If you think that Neo-Catholics stand ready to defend perennial Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and worthy reception of Communion if the 2015 Synod goes south, think again. If Pope Francis decides to jump off the ecclesiastical cliff next year by adopting Cardinal Kasper’s proposal as Church law, make no mistake that the Neo-Catholic apologists stand dutifully ready to jump with him.
Evidence of this was already apparent in October of 2013, when Neo-Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin repeatedly referred to the Church’s perennial moral teaching prohibiting the reception of Communion in a state of mortal sin merely a changeable “discipline” or “practice.” Then in April 2014, Akin again referred to this teaching as a “practice” in his frantic defense of Francis informing a woman living in adultery that she could receive Holy Communion. Fast forward to October 2014. In the chaos immediately following the synod, Neo-Catholic apologist Jeff Mirus left no doubt about his willingness to go theological cliff diving in an article ironically titled, “Do not confuse sacramental discipline and Catholic doctrine.”
Now, a month later, Catholic News Agency reports the following, “Scholars: No, Benedict XVI doesn't support Kasper in Synod debates.” While it is a good thing Benedict XVI does not support Kasper’s proposal, the reasons given by the cited “scholars” for opposing it leave no reassurance that Church teaching on the issue cannot change. Instead, when closely examined, the experts’ rationale for opposing such a proposal lies on the same unstable intellectual foundation as Akin and Mirus.
The CNA article quotes heavily from Dr. Nicholas Healy, an assistant professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. In it, Dr. Healy discusses the fact that Cardinal Kasper used a 1972 essay by then Fr. Ratzinger, to support his proposal in favor of Communion for adulterers. In discussing how Ratzinger’s opinion changed, Dr. Healy states the following:
That year , Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and in that capacity he participated in the 1980 Synod on the Family, where he stated that “it will be up to the synod to show the correct approach to pastors” in the matter of Communion for the divorced and remarried…
Then, in 1991, a canon lawyer, Fr. Theodore Davey, suggested that Confession and spiritual direction could open up the way for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion, and cited Ratzinger's 1972 essay in support of his position.
Cardinal Ratzinger quickly retracted the “suggestions” of his 1972 essay as no longer tenable, because they were made “as a theologian in 1972. Their implementation in pastoral practice would of course necessarily depend on their corroboration by an official act of the magisterium to whose judgment I would submit … Now the Magisterium subsequently spoke decisively on this question in the person of (St. John Paul II) in Familiaris consortio.”…
Healy told CNA that the development in Ratzinger's thought since his 1972 essay reflects a willingness to think with the Church in the light of the Magisterium.
“Joseph Ratzinger’s writings will remain a source and guide for future generations not only because of the breadth and depth of his wisdom, but, above all, because he shows us what it means to think with the Church. Sentire cum ecclesia means allowing one’s partial perspectives to be integrated into the greater whole of the Church’s faith and occasionally corrected by the teaching office of the Church.”
Does anyone else see the problem with this? Dr. Healy is implicitly saying the following:
1.) Theologians had license in 1972 (and apparently still have license) to propose novel options for the Church in contradiction to Her constant doctrine and practice.
2.) These novel options are not forbidden by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church over the past 2,000 years. Instead they simply forbidden by a papal encyclical, Familiaris Consortio, by John Paul II, written in summation of a 1980 Synod on the Family.
3.) Because Cardinal Ratzinger deferred his previous 1972 thinking on the subject to that of the consensus of a 1980 synod, we have before us a great example of what it means to “think with the Church.”
My question for Dr. Healy is as follows. Suppose the 2015 Synod on the Family adopts Kasper’s proposal permitting Holy Communion for public adulterers word for word. Pope Francis then issues his own encyclical adopting Kasper’s proposal as the “new” position of the Church. What then? Will Dr. Healy urge Pope Emeritus Benedict to flip-flop back to his repudiated 1972 position in order to once again “reflect a willingness to think with the Church in the light of the Magisterium.” Is the Church’s Magisterium schizophrenic? And if so, must we all become theological schizophrenics in order to “think with the Church?”
The answer is that the self-described “Conciliar Church” of the Neo-Catholics is indeed schizophrenic. For any Faith based on the shifting sands of synods is not the Catholic Faith. For papal encyclicals summarizing episcopal synods are not in and of themselves the ordinary and universal Magisterium. They can only echo what has already been laid down by the Church’s universal and ordinary Magisterium and have no right or authority to contradict it.
But in the fantasy world of the Neo-Catholic, a virtual reality created to defend their own absurd and indefensible positions, this is all perfectly fine! Why? Because the question of whether the Church allows public adulterers to receive Holy Communion is simply a matter of changeable discipline, and not intimately tied to doctrine. Thus, in order to save their theological skins, the Neo-Catholics are willing to throw overboard 2,000 years of constant Church teaching on marriage, reducing it to the level of what color vestment a priest should wear on Sunday. To show just how low they are willing to go, Jeff Mirus even says that Holy Communion for pro-abortion politicians is up for debate as well.
This thinking is, of course, absurd. The rules we are discussing here involve two infallible doctrines of the Church. First, that a sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Second, that one commits the sin of sacrilege if one receives Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin.
The proposed facts are as follows. We have a Catholic who is still validly married to his/her spouse, though said Catholic has obtained a civil divorce and entered into a state of cohabitating adultery with a second individual. Said Catholic continues to live falsely as husband and wife with this second individual, committing repeated acts of adultery with them. Cardinal Kasper now proposes, and Neo-Catholics defend as possible, a situation where said Catholic is morally permitted to receive Holy Communion without abandoning this state of adultery.
I would ask Dr. Healy, Dr. Mirus, and Mr. Akin, under what possible scenario would this proposal not contradict the previous two Catholic doctrines I cited? A Catholic in the above scenario receiving Holy Communion would necessarily mean that either Catholic marriage is not indissoluble or that receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is no longer a sacrilege. Cardinal Kasper attempts to cloak his proposal by requiring that the Catholic in our example go to confession before receiving Communion. But this fools no one. The only way this hypothetical Catholic could demonstrate true repentance and form a purpose of amendment, (two necessary conditions for absolution) would be to extricate him or herself from the adulterous situation. Thus any absolution given to a Catholic living in a state of adultery who refuses to leave such state would be invalid.
The Church doctrine that prohibits adulterers from reception of Holy Communion is as old as St. Paul himself. It emblazoned in Holy Scripture for all to see:
Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.
As for those liberals, including Cardinal Kasper, who want to take us back to the simplicity of the “early Church,” let’s see what the “early Church” thought about this issue. In 300 A.D. the Council of Elvira decreed the following:
Canon 8: Women who without acceptable cause leave their husbands and join another man may not receive communion even when death approaches.
Canon 47: If a baptized married man commits adultery repeatedly, he is to be asked as he nears death whether or not he will reform should he recover. If he so promises, he may receive communion. If he recovers and commits adultery again, he may not commune again, even as death approaches.
So desperate is he, Mirus even tries to use the fact that canons on penance were stricter in the past as proof that Church teaching on sacrilegious Communion is entirely changeable according to the whim of the pope. Yet Church teaching on sacrilegious Communions is part of the Church’s unchanging moral law whereas the severity of prescribed penances can vary based on individual circumstances. Thus, Mirus shamelessly compares apples to oranges, no doubt leading many of his readers over the theological cliff with him. For in order for Mirus to have a true supporting precedent, the Church would have had to eliminate the need for penance altogether. This is, of course, impossible as the Church has no authority to do away with penance, just as She has no authority to declare that a sacrilegious Communion is no longer sacrilegious.
In the final analysis, Neo-Catholicism is a noxious evil. For it poisons the mind into believing that the Catholic religion is dependent upon following the non-infallible whim of a pope or a synod rather than the very Faith that both popes and synods are sworn to uphold and pass down. It therefore puts the cart before the horse, setting the stage for the “Synodal Church of the New Discipline” to go wherever a maverick authority leads it.
Thus, if you were expecting a spirited fight and resistance from your favorite Neo-Catholic commentators against any shenanigans Kasper and company decide to pull with Francis’ approval next year, you will be sorely disappointed. For, in principle, they have already hitched their intellectual wagons to the Kasper train. In fact, they have proven they are ready to stand and defend it in all of its heretical madness with a straight face to Catholics like you if Francis signs off on it. Thus they are one papal pen stroke away from publicly defending heresy as a “permissible disciplinary change” in Church practice. If they do so, I suggest you make your own pen strokes, informing these purveyors of poison that you will no longer be supporting them with your readership or your checkbooks.