The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 25, 2023 - 1:02:53

Moving beyond the Dubia to the issue at hand

Katie van Schaijik, Feb 06, 2017

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.