What mercy looks like

September 16, 2015 § 9 Comments

Our pastors seem to believe that there are large numbers of putative Catholic marriages which are invalid, that is, which are not really marriages.  I find this quite plausible. (See here for more background).

Actions reflect what we really believe though, even moreso than words.  And it seems to me that the actions of our pastors do not at this point reflect what I would expect to see in the face of widespread sacramental invalidity of Catholic marriages.  It may be that the full truth has yet to sink in with many of them, I suppose; but I don’t consider it my role to analyze them psychologically.

However, if they really believed in their bones that a large percentage of Catholic marriages is invalid, I would not expect to see all the pastoral ‘action’ in the area of tribunals and annulment proceedings.  I would expect to see most of the pastoral effort concentrated on education and convalidation of marriages.  If these vast numbers of marriages truly are invalid, the overriding pastoral priority is clearly to get them convalidated.

If there were genuine uncertainty about the validity of the sacramental baptism of large numbers of Catholics, the highest pastoral priority would be to get out and do conditional baptisms to actually address that fundamental sacramental issue.

Pastors live and breathe in a social and political reality.  Some words are expected to be taken more seriously than others: that is only natural, and I don’t find fault with it in general. It follows though that I’ll believe that our pastors take their own words on the number of sacramentally invalid marriages seriously to precisely the extent those words include exhortation and actions which actually address the sacramental invalidity of large numbers of marriages.  Zero talk of convalidating the putative large numbers of invalid marriages implies zero internal “in the bones” commitment to the factual assessment that there actually are large numbers of invalid marriages.

Mercy is as mercy does.

§ 9 Responses to What mercy looks like

  • Dash Riprock says:

    Zippy, I’m a convert so maybe I am missing something. Are you referring to Catholics married outside the Church?. I was married in the Church to my wife, a cradle Catholic , years before I converted so I have no personal axe to grind. But just want to try and understand what you are getting at.
    As an aside I read your link. to Cultural Catholics. A wise priest years ago told me that a cultural catholic was someone who maybe only attends mass twice a year but never bets against Notre Dame, regardless of the point spread.

  • Zippy says:

    Dash Riprock:

    Are you referring to Catholics married outside the Church?

    No. See (e.g.) here.

    We discussed the issue here rather extensively before the Extraordinary Synod last year, under my Marriage category. I haven’t organized the conversation myself but Proph at the Orthosphere posted a roundup of links to at least the early part of the discussion. I’ve added that to the OP for anyone who needs more background.

  • Proph says:

    Welcome back (ish?), Zippy.

    Of course pastors don’t want to talk about it: it reflects badly on them, personally. Instead they wash their hands of the mess, Pilate-like: it’s just the toxic culture they live in. (With which I kind of agree, with the caveat that it’s the toxic culture they live in, against which the culture of the parishes they run do nothing to inoculate them).

  • Zippy, this is something I am wrestling with on a very painful, personal, level, and I wonder if you might weigh in objectively on my situation. I haven’t been able to find anything in Church teachings that addresses my concern directly.

    Not quite a year ago, I left an abusive marriage with the kids. My intention was not then, nor is it now, to get a divorce. I told my husband that I wanted to return home and be a family, but I needed him to get professional help for the abuse.

    He filed for divorce instead. During this whole mess, he has befriended a priest who not only given him a pastoral blessing on filing for divorce, but who has has promised to help him get an annulment. I think that’s ridiculous! I can’t imagine the grounds for granting this annulment, or how one could promise at the outset that an annulment would be granted, but regardless, I don’t think our marriage failed to occur. We were serious Catholics and knew what we were doing up there on the altar.

    If my husband gets his annulment, and I continue to live as a married woman, separate from him, but considering myself still his wife, is there virtue in that decision? Or am I a chump and/or an ultra-montaigne for living by vows that the Church has deemed null?

  • Zippy says:

    Mrs. Diligent,

    The situation you described brought to mind Bai MacFarlane. It is possible that Mary’s Advocates might be able to help you sort out the right course of action.

    Generally speaking, there is always virtue in acting based on what is actually true rather than what is expedient but you know to be not true. However I can’t possibly give personal advice about particular situations over the Internet, and I’m probably not even the best person to do so with people and situations I know in person.

  • Thank you, Zippy! I hadn’t heard of Bai or Mary’s Advocates, but you directed me to a very rich source of information. Thank you again and God Bless!

  • Dear Zippy. You are back and active; smashing.

    ABS plans to steal as much from you as he can 🙂

    O, as regards Marriage, in the Diocese of Palm Beach Co, Florida, it is the Deacons who officiate at Marriage and it is the Diaconate that administers Baptism and my son had his request the Pastor Baptise his newborn rejected owing to the Priest worrying the Deacons would think themselves second-class catholics were the Pastor to Baptise his child.

    ABS is old enough to have been learnt that Priests desired to become Priests so they could dispense the sacraments, but, as Bob Dylan observed, “Things have changed.”

    Just judging by the actions of the Priests in Palm Beach County, it appears the celibate Priests are not too keen on actualising their fundamental duties and they are being supplanted by sexually-active Deacons (supposed to be celibate, right?) all of which is to observe, that these things are no biggies corporately.

    To ABS, this is but part of the overall project to make us more and more like the other protestant communities (Catholics have Churches, prots have buildings) and less and less like the exclusive One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    It is to be hoped that your sensible and wise proposals be adopted, but they won’t.

    Pax tecum, sir. It truly is heartening to see men like you standing up for the truth.

    May God Bless and keep you

  • WheelieJoe says:

    Or, as Instapundit often obserserves, “I’ll believe there is a crisis when the people in power start acting like there is a crisis.”

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