Tuesday, September 8, 2015

You Don't Think Francis Can Change Church Doctrine? He Just Did.

"Baja un cambio! She's cuter than the first one."

Please excuse the provocative title, and do not misunderstand. Obviously, neither the Pope nor anyone else can change Church doctrine normatively. That is, Church doctrine remains true and unchangeable whatever people--without or within the Church--believe or say. In the same way the teachings of Christ or the Commandments themselves remain true and unchanging.

What the Pope can do, however, is to say that Church doctrine has changed or, more to the point, imply by his words or actions that it has. Or he can say or imply that Church doctrine wasn't what most people--including most people in the Church itself for almost 2,000 years--said or thought that it was.

I have the impression that some people actually believed that even this was impossible (and I admit that a few years ago, I might have been one of them). If the Pope, say, tried to mislead people on Church doctrine, he would burst into flame or have the Holy Spirit cover his mouth so he would sputter, or a Council would suddenly pop into being and instantly declare him anti-Pope. Or whatever.

But we know now that this isn't true. Do I say this based on some theological argument? No, it's an empirical claim. The Pope did it and nothing happened.

I am of course referring to the two just released Motu Proprio "reforming" the annulment process. The effect will be to concede that the marriage of two people can (contrary to the words of Jesus) be broken asunder.

Making it, as a practical matter, much easier for Catholics to have their marriages declared invalid won't merely legitimize "Catholic divorce" but will remove the Catholic Church as the unofficial leader of the marriage protection business and will weaken the institution yet again (as if we needed even more of that now) for everyone. 

Of course, it is quite possible that this pontificate itself may be declared invalid at some future date, a possibility that many Catholics are, if not publicly discussing, certainly whispering more and more about. Ironic isn't it?

But that doesn't help us now.

The Pope didn't change the Church's doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage? He merely "reformed" the annulment process?

Oh, please. Stop it.

Everyone, everyone understands this as the Pope's attempt to show mercy to people in unhappy or "bad" marriages--or to people who bailed years ago and are now claiming that as the reason. The new rules go into effect on the first day of the Pope's own Jubilee Year of Mercy.

But if it's really only annulment--the accurate discernment of a false marriage that was invalid to begin with--then what does that have to do with mercy? If the marriage in question was valid, then there's no dissolving it (according to Church doctrine). But if it was invalid, then discerning that efficiently and fairly is a question of justice or truth, not mercy.

That the Pope intentionally and publicly associates it with mercy, shows how dishonest the whole thing is.

Will the greatly eased rules on annulments (something John Paul II no doubt would have been horrified with and Benedict XVI no doubt is horrified with) lead to millions of additional annulments? Probably not. We've gone too far even for that. Most Catholics in name don't give a damn about annulment anyway. Those who think the concept of annulment (as opposed to divorce) still has meaning (which of course it does) aren't generally the ones who would want to bail on their marriages anyway.

And obviously, annulment as "Catholic divorce" has been humming along at a pretty good clip for a generation or more, at least in the United States and a few other countries, though it has recently dipped slightly for the reasons given above. But the difference is that before there was a feeling that this was largely due to abuses of the process. And the cynical of course pointed this out at every opportunity. See (they argued), the Catholic Church claims that marriage is "till death do us part" but if you grease enough canonical palms or are a Kennedy or whatever, you can do whatever you want to do.

As of today, the Church isn't even claiming that marriage is a lifelong commitment. Not really. Now everyone can wig out of it (without being a Kennedy or greasing any canonical palms--though that was an exaggeration anyway). And lo and behold, the Church is perceived as finally stepping into the 20th century. What a breath of fresh air! How merciful!

But the doctrine is gone, the doctrine that, however much it may have recently been undermined, still appeared to many as a rock standing against the great modern flood of infidelity and, well, selfishness.

Oh, sure. It's not really gone. It's still there, whatever anyone thinks or even what the Pope himself wants you to think. Does that make you feel better?

Enough.

This is a disaster.

17 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis. Linking this at Te Deum.

    Francis is the antipope of the false Vatican 2 church. Things will only get worse.

    Kim, Seattle sedevacantist.

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    1. Are you a Pius sedevecantist or a Benedict sedevacantist?

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    2. At first I was just really frustrated with Francis. Then I hopped on the "Benedict is still the pope" train with Fr. Kramer and a lot of others.

      But after a lot of reading and studying---in particular Vatican 2 and pre-Vatican 2 encyclicals, it became clearer to me that the Vatican 2 Church is an altogether different religion and that the "popes" who instituted these changes did so for nefarious reasons. So yes, I believe the Vatican hierarchy are usurpers.

      Seattle kim

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  2. Are you trying to mislead? No one can change doctrine. whether Pope Francis' canon law changes are prudent or not, or whether it is well written or not, the teaching of the Church is not changed.

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    1. With respect, I think you kind of missed the point.

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  3. Interesting. You just publicly declared the Vicar of Christ to be a public heretic without so much as a single quote from the document in which he allegedly taught this heresy, nor a single quote from a Magisterial document to back up your claim that Doctrine was changed.

    Matthew 7:2

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    1. Also with respect, I think you missed the point as well. I have no idea whether the Pope is a heretic when it comes to the indissolubility of marriage. He certainly isn't a formal heretic. But his words and actions on the subject (whatever is going on his his mind) will certainly lead people to doubt, question and disbelieve the doctrine. Perhaps more importantly, the institution of marriage itself as it exists in practice, will be weakened once again--this time by the Pope himself.

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    2. The public heresy will come, sometime after the Synod.

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  4. Biggest headline on Pewsitter! Congrats.

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    1. Thanks! I kidded the Bear about how they used his picture on the link. In seriousness, the piece was a rant. I should have included a few links to some of the more sober analyses. But I think many of us are feeling a bit ranty now. That's perhaps not a completely good thing, but there it is.

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  5. "That the Pope intentionally and publicly associates it with mercy, shows how dishonest the whole thing is."

    Interesting point. Bear doesn't 't read it the way the others are. He HASN'T changed doctrine. He has changed the perceptions, which, in this media age, is tantamount to changing doctrine. The Bear is not against faster-cheaper. Heck he's a lawyer, and sees the advantages. But hurting the purpose and truth-finding elements of the process cuts through the meat and to the bone.

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    1. Well, I think I'll just shoot myself now for putting in that provocative headline--which I explained in the first paragraph didn't exactly mean what it, well, what it seemed to mean. But I put it in to counter the asinine "relax, Church doctrine will always be Church doctrine" knee-jerk responses of the usual suspects.

      If anyone thinks that some little group of 3 or 4 non-canonical experts appointed by, say Cupich, will hold the line on NOT treating annulment requests as close to no-fault divorce requests, then they need to have their head examined.

      After all, we're about to enter the Year of Mercy. Both parties want out (or have already gotten out). They didn't approach marriage with requisite seriousness, since no one does anymore. Surely the merciful thing would be to give them the benefit of the doubt so they can now embark on, you know, a real and fruitful Catholic marriage. Or are we going to be rigorists even when people's very lives, loves and families are involved?

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    2. Well, I basically thought so, but I wanted to use your comment as a jumping off point to pontificate some more. Plus, I'm jealous that the female commenters on my blog want to pet you.

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    3. ". Plus, I'm jealous that the female commenters on my blog want to pet you."

      And feed him salmon.

      Seattle kim

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    4. Maybe you should change your name to St. Roche's Dog or St. Julian's (of Norwich) Cat.

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