Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Mercedes Revisited (with apologies to Evelyn Waugh)
One correspondent writes:

The example Robert gives about telling somone they "will have to 'regularlize' your marriage and go to confession" is a false offering. This assumes their marriage can be regularized. What about the Mercedes of, you will have to break off your adulterous relationship (that is, your second marriage) and go to confession? Why is it that the bar is only being set a certain height. (After all, the indissolubility of marriage is the absolute hinge for Brideshead Revisited).

I don't know in what sense it is a false offering since it is a true experience of mine.

The example the correspondent offers is a different one and, of course, more difficult, since in order to regularize his relation to the Church he'd have to get a civil divorce, if an annulment of the first marriage were not possible. The solution is for the person to continue to attend Church, but not receive the sacraments. This is a very difficult position to be in psychologically and would require a great deal of pastoral sensitivity on the part of the pastors of the Church. But it would not involve the kind of nod and wink that Cardinal Kasper seems to want for the Church in Germany (My apologies if my understanding of Kasper's position is erroneous).

I often think of the example of one of my favorite professors in college (requiscat in pacem!). His love for the Church was very evident. He could think of himself as nothing but Catholic. Yet, he did not agree with the Church's teachings on birth control, and so--get this--stopped going to the sacraments. His integrity did not allow him to approach the altar while at the same time engaging in a practice that was explicitly condemned by the Church's magisterium. Would that others had as much integrity! I can only hope and pray that the good professor's obedience of his conscience was in good faith and that God will honor his commitment to the truth as he saw it.

Keep in mind that Grace is bigger than the sacramental system. God's knowledge of people's interior state is such that He may well shower with grace those that the Church falsely deprives of the sacraments. For all we know, they will have seats of honor in the Kingdom.

It seems to me that access to the sacraments is not a universal human right, but is a right for those who are either a) in a state of grace or b) interested in being in a state of grace. For the latter, one must have a clear intention of trying to conform one's life to the demands of the Church. I don't think canon law contradicts that.

I'd also say that the priest in The Power of the Glory is a special case because he is a minister as well as a member of the faithful.

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