We live in pervasively antinomian times, and basic unawareness of law is all around us. Yet ignorance of what law is, of why we have it, and even of how one needs to talk about law in order to make good sense, hampers the cause of clarity and reform.
The recent comments of Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, new Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, regarding possible changes in the canonical discipline of withholding holy Communion from Catholics divorced-and-remarried outside the Church, seem a good example of antinomianism. But, while several recent Roman statements benefit by interpretation secundum leniorem (in particular, not taking every unhappy phrase as a harbinger of doctrinal disaster), I think that Archbishop Baldisseri’s remarks require something more. They require, I suggest, direct response.
“A new approach needs to be taken with respect to the administration of the sacraments to remarried divorcees.”
Simply put, there is no pastorally plausible middle-ground between admitting one to holy Communion and not admitting one to holy Communion. (What is one to suggest? Allowing divorced-and-remarried Catholics to take Communion every other Sunday?) Setting aside some rare fact patterns that even now would countenance divorced-and-remarried Catholics going to Communion (e.g., living in a brother-sister manner), the only “new approach” to prohibiting Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics would be to permit Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Trying to pass off a reversal of discipline by describing it as a “new approach” is a disservice to this important issue.
“The Church needs to apply Church doctrine taking the circumstances of each specific case into account. This approach does not mean making general conclusions and rules for everyone.”
Good grief, “general conclusions and rules” are for everyone because that’s whom “general conclusions and rules” are for! If one wants to suggest the possibility of exceptions to rules, or even whole new rules, fine, suggest them, and let the debate proceed. But do not try to claim that “general conclusions and rules” mean not having “general conclusions and rules”—unless, of course, one’s intention is to abolish “general conclusions and rules”.
“…even in the case of marriage annulments, we deal with each case separately. This is what pastoral care is all about; it is not a set framework.”
What can one say? Every court worthy of the name deals with (the facts of) each case separately, but courts do not make up separate rules for each case. A tribunal is expressly about working within a doctrinal and disciplinary framework set by the Church; to imply that a tribunal apply ‘rules without a framework’ is the essence of antinomianism.
“…the [synodal] intention is to discuss the issue [of Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics] without any taboos, otherwise it would not have been mentioned.”
This is perhaps the most vexing line in the prelate’s remarks, for it implies that Church practice against administering holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics might be a “taboo,” that is, a superstitious practice which, once brought into the light of reason, should be abolished with an alacrity that admits we were silly ever to have thought this way at all. I suggest, we do not need to rid ourselves of “taboos” in regard to Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics because there are no “taboos” associated with the prohibition.
What there is, on the other hand, is Christ’s teaching on marriage, the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, and the long-settled practice linking one’s observance of our Lord’s teaching on the former with receiving Him in the latter, that need to be clearly and forthrightly explained, defended, and oberved as, indeed, Abp. Gerhard Müller recently did in a manner approaching brilliant.
In the meantime, antinomianism in high places, no matter how it got there, is still antinomianism. And I trust it’s not taboo to say so.
Figuring out from secular reports what is actually happening in matters of ecclesiastical controversy is frightfully difficult, but it appears that a diocesan priest self-published a book alleging homosexual pressures in Scottish clerical circles. For that action, it seems, the priest has been accused of a canonical crime and is to be tried in a judicial process, pending which process he has been removed from ministry.
A priest’s removal from ministry could be effected under Canon 1722, a norm that authorizes such action against persons under certain circumstances (who knows whether those circumstances were satisfied in this case), and there is canonical provision, even preference, that ecclesiastical penalties be imposed or declared in a judicial (instead of administrative) penal process per Canons 1314 and 1341-1342.
The question is: what canonical crime could have been committed (not was committed, but could have been committed) by publishing the kind of book described above? Remember—against the backdrop of Canon 212 and its protection of the qualified right of Catholics to publish their opinions on matters impacting the welfare of the Church—that a canonical crime is being alleged here, not just the canonical equivalent of a tort (Canons 128 and 1491); that is, the priest is being treated as suspected of having violated a canonical provision to which a sanction is attached. That’s a very serious matter.
Most canonical crimes are listed in Canons 1364-1399, and most of these canons have nothing whatever to do with the fact patterns suggested in this case. But five penal canons could be relevant in this matter.
Canon 1369, for perhaps the priest’s book gravely injured good morals [nb: not morale], expressed insults, or excited hatred or contempt against religion or the Church.
Canon 1373, for perhaps the priest’s book excited animosity or hatred against ecclesiastical authority on account of its governance acts [or lack thereof?] or provoked the faithful to disobey ecclesiastical authority.
Canon 1375, for perhaps the priest’s book greatly intimidated one who exercises ecclesiastical authority.
Canon 1390, for perhaps the priest’s book injured the good reputation of one or more persons who had a right to them.
Canon 1399, for perhaps the priest’s book otherwise gravely violated divine or canon law and demands punishment in order to prevent or repair scandal [correctly understood].
Frankly, Canons 1375 and 1399 are not likely to be applicable to these facts; so only Canons 1369, 1373, and/or 1390 seem plausible here, all of which norms must be applied, of course, in accord with law which—to make a long story short—strongly favors the accused in canonical trials, not the accuser. But only a better knowledge of the facts of this case move the discussion forward. Perhaps time will tell.
I might mention, though, one other penal canon possibly relevant in this matter. Canon 1389 threatens with sanctions those who abuse office in the Church. Invoking, on frivolous grounds, a formal penal process against a priest might qualify as abuse of ecclesiastical office. + + +
With a same day update, above.
I heard about the deer-hunter in Indiana—by all accounts a fine guy, recently married and baby on the way—who, having fallen from a tree and gravely injured his spine last week, decided he wanted to die, and directed that end to be accomplished. I have learned a lot about spinal cord injuries over the last few months, and I have watched my own son suffer horridly especially in the first weeks following his life-changing neck accident. So, before anything else, I say a prayer for all those in that dark place.
But I also decided to write a blog post about suicide and how one can know, strictly speaking, very little about the facts of a given case, yet still be sure that, no matter what, choosing to die (as opposed to accepting the inevitability of death) is always wrong. I had good arguments at hand, and I was ready to refute, among other things, a emotion-laden point cited in justification of the Indiana man’s decision, namely, “that he would never be able to hug his child.”
I was thinking thru my blog post aloud with Angela and had just quoted to her the sad man’s line about never being able to hug his child—when she cut me off.
“But what about his baby?” she exclaimed, “Now, that poor child will never be able to hug his Dad.” And I scrapped my original post, and decided just to quote my wife.
In amoris facie, quis indiget lege?
Will lengthening the period of religious novitiate (currently set at two years per 1983 CIC 648 § 3) cure the ills caused by the great exodus from religious life?
The current two-year limit for novitiate (it can be extended to two-and-a-half years, per 1983 CIC 653 § 2) is a post-conciliar attempt to give religious formators sufficient time to assess a candidate’s suitability for religious life (sort of, see below) while at the same time not leaving candidates in extended limbo about their vocations. The time period for novitiate is not carved in stone, so modifying it would be no big deal.
This two-year (and-a-half) year max applies only to novitiate, the completion of which period makes one eligible for temporary vows. Emphasis on temporary, meaning three to six years (per 1983 CIC 655), extendable to nine (per 1983 CIC 657 § 2). Now, one in temporary vows is a religious, and departures during temporary vows are distressing, but they are, in the final analysis, departures made during a period called temporary for a reason.
At which point we may ask, is it probable that one, having gone through at least two years (maybe two-and-a-half) of novitiate, followed by at least three more years (possibly nine more!) in temporary vows, fails to perservere in religious life because of too-brief a formation period?
It’s possible, I grant. But probable? Sufficiently probable to explain the tens of thousands of departures that the Church’s religious institutes have experienced over the last 40 years?
That, I frankly doubt. I think the problems go much, much deeper. + + +
Added: I wonder, too, whether part of the problem is Holy See’s practice (perhaps actual, but certainly perceived) of granting, eventually, every request for departure it receives, as if permanence simply were not an element of religious profession any more. On this latter point, see a 1984 essay by Paul M. Quay, SJ, available here.
Dcn. Greg Kandra wins the You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Award (well, today’s anyway) by alerting us to the [I don’t have a good adjective] story about a “retired” Catholic priest “marrying” his (same-sex) partner of 20 years.
Some casual googling and leafing thru scattered issues of the Official Catholic Directory confirms that Thomas Pivinski was indeed a Catholic priest (which means that sacramentally Pivinski still is a priest per c. 845 § 1) some fifteen or twenty years ago in Paterson NJ, though he might not still be a member of the clerical state (c. 290?), and that Pivinski ministers Anglican these days. Whatever exactly one is to make of that.
Now, of course, Pivinski is not married to his partner, any more than those ladies who floated down the Blue Danube back in 2002 are now priests. Women becoming priests and guys marrying other guys is not simply forbidden, it is impossible, no matter how dressed up everybody gets for the event and no matter how many laudatory news stories get written about it. In fact, guys marrying guys (or girls marrying girls) is even more impossible (if that’s possible) than women being ordained priests because the impossibility of ‘same sex marriage’ is rooted in natural law (c. 1055 § 1), and not simply in (albeit infallibly proclaimed) Church doctrine (which, yes, I know, might be rooted in natural law, but I don’t need to debate that now).
Anyway, this isn’t news to thinking Catholics. We’ve covered this ground many times before. But here’s what is new: the affront to truth that Pivinski has worked is worse than that caused by non-believers who (perhaps through no fault of their own) can’t see what’s wrong with ‘same sex marriage’, and even worse than Catholics who should be able to see what’s wrong with ‘same sex marriage’ and choose not to do so. For Pivinski is an alter Christus (regardless of whether he is still a cleric, and I agree with Dcn. Greg that Paterson should simply tell us what Pivinski’s canonical status is) which means that Pivinski received the sacrament that configures a man most closely to Christ the Great High Priest and ever-chaste Bridegroom of his Church. What could be a greater calling than that? Nothing.
Pivinski, I suggest, has traded an indescribable inheritance for porridge. Nay, not even for porridge.
Updated, 12 nov 2013: CDF has, correctly of course, rejected the Freiburg document.
The Archdiocese of Freiburg in Germany became canonically “vacant” on 17 Sep 2013 when the resignation of its archbishop, Robert Zollitsch, was accepted promptly upon his reaching age 75 (1983 CIC 401 § 1). Now, Canon 428 § 1, a law with roots back at least to the 12th century, states “When a see is vacant, nothing is to be altered.” The Archdiocese of Freiburg is not exempt from this law.
The prohibition against divorced but civilly remarried Catholics taking Communion is regarded as an application of Canon 915 and reflects a Eucharistic discipline going back many, many centuries. From a cornucopia of sources, a quote from the International Theological Commission 1977 statement on Christian marriage sums up this discipline:
“The incompatibility of the state of remarried divorced persons with the precept and mystery of the Paschal love of the Lord makes it impossible for these people to receive, in the Eucharist, the sign of unity with Christ. Access to eucharistic Communion can only be had through penitence, which implies detestation of the sin committed and the firm purpose of not sinning again.
While this illegitimate situation does not permit a life of full communion with the Church, still Christians who find themselves in this state are not excluded from the action of divine grace and from a link with the Church. They must not, therefore, be deprived of pastoral assistance.”
Aus der Unverträglichkeit des Zustands der wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen mit dem Gebot und Geheimnis der österlichen Liebe des Herrn folgt für sie die Unmöglichkeit, in der heiligen Eucharistie das Zeichen der Einheit mit Christus zu empfangen. Der Weg zur eucharistischen Gemeinschaft kann nur durch Busse geöffnet werden; dazu gehört „der Abscheu über die begangene Sünde, verbunden mit dem Vorsatz, fortan nicht zu sündigen.“
Auch wenn die unrechtmäßige Situation keine volle Teilnahme am Leben der Gemeinschaft gestattet, so sind diese Christen doch nicht vom Wirken der göttlichen Gnade und der Verbindung mit der Kirche ausgeschlossen, und die Hirtensorge darf ihnen nicht entzogen werden.
When, therefore, someone in some office of the archdiocese (reports I’ve seen don’t clearly say which), issued a ‘policy’ whereby divorced but civilly remarried Catholics could, basically upon meeting with a priest, be permitted to take holy Communion, something pretty big was “altered”.
If this novel ‘policy’ of the Archdiocese of Freiburg is not an (attempted) “alteration” of ecclesiastical discipline, what would be? If it is not, therefore, prohibited by operation of, if nothing else, Canon 428, what is?
Dcn. Greg Kandra posts a letter from a deacon mentioning (and it seems, complaining about) announcements by priests just before Communion time as to who may approach to receive. Kandra says he’s never seen the practice (I have, several times) but he found and cites the appropriate passage of the GIRM calling for just this kind of admonition to be given. The passage will doubtless come as a complete surprise to many readers. Assuming you’ve read Kandra’s post, I note here some concerns I have with what was presented as being announced by the priest:
“We are about to .. offer Holy Communion [to] those that have received confirmation and first holy Communion, however…. if you would like to come forward for a blessing, or if you are not a Catholic in good standing, simply cross your arms in front of you….”
This language is a mess.
First, Confirmation is NOT required of Catholics who wish to go to Communion, nor for that matter is a “First Communion” (at least not in terms of a dedicated rite of same) required before going to Communion.
Second, one should NOT encourage, as an alternative to reception of Communion, “coming forward with arms crossed for blessing”. Receiving a blessing is not an “alternative” to receiving holy Communion (any more than being handed a raincoat in a hurricane is an ‘alternative’ to be admitted to a storm shelter) and, moreover, such a rite is an intrusion into the liturgy forbidden by Canon 846 § 1. I’ve addressed that liturgical abuse here.
Third and most importantly, a minister should NEVER use language about Catholics coming forward if they are “in good standing with the Church”. I have heard such language used and it is highly objectionable.
There are various reasons why one might not approach for Communion. One might not have fasted for an hour before Communion time or one might have already received that day. Granted, these are not likely reasons for refraining, and a few other rules apply even to them, but they are still on the books and would result in one’s not approaching for Communion despite being “in good standing with the Church”. On those grounds alone this language about “being in good standing” should be scrapped.
Of course there are Catholics who are not “in good standing with the Church” and who should not, per Canon 916, receive Communion. But outside of the cases covered by Canon 915 (wherein, notice, the Church makes such determinations), it is the individual’s responsibility to refrain from sacrilegious reception, not the minister’s duty to have Catholics line up according to, I dunno what, degrees of holiness. Terminology such as that outlined above makes Catholics appear to be singling themselves out as being or not being “in good standing with the Church” which sort of self-incrimination the Church strenuously avoids imposing on her members.
A much better announcement would be something simple like “At this time, Catholics prepared to receive holy Communion may do so in the usual way.”