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Friday, June 17, 2016

Neo-Catholics in a Quandary; Francis Says Great Majority of Marriages are Null Featured

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Neo-Catholics in a Quandary; Francis Says Great Majority of Marriages are Null
Why Cardinal Kasper Deserves an Apology from Neo-Catholics Everywhere--from to

Back on May 8 of 2014, this author reported on an interview Cardinal Kasper gave to Commonweal Magazine. In that interview Kasper stated, “
I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.”

Reaction from the Neo-Catholics was fierce. There was heated rejection of the substance of the claim and even ire at Cardinal Kasper, but strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) there was little criticism of Pope Francis. Some even questioned whether Cardinal Kasper could be believed. Now, however, Pope Francis has proven Kasper wrong. For not only does Francis believe 50% of Catholic marriages are invalid, the Pope himself just said that “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.” As Catholic News Agency reported just yesterday,

“I heard a bishop say some months ago that he met a boy that had finished his university studies, and said ‘I want to become a priest, but only for 10 years.’ It’s the culture of the provisional. And this happens everywhere, also in priestly life, in religious life,” he said.

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say “yes, for the rest of my life!” but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”

Now that we see Cardinal Kasper was not lying about the pope’s belief back in 2014 and, in fact, the pope himself has gone even further than Kasper said he did, let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember what some of our favorite Neo-Catholics told us about this proposition.

On May 8, 2014, Canon Lawyer Ed Peters’ penned an article titled, “Even if the pope said it, it was reckless to repeat it.” I wonder what Mr. Peter’s thinks now that Pope Francis himself has increased the number from 50% to “a great majority” and announced it to the world. For in his article, Peters stated:

Cardinal Kasper, in a lengthy interview that shows no let-up in his push to change Church discipline on marriage, said, among other things, “I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.

I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion. Simply stunned.

Suppose the cardinal had claimed that “50 percent of ordinations are not valid”. Would not such a claim, coming from an internationally-renowned prelate and attributed to a pope, have a shattering effect on the morale of deacons, priests, and bishops around the world? Would not especially those clergy laboring under vocational difficulties immediately conclude that their difficulties were the consequence of having been invalidly ordained, whereupon most of them would just give up? And would not those preparing for holy orders be paralyzed with fear over proceeding to ordination until whatever is behind such a massive invalidity rate were discovered and remedied? Of course they would.

Well, if tossing out a comment to clergy alleging rampant invalidity of holy orders would be pastorally unthinkable, by what right does the cardinal casually tell laity that 50% of their marriages are invalid—even if the pope did say it? Does turmoil among married persons in the wake of such a remark not matter to any except those who suffer it? As I said, I am stunned that such a remark was made, even if it was a mere repetition of another’s views.

But, no matter who said it—and I have no patience left for this string of ‘guess-what-the-pope-supposedly-told-me’ disclosures—let me outline several reasons why the claim that ‘half of all marriages are null’ is not just reckless, it’s also wrong.

Over at Catholic Culture, Phil Lawler excused the pope, but excoriated Kasper for the statement. In light of yesterday’s news, Lawler’s admonition “don’t blame the pope” now seems comical. Will Lawler now amend his statement and allow us to blame him? In a May 7, 2014 article, Lawler stated:

In a lengthy interview with Commonweal, Cardinal Kasper says that Pope Francis told him that “he believes that 50% of marriages are not valid.” (Now don’t blame the Pope for making another provocative public statement here; if the cardinal’s report is accurate, the Holy Father made this remark in a private conversation.) My reaction to the cardinal’s statement matches that of my friend the canon-law expert, Edward Peters: “I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion.”

Peters has his own convincing reasons for that reaction; let me state mine simply. At a time when pastors should be doing everything possible to help strengthen marriage, and to help troubled couples patch up their difficulties and revive their relationships, Cardinal Kasper’s statement is likely to prompt such couples to wonder whether they’re really married at all.

If you’re wondering whether it’s worthwhile to try to salvage your marriage, and then you hear someone touted as “the Pope’s theologian” saying that 50% of marriages aren’t real marriages, isn’t it likely that your first thought is that your marriage is one of those false unions, and might as well be abandoned? So the next stop is the divorce lawyer’s office, and then, with Cardinal Kasper’s quote in hand, a petition for annulment.

And what about the children of those unions? Does the “mercy” of which Cardinal Kasper speaks so often extend to them?

Over at the National Catholic Register, writer E. Christian Brugger discounted Kasper’s attribution of the 50% belief to Francis, acted as if the assertion was only Kasper’s, and then, apparently feeling that he had sufficiently distanced the quote from Francis, proceeded to criticize it. Will Brugger now apologize to Kasper and criticize Francis? On December 10, 2015, Brugger wrote:

During an interview with Commonweal magazine in 2014, Cardinal Walter Kasper claimed that he had spoken to Pope Francis, who had told him that “he [the Pope] believes that 50% of marriages [today] are not valid.” Since the attribution to Pope Francis has never, to my knowledge, been established, let us refer to this, rather, as Cardinal Kasper’s belief. And let’s interpret it as generously as possible. Rather than saying half of all natural marriages — i.e., all marriages on earth — are invalid, let’s say that half of all putatively sacramental marriages are invalid. Is this plausible? For the sake of argument, let’s say it is. What now?

Well, before taking any action, the Catholic Church would have to admit that it has badly failed the Christian people, and so failed Jesus, in the last half century; not only failed at marriage preparation — but certainly that — but also failed at catechesis for the youth, formation and training for young adults and providing adequate support for married couples; that it failed at its pedagogical duties in Catholic secondary schools and colleges and universities; and even failed at seminary training, since priests have been insensible to the fact that half of those whose marriages they witnessed should never have married in the Church. Moreover, Christian parents would have to admit they failed to raise their children so as to be ready and able to follow their personal vocations. We would also have to presume that the majority of this half — say tens of millions of baptized Christians — who thought they were getting married were not in fact getting married; invalidity happened, as it were, without their knowing it, something indeed strange to presume.

In a September 18, 2015 article at The Catholic Thing, David Warren writes a spot on analysis of Francis’ idea, though he does not attribute it to Francis, but only to “well meaning churchmen”:

When churchmen, imprudent if well meaning, say that half the marriages are invalid – whether in the diocese of Buenos Aires, or in my own of Toronto – I “know what they mean.” But if it is half, it is more than half, and we might as well abrogate everybody’s marriage, then refuse to start over.

Why not streamline the process even more, with a mass mailing of Declarations of Nullity for all. Then if we are honest we will refuse to marry or re-marry any living souls. For we are dealing with a race that is so perverse, they claim not to know what marriage is.

I am referring, of course, to humankind, the “fantastic race,” as Jonathan Swift accurately called them. He did not mean this in our newer sense of “marvellous” and “outstanding,” but in the older sense of “crazy,” batfeathers insane.

The Church has the task of resisting these phantasms, this “false consciousness” that humans need little excuse to fall into, the “sin” that guides our actions when we come off our own rails. Her job is not to accommodate the illusions.

The amount of Neo-Catholic denial so far as to the real source of the “50%” belief has been impressive, but leave it to our friends at Church Militant to have taken the cake. After the story first broke, Church Militant, brave investigative journalists that they are, simply ignored it. But then, over a year later, not only did Church Militant question whether Francis really said 50% of marriages are invalid, they actually reported that Francis himself clarified and contradicted this statement! In a delusional January 22, 2016 piece, Christine Niles reported:

Cardinal Walter Kasper in 2014 had attributed to Pope Francis the claim that "50 percent of marriages are not valid" — remarks that set the media world abuzz. 

"Marriage is a sacrament," Cdl. Kasper said. "A sacrament presupposes faith." And in modern marriages, "you have to ask whether there was faith, and whether they really accepted all the conditions of a valid sacramental marriage."

But Pope Francis' official words today seem to contradict what was ascribed to him by Cdl. Kasper in 2014.

After acknowledging the two-fold mission of the Tribunal, which is to defend the "Sacred Bond" as well as to show "the indefectible merciful love of God towards the family, in particular those wounded by sin and by the trials of life," the Holy Father went on to explain how faith, even if not fully informed at the time of marital consent, can develop over time.

In fact, the habitus fidei [habit of faith] is infused from the moment of Baptism and continues to have a mysterious influence in the soul, even when the Faith has not been developed and psychologically appears to be absent. It is not rare for those who are betrothed, impelled towards true matrimony of the instinctus naturae [natural instinct], at the moment of celebration, to have a conscience limited in the design of the project of God, and only afterwards, in the life of the family, to discover all that God the Creator and Redeemer has established for them. 

He continued, "Deficiencies in the formation of the Faith and even error regarding the sacramental unity, indissolubility and dignity of marriage vitiate matrimonial consent only if they determine the will."

"It is precisely for this reason," he warned, "that errors regarding the sacramentality of marriage must be weighed very carefully."

The remarks go far in clearing up confusion over aspects of last year's reforms to the procedure for declarations of nullity. In apostolic letters issued on September 8, 2015, Pope Francis decreed a number of major changes, including shortening the length of time for the process as well as minimizing financial costs involved.

As we now know, just yesterday, Pope Francis himself stated, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.” In light of this, readers of these Neo-Catholic publications must now ask themselves if the Neo-Catholic media can really be trusted to give a clear and honest reporting and analysis when it comes to statements of Pope Francis. Will these same Neo-Catholics who passionately criticized the idea that half of Catholic marriages are invalid, now use that same level of passion to criticize Francis himself upping the ante from 50% to “the great majority?” If they are intellectually honest, necessity requires it. If they refuse, it sends a clear message to their readers that these publications have an agenda of covering for this pope and do not respect their readers enough to be honest with them.

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Last modified on Friday, June 17, 2016