Saturday, March 07, 2015

Great post by Fr. Hunwicke

Fr. Hunwicke,"Bishop Kirk and the coming Synod" (Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment, 7 March 2015):

Final part of a sermon I recently preached at Solemn [Ordinariate] Evensong and Benediction in the Blackfriars' Church in Oxford.

 ... The Christian Faith is a coherent and integrated whole. Every bit fits in with every other bit. Drop just one single bit out, and you throw the whole complex unity into disarray. Perhaps you will allow me, in conclusion, to take a topical example of this; topical, because we are at this precise moment immersed in the fascinating if febrile period between last year's Synod and this year's Synod. And so Marriage is very much in the mind of each of us. And, of course, fallen human nature being what it is, when we say we're thinking about Marriage, it seems to turn out to mean that we're thinking about Divorce. That's the way that Screwtape and his associates have adjusted our philology. And the Lord said that Divorce is impossible; in fact, he said it so clearly that the way He actually put it was that if you get divorced and then "marry again", you'll really only be living in adultery. I've often wondered if there is any way, in any human language, in which the point could be made more plainly and more ... I dare to say ... 'offensively'.

Now ... side by side with the Lord's teaching ... let us set some remarkable words from S Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. He likens the nuptial covenant between husband and wife to that equally nuptial covenant, the 'mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church'.

You see, I'm sure, the bearing of all this. If a valid and consummated Christian marriage is as indissoluble as the union between Christ and His Church, it follows that the union between Christ and His Church is as indissoluble as that between husband and wife. Or, to put it the other way round, the union between Christ and His Church is as soluble and it is as breakable as marriage. Advocacy of remarriage after divorce is constructively tantamount to saying that the Lord may desert His Church and could renounce His nuptial covenant with her.

I think I had better come clean. The point I'm making is, in fact, disgracefully plagiarised. I have lifted this exposition from a magisterial book called Marriage and Divorce by a very great pontiff, Kenneth Escott Kirk, Lord Bishop of Oxford between 1937 and 1954 and sometime Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology in this University, which he wrote in the context of the English Divorce Act of 1937. Bishop Kirk makes with concise precision the point I have laboured in this homily; a point which Cardinal Hume once made by saying that our holy Faith is not a la carte. We accept it table d'hote, because it is a perfectly integrated and interlinked whole. Tear out one element, and the whole cardigan unravels. I'm sure Bishop Kirk would have been an Ordinariate Man ... we would have had to learn to refer to him as Monsignor Kirk ... so I'll end with his own words.

"To plead for divorce with the right to second marriage is to ignore the whole of this constructive theology which relates the union of the sexes to that of Christ and His Church, and thereby to deny the unity of purpose which runs through the whole scheme of God's activity both in the natural and in the supernatural sphere. ...

"The Christian tradition of the indissolubility of marriage does no more than give effect to S Paul's great teaching, in which our Lord's precepts about marriage are set in the framework of the unity of God's purpose. To deny that tradition, therefore, is to cast doubt upon the very nature of God, and the modes of activity in which He has manifested Himself to man."
 [Hat tip to L.S.]