The Personalist Project

I set the Dubia issue aside for awhile, partly because I wanted to think it through more carefully, after the initial heat of indignation at the Cardinals' act had subsided.

In the intervening weeks, Cardinal Müller, prefect of the CDF (appointed by Pope Benedict), has indicated that he views the matter as I do, at least in important respects. He is milder and more diplomatic than I am, but he too says, in essence, that

1) The Dubia ought not to have been published; their publication damages the Church

2) They ought not to have been expressed in the form of yes/no demands, and

3) The Cardinal authors have neither ecclesial authority nor theological grounds for censuring the Pope, as Cardinal Burke has weirdly threatened to do.

In a more recent interview, the Cardinal Prefect has also taken to task those who interpret Amoris Laetitia inconsistently with the Magisterium and its own totality, viz., as if it authorizes exemptions from absolute moral norms or blanket permission for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion. It doesn't. Of course it doesn't, as anyone who reads it sincerely can't miss perceiving. (This is why I accuse the authors of the Dubia of disingenuousness.)

Which isn't to say that the confusion is entirely cleared up. There remains a marked difference of opinion even among those I'll call committedly-orthodox interpreters of Amoris Laetitia. Some (I among them) have read it as implicitly granting pastors permission—in the context of close spiritual direction—to allow certain individuals in objectively "irregular" unions to receive Holy Communion. (These would be cases where the pastor finds that, while the union is objectively irregular, at least one of the individuals involved is not committing the sin of adultery.) Some think rather that the discipline articulated in Familiaris Consortio and elsewhere prohibiting divorced and remarried couples from receiving remains unchanged. 

Cardinal Müller's most recent remarks on the subject make clear that he is in the latter group.

Turning to the reasons behind the Church’s attitude to couples in “irregular” relationships, the Vatican’s doctrinal chief said that no one can really want to receive the Eucharist “without having at the same time the will to live according to the other sacraments, among them the Sacrament of Marriage.”

He also said that whoever lives the conjugal bond in a way contrary to the Church’s teaching opposes the visible signs of the sacrament of marriage, and shows himself bodily to be a contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage, even if he is not subjectively at fault.

“Precisely, therefore, because his life in the body gives an opposing sign, he cannot belong to the higher Eucharistic sign, in which the incarnate love of Christ is made manifest, by receiving Holy Communion,” Cardinal Müller said. “If the Church would allow him to Holy Communion,” he concluded “she would then be committing the act that Thomas Aquinas called ‘a falseness in the sacred sacramental signs."

Such strong statement from the prefect of the CDF gives me pause, making me want to "stop my mouth" on the issue, since I am not a theologian and it looks as if I have been wrong. I will say two things: 

1) As always, my deep desire and intention is to abide with the Church. What she declares true has my free and whole-hearted assent.

2) I'm not satisfied that the issue is yet resolved, however, since there are reasons for thinking that the Pope sees it somewhat differently from Cardinal Müller, and he is the Pope, with the power to "loose and bind." I also think the Church's developing appreciation of the priority of personal subjectivity may well mean that clear and valid reasons for changing the discipline may yet be forthcoming.

May the Holy Spirit illumine us; may His "Kindly Light" lead us into all truth.

Comments (2)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Feb 10, 2017 11:43am

Pope Benedict's "Last Testament" includes a passage that deepens my sense of the wrong of the Dubia.

It's about the early days of Vatican II. Up until then, the Cardinal Frings (for whom Ratzinger was acting as expert theologian) had been known as a strict conservative. At the Council, he took a leading role in promoting "progressive" views. (Progressive, but within orthodoxy.)

The Pope Emeritus says the Cardinal was deliberate in his change of disposition:

He explained that, when exercising governance in the diocese, a bishop is responsible for the local church before the Pope and before the Lord. But it is something different if we are called to a Council to exercise shared governance with the Pope. A bishop then assumes his own responsibility, which no longer consists simply in obedience to the papal teaching office, but rather in asking what needs to be taught today, and how that teaching is to proceed. He was very aware of this. He distinguished between the normal situation of a Catholic bishop and the special situation of a Council Father, in which one is fully involved in shared decision-making.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Feb 10, 2017 11:44am

In my second post "Contra the Dubia", I challenged the authors' claim that in publishing their doubts to the world, they were acting "according to a strict duty". 

I pointed out that the item of Canon Law they cited indicated that it is only when Cardinals are called into consistory with the Pope that they share in his teaching office, not when they act individually or in a faction.

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