Here I am continuing the discussion of the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2014 Synod. You can see my first post on that here.
After finishing this document I can only conclude there will be bad things coming out of this synod. Let’s have a look at some of the problematic passages.
In various ways, the responses refer to many instances of the break-up and breakdown of families, the first and foremost being a couple’s divorce and separation which is sometimes caused by poverty. Other critical situations include many relationships which do not coincide with the idea of a traditional nuclear family, i.e., mother, father and children: single parenthood (a mother only or a teen mother), de facto unions and homosexual unions and parenting (specifically mentioned in Europe and North America). (IS no. 65)
Poverty? Has anyone noticed the divorces in Europe and America are primarily amongst the rich? Yes, the poor sometimes do divorce over property. Even there, however, is it really poverty that causes divorce? Or is it selfishness among one or both spouses? The language of poverty entering into this document is rather a feature of the Francis Papacy. Now poverty is a problem in this world, particularly the crippling poverty that western policies have brought to a number of African and Latin American countries. But what does it seriously have to do with divorce? I don’t know enough about Latin America to form any opinion about what their situation is with divorce and remarriage, but I would put good money down it is higher amongst the wealthy than among the poor. Nevertheless, the language of poverty in Francis’ statements and interviews is disturbing for two reasons. One is that he is usually treating it from the Marxist view (i.e. liberation theology), treating only on the poor’s material well-being. The second is his solutions to poverty are not sustainable. These statements range from “redistribute the wealth” (another Marxist concept) to more government programs (guaranteed failure). Now, I like that he has been attacking finance capital, and the high rollers of the west, but he is not making that attack from the standpoint of Catholic social teaching. The fact is we will never eliminate poverty. However, we can alleviate the suffering of the poor in 3 ways: a) beautiful liturgy and true doctrine b) charity offered by religious houses, wealthy Catholics etc. c) getting property for the poor and the means for them to produce. The last is the answer to the crippling poverty we have all over the world. If Francis is expecting a government program to fix it, well, I don’t know what to tell him. They’ll be working up yet another one of these documents in 20 years lamenting the same problem I bet.
Back to Divorce. The root of divorce is materialism, individualism, lack of support for the family, and frankly the spirit of atheistic capitalism that inspires men and women to trade in their spouses like used cars looking for a better deal. It is also the root of fornication and adultery. The Instrumentum, however, does make note of this, but in one of those statements that is just not going anywhere. It is not applying this observation to any one problem. (I.S. n. 74) Another problem with divorce is the problem of faith and what families get in Church, although, as I mentioned above, no one involved in this document thinks there is anything wrong with clown masses.
Later, describing the apparent shortcomings of marriage preparation, the document notes:
According to a large number of responses and a greater number of observations from various parts of the world, preparation for a religious ceremony of marriage should not be limited to catechesis only but also serve as an opportunity to get better acquainted and engage in conversation, something pastors could encourage more. On the other hand, various responses from both East and West mention that some of the clergy experience a certain frustration at often witnessing a failure in their pastoral endeavours, when only a very small number of couples continue some kind of relationship with the parish after the celebration of marriage… The majority of responses see an absolute need for a follow-up programme for couples after marriage with meetings aimed at offering them assistance. (IS 106 and 108)
Are these guys serious? I wouldn’t want some follow up with the priest to have to sit down and “talk” about marriage. Besides, we know how it really goes. Husband says everything is great (because he really thinks it is), wife is silent, so priest concludes everything is okay, when in reality at home the wife won’t say anything until she absolutely melts down. This isn’t going to make anyone who is not going to Church start going back. No, if you want to keep people in Church you need to have liturgy that men can intellectually as well as spiritually respect, and provide good preaching. Moreover the lack of depth in “Church” communities needs to be addressed. There are a combination of things that cause young married couples to simply not participate in Church. Liturgy we mentioned, but also, most people’s friends are made at school and work, not at Church. Most people’s lives revolve around working for the man in order to earn the increasingly decreased necessities, and their friends and acquaintances are made in this activity, rather than in going to Church for an hour for silly hymns and nutty liturgies, or preaching about the weather. Moreover for all the people who attend a given Church, the people who go there lived in diverse areas. The question of making the Church more relevant is an issue that goes to the center of our entire social living. The point of reference for ay Western Society, and it would appear any urban center in Eastern society, is not our eternal end, not our spiritual needs. It is material. Any time these discconects are addressed in this document, it is also treated with respect to the material. What about with regard to the spiritual?
In cases where a couple does not seem to understand or does not agree with the basic teachings of the Church on the benefits of marriage and its related responsibilities, the bishops’ conferences of northern Europe and North America say that the more appropriate course of action would be to postpone the celebration of marriage, fully cognizant beforehand that this proposal could lead to misunderstanding and resentment. Inherent in such a solution, however, would be the danger of a rigorism which is not very merciful. (IS n. 108).
What exactly is rigorism? The Oxford dictionary defines it thus: “extreme strictness in interpreting or enforcing a law or principle. (the Roman Catholic doctrine that in doubtful cases of conscience the strict course is always to be followed.)” !
There we go. The world has already set its preconceived definition, and for 50 years the Church has fallen into it, as we see here, it “is not very merciful.” So if people demonstrate that they are not prepared for the sacraments, we can’t postpone it because it isn’t merciful? Is it merciful to let people who obviously shouldn’t get married, to be married anyway? One thing lacking here is a discussion of the pre-marriage investigation prescribed by Canon Law. Are priests making it? One thing that might be useful would be talking again about publishing the “marriage bans”. This was a process that entailed the Church announcing from the pulpit in the Church where the couple gets married that this couple is going to get married, if anyone knows of a reason why they couldn’t (one or the other has been married before without an annulment) he should see the priest immediately. In fact, it used to be considered before the Council that couples getting married without the bans having been read had an invalid marriage absent some very grave reason. There is another thing here. It is proposed that dealing with people, who are not merely lacking in maturity, but who actually actively dissent from formal Church teachings, should be given the sacrament anyway because to not do so would be rigorist. There are some things that need to be distinguished here:
a) The faithful have the right to the Sacraments, and in the case of marriage, grave cause has to be shown and given to the Bishop in order to postpone a marriage. This is because the Church historically has recognized the danger of being the cause of young people to sin if they are in good standing. If there is no impediment to the marriage, the faithful have a right to get married irrespective of the judgment of the priest. Now, that doesn’t give them a right to be married on their own time-table, but whatever the normal policies are (e.g. 6 months notice) should be followed. He could, if he saw serious problems in two people who otherwise have no impediments and have right faith, bring these concerns to the prospective spouses, or their parents. But if they persist, the law of the Church is he must marry them.
If couples do not believe in Church teachings (and come on, we know which ones, no one is sitting there disputing with the priest whether Christ had three natures or just one), they are essentially public heretics, i.e. they don’t have right faith. This becomes very serious if we are talking about things which will in fact affect the validity of the marriage, such as the intention to use contraception. In a true sense, nobody really understands marriage until they are married, it is a learning curve that lasts,…. well, forever. Those issues will be learned and addressed. If someone intends to use contraception, then what is really going on is that they don’t intend to do what marriage does. The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children, to which the union of spouses is subordinated. If they automatically intend to not have children, then they don’t intend to be married, speaking sacramentally and theologically. It is, in such cases, incumbent upon the priest, for the sake of mercy, to not marry them. Otherwise you are feeding more annulments into the mill.
You see, the document does highlight many true problems with the world, and even explicates them well in many points. But as one gets through this document, especially to nos. 135 to the end, we see why this Synod is going to fail before it even gets off the ground (like every other one!). They prescribe more programs, more training, more education. They talk frequently about using Catholic Schools to transmit the knowledge of Church teaching. Have they ever seen the Catholic schools in action? There are some good ones, or at least ones where their kids will not lose their soul. But in general, if you send your kids to Catholic school, you are sending them to a public school with crucifixes on the wall. They are mixed in with kids who likewise only rarely have faith, who are awash in the sexual perversity of modern culture, who are not going to learn an openness to life but the same individualism they learn in the state school. Catechesis programs are often run by lay people with no training that haven’t the faintest idea of what they are talking about. Altogether, nothing is presented here about living a spiritual life, about living in the world but not of the world. All the “solutions” or points for discussion concern merely material needs. Forgetting something as simple as what we read in Psalm 126 (127): Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant eam. “Unless the Lord will have built the house, those who labor on her do so in vain.”