Category Archives: Church Teaching

 “Our Apostolic Mandate”

A Key to Restoring Christian Civilization!

From TFP, July 29, 2010 | Luiz Sérgio Solimeo 

Exactly a century ago on August 25, Pope Saint Pius X published the Apostolic Letter, Notre Charge Apostolique (“Our Apostolic Mandate”). That document complemented, in the sociopolitical field, the Pontiff’s struggle against the philosophical and theological errors of Modernism, which he condemned in his Encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (September 8, 1907).

Although the new document was aimed directly at the errors of the leftist French Catholic movement Le Sillon (“The Furrow”), its teachings are perfectly relevant today, as the progressivist movement, like the Sillonists of old, keeps “its eyes fixed on a chimera, bring[ing] Socialism in its train.”1

As in the times of Le Sillon, based on confusing calls for “change” and on false notions of human dignity, today they seek to build an entirely new civilization opposed to Christian civilization.

The Gradual Side-Tracking of a Catholic Movement

Le Sillon was founded in 1894 by a group of Catholic students on the initiative of Marc Sagnier (1873-1950), who became their leader and top ideologue. The movement quickly spread throughout France and particularly among the youth, enjoying the support of countless bishops. Large numbers of seminarians and young priests joined its ranks.

However, it did not take long before strange aspects and dangerous doctrines began to surface in the movement, such as an egalitarian tendency to place priests and laity on the same footing during study workshops. Likewise, a kind of democratic mysticism became increasingly prominent in it, presenting democracy as the only legitimate form of government compatible with Catholic doctrine. Now, this was in blatant contradiction with the teaching laid down by the previous pope, Leo XIII in many of his encyclicals.2

Anarchic Aspect

As a result, the bishops began to withdraw the support they had initially given Le Sillon. By 1910, ten French archbishops and twenty bishops had forbidden their clergy and seminarians from participating in the movement.

When the Bishop of Quimper issued that prohibition, Marc Sagnier retorted that the diocese’s priests should disobey their prelate and added: “I may be accused of being an anarchist, but I don’t care a hoot about that.”3

For its part, Le Sillon increasingly abandoned its Catholic tone and assumed a sort of mystical and populist democratism pursuant to the principles of the French Revolution. Its publication went from being a “Catholic review of social action,” to a “Review of democratic action.”

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Legitimate Concept of Democracy

Criticism of the purely ideological and egalitarian concept of democracy has nothing to do with democracy as a form of government. Catholic social doctrine — and wholesome philosophy as well — teaches that there are three classical forms of government, all of which are legitimate and in accordance with the natural order: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.

Also, the noun democracy is frequently used as a synonym of liberty and an antonym of totalitarianism. According to Pius XII, the word democracy, used in this broad sense, “admits the various forms [of government] and can be realized in monarchies as well as republics.” The Pontiff also says: “With its pleiad of flourishing democratic communities, the Christian Middle Ages, particularly imbued with the spirit of the Church, showed that the Christian Faith knows how to create a true and proper democracy.” 4

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Rome’s Condemnation

Echoing the concerns of the French bishops, after much hesitation and having tried to bring Le Sillon back to the right path, on August 25, 1910, feast of Saint Louis the King of France, Pope Saint Pius X sent an official letter to the French episcopate. As customary in papal documents, it became known by its opening words (the Apostolic Letter was written in French): Notre Charge Apostolique (Our Apostolic Mandate).

As in his encyclical against the philosophical and theological errors of Modernism, the Saint analyzes with great perspicacity the tendencies and errors of Le Sillon and the psychological and moral, as well as philosophical and theological causes of its deviations. The document shines in logic and clarity, apostolic zeal for souls and unparalleled care for the integrity of the Faith and of Catholic social doctrine. Since it is impossible to summarize such a substantial document here, we will merely point out some of its aspects, recommending that it be read in its entirety.5

False Concept of Human Dignity

According to Saint Pius X, the fundamental doctrinal error of Le Sillon, from which all others emanate, is a false concept of human dignity that implies a complete liberation of man from all bonds of submission to another, whether these be social, intellectual, political or economic:

The first condition of that dignity is liberty, but viewed in the sense that, except in religious matters, each man is autonomous. This is the basic principle from which Le Sillon draws further conclusions: today the people are in tutelage under an authority distinct from themselves; they must liberate themselves: political emancipation. They are also dependent upon employers who own the means of production, exploit, oppress and degrade the workers; they must shake off the yoke: economic emancipation.

Finally, they are ruled by a caste preponderance in the direction of affairs. The people must break away from this dominion: intellectual emancipation. The leveling-down of differences from this three-fold point of view will bring about equality among men, and such equality is viewed as true human justice. A socio-political set-up resting on these two pillars of Liberty and Equality (to which Fraternity will presently be added), is what they call Democracy.6

Divinize Neither the State, nor the People

Le Sillon upheld the thesis propounded by the Enlightenment7 that the origin of all authority lies in the people, who merely delegate it temporarily to someone and can depose him at any time:

Le Sillon places public authority primarily in the people, from whom it then flows into the government in such a manner, however, that it continues to reside in the people.8

In order to better understand that doctrinal error, consider the following:

Human authority is a power of a moral nature that obliges one man to obey another. But what does “obey” mean, other than the submission of one’s will to that of someone else? And how can any man impose his will on another if, everyone being equal by nature, their wills are of the same weight and value? Hence, from the strict perspective of human nature alone, there are no grounds that justify the imposition of one man’s will on another; no man has a right to exercise authority over another.

This gives rise to a problem, because if on the one hand the reasoning above is true, on the other, man being sociable by nature, he feels drawn to life in society. But life in society becomes impossible without an authority to unify, guide, and coordinate everyone’s individual efforts toward the common good, which is the purpose of life in society.

A solution to this problem is only possible if we consider that human authority is not an independent authority that originates from within human nature itself, but an authority by participation in the authority of a being with a superior nature. This higher being, Who is God, stands above all created wills and thus can oblige the human will to bend before and acknowledge His authority. Therefore, the origin of all authority is God; and this explains why some men can command others: their authority to do so derives from, and is a participation in the supreme authority of God.

Moreover, this philosophical truth, which we attain through the use of reason, was confirmed by divine Revelation. Suffice it to quote the famous teaching of Saint Paul to the Romans: “there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.”9

Thus, those who claim that authority originates from the people or from the State are in fact deifying the people or the State. This entails a certain form of social and political pantheism10 that feeds the mystique of both populism and State-worshipping totalitarianism.

Therefore, since all authority comes from God, both those who command and those who obey must submit to the divine will and work together to achieve the ultimate end of man, which is eternal salvation, and the immediate end of life in society, which is the pursuit of the common good.

Change Mania and Scorn for Tradition

When man abandons reality to chase after chimeras, he begins to dream with nonexistent worlds and magical formulas to get there. In other words, he becomes a social reformer. His slogan and goal now become “change,” which he implements by jettisoning the country’s principles, traditions and customs.

That is what happened with Le Sillon. As Saint Pius X put it, the Sillonists, “by ignoring the laws governing human nature,” lead society “not toward progress, but toward death.” They “dream of changing its natural and traditional foundations; they dream of a Future City built on different principles; and they dare to proclaim these more fruitful and more beneficial than the principles upon which the present Christian City rests.”11

Seductive Words, Nefarious Errors

To seduce the incautious, the Sillonists present their errors and daydreaming “in dynamic language which, concealing vague notions and ambiguous expressions with emotional and high-sounding words, is likely to set ablaze the hearts of men in pursuit of ideals which, whilst attractive, are nonetheless nefarious.”12

And the Holy Pope has a special warning for priests:

Photo

Human authority is a power of a moral nature that obliges one man to obey another. Thus it participates in the authority of a higher being, Who is God, Creator of all. Therefore the origin of all authority is God.

“There is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.”

St. Paul to the Romans, 13:1.

However, let not these priests be misled, in the maze of current opinions, by the miracles of a false Democracy. Let them not borrow from the Rhetoric of the worst enemies of the Church and of the people, the high-flown phrases, full of promises; which are as high-sounding as unattainable.…Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.13

Christian Civilization Must be Restored, not Destroyed

And the saint goes on to present with incisive words the great lesson of this magnificent document whose centennial we now celebrate, a lesson more valid and necessary than ever:

No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker – the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be set up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. OMNIA INSTAURARE IN CHRISTO.14

Let Us Not Repeat the Errors of the Past

History repeats itself, as the common saying has it. And although history flows like a river, its ever changing events never turning back, new events closely resemble the old ones by the simple fact that human nature always remains the same. Hence the famous phrase in the Ecclesiastes, “Nothing under the sun is new.”15

This is why history is called the teacher of life; for while man learns from his own experience, he learns a whole lot more from the pool of experience accumulated through the ages: in other words, by knowing history.

Indeed, knowledge of past developments, above all those similar to events now unfolding, enables us to better understand the present by analyzing the right moves and mistakes of our forerunners.

The errors of Le Sillon, its populism, and craze for novelties and scorn for tradition warn us against the dangers that such tenets pose today to society and Holy Mother Church.

And the clear and incisive warnings of the great Saint Pius X – one of the greatest popes in history – should guide us on how to analyze the present situation and take a stand consistent with Church doctrine.

“To Restore all Things in Christ”

Let us close by thanking Divine Providence, on this centennial year of Notre Charge Apostolique, for that enlightening document so full of his loving zeal. The motto of Saint Pius X, Omnia Instaurare in Christo [“To restore all things in Christ”], should be our own.

Footnotes

1Notre Charge Apostolique (“Our Apostolic Mandate”), no. 38, (paragraph numbers are ours) at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=5456&CFID=3649535&CFTOKEN=23143625.

2For example, Leo XIII, Encyclical Au Milieu Des Sollicitudes, On the Church and State in France, 1892, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_16021892_au-milieu-des-sollicitudes_en.html.

3Adrien Dansette, Religious History of Modern France, v. II, Herder, Freiburg-Nelson, Edinburgh-London, 1961, p. 284.

4Vincent A. Yzermans, ed., The Major Addresses of Pope Pius XII (St. Paul: North Central Publishing Co, 1961), Vol. 2, pp. 80-82)

5For instance at http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=5456&CFID=3649535&CFTOKEN=23143625.

6No. 13.

7The Enlightenment was an ideological movement propelled by the so-called ‘Philosophers’ of the eighteenth century who intended to completely secularize the world in every sphere: culture, politics, morals and so on. They denied the existence of Divine Providence and maintained that, just as a watchmaker puts together a clock and winds it up so it will work and then stops thinking about it, so also God, once having created the world and the laws that govern it, ceased to have any relationship with it. The ‘watchmaker-God’ metaphor is by Voltaire (1694-1778), the most famous representative of that group.

8No. 21.

9Romans, 13:1. Cf. Encyclical Diuturnum, by Pope Leo XIII on the origin of civil power, no. 11, at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_29061881_diuturnum_en.html.

10Pantheism: a philosophical-religious system that identifies God with creation: everything is ‘god.’

11No. 10.

12No. 1.

13No. 44.

14No. 11.

15Ecclesiastes, 1:10.

Pope: Love our Enemies

JUNE 19, 2018 14:06 POPE’S MORNING HOMILY

Pope’s Morning Homily: Bless and Love Your Enemies

During Morning Mass, Francis Admits It Is ‘Difficult Logic’ to Practice

JUNE 19, 2018 14:06DEBORAH CASTELLANO LUBOVPOPE’S MORNING HOMILY

We are called to bless and love our enemies and those who persecute us.
According to Vatican News, the Pope gave this tough challenge during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today, June 19, 2018. He was reflecting on today’s Gospel according to St. Matthew (Mt 5:43-48), in which Jesus invites his followers to a higher standard of human relations, so as to be “perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, Christians, the Pontiff underscored, should forgive, love, and bless our enemies. The mystery of Christian life, he said, is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors.

To be forgiven, the Pope reminded, we too must forgive. A major challenge for Christians is to overcome our feelings and resistances to bless and love those who have wronged us.

“To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand,” the Pope admitted, adding: “We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed.

“We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps,” the Pope said. “Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”

We must learn from Jesus and martyrs, the Pope said, who practiced this “difficult logic.” We see this in Jesus’ prayer for those who put Him to death on the Cross. Jesus, Francis noted, asks God to forgive them.

“There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us.

It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law.

The Pope said this is not easy.

“Rather,” he said, “we are invited to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.”

It is a grace, the Holy Father noted, “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad.”

Pope Francis concluded, calling on faithful to think today of their enemy and pray for the grace to love them.

“I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.”

Pray for your Enemies

“Silence implies consent.” St. Thomas More, OFS

“A Christian can never remain silent in the face of violence, poverty, hunger, corruption or abuse of power.”
Pope Benedict XVI


The Lord said, “Pray for your enemies”
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

The Catholic Church and its faithful followers have many enemies who are hostile to the Church.

 

      • Hollywood: The amount of filth and immorality publicly promoted is baffling. The show, SMILF, on SHOWTIME is outright blaspheming Mary, the Mother of God and mocking the the Lord’s prayer.
        Also the blasphemy exhibited by the Met Gala, Hollywood’s elite, who came to New York City to show off the most opulent fashion of the 2018 season. The stars pushed the envelope to be in tune with the event’s “Heavenly Bodies, blaspheming the sacred vestments and sacred imagies of the Catholic Church.
        Please pray for the writers, promoters and Hollywood’s elite who attack the Church.
      • Prime Time News: There are some prime time news outlets that are underreporting important Church news or by innuendo distorting the news.
        Pray for those enemies who distort the news or promote fake news.
      • Educational Institutions: Some institutions who educate the younger generation have an anti-Christian agenda or turn away anyone who wishes to express their christian values.
        Pray for educational administrators.
      • Democratic Party’s Pro Abortion support: An example of abortion support is what congressional minority speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said, “being a practicing Catholic” she believed “abortion is sacred.” Her statement implies she is speaking for the Catholic Church. This is heresy.
        Pray for her. Pray for our bishops to report strongly and often that killing children in the womb is an evil offense against God.
      • Enemies of Marriage: According to the Institute for Family Studies, only about half of the children in the United States are living in a household headed by married parents, The steady increases in divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and cohabitation threatens what God intended. Pray for those who believe that Marriage is passé.
      • Enemies within the Catholic Church We live in a time when Church teaching is under attack by members of the clergy, i.e., “Rev. James Martin, S.J. said, “Catholics should “reverence” homosexual “marriage,” he favors homosexual kissing during Mass and supports transgenderism for children. Pray for the enemies of Church teaching.

        Rescue me, Lord, from my enemies. Psalm 143

      • Read the “Prophecies of Our Lady of Good Succcess–her Prophecies are happening now.

      Speaking of prophecies: “The Greatest Poverty”
      Since the Supreme Court ruled in “Roe vs. Wade” that a woman can kill the child in her womb, we see now, in the news, how abundantly human beings are being killed in our country for whatever reason. Remember what Mother Teresa said, “The greatest poverty is the spiritual emptiness that causes people to discard other human beings as useless objects—abortion. If a mother can kill her own child—what is left but for me to kill you and you kill me.”

      Pray for the families who have lost school children, teachers, those who bring use the news and the men and women who protect us and keep us safe.


Understanding same-sex attraction

Same-sex attraction: Read this before you risk your credibility.
By Dr. Jeff Mirus Oct 14, 2015

I mentioned two weeks ago that Living the Truth in Love from Ignatius Press is an important book, and that I would have more to say about it. Having now read each of its score of theoretical, testimonial and pastoral essays, I am even more convinced that everyone concerned about the “gay revolution” should read them as well.

I learned something valuable from each one of this winning combination of writers, who possess personal, academic, therapeutic, medical and pastoral experience with same-sex attraction. But to my surprise the essay which had most to offer me personally was Jane Hallman’s “Do No Harm: Considerations in Supporting Youth with Same-Sex Attraction.” Hallman pointed out that young people who experience SSA are already likely to feel “different”, as if they do not “belong” owing to problems in their affective development. Therefore, if they experience anger and rejection as they try to discuss their difficulties with friends, parents, family members and other significant adults, it only exacerbates the problem. Hence her title: “Do no harm.”

In particular, common parental reactions, such as scorn and denial from fathers and “How can you do this to me?” from mothers, will almost inevitably alienate the child even further from a healthy affectivity. Instead, all who love the child must continue to accept him or her with love, including a continuation of habitual displays of affection, such as looking pleased rather than distraught when the child seeks to spend time with the parent. The focus needs to be on taking the child’s experiences seriously while maintaining a clear moral instruction which distinguishes feelings (which generally arise unbidden) from sins. This is the best context for other appropriate steps, such as counseling.

The Way Forward
There is no one best way for a same-sex attracted person to deal with his or her disordered affectivity. As with other disordered affectivities (including, really, all the inordinate attachments which constitute temptations in our lives), bringing them under control is largely a process of prayer, sacramental life, sound spiritual direction, helpful insights and encouragement from others, trial and error, sin, and repentance—all leading over time to self-mastery.

Sometimes God intervenes with a particular gift of grace which removes even the temptation that this (or any other) cross entails. This point is made by Robin Beck in her personal testimony entitled “Why Maintaining Biblical Language Matters.” She recognizes the importance of confidence in Christ’s ability to make of us a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). At a certain point in committing herself to Christ, Beck experienced freedom from all of homosexuality, both “the behavior and the desire.”

But—again, as with other trials that come to us through God’s permissive will—most of us are not healed in this way, but through a patient struggle to conquer sin without completely eliminating temptation. For this reason, many will find Daniel C. Mattson’s witness more helpful: “Total Abandonment to Divine Providence and the Permissive Will of God”. There are also testimonies from Joseph Prever (“The Curse of the Ouroboros: Notes on Friendship”), Eve Tushnet (“In This Our Exile”), David Prosen (“Breaking Free”), Doug Mainwaring (“Married and Same-Sex Attracted: Are We Hiding the Light of the Gospel under a Basket?”), and Bob and Susan Covera, whose “From Pain to Peace” explains their journey as parents of a same-sex attracted child.

Incidentally, one fairly common thread throughout the book is the importance of the Courage and EnCourage apostolates, founded by Fr. John Harvey and continuing under the leadership of one of the editors, Fr. Paul Check. This apostolic work has helped many men and women deal with the challenge of same-sex attraction in accordance with a sound spiritual life and a true

Christian anthropology.

What We Know and What We Don’t
New challenges invariably lead the Church and her members to a fuller and more accurate understanding of and response to the problems each challenge represents. In the present case, it has been necessary to explore the philosophical and theological dimensions of Eros along with the biological and psychological developmental factors that might incline a person to same-sex attraction. This need is addressed by the sections of Living the Truth in Love which deal with theoretical knowledge and pastoral care.

For example, Rachel Lu addresses the question of sexual identity in “Eros Divided: Is There Such a Thing as Healthy Homoerotic Love?”. In addition, although Bob Schuchts may be too quick to claim an almost miraculous process of healing in Christian therapy, his emphasis on “Restoring Wholeness in Christ” is clearly important to the kind of self-knowledge and spiritual growth which must be part of any healing process. Deborah Savage explains what she believes is “At the Heart of the Matter: Lived Experience in Saint John Paul II’s Integral Account of the Person”. My favorite natural law theorist, J. Budziszewski, explains how we can make important connections through “The Conversational Use of Natural Law in the Context of Same-Sex Attraction”.

Msgr. Livio Melina studies a much-contested issue: “Homosexual Inclination as an ‘Objective Disorder’: Reflections of Theological Anthropology”. There is even an essay on “The Healing Role of Friendship in Aelred of Rievaulx’s De spiritali amicitia”—a work which some of the witness essays mention as well—by Dennis J. Billy, C.Ss.R. All of these authors are impressively credentialed in their fields.

In the pastoral section (after learning from Dr. Hallman to do no harm), we find careful considerations of the psychological and medical aspects of same-sex attraction. Again, the titles are indicative. Timothy G. Lock explores “Same-Sex Attractions as a Symptom of a Broken Heart: Psychological Science Deepens Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity”. And Timothy Flanigan, MD details “HIV and Other Health Risks Associated with Men Who Have Sex with Men”.

Two essays map out the cultural background underlying the way we deal with same-sex attraction. Jennifer Roback Morse’s essay, “Understanding the Sexual Revolution”, explains what old hands have long known about the tactics used to break down traditional sexual morality, an analysis which will put things into perspective for those new to the struggle. Peter Herbeck insists in “Our Prophetic Moment” that only a strong and vibrant Catholic proclamation of the vision of Christ for the human person and human sexuality can possibly make a positive difference. Accommodation is deadly.

Edited, introduced and concluded by Fr. Paul Check of Courage and moral philosopher Janet Smith of Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Living the Truth in Love not only covers many aspects of the subject but also permits the expression of a variety of slightly different (but always Christian) viewpoints on how best to deal with same-sex attraction—both personally and in counseling. As Janet Smith states in the preface, “We believe that some of the differences are matters of prudence, and others perhaps are more serious. We include different positions because we believe it is important that we remain in dialogue with those who share important foundational views.”

This actually makes the book stronger. Whether there will ever emerge a single paradigm for best addressing same-sex attraction by those who are morally committed to chastity as enjoined by Christ and the Church, it is clear at this stage that one size does not fit all in terms of successfully coming to terms with SSA and integrating it into a thoroughly Christian life. I found myself more indebted to some contributors than others, but let me say again that I benefited from all of them.

For those who are not otherwise genuinely expert in the problem of same-sex attraction (which is the vast majority of us), I would venture to say that, after the publication of Living the Truth in Love, it has become irresponsible to hold forth on this subject based on gut feelings. Do not risk your credibility! Before addressing same-sex attraction again, read this extraordinarily apt, fascinating and incomparably convenient book.

Editor recommends: Timothy G. Lock explores “Same-Sex Attractions as a Symptom of a Broken Heart.

False marriages

What about Catholic affirmation for those in false marriages?
By Dr. Jeff Mirus,| Oct 08, 2015

It would be a grave mistake for the Church to start speaking positively about intrinsically inauthentic “marriages”. I refer here to the pleas of a few Synod fathers that the Church must explicitly recognize and commend what is positive in the relationships of those who have divorced and remarried, and of same-sex couples who lay claim to a marital commitment. But this is precisely what the Church must not do.

For an intensely personal appraisal of this question, read Rachael Marie Collins’ superb testimony on the First Things website: How the Church Saved My Marriage. I have no such testimony to offer. But what I can do is consider the reasons.

1. Marriage may in some sense be a virtue, but a virtue is not marriage.
Every single person who has ever lived has had some good qualities or virtues. But if those qualities or virtues are directed toward the wrong ends, then they cannot be praised in their ends. I might recognize that Fred is an extraordinarily careful, thorough and dedicated worker. But if his “job” is robbery, I cannot commend him as a careful, thorough and dedicated thief. To do so suggests that thievery is a good thing if we pursue it with a significant level of perfection.

Similarly, it may well be that a same-sex couple—let us call them Beverly and Melissa—exhibit a touching fidelity in their pseudo-marital relationship, and even derive a number of benefits from it. But like Fred, they are faithful to the wrong thing—to an objectively evil thing. Therefore, the more the Church praises the qualities of their relationship, the more the Church will undermine the conviction that the relationship is, in itself, seriously wrong.

2. Exclusion from Communion is salutary for the unrepentant sinner.
Holy Communion is not only a grace and a consolation but a commitment and a sign. This is so true that, without the proper disposition or commitment, the grace of the sacrament works toward condemnation rather than salvation. Read St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. [vv. 26-30]

We may take the last sentence physically, if we wish, but only in addition to its chilling spiritual meaning: That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

Therefore, those who claim marital bliss, in defiance of Our Lord’s own Revelation of the nature of the marital union, are far more likely to be harmed spiritually by the reception of Communion. Part of the reason lies in the very nature of both sacraments. But part of it is also found in what we might call the psychological disposition created in the wayward couple—at the very least, a disposition to a false sense of spiritual security.

Here we might raise the question of why so many others who are guilty of objective evils receive communion freely. The answer is that this is an abuse, and two wrongs do not make a right. But even so the Church has a special reason to distinguish between those who have sinned in the past (but might be repentant) and those who seek the sacrament of the altar while still clinging to a public relationship which mocks all of Catholic sacramental life. To divide what God has joined (Mk 10:9), or to pretend God has joined what He has expressly divided, is to breach the Body of Christ.

3. Orthodoxy and orthopraxis go together (you can’t have one without the other).

In the third quarter of the twentieth-century there was much talk of “orthopraxis” (right practice or right action) as opposed to “orthodoxy” (right doctrine or right teaching). It was frequently claimed that the two could be separated, “orthodoxy” being a dirty word imposed from on high, and “orthopraxis” springing from the Christian heart (at the urging either of the dominant culture or of dissident theologians). But this is self-evident nonsense, for all right action must be consistent with the teachings of Christ and His Church. These alone are a sure guide to the reality to which we must respond in love.

I take it to be elementary that our actions either follow and reinforce our beliefs or contradict and weaken them. I referred above to the psychological dispositions created by bad ecclesiastical practices in those whose approach to Communion is a contradiction. But what of our own awareness of the Church’s teaching? If, as a matter of fact, our speech and our ecclesiastical policies are calculated to affirm the good in the relationships of those who are not really married, it will follow as night follows day that the community as a whole will gradually lose its instinctive sense of the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. True marriage will be thought of as one of many possible relationships which are “OK”—perhaps not quite ideal, but definitely good enough to get by.

We would also be wise to stop and consider whether the faith or even the raw numbers have increased in any Christian body which has progressively accommodated itself to modern cultural ideas on sexuality and marriage. It might be good to look—to take an arbitrary example—at the Anglicans. Have their policies of inclusion deepened the faith of those in the pews, or increased their numbers? The question answers itself. A Church cannot adopt practices which belie her own teachings and expect commitment to those teachings to grow. The result is always self-destruction.

The language of mercy is the language of repentance.
One of the questions Mrs. Collins raises in her beautiful testimony is essentially this: How many Catholics who are struggling to follow Christ through authentic fidelity and chastity will be discouraged if our Church leaders confuse the objective state of a relationship with the personal virtues of the participants, now exercised for the wrong ends? How many will fall into sin, lose their Faith and become estranged from Christ if they continually see ecclesiastical persons fall all over themselves to affirm what, at root, Our Lord does not affirm?

Note again that there is a big difference between condemning the objective aspects of a relationship and writing off the sinners in that relationship as somehow unredeemed or unworthy of love. In fact, it is actually love which compels the Church not only to minister to all but also to keep the full truth about Christ and man at the center of that ministry. Even when we sorrow over the waywardness of our children, we embrace them with tears. But the surest way to lose one’s children is for parents to hide their own values in the hope of winning their esteem, and the second surest way is the abominable condescension by which we assure them that their most serious decisions do not matter.

There is a dramatic difference between capitulation and mercy. In the immortal words of Phil Lawler concerning the use of less condemnatory language: “That would make perfect sense to me, if I could find ‘condemnatory’ language in any recent Church document.” Instead, Our Lord continually enjoins even the Church to “go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). I say “instead” because one of the deeper meanings of this passage is that we are not to pretend that the sinner is righteous, for the righteous are closed to the mercy of God. Rather, we are to help the sinner to know Christ, and so to desire nothing more than to respond to His love in the utter joy of a repentance that is fully accepted and richly blessed.
Christ used the metaphor of thirst more than once to capture the essence of this exchange of love: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10). This is so beautiful and so consoling that we might imagine Our Lord and Savior wishes to say nothing more!

But we would be wrong. In his conversation with the same woman, he continues:You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly. [Jn 4:17-18]

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