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?