Cardinal Kasper’s Challenge Distracts from the Real Problem

As the Synod of Bishops on the Family convenes this week, the Catholic Church has a heaven-sent opportunity to atone for one of the biggest failures in modern ecclesiastical history and in so doing to take a major step in resuscitating the Christian faith in the daily lives of millions of people.

The provocative challenge of Cardinal Walter Kasper highlights one of the Church’s (and the churches’) most spectacular lapses in judgment: the refusal to contest the “abolition of marriage” (in Maggie Gallagher’s phrase) that was effected by “no-fault” divorce.

Yet as currently framed, the debate over Cardinal Kasper’s proposals stunningly misses the point. By casting the debate in terms of admitting divorced and remarried persons to communion, the Church appears determined once again to avoid confronting the central evil of the Divorce Revolution, the evil that still taints the Church, along with the family and civic life, and one no stable civilization can tolerate. This is involuntary divorce and the injustice committed against the forcibly divorced or innocent spouse, along with his or her children.

The Cardinal makes no distinction between a spouse who abandons the marriage, commits adultery, divorces unilaterally without recognized grounds (“no-fault”), or otherwise violates the marriage covenant in legally recognized ways, and a spouse who is the victim of such deeds. To treat the sinner and the sinned against as if they are the same is to deny the very concept of justice and to place the Church and other institutions on the side of injustice.

This willful neglect of justice in adjudicating divorce—not the dissolution of households per se—was the vitiating outrage of “no-fault” divorce. By not challenging the state’s claim that it may dissolve marriages without any consideration for the consequences or injustices inflicted on the forcibly divorced, the Church followed the state into the realm of amorality, a realm suited to the aggrandizement of institutional power but fundamentally antithetical to both the Gospel and a free society.

Since this fateful decision, the oxymoron of “no-fault” justice has been gradually poisoning both our culture and the fundamental institutions of our civilization, starting with the family, passing through the Church, and extending to the state machinery, such as the judiciary. Divorce-without-consequences is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economic solvency, and our constitutional rights. It has led directly to explosions in cohabitation, illegitimacy, welfare, and crime and to demands for same-sex marriage.

No public debate preceded this ethical bombshell in the 1970s, and none has taken place since. Legislators “were not responding to widespread public pressure but rather acceding to the well-orchestrated lobbying of a few activists,” writes Bryce Christensen. Critically, these are the same sexual ideologues who have since expanded their campaign into a much broader agenda of sexual radicalism: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, women in combat, homosexuals in the military, Obamacare, and more. Feminists were drafting no-fault divorce laws in the 1940s, which the National Association of Women Lawyers now describes as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The result effectively abolished marriage as a legal contract. Today it is not possible to form a binding agreement to create a family.

The new laws did not stop at removing the requirement of citing grounds for a divorce, to allow divorce by mutual consent, as deceptively advertised at the time. Instead they created unilateral and involuntary divorce, so that one spouse may dissolve a marriage without any agreement or fault by the other. Moreover, the spouse who abrogates the marriage contract incurs no liability for the costs or consequences, creating a unique and unprecedented legal anomaly. “In all other areas of contract law those who break a contract are expected to compensate their partner,” writes Robert Whelan of London’s Institute of Economic Affairs, “but under a system of ‘no fault’ divorce, this essential element of contract law is abrogated.”

The result was to unleash precisely the moral and social chaos that it is the role of the family to control, and powerful interests were not slow to capitalize. Legal practitioners immediately began encouraging business by taking the side of the violator. Attorney Steven Varnis points out that “the law generally supports the spouse seeking the divorce, even if that spouse was the wrongdoer.” “No-fault” did not remove fault, therefore; it simply allowed government officials to redefine it however they pleased and to treat legally unimpeachable citizens as malefactors. “According to therapeutic precepts, the fault for marital breakup must be shared, even when one spouse unilaterally seeks a divorce,” observes Barbara Whitehead in The Divorce Culture. “Many husbands and wives who did not seek or want divorce were stunned to learn … that they were equally ‘at fault’ in the dissolution of their marriages.”

The judiciary was expanded from its traditional role of punishing crime or tort to refereeing private family life and punishing personal imperfections. One could now be summoned to court without having committed any legal infraction; the verdict was pre-determined; and one could be punished for things that were not illegal. Lawmakers created an “automatic outcome,” writes Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows. “A defendant is automatically found ‘guilty’ of irreconcilable differences and is not allowed a defense.”

Though marriage is a civil matter, the logic quickly extended into the criminal, including a presumption of guilt against the involuntarily divorced spouse (“defendant”). Yet formal due process protections of criminal proceedings did not apply, so forcibly divorced spouses became quasi-criminals not for recognized criminal acts but for failing or refusing to cooperate with the divorce by continuing to claim the protections and prerogatives of family life: living in the common home, possessing the common property, or—most vexing of all—parenting the common children.

Following from this are the horrendous civil liberties violations and flagrant invasions of family and individual privacy that are now routine in family courts. A personalized criminal code is legislated by the judge around the forcibly divorced spouse, controlling their association with their children, movements, and finances. Unauthorized contact with their children can be punished with arrest. Involuntarily divorced parents are arrested for running into their children in public, making unauthorized telephone calls, and sending unauthorized birthday cards.

Cardinal Kasper’s agenda ignores all this and will certainly make it worse. Indeed, what he is demanding is a kind of no-fault church discipline, which will debase the Eucharist and church membership, just as no-fault divorce has already debased marriage and the secular justice system, by allowing clergy to redefine sin and cheapen repentance: “If a divorced and remarried person is truly sorry that he or she failed in the first marriage … can we refuse him or her the sacrament of penance and communion?” But sincere repentance requires an effort to rectify the harm caused by one’s sin. Does the Cardinal’s definition of “truly sorry” entail undertaking to compensate one’s former spouse for being summarily evicted from his or her home, or deprived of his children, or serving jail time for unauthorized parenting or trumped-up accusations of “child abuse” or “domestic violence” that are now routine in divorce proceedings? Does it include compensating one’s children for depriving them of a father throughout their childhood? These are the realities of modern divorce, not the sanitized understanding being presented by the Cardinal.

But perhaps the most explosive question: Why is the Church not willing to sort out the difference, both in its doctrine and in each individual case? Is it because the distinction between justice and injustice—central to the Gospel itself—would force the Church to confront the injustices perpetrated by a state that has dangerously overstepped its authority and the Church’s own failure to act as the society’s conscience on a matter involving its own ministry?

For the Church is simply following the politicians. In contrast with same-sex marriage, abortion, and pornography, politicians and even self-described “pro-family” groups studiously avoid challenging divorce laws. “Opposing gay marriage or gays in the military is for Republicans an easy, juicy, risk-free issue,” Gallagher writes. “The message [is] that at all costs we should keep divorce off the political agenda.” The exception proves the rule. When Pope John Paul II spoke out in January 2002—calling divorce a “festering wound” with “devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague”—he was attacked not only from the left but also by conservatives like Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal.

Likewise, this power grab by ideologues and state functionaries at the expense of the family and private sphere of life was met by the churches with silence. Here is a sacrament consecrated by the Church, vowed before God and witnessed by the congregation. The state comes along and simply tears it up, and the Church mounts no serious response.

In the showdown that never took place over sexual morality and the supervision of private family life, this was the moment the two jurisdictions were forced into a direct confrontation and the state simply and decisively told the Church who is boss. From the moment that the Church failed to inform the state that it could not simply countermand God’s covenant governing the family, the Church has been little more than an ornament in marriage and therefore in the lives of most people.

Marriage is today the most critical interface of church and state. Whoso controls marriage governs society, not least because it becomes “the hand that rocks the cradle.”

This rivalry is not apparent in the terms by which marriage is contracted and consecrated. Here church and state cooperate quite effortlessly: a ceremony, a signature.

Where the power struggle ensues is in the terms by which a marriage can be dissolved, and it was the Divorce Revolution that precipitated the battle that the Church refused to fight. The Church, along with its Protestant counterparts, ceded to the state the authority to dissolve marriages at its own pleasure and on its own terms and to erect a regime of governmental micromanagement over the private lives of the contracted parties, innocent as well as guilty—all without scrutiny or objection by these churches who consecrated the supposedly sacred union.

Far from upholding a sacred covenant, the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are thus parties to a fraudulent contract. They have allowed their marriage ministry to become a bait-and-switch, luring unsuspecting parties into a supposedly binding and lifelong union, where they are then sitting ducks for state functionaries to come along and simply tear up the covenant and seize control over their lives and children. And the state tears up not only the secular contract, but the covenant between the spouses, the congregation, and God. The state’s edict countermands the churches’ covenant and with it the churches’ entire authority. With the churches’ acquiescence, the state’s officials put God in His place.

However impeccable the churches’ doctrine, and whatever verbal lamentations they have expressed over divorce “culture,” what the churches have not done is resist the state’s claim to monopoly control over the terms of divorce and to supervise the private lives of the forcibly divorced: the churches have never raised their voices against the state’s usurpation of power; they have never defended innocent victims of the unilateral divorce injustice or interposed themselves between the state and innocent spouses; they have never challenged state functionaries taking the homes and children of innocent people; they have never gone to court to see that justice is done to the involuntarily divorced; they have never campaigned to change the laws governing divorce or prevent the enactment of more; and they have never even discussed the possibility of threatening to not consecrate marriage covenants until the state stops unilaterally tearing them up.

This is demanding a lot from the churches and all of us. But less existential confrontations with the state faced churchmen like Ambrose and Becket and Fisher, and nothing less is required if the churches expect to withstand the crisis posed not only by figures like Cardinal Kasper but also the larger radical sexual regime: same-sex marriage, abortion-on-demand, sex education, Obamacare, plus the creeping criminalization of parents and others who dissent, including ordinary Christians.

Divorce is where Christians can and must draw a line and launch a vigorous counterattack that will enlist stakeholders from secular society: ordinary citizens who can at last be brought to realize why the Church and God must have a central place in both our public and private lives if we are to have any private lives at all.

Stephen Baskerville

By

Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and past president of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. He holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and attends an Anglican parish in Virginia. His most recent book The New Politics of Sex: Civil Liberties and the Growth of Governmental Power is published by Angelico Press.

  • Aliquantillus

    Because an open break with the indissolubility of marriage would be a step too far and expose the farce of ‘continuity’ of Church teaching, there’s a big chance that the outcome of the Synod will be a streamlining of the annulment process. In ‘pastoral’ practice, this will result in annulment on demand. Since Vatican II the Modernists have played the game of eating their cookie and have it. They keep up the facade of maintaining doctrine — at least as long as is necessary to lull the faithful — while de facto undermining it. The history of phony annulments since the Council is telling us enough. The US alone there are 50.000 to 60.000 annulments in an average year. Such numbers are completely ridiculous and everybody knows it. These annulments are granted on grounds that traditionally are completely invalid, the majority of which are of a spurious psychicological and social nature. The result is now that anyone who really is bent on getting an annulment has good reasons to expect that he will succeed. The effect of this state of affairs is that on a popular level annulment is already viewed as ‘Catholic divorce’. There is a complete dissonance between pastoral practice and doctrine. Even Kasper pays lip service to the old doctrine in order to push through his revolution. Cheap mercy has become the panacea. This is a disastruous state of affairs and there are no signs of any substantial remedy. What is going on is a demolishing of the fundamentals of Christianity. The next step will be admitting open homosexuals to the sacraments. And from that point on everything will be possible and all Church discipline will be gone. The Church is yielding to the temptation of choosing the wrong side in the culture wars. The only ones who’ll have to suffer are the true faithful. But they are a tiny minority anyway. For with Pope Francis there’s only one dogma: popularity.

    • fredx2

      No, you are far too cynical. No, annulment is not on demand, however today so many marriages were never true marriages in the Catholic sense that the church does decide that they were not marriages in the Catholic sense. The problem is not with the church, it is with the people. So few ever have any intent of staying in their marriage no matter what – their “marriages” are simply arrangements of convenience

      • ForChristAlone

        The annulment industry in the Church is corrupt.

        • Micha Elyi

          The annulment industry in the Church is corrupt.
          –ForChristAlone

          You’ve made a damaging assertion without evidence. (Calumny, it’s grave matter. Not Christ’s way.)

      • David Kenny

        fredx2 : Perhaps you do not understand human nature. We all enter marriage with unreasonable expectations due to our original sin. If one looks hard enough, one can always find some justification for annulment. The fact is that nothing is perfect in this world particularly re. humans and we must always be prepared to zip our lips and put up with things we dislike. No one has a right to perfection in human relations; it is simply not possible and disputes will always arise in marriages. That is not a reason for annulment. In the modern narcissist world where ones personal development overrides everything marriage is doomed from the start as there will always be conflicting desires between narcissists. What we need is old fashioned commitment and personal honor in the face of adversity. Yes, times may be tough in a marriage but real agape love and mutual sacrificial commitment with serious prayer will get us through those times. Today everything has to be easy and not involve personal inconvenience. Marriage doesn’t work that way.

        • Fargo106

          I think you and Fred2x agree… he’s saying that what you think marriage is and needs is not what have when they go into it. He didn’t say anything about unrealistic expectations or perfection… it seemed to me that he was saying what you are saying, too — that most people really don’t understand what it is going in. That’s not to say that that is OK… it’s a problem and and it needs to be fixed… but it can be used explain the increase in annulments, which I think is what Fred was tryingto do.

      • Aliquantillus

        I don’t think that I’m cynical but realistic. The absence of a subjective intent to stay in the marriage no matter what is irrelevant. In every normal juridical system the individual is supposed to know the law. Even in the case a marriage candidate didn’t know that sacramental marriage is for all time, he had the obligation to know this. A person who signs a contract cannot claim ignorance for what he is signing, certainly not in such a matter as Catholic marriage, the laws of which have been unchangeable throughout the centuries. Moreover, how do you prove this ignorance? How do you prove that a person who married 20 years ago didn’t know at that time that marriage is for all time? This whole idea is a ridiculous excuse, since it is explicitly said in the marriage formula, which is read aloud, that this is a union lasting until the death of one of the partners.

        But in the end all this is only part of the project of the Modernists to undermine doctrine and doctrine-based practice. What Kasper and the Kasperites now intend to do, supported by the Pope himself, is de draw the final consequences of Vatican II: developing a new religion which has no dogmas, except of course the super-dogma that one must not be “judgmental”, and that mercy without sincere repentance is possible and trumps all. These people are without faith whatsoever. What we hear from Kasper, yea what we hear from the Pope since his election, makes abundantly clear that the religion of this people is not Christianity and that they don’t even have a clear grasp of Christian doctrine. The ultimate goal of these Modernists is a fusion of the Church with the post-modern world.

        • Watosh

          Well said.

        • Micha Elyi

          Moreover, how do you prove this ignorance? How do you prove that a person who married 20 years ago didn’t know at that time that marriage is for all time?
          –Aliquantillus

          Unless the first 3 words of your lengthy comment can stand alone, Ali, I’m sure you can figure out how.

          Hints: Witnesses, copies of correspondence. (Work hard and you might discover other methods.)

      • GG

        Using those false standards no marriage in human history is valid.

        • Watosh

          Excellent observation, so true.

    • Salvelinus

      “For with Pope Francis there’s only one dogma: popularity.”
      So true…

      • JP

        It does seem he has taken the Populist mantra and he’s run with it. Some people sarcastically call him, “Francis the Humble.”

    • jay

      So do you have faith the Church will correct itself? Of course with the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

      • Nestorian

        Only if it is indeed the True Church. But there are other candidates, you know:
        1) The Eastern Orthodox Church
        2) The Oriental Orthodox (“Monophysite”) Church
        3) The Assyrian Church of the East (“Nestorian”)
        As my blog handle indicates, I am of the conviction that it is the last of these alternatives that embodies the Church’s abiding indefectibility, and constitutes the Rock against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
        Maybe the current confusion in the Catholic Church will make more people open to a serious study of church history, and thereby able to see for themselves that all three of these alternatives are far truer to Apostolic Tradition than is the Catholic Church.

    • Micha Elyi

      The history of phony annulments since the Council tells enough.
      –Aliquantillus

      Got one example you can point the rest of us to–one that is thoroughly documented, of course.

      Pro Tip: Waving your hands is not the same as careful attention to facts.

  • JP

    The no-fault divorce battle is one that has been fought and lost. While the Church was busy with Vatican II and its aftermath a legal and social revolution was taking place that, if anything, made Vatican II a moot point. Yes, the Church issued Humanae Vitae. But, it became nothing but a dead letter, which was and is viciously attacked from within. Cdl Kapser’s efforts today is nothing more than a continuation of that attack. In the mean time, Roe made abortion a Constitutional Right. Birth rates in the West plunged; families were broken; and children became nothing more than social adornments or impediments to happiness.

    The Church is not willing to face these facts. The Pope wishes to move on and concentrate on the “poor” (as if it ever took its gaze off the poor), while the internal decay continues. For whatever reasons, he blames an attachment to Tradition and Orthodoxy for our woes. Judgmentalism is too blame. Otherwise, why in the world would he pull a dissident Cardinal out of retirement and give him a new soap box to push his heterodoxy?

    • fredx2

      Because Kasper was not in retirement, he was head of a dicastery. And the Pope did it because he does not view the church as a war zone or political institution, he wants all people to feel they are having their say. He knows that the divorced and remarried thing does seem awfully unfair to a lot of people, and it is hard to explain, So we are now entering a two year period of explaining it, and it is a good thing that all sides are heard.

      • ForChristAlone

        It’s just that the Pope is simply wrong

      • Dick Prudlo

        The view, and a good view stated by the author will not be heard, Fred. All that we will hear is Kasperian Bergogianisms. The same chant (not in Latin may I note) that we have been hearing for 50+ years.

        All people did not get their say. We were provided with set questions designed to provide our ruling Staci with the answers they wished. Get a grip Fred.

      • GG

        And what about the appointment of Cardinal Danneels to the Synod? I mean really?

      • BXVI

        It is a very bad thing for the Pope to permit “all sides” to be heard “without taboos.” Some ideas are very bad, heterodox, and if implemented would be disasterous for the Church. It is unhealthy to open up pandora’s box and throw open for “discussion” something that was a closed issue years ago.

        • GG

          Read the latest entry at TheCatholicthing.com about day two of the synod. It reveals exactly what many have known but were afraid to say out loud.

        • Fargo106

          Me senses the element of sarcasm.

      • GG

        Lifesite news is reporting a speaker at the Synod wants to change words like “intrinsically disordered” and “living in sin” and such as they are viewed as too off putting.

        The truth is to be hidden to appease the ideologues and those who cause scandal. It is a type of anti-Gospel.

      • JP

        Cdl Kasper was retired for all practical purposes. And it seems to me both the Pope and Cardinal Kasper’s real problem lies with the 19th Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew – that is, Christ himself. Christ settled the matter of divorce and marriage over 2000 years ago.

      • Akira88

        The Sacrament has to remain solvent. What Kasper is implying seems to border on heresy. Marriage is supposed to be indissoluble. Okay – so since the 1960’s the culture has churned out many self absorbed, immature adults. The roles of men and women have been inverted Culture encourages irresponsibility.

        And what have we been fed from the pulpits? Candy. Candy to rot our souls. Social Justice that hails the liberal. Continued reminders about how prejudiced we all are … and there’s a wonder that the Real Presence is doubted by many Catholics?

        What kind of marriages are taking place but those that won’t last.

        • GG

          He is saying either the bond magically dissolves or if it does not dissolve it does not matter. Either way it is a grave error and, frankly, illogical. It is similar to the Orthodox position which is equally illogical.

          • Akira88

            The “Orthodox” position meaning …?

    • Salvelinus

      Great post… I couldn’t agree more!!
      Personally, I only think tradition and orthodoxy will save us.
      But alas… the Church is going full-speed to repress traditional orthodox Catholicism, and those that partake in it are derided as “radtrads” and “not living according to Vatican II” (who knows what that means but I’ve been called that last one)..
      Us Catholics that cling to traditional Catholicism (one does not have to attend the TLM although I do) are considered practically schismatic even though the truly heterodox liberals lodging the attacks have found a perfect soapbox in the current pontificate.

      • GG

        Pray the our Lord raised up another Mother Angelica. If she were able these days the “professional Catholics” would be booted off her network and associated holdings.

        • Akira88

          There’s got to be other Mother Angelica’s out there. There have to be some St. Jeromes’ and Catherine of Siennas …

        • Thorin

          He has: Michael Voris of Church Militant TV.

        • Corleonis

          There are always “7,000 that have not bent the knee to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18) One has to work diligently to be one of them. Mother Angelica did that holy work for a while. Good taste prevents me from commenting on what EWTN is turning into.
          Michael Voris is “making truth” and in other ways some are working to make holy light shine on God’s people, Some links follow I hope they are allowed here.
          http://www.staustinreview.com/
          http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/?eng=y
          http://www.delumen.org/
          http://www.firstthings.com/
          http://www.thecatholicthing.org
          http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/
          http://catholicexchange.com
          And many others. BE a Mother Angelica yourself and share what is holy with others. The little flock is fighting for its life. This is not time to expect others to feed us but to form a bucket brigade and start making things happen.
          This site has changed so much for the better. It sholud be on everyone’s list.
          God Bless.

      • Fargo106

        I disagree with your assesment of Catholic Answers… I listen and read pretty regularly and I’ve not witnessed the “vocal detractors” there that you note. My experience has been that CA is largely traditional and conservative, at least in my estimation of what those terms mean and encompass. Perhaps I think of those terms differently than you and others, which could account for differing perspectives on CA. At any rate, CA is OK in my book.

        • craig

          Don’t know about the particular individuals cited, but it is true that the Catholic Answers Forum, both regular commenters and moderators, are quick to deal out 100% feminist marital advice and encourage women to frivolously divorce their husbands.

          See here for a discussion of the phenomenon.

          • Fargo106

            I was speaking strictly of the radio show and the monthly printed magazine. I forget about the forums they host. However, commentators are commentators and not CA employees. I read this article and I saw no comment from a CA moderator which encouraged frivolous divorce or anything opposed to Catholic teaching. Now, I see that they may have been slow to react to comments from posters which might be opposed to Catholic teaching, but that’s different than a moderator sharing the same. CA has the responsibility to moderate effectively, which would obviously include deleting offensive material, but also allowing opposing views to remain for the sake of discussion… it can sometimes be a fine line.

            • craig

              See http://dalrock.wordpress.com/category/catholic-answers-forum/ — Dalrock’s blog has an archive tag set aside for posts about CAF follies. Among those, the post best illustrating questionable advice would be the one entitled “Put your faith in divorce”. I agree moderation is a difficult task, but let’s just say the forum reflects society’s overall tilt toward feminist corruptions of Scripture and Tradition, and seldom pushes back against it.

    • Lego Man

      Spot-on. Is anyone going to challenge the Pope? Only a Cardinal or group of Cardinals has the official mandate to speak directly to his face and challenge him publicly. Of course others can and must do what they can, but the Cardinals have Christ’s clout.

    • Akira88

      I don’t want to sound cynical, but the Pope seems to forget there are other the other “poor”.

    • pbecke

      ‘The Pope wishes to move on and concentrate on the “poor” (as if it ever
      took its gaze off the poor), while the internal decay continues.’

      No, JP. That locution of yours, of the church never having ‘taken its gaze off the poor’ seems indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding. It is not a matter of gazing at them, but a fundamental reorientation to serving them. That is why the worldly-wise, what we call today, ‘intelligent’ are given that worldly wisdom: to assist the more endemically-spiritual poor, (the True) Israel, his (God’s) Servant, as Our Lady referred to them in their struggle for survival in a world that has always threatened it, and today, does so more than ever.

      The world’s attitude towards them, namely, that they are a curious, largely redundant feature of mankind, proper positioned at the margins, is not satisfactory from a Judaeo-Christian perspective. Both Old and New Testaments are as fiercely condemnatory of polite society, the rich – yes, compared to the poor, the professional and middle and upper managerial classes are rich – as they are laudatory of the superior spiritual virtue of the poor. In short, it is structural changes to national economies that are required; and the way for that to happen is for monied Catholics of good will to change the political landscape, in order to bring about such structural changes.

      The poor do not need the wealth the rich tend to need, because they are more spiritual, but all should have adequate food and shelter and some disposable income, as obtained in the UK before the eighties. Just as important is that recognition at every level of the Church, just who are the spiritual lords of this planet, as the Bible so frequently reiterates.

      I think you misunderstand Kasper. He is trying to draw people back to Humanae Vitae and traditional Christian values, but he knows they have to be evangelised where they are, not where they should be, if the Great and the Good hadn’t made such a mess of the world. The very existence of the left, increasingly secular, the more it has shifted to the right in the UK, is a judgment on the gross social and political failings of the right. Communism should never have arisen.

      • Nestorian

        Bravo. I could not have said it better myself. You have captured very well the fundamental blindness of moral vision that prevails on this website and similar outlets.
        .
        An important corollary is this: Mortal combat about sins of lust is a luxury that only the materially well-heeled can afford. And they are a tiny minority globally speaking – probably fewer than 10 percent based on any reasonable distinction between material well-being versus impoverishment – and becoming fewer by the day.
        .
        For the vast majority, sins of greed and their consequences are much more of a daily concern than are sins of lust. Marxism and other variants of secular leftist ideology have never been wrong about that. It is so today, has ever been so, and will be so until Our Lord’s Return.
        .
        As long as the moral vision on society on the part of well-to-do religious conservatives is dominated by attention to lust rather than attention to greed, they will never even come close to understanding the state of the world as God understands it. As such, they will also fail to understand the sign of the times, particularly in the singularly apocalyptic epoch of our own generation.

        • pbecke

          Thank you, Nestorian. I try.

        • pbecke

          Personally, I have always thought that until the Church returned to something approaching Gospel values, contraception should be considered, de facto, as almost a counsel of perfection. To fixate on it reflects a distorted perspective.

        • Fargo106

          Moral, greed, doesn’t matter the distinction… sin is sin and I don’t think you can place the relevance or importance of one above another.

      • brucenyc

        You are making the assumption that “poor” only refers to matters of money and possessions. The involuntarily divorced is also poor: poor in family; poor in justice. These are much more important goods which are lacking that money or possessions.

        • pbecke

          Very important, indeed. but not more important than full employment with a living wage for the poorest wage-earner and his family for a whole marginalised sector of society, now surely numbering millions. And that’s not even counting the destitute homeless, a sin for which, no doubt, many will pay, which cries to heaven for vengeance – particularly as regards the females, should never ever be homeless. Every ounce of honour has been squeezed out of government.

          How is it we went from a sole family breadwinner, in a low income low cost society, when money was really tight and food rationed, after WWII, to both spouses being breadwinners – in the US, today, both working multiple part-time jobs yet one pay-cheque away from homelessness – in a low income-high cost society?

          Capitalism inevitably targets monopoly, market hegemony and buying governments, corporatism, in pursuit of its open-ended greed. It is systematised greed.

          • craig

            Corporatism is not capitalism, it is its opposite. Government power to regulate will always, without exception, result in the well-connected using the power of the state to frustrate and/or bankrupt their competitors. There are some special cases where natural competition does not occur on its own, but in most cases hegemony and/or monopoly result after (not before) the state has first tilted the marketplace via one (even well-meaning) regulation or another.

            We went away from a sole family breadwinner economy because women and immigrants entered the workforce in large numbers at approximately the same time. Increased supply of labor depressed wages across the board. The phenomenon of dual-income households led to increased demand for larger, more expensive housing; because larger homes are more profitable to builders, they reacted by concentrating on the upper end of the housing market.

        • DE-173

          The biggest promoters of the materialist fallacy are often those that talk about “poverty”. Inevitably, they think the problem of poverty can be fixed by sprinkling cash on it, especially the cash of the god state.
          A person whose marriage is ended involuntarily was been wounded grievously in a way that no amount of money can fix. Alimony, when it existed was always lousy attempt at equity.

          • LDZ

            Fantastically stated!

  • Daniel P

    I could not possibly say enough good things about this article. I came into the article skeptical, and left inspired. Thank you, Mr. Baskerville.

  • Salvelinus

    As a Catholic, knowing that marriage is a supernatural bond with a spouse, under God, maybe it’s about time to get out of the government business?
    What are you folks view on the Church not dealing with civil marriage?

    That is, the couple will be required to get their ” State sanctioned” marriage separately?

    The church will perform the sacrament, but the government business must be done separately thereby totally protecting the Church from the government.

    It’s only a matter of time that the Church (in the US) will be forced to marry sodomites and by totally separating the Church from the state will protect all parties… especially since the USCCB can get “squishy” in dogma, and focusing on social justice and “mercy” to get around natural law.

    • ForChristAlone

      The Church should cease recognizing ALL marriages other than Her own. It is clear that what the State and ALL other religions mean by “marriage” is totally contrary to the Catholic Church’s understanding of what marriage is.

      • Daniel P

        I agree. If we presumed other marriages were invalid, and then had a procedure alongside RCIA for validating them, a lot of problems would be averted.

      • JP

        So, do Catholics look at Lutheran or Methodist couples as adulterers?

        • DE-173

          I have a nominally Methodist in-law.

          Said individual married a Methodist minister who preaches at a UCC church (makes no sense to me). Both were previous divorced. At least one party was divorced against their will.

          Remember that Luther said marriage was an affair of the state, to be regulated by the state. I would assume that all Lutherans believe their marriage is a civil contract, although if that’s the case, what’s the point of a Church wedding? Tudor made it dissoluable at will.

          Yet some Protestants take their marriage vows more seriously than Catholics. Confused yet?

    • GG

      The point is the Church is not simply concerned with Catholics. She is concern with all people. Once the State is corrupt the answer is not to retreat into ghettos. In fact, the State is corrupt because so-called Catholics refuse to live as Catholics.

      • We have permanently lost the battle for a non corrupt government, if we ever had a chance at one. Our only chance is to rebuild from the same ashes that St Benedict grew his garden of faith.

        • GG

          Perhaps, but it was lost because “Catholics” do not live as Catholics.

          • It was lost because the Constitution itself is a free masonic Protestant document that is and always has been deeply anti Catholic.

            • GG

              Please.

            • DE-173

              I always find it fascinating that the effects of things that NEVER were contemplated (or proscribed) by the Constitution but that exert incredible influence over the contemporary affairs, are ignored when attributing cause to the contemporary state of affairs.
              The Federal Income Tax
              Suffrage of the parasitic classes
              The Cartel known as the “Bar Association” and the law schools that serve as indoctrination centers.
              The rise of the virulently anti-Catholic pseudoCatholic

              • As long as Article I Section 8 and the Tenth Amendment are in there, everything else the federal government does is inevitable.

                Why shouldn’t they want their cut of the market they created and forced upon the population? Why shouldn’t the Bar Association be paid to support that massively unfree market which is nothing more than a ponzi scheme from the beginning?

                Anything more complex than barter between equal owners, will become the monstrosity that we know as the federal government today. The Government Creates the Market, and the Market, being a gentleman, returns the favor and enobles the government. Without a government, without that cartel of the bar association, you can’t even enforce a contract.

                • DE-173

                  The Sine Qua Non of Evil is the 16th Amendment.

                  And we had lawyers enforcing contracts before the Bar association began enforcing ideological conformity and telling law school graduates that they were philosopher kings destined to rule over the unwashed masses. We had better and more restrained judges when they “read the law”.

                  • To those who do not understand Mark Chapter 12, the Sixteenth Amendment is indeed a great evil.

                    But a judge interpreting the law by which side pays him the most, is not dispensing justice- and that is why the bar association was invented.

                    • DE-173

                      It’s time for you to stop being confused, admit your manifestly demonstrated ineptitude with these matters and refrain from making such inane commentary.

                      The Sixteenth Amendment was sold with lies and it fosters lies, envy, corruption and sloth. The Bar Association is a cartel, it does nothing to promote “justice”. It was after the Bar took hold that we had legalized abortion, no-fault divorce and SSA.

                    • So was the rule of Caesar. History may not repeat, but it does rhyme.

                      BTW, where is that libertarian utopia again?

                    • DE-173

                      Answering in nonsense is just a waste of the most precious resource, time.

                      As for the existence of the “Libertarian Utopia”, don’t ask me. I’m with Russell Kirk on libertarianism. For the matter, the noxious Ayn Rand properly apprehended them as well.

                      Just be quiet, when you don’t know what you are talking about. Is it that hard?

                    • Says the man who denies Christ’s teaching on taxes.

                    • DE-173

                      Says the man who misrepresents Christ’s teaching on taxes.

        • DE-173

          What battle? There are periods where government is relatively benign, and periods where it is completely corrupt and/or oppressive.
          It never was and never will be incorrupt. Government involves taking money by force and allowing the exercise of power over others, two things that are morally corrosive agents due to the effects of original sin.

          • In this context, I would be satisfied with the right to Life from conception until natural death, and a government that is subservient to that in all other matters. We have lost that battle now, and it appears that Constitutional Government as a System is at fault, thanks to the 9 dictators who are hell bent on destroying the traditional family.

            • DE-173

              And yet the Constitution, designed to remind and stop us from granting to much authority to few is ignored and therefore inoperative.

              This is as logical as blaming the Decalogue for murder.

    • Fred

      Though none have passed out of committee, there have been a number of bills written to deny churches tax exempt status if they don’t agree to marry sodomites. I totally expect in my lifetime to see that happen once they feel that they have broad consent after completing their indoctrination of the children.

      • Nestorian

        And would it really be such a bad thing if churches lost tax-exempt status? It certainly wouldn’t amount to anything like the end of the world, nor to anything like the end of the churches.

        If anything, I think the loss of tax-exempt status would be a spiritually salutary development in at least two immediately discernable ways:

        1) It would entail some measure of reduction in the ongoing scandal of many Christian clergy living lives of luxury (yes – ALL celibate clergy ought to take a vow of poverty; and all married clergy at least a vow of material modesty); and

        2) It would free the churches to bear a more heroically prophetic witness against the state and other powerful secular institutions when called for by substantially reducing their material dependency on the state.

        • Fred

          I agree, it is like a shackle. That’s the real purpose of our
          bizarre tax code – people think they’re getting some nugget of favor, but it’s
          in trade for a coercive force that binds one to the not so benevolent demi-gods
          on the Potomac.

        • DE-173

          “And would it really be such a bad thing if churches lost tax-exempt status? It certainly wouldn’t amount to anything like the end of the world, nor to anything like the end of the churches.”
          You obviously know nothing about taxes, either. Back to “Nestorian” again, huh?

          • Nestorian

            Yes, indeed, and with serene self-assurance too.

            • DE-173

              Demons always present a serene appearance. Your “self-assurance” is contradicted by your need for attention. Hence, after being thrown out, you are back, first trying a new name, then having been apprehended, going back to your original diabolical name.

              You do however, exude the strong and acrid exude smell of sulphur.

              • Nestorian

                Turn-about is fair play. Thus, if you make a personal judgment about me and assert that I manifest a need for attention that belies my claimed serenity of self-assurance and proves it to be demonic, then I will hazard a personal judgment about you as well.
                .
                And that personal judgment is this: You are consistently abrasive, abusive, and personally insulting in your comportment on the Crisis website – not just against me but against many other posters.
                .
                If my need for attention – which I claim is more on behalf of my convictions than on behalf of myself – is indeed in some measure demonic, as you assert, then your habitual tendency to sin gravely and gratuitously against the Fifth Commandment is demonic also, to an extent that exceeds what you assert to be true of me by orders of magnitude.
                .
                Again, I refer you to the words of Our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, where he equates gratuitous insults expressed in unrestrained anger with murder. Every time you have gratuitously insulted someone on the crisis website is thus an instance of murder in Our Lord’s eyes, and that is demonic.

                • DE-173

                  I am direct and blunt. That you don’t like that your invasion isn’t being treated with a red capet, doesn’t make me “consistently abrasive, abusive, and personally insulting””-

                  You, on the other hand were thrown off this site by the moderator, who is famously tolerant and post under multiple names to evade that moderation. This bears a resemblance to “legion”.

                  You are here to “jam”, and to foment apostasy. You are an apostate who insists on invading a site to promote a decrepit heresy. Those are facts. You may not like them, but they are how things are-you also know you have no chance of succeeding in your attempts, and a commitment to futility is diabolical. You violate multiple commandments-especially bearing false witness with every post.

                  The Good Lord called Peter “Satan” for far less.

                  Why don’t you go be with your own kind?

    • Robert

      I agree. I think the time has arrived where we can no longer equate the Sacrament of Marriage with the Civil Contract known as Marriage. If you want to get married go to City Hall. If you want to receive the Sacrament of Marriage come to the Catholic Church. I fear if we do not approach marriage in this manner, then some group will start suing for the “civil right” to force the Church to give them the Sacrament.

    • HigherCalling

      I think Chesterton said that every time the Church has wedded herself to world, it has ended in an ugly and tumultuous divorce. I would add that it also includes an ugly fight over custody of the children… .

      I’m wondering if it is possible for married Catholics to divorce their marriages from the State — literally dissolving that civil contract, and remaining solely and entirely married in the true, Sacramental Marriage of the Catholic Church? Since the State can call marriage what ever it wants, why should Catholics scandalize true marriage by agreeing to be included in civil marriage? Can married Catholics reasonably (i.e. abandoning tax benefits and other social advantages) divorce themselves from the State? This Catholic has no thirst for the false eucharist offered by the State.

      • JP

        Theoretically, I think that is possible. However, I believe almost all Bishops require that Catholic couples also have their unions approved by the state. Almost all priests are official wedding officiants by their respective states. That way, the couple does not need to have both a sacramental wedding and a civil ceremony. The Wedding Mass takes care of both.

        There has been some talk by various people that the Church no longer does this. For, the important thing is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and not what the state thinks. I’ve also heard a few couples wonder if they could get a civil divorce but remain married in the Church (and continue living together). I don’t see why not; but why on earth would a couple do this is beyond me (other than the “ex-wife” collecting certain welfare benefits from the state).

        • HigherCalling

          For married Catholics a civil divorce has no bearing on their Sacramental marriage, right(?), or there would not be all this fuss over annulments and divorcees receiving communion, etc. For Catholic couples, marriage is not officially dissolved (apart from death) until the Church annuls that marriage. So if I were to get a civil divorce, my marriage would still be recognized as valid in the Church. If I never seek annulment, haven’t I divorced my marriage from the State and remained validly married in the Church? Imagine if married Catholics en masse took this tack, essentially unchaining Church marriage from the grips of the State and eliminating the need for Church hierarchy to even get involved. If the Bishops discontinued demanding approval by the State, newly wedded Catholics wanting civil marriage would have the option of adding that to their Sacramental Marriage (which supersedes civil marriage and is not (as it is now treated) a subset of it). It is more a statement against the scandalous redefinition of marriage and the decline in general morality than anything else.

          • slainte

            HigherCalling writes: “… For Catholic couples, marriage is not officially dissolved (apart from death) until the Church annuls that marriage…”
            .
            Because there are many couples marrying in the Catholic Church today which includes a non-Catholic spouse, where a dispensation has been granted, it would be fair to say…..”For any couples married in the Catholic Church, marriage is not officially dissolved (apart from death) until the Church annuls that marriage…”

            • HigherCalling

              Good point. It sounds like those “mixed” marriages (and I know of several) are considered equally as sacramental as the marriage of two Catholics. If a “mixed” marriage ends in civil divorce, I assume the non-Catholic spouse is “free” from the Church, but the Catholic spouse must still seek annulment. Is a mixed marriage that ends in civil divorce treated with different considerations when it comes to the annulment process — is the process (perhaps not objectively but subjectively) easier?

              • slainte

                I don’t know whether a mixed marriage is treated differently by the tribunal, although I suspect it might be…as a non-Catholic spouse may be presumed not to fully understand the sacramental nature of Catholic matrimony.

    • Fargo106

      “…with the men in the Church being so “collegial” and feminized, afraid to “rock the boat.”
      Really? This makes no sense if you really think about it. Apparently the logic here is “feminized” and rocking the boat aren’t compatitble. I don’t know what kind of feminized you’ve been exposed to, but the feminized I’ve been exposed to is willing to rock the boar plenty.

  • publiusnj

    The author conflates two issues. He is right that No Fault Divorce is a terrible destruction of marriage which is necessarily indissoluble if it is to be “marriage” at all. He is wrong to blame the Catholic Church for no-fault divorce. The Catholic Church until this very day has stood alone upholding the indissolubility of Marriage. Maybe not with as clarion a voice as it should have and not as bravely as it should have, but alone among the Christian denominations, it has stood for the indissolubility of marriage.

    That said, the author is right that Kasper’s proposal and the pope’s not so subtle semi-endorsement of it would be one more nail in the coffin of Marriage. I think some of the defenders of marriage attending the Synod ought to develop the inevitable consequences of the proposed “mercy” of allowing people to run away from the marriages they contracted with the Church’s blessing, once they . For example, if confession is all it takes to overcome Christ’s command on Remarriage being Adultery, is the unmarried spouse free of the obligation to consider him/herself still married? How is that communicated? Does the Church tell him/her, he/she was never married? Was married until the Divorce? Or still married until the spouse decided to up and confess? Or if the non-confessing spouse had gone ahead and gotten remarried him or herself, does he/she still have a need to go to confession, once the confession has eliminated the marriage bond as to the confessing ex? Presumably, of course, neither one would have any obligation to “resolve to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin” as to the adultery that had been occurring until the first spouse confessed.

    Then, of course, there is the little matter of the vows exchanged in marriage. “Until death us do part” becomes “false advertising” if marriages can be dissolved by Confession. So,the vow should be changed to: “Until either death us do part or a civil divorce combined with a confession by one or both of us.” How is that merciful to the woman who then will be engaging in sexual congress with a man who can up and leave her at will, so long as he jumps through the requisite legal hoops? Or to a man whose wife can bear him children whom he then supports but always subject to her right to flirt with another guy and leave him if she so chooses on a no-fault basis?

    • JP

      Father Z has some great thoughts on divorced but remarried Catholics. However, his solution has been the traditional solution for centuries. The couple must live as Brother-Sister, and if they do occasionally fall, that is what confession is for. The same for homosexual couples. In either case, the efforts at repentance is the main thing. What seems to be in the works is the normalization of Sin. That is, remarried couples as well as gay couples (or unmarried co-inhabiting couples)need not repent. The Eucharist is theirs for the taking.

      This is totally out of control.

      • publiusnj

        There is that and there are other practical responses to the idea that a divorcer-remarrier is no less entitled to mercy than any other sinner. And I agree that an adulterous re-marrier is entitled to forgiveness by the Church’s duly appointed minister of confession if he/she confesses and resolves not to sin again.

        The difference between Remarriage Adultery and other serious sins, though, is in what happens thereafter. Should a murderer or pedophile or robber confess and thereafter sin in the same way again, nobody would say that there is no need to confess the further sin. What is being proposed by Kasper is that the sinner be free to continue with the sin as though the confession had prospective effect. That is NOT an authority that Christ ever gave his shrivers. In effect, Kasper is proposing: “once Remarriage Adultery is confessed, absolution confers a free pass on what Christ would call Adultery thereafter ‘until death you do part.'” Maybe, the non-confessing and now former spouse could be mailed a card that says something like: “Get out of Hell Free if you choose to remarry.” Practical Question for the Synod: would we want to make the confessing spouse pay for that card (and its mailing) as part of the shriving process?

        • GG

          Yes, it is that absurd. Perpetual adultery like homosexual acts gets a special pass by the liberal dissenters.

        • Jennifer Roback Morse Phd

          The other thing that happens “thereafter” a divorce and remarriage, very often, is new children by the second marriage. The impact of the new family on the old family can be devastating. People write in on our kidsdivorcestories.org site regularly, about feeling like leftovers from a previous relationship, when their parents “move on” to new love interests.
          It seems to me that this is part of the trouble Jesus was trying to keep us away from, when He forbade remarriage after divorce.
          Imagine that: the Creator and Designer might actually know what He is talking about!

          • publiusnj

            I agree totally. Under Kasper’s proposed new dispensation, “family” would become a “moveable feast.” Fathers (and reigning mothers) would likely favor the brood created by their “current favorite.” Quaint “biblical” concepts like “birthright” become meaningless in a serial monogamy regime, just as in a polygamy regime. And the likelihood that polygamy is coming in the wake of No Fault Divorce, Gay Marriage, a Catholic collapse on the indissolubility of marriage as Kasper proposes and unlimited immigration from polygamous countries is high, whatever our overlords asszure us. Think of how they told us Gay Marriage was not coming in the wake of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, evn rushing to pass the now discarded DOMA.

            Perhaps the most extreme “laboratory” for what happens in a polygamous situation was the Ottoman Court/harem where the princely male children of the reigning Sultan were kept in a portion of the Topkapi Palace known as the “Kafes” (Turkish for cages) until the Sultan’s pending death forced a decision on who would succeed. At that point the other potential rivals for the throne would often be killed to ensure the safety of the new Sultan. Translate that to a serial monogamy situation where the progenitor does NOT have nearly unlimited funds available (as the Sultans did) and the potential for mistreatment of disfavored children is clear. There is nothing new under the Sun.

      • DE-173

        ‘The same for homosexual couples.’

        No, one relationship is illicit, the other is invalid.

  • BXVI

    Yes, but we don’t get it you see. Pope Francis wants to get the Church out of confrontations with the State. He wants us out of the culture wars. He wants us to stop trying to “impose” the faith through secular laws. He wants to give up.

    • Salvelinus

      I miss pope Benedict…

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “He wants us to stop trying to “impose” the faith through secular laws.”

      Well, yes and why not? Christianity, which speaks only tot he conscience, forbids divorce; the Mosaic law, which was the civil law of the Jewish commonwealth permitted it.

      In fact, the concept of marriage as indissoluble is a purely Christian one.

      Roman law recognised divorce by mutual consent, for just as marriage was constituted by consent, it could be dissolved by consent. If one of the parties no longer wished the marriage to continue, he or she could dissolve it by notifying the other. “Tuas res tibi habito” [Look after your own affairs] seems to have been a customary formula (D 24. 2. 2. 1) Any unequivocal expression of intention sufficed. Any contract or agreement restricting the right to divorce or imposing a financial penalty was void (C8. 38. 2)

      So rooted was this notion that, although Christian emperors, like Justinian, penalised divorce, they nevertheless recognised the marriage as dissolved.

      Of course, the rest of the law was adapted to this, particularly the rigid separation of property – gifts between husband and wife were void (D. 24.1.1.), the husband’s patria potestas over the children, which was an absolute right of ownership and so on.

      Both Jewish and Islamic law gave the husband an unrestricted right of repudiation. Roman law was unusual only in giving a similar power to the wife.

      Why should we expect a non-cofessional state to maintain a rule founded exclusively on the Canon law?

      • Tamsin

        MPS, you’re late. I was expecting you to open the comment queue with your apocryphal story of hotels and witnesses.

        • DE-173

          And some tangential or irrelevant quote from Voltaire.

          • Tamsin

            Actually, instead of calling his hotel-and-witnesses story “apocryphal”, I should call it an example of “hypocrypha”: a story told to prove that hypocrisy proves that the rules should be changed.

  • To little too late, like every other battle fought in the culture war, the victims have been with us do long that we are now working on the third generation of wounded. When are we going to get ahead of this war?

    • Salvelinus

      Cardinal Dolan said we are not in the culture wars anymore…

      • Trooper

        Cardinal Dolan could not define what a culture is or what a war is. As he said when he became president of the USCCB, “There’s nothing to change. Everything’s fine.” How do we get these guys ?

      • Yes, he’s surrendered. Of course, his unilateral surrender hasn’t affected the other side at all. The feminists are very much still in the culture war, and Dolan will not be able to stay out for long.

    • Jennifer Roback Morse Phd

      Our plan, at the Ruth Institute, is to encourage the Victims to speak out. None of this could have happened without the systematic silencing of the Victims of the Sexual Revolution. We are taking our first stab at it, with kidsdivorcestories.org. You should read those stories: they are heartbreaking. And if you know anyone who is considering divorce, gently lead them over to this site and tell them: “this is how your kids may feel in 30 years. They are not necessarily going to “get over it” just because you have “moved on” or because you want them to get over it.”

  • jay

    If Pope Francis does indeed change the rules and allows the Eucharist for the re-married, I will leave in a heart beat and go Eastern Orthodox. Is this a sin to think and do this? As a brand new Catholic, I’m not mature in my faith enough to deal with this. I was under the impression that the Catholic Church never changes.

    • Daniel P

      The Eastern Orthodox do allow reception of the Eucharist for some among the remarried, if I’m not mistaken.

      • Nestorian

        Indeed they do, and the Greek canons that permit this go back at least to the 4th century. In fact, those early canons LIMITED serial divorce and remarriage to no more than 3 instances total (of marriage).
        .
        Elsewhere on this thread, I make mention of the explosively significant, but hardly known, fact that Pope Sergius in the early 900s refused to back up Nicholas, Patriarch of Constantinople, when the latter tried to enforce this canon against the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI’s wish to contract his own 4th marriage. In all justice, though, this historical episode ought to be even more famous than the case of King Henry VIII, since Pope Sergius’s actions blow out of the water any Catholic claims that the pope’s refusal to permit King Henry to remarry has any abiding doctrinal significance whatsoever.
        .
        Now if a valid and canonical pope of Rome has, as a matter of historical fact, thrown the indissolubility doctrine right out the window for the sake of scoring some cheap political points against his ecclesiastical rival Nicholas, then why are we even having this current synod in the first place? The popes themselves have formally rejected the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage! Pope Francis and the Cardinals might as well just call attention to the conduct of Pope Sergius in the 4th marriage of Emperor Leo, admit that the Catholic Church’s indissolubility doctrine has been erroneous all along, and call it a day.
        .
        And the aforementioned case of Pope Sergius is by no means the only instance of papal dissolutions of validly contracted marriages to be met with in history.

        • Nestorian

          The Pope Sergius in question was the IIIrd of that name, by the way; and the year in which his sanctioning of the Emperor Leo’s 4th marriage took place was a.d. 905.

        • Daniel P

          Did Pope Sergius lay down a document inscribing the Church’s teachings on the matter? Or is this plausibly a case where he was just simply misbehaving and violating those teachings?

          The actions of popes are certainly not infallible.

          • nestorian

            It does not matter. One cannot explicitly grant the dissolution of a particular marriage (the third one, in this case, by Pope Sergius III) without necessarily committing oneself to the dissolubility of marriage as a general proposition. As such, the mere fact that Pope Sergius explicitly overrode Patriarch Nicholas’s attempt to enforce the canon on the emperor is an explicit disavowal by Pope Sergius of indissolubility as a general moral principle.
            .
            Notice also that the contrary Catholic argument, based on papal enforcement of indissolubility against Henry VIII, also involves merely the particular instance. That is, the supposedly general force of this particular piece of classical Catholic polemic in support of the indissolubility of marriage derives entirely from the particularity of Henry VIII’s case.
            .
            If the specious distinction between the particular and the general papal affirmation of moral teaching that you set up were actually recognized by Catholics as having any weight, then the Henry VIII incident would never have been invested with the polemical force it enjoys among Catholics in the first place. By assigning the Henry VIII incident the weight that they do, Catholics are implicitly conceding the speciousness of your attempted distinction between the particular and the general.
            .
            In short, the witness borne by Pope Sergius III to the dissolubility even of a third of a series of allegedly valid marriages cannot be ignored in the indissolubility debate. His witness is, in fact, a pretty damning refutation of the indissolubility doctrine by the Catholic Church’s highest teaching authority.

            • Daniel P

              By your logic, would an adulterous pope thereby commit the Church to teaching that adultery is permissible? If not, why not?

              • Nestorian

                There may or may not be a distinction between the doctrinal significance of the way a pope acts in his personal morality, and what a pope commands or ordains in his purported capacity as monarchical ruler and doctrinal authority of the Church. Anything falling into the latter category, however, definitely constitutes an exercise of his supreme teaching authority; and the legitimizing by Pope Sergius of Emperor Leo’s 4th marriage clearly falls into this category, since it involves extant written records of Pope Sergius’s exercise of his papal authority on the matter of Emperor Leo’s 4th marriage.
                .
                There have also been popes who acted adulterously; in fact, the 10th century was one of the epochs of church history particularly rife with popes of this sort. I would be willing to grant the Catholic interlocutor, I think, that a pope’s personal morality does not by itself entail an exercise of his official teaching authority. Be that as it may, though, Pope Sergius’ communications to the effect that Patriarch Nicholas’s attempts to enforce the canons were overridden by papal decree clearly IS an official exercise of papal teaching authority.

                • Daniel P

                  You use the phrase “what a pope commands or ordains in his purported capacity as monarchical ruler and doctrinal authority of the Church”. But (1) infallibility was never meant to cover the commands of a “monarchial ruler”, and (2) there was nothing doctrinal about Pope Sergius’s declaration.

                  The declaration appears to have been judicial, not doctrinal. Its role was not, from your description, to expound upon a doctrine, but rather to ignore one. It was the action of a poor judge, who misinterprets existing laws — or rather a corrupt judge, who does whatever suits his fancy.

                  • Nestorian

                    It was judicial, but it was a judicial application of doctrine – specifically, the doctrine, unambiguously applied to the case at hand by Pope Sergius, that marriages, up to even a fourth one, are in fact dissoluble by divorce. And in being an application of doctrine, the pope’s judgment was necessarily doctrinal in character as such.

                    .

                    And Pope Sergius’ judgment upon Emperor Leo’s fourth marriage was also a manifest exercise of his papal authority, since he was using it to overrule the judgment of the second-highest ranking prelate in the Church that fourth marriages are, morally speaking, a bridge too far.
                    .
                    Unless one wishes to take refuge in subterfuge, the conclusion cannot be avoided that Pope Sergius was promulgating doctrine in his official decree on the matter. And again, taking refuge in such subterfuge completely undermines the force of appealing to the Henry VIII counterexample.
                    .
                    But actually, the Sergius case completely nullifies the conclusion drawn by Catholics from the Henry VIII case in any event. For once even a single exception to indissolubility is admitted by papal authority, then marriage is ipso facto rendered declared dissoluble by papal authority anyhow; and the horse has already left the barn on any later papal declarations (including against Henry VIII) that marriage is indissoluble after all.

                    • Daniel P

                      Adjudication is not the same thing as establishment of law. An amendment to the Constitution is not the same thing as a bad application of the Constitution. Your evidence points to no amendment of Church law, only bad applications of it.

                      I’m open to evidence that proves your point, but I haven’t seen any. Your understanding of “papal authority” elides the distinction between doctrine and policy.

                    • Nestorian

                      There is no such distinction at hand in the Sergius case, because the Sergius policy is necessarily based upon doctrine.
                      .
                      Moreover, one can prove that the Catholic position has to be in precise accord with my own on the basis of the Henry VIII incident. If the clear-cut separation you propose between doctrine and policy were generally understood to obtain, then the history of Henry VIII would never have assumed any role whatsoever in traditional Catholic polemics about indissolubility, since it too represents policy not doctrine in the exact sophistical sense you propose.
                      .
                      The time to take refuge in subterfuge has come to an end. Doing so stands categorically opposed to a principled commitment to truth, be that truth transcendent or immanent.
                      .

                      Those who castigate Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper for taking refuge in subterfuge are hypocrites if they do so themselves.

                    • Daniel P

                      1. I don’t castigate the pope and the cardinal for anything.

                      2. All applications of canon law are based on doctrine. That does not mean they change doctrine.

                      3. I do not care whether the Henry VIII case supports the Catholic doctrinal claims. The claims stand on their own without such support.

                    • nestorian

                      They do so only if you resort to subterfuge in the Sergius case. Pope Sergius was clearly applying the doctrine that even third marriages are dissoluble to the affairs of Emperor Leo VI; and to ignore an official act of a pope rooted in the position that marriage is dissoluble, or to evade via sophistry the force of this historical fact in undermining the Catholic claim that its teaching on marriage is unchanging, is an intellectual discreditable thing to do.
                      .
                      Catholics who do this kind of thing thereby abdicate the moral high ground they claim vis a vis the culture at large in view of the latter’s relativism, and of their own purported commitment to objective truth.

                    • Daniel P

                      When your interlocutor has been nothing but polite, it is hardly fair to accuse him of intellectual dishonesty. Pope Sergius attempted to dissolve the marriage, but failed, since it is impossible. That position is compatible with Catholic teaching on marriage, and intellectually respectable.

                      You seem to think that (according to Catholics) the pope can create theological realities. That is not Catholic teaching.

                    • Nestorian

                      You are right, and I apologize for making the insinuation. It was ungentlemanly of me to do so.
                      .
                      It also turns out that I was wrong about the facts, as was pointed out on Patrick Lee’s thread on marriage. It turns out that Emperor Leo was thrice a widower, and that Pope Sergius was justified in what he did from a Catholic standpoint (though Patriarch Nicholas was also justified from a Greek canonical standpoint):
                      .
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_VI_the_Wise
                      .
                      However, this does not prove that I am wrong in maintaining that grievous sin can lead to the death, and thus dissolution, of marriages. It only means that I cannot use this particular historical episode in support of the claim that popes themselves have sometimes sanctioned the dissolution of marriages.

                    • Daniel P

                      Wow, thank you for your humility! It’s an inspiration.

                      It’s been an invigorating dispute. God bless you!

                    • Nestorian

                      I’m glad things turned out well. I am sorry to have put your beliefs under a pressure that was unwarranted given the falsehood of my historical premises, even if it was inadvertent.

                      God bless you too.

    • GG

      The EO have a heterodox teaching on remarriage. And I am being charitable by just calling it heterodox.

    • Salvelinus

      The Eastern orthodox also allow remarriage. I feel the same way though. Id recommend rather checking out the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX).

      If your like me you have heard SSPX is “shismatic”— they aren’t… rather they are unjustly hatred for sticking to the traditions prior to the problematic aspects of Vatican II.
      Don’t abandon the one true church, without which there is no salvation (if your like me you likely aren’t familiar with the DOGMA of extra ecclesiam nulla salus).
      The newchurch refuses to teach it anymore.
      SSPX has never dumped this dogma to appease the false collegiality ecumenism that’s infected us since the 1970s

      • jay

        Thanks. I’ll check to see if there’s a FSSPX parish in my area.

    • AnneM040359

      If need be, go to an Eastern Rite Catholic Church instead. That are those who have accepted the Pope.

    • publiusnj

      The Eastern Orthodox crossed the path into sin on this remarriage question long ago. If you want to explore the EO “Communion” separation from the Catholic Church, please read my contributions to the discussion of EO History that can be found at: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/09/are-you-greek-3

    • Nestorian

      This impression that Catholic dogmatic claims never change is very much mistaken. But the fact is that even many of the best educated Roman Catholics know astonishingly little church history, so they manage to spend an entire lifetime living under this mis-impression.
      .
      The Eastern Churches are far closer to the mark in having never changed since apostolic times. But even the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches fundamentally changed at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the Council of Constantinople in 553.
      .
      Only the Nestorian Church has never changed its dogmas. It hasn’t even given any definitive approbation to new dogmatic formulations of the unchanging doctrinal deposit since the final formulation of the Nicene Creed in 381.

      • DE-173

        “Only the Nestorian Church has never changed its dogmas. ”
        The “Nestorian Church” is a giant nothing, which is why a follower of this heresy scrawls his prnography across these pages.

        • Nestorian

          The Nestorian Church today has about 400,000 members worldwide. That is certainly not nothing. Additionally, the fact that it is so small and obscure fits in very well with God’s proclivity to work out salvation history on the basis of a sacred remnant, rather than on the basis of very visible and powerful institutions.
          At one time, though, around the year 900 – right, as it happens, when Pope Sergius III was throwing indissolubility out the window, as I have related in several other posts on this thread – the Nestorian Church counted many millions of members spread across much of the Asian continent. The Church was organized into well over 100 dioceses under the headship of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in the Parthian empire (who, by the way, is NOT understood to be a monarchical and infallible Pope of the Nestorians).
          .
          In its obscurity today, so close to the time of Our Lord’s Return, the Nestorian Church follows in the Providentially ordained tradition of the 7000 in Elijah’s time who refused to bow their knees to Baal – though with the important difference that in the case of the Nestorian Church, its status as a Sacred Remnant is owing to pure unmerited grace, whereas ancient Israel’s remnant of 7000 who joined Elijah in remaining true to God did so on the basis of their heroic witness fortified by grace.
          .
          In part, the current rampages of ISIS in territories that constitute the traditional strongholds of Nestorian communities in recent centuries need to be understood as embodying a vicious satanic attack to wipe out Christ’s True Church completely, much as satan has also been working assiduously for thousands of years to wipe out the Jewish people. This is his strategy because he knows the central role that the Jewish people, as well as the True Church as embodied in the Nestorians, are destined to play in God’s plan for history as the events leading up to the Parousia play themselves out.

          • DE-173

            In a world of 8 Billion, 400,000 is nothing. There’s nothing sacred about heresy, troll.

            • Nestorian

              You are obviously unfamiliar with the “Sacred Remnant” theme that runs like a thread through salvation history – or else you don’t take it seriously. But any detailed study of the Scriptures makes clear that the “Sacred Remnant” theme is to be taken very seriously.
              .
              It starts with Enoch in ante-diluvian times, passes through Noah and the other 7 on the ark during the Flood, then onto the selection of Abraham from a world of growing apostasy following the confusion of languages at Babel, right on through the entire prophetic tradition of the later Old Testament.
              .
              The 7000 in Israel who did not lapse into idolatry – unbeknownst to Elijah until God revealed that a silent remnant of non-apostates was with him – are a particularly poignant example of the “Sacred Remnant” them in action. Any Catholic striving for personal sanctity who has ever felt betrayed in their efforts by mediocrity or corruption in the Church can identify personally with this intimately personal aspect of the “Sacred Remnant” theme.
              .
              As for the New Testament, the Church taken as a whole was essentially a sacred remnant until the Romanization of most Christianity beginning with Constantine in the early 4th century (the Nestorians, who were never part Roman dominions, excepted).
              .
              There is even a rather well-known traditionalist Catholic publication that has named itself after this theme of the Sacred Remnant. So it is hardly absent as a theme to be taken with the utmost seriousness even from traditional Catholic sensibilities.

              • DE-173

                You are obviously unfamiliar with the “Sacred Remnant”
                I’m not unfamiliar with it, but I reject your arrogation of it.

                • Nestorian

                  You may disagree with my arrogation of the “Sacred Remnant” theme to the Nestorian Church. However, by establishing that there are 400,000 of us, and not merely one (i.e., myself), I have established the claim that the Nestorian Church represents such a “Sacred Remnant” as a seriously arguable proposition.
                  .
                  What makes it even more seriously arguable is that, unlike Protestants, we have been around since apostolic times. In terms of having a body of unchanged and unchanging dogmas, we are in fact the oldest body of Christian believers. Nothing has changed in over 1600 years.

                  • DE-173

                    Many unhealthy things are unchanging.

  • AdMaioremDeiGloriam

    Terrific and well inspired article. This is precisely the type of thinking and logic that is required to pull Catholics back to the foundations from which we once grew. It’s too bad that many within the hierarchy have fallen prey to the evil one.

    That said, isn’t annulment of marriage simply a manufactured process to begin with? I would never claim to be a Biblical expert, yet with more knowledge of the New Testament, I cannot recall anywhere within the Bible where nullifying a marriage is mentioned. Divorce is mentioned as it relates to sexual immorality…that’s it! How is it that man cannot tear apart that which God has joined and at the same time we (Catholics) have the annulment process? Makes no sense to me. Maybe I’m alone in this??? Can someone point me to Biblical references of annulment?

    • Salvelinus

      Your right on target. Intuitively, a annulment is nothing more than a “Catholic.divorce”… however, we must not fall into the sola scriptura rabbit hole of “if its not in the bible is wrong” because this could be heretical (protestant) logic.
      The fact is that the Church, who “administers” the marriage can nullify a marriage, but it should be VERY rare..butits very much abusedI

      • MattB

        A valid, sacramental marriage can NEVER be “nullified” only a non-sacramental “natural” marriage can be nullified through pauline or petrine privilege. The Church can, however, conduct an investigation to see if there was some reason why the marriage was unlawful and couldn’t really happen.

    • MattB

      Matthew 19:9 “I say to you,* whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” The premise of the annulment process is that the marriage was unlawful from the start, and that the couple never intended to do what the Church means by marriage. When you count the fact that a very substantial number of annulments cases are between two protestants, who have divorced, and now one of them wishes to marry a Catholic. It seems pretty reasonable that someone getting married in a protestant church probably didn’t mean to do “what the Church means by marriage”…hence we have a bunch of annulments!

      Common does not mean illegitimate. It just means we have a culture that doesn’t mean the same thing by “marriage” that the Church does, that seems pretty irrefutable…

    • publiusnj

      This raises the issue of the meaning of the term “porneia” as used in the Matthaean exception that Matt B references. That is an issue that is far too complicated to get into while the Synod attempts to address Kasper’s entirely unbiblical proposal which ignores Christ’s far more direct statement on Remarriage Adultery. Mark 10: 2-12 is a clarion statement by Christ on an issue where He expressly overruled Moses’s supposedly pastoral response to the question. Christ is the Same Savior of the Universe Who was not hung up on His apostles doing things like picking flowers on the Sabbath despite the Mosaic laws.

      Yet, when it came to Remarriage Adultery Christ was far tougher than Moses. Why? Although I heed Isaiah 55’s statement about my inability to fathom Christ’s Judgment, I have come to see it as Christ’s way of letting us know that we come into a different way of dealing with His other children when we enter into a Marriage. We are no longer separate flesh from our spouse, rather we enter into a new communion (one flesh) with our spouse that enables us to share in the almost god-like creation of new human life. We must give Christ’s words on that supremely important issue the closest consideration before we go off and do something that well could bring Christ’s Vicar on Earth into disrepute.

  • Nestorian

    Sorry – but the no-fault divorce train left the station at least a generation ago. That particular war has long since been lost, and Cardinal Kasper can reasonably be understood as petitioning the Catholic Church simply to acknowledge a fait accompli, and take proper steps to accommodate itself to the prevailing circumstances as best it can.
    .
    Indeed, maybe it is only by taking its head out of the sand and seeing the cultural landscape for what it is that the Catholic Church can finally put itself in a position of effectively providing support to the aggrieved parties in no-fault divorce situations.

    • Major914

      Unless a person believes that history is deterministic and thus only moves in one direction, it must be assumed that the covenantal marriage train can now leave the station to later arrive at its destination just as well as the opposite may once have been the case.

      Being salt and light is unrelated to and incompatible with ‘acknowledging a fait accompli’, which is, in essence, abdication of responsibility or positive indulgence in sin. The Church must never follow the culture, but lead it or provide a clear alternative.

    • Bucky Inky

      The no-fault divorce train has not left my station, and I’ll be damned if I let it. We must pray for our prelates and clergy that they will take firm stands with courage against the strong flow of sewage opposing the Church; but we as the laity have our own numerous opportunities to take our own firm stands against what Baskerville skillfully identifies as the problem of rampant and frivolous divorce.

      Our little actions in this vein may not change the world or the Church, but we just may save our own souls for the greater glory of God. On the other hand, we can be sure that to surrender against evil puts our souls in great danger.

      • Nestorian

        I do not agree that the hypocritical farce of the Catholic Church’s using annulments to propagate the lie that thousands and thousands of real, but failed, marriages never even existed to begin with is the lesser evil. The best result that could come out of this synod is some refreshing honesty on this point on the part of the doctrinal authorities of the Catholic Church. After all, truth is fundamental; and the current pastoral practices of the Catholic Church when it comes to divorce (aka annullments) are steeped in lies.
        Nor is this situation anything new; a detailed study of both recent and remote papal history can dredge up a multitude of individual papal dispensations that were effectively tantamount to the dissolution of one validly contracted Catholic marriage, and the granting of permission to contract another.
        A particularly noteworthy instance of this was when Pope Sergius, in the early 900s, refused the Patriarch of Constantinople’s appeal to him to help enforce the traditional Greek canons prohibiting the contracting of 4th marriages against the Byzantine emperor. For the sake of mere political advantage, Pope Sergius was willing to throw the vaunted indissolubility doctrine right out the window, and grant the emperor his 4th marriage as a way of scoring points against the Patriarch. That is a huge and far-too-little-known anti-example to the standard anti-Protestant polemic based on the pope’s refusing to grant King Henry VIII a similar dispensation.
        Sadly, as far as I understand Kasper’s proposal, it merely amounts to adding new layers of theological obfuscation to the farce. This has been standing operating procedure for the Roman popes, curia, and court intellectuals almost since time out of mind – going back probably as far as Pope Damasus in the late 4th century.
        But maybe the tumult of the ongoing synod itself will lead to the one or the other Cardinal’s publicly exposing the fact that, when it comes to annulments, the Catholic emperor has no clothes. Who knows, maybe Pope Francis himself will be emboldened to label the current state of affairs the ongoing fraud that it is?

        • DE-173

          Oh get lost troll.

          • Crisiseditor

            I blacklisted her once already and may have to do it again if all she does in proselytize.

            • Nestorian

              Your warning is duly noted. 🙂
              .
              But I believe I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the general willingness of the combox editiorial personnel to grant me such a long leash. And for those occasions when you have cut me off, I defer to what I consider to be the basic soundness of your judgments in the matter.

            • DE-173

              I am aware of and appreciate that.

              “She” tried posting under another name, the other day, but the attempt to alter the prose wasn’t nearly sly as I suspect was imagined.

              Trolling, especially trolling under multiple names should be rewarded with an IP address disclosure in my world.

      • Jennifer Roback Morse Phd

        I totally agree with you Bucky Inky. I will never say that it is ok. I don’t care how often it happens. Divorce without cause is a systematic and structural injustice to children. So is remarriage, especially because in this day and age, no one “has” to get remarried. People get remarried because they want to, not out of financial necessity.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    No-fault despair and in the end the right to kill yourself.

  • Vinnie
  • Vinnie
    • Tamsin

      eleventy… I think. Could be minus-one.

  • Fred

    Excellent article. A simple sacramental concept yet complicated subject to be sure, and I am unsure how to put the genie back in the bottle now that it is out and grown beyond original proportions. With free will and lack of reason ruling the day where does one start to take the mess out of what passes for modern society, like as ship without a rudder? Many great comments too that resonate and I can’t add to.
    Sharing a personal experience, I married someone who I never should have in a Catholic wedding. We divorced civilly and then years later I found the one I was meant to be with and we married civilly, and have been together for nearly 30 years. The annulment process might have been the last barrier for me to overcome in wanting to be in full communion with the church, and even though my case was as cut and dry as they come it still took nearly 2 years to complete. In my RCIA group there were those that had complicated cases which my Deacon said would likely take years longer. Surely we can do better than to tell those who want to become whole again that it will take them 2-3-4 years of waiting. That’s not to say that it should be quick (quicker) or to take away from the solemnity of the sacramental commitment, but that long strikes me as unwelcoming and burdened with too much administratium perhaps.

    • publiusnj

      Maybe we could have the Church tax us more heavily so it could maintain as rapid a response as the Homeland Security People do on Immigration cases? And if the Church is not taxing us (as it isn’t in most places), maybe we ought to give it that authority?

      • Fred

        Did DHS respond and I missed it, darn it all. Wait a minute, I looked in the wrong section – I see now they responded rapidly to move and transplant them in the middle of the night without any oversight or coordination with local authorities who might question their motives or legality. They wouldn’t want to give up that claim of being the least transparent government in our nation’s history.

        • publiusnj

          I actually had my tongue iin cheek when I allowed that DHS might be deemed to have a more rapid docket than the Church. In fact, recent news articles note that the Immigration docket is so long that it will be many years before all the illegal immigrant children’s deportation cases will be heard. If the USA, with the extractive power of the IRS at its disposal, cannot take care of its Immigration caseload in fewer than several years, why should an NGO like the Catholic Church be held to a stricter standard?

          My point is that the Church does NOT generally have the power of taxation (except in places like Germany where the state does the taxation), so complaints about how long Church jurisprudence takes need to recognize that the speed of jurisprudence is in many ways an issue of how generous the pew-going Catholics can be. Maybe the Synod ought to call for a yearly collection for the support of a “Speedy Trial” praxis for annulments?

          • Fred

            I know, and they do charge a fee for the cost. However, even if it was just a few hours a week over two years I think that still comes out to well below minimum wage for whoever processes the paperwork. I do believe most of the issue is resource related, people and money. Much to my surprise, my priest in Atlanta was none to happy with the way our tribunal office worked, efficiency and organizationally.

      • DE-173

        I wonder if when Stephen Blaire is ALWAYS advocating increased federal spending, if he realizes suppresses the charitable impulse.

        • Fred

          Charity only comes from our benevolent rulers don’t you know, like snowflakes from heaven for the chosen donors and voters.

  • Craig Roberts

    Thank you for an amazing article. I would love to hear about the effects (past, present, and future) of easy annulments on Church culture.

  • Robert

    It seems to me that the “world” wants the Church to modernize and be more in line with what they want and NOT what the Church has always taught. We have all questioned and faced challenges to our Faith and there are those who left, but the Rock of the Church remains. I hope the Bishops really reflected on the First Reading yesterday from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians where he called them out for forsaking the Gospel of Christ for another and those who are disturbing them and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. (Please forgive me if I have misquoted). The reading is relevant as much today as 2,000 years ago. Change is not always a good thing!

  • texasknight

    Divorce and our country’s acceptance of no-fault divorce laws are a direct result of the contraceptive mentality unleashed in the 60’s with the advent of hormonal contraceptives.

    His Church teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil, yet ~90% do it anyways? Have they no fear of eternal damnation? And how did they lose this fear? When is the last time you heard a homily on the last things?

    We certainly hear it in the scriptures. But our priests contracept the Word of God by almost exclusively preaching God’s love while ignoring God’s judgment and the consequences of immorality and the failure to repent.

    Pray for our clergy.

    • DE-173

      “His Church teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil, yet ~90% do it anyways? ”

      The gates are narrow.

  • Bai_Macfarlane

    Mary’s Advocates observes that the leaders of Catholic dioceses in the U.S. aren’t “doing pastoral care” as it is described in our own Catechism and Canon Law. We sent observations to over 100 leaders and our manuscript is available here http://www.marysadvocates.org/syllabus/140908_SynodObservations_MarysAdvocates.pdf.
    For example, “Chanceries appear to have no system to assist bishops in weighing the special circumstances of a marriage before a spouse files for divorce or separation in the civil forum. This weighing of circumstances is required by canon law as described herein. Numerous faithful do not know or do not care that forcing divorce—outside of specifically limited circumstances—is immoral, contravenes the moral law, and is a grave offense against the natural law.”

  • Lego Man

    Very good, hard-hitting article. I must say I am impressed at Crisis magazine’s willingness to tackle these issues which many in the Church want to ignore.

  • pbecke

    That was the aspect that was worrying me, but I assumed that was why the inquiries would be made on a case by case basis. To show mercy to the merciless while the victim he abandoned – women are exceptionally vulnerable marriage-wise – mourns her ongoing betrayal, would be dreadful. .

    • bonaventure

      Some liberals are claiming that the Church should follow the Eastern model of legal divorce. However, in the East, a divorce is considered a failure, and a second marriage in the Church is actually mourned, rather than celebrated. I doubt that the liberals would ever accept that.

      Additionally, the East allows divorce only for the New Testament reasons of adultery and an unbelieving spouse. Again, I doubt that the liberals would settle for that, considering that all they care about is the gratification of the sinner (and the “celebration” of sin).

      • GG

        Not only that but their theology on this topic is gravely wrong.

      • Nestorian

        I don’t think that any reasonably mature person would disagree that divorce always represents a great tragedy and loss, regardless of whether they happen to be ideologically liberal/secular/relativist or not.
        .
        And by the way, when it comes to the secularity that many Catholics associate with modern liberalism, I am as anti-liberal as they come. On the contrary, I have yet to meet a person whose anti-liberal/anti-relativist commitment to doctrinal rigor when it comes to transcendent truth exceeds my own.
        .
        The same is true in general of the traditional mindset that prevails in the Eastern churches. In my experience, they are almost invariably MORE anti-relativist and anti-secular than the staunchest Catholics I know, not less so.

  • bonaventure

    What is even scarier than the prospect of a fallible synod listening to Kasper, is that Kasper (a known liberal) has the ear of Francis.

    Unfortunately, being a theological lightweight, Francis could be easily deceived. Unless, of course, he believes Kasper’s “heresy”… which puts all civilization (west and east, north and south) at risk.

  • Geoff

    With regard to the comments below, the time spent criticizing Pope Francis and cultivating anxiety about the future would be better spent in prayer and in offering sacrifices for him and our Mother, the Church.

    • GG

      Some have eyes and see while others have eyes and refuse to see.

    • Nestorian

      The fundamental basis of the anxiety are growing doubts among Catholics about the indefectibility of the papal teaching office on account of Pope Francis. Ultimately, this leads to the theological question whether the papacy as defined at Vatican I really is of divine institution, or whether it is merely an human usurpation of authorities and powers that God never intended any particular agency in the Church to have.
      .
      This is where church history comes in, of which Catholics – including professional theologians – seem generally to know fairly little, and if so, only in very broad strokes that easily yield grossly mistaken interpretation.
      .
      At the end of the day, when all the documentary evidence is impartially taken into account in the plenitude of its detail, it is very clear that Catholic claims that the papacy are of divine origin rest on an elaborate edifice of falsehoods – many deliberately propogated – built up layer upon layer, beginning in the late 4th century, and extending right into the ultra-montane defenses of Vatican I published in the late 19th century.
      .
      So if the claimed divine origin of the papacy is in fact rooted in lies, rather than in truth, then the growing anxiety Catholics are feeling about Pope Francis is fully warranted.
      .
      Once more, I suggest as a proper remedy a close examination of church history, with a view to testing the claims of the Eastern Churches to be the True Church on their merits. For they have all been making this claim with as much assurance as the popes have for well over 1000 years.

  • Michael P. Mc Crory.

    Stop! Stop! Stop! these constant attacks on Pope Francis. They are just SO SO WRONG, period. “Time will tell where wisdom lies” and it is not with you Francis detractors, many of you converts and reverts who are greatly misguided.

    • publiusnj

      You can dismiss people’s concerns with the Synod, but you are wrong to say that regular Catholics aren’t concerned with the issue of Communion reception by the divorced and remarried, as Kasper is proposing. I am a born and bred Catholic who never converted or reverted since my baptism during the 1946 World Series. I have been very disturbed and almost scandalized by the Pope’s seeming support for Kasper’s vey dangerous proposal. It is clearly inconsistent with Christ’s pluperfectly clear statement on the adulterous nature of Remarriage after Divorce during the life of one’s “first” spouse (Mark 10:2-12). I am, though, hopeful that the Synod will reject Kasper’s proposal and sufficiently educate the Pope on the problems with Kasper’s proposal so that he, as Vicar of Christ, then buries Kasper’s proposal forever.

      I have always believed in Christ’s Una, Sancta, Catholica et Apostolica Ecclesia and taken particular comfort in her clear stand on the indissolubilty of Marriage. That has always been the proof that She, alone of all christian denominations, could preach authoritatively as Christ’s Church. The Protestants, of course, have been so compromised on the Divorce issue for almost all of the past 500 years, and the Eastern Orthodox too blink sin when it comes to Divorce-Remarriage. Should the Pope somehow engineer a ruling that remarried-divorcers can take communion while their “first” spouses live on the basis of a mere confession without either an annulment or a vow to live on a brother-sister basis with the “second spouse,” I will have a very dark night of the soul. Have I been wrong to trust the Church of Rome and to be confident that in it subsists Christ’s Holy Church? That is an awful thing to have to worry about at Age 68. To whom shall I turn?

      • Nestorian

        With all due respect, the two instances of “except porneia” that Matthew TWICE records Our Lord as saying (Ch 5 and Ch 19) make the matter anything but pluperfectly clear.
        .
        Matthew was an eyewitness to what Jesus actually said on these occasions, whereas Mark and Luke – who both omit the exception clause when reporting the first of the two incidents reported by Matthew where Christ makes the exception – were not. Thus Matthew must be preferred to Mark and Luke as giving the historically most accurate report of what Jesus actually said.
        .
        This is the more true in that Matthew records Our Lord as making the exception on TWO separate occasions, involving widely separated times and significantly differing contexts. So clearly Jesus DID make some kind of exception.
        .
        As to the nature of the exception, “Porneia” is very broad and multi-valent in its meaning, suggesting that Our Lord meant his exception to be relatively broad in scope. If it is to be narrowed in its construal, then “adultery” is the most immediate reasonable and natural substitution when it comes to properly apprehending Jesus’ more specific drift.
        .
        Catholic bibles translate “except porneia” as “except in cases of unlawful (i.e. incestuous) marriage.” Thus to narrow the meaning of the term “porneia” seems altogether too technical and forced; if Our Lord had intended such a narrow and precise exception, then why did he not express Himself as such Himself, using the requisite legal terminology in referring to the unlawfulness of incest?
        .
        At the very least, then, the Scriptural basis of the Catholic teaching is far from plupotently clear. On the contrary, the preponderance of considerations suggest that Christ DID intend to include a range of exceptions, and thus that marriage IS ultimately dissoluble, as the practice of the Eastern Churches going back almost to time out of mind, and to the 4th century at the very latest, also strongly entails.
        .
        Then there is the case of Pope Sergius III in a.d. 905, who clearly regarded Emperor Leo’s third marriage (and thus also his first and second) as dissoluble when he overrode Patriarch Nicholas’s attempt to enforce the traditional Greek canons against Emperor Leo’s 4th marriage. Emperor Leo VI is thus very much to be regarded as the “anti-Henry VIII” when it comes to the indissolubility debate.
        .
        So no, the matter is not plupotently clear at all – either when it comes to Scripture or Tradition – including the Catholic Church’s own Tradition.

        • publiusnj

          You try to elevate Matthew above Mark and Luke but all you really do is put into question the inerrancy of the New Testament. The three gospels can be reconciled so Matthew’s account is not deemed inconsistent with Luke’s and Mark’s. There certainly is a difference: the “except” clause in Matthew, but that phrase can be read narrowly or broadly. Narrowly keeps Matthew consistent with Mark and Luke; broadly creates an inconsistency.

          The Eastern Orthodox and Protestants want to translate porneia and the except clause broadly to justify their own inclination to let just about anybody out of marriage (“divorces on sale, get them at your local church”). But there is a problem. However the EOs and Protestants choose to translate porneia, Mark’s and Luke’s very clear treatment of the Divorce issue are entirely inconsistent with the EO and Protestant positions. Luke wrote (Luke 16:18): “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Mark wrote similarly (Mark 10:11-12): “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” So the only way to maintain the EO or Protestant position is to claim that those two evangelists screwed up. Oh what tangled webs….

          • Nestorian

            I disagree that my position puts into question the inerrancy of the New Testament. Mark and Luke’s report of Jesus’ teaching on marriage both refer to the same incident that Matthew describes in his first report.
            .
            It is the INCIDENT ITSELF that ultimately matters, not the several extant descriptions of it. Matthew’s description is to be deemed the most accurate, since he was actually there. So yes, in a sense, Mark and Luke did “screw up,” if you want to put it that way. But, again, it could not be any other way, since the incident in Jesus’ ministry where he addresses marriage that is reported by Mark and Luke is identical to one of the incidents described by Matthew.
            .
            But unlike you, I see no need to be troubled by the fact that my position entails the view that there exist certain discrepancies in New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds are historically accurate, not inspired (or, if inspired, only in a theologically “low” sense). What is inspired is the words and deeds of Our Lord themselves.
            .
            Thus, what ultimately matters from a faith standpoint is that they happened, not how they are reported. How they are reported matters only insofar as they permit Christian believers to form an accurate picture of what happened. And this the NT documents do permit.
            .
            To the extent that there are discrepancies in the account, such as between Matthew as against Mark and Luke regarding whether Jesus made exceptions on marriage, these discrepancies actually strengthen, rather than weaken, the case for the historicity of the events themselves. For the discrepancies attest to the independence of the several witnesses of Jesus’ words and deeds, and the independent reports of several witnesses are far stronger corroboration of historicity than just one.

            • publiusnj

              Inerrancy does not mean “not screwing up” in the view of Nestorian. What can I say after that? Better yet, why even try?

              • Nestorian

                Your dismissiveness of my line of thought on how inerrancy factors into the debate over Jesus’s teaching on marriage does not do justice to the complexity of the issues bound up with inerrancy.

                .

                And since you also seem to be questioning the sincerity of my regard for and faith in the Scriptures, let me just tell you that, in addition to be a Nestorian, I am also a biblical literalist and young earth creationist, despite having been raised to dismiss young earth creationism with disdain.

                .

                Trying to maintain a “high” view of inerrancy gets you into insoluble difficulties very quickly, in my view. There are just too many minor discrepancies and errors in the various New Testament documents to make a “high” view of inerrancy ultimately tenable. Here’s another one: There is a passage in Matthew where he quotes words taken from the Prophet Jeremiah as coming from the Prophet Isaiah?

                .

                On a “high” view of inspiration, this is a huge problem: How can Matthew possibly be inerrant if he got the name of the prophet wrong? A “high” view of inspiration is so brittle that even the smallest difficulties in the Scriptures immediately raise grave doubts about the historicity and accuracy of the whole thing.

                .

                But on a “low” view of inspiration along the lines I am proposing, the Isaiah/Jeremiah discrepancy becomes no big deal at all. The occasional discrepancy, or even error, in the New Testament documents does not undermine the claim that the events they report are historical. In this way, a “low” view of Scriptural inspiration is much more intellectually robust than a “high” view.

                .
                That is why I think the real focus needs to be not on the inerrancy of the text, but on the historicity of the events themselves. And it is the events themselves that are the seat of inspiration, not the text. The text’s inspiration is borrowed from the inspiration of the words and deeds of Jesus himself, and thus conforms to a “low” understanding of biblical inerrancy, and not a “high” one.

    • GG

      You have it exactly backward.

  • Akira88

    Strong and articulate article. Thank you.

    Present Church marriages are farcical. The Church is a theatrical set where pretty pics are taken, and the presiding Priest just one plucked from the chorus to say a few words.

    Why can’t the Church demand (yes, no pc here — demand) from those married in the Church that the annulment process be investigated before pursuing a divorce? It’s a fact that many who are divorced, pick up with another, plan to marry, and almost force the annulment process because they’ve hired a photographer and put a down payment on the reception hall. Are priests working in the Chanceries being coerced by the will of the people?

    At some point Priests and Bishops have to take the diocese back with blatant truth from the pulpit.

    • DE-173

      I do not regard my marriage as a farce.

  • There was a time when culture and society at large were Catholic or Christian. That was a long time ago. The culture and society are now pagan. What is the Church to do? Certainly, to assume that the culture and society still accept, even if don’t embrace, Christian principles and ideals is the worst that the Church could do. Accommodating de facto paganism is the opposite of what the Church did to convert pagan cultures and societies from within. Rather, resisting challenges to and boldly affirming the perennial teachings of Jesus Christ brought along the strength that no human argument or force could resist and shall not resist, if only the Church gives Truth a chance.

    May St. Nicholas intercede for one the synod fathers to punch Card. Kasper silly.

    • ForChristAlone

      Well said, Augustine

  • I like most of your argument but the middle (about depriving children of a father) seems to imply that women are at fault for most no-fault divorces without citing anything to back that up.

    • Bar shouldered chips, the author actually implies that the woman typically stays with the children, who are thus nos deprived of a mother, but of a father.

    • ForChristAlone

      70% of divorces are initiated by the wife.

      • I’m still not sure that’s a valid reason to imply in the middle (presuming he meant too, as another reply mentioned the author may have meant the fathers that abandon children) that women should pay for depriving their child of a father. First of all, he doesn’t cite that number (and you don’t cite a source). Second of all, we don’t know the circumstances of all of those 70%. I don’t dispute the harm of no-fault divorce, but not every divorce is filed as no-fault and not every “no-fault” divorce actually includes no justifiable reason for a spouse to seek a legal form of separation. This isn’t just a woman problem and it’s not conducive to come off that way.

  • TribeofLiberty

    I have tears in my eyes as I am reading this. God bless you, Dr. Baskerville.

  • somebigguy

    Baskerville points out an extremely important– and more to the point, overlooked– issue. Thanks, Dr. Baskerville! May the bishops, et al, who are now meeting in Rome, keep this near the forefront of their discussions.

    I’ll make another point: Much of what’s being discussed during the synod would be unnecessary if it weren’t so easy to be married in the first place. Far too many couples– and this was certainly true in my case, twenty-nine years ago– enter into marriage without giving it the sober consideration it demands.

  • Tony

    Brilliant, Professor Baskerville — bravely and accurately put.

    Let me adjust the words of some of the squishy cardinals:

    When you have a flock of a hundred sheep, and one has wandered astray, and wolves are ripping the guts out of the ninety nine, while hirelings who are supposed to protect the sheep are roasting the meat on spits, what half-man among you will not leave the ninety nine to be torn to pieces, to go after the one, and when he finds it dead after all, will not say, “Well, I did my best!”

    • JefZeph

      Excellent verbal adjustment!

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