In the years of 2014 to the present, the question of whether Catholics can re-marry after divorce has become much more talked about in light of the two Synods on the family and their subsequent Apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. I cannot go into the details about what Pope Francis communicated with this document, but I can give a basic summary. Amoris Laetitia (Eng. The Joy of Love) reaffirms the Church’s moral doctrine on the purpose of human sexuality and conjugal relations, even explicitly referring to the need to appropriate the message of Pope St. Paul VI’s Encyclical Humane Vitae. The document also states that there are “no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” (251). On the matter of Catholics who have married in the Church but who have subsequently divorced and contracted a civil “marriage” while the first spouse is still alive, Pope Francis makes clear that this is contrary to the demands of the Gospel, and is objectively out of harmony with the Church’s understanding of marriage (303). To those who insist that they should be able to openly demand recognition, respect, and good-standing of their 2nd “marriage” as if it were awarded to them out of mercy, the Pope says they should be considered as persons seeking to flaunt an objective sin, and should consequently be subject to hearing the gospel again in order to be converted, or separated from the community in excommunication (297). With that said, the Pope still opened the door for Catholic “re-married” divorcees to receive Holy Communion (305, fn 351), not on the basis that re-marriage is acceptable or objectively good, but rather that, on a case by case basis, certain persons who are involved in these objectively sinful and unlawful relationships can be free even of grave and mortal guilt, thereby landing them in the venial category of transgressor. Causes for this are said to be difficult and complex circumstances which mitigate against a person’s level of culpability, reducing the severity of their guilt and sin before God (302). Continue reading
Below, I’ve typed out a few excerpts from the relatio of Bishop Gasser at the Vatican Council (1870). I am running through the thought experiment of whether Pope Francis’s magisterial teachings pass the canon of the relatio, particularly the portions which I’ve reproduced. At the forefront we have (1) Amoris Laetitia and (2) the Death Penalty revision (CCC 2267). I know there have been many who have made it clear that the Pope was not speaking with the supreme authority of St. Peter, and thus not ex-cathedra infallible. However, something which Gasser pointed out is often missing in today’s thinking. Notice how Gasser says that the “dogmatic judgments” of the Roman Pontiff are infallible, and then follows it with saying that there have been “thousands and thousands” of these “dogmatic judgments”. That would certainly be contrasted with many Catholic theologians today who insist on there only being 2 instances of Papal Infallibility, one on the Immaculate Conception in Ineffabilis Deus (1854), and the other on her assumption into heaven in Munificentissimus Deus (1950). Notice that Gasser gave his relatio in 1870, so that means that those theologians who say that there have only been two instances of Papal infallibility would have to conclude that Gasser’s saying that there have been “thousands and thousands” infallible dogmatic judgments should have really just said one-time. This is truly interesting, since this relatio was central to the discussions on the meaning of papal infallibility at the Council. The relatio was made to the general congregation of Bishops. In fact, Dom Cuthbert Butler, whose two-volume work on the Council is the most complete history written in English, said that Bishop Gasser was “the most prominent theologian of the Council”. This relatio has been a source of authoritative reference in theological treatments and manuals down unto the present day. In particular, the 2nd Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium, which includes a treatment on the hierarchical organization and authority of the Church, cites Gasser’s rlation four times in the chapter on the Magiterium. This chapter only had 24 lines of text and the references to the relatio make up half of all of them. Needless to say, this relatio is the best guide to properly interpret the treatment on the infallibility of the Pope in Pastor Aeternus. And yet, we hardly get the idea that there had only been 1 single exercise of Papal infallibility. Quite to the contrary, the relatio asserts there had been thousands. The consequence of this is that the more and more narrow modern theologians have become in explaining the conditions of Papal infallibility, the more and more they steer away from the historical understanding as it was had by the Bishops at Vatican I. You hear this when people say that the Pope is only infallible when he speaks in such highly decorative manners with all the right words and actions and warnings, etc,etc. While this is appreciable, I think it is absurd to think that the infallibility of the Pope, ordained to be the help and sustainer of unity in the Church catholic, had only been exercised once in nearly 1800 years after the birth of the Church. In fact, it is absurd. Continue reading
Dr. Eduardo Echeverria, Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, in his recent article entitled “History, unchanging Truth, and Vatican II” at the Catholic World Report, takes on a difficult task in attempting to relate together the absolute truth of Christian revelation and its transmission through the medium of changeable and historically-conditioned human expressions (i.e. doctrinal formulations within a certain social and historical context). Dr. Ed puts his finger on the right target by situating the veracity of the 2nd Vatican Council, at least partly, on whether we can maintain the enduring validity of the doctrinal content of the Church’s past doctrinal formulations while at the same time acknowledging the changeability in their contextualized framing.
A particular friend in one of my threads, as he is wont to do, upbraided me for my critical commentaries on the “developments” which have taken place in moral and dogmatic theology in the last many decades (though, if you inquire enough, I go further back than that, even pre-Tridentine). He insisted that no violation of dogmatic theology has been committed since the 2nd-Vatican Council, and, more pointedly, the current Pope has only remained faithful to the depositum fidei as handed from the Apostles and onward in their successors. I actually happen to agree with him (at least, in sum, if not in particulars), but that doesn’t mitigate me from anything I’ve said or written prior to. Below is my response to him, particularly with regard to how explicit change in dogma has not been the weapon of today’s attack on Christian revelation. Catholics need to recognize that they are spinning their wheels, grinding their gears, and labor needlessly in a continuous hamster wheel if they think that explicit and objective violation of dogmatic teaching is what threatens the Church today. We need an accurate assessment of the actual problem on the same intellectual terms of those who foster this “paradigm shift”, with its illegal appeal to Newman’s essay on the Development of Doctrine (see my article here on Cardinal Cupich’s appeal to Newman in a lecture to bolster his theory of “paradigm shift”) Otherwise, we are going to only affirm the proponents-of-change since we prove incompetent on understanding their positions, and we will be left to launching bombs at a straw-city. Below is my whack at what may describe the precise sphere of degradation in orthodoxy which not only has pervaded the scene of the Church for many years now, but will continue to garner strength and development in the coming years, which is also my response to said friend.