Saturday, April 30, 2022

My latest column: "No Doctrine, No Christ"

No Doctrine, No Christ

April 28, 2022


“People over doctrine.” That is the best way I have heard, from individuals far more knowledgeable than I, to describe Pope Francis’ agenda for the Church. This especially in light of his efforts to give Communion to those in adultery by means of the famous footnote in Amoris Laetitia (AL).

Readers will recall that the Argentinian bishops interpreted the AL footnote in question, number 351, to mean that Communion can be given under certain circumstances to Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried. The Pope responded by stating that their interpretation is the only correct one and by placing the document in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the Acts of the Apostolic See, giving it the highest authority and leaving no doubt as to the direction in which he wanted his vague footnote to lead the Church.

The Pope also frequently takes occasion to comment negatively about Catholics who see doctrine as an enduring, guiding force in Catholic life and discipline. Terms such as “rigid” and other negative descriptors demeaning those who take canon law for what it is, a rule for bringing faith and life into unity for the sake of salvation, further the agenda to garner sympathy for a concept of “people over doctrine.” The fallacy that canon law is an end in itself which does not serve the real needs of persons is thus advanced. The truth that the greatest need for any of us is our eternal salvation is at the same time frustrated.

The Pope has also in effect told Protestants, in so many words, that they are able to receive Communion. A Lutheran woman married to a Catholic asked the Pope to speak on the matter during his visit to an Evangelical church in Rome in November 2015. She clearly demonstrated by her question that she has no intention of “swimming the Tiber,” though living already so close to it and the City of the Vatican spread on it banks. It is not only acceptance of the fact of the Lord’s true and Real Presence in the Eucharist that is necessary for reception of the Eucharist, however she or others outside of visible communion may share it. Required also is full assent of intellect and will to all that the Church teaches in matters of faith and morals. This is the reason why a potential convert must undergo a period of formation before entering the Church by means of profession of faith or Baptism.

Only in danger of death may a baptized non-Catholic receive the sacraments, and then only if professing Catholic faith in the sacraments.

Pope Francis might have responded to the Lutheran, when she asked “how do we reach communion in this point” of Communion reception, that only the truth can be the basis for communion in the faith. This he did not do. After giving a nod to Catholic discipline which forbids intercommunion, he contradicted himself and told her “Speak with the Lord and go forward,” implying that she could give herself permission to communicate at Catholic Mass if her conscience permits her to do so. The principle of non-contradiction applies: One cannot decide that the consequences of the truth apply differently from one person to another when the facts of each case are identical and insist that truth is the guiding principle for decision-making.

As if to eliminate any doubt as to his disparagement of the truth behind doctrine as a guiding force for faith, he set up a false opposition between acts in conformity with the Commandments, such as attending Mass on the Lord’s Day, and the following of the corporal words of mercy, such as feeding the poor. When we meet the Lord, he said, “Which will be the questions that the Lord will ask us that day: ‘Did you go to Mass? Did you make a good catechesis?’ No, the questions are on the poor, because poverty is at the center of the Gospel.”

But Christ is the center of His Gospel. He is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” It is because of Christ and His Gospel that we both observe the Commandments and pursue social justice with like solicitude and sincerity. A false opposition between these two aspects of the one life and truth in Christ is an anti-Gospel. When we meet Christ He will ask us if we loved Him more than others, attending Mass for that reason, and others for His sake, and thus feeding, clothing, and sheltering them.

Canon 915 is not based on subjective interpretation. A connubial couple is either married sacramentally or not. If they are, there is no impediment to receiving Communion based on their relationship. They would be free, if otherwise in a state of grace, to approach the Communion rail at Holy Mass. Their intentions or other circumstances have no bearing on their freedom to marry. Either a person is previously validly married and the spouse is still living or not.

Christ, the Divine legislator, spoke more clearly about marriage than about any other matter of morality. Christian marriage is clearly an exclusive relationship, open to new life, until death. It is for this reason that every couple approaching the altar for the purpose of matrimony are examined on these matters before permitted to commence marriage preparation.

These doctrinal matters do not change from one individual or situation to another. Personal circumstances or existential vicissitudes are irrelevant. One may attack this as “rigid” if one likes, but in the light of truth the individual who attacks the truth or resists it is the one who is in fact rigid in a negative sense.

The sacraments and marriage are matters governed, at least until now, by canon law. Thus, one would normally turn to canon lawyers for enlightenment when documents or statements seem to contradict divine Revelation or existing Church practice, as this seems certainly to do.

Edward Peters, a canonist, states on his personal blog, In the Light of the Law, in an article dated April 10, 2016, that the Pope cannot change canon law by means of apostolic exhortation, which type of document Amoris Laetitia indeed is. The law in question is canon 915, which states that the Eucharist must be withheld from those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.” This is the same document the truths underlying which spurred our U.S. bishops to consider a public statement about President Biden and other pro-aborts, such as Nancy Pelosi, who uselessly and sacrilegiously receive Communion.

You may recall that curial officials assisting the Pope, and some U.S. bishops who visited the Vatican possibly for the purpose of procuring assistance in the matter, attempted to quash episcopal discussion of withholding Communion from Biden and his ilk. I think it is pretty obvious to the casual observer that Rome reacted in such a way to keep intact any momentum gained for Amoris Laetitia, or at least avoid any potential inconsistencies that might derail the agenda of “people over doctrine.”

“Love one another” is one of two greatest commandments. Loving others means seeking to fulfill their needs, certainly. We must all care about others, those who are saintly do so to a heroic degree. But caring for others is not enough to be saved, the specific mission of Christ and His Church. When have departed from the realm of truth, and agree only with the world, we have also departed from the realm of the Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist and cannot then receive Him thus unto salvation. People are not “over” doctrine. Rather, doctrine serves people’s path to Heaven, their highest and greatest need on this earth.

Surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia! The Lord is truly risen, Alleluia! A blessed Easter season to all of our readers. Praised be Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, now and forever.

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