Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On Perrielo's Fishwrap Piece

Last week, Pat Perrielo published a real piece of tripe at the NCR ("Fishwrap") on communion for the divorced and remarried. Laughably entitled "The Traditionalists are Trying to Regain Control" (as if the "traditionalists" have ever had anything close to "control"), he offers one of the most ignorant and juvenile arguments in favor of relaxing the Church's discipline that I have ever read. I offer his piece in its entirety below, with my glosses in italics.

'The Traditionalists are Trying to Regain Control'
by Pat Perrielo, NCR 15 May 2014

As the time for the Synod on the family draws near, there seems to be an effort by traditionalists to control the process and shift the focus to doctrine rather than serving the pastoral needs of people.

Repeating a progressive canard that 'doctrine' and 'the pastoral needs of the people' are in opposition; that must must choose one or the other, 'law' or 'mercy.' In fact, it is love of God's law that most perfectly fulfills pastoral needs. Remember Psalm 1: 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Ps. 1:1-3)

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the diocese of Denver has reiterated church teaching on marriage and sees the pastoral element as simply doing a better job of explaining traditional Catholic doctrine.

This is true. Archbishop Aquila understands that doctrine and pastoral practice compliment each other and should not be set in a relation of antagonism.

It seems pretty clear that Pope Francis is talking about something else. Francis said, “The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of digging deep and making sure that pastoral care takes into account situations and what it is possible for persons to do.”

Francis is asking the question as to whether it is really possible for many in certain life situations to change their circumstances. Must one wait around for a spouse to die in order to receive Communion? Too many traditionalists seem unable to comprehend what a pastor must take into account to serve the needs of his people. They have a copy of the rule book, but what they may not have is a sensitivity to the people they serve.

I don't think traditional Catholic ethics insists that these people do always have the power to "change their circumstances"; it does insist that they are obliged to do the right thing within the circumstances they find themselves in. "Must one wait for a spouse to die in order to receive Communion?" No. One can always leave one's adulterous 'second marriage', and telling a person otherwise does not "serve the needs of his people" but leads them further into error, making it even less likely that they will "have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10), which is what Jesus desires for everyone. 

What is being examined is not the indissolubility of marriage, but rather the distribution of the Eucharist. In the Scriptures it even appears that Jesus may have shared the Eucharist with Judas at the Last Supper. The Eucharist is meant to nourish the faithful. It is not a reward for the holy. It is not insignificant that most Protestant churches, including Episcopalians, always make clear that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table.

The Eucharist has never been seen as a reward for the holy. Hence, "Domine, non sum dignus..." The Eucharist is the "medicine of immortality", in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch. And if it is medicine, it is because we are sick. But not all sicknesses are alike; some are sick because, despite our best intentions, we are still weak humans prone to failure. Others are sick because they refuse to amend their lives and obey God's commandments. There is a huge difference between someone who bombs a test because they did not do well and one who bombs because they intentionally left all the answers blank. Just because we are all sinners does not mean there are no standards. All are welcome at the Lord's table, but not on any terms they choose. If you don't like it, take it up with St. Paul and the New Testament, which says, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:27).

By the way, if the Episcopalians are doing it right, why are Episcopalians in a "death spiral"?

Those having difficulties of any kind have the greatest need for the Eucharist. Yet we pompously walk around picking and choosing who can receive the graces and mercies of a loving Lord. If we want to deny Communion to all who are unworthy we should simply stop giving communion to anyone. None of us are worthy, but all of us are in need. That is why Jesus gave us this wonderful gift.

"Those having difficulties of any kind have the greatest need for the Eucharist." This statement would be true if the clause "of any kind" were removed. Difficulties are not of the same stripe. By long-standing custom, those whose "difficulties" are sins of their own deliberate choosing are not fit to present themselves for Holy Communion precisely because they are not in Holy Communion because deliberate grave sin puts one out of Communion. This is standard sacramental-moral theology, and shows that this is not just a disciplinary problem of who we will give the Eucharist to, but a theological problem. All are in need. Yes. And if we really believe we need Jesus, we must begin by confessing our need to be free of our sins. "Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (John 5:14).

Those opposed to sharing the Eucharist with divorced and remarried Catholics continue to focus on the doctrine of marriage. Yet no one is questioning the doctrine of marriage. Francis and other pastors of the church are simply looking at those who love the Lord and are saying, come, taste and see how good the Lord is.

I beg to differ, Mr. Perrielo. The doctrine of marriage is being questioned. If the divorced and "remarried" are allowed to Communion, it means either (a) second putative marriages are no longer regarded as adultery, or, if they are (b) one can still be in God's grace whilst simultaneously being in a state of adultery, or if not, then (c) Communion can be received in a state of mortal sin with no danger to one's soul, in which case (d) the theological importance of being in or out of a state of grace has been obliterated. As you can see, there are HUGE doctrinal implications from this discussion.

If the Synod fathers buy in to these sorts of lame, ignorant arguments, is there any hope?


Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear progressives speak about the changes they want done. All I can think of is 1st Samuel when the people are demanding for a king. "give us a king just like every other nations." And then there is God's great response, "And the Lord said to Samuel: Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to thee. For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them."

Tantumblogo said...

So I was at a class last night with a really good traditional priest. It was a catechism class. The topic was charity. The priest came back to the central point again and again - how do we show we love the Lord? By obeying His commandments?

I think Our Blessed Lord was pretty specific regarding how He felt about divorce and remarriage. But people have itching ears and want a god in their own image.

You've done good work again, B.

Anonymous said...

It's another one of these things where Catholic teaching is so clear and unambivalent and yet these people want to tear it down.