St. John Fisher, Marriage, and Moral Absolutes

henry-viii

In his October 2013 article on the question of communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Cardinal Gerhard Müller underscored that the Catholic Church had risked much to uphold Christ’s teaching regarding true marriage’s indissolubility. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith singled out the fact that Catholicism had suffered the schism of “a Church in England” “because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage.”

In this context, most people immediately think of Saint Thomas More. In at least two accounts of his trial, More stated that the real core of Henry VIII’s animus against him was that More did not believe Anne Boleyn to be Henry’s wife. After all, one reason for More’s imprisonment was his refusal to affirm, on oath, the marriage’s validity.

In truth, however, More had tried to say as little as possible about the King’s Great Matter before and after his resignation as Lord Chancellor. In public at least, the real water on the marriage issue was carried by another Saint: Cardinal John Fisher of Rochester.

Fisher was by far the most formidable defender of the validity of Henry and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage, penning at least 7 tracts on the subject. Widely regarded as one of the greatest bishop-scholars of his time and a successful Chancellor of Cambridge University, Fisher’s writings underscore his deep familiarity with the Scriptures, church fathers, and scholastic and renaissance thought. Not many people learn Greek in their forties. Yet Fisher somehow managed to do so.

Concerns about what his scholarly peers might think, however, didn’t prevent Fisher from confronting doctrinal and moral error. He also actively combated corruption and lax morality among clergy and laity alike. Nor was Fisher ever distracted from his pastoral responsibilities. Testimonies abound to Fisher personally serving the poor, spending long hours in the confessional, regularly visiting the sick and dying, penning devotional writings for ordinary folk, and leading an abstentious life. Eligible for any number of more famous sees, Fisher chose to remain in the very poor, insignificant diocese of Rochester.

There was thus no contradiction in Fisher’s life between being a true shepherd who cared personally for his flock and a careful scholar who measured his words and trusted in reason. Nor did Fisher regard upholding truth and naming sin for what it is as somehow incompatible with mercy. This is why he invested so much effort in discerning whether Henry was in fact truly married to Catherine. Fisher’s intent was not to create difficulties for the English king. As Fisher insisted many times, his concern was to relieve the King’s worries about his marriage’s validity.

Fisher also recognized that if Henry attempted to contract a marriage with another woman while Catherine was still alive, the King would be entering an adulterous relationship. Given his immense knowledge of the sources, Fisher undoubtedly knew—as some scholars recently reminded us—that the overwhelming majority of councils, church fathers, and popes had argued from the apostolic times onwards that any remarriage after divorce while a spouse lived was tantamount to adultery, which, like any mortal sin, impaired one’s communion with Christ’s Church. While Fisher encouraged people to receive communion frequently in his writings about the Eucharist, he also warned against the very real moral and spiritual dangers (not to mention scandal) involved in receiving communion when improperly disposed.

It’s worth remembering that Christ’s moral teaching was perhaps at its most specific in defining true marriage’s indissolubility. This definition hinged on the Decalogue’s negative Commandment against adultery. In short, it was precisely through proposing a moral absolute and its implications for marriage that Christ affirmed his moral teaching was grounded in the order of creation.

Reflecting on Saint Paul’s statement that love fulfills the Commandments, Saint Thomas Aquinas asked himself why Paul exemplified the point in Romans 13:9 by itemizing negative Commandments from the Decalogue’s second table. Aquinas’s answer was that the negative precepts (praecepta negativa) were more universal than the affirmative precepts, such as “Honor your parents.” The latter were always germane but were left to people’s judgment to decide how to make them effective. The negative precepts, however, were more universal in respect to situations because they were binding semper et ad semper (always and in every situation). Hence, Aquinas added, there’s no situation in which someone may, for example, commit adultery: not even, as Aquinas specifies elsewhere, where an act of adultery would save a society from total destruction.

This is one reason why the Church’s pastoral practice can’t involve acceptance of or tolerating adulterous acts or relationships. Christ Himself told the woman taken in adultery (John 7:53-8:11), that He saved from stoning, that she was to go and sin no more. He didn’t say: “Well, if after some time, you express your sorrow to your local rabbi and fulfill these five criteria, I’ll tolerate you remaining indefinitely in a state of what is, objectively-speaking, chronic adultery, thereby contradicting what I, the Son of God, have insisted, to even my own followers’ consternation, to be true marriage’s indissolubility.”

The validity of Henry’s marriage was thoroughly debated throughout Christendom. It’s well established that the King’s agents engaged in extensive bribery to secure opinions favorable to his cause. By buying off complaisant theologians and clergy disinterested in truth, intimidating others, and using highly questionable exegesis, Henry sought to create a climate of opinion to pressure the pope into granting his wishes. Undaunted, Fisher and other defenders of the bond continuing writing extensively on the subject and, in the end, helped establish what in retrospect seems difficult to dispute: that Henry’s marriage to Catherine was valid.

What all the participants in this debate shared, however, was the conviction that if Henry’s marriage was valid, it truly was till-death-do-us-part. This was the entire premise upon which the dispute took place. No-one believed that an adulterous relationship could, in certain instances, be treated as if it was a true marriage.

Except, that is, for Henry himself. At one point, the King attempted a farcical end-run around Christ’s teaching by suggesting to the pope that, like the Old Testament Patriarchs, Henry should be allowed to “replace” an older, infertile wife with a younger, more fertile wife. Eventually, Henry said, he would ask the pope to give him a dispensation for this situation. As this would have amounted to the pope condoning adultery and bigamy, it was an obvious non-starter. Moreover, the King’s proposal implied that he accepted what he would later deny: the bishop of Rome’s unique dispensatory powers.

Plenty of people have suggested that Fisher and others should have been more “realistic” and less “black-and-white” and helped secure the marriage’s annulment, thereby preventing schism and stopping Henry from committing further grave sins. The problem, however, was that the entire witness of Scripture and church tradition, not to mention reason itself, told Catholics that there was no realistic solution which involved denying the reality of true marriage’s indissolubility or tolerating on-going adultery, whatever the circumstances. As Cardinal Müller stated more almost 600 years after Fisher’s execution, Christ reminded us that marriage is “a reality that comes from God and is therefore no longer at man’s disposal.” In short, marriage isn’t a romantic aspiration or mere legal convention: it’s a R-E-A-L-I-T-Y grounded immediately in God’s creation. The fact that this reality may be incomprehensible to some in our oh-so-sexually liberated Western societies doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Based on the Pauline privilege, the Church has always claimed the competence to determine if a marriage is truly a marriage. That’s why Catholics could debate Henry and Catherine’s marriage at all. But the Church has never accepted that one person can be married to two people at the same time; or that, over time, one man can somehow become gradually married to another woman in a type of second-tier marriage while his first spouse still lives; or that the principle of tolerating a lesser evil somehow justifies the free choice of intrinsically-evil acts such as adultery. Though martial separation is sometimes necessary (there were plenty of instances of that in Fisher’s world), there are no “good remarriages” while any of the remarried couples’ original spouses remain alive.

As time passed, Christ’s teaching about marriage became less and less important to Henry. It’s known, for instance, that Henry and Anne underwent a wedding-service (and possibly two) even before he secured a putative annulment of his marriage to Catherine from a now-thoroughly subjugated English church well down the path to schism. In later years, the King obtained an additional two annulments (including one declaring his erstwhile marriage to Anne invalid) from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. As a side-note, let’s recall that upon being made archbishop of Canterbury, the very same Cranmer publically sworn an oath of allegiance to the pope, having previously swore another oath secretly in which he pledged not to intend such an oath of allegiance to mean anything. In short, Cranmer promised—on oath—that he intended to lie in public, and on oath!

All the behavior described above should be labeled for what it was: pharisaical. That’s not an expression that characterizes Bishop Fisher’s defense of the marital bond. Indeed Fisher clearly knew his life was forfeit from the moment he faced down the bought-and-sold theologians, the court lackeys, and his king on the final day of the papal legatine court before Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio abrogated its proceedings to Rome in 1529.

This much is indicated from not only Fisher’s proclamation in Henry’s presence of his willingness to shed his blood in defense of true marriage’s indissolubility, but also Fisher’s invocation of John the Baptist’s example. As the Gospels relate, the Baptist incurred Herodias’s wrath precisely because he reproved her husband, Herod Antipas, for divorcing his wife and marrying his (living) brother Philip’s wife. The implied analogy would hardly have been lost on King Henry. Such remarks virtually guaranteed Fisher would suffer the martyrdom prefigured by the red robes of his never-conferred cardinalate.

None of this is to diminish some Catholics’ real dilemmas today vis-à-vis true marriage. Nor is it impossible to imagine more can’t be done to help people establish whether a marriage is valid, especially in societies where people’s grasp of the reality of marriage is so weak. What, however, some mainly German-speaking bishops don’t apparently comprehend is that, pastorally speaking, the Church isn’t in the business of adapting what isn’t in its power to adapt. Rather it’s responsibility is to help us, as Thomas More penned in his last written prayer in his prison cell, “To walk the narrow way that leadeth to life.” All of us fall at different times on that narrow path. But through the Church’s offer of repentance through confession and the subsequent resolution to go and sin no more, it is possible to rise again.

And that is the paradigm-shift to which Christ calls us: one in which Christ’s teaching transforms our lives rather than the other way around. For, as John Fisher well understood, how else could the truth set us free?

Samuel Gregg

By

Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored many books including, most recently, Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America can Avoid a European Future (2013) and Tea Party Catholic (2013).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Although we hear little about the prohibited degrees today, they were a favourite topic of the Reformers. They accused Rome of multiplying impediments, in order to multiply dispensations and the fees that these attracted and of setting aside marriages that were valid and binding in God’s sight on the strength of these impediments. They also accused Rome of granting dispensations for marriages forbidden in God’s word.

    The result was a rare consensus among the Reformers: they held that the only prohibited degrees were those contained in Leviticus and that these were indispensible.

    That the Levitical degrees were indispensible was also held by some Catholic theologians, despite the dispensations granted by Pope Alexander VI (whom they accounted Christian, only by professional courtesy) to Ferrante of Naples to marry his father’s half-sister and to Emmanuel the Fortunate of Portugal to marry his deceased wife’s sister, Maria of Aragon. The matter was set at rest by the Council of Trent – “-If any one says, that those degrees only of consanguinity and affinity, which are set down in Leviticus, can hinder matrimony from being contracted, and dissolve it when contracted; and that the Church cannot dispense in some [in nonnullis illorum] of those degrees, or establish that others may hinder and dissolve it ; let him be anathema.” (Sess XXIV c 3) although the Council did not specify which of the Levitical degrees were dispensible.

  • Lochain

    This article gives me hope, albeit I live in Wales, but, as part of the Universal Church, I draw hope from the wholesome sentiments on marriage written here.
    I have recently taken part in a parish ‘retreat’ in which the dominant thoughts were focused on how women ‘do all the work in the Church and get no recognition'; this was but a prelude to demands for women priests, a married priesthood and an underlying resentment against ‘The Church’. Those who voiced a different opinion were allowed to speak but their ideas were not included in the summary of the discussion.
    It concluded with a prayer lauding the virtues and efforts of women in which the name of God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit or even the word Lord) was completely omitted.
    We need more support from articles such as these to give the ordinary lay Catholic some arguments with which to refute what seems to be becoming the dominant thinking of the Church even to the highest levels.

    • cestusdei

      Next time speak up immediately. Express your opposition to dissent. Tell them you know that your view, the Church’s view, will be marginalized and ignored. Then walk out. Write to the CDF and be specific and brief about the date, where it was, what was said, and who said it.

    • ForChristAlone

      Now with the grace and gifts you received at your confirmation, go out and meet one-on-one with those who were at your parish retreat and evangelize them. You certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to seek them out and share the truth as the Church teaches.

    • John O’Neill

      Avoid parish retreats that are run by catholic feminists; for they are the greatest enemies of the Church and of Christendom. They have one goal and that can be found in the cultural Marxism that dominates the Western political leaders.

  • publiusnj

    Why is (sexually active) remarriage after Divorce adultery even after the remarrier confesses the sin of adultery based on the remarriage? Because the remarrier remains still married to the first spouse (absent an annulment of course, but that is based on the lack of a true marriage in the first place). Thus confessing the sin of remarriage after divorce does not make the second marriage any the more valid nor does it make licit any further sex between the remarrier and the “second spouse.” Not unless the first spouse dies in the interim. In essence, sexual intercourse outside the first marriage is going to remain adultery “so long as they both shall live.”

  • Leaven for the Loaf

    I learned about the Church’s teaching on marriage in a subtle way. My mother took me to Mass and made sure I had a Catholic education, while not coming to Communion with me. When I asked why she didn’t do that, she only said “pray that I’ll be able to someday.” My father had been divorced before meeting my mother – a fact to which I didn’t give much thought. I realized the implication only after my father’s first wife died. I was twelve at the time. I later stood by my parents in our parish’s chapel as our parish priest led them in the Sacrament of Matrimony. My mother looked as overjoyed as I’d ever seen her. She had the sacraments back. She had been under no illusion that she was entitled to them while she was in an irregular union. I’m not sure how many priests today see things that way, although Church teaching hasn’t changed.

    Mom never made excuses, never blamed the Church, and never criticized or tried to re-mold Church teaching even when she knew what her devotion to my father might cost her. That was a tremendous example, and a sign of contradiction, to a child growing up in the 1960s and ’70s. In behaving as she did, she conveyed the Church’s teachings on marriage to me more effectively than any of my CCD teachers ever did. I think there was some fear in CCD that straightforward catechesis on marriage might chase us away.

    My parents were blessed with 42 years together. It’s worth pointing out that thanks to Mom’s example and the grace of God, Dad was reconciled before his death with the Church that he left in a huff after his divorce.

    • ForChristAlone

      I will say a prayer this day for both your mom and your dad. They are an example of the power of grace.

  • Charles Ryder

    This article was superb. Thanks, Mr. Gregg.

  • John O’Neill

    Re: Henry VIII; the somewhat irreverent but satiric Irish writer Brendan Behan once wrote the following description of the Church of England.
    ” Beware the alien minister
    whose church is without meaning or faith
    whose solitary foundations stones
    are the ballocks of Henry VIII’

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      Ha! I’ll have to make note of this one. Priceless.

  • Tom Piatak

    An excellent piece.

  • ebergerud

    It’s hard to say anything good about Henry VIII (a recent biographer compared him to Stalin) but considering England’s recent history (the War of the Roses) and the serious danger posed by a throne without an heir, he had good reason to want to end his marriage with Cathrine. His justification was shaky no doubt. But we must not forget that the great Catholic Kings of France and Spain – and during Henry’s time the Holy Roman Empire – had long ago forced the Vatican to realize that matters of state would trump doctrine. It would be nice to think that Clement VII was defending the sanctity of marriage. But he was a Medici Pope and hence one of the worst men to hold the keys in Church history. Leo and Clement had, after all, completely bungled the Luther affair and put the Church in mortal danger to protect the secular interests of the Medici family and the Papal states – a disgusting performance. Henry had gone public when he sent an emissary to Rome and an honest Pope would have seen immediately that the Church would either have to yield to Henry’s request (and employ a pretty effective fig leaf cooked up by Wolsey) or put the English Church in danger. There’s no reason to believe that Clement was not simply doing the bidding of Charles V on this matter and in the result added England – where the reformers were weak – to much of Northern Europe where Luther and company were gaining traction. The result was a catastrophe for the Church. It is possible, but hardly certain that Henry would have turned against the Church to loot its wealth – but the evidence in the period before the “Great Matter” suggests that Henry found support of the Church as good for the crown. Whatever the answer the heroes in that story were in England, not the Vatican.

    Men like Fischer and Moore did act from conscience and they deserve our admiration. And I do not suggest for one minute that because Clement was a knave and a fool that the Church today should change its teachings on marriage for reasons of expediency. Today the stand is based on Church tradition and a very keen appreciation of the necessity to stand apart of contemporary secularism. But the whole sorry story of the Reformation – and especially the chapter written in England – is largely that of a self-inflicted wound.

    • ForChristAlone

      Well said. I think the Church should be wary of getting into bed with politicians (aka the Al Smith dinners). Our churchmen got into bed with the Democrats and Obama and what has that gotten them – only to be on the receiving end of persecution. Obama’s giving the rosary beads gifted to him by Pope Francis to the abortion-loving Nancy Pelosi speaks volumes of what the Dems think of the Catholic Church.

      A single thought for our bishops: watch out for your heads; they will soon be on the chopping block of Barack…oh, I mean Henry VIII.

      • TheAbaum

        There is nothing so deficient as the political acumen an American Bishop.

      • jacobhalo

        No only did our churchmen get into bed with Obama, 50% of Catholics did too.

    • publiusnj

      It is quite hard to say anything good about Henry, but ebergerud tries. And the upshot of the Church not going along with Henry’s dictatorship was not the catastrophe that ebergerud makes out. Had the Church gone along with Henry, it would have ended up becoming the moral equivalent of the Anglican Church thoughout its universal footprint. The Anglican Church is an entity without principle or motive force (not even being the King’s Church; not since it threw in its lot with the King’s overthrowers during th so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688). So, that would have been far more of a catastrophe for Christ’s Holy Church.

      And as to the Reformation being largely a self inflicted wound: WRONG. The wound was inflicted by a bunch of kings, lairds and nobles who used Martin Luther’s supposed moral scruples as an excuse to take over the only institution tha stood between them and absolute control of the commonweal in their respective “regiones” (as in the cynical modus vivendi reached of: “cujus regio….”)

      • TheAbaum

        “It is quite hard to say anything good about Henry,”

        I believe the proper word is impossible. He was a man of extraordinarry lust and gluttony and a murderous tyrant too boot.

        • Arriero

          And he was english, too.

          You can not ask for anything worse (!)

          If Philip II would have arrived to London…

          • TheAbaum

            But he did not and had he, he would have been seen as an imperial colonizer.

            • Arriero

              Thanks to his «imperialism» America (except WASP-America) is Catholic.

              And if he would have reached London we would speak of WASC and not of annoying WASP*.

              The little details of history.

              * And that was the historical tradition that in its infinite envy then began to write about the evilness of the Spanish Empire and, in turn, of the evilness of Catholicism. These dirty pirates knew nothing (apart from stealing gold and silver),

              http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/22894

            • Micha Elyi

              And “imperial colonizer” like William the Conqueror or like William of Orange?

  • Maggie Sullivan

    If we had any John Fishers in the Church today they would be hounded out by the do not “judge” and do not “obsess” crowd.

  • hombre111

    Hmmm. I am sure the Kingdom of God flourishes, because canon lawyers rule. Schilleebeckx’ profoundly researched book reveals a much more complicated picture than that portrayed in Mr. Gregg’s one resource, who talks mercy, then slams shut the door of compassion. In an article cited in “Catholic Divorce,” by Hegy and Martos, Schilleebeckx notes that the Fathers of the western Church followed the logical consequences of both the Pauline and Petrine privileges, which clearly show that a marriage SHOULD not be broken, not that it CANNOT be broken. This rigid view began to appear as the Church started to think of marriage as a sacrament. I can think of two reasons: 1) Scholastic theologians succumbed to the essence fallacy, which tries to reduce all reality to substance and accidents. But marriage is a relationship, a state of life based on the promise of love, not some invisible but immoveable rock hard reality that somehow comes into existence as soon as the priest pronounces the couple man and wife. 2) The great canonist Gratian changed the meaning of marriage from a state of life based on the promise of love, to a contract made of asbestos. The reality of marriage shifted from a relationship between fragile human beings, to some kind of thing with an independent existence of its own that cannot give way to mere human grief and the demands of mercy. Long live the Pharisees with their nit-picking legalism!

    • ForChristAlone

      If you are a priest as you claim, you create scandal by publicly questioning what is Church teaching.

      • hombre111

        Canon Law is part of the doctrine of the Church. Ay, mi Dios. It barely existed before the tenth century.

      • TheAbaum

        Time after time.

    • Guest

      Right. The dissenting left and their revisionist history. Uh huh. Right.

      • hombre111

        If the revisionists can refute the traditional story with strong sources based on original documents, then whether or not they are left or right is irrelevant. Schillebeeckx has done huge research. I keep hearing all this squawk about truth–until it challenges someone’s cherished version of the tale.

    • publiusnj

      Huh? Despite his flinging the accusation “pharisee” at those who stand for the indissolubility of marriage, it is Hombre who is coming down on the side of the Pharisees and against Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. As Brother Mark reports, the Pharisees went along with the “legalist” Moses who thought he could ignore God’s command and allow for divorce. Christ set them straight: “[The Pharisees] said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate…..Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.””

      As Christ recognized, it is incredibly hard of heart for one spouse to tell another: “good bye. I didn’t mean it when I told you I was taking you for richer for poorer, etc. I have changed my mind and place no more value on the troth I pledged to you. Have your lawyer talk to mine and we’ll wrap this unfortunate detour in my life up.”

      • hombre111

        And yet, St. Paul allowed the Pauline privilege. This is Jesus speaking, which means you stand in awe. But what did he mean? The Church Fathers, interpreted his words pastorally, rather than legally. In other words, Marriages SHOULD not be broken. In the Eastern Church before the split, they had a three strikes and you are out approach. But as the Church entered the ninth and tenth centuries, the Canon lawyers took over and reduced marriage to a contract which COULD not be broken. But even then, the Church allowed for Pauline and Petrine privilege.

        As for your about one spouse saying hasta la vista to the other. I have seen marriages ended as casually that, which would be a good sign that there was no real promise in the first place. But the struggle comes with the spouse who tried to be faithful to the marriage. What is his/her fate? Marriage tribunals try to find a compassionate way to give that second person a life. But the process is long and complicated. Surely, this can be handed pastorally, rather than legally.

        • Bones

          If the Church cannot hold fast to the insolubility of marriage, as taught by Jesus Christ, then the slippery path will be majority marriages being of the hasta la vista variety. As soon as there is trouble, then there are good-byes. It is the strong glue of marriage that keeps people together to solve their problems with God’s help.

          • hombre111

            The slippery slope is not a good argument. Already, the slope is slippery enough, with about half of all marriages ending in divorce. So, something was either wrong with first marriages from the beginning, or something went wrong along the way. Second marriages fail more than first marriages, for reasons explained by sociologists. Third marriages are much more successful. Marriages by deeply religious people are more successful. Marriages by nominally religious people are about as successful as marriages by non-religious people. In other words, a real stew. And, in the middle of all that, pain and struggle, and lots of room for the mind of Christ, who thought in terms of compassion and mercy.

            • Bones

              Indeed. However, the Church must be steadfast and solid on fundamentals such as the sacrament of marriage. People should take that more seriously. Marriage in church is not about the dress and music: it is a serious commitment. If it is to be marriage until someone better comes along, or bad times, a civil service will suffice.
              Just because one or other partner has not taken the sacrament and promise seriously is not an excuse to water this down. Nor should the weight of numbers force change.
              Compassion and mercy can still be shown.

              • hombre111

                Compassion and mercy can still be shown. That is what this is all about. The Church has to represent Christ, for whom mercy came before the hard-edged barriers of justice. I would say that, thanks to the canon lawyers and a substance philosophy anchored by boulders nobody can see, she has not been representing Christ well.

            • ForChristAlone

              It’s amazing what mental gymnastics you go through to make Christ’s teachings conform to your world view. What did you do with this past Tuesday’s Gospel when Christ told the Pharisees that they will die in their sins? My guess is that you simply ignore the inconvenient truths.

              • hombre111

                Actually, I try to figure out how Christ, full of love and compassion for the weak and wandering, would deal with the divorced and remarried people of today. The realistic approach of the early Church fathers might be a guide. They tried to take Jesus’ challenge AND human weakness into account. Jesus, thank God, was not trapped by substance philosophy, with its universe of unchangeable roadblocks to trip the already stumbling.
                Every Lent, I re-read Balthasaar’s masterpiece, “Soul of the World.” Words from his first chapter surely apply to this discussion: “The wise among men seek to fathom the foundations of existence, but all they can do is describe one wave of the current…the flowing has congealed and can again become true only if they repeatedly release the picture they have painted back into change….No: the law is in the river and only by running can you seize it. Perfection lies in the fullness of the journey. For this reason, never think you have arrived.

            • Bones

              “The number of marriages in the Church is dropping, in part because so many people have been divorced, are not free to marry in front of a priest, are intimidated by the annulment process, or rebel against the process.”
              It seems to me that even fewer couples should be marrying in the Church unless they are truly committed to the vows they are taking.
              If the edifice is crumbling it is time to renew the foundations and fix the brickwork not take a hammer to it.

        • publiusnj

          There is nothing inconsistent between the Pauline Privilege and Christ’s position on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. Paul was clear that only in the event of a marriage undertaken outside the Church with an unbeliever is there ever a chance of the marriage ending and that is only when the unbeliever walks, not the believer.

          • hombre111

            Paul, not Jesus, correctly made that distinction. Which makes my point.

            • publiusnj

              Distinctions without difference make small points indeed.

              • hombre111

                Tell me what my point was.

                • publiusnj

                  De minimis non curamus….

  • ForChristAlone

    Let us place all our bishops (especially those in the United States) under the patronage of Sts John Fisher and John the Baptist. Both lost their heads in defense of the truth. Our bishops need to follow suit (defend the faith, that is).

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  • jacobhalo

    Cardinal Kasper calls for the divorced to be able to rec the sacraments. Kasper defends civil marriages, arguing that a civil marriage “with clear criteria is distinct from other forms of irregular cohabitation. The pope endorses this as “profound and beautiful” Jesus says what God has jointed together let no man put asunder. He also says if a person divorces and marries again, he or she is living in adultery. Who is right? Of course, Jesus is right and the modernists, such as Kasper and the Pope are wrong. These modernists want to change infallible doctrine. Vatican II already does not recognize “no salvation outside the church.” The pope said anyone can be saved. Can they? Not according to Jesus who said I am the Way, The truth, and the Life. He also said anyone who does not believe and is not baptized is already condemned. Those who believe and are baptized already are saved. This present day church is disgusting!

    • ForChristAlone

      In this past Tuesday’s Gospel, Jesus said to the Pharisees that they will die in their sins if the do not come to believe in the one who is I AM. My guess is that Jesus knew what he was talking about.

      • jacobhalo

        Since Vatican II, the popes have held hands with the Jews, never mentioning that quote. Vatican II has ruined the church.

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