A Break in the Bottleneck?

bottleRocco whispered that something big is afoot in Rome and tomorrow at local noon there a presser will trot out two new documents that address the Catholic situation of declarations of nullity. And presumably, related issues.

While the conservative side of the Church is leaking like a sieve these days, this initiative has been fairly well kept under wraps. I suppose people would think the synod would address these issues. And no doubt, the rigorists on the front porch will lament that this pope does things other popes did. Only without their consent or complaint.

Rorate Caeli is afraid:

It is feared by not a few that the reforms will amount to a major simplification of the process and a greater ease in the granting of annulments, as already explained by Don Pio Pace in an essay on “Catholic Divorce” published by this blog in November last year.

I still don’t get the “fear” about showing mercy to divorced and remarried Catholics. Canon Law has stood common sense on its head in particular ways when it is easier to forgive the murder of an undesired spouse than it is to marry a second without going through the motions.

Murderers are not automatically excommunicated, even when it is done en masse through warfare, terrorism, or corporate corruption. Killing people seems a lot more scary than, say, an abandoned spouse getting a second opportunity for the blessed life of marriage and family.

Catholic doctrine on murder doesn’t change when killers are forgiven, or even released from prison. To the casual Catholic eye, murder is forever. When it’s personal, it is never forgotten, and forgiven only through grace, cooperation, or personal heroism. Why don’t we demand victims be resuscitated before pardoning a murderer? That’s how most people see the justice of things.

How people see things, however their sense of fairness has developed–for good or for ill–is the basis on which they will see the Church and its actions. Such actions may be perceived at odds with the world’s view. Some might view them as contrary to Christ and to the Gospel. These views may be clouded. Or they might be more clear than what the law provides. It will be interesting to see what the rollout of tomorrow’s legislation will reveal.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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11 Responses to A Break in the Bottleneck?

  1. Melody says:

    About murder vs divorce and remarriage, you probably know what they will say. It’s all about the firm purpose of amendment as a condition of forgiveness. The murderer can promise that he will never, ever, ever do it again. And since he is probably behind bars, he will likely keep that promise. On the other hand, the divorced and remarried couple will be considered to be committing adultery every single time they have sex. It’s like some nonending repeating decimal. I don’t agree with that way of defining it at all, it makes it all about sex instead of the breakup of the first marriage. That seems to be the stumbling block to admitting people back to the sacraments.

    • Todd says:

      That’s the common argument: adultery. But marriages do end by the choice of one or both partners. Without a marriage hanging outside a second relationship, there is no adultery. The second problem with the rigorist position is its taint of pelagianism, that sacraments are rewards for good behavior, and not medicine or treatment for the believer.

  2. FrMichael says:

    Oh well, Jesus, Your words have been trumped by a blogger: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” And here we were thinking God was almighty and immutable. Foolish us. Even a fickle human being can undo a sacrament.

    • Todd says:

      That marriages end is a reality we’ve seen in the world around us both before and after the Church finally determined our relationships were part of the sacramental life. How to reconcile Jesus preaching a good and perfect ideal with a significant minority of relationships that seem to lack grace? That deserves a more piercing discernment, not unconvincing snark from a cleric who, supposedly, assists couples in the preparation of marriage.

      When he was a pastor, members of Karol Woytyla’s student groups had lasting marriages–all of them as it is told. Apocryphal fable or not, it seems some clergy have a gift for preparing couples for marriage. Perhaps it is time to detach that “automatic” duty from ordination. Perhaps it should be a special facility for select priests and lay persons. Perhaps it should be something discerned with the local bishop, and not an assumption for every parish priest.

      Old Testament and New cite the “forever” nature of a priest. But we know that is broken, isn’t it? Have “fickle” popes and bishops dispensed with clergy by trumping Jesus as well? The old arguments are not as convincing to others outside our circle of ministry and theology. You’re going to need a more diverse tool belt preparing marriages and saving those in trouble than selective quotes from the Gospel which don’t tell the whole story.

      When you have something more substantive and less juvenile, come back and discuss, my friend.

  3. Devin Rice says:

    A priest is a priest forever. He can always validly absolve in danger of death. He can always validly celebrate the Eucharist (although not licitly). A baptism and confirmation is still valid and life long despite a lack of evident growth in grace in the recipient. A valid marriage is a valid marriage despite any physical and emotional separation. The Council of Trent, Florence and even Vatican II speak of this indissolubility. Revelation is the ultimate reality trump card. Even Cardinal Kasper recognizes the indissolubility of marriage in his communion proposal for those in irregular situations. As for the doctrinal and pastoral feasibility of his proposal, well that is in the Pope’s court.

    • Liam says:

      Except for the fact that there are (relatively rare) situations where a valid marriage CAN be dissolved. The Petrine and Pauline Privileges…

      • Devin says:

        You are right concerning natural marriages, though not sacramental marriages. I have often wondered how these privledges relate to the current arguments concerning “lack of faith”. Perhaps even a marriage between two baptized persons could be considered a natural marriage if one or both parties lacked faith. But what about a person who has even the smallest amount of faith (Matthew 17:20)?

      • Liam says:

        And there is also the fact that, uniquely among all the sacraments in the *Western* tradition, Matrimony involves the subjective dispositions of TWO putative co-ministers. Subjective disposition has been largely to reduced to notional considerations in the context of all the other sacraments, thanks to Rome’s horror at ever giving room for latter-day Donatist issues of validity in the sacraments. But for Matrimony, the subjective dimension fairly large.

  4. Jen says:

    I have to wonder if half the opposition is another form of the obsession some Catholics have with what goes on in peoples’ bedrooms and/or pants under the guise of “scandal.” Custody of the eyes goes both ways.

    • Todd says:

      Indeed. Looking, seeking, searching for scandal is a kind of voyeurism, especially for those tittilated in the internet age by conflict and argument.

  5. FrMichael says:

    No, as far as I can tell, the opposition is motivated by the infallible teaching of the Church that no earthly power can break a valid sacramental marriage between two baptized Christians. The appearance that some Catholics, even clerics, seem to think otherwise draws our attention and energy. We would be similarly infuriated if a proposal to eliminate one of the seven sacraments were being floated.

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