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Cdl. Burke’s synodal intervention on antinomianism, and Dr. Martin’s new book on salvation

November 2, 2012

Raymond Cdl. Burke, prefect of Apostolic Signatura, offered a terrific written intervention at the Synod of Bishops regarding the pastoral importance of law in the life of the Church. I offer here the Vatican’s translation of his Italian-language remarks (my bolding):

His Em. Rev. Cardinal Raymond Leo BURKE, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (VATICAN CITY):

The Instrumentum Laboris reminds us that witness to the Christian faith is a valid response to the pressing problems of life in every age and culture, especially because that witness overcomes the false separation existing between the Gospel and life (cf. no. 118). However, so that witness to the faith will have a place, which today’s world urgently needs, cohesion is needed within the Church between life and faith.

Among the most serious wounds of society today is the separation of legal culture from its metaphysical objective, which is moral law. In recent times this separation has been much accentuated, manifesting itself as a real antinomianism, which claims to render actions which are intrinsically evil as legal, for example, abortion on demand, artificial conception of human life with the aim of carrying out experimentation on the life of a human embryo, the so-called euthanasia of those who have the right to our preferential assistance, legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriage, and the negation of the fundamental right to conscience and religious liberty.

This antinomianism embedded in civil society has unfortunately infected post-Council ecclesial life, associating itself, regrettably, with so-called cultural novelties. Excitement following the Council, linked to the establishment of a new Church which teaches freedom and love, has strongly encouraged an attitude of indifference towards Church discipline, if not even hostility. The reforms of ecclesial life which were hoped for by the Council Fathers were therefore, in a certain sense, hindered, if not betrayed.

Devoted to present-day new evangelization, we have the task of laying the foundation for awareness of the disciplinary tradition of the Church and respect of the law in the Church. An interest in the discipline of the Church is not to be equated with an idea contrary to the mission of the Church in the world, but to a correct attention to cohesively witnessing to faith in the world. This service, certainly humble, of Church Canon Law is also absolutely necessary. How indeed will we be able to witness our faith in the world if we ignore or neglect the demands of justice within the Church? Salvation of the soul, the primary goal of a new evangelization, must also always be in the Church “the supreme law” (can. 1752).  [00357-02.03] [IS007] [Original text: Italian]

An unexpected treat of attending the Synod in Rome was, by the way, the opportunity to share a lunch with Cdl. Burke and to get a copy of his canonical dissertation on marriage law. Among many insights, this line leapt off the page at me: “The too rapid growth of practice without a clear and solid theoretical foundation has its most serious consequences in the confusion regarding the very foundations of matrimonial law”. Burke, Lack of discretion of judgment (1986) at 85. Man, does that insight ever apply to a host of canonical-pastoral issues today.

Speaking of reading, I also came into a copy of Dr. Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and its Implications for the New Evangelization (Eerdmans 2012). Absolutely fascinating work, it kept me awake more nighttime hours than was prudent, perhaps, but I couldn’t help it. Ralph’s measured yet unrelenting focus on what Vatican II actually teaches (chiefly in Lumen gentium 16) about the diminished possibility of salvation outside the Church and the consequence of that teaching for the missionary mandate of every Catholic was, I felt, too important to put off.

Update, 9 Nov: Read Jeff Mirus’ take on Dr. Martin’s work here.

Dr. Edward Peters at the Synod of Bishops (Rome, October 2012)

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