Chesterton, Dale Ahlquist, and the Civil War in the Church


Chesterton, Dale Ahlquist, and the Civil War in the Church

What would Chesterton think of Amoris Laetitia?

I’m a great fan of G.K. Chesterton and the American Chesterton Society. Let me amend that statement. I am a great fan of Chesteron and was a great fan of the Society. Dale Ahlquist, its founder, has done a splendid job bringing Chesterton to a modern culture that knew little about him. If Chesterton isn’t yet a household word, there are many in the last two decades who have come to know him through Dale’s work and programming on EWTN. I congratulate him for that.

Unfortunately there’s a “but.” The first problem for me was the Society jumping on the hate-Trump bandwagon. Up to that time I belonged to the Society, had attended several of their annual conferences, and subscribed to Gilbert, the Society’s magazine. I did not renew my subscription, however, after the Society’s taking sides that would have, if successful, guaranteed Hillary Clinton’s election. After several anti-Trump articles, the final straw was a suggestion from one of their main writers to enter Chesterton’s name on the ballot as a write-in. What insanity! So I did not renew my subscription and have no plans to attend another conference.

But what finally made me lose confidence altogether was Dale Ahlquist’s support for Amoris Laetitia and his comments made on a panel for the AOTM (Argument of the Month) town hall essentially calling Church teaching “crazy” and arguing for an “exception” using a friend’s marital situation as an example. You can watch it below. If you only want to hear Dale’s comments go to minute 23 on the tape.

From a legal perspective, exceptions make bad law. A law is either a law or it isn’t. There may be extenuating circumstances that make breaking the law less egregious (There are different degrees of murder and felonies, for example), but a moral imperative is a moral imperative.

It was exceptions that gave our country abortion on demand for all nine months. It started out with hard cases (rape, incest, and life of the mother) until the exceptions became the rule and gave us the most permissive abortion law in the world — baby-killing through all nine months and murder by neglect of those born alive “by mistake”! Ahlquist’s exception like all the exceptions suggested by those interpreting Amoris Laetitia will do the same thing the abortion exceptions did. They will be expanded until they annihilate the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage like the abortion exceptions annihilated the sanctity of life.

But there’s one more thing that bothered me about Ahlquist’s comments. He said the only alternative offered to the woman was divorce. It that’s true, her adviser was wrong. If she and her husband agreed to live as brother and sister, she could go to Communion. What’s “crazy” in Ahlquist’s mind appears to be the idea that anyone could actually give up the marriage bed even when they have no right to it.

It’s not the first time I’ve run into that thinking. I met a priest from New Jersey at one of Fr. Paul Marx’s Marriage and Family Life Workshops that emphasized Natural Family Planning using periodic abstinence to space pregnancies. The priest told me (I was teaching NFP at the time), “My couples could never do that.” I was 27 and expecting my third child and could only shake my head and reply. “Father, you must have a real problem with celibacy if you think married couples can’t abstain for good reasons.” And the best reason of all is to return to the reception of the sacraments.

Think about what great graces would descend on our sex-saturated society if every couple in an invalid marriage knelt down and, before God, offered their choice of continence for the salvation of those enslaved to lust. And then returned to the sacraments living as brother and sister. How much of the marriage relationship is sex after all? Isn’t it primarily an intimate union of the mind and heart? Show me a marriage where sex is the most important element and I’ll show you a marriage in trouble.

Believe me, I’m not minimizing the sacrifice. It would be heroic. But how many do it already without choice because of physical impairment or illness? No one ever died from not having sex!

Perhaps the husband of Dale’s friend wouldn’t agree to live as brother and sister and that’s where the divorce situation arose. Well, that would be sad, but there are many sad realities in life. Think of all the martyrs who refused to embrace “exceptions” knowing that martyrdom was the alternative. Thomas More didn’t just give up sex to defend marriage; he gave up his head!

To undermine the indissolubility of marriage to “fix” sad marital situations is what would be, in Dale’s words, “crazy.”

I don’t think for a minute Chesterton would agree with Dale Ahlquist’s reasoning at all. He loved faith and family too much and was always prophetically aware of the misdirection the world was taking. He would recognize the great thing it is to sacrifice a good for something even better.

May the apostle of common sense pray for us living in this world of insanity! And I’ll close with a quote of Chesterton’s that has always been among my favorites.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”?

I think that is what Chesterton would have said in reply to the flawed reasoning based on Amoris Laetitia that justifies the return to Communion of those living in adultery.  

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