Actions kill deader than words

July 28, 2014 § 46 Comments

The central point of my post below may have gotten lost in discussion of the particulars of illegal immigration. So at the risk of repeating myself, I am going to repeat myself.

In day to day life we mostly learn how things work by watching what people do.  Listening to what they say generally takes a back seat, partly because we know and expect that frequently what people say is incongruent with how things really work.

The detailed terms and conditions of iTunes or other software are almost meaningless. Probably the only people who actually read them are the people who write them.

Even if we had to assent to them out loud through a microphone though – perhaps by saying “I do” several times after the computer reads each section aloud – it would be false to expect that most folks’ understanding of the terms and conditions of software use would come from the actual words which were read aloud. On the contrary: most folks’ understanding of the legal implications of software use would come from the actual practices of the people in charge: courts, police, government officials, etc.

Practices contrary to positive law on immigration are – among other things – an injustice perpetrated against illegal aliens themselves who, not unreasonably, set their expectations based on actual practices as opposed to mouthed or written pieties. Suggesting that it is morally just to deport them simply because they technically violated the terms and conditions of iTunes is, at best, a gross oversimplification. At the same time, suggesting that native lower class blacks should just suck it up, that they should stay in the ghetto because all the “jobs Americans won’t do” in that strata of society are now taken by illegal Mexicans, is also problematic. The disconnect between legal doctrine and actual practice has created a morally difficult situation, and anyone who pretends that it is morally cut and dried is just engaged in reductionist wishful thinking.

But the situation is much worse when it comes to marriage and the Church, because here we are dealing with sacramental reality. There is no way to make an estranged but validly married couple not married. It is only possible to turn them – and the people they attempt to “marry” in a “second marriage” – into adulterers. Sacramental “deportation” from a “second marriage” isn’t something over which the Church has any control or say, because it is impossible to “emigrate” from a valid marriage in the first place.

So current and proposed pastoral practices with respect to marriage are literally vicious on multiple levels.

People whose expectations about marriage come from what the Church does “pastorally” as opposed to what she says doctrinally in the fine print may have wrong ideas about marriage; probably in many cases to enough of an extent that they attempt marriage invalidly.  At least for most of them there is a sacramental way forward that does not involve perfect continence: convalidation.

But the only way forward, the only possibility for a ‘sacramentally illegal alien’ in a ‘second marriage’, is perfect continence or reconciliation with one’s valid spouse. “Deportation” isn’t just automatic: they never really left the home country to begin with. Pastoral practices contrary to this sacramental reality are unspeakably cruel.

§ 46 Responses to Actions kill deader than words

  • CJ says:

    Zippy – With the standard caveat that you aren’t the magisterium: is it Catholic teaching that baptized persons having relations in an invalid marriage are fornicating?

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:
    My understanding is that anyone (pagan or Christian) having relations while not married is fornicating, materially. As always culpability may be mitigated by ignorance, but even in a case of invincible ignorance the action represents “an evil, that is, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good”.

  • CJ says:

    Gotcha. What I was trying to ask is whether an “attempted marriage” would at least count as a natural one.

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    What I was trying to ask is whether an “attempted marriage” would at least count as a natural one.

    Definitely not. Two baptized Christians either marry sacramentally or not at all. (If only one is baptized it is possible for them to marry naturally — with a dispensation from the Christian’s local ordinary).

    There may be a quote from Denzinger floating around here somewhere, but in any case I am sure that at least the non-parenthetical bit is right.

  • jf12 says:

    Sola parva scriptora.

  • […] Know your scripture, folks. Anyone who denies Jesus is the Christ is an Antichrist, regardless of branding. […]

  • InTheProcess says:

    I really wish the scandal issue was addressed more clearly. Scandal can happen just as much inside the home as it can outside the home, with respect to offspring of valid marriages who are raised in this “brother/sister” thing, which in turn scandalizes subsequent offspring that exist in the phony marriage.

    This whole pastoral internal forum thing is a nightmare. And the reality is we are scandalized (real definition) whether we think we are or not, whether we ever realize it or not. It just becomes too easy to eat meat offered to idols. Are we still culpable for our own choices? Absolutely. But it is hard to overcome trust lost when moral authorities act immorally…

  • Andy, Bad Person says:

    This reminds me that I read that New York City has/had (I have no idea if it still does) a law banning the wearing of high heels on the sidewalk. The idea was not to go after high-heelers, but to protect the city from lawsuits if someone broke her ankle getting a heel caught in a crack.

    If, after decades of non-enforcement of this law, an officer started handing out tickets, it would be a horrible precedent.

    Obviously, sacramental law is still different.

  • Karl says:

    This will only get worse.

    God help my children and their children.

  • jf12 says:

    If being a Traditional Catholic be anathematized, where in the fine print is the guidance on whose ring to kiss?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Ask St Athanasius. This isn’t a new problem.

  • jf12 says:

    Right, so if the guy whose ring you want to kiss keeps telling you to kiss so other guys’ rings instead but you refuse, then …

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Perhaps you’d like to say something pertinent to the subject and connected to reality.

  • jf12 says:

    People whose expectations about [anything] come from what the Church does “pastorally” [n.b. quotation marks were in the original] as opposed to what she says [unchangingly] doctrinally in the [only extant collection of very] fine print [acknowledged to be the Word of God] may have wrong ideas about [everything].

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ jf12

    You’re assuming that Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition can contradict in the first place.

  • Zippy says:

    Ah. Scriptural positivism again. Repeat it enough times as a mantra and you might be able to forget that it is rationally incoherent.

  • jf12 says:

    Pastoralism being so much better, that you disown it here. Right.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    It is up to you, but you might try understanding the subject matter before commenting on it.

  • jf12 says:

    re: sources for authority. Just how consistent do you believe your “follow the sacred invisible fine print” to be? Just how consistent to you believe your “follow your properly designated authority, unless he’s wrong” to be?

  • jf12 says:

    I agree it can be a good thing to withstand your entire conference of bishops to their faces when they are using their position to exhibit wrong teachings about doctrine, e.g. about the Church’s authority over marriage.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    As is all too common here, you don’t seem to be addressing anyone’s actual position on any of the actual subject matter. It isn’t clear what these little episodes of talking to yourself are doing for you; but you might consider getting your own blog.

  • Fake Herzog says:

    “Definitely not. Two baptized Christians either marry sacramentally or not at all.”

    I’m not sure that’s right — at least according to cannon lawyer Ed Peters, we need to make a distinction between a valid marriage and a sacramental marriage:

    http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/confusing-validity-and-sacramentality-in-marriage/

  • Zippy says:

    Fake Herzog:
    Actually Peters confirms it:

    Consider: if tribunals really regarded as null all marriages that were not “sacramental”, then no marriage between Jews, or between Muslims, or between Hindus, would be valid, for none of those marriages are sacramental. For that matter, no marriage between a Catholic and any non-baptized person would be valid, for such marriages are not regarded as sacramental, even when they are entered into in accord with canon law!

    Three cases:

    1) Two baptized Christians: both sacramental and juridically valid, or neither (as I said upthread).

    2) A baptized Christian and a non-baptized person: never sacramental, valid (as a ‘natural’ marriage) if done in accordance with canon law, invalid otherwise.

    3) Two unbaptized people: same as (2), but not required to follow canon law.

    So as I said upthread, two baptized Christians either marry each other sacramentally or not at all.

  • Fake Herzog says:

    But what happens in case (1) when two baptized Christians go to the local judge and get married civilly? I get the sense that what Peters is saying is such a marriage would be valid but not sacramental.

    I suppose the key is what does cannon law say — is there indeed a way to be married civilly “in accordance with cannon law” so that such a marriage between two baptized Christians is valid? I suspect there is but I could be wrong.

  • Zippy says:

    FH:
    First, it is in fact impossible for two baptized Christians to marry “merely naturally”. It is either a sacramental marriage or no marriage at all.

    Second, such a marriage must occur in accordance with canon law. That requires either proper form or a dispensation. If both spouses have never been Catholic, dispensation is automatic. Otherwise it must be explicitly requested from the local ordinary.

    Absent proper form or a dispensation the marriage is automatically null. Annulment is just a matter of filing paperwork demonstrating “defect of form” – no tribunal required.

    [This next paragraph corrected/clarified – Z]

    Mixed marriages where only one party is Catholic require an additional, separate dispensation. If the non-Catholic is baptized, lack of this dispensation does not make the marriage invalid; just illicit (against positive law). The situation here is especially odd because in order for this to apply proper form must have been followed (priest presiding etc) but there was no dispensation to marry a non-Catholic.

    Finally, no sacramental marriage is valid without free consent to the essentials of sacramental marriage, which we have discussed here extensively.

  • […] Practices contrary to given law are unjust. Related: The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. […]

  • Fake Herzog says:

    Zippy,

    Thanks for the additional remarks.

    In case you were wondering, I have a personal interest in these matters — I’m Catholic, but I returned to the faith after my wife and I got married. She is not baptized, so I guess our marriage is valid, but illicit (and I’m not sure what the implications are for this). We were married by a Protestant minister.

    Finally, going back to my example above — two baptized Christians who go to a judge and get married civilly. Would we say their marriage is both invalid and illicit? Going back to the Ed Peters quote, it seems to me that we can still have civilly married, let’s say Methodist Christians, whose marriages are considered valid by the Catholic Church? But you say:

    “It is either a sacramental marriage or no marriage at all.”

    Is there a citation for that claim?

    Thanks for all your help.

  • Zippy says:

    FH:
    You should always check with your priest about the details of your personal situation. But as I understand it, “valid but illicit” would not apply because of the lack of proper form without a dispensation.

    However, I think that any marriage (including a non-sacramental natural marriage) can be convalidated.

    Is there a citation for that claim?

    Sure:

    Let no one, then, be deceived by the distinction which some civil jurists have so strongly insisted upon – the distinction, namely, by virtue of which they sever the matrimonial contract from the sacrament, with intent to hand over the contract to the power and will of the rulers of the State, while reserving questions concerning the sacrament to the Church. A distinction, or rather severance, of this kind cannot be approved; for certain it is that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament, and that, for this reason, the contract cannot be true and legitimate without being a sacrament as well. For Christ our Lord added to marriage the dignity of a sacrament; but marriage is the contract itself, whenever that contract is lawfully concluded. – Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae sapentiae

    (Emphasis mine).

  • jf12 says:

    re: lawful conclusion. And the authorities who adjudge this lawfulness get their authority from invisible fine print?

  • Zippy says:

    Remember though that two baptized protestants who have never been Catholic are (I am pretty sure) automatically dispensed by canon law.

    So if either party has ever been Catholic, a justice-of-the-peace marriage or a protestant service without an explicit dispensation from the bishop would be invalid. On the other hand if both parties are baptized but have never been Catholic, they get an automatic dispensation: a justice-of-the-peace marriage is valid and sacramental as long as they were in fact consenting to the essentials of Christian marriage.

    Again, though, anyone who really needs to know for a particular permutation should verify with the proper authorities, and that isn’t me.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    It is that whole binding and loosing thing. You’ll find it in Scripture and Tradition.

  • jf12 says:

    Re: lawful conclusion. And hence when a duly designated authority duly concludes something lawful (or unlawful e.g. annulled), but you appeal to fine print to disannul their, er, annulling, you are doing what, exactly?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    you are doing what, exactly?

    Criticizing extant and proposed juridical processes as inaccurate and imprudent.

    Do you find the difference between actual guilt and innocence and the various juridical standards – e.g. preponderance of evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, etc – similarly befuddling?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ jf12:

    An annulment doesn’t do anything on a metaphysical or even spiritual level. It is a court proceeding that attempts to determine whether a marriage actually took place to begin with.

    Like any human, they can be wrong, so it’s their job to err on the side of not annulling. It’s their job to assume a marriage took place until proven otherwise, until which time they can offer only convalidation.

    If they are wrong, then no real annulment takes place. An annulment isn’t really something that “takes place” anyway; it is a declaration that something else didn’t take place. If that something else actually did take place, then there is no power that will warp reality to make it as though it didn’t.

    This is why handing out false annulments is (at least materially) horrifically cruel. It turns people into (at least material) adulterers.

  • Fake Herzog says:

    Zippy — thanks again. Those clarifications are helpful, as is the citation (and the further explanation concerning the automatic dispensation w/r/t a Christian marriage).

    I appreciate the help.

  • Zippy says:

    JSG:

    It’s their job to assume a marriage took place until proven otherwise, until which time they can offer only convalidation.

    Well, I would say three hopefully clarifying things here.

    First, the tribunals (at least in the US) don’t even consider a case until there has already been a civil-law divorce.

    Second, there actually are some cut-and-dried ‘external forum’ cases. If a baptized (ever-been) Catholic attempts marriage in front of a justice of the peace with no dispensation, no marriage takes place. Christian Marriage is a contract governed by canon law, and ‘defect of form’ cases are so clear-cut that they don’t even require a tribunal. Just file several pieces of paper and it is done. That frees the person up to actually get married, because he has never actually been married before.

    My criticism is aimed at ‘internal forum’ cases, which make up the bulk of annulments and rest on a claim – usually years or decades after the fact – of defective consent.

    Third, my criticism is necessarily prudential in nature. The way things are done now is crazy and viciously cruel, and some of the proposals being considered are even worse, but I wouldn’t suggest that the Church doesn’t have the authority to establish how things are done. Courts have the authority to (for example) establish their standards of evidence, admissibility, etc; and criticizing their current processes as ridiculously unfair and unjust doesn’t call into question their fundamental authority to set standards of evidence, establish procedures, etc.

  • jf12 says:

    re: befuddled. I don’t think the American court system is particularly well-ordered, or authoritative, or anything except a bunch of crooks who have insulated themselves and aggrandized power through force.

    What was the analogy for?

  • jf12 says:

    re: false annulments. And you are authorized to adjudge them false by …?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I don’t think the American court system is particularly well-ordered, or authoritative, or anything except a bunch of crooks who have insulated themselves and aggrandized power through force.

    In the overwhelming majority of cases, I agree.

    What was the analogy for?

    What analogy? That annulment proceedings – like courts (not limited to American ones) – can be wrong? If so, I don’t understand what you don’t understand.

    And you are authorized to adjudge them false by …?

    The objective state of reality.

    Also note that no particular case has been disputed; what’s being criticized is the system.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    And you are authorized to adjudge them false by …?

    Under what statute or moral principle would it be wrong for me to do so? Cite something actual if you plan for your reply to be taken seriously. You might start here, in particular 898-900.

  • jf12 says:

    re: analogy. So we’re agreeing about criticizing the *system* of annulments, because they’re performed by “a bunch of crooks who have insulated themselves and aggrandized power through force”?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    I’m pretty sure you are mostly talking to yourself. It is certainly the case that when you impute ideas to others that you generally don’t know what you are talking about.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ jf12:

    I was drawing an analogy between the fallibility of courts and the fallibility of annulment proceedings. That is the scope and limit of the analogy.

  • […] when it comes to other sacraments, and would preach to the world by walking our talk – unlike current practice – that the Catholic Church is serious about the indissolubility of sacramental […]

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