The pastoral road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops

July 25, 2014 § 17 Comments

27 Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 11:27

Participation in the sacraments while in rebellion against Church doctrine is very dangerous.

Someone who makes an invalid confession, by deliberately withholding explicit confession of acts which go against Church teaching or natural law, invalidates the confession and commits a sacrilege. Someone who receives the Eucharist unworthily commits sacrilege. Someone who attempts sacramental marriage while in rebellion against any of the essentials of sacramental marriage commits sacrilege, fails to actually marry, and instead creates a state of ongoing moral atrocity from which recovery becomes more difficult with each passing moment.

Formal excommunication is merciful, because it explicitly informs a person of the sacramental problem and its moral and spiritual gravity. Failure to do so trivializes sacramental irregularity. The alternative is to think of sacramental theology as a kind of bluff: the Church might formally say that we believe these things, that these things are the law as revealed by God Himself to His Church; but we don’t really believe them.

The problem with trying to put too large a gap between doctrinal belief and pastoral practice is that sane people pay more attention to what others do than to what they say.

The Catholic bishops have been teaching for decades that following written doctrines isn’t always required or just: that what is written should not be taken seriously when contrasted to the de-facto rules implied by action. For example although the explicit laws of the United States prohibit illegal immigration (which is what makes it illegal), as a de-facto matter illegal immigration has been encouraged and supported by the powers that be for decades. The explicit laws are a kind of bluff: our other actions demonstrate that we don’t really mean it, and immigrants can hardly be blamed for responding to what we do as opposed to what we say. It would be unjust to start enforcing the positive law as written against illegal immigrants because the positive law is a bluff, not meant to be taken seriously.

So if it is true that there are large numbers of invalid marriages among Catholics, that is just because those Catholics have taken to heart what the Bishops have been teaching. Their understanding of marriage has been formed by de-facto practice. They may (or may not) be aware of the explicit rules; but they’ve been taught not to take them seriously.

And whose doing is that?

§ 17 Responses to The pastoral road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops

  • donalgraeme says:

    Ezekiel 34:1-10 is also an appropriate verse in these circumstances. And then there is Matthew 23….

  • MarcusD says:

    “If people actually start getting excommunicated en masse as it ought to be, I’ll convert.”

  • Zippy says:

    MarcusD:
    I expect that there are a non-trivial number of people for whom that is true.

    There is a certain danger in the attitude though. If the reason for the attitude is because it would demonstrate that the Church takes its own doctrines seriously, that is a good reason. If the reason is because those rotten people would be getting what they deserve it would be spiritually unhealthy.

  • Ingemar says:

    Actually taking the Eucharist seriously would be akin to God whittling down Gideon’s army to a paltry 300. The catastrophic decline in numbers wouldn’t matter since those who remain would be the ones doing God’s work.

  • CJ says:

    Have you seen Ross Douthat’s article on this? I can’t link because NYT makes my browser crash (seriously) but he does a good job of analyzing the practical effects of the proposal.

    It reminds me of a sketch from Chapelle’s Show back when illegal music downloads were a bigger deal. The sketch had two music stores; one sign read “Legal and Costs Money” and had a few people outside. The other read “Illegal but Free” and of course, the line was around the block. Kasper is basically proposing to open the second store. I’m sure he’ll be wondering why the first has so little traffic.

  • pukeko60 says:

    I respect the theology of communion enough that I do not partake in a Roman Church because I am not Roman, but reformed: we disagree on this.
    But we are taught that the symbol of the table is there. Most of us sin. We need to confess: and it is wise to have a general confession just before the table lest we have not cleared the accounts today.

    Concerning your bishops and their error, may I remind you that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God?

  • […] Far better to reform. Do not be brainless. No not be swimming with them, or like them. It is time to separate ourselves from those of the left, before we find ourselves in some form of pastoral hell. […]

  • sunshinemary says:

    AG: If people actually start getting excommunicated en masse as it ought to be, I’ll convert.

    Zippy: I expect that there are a non-trivial number of people for whom that is true.

    Oh, yes. I’m with AG. I would reconvert and my husband would probably convert. There are aspects of Catholic theology that do not come from the Bible; to accept them, I have to accept that the leadership knows these things to be true. I may not be able to understand, but I can accept and obey. But why should I accept these things as true and obey men who give every indication of not believing – and by believing, I mean taking seriously and insisting that those whom they shepherd obey – those extra-scriptural components?

    So we remain Protestant.

  • MarcusD says:

    MarcusD:
    I expect that there are a non-trivial number of people for whom that is true.

    There is a certain danger in the attitude though. If the reason for the attitude is because it would demonstrate that the Church takes its own doctrines seriously, that is a good reason. If the reason is because those rotten people would be getting what they deserve it would be spiritually unhealthy.

    In my experience there are a noticeable number of people that hold the views of Aimless Gromar. In all cases they held to the former motivation – that of witnessing the Church take itself seriously. There are instances where the latter seems to also be true (e.g. towards priests who abused children).

    That said, there are probably an equal number who want permission/cover/justification from the Church to behave in any way they please (i.e. they’ll join the Church when it is ‘abolished’).

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I may not be able to understand

    Actually, you can.

    God didn’t create an irrational world, and Jesus left us a rational Church.

    It was, in fact, the Catholic church which put the books of the Bible together and authoritatively declared them to be inspired scripture in the first place – around 400 A.D. if my memory is serving me correctly. If the Catholic church is invalid, then so is the Bible – for it is on the Catholic church’s authority that the bible is considered inspired in the first place.

    Also, didn’t Jesus say “I will be with you always?” If Catholicism is invalid, then where was Jesus for the 1400 years that no valid church existed?

    But why should I accept these things as true and obey men who give every indication of not believing – and by believing, I mean taking seriously and insisting that those whom they shepherd obey – those extra-scriptural components?

    Because even if the man preaching the truth does not practice what he preaches, it doesn’t change the fact that he’s preaching the truth.

    If I tell you that it’s wrong to murder as I stab an innocent bystander in the chest, my words aren’t any less true despite the fact that my actions contradict them.

  • I’ve known a lot of priests and bishops in my time, and with most of them it’s like pulling teeth to get them to talk about hell existing and the possibility of going there. As best I can understand it, their thinking goes like this: “If I tell this man or woman that they are putting their soul in danger of damnation by doing X, then they’ll get angry or discouraged, leave the Church, and enter a downward spiral of sin and despair from which they’ll never escape.”

    The current system is really the worst of both worlds: people don’t take the Church seriously, and the hierarchy doesn’t appear to care all that much if we take their actual practice as an indication of their preferences. And if the hierarchy doesn’t care, I don’t see why they expect anyone else to.

  • […] is an important distinction between immigration law and sacramental doctrine: the former is a matter of positive law, which can be changed; while the latter is […]

  • Sounds like a Catholic variation of a kind of purity junkie reasoning that in its Protestant form leads to just never attending church because “None of the denominations take Christianity seriously! Sometimes pastors, like, steal money, or have affairs! Therefore I can’t go to church until church proves to me that they take Christianity seriously by making sure there are never ever any people who sin in the building or in a position of authority!”

    Our household isn’t Catholic for complex reasons beyond the scope of a blog comment, but we pray for unity and we don’t sit around demanding that (Catholic/Orthodox/mainstream Protestant) church “clean up its act first” before we’ll grace it with our superiorly holy presence.

    Zippy gives a benefit of the doubt regarding this line of reasoning. That is gracious of him. But the Catholic Church is very unlikely to ever be pure enough or excommunicate nearly enough people for someone who is throwing down that kind of gauntlet as a requirement to take an RCIA class.

  • Zippy says:

    TUW:

    Zippy gives a benefit of the doubt regarding this line of reasoning.

    Well, it is a matter of psychology, to which I am largely indifferent at least when it comes to blog content.

    What it may illustrate though is the foolishness of trying to predetermine the target demographic and market segmentation for Christianity in order to sell the iChrist 7s.

  • MarcusD says:

    I’ve known a lot of priests and bishops in my time, and with most of them it’s like pulling teeth to get them to talk about hell existing and the possibility of going there. As best I can understand it, their thinking goes like this: “If I tell this man or woman that they are putting their soul in danger of damnation by doing X, then they’ll get angry or discouraged, leave the Church, and enter a downward spiral of sin and despair from which they’ll never escape.”

    Reminds me of:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
    -C. S. Lewis

  • […] In the long run though I think that discrediting ultramontanism by practicing it is probably a good thing.  Put not your trust in princes, and all that. […]

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