Monday, December 05, 2016

Pope Bergoglio Pulls On Thread; “Seamless Garment” Falls Apart

Bergoglio-appointed Bishop
Robert McElroy of San Diego
openly permits divorced-and
civilly-remarried-Roman Catholics
to take communion
Here’s a headline that caught my eye this morning:

New Appeal to the Pope. The Catholic Doubts of
“The New York Times”

by Sandro Magister

Then the first paragraph sent off some warning signs:

In California the bishop of San Diego, a favorite of Bergoglio, admits de facto divorces and remarriages, as in any Protestant church. From the news arises the question: Can “Amoris Laetitia” be interpreted this way, too?

It turns out that “the news” in this first paragraph (Magister’s “first paragraphs” are always summaries of his articles) is the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a “Catholic Convert” along the lines of Richard John Neuhaus of First Things, who is “mostly convinced that Roman Catholicism is the expression of Christianity that has kept faith most fully with the early church and the words of Jesus of Nazareth himself”. These are folks claim to know more than popes and bishops together, as has been noted elsewhere. So he is able to compartmentalize history somewhere, and forget it and then ignore that he has forgotten it. But anyway….

ROME, December 5, 2016 – Four cardinals, as is already known, have asked the pope to give a clear answer to five “doubts” raised by the most controversial passages of “Amoris Laetitia":

But they have received no response, and probably never will. Because for Pope Francis “it is in the flux of life that one must discern,” not with strokes of “either black or white,” as “some still fail to understand”:

A few days ago, however, Francis received through unusual channels another pressing request to speak out clearly. Getting away from which will be more complicated for him.

The request has come to him from the most famous secular newspaper in the world, “The New York Times,” and to be precise from one of its editorialists, Ross Douthat, a Catholic.

So Magister is in Italy, and Douthat is in the US. It’s understandable that he doesn’t understand that Douthat (a) is not an “editorialist” but a columnist, and (b) Douthat is not a real Catholic, but a “Catholic Convert”. But Magister does understand traditional Roman Catholicism.

[Douthat] in turn has cited the instructions on “Amoris Laetitia” given to the diocese of San Diego, California, by Bishop Robert W. McElroy (in the photo). In which the abandonment of the indissolubility of marriage and the admission of remarriage appears so glaringly evident as to in fact oblige the supreme authority of the Church, in concrete terms the pope, to take a position. And to speak out against these, because even just remaining silent would be the same as giving the go-ahead to an unquestionably substantial rupture with a pillar of the perennial Catholic faith:

>>The End of Catholic Marriage

Douthat summarizes what this means in practical terms:

McElroy seems to take for granted that nobody in such a second marriage would ever consider permanently leaving it, or permanently living as brother and sister [i.e., married, but not having sex], or permanently refraining from receiving communion. Instead, the decision to receive the body of Christ while living conjugally with someone who is not, from the church’s perspective, your true wife or husband is treated as a question of when, not if — do it now if you feel ready, wait a little longer if it might hurt your kids or your ex-spouse or you feel like have some spiritual maturing left to do.

This is a teaching on marriage that might be summarized as follows: Divorce is unfortunate, second marriages are not always ideal, and so the path back to communion runs through a mature weighing-out of everyone’s feelings — the feelings of your former spouse and any kids you may have had together, the feelings of your new spouse and possible children, and your own subjective sense of what God thinks about it all. The objective aspects of Catholic teaching on marriage — the supernatural reality of the first marriage, the metaphysical reality of sin and absolution, the sacramental reality of the eucharist itself — do not just recede; they essentially disappear [emphasis in original].

The first thing to note is that Douthat correctly articulates Rome’s view on its own doctrine of “sacramental marriage” is “permanent” – that is, Rome views its “objective” teaching on “sacramental marriage” as “supernatural reality”, that is, Rome has defined “divine revelation as opposed to mere human opinion” (see the many interactions we’ve had with the “Called to Communion” writers over this designation).

The second thing to notice is that pope and bishops together, who constitute this “authoritative Magisterium” capable of receiving and defining “divine revelation”, now hold to “a hermeneutic of rupture” – that is, they no longer read this document “in continuity” with such historical figures as “Pope John Paul the Great”, but allow for a different “interpretation” (and practice). This “authoritative Magisterium” now has taken these “supernatural realities” and made them “essentially disappear”.

Douthat is correct that they “essentially disappear”. Maybe he is using the word “essentially” in the philosophical term of “essence”, in which he is saying, as I would say, that these “supernatural realities” as defined by Rome had no existence in the first place.

Yes, traditional and conservative Roman Catholic teaching on “sacramental marriage” is BS. In fact, most traditional and conservative Roman Catholic teaching on mostly anything having to do with Biblical Faith is mostly BS. But I digress.

It is telling that “pope and bishops together” now want to do away with this notion. It is telling that it is a “Catholic convert” [more Catholic than “pope and bishops together”] who wants to defend a make-believe notion of Roman Catholicism today – to believe that the Roman Catholic Church once was what it said it was – and not something that Bergoglio and friends want to compartmentalize historically somewhere, and forget it, and then ignore that they have forgotten it.

As Douthat points out in his column in “The New York Times,” absent from these instructions are both the word and the notion of “sin,” except in a citation of “Amoris Laetitia” that is recalled precisely in order to rule it out.

Also absent are the word and the notion of sacramental confession. What takes its place is a conversation with a priest who however neither judges nor absolves, but only advises, leaving the final decision to the conscience of the individual with which he is conversing.

But what vanish above all are the indissolubility of marriage and the inadmissibility of remarriage when one’s spouse, validly married, is still alive. The realities that matter instead become the happiness of the new union or the lack thereof, with the “new moral obligations” that it involves, the needs of the first and second spouse, the care of the children from the first or second bed.

Even recourse to a proceeding over the validity of the “first” marriage must be subordinated to the sentiments of the persons in play, past or present, so as to do no harm in any way. Divorce and civil remarriage certainly remain in contradiction with the words of Jesus, but “Pope Francis explains” that the logic of divine grace also urges here toward a reintegration in the full life of the Church.

And access to the Eucharist? According to these instructions, it is enough that each one should consider within himself what God is asking of him at that moment. And so there are those who will receive communion, those who will postpone it until another time, those who will evaluate its effect on other persons. The question, in short, is no longer “whether” to receive communion, but “when” to receive it.

Put in this way, then, communion for the divorced and remarried is no longer an exception for the rare difficult cases and within a process subjected to the evaluation of the Church, as Cardinal Walter Kasper himself, the leader of the innovators, has repeatedly made a point of emphasizing and as Pope Francis himself has repeatedly shown that he means, either in his own words or through intermediaries like Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his vicar for the diocese of Rome.

No, in the format established by Bishop McElroy for the diocese of San Diego, communion for the divorced and remarried enters completely into normalcy. A normalcy in which, however, marriage is no longer indissoluble, remarriage is tranquilly admitted, sacramental confession has vanished, and Eucharistic communion is accessible “ad libitum.” As in any Protestant church.

I left the Roman Catholic Church because, at one time, Rome insisted that its teaching was “a whole cloth”, and I knew that to deny one element of Roman teaching was to deny all of it.

That is, Roman teaching is a “seamless garment”, and once you deny one tenet of it (i.e. something as peripheral as “the Assumption of Mary”), then the whole thing unravels (precisely because something as peripheral as “the Assumption of Mary” is really based on an authoritative pronouncement and not on anything approaching historical fact).

What Pope Bergoglio is doing is precisely pulling on that thread of authority that holds it all together. As this dispute moves further, more and more people will become aware that Bergoglio is not simply being merciful on marriage. He’s pulling on the entire fabric of the “seamless garment” of prior Roman teaching, which some thought, in a Thomistic way, had been all packaged up nicely and consistently and in logical fashion.

The whole thing, in reality, is but a house of cards. Another “Protestant denomination” as Douthat might say. But without the Biblical Truth.


  1. John, please opine upon what you think Bergie has to gain by his actions: pulling down the papacy means pulling down the RCC's reason for existence, and his own authority; the Lib agenda has all but annihilated those churches which fell for it; he risks losing both the Libs and the conservatives and has no clear guarrantee that throwing a few sops to divorcees will stanch Rome's own membership hemorrhage.

    The man is no idiot, but he seems either a Trojan horse or a fool. Your thoughts, please.

    1. Kirk, I don't recall specifically where, but at several points he talked about "finishing the work of Vatican II". He became a priest in 1969, after Vatican II, and he may have been moved by "the Spirit of Vatican II", which, to paraphrase the words of Pope John XXIII, involved "opening the windows and letting some fresh air in". Back at that time, it wasn't thought of as a conservative/liberal split. The "progressives" of Vatican II certainly didn't think of themselves in terms of "liberal Protestants". The split prior to Vatican II was more along the lines of neo-Thomist vs "nouvelle theologie", Trent vs "ressourcement" (most of the "nouvelle theologians" were French -- Yves Congar, Henri De Lubac, etc.) If you read Kung's interviews, he talks like that, of wanting to "finish the work of Vatican II". That kind of thinking certainly still exists among some of the highest levels in the RCC.

      I'm not sure what his agenda is with this marriage stuff. I've linked several times to an article "Pope Francis is Cleaning House":

      He said: "I have the humility and ambition to want to do something. … providence has placed me at the head of the Church and the Diocese of Peter. I will do what I can to fulfill the mandate that has been entrusted to me." That was one of the Spadera articles -- not a direct quote but a Spadera paraphrase. But I think it is accurate. I think he genuinely believes he was placed by God into the papacy for a reason. He feels some kind of mission.

      As for marriage specifically, I'm sure it was a studied issue, with him looking for a place "where I CAN make a dent". Roman Catholic teaching on marriage is something that is really strange, and the divorced-and-civilly-remarried issue is likely a huge one, one of the biggest on the radar screen, precisely because it's one of the biggest sources of people leaving the RCC. It stems from those years in the 1960's when the birth control pill and "no-fault divorce" both became prevalent -- i.e., because it occurred during his lifetime, and he could see the effects of it. I don't know, that is just a speculation.

      I think he has intended to push things as far as he possibly could, and he has done it with this document. I don't think he would ever make an "ex cathedra" doctrine out of this. (It' too far into the realm of morality to be considered a doctrinal statement. And yet in a practical way, it undermines the doctrine of the sacraments and finally of "the Church".)

      With him turning 80 this year, it seems to me that he's too old now to push things any further, or to have too much of an agenda. (Although I wish him a long and meddling life).

      Finally, here is a brief biography. I'm not sure how his past life in Argentina led to any of this: