This week's subject matter raised another issue upon examination of my relatives in terms of adherence to the Catholic faith. It has to do with the failure of marriages, what we have called, perhaps somewhat euphemistically, divorce. Once a rarely uttered word, like abortion in that remote past time of my life, divorce has inflicted my extended family as it has the general population. While I had intended to make a count of the number of divorces among my relatives I failed to do the needed calculations. Doesn't matter, really. The point is that this cancer has done its share of damage and created an uncomfortable family tension. There are "ex-" husbands and wives and their children who have suffered the consequences of their separated parents. There is the awkwardness of family gatherings, either on account of the missing spouse or else upon his unexpected presence. Most of all for me, there is the matter of the Catholic faith. For us, marriage is not only a lifelong pledged agreement of fidelity and commitment to a life lived in common, it is also a sacrament, a sacred union that derives its lifeblood from Christ. Every Catholic marriage failure is a manifestation of some personal sins, that is, of offenses against God's laws. To glibly ascribe divorce to 'irreconcilable differences' masks the transcendental meaning of divorce as sin. Unlike a so-called private sin, failed marriage does harm to at least one other person, and often to more, and this in the wider family relationships, in society generally, and in the Church specifically. We are a weaker, restive Church for prevalence of divorce since marriage is symbolically a reflection of the undivorceable marriage of Christ and the Church. Our Lord is always the faithful groom, and His people are collectively His bride. He pledged His life in sacrifice to win this spouse for Himself by His meritorious death. He will never retract His marital vows to her. The fidelity of the Church espoused to Christ is expressed in her adhesion to His teachings and in the refusal to prefer sin to His grace. The high incidence of divorce among Catholic spouses is symptomatic of the infidelity of many Catholic people to their baptismal marriage "vows" to Christ. Their total acceptance of Catholic belief (doctrine) and their determined abstention from a sinful manner of life have too often been set aside either for some other religion or for some other way of life. Divorce is only the outward sign of the internal marital infidelity of the Church membership to Christ.
Our familiarity with divorce can inure us to being mindful and sensitive to it symbolic significance in terms of the faith. The response to divorce among Catholic people must always be fidelity to Christ's doctrines and to His commandments. Instead of this only permissible solution, proposals to accommodate our Lord's teachings and His laws are being seriously considered by the pope, some bishops and priests, and by some desperately but deludedly hopeful divorced and re0cohabitating couples (I say not "remarried"). Behind this scandalous suggestion is the idea that if one cannot abide by the law (in this case, divine law) then the law itself should be abrogated, or at least adjusted to present circumstances. This is the most pernicious aspect of what's being advocated by the allowing divorced and re-"married" people (without Church annulment) to receive the sacraments without the necessary requirement of total continence (the non-use of the marital act). The reason why this is so grievous is that, if admitted, it would unravel the whole moral law of God and all the Church discipline concerning what is sacred. In brief, by it the whole Catholic and Christian faith would be cast away. All would be remade or readjusted, as if to force God into submission to man's weaknesses rather than insist on wek man's obedience to God. Thus one would have the triumph of man over God. The great 'divorce' would have been achieved and God's marriage to the church would be undone.
The rebellion against the traditional biblical and ecclesiastical understanding of marriage and the sacraments has seeds in the souls of everyone who regrets the binding force that God's natural law has upon him. It expresses an old resentment that God should make demands upon humanity, demands that defy man's beastly craving for limitless freedom from strictures. Those who decry the outrageous proposals for change in the church's laws governing marriage and the sacraments are those who are themselves beset with the disorder of original sin's residue; yet they rightly insist that God's laws are irrevocable, unreformable by anyone: pope, bishop, layman. In the still raging controversy over Catholic re-"marriage" and reception of the sacraments one ought to take a more inclusive, panoramic view of what this means. It is the preamble to a declaration of war of man against God, of human willfulness over obedience to Him, of a divorce and a riddance of the divine Groom who ever remains faithful despite His spouses' menacing threats of desertion.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Fr. Perrone: Divorce
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, October 22, 2017):