock that is Church doctrine and the sacraments to keep from falling. This sort of proposed ‘pastoral exception’ yanks the rug out from under those very people, the ones most in need of the Church’s love and support, and subjects them to vicious and cruel torment unless and until they give in to evil.

    It is positively diabolical.

  • buckyinky says:

    Is there a reliable place to gain some basic knowledge about the explicit intent of the Synod? Part of my problem with the whole affair is being so ignorant about everything that I don’t know what is for certain on the bishops’ table for the Synod, what is only rumored to be, and what is definitely not going to be on it.

  • jf12 says:

    Re: honor system. It is my understanding that the ministers of the Eucharist are supposed to refuse communion to those whom they know for certain should not get it. Moreover the officiating priest of any mass and the pastor of the congregation are supposed to be watching over the souls of those in attendance and will be called to account (Hebrews 13:17).

  • Proph says:

    No, canon law allows pastors to refuse communion only to those who sins are “manifest, grave, and obstinate.” Manifest in the sense of public (so yes, adultery counts when it becomes a matter of public knowledge), grave as in the sense of “grave matter”, and obstinate in the sense of being persisted in even after the gravity of the situation is made clear to the sinner and they refuse to change course.

  • Zippy says:

    buckyinky:
    It is a strange situation. Some of the stuff about the ES has been taken down, including the open letter from the head of the CDF.

  • Zippy says:

    Proph:
    That’s what canon law allows, but I’ve never seen it actually happen even once. As a practical matter nobody will be refused unless they seek out being refused on purpose.

  • Mike T says:

    I’m feeling under the weather, so my reading comprehension may be a little off. So please tell me that that blog post “A plea for mercy” really is satire? I think I caught a few good suggestions it was from the wording, but with some Churchians it’s hard to tell because they’re so FUBAR.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Yes, Bonald is satirizing the ‘pastoral exception’ proposal in that post, pointing out that it selectively shows mercy to only one kind of unrepentant adulterer. Why shouldn’t men who unrepentantly keep a mistress on the side receive the same “mercy”?

  • St. Jerome wrote of his time that the whole world awoke and groaned to find itself Arian. I imagine that decades from now some saint will write of our time that the world awoke and groaned to find itself Modernist.

  • Proph says:

    I don’t see it happen either, but I dunno if it’s because of loose praxis or if it’s because, in all the (very few) cases where it’s applicable, the pastor has already asked the person not to present themselves for communion.

  • Zippy says:

    Proph:
    I am personally aware of times when it should have happened and did not — where folks in ‘irregular’ unions actually had to discover on their own that they should not be receiving Communion, despite receiving extensive counseling from priests on their ‘marriages’ who never mentioned the problem, even going to Confession, etc.

    I’ll emphasize again that the thing proposed is unspeakably cruel to everyone, and most especially to people who actually want to do what is right. It destroys the latter’s entire support system and makes a mockery of any attempt to take moral doctrine seriously. It functions as a terrible bait-and-switch. It is almost impossible to overstate how bad it is.

    But it is perfectly possible that it will be done, because casting it as ‘pastoral’ accommodation while formally (in the smallest print possible) affirming doctrine will be the escape hatch. It is already the de-facto practice in many places. They weren’t clever enough to try the ‘pastoral’ tactic with Humanae Vitae; now they have learned, and now the will to resist within the Church is much weaker.

    I am not personally aware of any times whatsoever that anyone has actually been denied Communion – even in the sense of being told that they should not approach, though I am sure that happens sometimes somewhere in the world – for being in an irregular union.

    This is, of course, just my limited personal experience.

  • Proph says:

    It’s a truly bad situation all around. And as Bonald’s most recent post at the Orthosphere demonstrates, there aren’t really any limits to “pastorality.” If we don’t die on this hill, we’ll be unlikely to die on the next one, when the costs are higher.

  • Chad says:

    The more I learn of Catholic political games the more I become convinced of one thing;

    It will be individual and family efforts to stay true that will right any wrongs at any point in church history. It will not be the hierarchy

  • Zippy, you say this in the original post, but I think it needs to be said again:

    Nothing has happened YET.

    Before we go crazy let’s wait and see what the conclusions of the Synod actually are.

    Time will tell, as always.

  • Zippy says:

    malcolmthecynic:
    While it is true that nothing has been resolved, it isn’t true that nothing has happened.

  • Mike T says:

    And what about the millions upon millions more whose adultery is merely of the heart in the form of a pornography addiction? It’s always seemed odd to me that church leaders often have a more sympathetic heart to the man who actually goes out and f#$%s a woman other than his wife but are quick to scold and denigrate a man who is at least able to keep it in his heart and pants. Not that pornography is right by any means, but it is a less serious situation, generally, than actualized adultery because it keeps the sin to one person and doesn’t expose a loved one to the real harms that tend to come with fornication (ex. gonorrhea which is now a few generations of microbial adaptation away from being impervious to every antibiotic mankind possesses).

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    I think the focus on the unrepentant adultery labelled “second marriages” arises from the fact that all of the consequences cannot be conjured away with a few Hail Mary’s. Modern Christians desperately want to believe that not only does Christ forgive their sins and win entry into Heaven, He also rescues everyone from the here-and-now consequences of their own actions. So to Catholics with this attitude “repentance” can never require more from us than saying a few prayers after Confession. Thinking otherwise is perceived as a kind of slander against Christ’s love and mercy.

    Unfortunately for the cult of no consequences, reality doesn’t work that way. No matter how sorry we are for what we have done, we cannot change what we have done. Murderers cannot bring their victims back to life, and validly married Christians cannot un-marry and have a do-over.

  • Mike T says:

    True enough. I was speaking to the tendency of preachers and priests to have a more sympathetic view toward “pure adultery” (adultery that doesn’t even try to mask itself) than they do to those with say, a problem with pornography. If I had to guess, it comes down to some form of saying the person is a loser who just sits in front of a computer fapping all day while the other guy is in some sort of relationship with real feelings, blah blah blah.

  • Wow, Kasper seems like one Hell of a piece of work.

  • Mike T:

    I think some of that clerical reluctance to condemn adulterous unions might be because of fear. The anullment mill in my diocese operates at a brisk pace, and priests are gun shy over possibly offending the folks who provide the parish with money and volunteer hours.

  • jf12 says:

    Keep in mind many of the biggest church schisms center around the issue of divorce. It should be something of a third rail.

  • jf12 says:

    How many annulments can one person get? What is the current record?

  • Mike T says:

    Beefy,

    Again, I’m referring to people who are just outright f#$%ing someone other than their spouse and not even pretending it’s a marriage. There seems to be more of a ZOMG TEH PR0nZ!!!!11! mentality about porn even of the Playboy and generic hardcore porn variety whereas adultery is treated with far less energy to scold, scold, scold.

    As I said, I’m not defending any of them. It just seems my observation that churches tend to treat discrete adultery as less worthy of denunciation from the pulpit and publications than pornography.

  • […] A plea for mercy for adulterers. Related: The cruelty of the proposed ‘pastoral exception.’ […]

  • jf12 says:

    Re: for the record. Famously, Frank Sinatra got his three annulments the hard way, i.e. calling in Italian mafia favors. More recently, famously Newt got his three annulments rubber-stamped in record time, at an undisclosed monetary cost, but Jane Swift as governor played major major hardball to get Chuck Hunt’s three annulments accomplished and it still took a while. The most annulments I can find for a woman, just googling, is two.

  • @jf12

    Theoretically, one can get as many annulments as often as they marry. If a baptized Catholic gets married by a justice of the peace then the marriage is invalid due to “lack of form,” which essentially means the Catholic spouse(s) weren’t married according to the norms of the Church. An annulment on those grounds is literally rubber stamped in most cases, no matter how long the couple were married or how many children there are.

  • […] But there isn’t anything inherently impossible about the Church doing something phenomenally unloving and harmful in its pastoral practice and discipline. Further undermining our public understanding of marriage would be incredibly cruel and vicious, especially toward people in very difficult situations who struggle daily to do the right thing. Giving people an “easy way out” toward sacrilege and self-destruction is not merciful. It is the opposite of mercy: it is a way of patting ourselves on the back about how wonderful we are as we march God’s children into the pits of Hell. […]

  • Scott W. says:

    Link to Dr. Peters worth reading: http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/lest-so-many-words-complicate-a-simple-question/

    And so one may ask a simple question: what do we suddenly know about marriage, human falleness, and the Eucharist that the Apostles, the Fathers, the Doctors, and the Saints did not know before us? What do we face for upholding one of the Lord’s hardest sayings that they did not face before us? If, as I suspect, the answer to both questions is “nothing” (or at least, nothing persuasive of, let alone compelling, change) by what authority do we consider so great a departure from the course so-long steered by the Church?

  • Zippy says:

    …by what authority do we consider so great a departure from the course so-long steered by the Church?

    Cruelty in the guise of mercy.

  • […] The homosexual affinity of the subject, and its connection to patting ourselves on the back about how loving we are, are very real. This is not about getting the jackbooted thugs to stop patrolling the Communion line. It is about having unrepentant adulterers come strutting “out of the closet”, which is not good for anyone, and which is especially and acutely cruel to those who are struggling to do the right thing. […]

  • Reblogged this on FideCogitActio : "Omnis per gratiam" fidescogitactio @ gmail . com and commented:
    God does not ask the impossible, though some of His children remain more enamored of the possible and pastoral than of the legitimate and logical.

  • […] my previous post I made the contention that Cardinal Kasper’s proposed ‘pastoral […]

  • Thank you for your clarity!

    You may find interesting that some of us are trying to invite the Church to uphold marriage long before a 2nd marriage occurs. The Church could instruct an abandoner of his or her obligation to reconcile the marriage and restore common conjugal life.

    An updated Vindicate Rights Petition is available from MarysAdvocates.org catalogue
    http://www.marysadvocates.org/shop/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=29792
    wherein the petition to the Bishop is now split into parts:

    Reconciliation
    Rights
    Separation Decree
    Initiate Process to Inflict Penalty
    Repair Material / Financial Damages
    Prevent Sacrilege and Scandal
    Request For Suspension Or Simultaneous Adjudication, Response To Accused-Spouse’s Filing For Decree Of Invalidity

    The multi-sectioned word.doc available as free download. The Petition to Bishop is 5th section

    Instructions (6 pages)
    General Facts and Circumstances That Will Prove the Allegations (6 pages)
    Wife’s Cover Letter to Bishop for Petition (5 pages)
    Husband’s Cover Letter to Bishop for Petition (5 pages)
    Petition to Bishop to Pursue Reconciliation, Separation, Penal Process, Denial of Holy Communion (5 pages)
    Historical Background of the Rights on Which the Petitioner Bases the Case (10 pages)

    I dated it March 19, Feast of St. Joseph !!

  • Andrew says:

    While broadly in agreement, I think there are some subtleties you are missing.

    (1) The NT teaches that divorce is (in the general case) adultery and thus sinful. As for marrying a divorcee They do not teach that it is invalid.

    (2) In at least 2 places (Matthew 5:32, possibly 1 Cor 7:15), the NT permits divorce as non-adulterous. Note that this is a divorce (early termination of marriage), not an annulment (which I believe is a declaration that they were never validly married?).

    (3) There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that remarriage after divorce is an invalid marriage, even if the circumstances are sinful.

    Given the above, what does it mean for a remarried divorcee to repent of their sin? Deut 24:1-4 proscribes a divorced wife returning to the original husband. While not necessarily the last word on the issue, this should steer us away from saying “divorce the current partner and go back” as a blanket rule. One does not repent of sin by committing further sin.

    Conversely, Jesus does not tell the woman at the well (of the five husbands, Jn 4) that she is now outside the kingdom. We need a pastoral response to divorce and remarriage that neither sanitises or sanctifies it nor treats it as unregenerable.

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew:
    I take it that you are Protestant.

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew:
    Apologies if my earlier smart phone reply was rather curt. But it isn’t really my intention here to get into the theology of marriage with Protestants.

    So I’ll just state the unreformable, infallible, doctrinal Catholic understanding:

    Marriage between baptized Christians is sacramental, so stuff about natural (non-sacramental) marriages between unbaptized people in the Old Testament doesn’t apply (Christ even says explicitly that he is overriding the law of Moses which allowed divorce). That leaves Matthew 19:9 as the “leg to stand on” in proposing that divorce and remarriage among baptized Christians (a.k.a. “believers” in the NT) is possible in some circumstances, and that leg is based on mistranslation and other lollard shenanigans. Matthew 19:9 was actually in the lectionary recently, and the priest read the clause that Protestants translate as “except for fornication” (or cognates) as “unless the marriage is invalid”.

    So sorry, a valid marriage between baptized Christians cannot be ended until death, period, no matter what, ever, end of story. And entering into a valid “new” marriage is not possible for a baptized Christian who is already married, period, no matter what, end of story. This is attested to by Scripture, by literally millennia of sacred tradition, and by numerous proclamations of the Magisterium over the history of the Church,

    If one or both partners in a marriage is not baptized it is a natural marriage not a sacramental marriage. The Church under the Pope (and only the Church under the Pope) can dissolve such marriages under certain conditions, but that is a red herring when the central issue is what pastoral policy ought to be for baptized Christians.

  • Andrew says:

    Trying to understand, not debate.

    So lets ignore people who divorce while Christian, and pick, say, the Samaritan woman mentioned above. She’s had 5 husbands, and is currently shacking up with a 6th man. She turns up and wants to become part of the church. Do you run some arbitrary heuristic to figure which of the six (or more) she is actually married to, or do you figure out some way to start again, without denying the trail of hurt she has left behind and will spend the rest of her life sorting out?

    (The situation gets even uglier if he/she has kids in the current “false” marriage, but not the “true” one)

    I realise there are theological parallels to the Sadducees’ 7x widow, but I’m more interested in how one deals with the pragmatics on the ground rather than trying to sort of which marriage is “real”.

    (And at the risk of being argumentative, I’ll note that there’s a world of theological difference between “divorce is impossible” and “divorce is (very) immoral” – the RC position seems to be that there’s no such thing as divorce, only adultery)

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew:

    So lets ignore people who divorce while Christian, …

    Let’s not, because that is precisely what is at issue with Cardinal Kasper’s proposed “Pastoral Exception”, the subject of the OP. It is also the only subject upon which I am equipped to comment intelligently.

    I haven’t addressed issues around merely natural marriages. I’ve not done due diligence on them so I lack the knowledge to even try to answer questions about them.

    In passing, perusing Denzinger for other reasons, I’ve encountered various items of interest. I quoted one of them in my post on Matthew 19:9 (link in previous comment), to the effect that when an unbaptized spouse abandons the baptized spouse the natural marriage may be ruled dissolved, in contrast to a marriage between two baptized persons which cannot be dissolved even by abandonment.

    But in general the various situations involving merely natural marriages (where at least one spouse was never baptized) is not something I’m equipped to discuss.

    the RC position seems to be that there’s no such thing as divorce [of validly married baptized Christians], only adultery

    As modified, the statement is correct.

  • Andrew says:

    Actually, I suspect the issues I raised are tangential to the situations you are thinking of. And it has to do with sacraments and ontology.

    As I understand it, RCs believe that properly performed sacraments (e.g. Mass, Baptism, Marriage) bring about ontological changes. Protestants see changes in status rather than ontology. So while there are pastoral issues with respect to converts with multiple partners or children from multiple couplings, none of these directly bear on the question of marriage (and eligibility or otherwise for Mass).

    I’d like still to hear your thoughts on how to deal with “blended families” in the context of the Church, but I admit it’s irrelevant to the issues you raised the OP.

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew:

    I’d like still to hear your thoughts on how to deal with “blended families” in the context of the Church, but I admit it’s irrelevant to the issues you raised the OP.

    I appreciate the interest and if I actually had any thoughts on that I’d share them, but it isn’t something I’ve spent any time researching or even thinking about much in an offhand way. If you are just looking for my personal dispositions on those issues, well, if I (Heaven forbid) were Pope I’d be inclined to offer a cloistered religious life as the right pastoral answer to many of those sorts of situations, and let any children be raised by convents of Sisters. But now we are just talking about my own uninformed natural inclinations, and I’m not sure how useful that is.

  • MarcusD says:

    http://arts.nationalpost.com/2014/03/26/conscious-uncoupling-isnt-just-a-paltrow-ism-its-a-five-week-program-gwyneth-and-chris-martins-split-method-explained/

    But not so fast: Under Paltrow’s post announcing the breakup, the actress has included some helpful information regarding conscious uncoupling which is, as it turns out, an actual separation method. According to Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami – longtime health and spiritual advisers to Paltrow – the process involves a reexamining of marriage and divorce itself.

    “To change the concept of divorce, we need to release the belief structures we have around marriage that create rigidity in our thought process,” the pair write on GOOP. “The belief structure is the all-or-nothing idea that when we marry, it’s for life. The truth is, the only thing any of us have is today. Beyond that, there are no guarantees.”

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