Tuesday, April 11, 2017

More light on a persistent confusion

Mats Wahlberg,"The Two Faces of Amoris Laetitia" (First Things, April 4, 2017), writes:
Two completely different—and logically incompatible—arguments in favor of communion for the divorced and remarried have figured in the synodal process that led up to Amoris Laetitia. Despite their incompatibility, both arguments can be found in Amoris itself, at least according to many of the document’s interpreters. Here is one of the arguments:
A) Living in a new sexual relationship after a divorce from a valid marriage can in some cases be objectively morally good or at least morally acceptable, namely in cases where the new relationship is so established that the well-being of children and other innocent persons would be jeopardized if the couple were to separate or attempt to live as “brother and sister.” Jeopardizing the well-being of innocent persons would be unjust, which is to say immoral, and this means that the morally right course of action is to preserve and nurture the new relationship. This is why persons who are in this kind of situation can receive communion.
Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, has no doubt that this is how Pope Francis reasons: “Francis would be sympathetic to the woman who put her husband through law school waiting tables but then got dumped for a pretty, younger associate. She is now married to a loving plumber who is a good father to the children from both marriages. Telling her to abandon her new husband or live as brother and sister is not only absurd, it is unjust” (National Catholic Reporter, Dec 8 2016, my emphasis). However, some other commentators who embrace communion for the divorced and remarried reject this argument out of hand. According to them, the pope reasons like this:
B) Living in a sexual relationship after a divorce from a valid marriage is always objectively gravely immoral, but various factors can diminish or even remove subjective guilt. So while the situation itself is gravely sinful, the persons involved in it need not be in a state of mortal sin. This is why some of them can receive communion.
The philosopher Rocco Buttiglione advances this interpretation. “Sexual relations outside of marriage are without doubt gravely contrary to the moral law. This was the case before Amoris Laetitia, this is still the case in Amoris Laetitia. … Again, there is no doubt as to whether [the divorced and remarried person] is living in an objective situation of grave sin, except in the limited case of an invalid marriage. Whether he or she is carrying the full subjective responsibility and is at fault remains to be seen” (L’Osservatore Romano, July 19 2016).
Then, skipping ahead to the conclusion, we read:
Since Argument A is very persuasive, taken on its own terms, it is no wonder that intelligent and faithful Catholics feel its pull and are moved to advocate what they see as a merciful pastoral solution for people in difficult marriage situations. And it is no wonder that faithful Catholics prefer to defend this pastoral solution in terms of another, incompatible argument—the arguably orthodox Argument B—that allows them to claim that no doctrine has changed. However, this double play can only go on for so long in “good faith.” And the time when Arguments A and B could be innocently confused is over.
Now, go back and read the detailed argument in between at the original source.