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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Cardinal Burke Plays the Jackass

"It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?"
YES OR NO Steve Kellmeyer
That is the question that was recently posed to me by someone who tired of how I have characterized Cardinal Burke's malice.

When I replied:
Why would my answer, one way or the other, make a difference to anyone?
The answer came back just as I thought it would:
Because to answer yes is to profess heresy and approve of blasphemous communions, which is a sacrilege.
Yes. Just so. Which is why I replied:
Exactly. You claim to be Catholic, so you can answer this question as well, and as authoritatively, as I.
IF someone has DEFINITELY committed an act of adultery without repenting, then no, they can't receive Eucharist. 
BUT....
The individual declaration of whether or not a marriage is valid is a judicial, i.e., disciplinary declaration. It is not doctrinal. That means it is not an infallible declaration. Marriage tribunals can be, and probably are, frequently in error in their judgements about a marriage's validity.
Anyone who is NOT in a state of mortal sin has a RIGHT to the Eucharist. Given that marriage tribunals can be wrong (in either direction), we cannot have absolute certainty that any particular marriage situation actually IS adulterous. If a priest denies Eucharist to someone who actually has a RIGHT to Eucharist, because they actually aren't in an adulterous situation (even though someone else thinks they are), then the priest has sinned against them. 
Thus, while the theoretical answer is clear, the practical answer in any particular situation, is anything BUT clear.
This is why the four bishops' question is STUPID.
The four bishops know full well both parts of this answer, and they know the Pope knows both parts of this answer, but the bishops have phrased it so as to only stress the theoretical answer, when knowledge is certain. In practice, we never actually have that certainty. The Pope's commentary to date has stressed the practical problem - how do we handle this situation with the couple sitting in chairs in front of us, when we don't actually know what state their situation is in and we CANNOT, even in principle, actually ever really know? 
But the cardinals' question is not about the practical, it is about the theoretical. The question, as posed, is a crap question. The bishops are trying to make the faithful THINK the Pope cannot be trusted (else why ask the question at all?). 
In short, the bishops asked the Pope that question for the same reason YOU asked ME the question:
  • you wanted a "gotcha!" moment, 
  • you wanted to make me look stupid, 
  • you wanted other people to doubt that I knew the TRUE Catholic Faith,
  • you didn't want an answer, you wanted a damned fight,
  • you wanted a fight in which YOU looked good, so your opposite looked bad.
Now, posed to me who has no authority, the question is just your attempt at annoying me, since I have no authority to undermine. But posed to the Pope, that question comes straight from the pit of hell. 
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why some priests are talking about the need to strip Cardinal Burke of his "cardinal" title. They argue Burke is no longer worthy of it. This would be an extreme move, and - in traditionalist circles - it would make a martyr of a man who is not worthy of that title either. I'm not sure it would be a smart thing to do. But it surely would be a JUST thing to do.

15 comments:

Vox Cantoris said...

You dare call yourself "Orthodox?"

You're a deceiving, lying arrogant hypocrite. A pretender.

The line is being drawn Kellmeyer, which side are you going to be on.

John said...

I second what Vox Cantoris said. I am shocked at what I have read in your scurrilous column. It is laced with a poisonous nastiness that is anything other than Christian.

Open your eyes. Today PF called for people with AIDS to use discernment. We all know what he means, but blind sycophants like you are protecting this evil impostor.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

John, I advise you to learn a little something about marriage tribunals and what they can, and cannot, do. Talk to someone who actually works on one, or talk to your pastor.

Ask him if a marriage tribunal decision is infallibly correct.
Ask that question to as many priests as you like, in fact.

If you can find even 1 priest out of 100 who tells you that a marriage tribunal decision is infallible, come back and correct me.

Stewart Griffin said...

Hey there,

I have been reading your blog for years, but don't normally comment (not sure I ever have, but I might have done at some point). It is enjoyable: you are a good writer.

I am glad it is the hierarchy and not me that has to deal with this!

Don't priests and lay people involved in such situations simply have to follow the verdict of the tribunal. If it said no marriage took place, then act that way. If it said a marriage exists then act that way.

So, if a tribunal says someone is married, and they are now living adulterously with someone else - at least going by the tribunals verdict - surely priests and lay people should go by the verdict when deciding if the couple should get a particular sacrament.

It seems weird to think priests and lay people could be right to act contrary to a verdict. Yeah, the verdict could be wrong, but if the authorities of the Church have made a judgement it seems wrong to disregard it. Of course, we should all hope any wrong verdicts are repealed successfully.

This comment is not made in an effort to further either 'side' in this conflict. Like I said, I am glad it is the hierarchy and not me that has to deal with all this. I am just a curious guy.

c said...

The only issues I will address here focus on a LIFETIME of being unjustly denied the Eucharist. That is a VERY long time, and especially bitter when the decision is handed down by proxy from strangers. In any court case, the litigant has access to their own counsel. and can look the accusers in the eye. Then appeal the decision to a higher court. Remember the shepherd who left the 99 in search of the one, who is supposed to be rejoicing now that the lost sheep has been found? What a crappy "welcome home."

And who is responsible for Widespread ignorance about the rules in advance, since they are never taught to the children? They think it can wait until later, but when later comes, it's too late.I speak as a non-expert, but my understanding is we are not culpable for every mortal sin.

c said...

PS: and I think there is a difference between scandal and gossip. If there is scandal, isn't it the countless number of couples who split in the first place? Aaah, but the gossip is about judging what's happening behind closed doors when it's NONE of your business!

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Stewart Griffin, you are exactly correct - Catholics SHOULD go by the disciplinary command of the tribunal, and when you have well-catechized Catholics who are close to the Church, that is what happens.

The problem is, there are a lot of marginal Catholics who don't really understand the marriage laws, don't really understand tribunals, don't currently have Christ at the center of everything. They have this inchoate desire for that to be true in their lives, but they literally don't know how to get from their current life situation to where they are supposed to be. They may be poor communicators, poor at navigating the paperwork necessary for an annulment, may have inadvertently left out things they shouldn't have, etc. Human fallibility being what it is, the couples, the counselors, the canon lawyers and the judges could all come together in such a way that a mistaken verdict is rendered.

Now, in such a situation, the affected couple may not know much, but they KNOW it is a mistake, but cannot articulate it in such a way that they can make others understand. Now, they can be mistaken in thinking they know this - maybe there really isn't a mistake, and they just think there is. That happens too. What Pope Francis is trying to do is articulate that this is not an infallible process, that there is many a slip betwixt cup and lip, and that we have to recognize that it is not an infallible process. The law should be treated with great respect, but we can't hide behind it and pretend it is perfect when we know it is not. Cardinal Burke is trying to hide behind the law - it is understandable, in a certain sense, even laudable, but no Pope wants his pastors hiding behind the law, especially not this Pope.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

c, you are right. We are responsible for every sin, but we are not responsible for every evil. I can do evil without committing sin. If I do something without realizing it is evil, then I have done evil, but since I didn't know it was, didn't intend it, I am not culpable for it. It is not sin.

The example I give is a two-year old who manages to grab a kitchen knife and starts using it as a sword or hammer. The two-year old doesn't INTEND to cut himself or others, but that may happen. The two-year old intended to play, but that doesn't matter - blood is flowing, evil has been done, stitches will need to be put in place. The child has done evil, but has not sinned. We still have to deal with the consequences of the evil, but there is no one who can be blamed for the evil that happened, there is no sin.

And scandal has two parts - the one who gives scandal has sinned, but so has the one who incorrectly TAKES scandal. The person who sees an unmarried couple come out of a house at 3 am, and concludes, without further proof, that the couple have been having a sexual affair, is committing the sin of taking scandal when it is not warranted. The couple may well have many other very good reasons for that event, and we aren't permitted to assume they are sinning without further evidence.

Many, many Catholics are committing the sin of scandal by taking unwarranted scandal at what the Pope says.

Sean W. said...

Mr. Kellmeyer,

Some counter-thoughts here (not convinced about their merit, but interested in hearing your reply):

You say:

"The individual declaration of whether or not a marriage is valid is a judicial, i.e., disciplinary declaration. It is not doctrinal. That means it is not an infallible declaration. Marriage tribunals can be, and probably are, frequently in error in their judgements about a marriage's validity. Anyone who is NOT in a state of mortal sin has a RIGHT to the Eucharist. Given that marriage tribunals can be wrong (in either direction), we cannot have absolute certainty that any particular marriage situation actually IS adulterous."

Ths seems dangerous to me: the judgments of the Church in its proper sphere are (like those of any authority) always binding, except where they exceed their due limits (i.e., commanding sin). Infallibility is not and has never been a necessary prerequisite to obedience, though it helps. Hence "absolute certainty" seems to me to be an artifically high bar to set here: it suffices that a judgment has been made.

"If a priest denies Eucharist to someone who actually has a RIGHT to Eucharist, because they actually aren't in an adulterous situation (even though someone else thinks they are), then the priest has sinned against them."

This seems, to me, to be conflating two distinct issues (a conflation which is endemic to these discussions). Canon law obliges Catholics to refrain voluntarily from the Eucharist if they are conscious of unconfessed mortal sin; it only permits priests to refrain from distribution of communion in cases where the sin is public, obstinate, and persistent, such that communicating a person could cause scandal. It seems to me the discussion on AL to date has concerned whether or not certain classes of remarried divorcees can approach communion in good conscience, not the extent to which priests can refuse them. There may well be cases where a priest shouldn't refuse to distribute communion, but should insist (in private, well away from general earshot) that a particular person should not approach for communion until their situation is amended.

(But even if we grant the premise, I don't see how a priest could sin by abiding by a legitimate judgment of the Church, whereas a penitent cannot sin by refusing to abide by the same judgment: the most that could be said is that an evil has been perpetrated of which he [the priest] would be free of guilt).

===

The case you present here is an interesting one, but it's also radically different from the kind of "hard case" I hear discussed far more often: one in which a person who divorced and remarried, has had children with their new spouse, and who will not desist from intercourse for fear (more or less well-founded) that this will destroy the marriage and deprive the children of regular access to both parents, to which they have a right. In those cases, I'm told, the difficulty of the circumstances may represent an impediment to the free exercise of the will (which seems rather consequentialistic), or else there may be an impediment of full knowledge, either of which would prevent acts of intercourse from rising to the level of a mortal sin. Even if we grant the latter, it seems lack of full knowledge could easily be remedied by, err, actually explaining to them the teachings of the Church in great detail, and that giving them communion without correcting their erroneous moral judgments first represents a grave danger. Am I out of my mind here? Such a case as this seems pretty straightforward yet it's almost constantly bandied about as one of the "difficult situations" requiring discernment.

Confitebor said...

"Now, posed to me who has no authority, the question is just your attempt at annoying me, since I have no authority to undermine."

So, you've got no authority to declare the correct answer to a question on a point fundamental to the Faith, but you DO have authority to publicly calumniate and libel and insult a bishop and cardinal, accusing him of malice, heresy, schism.

Well, if you are of so little importance and have so little authority that your answer to the question matters not at all, why are you even publishing your blitherings? Do you think anyone should even read what you write? And if it doesn't matter what you say, well, haven't you *really* got a lot more important things to be doing with your time (Eph. 5:16)?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

" the judgments of the Church in its proper sphere are (like those of any authority) always binding"

Yep, a judgement can be binding but still wrong. Consider the judgement that bound Padre Pio from public Masses or hearing confession for ten years. But the subjects under this judgement are generally not Padre Pio. They are, instead, people who don't handle a wrong judgement nearly as well for much, much longer times. Pope Francis is concerned about that. He doesn't think "it suffices that a judgement has been made." I think he's right.

"the most that could be said is that an evil has been perpetrated of which he [the priest] would be free of guilt" When it comes to refusing a sacrament, that is often the law's primary purpose in reference to the priest.

" err, actually explaining to them the teachings of the Church in great detail, and that giving them communion without correcting their erroneous moral judgments first represents a grave danger." The Holy Father is recommending the bishops investigate each couple's situation in that regard. He nowhere says that they MUST be given communion, or even that they SHOULD be. The problem is, those opposed to Pope Francis are putting into his mouth words he has not said.

Confitebor, people are attacking the Pope. I don't intend to stand idle while that happens. Cardinal Burke is knowingly fomenting these attacks. Hard to see how stating the case concerning the Cardinal is engaging in any attack on him.

Stewart Griffin said...

Yeah, it's very hard for a lot of people.

Still, it seems tough on the pastors to say they are hiding behind the law by respecting a judgement. What else can they do? Unilaterally ignore a verdict?

But if they don't ignore the tribunal, what of the couple? You are left with either trying to make them Saints - like Padre Pio - by teaching them the right way or you bend the law.

Oh my, I am glad I am not a priest! I know if I was I would probably be the type to stand behind the law and use it as a shield.

Ha, and we haven't even added in the third party yet: the jilted guy. He has to sit in the pew every Sunday and watch the couple go for Communion together. The women he thinks is his wife. The mother of this children. That the tribunal, with the authority of the Church, said is his wife. Together with another man. And the priest carries on as if he didn't perform the original wedding ceremony and without regard to the judgement of the Church authorities.

I am sure a lot of the men imaging that right now would admit it would make them angry to see that going on. Their wife - which they feel and know her to be, with some other guy and the priest ignoring the canon law courts. I know I would struggle to stay calm!

And how do you explain to that guy what is going on.

I mean, explaining it to the couple would be hard. They believe they are in the right (maybe they are...). But at least the priest can explain that the verdict has to be followed. He can talk about obedience and the need to avoid anarchy. He can explain how he knows it hurts, but in this they are following Christ and carrying their Cross.

And, at least one member of the couple at some point went through a wedding ceremony, which helps anchors things somewhat. I mean, most people can be persuaded to see that a wedding matters, even if they don't understand theology or canon law. It gives the priest and anyone else involved something to work with at least.

But that guy watching his wife (officially at least) and children going to communion together with her new lover. What on Earth do you say. I guess I would have to just go with the Cross speech again. But when he points to the verdict and the wedding ceremony, the years of marriage and the children I think I would be at a loss about what to say next.

It is all very difficult.

Anyway, thank you Mr. Kellmeyer. It is nice to find a place where such discussion can be hosted so courteously, especially when not everyone has returned the courtesy!

Patrick Sweeney said...

If AL is "clear", then why is this conversation even happening? Is the claim here that Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner (and those who agree with the creation of the dubia) failed reading comprehension and can't recognize what's clear? Has merely asking theological and pastoral questions ever inspired such antipathy?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The vast majority of divorces are initiated by the woman.
Ironically enough, the vast majority of post-marriage relationships are initiated by the man. That is, an older man who has been divorced generally finds it a lot easier to find a new wife than an older woman, especially an older woman with kids, finding a new husband.

So, while it is certainly the case that it may be the man watching his wife with another man in church, it is much more typically the single woman with kids who initiated the divorce watching her husband with his new girlfriend. One can imagine that she may present impediments to providing evidence that the first marriage should be annulled, even given that she is the one who first raised the question.

In neither case, is the single spouse in an easy position. No one is very happy with the marriage tribunal process. I wouldn't be at ALL surprised to see the conversation that Pope Francis has begun in AL to turn to whether the marriage tribunal situation is really the best solution.

Remember, it was 1500 years before the Council of Trent solved the centuries-old problem of how to train priests by inventing the seminary. It may be that Pope Francis is trying to jump-start a similarly wonderful solution to the marriage problem. He knows this problem is pressing and needs to be solved better than it is. It's also pretty clear that no one really knows what to do about it right now, including the Pope. It's a good conversation to have, but people need to stop accusing the Pope of trying to suborn marriage when he's trying to heal it.

c said...

Odds of the three parties attending the same Catholic Church are slim. I say she was equally likely to be married by a Protestant minister as she was in a courthouse, invoking God as her witness. They don't quiz you about your history. Then she has a change of heart and returns to the Catholic Church, alone, without the new spouse, with kids. This is the real world and they are not kidding when they say these things are delicate. Interesting for Mr.Griffin to identify the wronged party as male, yet if the woman walks out, it does not make her the guilty one. Maybe she was protecting the children from his porn or his sloth. You will never know and it shouldn't concern you.