DEC 29TH 2016 BY FR JOHN HUNWICKE
As we await the text of the Fraternal Correction of the Roman Pontiff which Cardinal Burke has promised, I can share with you a briefer text from his Eminence’s pen. A few weeks ago, some younger clergy asked me to put some queries to the Cardinal. I think the reason for this was that I, being old, am perhaps not quite as vulnerable to intimidatory threats and petty episcopal malice as they are. These queries were sent before it was made public that the Four Cardinals had submitted their five Dubia. I received his Eminence’s most gracious answers dated 3 December. He responded, he said, “to certain serious questions of the clergy in the present situation of widespread confusion and error in the Church”.
My first query, which was followed by the reply, follows below.
Is it licit for a priest to give Absolution or the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to a person who is living as husband or wife with another to whom they are not, in the eyes of the Church, validly married; when that person makes clear that he or she has no intention of metanoia and of doing their best, with the help of Divine Grace, to avoid committing such adultery in the future?
A priest may not give Absolution to a party who is living in an irregular matrimonial union and has no firm purpose of amendment. If the party has the firm purpose of amendment, pledging, with the help of Divine Grace, to avoid any sin of adultery in the future, then the priest may give Absolution, counseling the party that he should only approach to receive Holy Communion in a place in which there is no reasonable chance of scandal.
My second query, followed by Cardinal Burke’s reply:
Is it acceptable for a couple not validly married and with offspring for whom they are responsible to argue that, for the good of that offspring, they may lawfully continue to live as husband and wife because it may prudently be foreseen that their relationship, if not sustained by adulterous intimacies, would fail to survive?
A couple who are living in an irregular matrimonial union may argue that they must continue to live under the same roof for the sake of their offspring, but they must live without recourse to adulterous acts, that is, they must live as brother and sister. In other words, the need to live under the same roof for the sake of children or elderly grandparents is not an argument which justifies acts of adultery. Both reason and faith tell us that adulterous acts can never be justified, can never serve the good of either the parties or of their children.
My third question to his Eminence, followed by his reply, was as follows.
Is there any pastoral or legislative authority within the Church Militant by which dispensations can be granted in these matters, or do they involve a ius Divinum which sets them beyond dispensation and legislative modification?
There is no pastoral authority of any kind within the Church who can grant a dispensation to a party, so that he may live in a marital way with someone who is not his spouse. This is a question of Ius Divinum and is articulated in can. 1141 of the Code of Canon Law: “A marriage which is ratified and consummated cannot be dissolved by any human power or by any cause other than death”.
His Eminence concluded his letter thus:
I hope that these answers are of some help to you and to the clergy who have raised them to you. The clear answer to these questions is imperative for the correction of the widespread confusion in the Church which is redounding to the grave harm of souls.
Asking God to bless you and all your priestly labors, and confiding your intentions to the intercession of Our Lady of Walsingham, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist, Saint John Apostle and Evangelist, and Saint John Fisher, I remain
Yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.