Saturday, August 21, 2021

Six Book Reviews

For several months now I have been promising various book reviews, and seeing how hopelessly backed up I am, I decided to tackle them all in a single post. This means each book will have to be covered with more brevity than I would like, but I figure it is a case of something is better than nothing. If you would like to purchase any of these works, please use the links I have provided, so your ole pal Boniface can get a few bucks in affiliate income.

Bonds of Wool: The Pallium and Papal Power in the Middle Ages (Steven Schoenig SJ, 2016): At 544 pages, Bonds of Wool by Steven Schoenig was quite a read. It took me the majority of the year to get through. And it was dense. But wow, was it worth it! Bonds of Wool is an exhaustive study about the development of the papal pallium, the woolen garment that is conferred upon metropolitan archbishops upon their accession to their see. Covering the period from Gregory the Great to Innocent III, Bonds of Wool traces the story of how the medieval popes utilized this fascinating little garment to expand their influence and centralizing control over the medieval episcopacy. In the service of its prime emphasis, however, the book touched on many interesting ancillary subjects: relationships between metropolitans and suffragans, medieval concepts of gift giving, papal authority (in theory and practice), the dynamic between Rome and other archiepiscopal sees, and tons of historical anecdotes to illustrate the content. It got my mind turning on so many subjects; it also gave me material to blog about that will serve me for the next several years. Overall, I thought Bonds of Wool was a superb book—and really, an exemplar of what a good history text should look like. I have never heard of the author, Fr. Steven Schoenig SJ., but he is a consummate historian. If someone were to ask me how to write a well-researched, thorough, objective history book, I would hand them Bonds of Wool. I can't recommend it highly enough. That being said, be warned: it's a great book, but it's not an easy book. I consider myself an advanced reader, and it still took me 9 months to complete. It's a scholarly work, not a pop book, so take note. But, if you like wading through mounds of primary source text to see how history actually unfolded, this is your book.

Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair (Christopher Oldstone-Moore, 2017): I picked up Of Beards and Men at a library book sale just by virtue of the title and cover art. Being amongst the bearded, and a facial hair aficionado myself, I was amused by the concept of a history book about beards and shelled out $3.00 for a used copy mainly for amusement—something to leave in the bathroom to peruse while in the advanced stages of digesting my Taco Bell. So I didn't have high hopes for it. But I was surprised with how well researched and enjoyable this book was. It combined scholarly exegesis of historical documents with a witty, easy writing style that made it a pleasure to read. Dr. Oldstone-Moore is a senior lecturer of history at Wright University, and his familiarity with the subject matter is plain. I can't imagine what sort of work must have gone into compiling 5,000 years of documentation about facial hair and distilling it down into a 345 page book. But Dr. Oldstone-Moore succeeded admirably. Central to Of Beards and Men is the study of the perception of masculinity in the history of western civilization. When I first caught on to the gender perception theme of the book, I was worried it was going to turn into a Woke screed. To my pleasant surprise, it was nothing of the sort. I don't know Dr. Oldstone-Moore's religious affiliation, if any, and of course it was a secular book, but I was quite happy with how he handled the source material and the conclusions he drew without at all sliding into Woke gender-fantasy land. Of particular interest to me were the three chapters on facial hair during Christendom, which contained sources I had never run across and am interested to learn more about. The major takeaway from this section was that Christians have always tended to exaggerate the aesthetic styles and decorum of their own age as reflective of "natural law" and condemned deviations as contra naturam, usually without sufficient reflection of how these opinions have changed throughout over time. It was fascinating to see how Christian thinkers first eschewed beards, then promoted them aggressively, then went back to saying they are irrational and contra naturam, and then did an another about face to suggest that actually shaving was contra naturam. Not to say there are no valid universal norms of decency, but it is a fine example of why we have to be careful about dogmatizing our societal aesthetics. I thought overall it was an excellent read. I don't approve of every conclusion the author drew, but my objections were minimal.

Pharaohs and Kings (David Rohl, 1996): It was only a few weeks ago that I picked up Pharaohs and Kings by David Rohl at the illustrious John K. King bookstore in Detroit. Pharaohs and Kings is an older book (I think outside the U.S.A. it was released under a different title: A Test of Time), but I am a sucker for Egyptology and ancient archaeology so I lugged this 425 page hardcover tome home with me and started reading it. I finished it in five days. It was that good. Rohl's book is essentially a promotion of something called the "New Chronology" in Egyptology, which is the theory that traditional Egyptian chronology is errant before around 624 B.C. based on a miscalculation of the length of the Third Intermediate Period (1069-525 in traditional dating). Rohl says this period was actually much shorter, perhaps by three hundred years, and thus traditional Egyptian regnal dates should be adjusted downward. For example, he proposes Rameses II reigned in the 10th century B.C., not the 13th century B.C. The book is chock full of archaeological minutiae upon which Rohl bases his theory. In truth, it's probably too much archaeology for the layman to follow cogently, but at least it cannot be said that the argument he presents is without merit. The implications of the New Chronology are pertinent to understanding the archaeological record as it pertains to the Old Testament. While Rohl does not set out to argue about the historicity of the Old Testament, it happens incidentally that adopting his proposed New Chronology situates the Old Testament much more securely within the archaeological record. For example, if Pharaoh Akhenaten ruled not during the 14th century B.C. but the 11th century, then the Amarna Letters of his reign can conceivably be referring to the consolidation of the Israelite monarchy under Saul and David, while such a connection would be impossible in the traditional chronology. Rohl's chronology was not created to "prove the Bible" (it is based on anomalies in the extant archaeological record of ancient Egypt), but it does support the Old Testament record as a secondary effect. It appears that Rohl's thesis is not widely accepted in Egytpological circles, though it is not written off as a fringe theory either—even critics of Rohl seem to admit that he makes valid points about the difficulties of traditional Egyptian chronology and possesses considerable mastery of his material. The jury is still out for me on the New Chronology, but Pharaohs and Kings was a delightful read that I recommend to anybody interested in Egyptology, archaeology, or the historicity of the Old Testament. 

Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies
(edited by John Lamont and Claudio Pierantoni, 2021): Some of the finest work in the traditionalist corpus of late has come from Arouca Press. Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies is Arouca's answer to the controversy over Amoris Laetitia. It's difficult to explain the format of this book; it is not primarily a systematic rebuttal to the "Bergoglian" approach to divorce and the sacraments, but it does end up presenting such a rebuttal. It's primary purpose is to serve as a chronicle of the traditionalist responses to Amoris Laetitia, as it unfolded in real time. It contains, for example, the Dubia of the four cardinals, letters and statements to the pope and bishops, and various articles and interviews, along with a forward by Archbishop Viganò. With around 37 chapters by different authors, I can't possibly give a breakdown of the entire book. It suffices to say that this is the definitive tome for the traditionalist response to the theological and pastoral problems posed by Amoris Laetitia. Every possible angle is examined and addressed with blistering clarity. As a piece of scholarship, and a testament to who stood on what side of the line at this time in history, it is unparalleled. That being said, this book made me depressed. When I read it, I felt a heaviness and a deep anxiety. It was not a pleasant book to read. Not because of any deficiency in the authors or the content. There is just something quixotic and pathetic that in the universal Church the only ones to offer any substantial rebuttal to Amoris Laetitia were the random smattering of scholars featured in the book. The principled resistance of the authors did not inspire me or make me feel optimistic about the traditionalist cause. My visceral response was more along the lines of, "So this is what we got, eh?" Kind of like being utterly surrounded by an enemy force ten thousand times your size with unlimited resources and ammunition, and you look down and see you only have two bullets—good bullets, strong bullets, sure bullets, but still...only two. To be sure, faithful responses to things like the "pastoral theology of accompaniment" are necessary, but my intellect pushed back against the book's attempt to position itself as a monumental, historic, groundbreaking tour de force. That can hardly be laid at the feet of the book, its authors, or Arouca, all of whom did admirably. After all, I am speaking now about how the book made me feel, not what I thought of it. I'd definitely recommend the book for anyone who wants to educate themselves on the traditionalist critique of Amoris Laetitia and its entire supporting superstructure. Every trad who cares about this issue should own this book. As a shot across the bow of Bergoglianism, this book is beyond compare. We have some accurate gunners on our side. I just doubt that, in the scope of the entire battle, their precision shots will even be noticed much less felt. 

Figuring Catholicism: An Ethnohistory of Santo Nino de Cebu
(Julius Bautista, 2011)
: From 2017 through year I had been working on composing a book on the history of the Philippines (which will be available through Arx Publishing, probably around Christmas). In the course of my research I read a number of works on Filipino history and culture, one of which was this text, Figuring Catholicism: An Ethnohistory of the Santo Nino de Cebu by Julius Bautista. Figuring Catholicism is an interesting work. Bautista is a sociologist, and his primary interest is the social importance of the image of Santo Nino de Cebu in Philippine society. If you are not familiar with the Santo Nino, it is the most widely venerated image in the Philippines. Housed in the basilica of Santo Nino in Cebu City, it annually draws more pilgrims that Lourdes. This image of the Child Jesus was presented by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his wife Queen Juana upon their conversion to Catholicism in 1521. Bautista's book focuses on the various meanings of the image in Filipino culture, and how Filipinos contextualize the image in different aspects of their society. He spends the first half of the book talking about the history and the official cultus of the image. The second half of the book is devoted to "unofficial" meanings of the image—ways Filipinos appropriate the image and its power beyond the boundaries of the official cultus. For example, in the 1986 People Power Revolution that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, protestors bore images of the Santo Nino in procession in front of government facilities. The Santo Nino's reputation for endurance against overwhelming odds made it a suitable image for the People Power Movement. After the fall of Marcos, it was widely accepted that the Santo Nino image was responsible for the ouster of the dictator. Bautista's book is written from a sociological perspective for people interested in that field. To that end, it uses a lot of sociological jargon that I felt made it less accessible than it could have been. Even for me it was a challenging read, but still rewarding, and it gave me a lot of insight into Catholicism in the Philippines and the particular devotion to the Santo Nino de Cebu. I would recommend it if you have a studious interest in Philippine culture or Far Eastern Catholicism, but it's definitely not a book for casual reading.

Power from on High: Theocratic Kingship from Constantine to the Reformation
(Cruachan Hill Press, 2021): Finally I get to indulge my ego by reviewing one of my own latest works, Power From On High. I actually teased this book some months ago on this blog when I posted a sample section from the chapter on church controversies under the Normans and Angevins back in February. The book chronicles the development of sacral kingship in the Middle Ages—the idea that the king, by virtue of his coronation, had a kind of sacred or theocratic authority, held directly from God, which enabled him to exercise a trusteeship over the Church within his realm. I proposed this idea as a fusion between Eastern and Western models of authority that were wedded in the Catholic Church; Catholic Christendom made medieval monarchy possible. From there the book becomes a study of medieval propaganda, not so much tracing the development of kingship qua kingship, but rather of kingship's intersection with theology, and how theology was appropriated to serve political ends. For the better part of a thousand years, laymen exercised almost unhindered control over local episcopacies under theories of sacral kingship. The book features cases studies of the late Roman Emperors, the Anglo-Saxons, Carolingians, and Ottonians. For those with an interest in historical liturgy, it spends two chapters covering early medieval liturgies for battle and coronation liturgies. Then it covers the collision between Church and State during the Investiture Controversy, and then up to the eve of the Protestant Revolt. One interesting take away from this research was learning why the Church was dominated for so long by the temporal lords. It is well known that the kings of Christendom attempted to use precedent and propaganda to solidify their influence over the Church and pass that influence to their heirs; what is less well-known is that the Church itself approved and even encouraged this arrangement. Bishops of the first millennium generally preferred royal custody over the Church because it gave them access to resources—monetary, legal, and administrative—to support the the Church's mission. It took centuries for the Church to repudiate this arrangement. Even after the Investiture Controversy saw the papacy break free from imperial domination, local episcopacies continued to favor royal custody for many generations. This submerged preference for state control would fester and erupt into the Reformation doctrine of the State-Church. At 200 pages hard cover with dust jacket, its a lovely looking book, and long enough to give you a meaty study but brief enough to digest in a few sittings. I present it for your consideration, especially for those of you interested in Church-State quibbling during the medieval period.

* * * * * * * 

So, that's it. What did you think? Do you like this format of reviewing plenty of books at once rather than devoting entire posts to a single book? If you'd like me to review a book, you can email me at uscatholicam [at], but please note I am generally months out; a book sent to me today will not get reviewed until December or January. Thanks for reading as always!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Crises of Faith: Escaping our Subjectivity

The past year and a half has been a very challenging time for people. Sadly, I think I witnessed more religious acquaintances lose faith or at least suffer grave doubts (for example, see "Wokeness and Reasons People Leave the Church", USC, July, 2020). Undergoing a crisis of faith is a terribly jarring experience and I pray for the peace of anyone who has suffered through it.

In light of this, I am going to be doing a few posts on some thoughts I have been tossing around on the subject. These posts are not about any one person or person, but culled from the experiences of several persons I have seen struggle with faith over the past year and a half. Today, I want to explore the dynamic I see emerge when people suffering crises engage with others whose faith is intact on social media. 

When someone posts about their crisis of faith online, the back-and-forth than ensures in the comment thread is always of great interest to me. In these exchanges I have noticed that the conversation between the person whose faith is suffering and the person whose faith is intact seems to break down. Neither one seems capable or interested in hearing the other. And neither side seems aware of it. 

First, the people whose faith remains intact often seem to over-rationalize the experience of the doubter.
Faith, even if it is grounded intellectual affirmation, is not merely an intellectual act. It is a kind of assent, a "giving of ourselves" over to a proposition. It involves our will and passion. It is not only believing the truth, but orienting ones life towards it and—by extension—loving that towards which we orient ourselves. The theological virtues are integrated, not isolated. Josef Pieper writes in his treatise Faith, Hope, Love that the theological virtues are acquired in one order but lost in reverse order. We begin with faith, faith engenders hope, and hope gives birth to love. But the process is reversed in the case of one who loses faith: first, their love towards the object of their faith (God or the Church) grows cold. The coldness of love causes hope to wither. With hope and love dried up, there is nothing left to nourish faith, which is extinguished last of all.

This means that the process by which we came to faith from unbelief is not the same process that is needed when confronting doubt in one who already believes (or used to believe). Reading Chesterton might bring you to the faith, but it is less likely to save the faith of one who is wavering. A person who begins to doubt the Church is not unware of the arguments in the Church's favor. Indeed, this person may very well have been converted in the past through the very same arguments. Their issue is not that they don't grasp the reasoning, but that the Church, as an object of affection, is no longer desirable. This means the act of doubt is taking place outside of the realm of pure reason.

Now, if you are about to nod haughtily and say "Yeah that's right, people who doubt are being irrational", stop yourself right there. This act of doubt does not take place in the realm of reason, but it is no less understandable. A problem is no less real or valid just because it might not rational. I am an educator, and in education we have a dictum that "They don't care what you know until they know that you care." This means you cannot expect a student to learn if they do not believe you have their best interest in mind. I cannot habitually belittle, denigrate, and humiliate a student and expect him to master the algebra I am teaching him. He will have a visceral reaction against me and everything associated with me. Part of him will intentionally not want to learn just to spite me. He will feel helpless against me; the one, solitary way that remains for him to exercise autonomy is to simply close his mind off to whatever I tell him. It doesn't matter how logical the algebraic formulations are. By contrast, a student who feels affirmed and encouraged by their teacher yields their mind readily to instruction and the educational dynamic becomes fruitful and even pleasant. 

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski pointed out in a recent article in Crisis that people who lose faith often have focused too much on the Church's human element. This may be the case. They have accustomed themselves to focusing only on the failures of flesh and blood slobs who manage this shit-show. But it also needs to be understood that when a person has suffered extensively at the hands of that "human element", faith is no longer an issue of merely understanding the arguments or "taking the long view." The doubter has a visceral, guttural reaction against the Church that cannot be addressed by appeals to reason. A person who suffered war trauma from combat may duck when they hear any loud popping noise, and it is useless to try to reason with them that the war is over and there is nothing to fear. 

This is why Catholics who have lost faith are no longer swayed by "the arguments." They are familiar with them, but the arguments "no longer satisfy", or they "just don't cut it" anymore. They don't work because the person's crisis is not primarily intellectual; it is rather that they no longer experience Catholicism as something desirable. An argument in service of a truth that is undesirable will not produce assent. You may present me with rock-solid arguments grounded in reason and empirical data that the United States is going to eventually become subservient to China. But if that truth is not desirable to me, the strength of your argument will do nothing to make me embrace it. I may indeed fight against it even though I recognize the strength of the argument.

So this is the first thing I would say: those whose faith is intact need to understand that one who doubts often does so outside the realm of pure reason. Persons whose faith is intact are accomplishing nothing by trying to present doubting Catholics with "the arguments." Stop being so rationalist. Do not treat this as if it is solely a problem with the doubter. 

Now, on the other hand...

The person who doubts tends to wrongly think their doubt constitutes an existential problem for the Catholic religion in general. Their anecdotal experiences become the standard of truth. Because the arguments "don't satisfy" them, they mistakenly think the arguments lack validity. Sometimes they are immune to the force of argument from over-exposure. The truth that once dazzled them and expanded their intellect is now a rote platitude devoid of power. They think this is because the maxim is not compelling, not because they have become numb to it. 

People have a regrettable tendency to universalize their own experiences. If they have a problem, then there is a problem. They have an issue or hang up with something, and suddenly the entire edifice is compromised—"crippled" or "broken" or whatever adjective they choose. They have a hard time imagining that their experience is not indicative of a more universal truth; and this only gets reinforced as others pour out of the woodwork with their own anecdotal stories that agree. The problem is not with them, it is with the "broken" institution or system of belief as a whole, whose brokenness seems so self-evident that those who do not see it appear as naïve. The think their crisis is due entirely to problems inherent to the Church or its philosophy.

This whole issue is really one of perspective. It is extremely difficult to escape the parameters of our own subjectivity. But this cuts both ways, as well: People who do not have a problem can errantly assume there is no problem just because they don't have one. They easily reconcile disparate poles that others cannot. Their peace is not disturbed, and so they have a hard time empathizing with those whose peace has been shattered. They often assume the person who is wavering in faith is "not being logical about it."

Both suffer from an inability to escape their own subjectivity. Just because you have a problem does not mean there is a problem. And just because you have no problem does not mean no problem exists. Ultimately, the problem is not just with the doubter, nor just with Church. The crux of the problem exists on a subjective plane, at the crossroads where the Church and the doubter intersect in an experience that precipitates the crisis of faith.

Both doubter and the faithful have a difficult time understanding this: the doubter does not want it to be his problem, he wants it to be a problem with the Church—that way his doubt is justified and he can be at peace with his conscience. The person of intact faith does not want to confront the doubter's experience; he would rather reduce the matter to a series of dry intellectual propositions that the doubter needs to affirm. He does this because he does not want to consider that the arguments that are sufficient for him are not sufficient for someone else.

We talk past each other because we cannot get away from making our subjective experiences the ground of our approach.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The Nuns That Quit

 A few months ago I was strolling through an antique store when I caught sight of an old edition of Ladies Home Journal. The magazine grabbed my attention because of the large image of a nun on the cover, juxtaposed with a more "modern" looking woman⁠—modern meaning from 1967, when the issue was published. The feature article was about the exodus of religious sisters from the convents, then in full swing. 

I took the magazine from its sleeve and browsed through it. The article was extremely long and thorough, about ten printed pages in small type. Authored by columnist Robert Blair Kaiser, the article—entitled "The Nuns That Quit"—consisted of candid interviews with women in various stages of stepping away from religious life. It attempts to get to the bottom of why nuns were leaving their vocations in record numbers.

This sort of information is very important to preserve. We write so much about what happened in the chaotic years after the Council, but seldom do we take the time to study the contemporary sources to understand what was really going on and why. I thought this an invaluable resource for further study of the post-Conciliar zeitgeist. So I decided to get ahold of it and make it available to all of you.

Being the cheapo that I am, instead of buying the magazine I sat there for twenty minutes meticulously taking photographs of every page. I sent them over to a student volunteer for transcription. The final article is linked below, 13 full pages of text. I hope all persons who care about what happened after the Council will take great interest in this article, which provides an example of the mindset that was sweeping the Church in the immediate aftermath of the Council.


Monday, August 02, 2021

Cardinal Cicognani on Canonical Dissimulation

The weeks since the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes have seen various efforts to formulate a canonical response to the document to allow maximum freedom in its implementation.

Most traditional apologists have latched onto Canon 87, section 1 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that "A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that a dispensation will contribute to their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the supreme authority of the Church." Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois invoked this canon in his dispensation from the provision of Traditionis Custdoes.

There is another approach, however, and this is the canonical principle of dissimulation. Whereas dispensation is the exemption from the obligation of the law in certain cases, dissimulation is the non-enforcement of the law in circumstances where enforcing the obligation would cause greater problems than non-enforcement. Dissimulation is an option for the bishop to simply not enforce the law.

If we consult the magnum opus of the great 20th century canonist Amleto Cardinal Cicognani (1883-1973), Canon Law: Commentary on Book One of the New Code (1935), we find a section on canonical dissimulation. Cardinal Cicognani says:

A distinction should also be made between dispensation and dissimulation, whereby a superior, without removing the law's obligation, permits its transgression to go unpunished that greater evils may be avoided. Dissimulation is a true juridic procedure, as may be gathered from the numerous canonical documents, wherein it is stated: "dissimules", or "dissimulare poteris" (you may dissimulate). For in some cases it is very difficult, or even impossible, to enforce a law, and to dispense from it is inexpedient or impossible because the superior lacks the necessary power. Hence at times it is expedient for the superior to dissimulate, to assume a passive attitude—which is permissible even in matters that concern natural or divine law—from which no precedent is established; however, the superior, because of his dissimulation, can take no action in the external forum against transgressors, nor are invalid acts avoided officially.

Connivance or dissimulation is frequently confused with toleration. They differ in this respect, that connivance is a feigned ignorance of transgressions of the law in order that measures may not be taken against them; whereas toleration not only feigns ignorance but grants the transgressor complete liberty of action and freedom to continue. Hence toleration is not employed in matters that are contrary to faith and morals, and with respect to acts that are patently invalid. Furthermore, toleration settles the point at issue by a "tolerari potest" decree, whereas connivance (dissimulation) can be nothing more than a temporary measure. [Cardinal Amleto Cicognani, Canon Law, 2nd ed (Dolphin Press, Philadelphia, 1935), pg. 830-831]

There are a few takeaways here:

First, dissimulation is a "true juridic procedure". That is, it is a legitimate canonical response to a law, not a mere shirking of duty or abdication of responsibility. 

Second, dissimulation is appropriate in situations where it is better to permit a transgression to go unpunished "that greater evils may be avoided."

Third, it is permissible "even in matters that concern natural or divine law."

Fourth, though Cicognani's book was written with reference to the 1917 code, he is not here addressing the text of any specific canon; rather, he is explaining a legislative principle that is found throughout the Church's canonical tradition. It would certainly still be applicable today under the 1983 code.

There is a strong argument that the principles of canonical dissimulation apply in the case of Traditionis Custodes. In the weeks since the document's promulgation, there has been a surprisingly resounding chorus or protest against the hubris, overreach, and cruelty of the document. Even liberals, non-Christians, and atheists have gone on record saying the motu proprio is unnecessarily harsh (a roundup of notable responses to Traditionis Custodes can be found on New Liturgical Movement). The majority of bishops globally seem to believe the implementation of the motu proprio would be problematic, as evidenced by the vast majority of bishops choosing to avoid enforcing the document. As of August 1, 2021, the status of the Traditional Latin Mass globally is as follows:

It is still early and many of these responses are provisional, but they clearly evidence that the global episcopacy is not keen on enforcement. The chaos it could cause amongst traditional communities within a diocese, the multiplication of ill will, the logistical difficulties of relocating peaceful traditional communities, and the horrific canonical confusion of the document itself—not to mention the radical curbing of episcopal autonomy— create a disaster that bishops find best avoided. This seems like a prime case where dissimulation would apply.

Note that it can be permissible "even in matters that concern natural or divine law", so the Sacred Liturgy would certainly fall within that purview.

When would dissimulation be a better approach than dispensation? Perhaps in situations where a bishop, for reasons of Church politics, wishes to avoid enforcing the document but also does not want to "go on record" as opposing the pope. It would also be ideal in situations where too much time has elapsed for the "we're studying the document" is no longer believable.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that canon law contains an option for bishops to say, "This would be a shit show if I enforced it. I'll pass." I do not say this would be a better strategy than dispensation in the long run, but it is another strategy. And we need to be aware of every tool we have at our disposal.