Sunday, November 22, 2015

Praise indeed or not, as the case may be

Some cracking articles in the latest First Things.

Here is unreserved praise for Francis, the Bishop of Rome, by (not a Catholic) David Hart. Read the article here to understand why I have not used the word 'Pope' to describe Francis, and what authoritative example I follow by so omitting! (Spoiler Alert: some 'conservative' Catholics should not read what Hart says while drinking their coffee, and certainly not with a keyboard nearby).

On the other hand Wesley Hill does use the word 'Pope' to describe leading evangelical J.I. Packer. Only the intro to the article here is available, the remainder is via subscription.

Perhaps less cracking is "A Jubilee Year of Mercy" by Charles J, Caput. He begins well on mercy but eventually reaches the current thorny issue of divorce and remarriage. Call me small brained or something similar, but I am struggling to see why divorce, of all human sins, cannot be repented of. Help, anyone?

But something less than praise is being given in the Guardian for Blessed Justin trying to drag the Cof E into the 21st century. I know a quick visit to England does not make me an expert, and I did hear Linda Woodhead preach a mighty fine sermon on Simone Weil just two weeks ago, but I think keeping on going the ways things have always gone, and consulting the intellectuals of the church before throwing the rescue lifebelt overboard might just be underestimating the storm, the damage, the height of the waves and the immense possibility of drowning in the tidal waves of secularism!


Anonymous said...

Peter, debates about That Topic have clarified much about what people believe about marriage per se. There are two oft-defended positions--

(a) For modern people, marriage is a personal undertaking that matters to God, not for its own sake, because of its consequences for the happiness of each couple. In the ancient world, divorce was a sin in every case because only men could do it, because it was done unilaterally rather than by agreement, and because it was so destructive to women and children. Accordingly, divorce is no longer a sin because none of those things is necessarily true anymore. That churches still have rules about marriage that have nothing to do with the happiness of the couple is odd.

(c) For Christians, marriage is a religious undertaking that matters to God, not only as a functional part of his order for bringing new life into the world, but also as a sign of reconciliation-- masculine and feminine, Christ and the Church, and the descent of heaven to earth at the end of time. The permanence of marriage is intrinsic to the sign; impermanence in marriage is a dark countersign to the world that Christians do not trust God's providence and grace.

In theory, there is a (b) between (a) and (c) that is about as earthy as (a) and about as meaningful as (c), but few actually seem to hold such a hybrid view. Those defending (c) sense that if they do not hold the line, the nihilism they see in (a) will flood over all things like a tsunami. Those defending (a) are appalled that anyone still believes that there is any line to hold since nobody they know has ever heard of this stuff. So the polarised (a) and (c) battle on over the symbol of communion for the divorced, with the result you describe.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
My concern is that there is not a theoretical (b) but a real (b) in which marriages break apart in complex ways (e.g. A holds to (c) and wants to stick it out; but spouse B holds to (a) and wants out). If A is repentant of whatever A has done to contribute to the break up (and if B remains unreconcilable), is A never to receive communion again if in the fullness of time a new marriage is entered into?

So, yes, I get the "we must hold the line" motivation, but is that motivation a justification for withholding forgiveness for repented sin? That question - to my mind - is not being satisfactorily answered by Rome at present.

Father Ron Smith said...

I do think, Peter, that a divorce can well be 'repented of'. I remember bishop Paul Reeves impressing on me the need - before agreeing to take the wedding of a divorced person - to ensure that there was real regret and penitence that the first marriage had ended in divorce. That was my own personal stiptulation before any agreement to go forward with the preparations for a second marriage.

I think Bowman may be a wee bit tough on the prospects of the necessity of divorce - especially when there has been a real breakdown of meaningful communication between the couple. I cannot believe our Loving God would want such a situation to prevail eternally. I also do believe that new beginnings are part of life.

Bryden Black said...

What a marvellous piece Peter! Thank you for drawing our attention to it. Herewith what I consider the “money” sections.

“She [the Church] cannot confirm human beings in patterns of behavior that separate them from God and remain faithful to her own mission at the same time. Authentic mercy is evangelical. It proceeds from the belief that God's grace has the power to transform us. Ironically, a pastoral strategy that minimizes sin in the name of mercy cannot be merciful, because it is dishonest.

“The Church can be truthful without being merciful, like the scribes who wished to stone the adulteress who violated the Mosaic law. But the Church cannot be merciful without being truthful. And the truth is, we are called to conversion. A pastoral approach that ignores this truth out of a thinly veiled pastoral despair and accommodationism will result in less faith, not more. "The one who wants to adapt himself too much," Henri de Lubac famously warned, "risks letting himself be dragged along." Indeed, this is what we see happening in Europe, in those churches where the pastoral practice regarding divorce, remarriage, and reception of the sacraments has departed from authentic Catholic teaching. What ensues from an untruthful teaching about and practice of the sacraments is not a more zealous evangelical life but its collapse. ...

“But a therapeutic age tends to translate "accompaniment" as "thou shalt not judge," affirming people indiscriminately as they are. This is not mercy. God's mercy always moves us forward and upward. No sin places us beyond God's forgiveness. His mercy endures forever. That means everyone is invited when the great churches of Rome open their doors at the beginning of this extraordinary jubilee, the Year of Mercy. But again, it would be the opposite of mercy to say "come" and then imply that we need not move, need not step out of our present romance with sin and toward obedience to God's life-giving righteousness, the law of Jesus Christ.

“In the end, the ministry of mercy in the Church is Marian in character. ... This mercy asks us to teach the truth but also to live it. It asks us to preach not ourselves but the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. This is news not of “affirmation” but of something more powerful, more desired by all of us—redemption.”

And so I find this time Bowman your line(s) of thought curious. For a start, when addressing the disciples in Mark (10:10-12), after the Pharisees have had a go at him (10:2-9), Jesus either is unaware of the law or is deliberately making another kind of point, when he states in v.12 that a woman commits adultery when she divorces her husband and remarries. I fancy he is utterly aware of the legal game, but wants now to raise the status of women to the point that they too can be completely responsible for the breakdown of a marriage. Here women and men in Christian marriage are placed on an equal footing of freedom and responsibility.

To be sure, subsequently the Church might not have treated women in this manner down the centuries - but that is not quite the point. Her founder knew at least what the real intent of the Creator was for human marriage. Just as St Paul sees the final result of “being filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:18, a plural imperative) to be “mutual submission out of reverence for Christ”. True again; the Church has not quite viewed it so down through all her history. But if we allow the full voice of Scripture to hold sway, then I cannot quite agree with a, b, or c - as you describe them. For within the provision of shall we term it “c revised”, “mercy” may fully grant the deconstructing of the “countersign” — in evangelical conversion and redemption ala the Abp of Philly, with once more the sacraments having their due significance.

Father Ron Smith said...

I can on;y thank God that He is the author of mercy and grace. If it were left to some human beings (albeit, sinners themselves) who would withhold mercy from others - in the quest of 'truth' (whatever that might mean in the mind of the judge) - there would ben no survivors!

It is worth noting that even the 'unjust steward' was commended by Jesus for extending mercy to others - even though for his own ultimate benefit. Whereas Jesus always condemned those who passed judgement on others. A great lesson there; not often understood by 'preachers'.

"God's mercy endureth for ever". Praise the Lord!

Father Ron Smith said...

" Redemption in Jesus Christ goes out to all the nations. In other words, God’s love becomes reckless, even prodigal. Here again our human instincts for justice—the justice of rendering to each his due—seems to run counter to God’s mercy." - Charles J. Chaput -

In this way, God's love for sinners (and that's all of us - not just those we determine are 'sinners') is totally unlike humn compassion. I guess this is what prompted the hynwrite to write these words:

"Oh Love that will not let me go; I rest my weary soul in Thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that life may fuller, fairer, be"

"There's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea"

This is surely one of the reasons why, having dispensed God's mercy and forgiveness to a penitent, tha Catholic priest is bound to say this: "Pray for me, too, a sinner".

Deo gratias!

Anonymous said...

Peter, Ron, Bryden, we agree. I was describing the polarisation that I hear in what people say when they present their view of marriage to explain their strong feelings about That Topic. I have heard a lot of (a) and (c), and so that is what I reported. Thank God, none of us here believes personally every opinion we mention.

We may tacitly agree-- do we Bryden?-- that even a rule that serves a society or its church well is not yet the right rule if it serves the many by occasioning inequitable hardship on some.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Continuing my thought from several days ago, Peter, Rome cannot explain why one who has repented of divorce may not remarry and commune because the rule was meant to prescribe the mores of whole Catholic nations, not a path to repentance for Catholic individuals in more pluralistic ones. In the past, the rule's cost to some Catholics in some circumstances was given less weight than the importance of reifying a social norm that promoted reflective life decisions and the everyday heroism that marriage often requires. Francis appears open to seeing national conferences of Catholic bishops strike a new balance.

But no, Rome has not explained the anomaly of a sin of which one cannot repent without another sinner’s cooperation. The pastoral outworking of that is more interesting than the silence itself. Informally, Roman prelates here seem to presume that Americans are *invincibly ignorant* with respect to its teaching on marriage as on birth control. Given the prevalence of something like (a) in the United States, this makes sense. So they have made the annulment of broken first marriages almost routine. An ideal diocesan court processing annulment petitions uses the process prescribed in the Code of Canon Law to teach petitioners *what the Catholic church actually teaches about marriage* in exchange for an excellent chance of getting a first marriage annulled with communion in a second marriage as a result. Does this work?

Again, the polarisation of temperaments. Yes, say marginal liberals who find that approach distastefully bureaucratic but still a pastoral lifeline to the drowning. No, say marginal conservatives who object that the tacit bargain demeans the sacrament, and weakens the church’s resolve to teach people the right way in the first place. Without taking a position on which sort of personality it is better to have, we may be able to abstract a useful hamartiological principle: if a church thinks that some act is a sin, then it should have a plausibly educative path to repentance of that sin. Simply withholding communion from a penitent does not seem very educative to me, but where a church's eucharistic theology allows this, it may be that ordinary communication of penitents should be contingent on some prescribed course of repentance likely to be helpful to them. Perhaps that is what you have in mind?

Bowman Walton

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

No, Bryden, as you say, proponents of (a) are not often close readers of scripture. In my experience, they readily admit this when pressed about it. Given that they are otherwise proficient Christians, why are they indifferent-- or even hostile-- to moral arguments from the scriptures?

They do not feel that they need them, and they surely do not trust them. Keen as they may be to reform their own society, they are not radically suspicious of the basic moral sentiments of their own time. Indeed, their reforms are usually demands for more consistency with those sentiments. However, they often are radically suspicious of the norms of past societies, to say nothing of those that slaughtered Amalekites, stoned witches and adulteresses, and crucified dissidents. So, they feel less sheer need to find a coherent morality in the Bible, and a priori have a vanishingly low expectation of finding one that does not outrage common moral sentiments.

Appeals to the authority of scripture fail with proponents of (a), especially if the proponents are women and the topic touches marriage. For those with an historicised imagination that (mis)remembers the past as a darkness of unrelieved male domination of women, much of it Christian-- eg The Mists of Avalon, A Game of Thrones-- and that sees morality from the past as inevitably reflecting that domination, marriage is where the darkly historical becomes darkly personal. Women’s rejection of the idea that marriage actually protects them is the single most powerful moral fact of the past half century. Callum Brown has convinced many that this alone caused young women to abandon the Church of England in the early 1960s, beginning its precipitous decline. If one cites against (a) some scholarly interpretation of scripture by an *historical grammatical method* that excludes the reader’s moral sentiments by design, then one only confirms both an (a)-proponent’s intellectual prejudices and her worst fears about our religion. If even bible scholars do it, then surely she is right to historicise everything, and alas they do it in a way that silences the feminine voice. Counterproductively, just where they are sincerely striving for a self-effacing objectivity, the impression they leave is oppressively authoritarian rather than reliably authoritative.

So why do proponents of (a) practice Christianity at all? Personally, I understand this less well than I would like. They still tend to see Jesus as so far transcending his time that he is not personally blamed for all that followed. They are often somewhat open to the supernatural, not necessarily as they find it in biblical narrative, but as it might be experienced in the liturgy. If they had not found speaking up for liberal causes deeply important, I would never have noticed them. Ironically, (c) could be deeply satisfying to such believers if it were not being sponsored mainly by evangelical men.

You raise a worthwhile question about their openness to transforming discipleship. The most masculine and the most feminine among us seem to experience this transformation differently. Priests who have heard confessions from both monks and nuns over several years are aware of the difference. So my best hypothesis is that while (a)-proponent churchwomen may bluntly reject a sort of high-testosterone, authority-directed push toward defined-goals, they do value transformation in Christ that comes in a less programmed way better accommodated to their attrait. (Peter, this is, more or less, Linda Woodhead’s warning to the Church of England: you cannot win back the women lost in the ‘60s, or others, with an ethos that presumes evangelical masculinity.) Study of *union with Christ* and retrieval of its associated practises is flourishing these days, and our task seems to be to understand all of this in light of other known experiences of personal change.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (at 6.07 am)
Thank you for a brilliant and helpful analysis of the 'wider' issues at stake for the RCC.
Yes, I am firmly of the conviction that a penitential pathway should be found.
Less firm, less clear in my mind is what that pathway might be, especially in a Protestant context.

(At 7.47 am) Thanks for the insight re Linda Woodhead's warning, though I think that is largely rather than wholly true: some women (of my acquaintance) relish a context of 'evangelical masculinity'.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

My understanding of the Catholic Catechism is that sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved while both parties are living. Annulments, of course, say that there was not a sacramental marriage in the first place. Leaving aside the disproportionate number of annulments in the west (I too am very cynical about that), there is nevertheless a Catholic response to the penitent. It isn't popular but that is not the issue. The response is "go and sin no more", not "be forgiven and carry on sinning". Now, the Catechism does not recommend a reconciliation in all cases, but it does require chastity. Before you raise an objection, consider that this is the answer that many (most?) evangelical Anglicans are happy to inflict on homosexuals. So why is the answer good for gays but not separated sacramentals?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
If a priest can be laicised, I fail to understand why (on a sacramental understanding) a marriage cannot be dissolved (for adequate reasons).

In your reply above I find that you too quickly move over the difficulty(s) the process and theology of annulment pose. For example, it is a kind of neat trick to say that a valid marriage is not a sacramental marriage, therefore can be deemed not a marriage so a new marriage after divorce is not a sin. So, while on a juridical view the RCC response is "go and sin no more", in reality it is (in many cases) "you are forgiven and have a second chance." With the reality, incidentally, being more faithful to the gospel than annulment (about which our Lord said nothing!)

I think that reply should be given before addressing the question you raise about homosexuality because whatever answer we give on questions of homosexuality, the difficulties in the RCC approach to divorce and remarriage remain ... and they are difficulties because the recent synod in Rome, muddy as its response may have been, clearly signalled a wide unease about the present approach.

I am not at all clear how the possibility of repentance from divorce and sinning no more subsequently via marriage changes (of itself) "the answer" given to homosexuals by evangelical Anglicans when they recommend "go and sin no more." The difference you are implying lies over what is a sin and what is not, rather than over whether one group are encouraged to sin and another group are discouraged from sinning.

Father Ron Smith said...

" The difference you are implying lies over what is a sin and what is not, rather than over whether one group are encouraged to sin and another group are discouraged from sinning." - Dr. P.C. (of Nick)

And herein lies the difficulty of the difference between our two Church communities. For Rome - for instance - the use of contraception is still a 'sin'. Not so for Anglicans. When we have this sort of moral equation there is little to be gained from comparisons - except to reflect on Pope Francis' insistence on a new mission of 'MERCY' in the Roman Catholic Church. Hopefully, this may release many people from the continuing burden of unconfessed would-be-sins.

By the way, Our Lord's words to the woman: "Go and sin no more", were a request, rather than a juridical order-in-council. We don't know how she fared after that request. She did know that, despite her tendency to sin, Christ loved her more than did her faith community.

Interestingly; there is no record of her repentance before Jesus gave His absolution. Jesus' readiness to forgive her could well have prompted a complete turnaround! Her judges were effectively dismissed

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Priests are priests forever; the sacrament of holy orders is indelible. Priests can be released from the clerical state, but the sacrament is like baptism - you can not undo it. Such a priest can apply to the Pope to be allowed to marry. I do not know how good the chances are under Francis (he expects a lot from clergy), but JP2 prized celibacy even in laicised priests. If there is no permission to marry, the priest's marriage will not be recognised by the Church. So, in terms of your first paragraph, I'm not sure your comment has force.

In terms of your second paragraph, it works if we assume that Tribunals knowingly make declarations of nullity when there are no real grounds. Some suggest that this occurs in the US because of the disproportionate number of declarations granted. If this is true, it is not a neat trick, rather a serious contravention of canon law.

I'm not sure I completely follow your fourth paragraph. God does not like divorce (Malachi 2:16). Christ was no liberal. It seems to me that on an orthodox view a second consummated marriage after divorce would be a sin and, in fact, no marriage at all. In other words it would then have no more sacramental status than a homosexual relationship. If that is so, I would then find it unprincipled to accept one irregular relationship that happened to be heterosexual but not another that happened to be homosexual.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Peter, there is somewhat more to Woodhead's critique than the main thrust of it. And yes, as a good sociologist she would surely advise us not to overlook the story told by statistical outliers-- women who thrive amid evangelical masculinity, and, for that matter, men who find it stultifying. Evangelical Disenchantment, David Hempton's portrait gallery of creative persons who left an evangelical faith that could not accommodate them is a worthwhile series of cautionary tales.

Again yes, discovery, replication, and support of *penitential pathways* is an overlooked key to almost everything we discuss here-- mercy, justice, peace, the Anglican Communion, church growth, That Topic, ecumenism, the decline of civilisation, everything it seems but New Zealand rugby. We look forward to reading your book on this urgent matter ;-)

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Penitence is not simple, even when the sins are simple-- robbing a bank, etc. But marriage is complex, and marriage after divorce is more complex. A series of heuristic questions may separate some of the layers of this massive sedimentary rock.

(d) Genesis 1:28 has appeared to either command that lives be ordered for procreation, or else to show that sexuality tends to procreate by a design of God with which believers should comply. Is marriage to procreate generally obligatory for believers? If there are exceptions, what are they?

(e) Jesus spoke about marriage. Was this positive law or a description of God’s ideal? If it was law, what *use of the law* was it?

(f) St Paul spoke about marriage. Are relationships that fall short of this *ideal* still marriage?

(g) In the M1 West, when weddings among Christians were unrecorded private transactions at the bride’s home between her father and her groom, did *marriage* exist?

(h) In an innovation of the early M2 West, marriage promises began to be made on the steps of a church that were witnessed by all in the square below, and noted by a clerk in a parish register. Did the *registration* make the marriage, or did it merely serve purposes of church and state?

(i) Marriage is a state of life. Is also viewing marriage as a *sacrament* informative in some concrete way, or does it just complicate actual marriage with a fiction that often becomes implausible?

(j) In accord with several proposed definitions of a sacrament, Western theologians and canonists struggled to show that marriage is a sacrament. Is it?

(k) Because their proposed definitions differed, the same Western theologians and canonists differed over the moment when it occurred. What is that moment?

(l) If marriage is not itself a sacrament, then what is its relationship to baptism and eucharist, if any?

(m) In one case in the C12, all but two French bishops held that it was not *divorce* for a husband to give his wife to a new husband in a marriage with her consent. Did they err?

(n) Can an individual, by meeting certain obligations to his or her spouse, be absolutely free of responsibility for the end of a marriage?

(o) The end of a marriage is painful and disappointing for the couple. Is also viewing this event as *sin* informative in some concrete way, or does it just complicate divorce and its aftermath with a fiction that often becomes implausible?

(p) Is the failure of a marriage a sin? Or is it only a sin to remarry?

(q) Is the failure of an annulled marriage a sin?

(r) Is developmental immaturity a sin?

(s) There is a time of life before which a marriage should not be contracted. Is this a chronological age or a stage of development?

(t) Marriage stability today demands more emotional and interpersonal maturity than it did a century ago. Is it a sin to marry with only the maturity needed in 1915? Is it a duty to stay married to someone who turns out to have only that maturity?

(u) Is a second marriage of the same nature as the first (as in the West), or is the first somehow distinct from all that follow (as in the East)?

(v) Both church and state register the marital status of persons. Should the same names appear with the same status in both registries?

Bowman Walton

Liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

We have only recently been down this small-brained bear with a bone. I responded there as well and do so here in the same spirit.

You and I may not agree with the majority Christian position on divorce, remarriage, and communion, but I think it is important that this majority position be well heard. It is not as difficult to understand as you imply.

I stress again the importance of respectfully listening to a large tradition even when we disagree with it. You seek no less when the discussion turns to committed same-sex couples, and would express irritation if people simply brushed it off with small-brained comments.

In the comments you compare divorce to laicisation . A person who has validly been ordained priest, in both Anglican and RC theology, cannot have that ordination undone. Laicisation, removing a licence or permission to officiate merely prevents the licit exercise of priestly ministry. To reverse laicisation one would not be ordained again. So the parallel, rather than supporting your position, reinforces the RC position.

Divorce in RC theology is breaking a God-sealed union with a particular individual. Yes, divorce, like all sins, can be repented of. That can be done by restoring the God-sealed union with that particular individual.



Anonymous said...

Peter, have you seen this? Paul McGavin in Canberra proposes a path...

Father Ron Smith said...

" Priests can be released from the clerical state, but the sacrament is like baptism - you can not undo it. Such a priest can apply to the Pope to be allowed to marry. I do not know how good the chances are under Francis (he expects a lot from clergy), but JP2 prized celibacy even in laicised priests. If there is no permission to marry, the priest's marriage will not be recognised by the Church. So, in terms of your first paragraph, I'm not sure your comment has force." - Nick

Talk about being 'more Catholic than the Pope'

Nick seems not to have heard the story of Pope Francis, who, before he became Pope, used to regularly have lunch with the widow of a deceased priest friend who had left the Church to marry. That says a great deal about the current Pope's understanding of clergy who leave the practising priesthood in order to marry - Mercy personified!

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bosco. Here we have a case of an agreement to disagree - between you and me on the subject of divorce and remarriage, and yet staying together as members of the ACANZP. Wihtout wanting to extend our difference any further by reiterating my arguments made on this thread; I want to affirm that our difference on this important issue does not prevent our sharing the Sacrament of Christ at the altar - a paradigm, perhaps, of how we Christinas ought to approach our differences.

This sort of accommodation seems to have been one of the subjects of the sermon given by a Roman Catholic Franciscan Friar(Preacher to the Papal Household) to the General Synod at the pre-Synod Eucharist in the presence of H.M. The Queen recently. (see - kiwianglo - )

Agape, Fr. Ron

Liturgy said...

A couple of points, Fr Ron:

1) I think you may have read my comment too quickly (or I might have written too convolutedly). I wasn't saying I agreed with the RC position; I was wanting to give it a respectful hearing. There was nothing I spotted in your comments on this thread that I disagreed with.

2) I think you are quite correct. I think a multiplicity of positions on divorce can be held within the one eucharistic community. And I think that this is true for the other issue in my comment. At least that is what I hope and seek.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman, Nick, Bosco
Good points, well made, thank you!
That link to (so to speak) a way forward re remarried divorcees receiving communion is to my way of thinking re the principle of finding a way forward ... I am wary, however, of those parts of the document in which 'doctrine' is distinguished from 'administration' so that one might wonder in the end if the doctrine means anything much when the administration relative to it is so variant from it ...
Yes, I wondered if indelibility of ordination would come up.
I still think there is something to consider there: I have no problem with a first marriage being (so to speak) "indelible" (esp. if there are children, since the (ex)wife=mother and (ex)husband=father, remain present to any second marriage); but why should a laicised priest who has married (is that breaking one or two vows made at ordination??) receive communion in the church when remarried divorcees may not?
(Yes, on RC theology, repentance could/should mean reconciliation with first spouse, but why aren't laicised priests asked to repent and have their priesthood restored before they can receive? Vow breaking is vow breaking, is it not?)
There was a mention of an 'orthodox' view re divorce/remarriage/sin ... but whose orthodoxy? I understand 'the (Eastern) Orthodox' allow, at least under some circumstances, a second marriage and to not deem it adultery!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

Under CCC 1583 a priest can (for a just reason) be discharged from the obligations and functions linked to ordination. However, he does not become a layman and canon 291 reserves any dispensation from celibacy to the Roman Pontiff. I suppose this could be like leaving a spouse and remaining celibate. As a layman, I simply do not know whether dispensations are easy to come by. I understand that JP2 routinely declined them, but Francis might not. It would be wrong to make assumptions either way. Now it seems to me that a priest without dispensation who then married could not receive communion. If the priest had received a dispensation, I would agree that clergy might appear to be receiving special treatment (compared to the divorced and remarried). There again, Jesus did not forbid priests from marrying.

When I referred to "orthodoxy" I was deliberately casting my net wider than official Catholic teaching. However, I was careful to avoid the Orthodox with my lower case "o".

Now, in the end, this is all real and painful for many people outside the pages of books. In that regard, I am pleased that the Pope looks further than rules. Although I am not personally convinced that the Kasperian penitential pathway is an option, the Pope may very well be. The Family Synod's individual discernment was a small step in that direction.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I appreciate your juridical view but anecdotally, here in NZ, I have never heard of a married, laicised priest (who has not become an Anglican!!) who does not receive communion at the Mass.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the Eastern theology and practise differ. Commenting on the run, I'll say only that a first marriage is eternal and is signified with the coronation of the bride and the groom. A second or third marriage can be valid by accommodation, but weddings for them are penitential rites featuring the recitation of Psalm 51. Fourth marriages have happened, but their canonicity is not undisputed. Notwithstanding all the foregoing, Byzantine tradition idealised couples who applied for a separation when their children were grown and took monastic vows, either in a double monastery (one abbot and one katholikon, but two cenobia, one for men and one for women) or as sometimes today, in separate monasteries in different places under a single archimandrite.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

" There again, Jesus did not forbid priests from marrying." - Nick -

Precisely! But that's just not good enough for you, eh, Nick? On the other hand, when Jesus was around there was no Roman Catholic Church with its ordinances, dispensations and cel;ibacy discipline. Why, even Saint Peter, 'The Rock' was married - or at least, had a mother-in-law whom Jesus healed.

I think Pope francis is on the way to disappointing many conservative Roman Catholics, by his outreach of mercy to the Church and the world.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, as I said, I do not know how difficult it is to obtain a dispensation. I would add that I also do not know whether there are laicised priests who (having been denied a dispensation) marry outside the Catholic Church yet receive the Roman eucharist. I suspect that the Church does not recognise the marriage, but that is well outside this thread.

Fr Ron, as a layman I don't worry too much about the celibacy rule which Christ never mentioned. He did however mention divorce. I am a conservative, but not SSPX or a sede vacantist. Hence I am very fond of the Pope. The Pope's mercy is quite different from the Beatles' "All you need is love". It's good to remember that.


Father Ron Smith said...

I hope, Nick, that you took time to read David Bentley Hart's eulogy on the catholic generosity of Pope Francis (linked by Peter C. in the original article). For an Orthodox, his was praise indeed. Mind you, I'm inclined to agree with the author of the article on the person who humbly calls himself 'Bishop of Rome' I warm to that.

I believe Pope Francis today visited the Anglican Martyrs Memorial in Uganda - after visiting the Roman Catholic Memorial yesterday. There's ecumenism for you.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I read the links Fr Ron; we Romans know all the arguments. Let's pray for the bishop of rome without ceasing. Nick.

Father Ron Smith said...

Yes, Nick. I pray for Pope Francis' safety and well-being in Africa.