Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Thoughts from the battle over Communion for the divorced and remarried

Primer: In the run-up to the preparatory and actual synod on the family, Pope Francis was rumored to prefer extending the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried who had not received an annulment from the Church.

That preference was pretty well stifled and shot down by those at the Synod.  The Pope's synod wrap-up document, however, left the door open, and, last week, a letter was leaked whereby the Pope told some bishops that they were right to interpret his document as indeed affirming the distribution of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried who did not get their first marriage annulled even though their first spouse is still living.

Okay.  That's out of the way.

A couple observations, then, over this battle within the Church

1) I do not have a doctorate in moral theology, but based on what I've read in the seminary and afterwards in my own personal study, I believe it is wrong to extend the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried who have not received an annulment even though their first spouse is still living.

My opinion is of no real consequence here, I just want to divulge my position up front

The following are my three main points:

2) We can disagree with the Pope, and we can debate these issues, and we can do this publicly.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Peter was leaning towards requiring all those joining the Church to get circumcised and follow Jewish dietary laws.  He was rebuked by Paul.  Was Paul wrong to go confront Peter?  If he hadn't, the Easter Vigil would be MUCH more painful for men joining the Church, and no Christian would be eating bacon.

3) I can disagree with the Pope while not having to think he is the anti-Christ.  Some in the Church seem to see the Pope and his pretty obvious preference for how this question should be settled as proof that he is a horrible person in general.

If we commit this error, however, then we are just as guilty of committing the crime we charge secular atheists with in our culture - the crime of equating a person's belief TO that person.  I can disagree very passionately with the Holy Father's stance, particularly since it has not been formally promulgated in any way, but I don't have to walk around thinking poorly of the man Pope Francis.

Peter and Paul disputed over central teachings of the Church.  That doesn't mean St. Paul went around grumbling and hating Pope Peter I.

GK Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw could not have been at two more opposite ends, theologically.  Chesterton was a committed Catholic and Shaw a committed secular atheist.  They went back and forth in the papers regularly arguing and debating each other through their columns...and yet they would get a beer together and were friends.

So many in our own day will take our position on homosexual "marriage" and equate it to us.  They hate our argument (obviously) but they ALSO HATE US.  We're asking them to start by not hating us.

It seems only fair, then, that those who disagree with the Holy Father should start by not hating him, even when they disagree on this issue that is still, nonetheless, extremely important.

4)  We should also avoid the cataclysmic talk about how this is a sign that the Church is getting ready to get ripped in half, its the apocalypse, etc.  The Church has been here countless times before, and was in this position almost right from the start.

We've been here before, and we shouldn't lose our minds over this.

This question of "Communion for the divorced and remarried who have not received an annulment even though their first spouse is still alive" is an important argument, it is an important discussion, but we should learn from our past with regards to how to handle this moment in the Church's history, and start acting more like we've been here before, because we have been.  Many times

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