This blog started out as a collection of scripts for an online radio show of the same name. It riffed off of my 2004 book, Musings from the Christian Left, now republished as The Conscience of a Catholic Radical.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Answering the Five Dubia

Four elder Cardinals without pastoral portfolio have asked five question (dubia) of his Holiness, Pope Francis.  They have, of late, been whining to the right wing Catholic press about the fact they have not been answered.  If they were working pastors, it would be necessary to do so.  Instead, they are only grumpy old men who do not deserve to demand the Holy Father's time.  Instead, they get me, whose authority as a not so old retired and divorced Catholic guy is the same as their current portfolio.  They need to accept the fact that they speak as individuals and without authority - except as members of the body of Christ - which is my pay grade as well.  That they don't accept that fact is their main problem.  The divorced Catholics whose lives they wish to judge have more of a stake in Amoris Laetitia than they do.  I have a stake, they do not.  Their only stake is their pride.  Not a good place to come from in seeking God.

1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?

Ans: For most people, the marriage is over at divorce, including for the spouse who responded to the divorce petition.  The marriage is essentially adulterated in the eyes of the couple - and if there is abuse, alcoholism or adultery, the wronged party has every right to be free of the marriage.  The Sacrament of Marriage is not a magic spell, it is a human connection.  For the past few decades, pastors have dealt with remarriages that have lasted the test of time by blessing the new union privately.  This is not a new thing and the Synod Fathers recognized this and overwhelming codified what is already the case.  Active bishops who resist should heed the exhortation and not stand on their pride of tradition.

2.  After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?

Ans: Veritatis Splendor has largely been ignored pastorally.  It did not change practice that predated it.  It is intrinsically evil to abandon one's spouse and marry another because that other is hurt.  It is not intrinsically evil to escape physical or sexual abuse and marry another.  It is not intrinsically evil to agree to end a marriage by mutual consent and marry another.  It is not intrinsically evil to leave an alcoholic, addict or mentally ill person who rejects treatment and marry another.  Evil happens in relationships, not in some mysterious natural order that is a sophistry designed to get past the fact that God cannot be hurt by sin.  Neither is the Church harmed by remarriage, unless it ratifies remarriages by serial abusers, adulterers, etc. by granting annulments based on the original marriage and not on subsequent behavior.  This question is based on a superstitious view of marital morality.  The time for Catholicism to be a superstition ended with Vatican II, although St. John Paul and Pope Emeritus Benedict endeavored to bring it back.

3.  After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?

Ans: The Apostle Paul put this question in perspective when he taught that fornicators sin against their own bodies.  If one has sex after marriage is over, they are properly fornicating, not committing adultery and suffer the moral qualms that go with sex without committed relationship.  That state of moral ambiguity goes away when one contracts a new marriage.  Whether that new marriage, or the prior sexuality, is adulterous depends on how and why the prior marriage ended.  If they are the wronged party, there should be no sense of sin unless one looks at the human relations involved as ancillary to the superstition of some otherworldly natural order, which again, is a sophistry to avoid the fact that sin cannot harm God.

4.  After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?

Saint John Paul was speaking from superstition.  Real marriage marriages occur beyond discussions of intrinsic evil.  The intrinsic evil in questions of divorce and remarriage happen to the people involved.  What is intrinsically evil is for the Church to demand practices which deepen their pain.  In the reality of pastoral ministry as it existed before Amoris and even before Veritatis, pastors heard confessions and blessed remarriages which have lasted (as well as other civil marriages and probably in the future, gay marriages) to ease the burdens on the faithful rather than make them heavier.  Indeed, the four ex-bishops who are yelling from the cheap seats are like the pharisees whom Jesus condemns who used the Oral Law to pile burdens onto the Jewish people for the same reasons of moral self-righteousness and personal (and prideful) purity. Prostitutes and the remarried will enter Heaven before these four.

5. After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?

Ans.  Veritatis Splendor is essentially Saint John Paul's redux of the Syllabii on Error by Blessed Pius IX and Saint Pius X.  It is a rear guard action in defense of the fantastic Natural Order and a doctrine of original sin that presupposes the reality of the Eden myth.  It is essentially anti-pastoral.  It would refreshing if Pope Francis preached a more realistic view of morality - one that existed in the lives of the people involved rather than one based on the old superstitions of doctrine past.  Sins happen to people, not to God or some natural order idealized by the Vatican.  Amoris Laetitia is an attempt to break us out of that cycle.  While many of us would welcome a repudiation of faith as superstition, many of the weak of faith, including the four ex-pastors, would not be able to handle it.  Faith is not loyalty to the Church, it is trust in God and His benevolence to people in pain.

Conclusion: Between the Cardinals and myself, one side is showing great pride and the other great faith.  I will leave it to the reader to decide who.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Letter to the White House

Early this morning:

Mr. President,  it seems you were ill served by FBI Director Comey when you asked him to help Mike Flynn.  He should have both warned you that what you were asking  came close to obstruction, not in criminal but political terms and should have advised you to communicate instead to the Pardon Attorney at DoJ.  While they traditionally act only after someone is convicted, you have the unilateral power to pardon anyone for any reason, whether convicted or not.  As long as the only issue is communication with the Russian Ambassador about sanctions and unfortunate oversight on security paperwork, a pardon seems appropriate.  Indeed, if he was contacting the Ambassador on your behalf, coming forward and saying so would help defuse the process.  While deciding to do so on your part would have been improper, it would not have been illegal.  Taking responsibility for any part of that incident that you had would help defuse the whole incident, as well as apologizing for any misunderstanding with Director Comey.  As you have recently learned, FBI Directors are not the kind of cops that look the other way because they like you.  Comey is no different from anyone before him or after him.

Unless there is evidence of other wrongdoing regarding the election or violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (and if there are, you should resign and hope the next pardons you and your family), you should quietly accept Censure and agree to a few conditions that will show a commitment to good public service.  It seems that the Attorney General was involved with Russia and lied about it under oath.  Fire him now.  Fire any White House staff member without significant political staff experience (and party office does not count).  I suggest you ask for staff to be detailed from congressional committees, both  majority and minority.  If you want to serve the nation rather than the party, bipartisanship is a must.  In business, personal loyalty is important.  In government, loyalty to the United States is much more important.  Those public servants that forget that when hiring staff are ill served and with them the nation.  Finally, cancel your Twitter account, both while you are the President and when you are a former President, as  in the Club, you don't openly criticize your successors.  Follow W.'s example in this and do not renew your account, ever.  You are now the man of the nation.  You serve it, it does not serve you.   Best wishes, MB