It isn’t ‘mercy’ to send someone down the road to Hell

October 6, 2014 § 22 Comments

As the Extraordinary Synod gets underway I expect to hear lots of Orwellian talk about ‘justice versus mercy’, as if they were opposites.  This is just a rhetorical trick, because it attempts to frame ‘pastorally’ sending vulnerable people down the road to Hell as ‘mercy’.  Even if we accepted the false dichotomy, deliberately leading souls to Hell by treating ignorance as the eighth sacrament isn’t ‘mercy’.  As soon as a person knows that his objectively adulterous acts are grave matter, he must seek the grace to cease choosing to engage in objectively adulterous acts. And the longer things go on without him learning the truth, the more difficult his situation becomes.

Pastoral ‘solutions’ which propose to reduce objectively adulterous acts to the status of venial sin (a prerequisite to receiving the Eucharist without that reception itself involving mortally sinful sacrilege) therefore depend on keeping people in difficult marital situations ignorant.  They necessarily involve hiding the truth, out of a fear that once told the truth these people will go away sad. Furthermore, to be sustainable this hiding of the truth must persist over time: as soon as the person actually learns the truth the game is up.  So the truth not only must remain unspoken: it must be actively hidden and suppressed.

These ‘pastoral solutions,’ then, are necessarily plans from the Father of Lies. It isn’t ‘mercy’ to send people down the path to eternal torment, or to pat them (and ourselves) on the back paternalistically while lying to them, telling them that they will be just fine even if they continue to choose gravely immoral behaviors.  Pastors will have to lie and persist in the lie – to actively hide the fact that objectively adulterous behaviors are grave matter – in order for this to ‘work’.

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”(180)

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.Familias Consortio

§ 22 Responses to It isn’t ‘mercy’ to send someone down the road to Hell

  • InTheProcess says:

    Unfortunately even these measures are sometimes ignored…

  • Zippy says:

    Also, people should not kid themselves into thinking that the goal of the Father of Lies is out of his reach.

    I would argue that there is precedent for the Church to just mostly stop talking about a matter of grave moral import, to the extent that most contemporary Catholics are in fact ignorant about the particular matter, believing that times and changing conditions have rendered prior doctrine mostly moot: usury.

    Suppression of the truth is what the Father of Lies is all about, and nobody does it ‘better’.

  • Alte says:

    I don’t see this happening.

  • jf12 says:

    Yes, precisely it is a misguided paternalism that underlies this consequentialist idea: “If I can keep them in a state of not knowing what they do, then since they’ll be forgiven then my doing so will have been justified.” It is disturbing, moreover, that the pastors apparently presume they themselves are holy enough to bear the burden of causing the congregations’ sin of ignorance.

  • Mike T says:

    What’s especially ironic, is that the only denominations that are growing are the ones which don’t compromise and are willing to send people away.

  • Felix Moore says:

    And, as there are no limits to mercy, perhaps we should ask what’s the next development? One possibility is that if a mother gives birth to a severely disabled child, the Kasper Kirk should “mercifully” support the parents in ending its life.

  • What I expect to happen is that the Synod will publish a nice flowery document that formally upholds doctrine, but grant bishops’ conferences greater leeway in granting annulments in the name of mercy and being pastoral. In other words, the doctrine will be dead in practice. Trads will scream bloody murder as usual and conservative Catholics will praise the formal document as the bestest most wonderfullest restatement of the Church’s teachings ever while ignoring what’s happening on the ground.

    I suppose at this point the best case scenario might be something like Humanae Vitae part 2: the document is a ringing endorsement of and doubling down on doctrine with the progs screaming bloody murder while ignoring it in practice.

  • vetdoctor says:

    “If I can keep them in a state of not knowing what they do, . . . ”

    I can’t remember the Pope (Pius XII?) but, as the story goes, a priest waking with the Pope said something to that effect, “Invincible ignorance will protect their souls. ” The Pope replied, “But what about our souls”?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Why do these documents use the word “divorce”?
    What does this term signify for the Catholic Church?

  • Zippy says:


    The word ‘divorce’ does refer to something real that really takes place: to a legal proceeding in civil law with many implications, e.g. disposition of property. As I understand it when the Church uses the term it is referring to the completion of that legal proceeding. Legal proceedings cannot (literally cannot) end an ontologically valid sacramental marriage though.

    That said, if I were the language police I would probably insist on clearer use of terms, because “if you use their words you will end up thinking their thoughts.”

  • Scott W. says:

    How do you know I haven’t?

    I believe you posted this to the wrong entry.

  • Zippy says:


    I believe you posted this to the wrong entry.

    Ah thx, fixed it. The WordPress phone app is a hateful mess of inconsistent user interface.

  • jf12 says:

    @vetdoctor, the apparently sincere public floating of this idea by supposedly Christian leaders to make ignorance “invincible” is the most shocking and breath-taking (in the bad, suffocating way) evidence of spiritual wickedness in high places. They’re not even bothering to disguise themselves as angels of light, but they are promoting themselves as dispensers of darkness.

  • Mike T says:

    The WordPress phone app is a hateful mess of inconsistent user interface.

    Hateful mess is an apt description for WordPress’s code the last time I dove into it.

  • outis says:

    You saw this, I suppose?

    Card. Kasper terrifies me. He is merciless toward those of weak faith (me, for example), who would be scandalized should his proposal be accepted.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    This comes up a lot whenever anyone discusses ‘tolerance’ as a Christian virtue.

    Tolerance is NOT a Christian virtue, certainly the modern incarnation of this word. Tolerance today means to affirm the sins of others and therefore usher them merrily on to the pit. To do so is immoral, and the actions and statements of various cardinals (some mentioned above), is absolutely pertinent in this regard.

    Those who stray from the traditional teachings of your church should not be ‘tolerated’ at all! Don’t grant them audience until they repent of their ways. To do otherwise is only to be an accessory to sin.

  • Bill McEnaney says:

    Many liberal prelates, maybe even Pope Francis, seem to ignore an essential Catholic doctrinal point: Innocent ignorance doesn’t save anyone. If I have no way to know that artificial contraception is a sin that can send me to Hell, God won’t blame me for my ignorance about it. But I may still go to there for another mortal sin when I know how serious it is, still commit it freely, and die impenitently.

  • Zippy says:

    Bill McEnaney:

    Just so. The very serious pastoral issue that “ignorance as eighth sacrament” types miss is that a regular habit of committing objective evil, even in a context of invincible ignorance on the particular kind of act, builds vice. That is, it builds habits of thought and behaviour oriented toward the commission of objectively evil acts in general. Invincible ignorance may excuse culpability on a particular action, but it remains really the opposite of a sacrament in terms of its effect on the person.

  • […] Mercy is as mercy does. […]

  • […] triumph in the Church, often putatively justified by appeals to ‘mercy’, predates Vatican II by […]

  • […] pope doesn’t leave it to just that one sentence though.  He goes on to crush the idea that sound pastoral practice can conflict with the truth about objectively good and evil kinds of […]

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