U.S. priest in L’Osservatore Romano promotes either dissoluble marriage or polygamy

U.S. priest in L’Osservatore Romano promotes either dissoluble marriage or polygamy

You have to pay attention to language, especially in the hands of libs.   They twist and they turn.  They set you up with implicit premises which you might breeze right by.   They lead you astray and into the dark places where mortal sin lurks.

A few days ago a concerned friend sent me from the English language weekly of L’Osservatore Romano (which happily almost no one reads anymore) a piece by Fr. Gerald J. Bednar of the Diocese of Cleveland about “Mercy and law in ‘Amoris Laetitia’.   I wrote a draft post about it at the moment, and then said, “Nahhh… no one will read that.  It’s too long for most people and – hey! – it in English L’Osservatore!”

However, it has returned to my mail box.

The problem with correcting bad texts is that you have to write ten times as much as the bad stuff to do it.  Hence, I will limit myself to pointing out a few serious problems with Bednar’s offering.  After that, you can do your own work pretty easily… if you care to look at it more.

It’s mostly blah blah, but it is insidious if you are not paying attention.  He bumps along, recycling clichés, and then we find the phrase:

“mercy listens to the voice of Jesus”

He places law, on one side, and “the voice of Jesus”, way on the other side of the tennis court.  See what he’s doing?

I am going to move a little fast here (time presses me), but you will quickly see what the problem is.

Bednar describes a man who leaves his wife, “obtains a civil divorce and marries another.”

No. He does not marry another.  He does something civilly called marriage, but it isn’t really marriage.  There dire consequences for Catholic theology and, frankly, truth and common sense, if we accept his premise.   Let’s see some of his work, with my emphases and comments.   He is talking about a divorced and “married” guy…

He admits his sin, and seeks pardon and forgiveness. What does conversion require of him? Must he leave his second wife [HUH?  What’s a “second wife”, if the first and real wife is alive?] and their children to return to his first wife? What if his first wife has remarried? [Ummm.  Same problem.] Is there no way for the repentant husband to stay in the second “marriage” and still receive Communion?  [YES!  There is a way.  He can “stay” with her and the kids (other than those he had with his wife) as brother and sister, remoto scandalo.  Also, let’s ask: must be amend his life or not?]

He goes on… watch the language…

The traditional response [Blow all that dust off! After all Familiaris consortio 84 is over 30 years old.] to this unfortunate circumstance requires him and his second wife [There it is again. No.  The second woman is not his wife.  NB: If she truly is his “second wife”, as he says, then there remain only two possibilities: either 1) there is no such thing as indissoluble marriage, or 2) he can be married to two wives simultaneously, which is polygamy.  So, Fr. Bednar, is this guy he married to two women simultaneously?] to live in a “brother- sister” relationship — denying to each other [?!?] normal conjugal relations. [Ummm… “conjugal” is going to involved being “married”.  Right?]Some circumstances may indeed call for such an arrangement. Some may not. Some couples may want their family [wait… they are not married, so how are we defining a Christian family now?] to continue to grow, and may recoil at the very idea of simulating the sacrament[They ARE simulating matrimony!  And he is saying that living as brother and sisters is pretending to be married.  Good grief.] Can nothing be done?

Bednar seems to want the civil marriage to have the same effect as sacramental marriage.

Along the way he throws in some stuff about a “Spirit-guided institution” which we are to link that to “voice of Jesus” which he started with.

He seems to argue that Jesus and the Spirit want us to ignore what Jesus said.

There is in his piece some discussion of the Pauline and Petrine Privileges.   He seems to be saying that if there can be such Privileges, well then, marriages are perhaps not so easy to define as indissoluble.  After all… its the voice of Jesus in Spirit filled institution.  Right?

Both privileges are not so much commentaries on the indissolubility of marriage as they are affirmations of the centrality of mercy.

The problem with his argument is that both of those Privileges concern a good even higher, more fundamental than marriage.   The real point of the Pauline and Petrine Privileges is not “mercy”, but rather foundational importance of baptism and salvation.  The Privileges are about the Faith.

No one is saying that Francis is trying to make a new doctrine.  They are concerned that AL gives the impression of denying doctrines that cannot be denied, i.e., as the indissolubility of marriage and the necessity of Communion in grace and the imposes of give absolution to unrepentant sinners.    Denying the voice of Jesus, rather than listening for it.

Along the say Bedmar tries to argue that relaxing Sabbath laws shows that Jesus is merciful and, if he is merciful, marriage laws can also be relaxed.  The problem with claim is that Jesus upheld Sabbath lawsbut rejected interpretations of the laws.

“The issue is not whether divorce is permissible. Clearly it is not. The issue is whether a second marriage [No!]must be characterized continuously  as adultery. That precise question has not been addressed before, not even in Familiaris Consortio[YES.  It has been.  It is adultery.  Otherwise, why must they live as brother and sister. Having sex would make it adultery.]  Pope Francis shows mercyto those who come to realize all too late that their actions have offended the moral order. [Which doesn’t change the fact that they offended the moral order and are still offending the moral order!] After they confess their sin, [with a firm purpose of amendment of the sinful lives?] must they settle only for a simulated marriage?  [No!  1) They aren’t being forced.  2) They are not married!] If there is no reconciliation, as years pass, the situation of the parties may change.  [Their “situation”?] Mercy may call for leaving the second marriage in place.  [There it is AGAIN.  Some Orthodox think that marriages die even though the spouse didn’t die.  THAT is NOT Catholic teaching and Pope Francis can’t make it Catholic theologian.  This could be admission of Orthodoxy through the back door]

He goes on to talk about “opponents” and “rules”.   Get it?  He leaves out the part that the “rule” came from the Lord.

Folks, again, this is a little shotgunned, but you get the idea.

The main things to take away are these.

You can’t just invoke “the voice of Jesus” and “Spirit filled” and get away with illogical hogwash.

You must use language precisely.  We have to talk about the civilly remarried.  Without that “civilly”we get into huge trouble.  What he wrote, taken at face value, assuming that he is fairly intelligent and means what he wrote, leads to two possible outcomes.

If some divorced guy was truly married to his first wife, and then goes out and marries a second wife, and you give that guy and his second “wife” the sacraments without they have a firm purpose of amendment then the consequence is that there is either 1) no indissoluble marriage and/or 2) we now have recognized polygamy.

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6 comments on “U.S. priest in L’Osservatore Romano promotes either dissoluble marriage or polygamy

  1. Fr. Z: “No one is saying that Francis is trying to make a new doctrine.”

    Yes, we are! Fr. Z is simply stumping for Francis. Full NeoCat. (The full monty!)

    AL represents a wholesale shift of the faith, pitting God’s mercy against His justice. By ostensibly raising mercy to a new status never before understood in the Church, Francis and the Modernists are wiping out all culpability for sin, excepting, of course, climate denial, smoking, and air conditioner overuse.

    Francis has targeted marriage as the crack in the dike, through which he will explode all concept of mortal sin and Divine justice. Why marriage? Because the Church has already changed it’s teaching on marriage. No longer do they teach the primary end of marriage. Instead, they champion Humanae vitae, which obfuscates primary and secondary ends, and they promote NFP as acceptable birth control. Wojtyla then posited the specter of adulterers living as brother and sister while receiving the sacraments. Francis is merely prying this open a bit more: marriage is about the couple, even if Bob has to sleep in the basement (Wojtyla), but Francis says mercy puts Bob back in bed with Susan.

    But yes, Fr. Z, it is a new doctrine. Jim Larson explains it well here:
    Our Hope: Fatima, and What Remains of True Catholic Intelligence (scroll down to find the article)


    Benedict XVI: “The conceptuality of St. Anselm has now become for us incomprehensible. It is our job to try again to understand the truth that lies behind this mode of expression. For my part I offer three points of view on this point [in the interest of brevity and relevance, we will here examine only the first two – the third is much in line with them].”

    Before moving on to examine Benedict’s alternative to the “conceptuality of St. Anselm”, it is absolutely necessary to understand what has already been accomplished by Benedict’s new way of conceptualization in regard to justification by faith. The concept of a God demanding Justice has been eliminated. At least four times in the course of this interview Benedict specifically identifies such a view with believing in a cruel God. In his entire interview he in fact never mentions God’s justice without identifying it with cruelty. Thus, again from Benedict XVI:

    “Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, only with mercy do evil and violence end. Pope [Pope] Francis is totally in agreement with this line. His pastoral practice is expressed in the fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy. It is mercy that moves us toward God, while justice frightens us before Him.”

    There is here, in Benedicts’ view no value in the concept of God’s Justice as leading us towards Him, or towards His Mercy. The concept that “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” has been totally eliminated. Justice and Mercy are diametrically opposed. We must also note, as evidenced in this passage, the deep union of hearts between the theology of Benedict and the pastoral work of Francis.

    Here we arrive at the crux of Benedict’s solution. The “reversal of perspective” which he sees as absolutely essential to modern man and the survival of his faith is to cease viewing man as being under compulsion to satisfy God’s Justice, but rather to view God as under compulsion to show man mercy. As he says elsewhere in his interview, “…the man of today has in a very general way the sense that God cannot let most of humanity be damned. In this sense, the concern for the personal salvation of souls typical of past times has for the most part disappeared.”

    The Radical Insufficiency of Correctio Filialis

    The Council of Trent defines the Justification of man in the following words:

    “For although no one can be just but he to whom the merits of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet is this done in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most hold Passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those that are justified and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in Whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these gifts infused at once, faith, hope and charity.

    “In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace [Charity, or Sanctifying Grace] of Christ.” (Session VI, chapter XV).


    It is the supernatural gift of Charity existing in the hearts of individual men and women through which Christ’s Incarnation continues to be present in His Mystical Body. It is a delicate and fragile thing because it requires the cooperation of fallen man. While being the totally gratuitous gift of God, it is also the most necessarily merited thing on the part of man. It is also therefore the ultimate target of Satan.

    It is this heresy which is very explicitly taught in paragraph 296 of Amoris Laetitia.

    “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart… For true charity is always un-merited, unconditional and gratuitous.”

    I have examined this subject extensively in my four articles on Amoris Laetitia to be found towards the bottom of the Menu on the left side of this page.

    Correctio Filialis quotes from 12 paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia in order to help establish the existence of 7 heresies which it claims are being propagated by Pope Francis. But it completely misses the heresy – “For true charity is always un-merited, unconditional – which is the foundation of not only all the explicit/implicit errors in Amoris Laetitia regarding marriage and the entire moral law, but also its apparent denial of Hell and eternal punishment. After all, if charity is always unmerited and unconditional, there can be no responsibility on the part of man, no demand upon the exercise of his free will, and therefore no just punishment for transgression.

    • “After all, if charity is always unmerited and unconditional, there can be no responsibility on the part of man, no demand upon the exercise of his free will, and therefore no just punishment for transgression.”

      YES.
      I think Larson has nailed the foundational error. It is not actually the principle of situation ethics that is the root heresy of the heresies in Amoralis Licentia.
      The reason you accept situation ethics is that you have denied objective sin.
      You deny objective sin because you hold, with Luther, that man is simply unable *even with grace* to avoid sin. Therefore sin is not man’s fault — and is therefore not sin at all; it is just part of man’s “limitations”, as Francis would say.
      Hence the totally perverted “unconditional love”, for if God saves anyone at all — and we all must admit that He does — then He saves everyone — for all “sin” — and they are unable not to sin. Thus love and salvation must be given to all without the condition that they be good or merit it.

      This is a recipe for breaking all hell loose on the earth.
      As it is, only half of hell is presently loose.

  2. GREAT post Cyprian. Hear, hear.

    • Appreciated. It’s so bad now that we’re all getting scattered in our attempts to say just what’s wrong with AL and all the other dung that emanates from Francis. It’s like with the learned folks taking stabs at answering Job who was attempting to make his case against God. All their replies were found lacking.

      On the good side, it’s very easy to see that AL is dreadfully wrong. Elderly ladies with their Rosaries instinctively know it’s wrong. They will refuse to go along and will protect their families. That’s what all of us must do.

  3. Aquinas points to integral contrition as the “quasi-matter” in the Sacrament of Penance.
    /

    That can only come from the penitent. Without it, the Rite dissolves into a mundane visit to a shrink.
    /
    And profound integrity must include firm intent to not recommit the same sin, even at the cost of fortune, “happiness” or, were it required, one’s life.
    /
    While imperfect contrition ( in which a fear of Hell but an inadequate effort to regret offending Infinite Goodness Himself co-exist ) is sufficient for absolution, per se, all the more necessary is a stern admonition from the priest, warning of the ease of relapse in matters of the Sixth Commandment.

  4. EWTN advice “experts” I’ve suffered through are totally in the Montini/Wojtyla camp on these issues.

    Pre-V2 doctrine has disappeared in print and on the airwaves.

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