4 December 2014

Ratzinger on Marriage

Benedict XVI, as we all know, has revised for republication an earlier piece on the Admission of Remarried Divorcees to Holy Communion. Both his old and his new texts are at Chiesa.

Brief points: (1) I sense that the Pope Emeritus is rather attracted by the idea that the Matthaean Exception (porneia) is an addition to the authentic words of Jesus which are to be found in S Mark. This whole question is rather amusing. Liberal 'Biblical Criticism' tends to believe in the Priority of Mark ... and thus to favour his record of the verba Domini ... except in this one matter, where they inconsistently clutch at the Matthaean Exception because its content happens to suit them. Traditional Catholics tend to dislike this sort of way of handling Scripture, and accordingly feel obliged to accept the Matthaean Exception ... and are then lumbered with the problem of finding an explanation of it. (The solution propounded by Fr Mankowski in Remaining in the Truth of Christ is attractive and well-argued, but, frankly, is one theory among many.) Benedict XVI ... like Aslan ... is not predictable!
(2) Benedict XVI gives an account of the evolution of the 1983 CIC of which I, for one, was unaware.
(3) He also seems open to development in the matter of 'baptized Pagans', about whom he writes with great pastoral compassion.

Points of my own:
(4) Some 'previous unions' may not have been sacramental unions if the baptism of one of the partners was performed by a minister of a non-Catholic ecclesial community who failed validly to confer that Sacrament. A possible area here, surely, for the exercise of the 'Petrine Privilege'? This situation is commoner than is often assumed by all the 'ecumenical' rhetoric about 'united by Baptism'.
(5) A wild and irresponsible speculation: if a 'first marriage' was disastrous and brief, while a 'second' has lasted a long time and been in every way apparently fruitful, might that fact be empirical and strictly supplementary evidence as to which 'marriage', being valid, was a source of Grace?
(6) Current praxis maintains the validity of a first union until its invalidity is juridically demonstrated. Might we be moving into a social order in which it will  sometimes quite simply be a matter of complete uncertainty whether or not a particular union was valid? Suppose, for example, the validity of this marriage, which is now under investigation, depends upon the invalidity of another wedding 30 years ago ... and, upon examination, that union depends for its invalidity upon another marriage 30 years before that having been valid? How will the Church judge these matters when Western Society has lived for two ... then three ... four ... generations of endemic Divorce, and those whose evidence would be necessary for a tribunal to adjudicate, are long-since dead?

There is no doubt that we are living in a world in which mores and their presuppositions have changed so very radically that the safe assumptions of half a century ago no longer apply. I am not sure that we are still in a position of being able merely to apply inherited rule-of-thumb.

For a variety of reasons, I have after some thought resolved not to enable comments on this post. I take this opportunity of apologising for my discourtesy to those who took the time to write to me, by not having made this decision earlier. 

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