The Marriage Crisis In The Catholic Church
Rorate has published a new version of the article the marriage crisis with the following forward:
After receiving a detailed critique of the section on Theology of the Body in the essay below, the author has seen fit to clarify certain parts of that section as well as that on Amoris Laetitia. There follows the corrected and revised version of the essay by Fr. Pietro Leone, a traditional priest in Italy.
The Church and Asmodeus
Don Pietro Leone
A spiritu fornicationis
invocation from the Litany of the Saints
Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote to Cardinal Caffara that the final clash between the Devil and the Church would be in the area of the family and marriage. A dispassionate survey of recent Church history serves to assure us that the clash has already begun, that is to say with the entry into the Church of the Demon Asmodeus: the spirit of fornication.
The question that we wish to address in this essay is how Holy Mother Church, Who has for 2,000 years resisted, been able to overcome, and indeed been purged and exalted by,all the cruel and inhuman violence of her persecutors and all the abstruse subtleties of the heretics, is now succumbing to something as base and as primitive as the concupiscence of the flesh.
To attempt to answer this question, we shall briefly present:
1) The Church’s traditional attitude to sexuality, in contrast to that of the World;
2) The attitude to sexuality of the modern Church (or rather of the modern Churchmen) from the time of the Second Vatican Council to the accession of Pope Francis; and finally
3) The attitude manifest in the encyclical AmorisLaetitia.
SEXUALITY IN THE EYES OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD
- a) The Nature of Sexuality
In the eyes of the Church, sexuality has a finality: it is a faculty of the human person oriented to procreation. Since procreation necessitates the existence of a marriage and a family for its proper use, sexuality belongs within marriage and the family, and sexualitythus falls within marital ethics.
In the eyes of the World, by contrast, sexuality does not necessarily belong to marriage or fall within marital ethics, but rather has its own ethics, that is to say sexual ethics. To the Church the atomic cell is marriage; to the World it is sexuality.
To the World, again, sexuality does not have a ‘finality’, or orientation, as such. Rather, as sense-love, it is an end in itself and speaks for itself;it does not require justification, even if it impels the agent to act counter to reason. Indeed the very conceptof ‘finality’is distasteful to the children of the World1, because their Weltanschauung is essentially subjectivist and self-centred. In a word, they are interested only in their own finality (or desires), and in not that of God, Who, according to them, may very possibly not exist at all.
1 as to Modern Philosophers in general
Their conception of sexuality ranges from the superficial to the worldly-wise: from the conception simply of something which brings pleasure,alone or with another irrespective of the other’s age, sex, or marital status; to the conception of love between two adults, male and female, but which is typically not confined to marriage alone. Sexuality, according to them, has its own dynamic: it grows, fades, dies, brings pleasure but also sadness; it attaches to one person and then to another; it is as variable and as bittersweet as life itself.
- b) The Evaluation of Sexuality
The Church teaches that sexuality, being a sense faculty, is, in our fallen human nature, and as a consequence of Original Sin, disordered. Like all the operations of the senses and the emotions, it must therefore be controlled and kept in check by the cardinal virtue of moderation, which in the area of sexuality is known as ‘chastity’. Marriage,in providing the context for the proper use of sexuality, is termed ‘the remedy for concupiscence’. For those who are married, chastity signifies moderation of the use and pleasures of this faculty; for the unmarried it signifies total abstinence.
Apart from chastity, there is another virtue which the Church advocates in the sexual domain, and that is modesty, or the sense of shame, pudor. This virtue relates to demeanour, dress, and speech. Indeed sexuality is not discussed by committed Catholics except with the utmost tact and discretion.
The World, by contrast, views sexuality as good in an unqualified sense, inasmuch as it belongs to human nature, which it also views as good in such a sense.‘God made me that way’, they are wont to say, about any desire that might afflict them.
The World is not interested in modesty. It advocates complete license in the exercise of sexuality, in dress, and in speech. It is open and candid when it comes to
this, its favourite topic. Jokes, double entendres, stories of affairs, ‘conquests’, and scandals are merrily bandied about as though a sure index of manliness and emancipation2.
2whereas quite the opposite is true: they are signs of effeminacy and self-indulgence: the incapacity to be a man, to take courage and responsibility; the index of enslavement to lower desires.
3 we note here that hedonism is incoherent, since self-indulgence brings sadness, while it is self-discipline (within the context of the Christian virtues) that brings happiness
c) The Abuse of Sexuality
Inasmuch as it is ordered to procreation, to the creation of beings after the image and likeness of God,for the conservation of the human race and for the population of Heaven, sexuality is ordered to a great good, and consequently its abuse is a great evil. For this reason the Church teaches that all sexual sins, all sins against purity, are of grave matter: whether alone or with another, whether both are single, or one or both are married to another, whether they are of a different or of the same sex, whether the sin is of the natural or unnatural order. If committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent, such sins, if not confessed before physical death, will merit the eternal death of Hell. Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin is a further mortal sin: that of sacrilege.
The World, by contrast, views this vision as exaggerated, puritanical, prudish, psychologically unenlightened, inhibited, repressive, killjoy, moralizing, pharisaic, ‘only for nuns’,‘positively medioeval’ and‘hopelessly out of step with the times’. The Children of the World defend themselves fromthe criticismof impurity by saying that they are ‘not harming any-one’. Thisthey saybecause they subscribe to hedonism, which constitutes the sum total of all their sexual ethics3.
In conclusion, then, the Church teaches that:
- a) Sexuality has a finalityand is ordained to procreation.
- b) Sexuality is in itself disordered;in marriage it is permitted as the ‘remedy of concupiscence’; it must be moderated by asceticism: by chastity and modesty.
- c) Its abuse is gravely sinful.
The World teaches, by contrast, that:
- a) Sexuality does not have a particular finality. Its use ispleasurable and a means for expressing love between two persons, not necessarily married to each other.
- b) It isunqualifiedly good, andis to be used and talked about with complete license.
- c) Its morality is determined by the canons of hedonism.
RECENT CHURCHMARITAL DOCTRINE UNTIL POPE FRANCIS
From the beginning of Her history, the Church had taught and practiced the ascetic life. In fact this is one of the features which distinguished Her from the World, and which indeed corroborates the very authenticity of Her Faith4. For how could She live, and convert such multitudes to, a mortified and chaste life so at variance with Fallen Nature, if the Faith which She preached were untrue?
4 cf. the preambula Fidei in the discipline of Apologetics
5 - all features of Fallen Nature. Their philosophical formation in particular was coloured by Modern Philosophy, which may be described as ‘The Philosophy of Fallen Nature’. Limits of space prevent the author from expounding the said notion at this point.
Until the XXth century, this spirit of asceticism had prevailed in the Church: until it began to be sapped byan opposing spirit: that of the World, namely of Fallen Nature. The latter spirit had, over the course of the centuries, grown in extent and power, and was now in the course of penetrating the minds and souls of the Churchmen themselves. Vacillating Faith, poor doctrinal formation,moral weakness, lack of courage, superficiality, and sentimentality5 on the part of the Hierarchy certainly all played a role in their subsequent endeavours to accommodate this spirit to the Catholic Faith. The moment for its official entry into the Church was marked by the Second Vatican Council.
As far as sexuality is concerned, this spirit is manifest in a new emphasis on an undefined ‘love’at the very heart of marital ethics.
This emphasisis first manifest in recent Magisteriumin the Council document Gaudium et Spes (§ 48), and was later codified by Canon Law (CIC 1983)in terms of a reversal of the order of the ends of marriage.The teaching of the Magisterium on sexuality was later notably affected and developed by official dispositions on the reception of Holy Communion, and by ‘Theology of the Body’.
Consequently we shall now proceed to examine:
1) The new conception of love in Gaudium et Spes, and then in Canon Law;
2) The relation between mortal sin and the reception of Holy Communion;
3) Relevant elementsof ‘Theology of the Body’.
- A. Gaudium et Spes
In the Second Vatican Council there was a move to place the two ends of marriage (procreation and conjugal love, see below) on the same level,contrary to the constant teaching of Tradition which hadculminated in the declaration of a commission of Cardinals set up by the Pastor Angelicus, and in his own express declaration only a decade prior to the Council6. The Dominican Master General, Cardinal Browne, rose with the words Caveatis! Caveatis!, and warned the assembly that to accept this definition would be to go against the entire Tradition of the Church and to pervert the whole meaning of marriage7, but his words were met with amusement by the Council Fathers8.
6 AAS XXVI, 1944; Address to the Italian Midwives, 1951.
7 as reported by Mgr. Lefèbvre,cf. Pope John’s Council p.67, Michael Davies, Augustine Publishing co. 1977
8as reported by Archbishop Dwyer, ibid.
9an eroticizing doctrine, as we shall shortly see
10 cf. ‘Family under Attack’.
11Matrimonii finis primarius est procreatio atque educatio prolis; secundarius mutuum adjutorium et remedium concupiscentiae.
12Matrimonialefoedus… ad bonumconjugumatqueadprolisgenerationem et educationemordinatum.
After a heated debate, an obscure compromisestatement was agreed upon, namely that: ‘By their very nature the marriage covenant and conjugal love are ordered to the procreation and education of children’(GS § 48). In the light of traditional marital ethics, this statement is orthodox in maintaining that both the marriage covenant and conjugal love are ordered to the procreation and education of children;it is open to heterodoxy, by contrast, in making a close connection between marriage and love, a connection which isin fact capable ofsupportingthe doctrine9 that marriage is love (as in the description of marriage as ‘an intimate partnership of married love and life’ at the beginning of the same section of GS), or the doctrine that marriage has love as its primary end (as already manifest in Humanae Vitae10,and as insinuated in the new canon, as we shall now see).
B. Canon Law
In the Code of Canon Law 1917(can. 1013) we read: ‘The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of progeny; the secondary end is the mutual assistance and the remedy of concupiscence11’.In The Code of 1983 (can. 1055) we read by contrast: ‘The marriagecovenant … is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children12’.
The later canon differs from the earlier one in that:
- i) The end previously taught as the primary end (the procreation and education of children) is placed after the one previously taught as the secondary end (the good of the spouses);
- ii) The good of the spouses is no longer defined at all: either as‘love’ or as anything else;
- iii) The goodof the spouses is not designatedas ‘primary’, nor is the good of the children designated as ‘secondary’, although the reversal of their order suggests this;
- iv) The remedy of concupiscence is no longer mentioned;
- v) The term ‘end’ is no longer mentioned either.
We shall now briefly consider in their relation to the new canon:
a) ‘The good of the spouses’;
b) ‘The remedy of concupiscence’;
c) The notion of finality.
a) The Good of the Spouses
We note that the term ‘the good of the spouses’, which signifies love, comes to be understood, in the absence of a definition,as emotional, and more particularly as sexual, love. The reason for this is that emotional love is the most obvious sense of ‘love’, and in the marital context the most obvious type of emotional love is of asexual nature13.
13 The same may be said of the description of marriage as an ‘intimate partnership of married life and love’, see above.
14 Pope Pius XII in his Address to Fathers of Families 1951, warning them of propaganda contrary to Church teaching
That the author of the canonintended the good of the spouses in a sexual sense is corroborated by his placing ‘the good of the spouses’ before the ‘procreation and education of children’, thereby suggesting that the love he refers to is indeed sexual love: as a means to the end of procreation.
In short, the canon, foreshadowed in Gaudium et Spes, has the eroticizing tendency that ‘sexual life... acquires in the mind and conscience of the average reader the idea and value of an end in itself 14’. This tendency was to intensify in subsequent Magisterium.
According to traditional doctrine, by contrast, the good of the spouses(conjugal love) is understood in the first placeas ‘mutual assistance’ and only in the second place as ‘the remedy of concupiscence’. Since mutual assistance is designated as secondary to the ‘procreation and education of the children’, it must clearly consist above all in
their collaboration for the primary end of their marriage: that is the procreation, and, in particular, the education of their offspring. The fact that ‘the remedy of concupiscence’ is mentioned after ‘mutual assistance’, signifies that the role that sexuality plays in marriage is a subordinate one.
b) The Remedy of Concupiscence
The Church teaches that sexuality is disordered as a consequence of Original Sin. This sin was the cause, amongst other things, of the concupiscence of the flesh which is a disorder, a lack of control, and a striving of the senses and the emotions for their own satisfaction independently of Reason. Marriage provides the ‘Remedy for Concupiscence’ in offering a suitable and honest context for the exercise of this faculty. In Traditional Church teaching, this aspect of marriage is designated either as the third finality of marriage, or, as here, as part of the second finality.
In suppressing this aspect of marriage, the innovators seem to treat sexuality as a purely natural phenomenon and as something intrinsically good, prescinding from the doctrine of Original Sin and from the negative light which it sheds on this faculty.
We have observed that the word finis(end, or finality) is missing from the new definition (as it already was in Gaudium et Spes). This corresponds to an aversion to scholastic thinking and terminology which characterizes the Second Vatican Council and recent Magisterium as a whole 15. The result is a lack of precision and clarity in general, and in this canon in particular. The end, or finality, of a thing determines its nature. The Church had always taught that the (primary) end of marriage is procreation. It is this that defines its nature: God instituted marriage for progeny.
15 Other examples are the doctrine that marriage is an ‘intimate partnership of married life and love’ (cf. GS 48), which is a psychological description rather than a theological definition in terms of the vinculum or spiritual bond (cf. the Catechism of Trent), and the doctrine that sexuality is ordered towards ‘conjugal love’ rather than towards procreation (see below).
What does it mean to say that marriage is ‘ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation of children’? Are the two elements on the same level, as the innovators had wished to declare in the Council? But if so, how can the nature of a single thing be determined by two disparate ends? Or is the former element the principal one because it is mentioned first? But if so, what would it mean to say that the principal end of marriage is ‘the good of the spouses’ or sexual love, as the canon insinuates (see above)?Is sexuality not itself oriented to procreation like the stomach for
digestion and the eye to sight?And does this not entail that the end of marriage is procreation after all? And in this case why not place procreation first?
In this subsection we have seen how traditional marital teaching has been obscured; and how ‘love’, and specifically sexual love, has been emphasized to the expense of concupiscence, finality, and procreation. In short, we have seen how subjectivism has gained the ascendancy over objective reality, and ‘positive’ over ‘negative’ elements.
Before proceeding to the next subsection, let us briefly show how the importance here accorded to sexual lovehas been corroborated by subsequent Magisterium.The new conception of marriagecodified in Canon Law (CIC 1983) has been quoted in various papal encyclicals such as FamiliarisConsortio, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church(§ 1601).Humanae Vitae likewise lends priority to marital ‘love’16.
16 Pope John Paul II will understand Theology of the Body as a commentary on this Encyclical (General Audience Nov. 28 1984), most famous, and rightly so, for its condemnation of contraception, but also, as Pope Paul VI admitted, and in conformity with Pope John Paul’s commentary, personalistic in spirit.
In that Catechism we also find the doctrine that ‘sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of the man and woman’ (§ 2360).Here conjugal love is understood as sexual love, and there is no longerevena mention of procreation.
A further novel doctrine on sexuality is found in the Catechism at § 2332: ‘Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others’.
But what does it mean to say that ‘Sexuality affects all the aspects of the human person’? How can it affect the purely spiritual aspect of the person, involved for example in his relationship with God? And how does it concern ‘the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others’? Bonds of communion can be forged or strengthened either rationally, as when I give alms to some-one, or emotionally, as when I express my affection for some-one. But sexuality certainly does not pertain to the former case, and it does not necessarily pertain to the latter either. The latter case involves sense-love, but sexual love is not the only form of sense-love that there is; there is also family love, for instance, as when a mother embraces her child.
Here sexuality is again accorded importance, this time by universalizing it, more in accordance with Freudian psychology than to any sane, let alone Catholic, anthropology.
From the promulgation of Gaudium et Spes onwards we see, then, an ever-intensifying spirit of eroticism in marital ethics.
2. MORTAL SINAND HOLY COMMUNION
The Traditional Doctrine
The Church has always warned faithful against receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin. In the Maundy Thursday liturgy and in the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Church in Her Old Rite liturgy presents for our meditation the passage from chapter 11 of the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians 11warning againstthe reception of Holy Communion to one’s damnation. On the latter feast, St. Thomas Aquinas himself, its author,pointedly repeats the phrase in the Communio prayer, that is to say during the distribution of the Holy Communion itself; and in the sequence LaudaSionhe unambiguously declares:
Sumunt boni sumunt mali,
sorte tamen inaequali,
vitae vel interitus.
Mors est malis, vita bonis:
vide paris sumptionis
quam sit dispar exitus.
The good receive, the evil receive, but their destiny is different: life or death. Death is for the evil, life is for the good: see how unequal is the outcome of an equal reception.
The Church teaches traditionally that any-one in the state of mortal sin must make a sacramental confession before receiving Holy Communion. Otherwise, when he attends Mass, he must refrain from communicating sacramentally and receive only a spiritual Communion. It is true that an act of perfect contrition outside the Sacrament of Confession suffices for absolving a person from mortal sin, but since it is impossible to know whether the contrition in any given case is perfect, the person in question would in effect be risking committing a further mortal sin by receiving Holy Communionin such circumstances, and therefore it would be wrong to do so.
Accordingly we read in the Catechism of St. Pius X (§ 630):‘...the person who knows that he is in a state of mortal sin must, before Communion, must make a
goodconfession; since it is not sufficient to make the act of perfect contrition, without confession, for some-one who is in mortal sin in order to communicate properly17’.
17Chi sa di essere in peccato mortale, che cosa deve fare prima di comunicarsi? Chi sa di essere in peccato mortale, deve, prima di comunicarsi, fare una buona confessione; non bastando l’atto di contrizione perfetta, senza la confessione, a chi è in peccato mortale per comunicarsi come conviene (n. 630).
18as observed in our booklet ‘The Destruction of the Roman Rite’
19 (quoted in Redemptoris Sacramentum ch. 4, 81) The Code of Canon Law is not infallible, nor does a subsequent version of it necessarily represent an improvement over a previous version. In this its canons are similar to the non-infallible declarations of a Council.
20 He is faced with a choix corneillien, but how is it that he does not have more respect for the sacred priesthood, of which he bears the indelible and eternal character in his soul? Did he never study such doctrines? Did his seminary confessor never avert him to the gravity of such sacrileges?
The New Doctrine
Both in the new liturgy and in recent Church Magisterium, we find that theabove- described traditional doctrinehas been diluted.
In the Novus Ordo18 St. Paul’s admonition against receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin has been excised from the liturgy both of Maundy Thursday and of Corpus Christi (intwo instances in the latter feast, see above). Furthermore, the Sequence LaudaSion has been made optional; alternatively a shorter version has been provided (see for example the ‘American Bishops’ Site’) which no longer contains the two verses quoted above.
As for recent Magisterium, we read in the Code of Canon Law: ‘A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible’ ( CIC 1983 can. 91619).
The Canon refers in the first instance to priests, but clearly applies to laymen as well. It justifies Holy Communion for a‘grave reason’ but what could this grave reason possibly be? For a priest it could perhaps be the obligation to celebrate a Mass for a given congregation20, but what could it be for a layman? What could constitute a reason grave enough to risk a sacrilegious Communion? Embarrassment at what others might think or say? Human respect? ‘Solidarity’ with the couple whose marriage he is attending for example? The thought that Holy Communion might somehow help himto overcome his sin?
We observe that this canon, already questionable enough in itself, is quoted in an abbreviated form in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows (§ 1457):‘Any-
one who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion even if he experiences deep contrition, without first having received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession’.Here only two of the conditions listed in the canon are explicitly quoted, namely the impossibility of a sacramental confession and the ‘grave reason’;the act of contrition is mentioned, but not explicitly as a condition; whereas the fourth condition, namely the resolution to confess as soon as possibleafter Holy Communion, has been entirely left out.
The modern clergy seems, by contrast, typically toinsist only on the fourthcondition, for all too often laymenwill blithely announce to a Confessor that a priest had told him that it was sufficient to confess after receiving Communion. What is most remarkable here is thelack of logical coherence on the part of all concerned.
If we still lived in the happy age and territory of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Emperor had expressed his intention to visit us in our home, would it be sufficient to welcome him into a stuffy apartment with curtains drawn, unmade beds, unwashed clothes andplates,dust, dirt, and piles of rubbish everywhere, and assure him that the next day we would be cleaning the whole place up for his visit?
The more permissive stance of the Church in regard to the reception of Holy Communion is relevant to the issue of sexuality, inasmuch as belittling the gravity of Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin, it belittles the gravity of mortal sin itself, of which impurity is, sad to say, one of the most common forms.
However much these liturgical and magisterial innovations may have affected the faithful’s understanding of the gravity of impurity, we must in all honesty admit that the clergy in recent times has been far from assiduous in inculcating true Christian values pertaining to this sin and to its opposing virtue.
When, o Gentle Reader, did you last hear a sermon on the glory of purity or the abomination of impurity? When did you last hear a priest warn the congregation not to receive Holy Communion after committing an act of impurity, even alone? When didhe last admonish you in the confessional on the danger of impurity for the salvation of your eternal soul or when did he ever encourage you to offer to God the sacrifice of a life of perfect chastity21?
21We mention in this connection of the suppression on the part of the Vatican Hierarchy of the initiative to make St. Aloysius Gonzaga patron of the youth. Even if this action, which we have been unable to substantiate, did not occur, it would be typical of the contemporary Church outlook towards purity.
3. ‘THEOLOGY OF THE BODY’
Faithful attending Pope John Paul II’s Angelus discourses from September 1979 –November 1984 and hoping for catechism or pious disquisitions, would surely have been disappointed. Instead they were to hear him propound in all freedom his personal theories of sexual morality. We shall here briefly examine the personalistic ‘Theology of the Body’22, having already discussed it in detail in our book.We shall consider forthwith:
22 ‘Theology of the Body’ may be understood to consist esentially of this corpus of discourses, but we shall understand it in a wider sense so as also to comprise Pope John Paul’s marital doctrine as elsewhere expressed, as for example in Familiaris Consortio, which, as a Papal Encyclical, has in any case greater authority than the Discourses.
- a) Its formal principle: the conception of conjugal love as total self-giving;
- b) Its most remarkable feauture, that of the undue elevation of conjugal love;
- c) Its root error.
- A. Total Self-Giving Love
It is our contention that the formal principle (or central conception) of Theology of the Body is the conception of conjugal love as ‘total self-giving’. Whereas recent Magisterium presents conjugal love as sexual love, Pope John Paul II presents conjugal love as ‘total self-giving’, distinguishing two types of it: a ‘total personal self-giving’, which is the conjugal love in the permanent sense, and a ‘total physical self-giving’ which is the act of conjugal love, ‘the sign and the fruit’ of the former love (Familiaris Consortio §11).
We proceed to criticize the conception of conjugal love as ‘total self-giving’; and then the relation of conjugal love (so conceived) to God’s love.
1) Total Self-Giving Love as a Definition of Conjugal Love
There are various difficulties with this definition, of which we shall here present only three.
a) To define conjugal love as ‘total self-giving’ is effectively to divinize it, for to define it as such identifies it with the love of Charity, which is in fact the only total self-giving love which exists. We recall Our Blessed Lord’s commandment to love God with a total love (ex toto corde tuo...), but the neighbour with a lesser love, that is, ‘as oneself’;
b) It is in fact impossible for one human person to give himself totally to another human person, whether on the metaphysical or on the physical plane.
c) If we reduce the content of ‘total self-giving’ love to that which is practicablypossible for married couples, namely to a life of mutual commitment and devotion, we see that the form of love thus understood is too wide in ambit for the
Pope’s purposes. This is because itis not confined to sacramental marriage alone, as he intends, but ratheris a property of every valid form of marriage, and even of certain extramarital relationships, provided that the two persons in question (for example two non-believers of whom at least one is a baptized Catholic, or even two adulterers) commit themselves to live together until death with the appropriate sentiments of mutual devotion.
2) Total Self-Giving Love in Relation to God’s Love for Man and for Himself
The Pope does not stop at relating the act of conjugal love to man’s love for God23, but seeks to divinize it yet further, by relating it both to the love of God for man, and to that of God for Himself. In consequence his conception of conjugal love approaches Church teaching on Charity even more closely.
23the love of man for God immediately (rather than his love for God mediately through theneighbour)
24 cf. also Mulieris Dignitatem 1988
25 in Familiaris Consortio §19 and §22 he offers an ethical basis for this mutuality in their equal dignity.
The love of God for man that the Pope has in mind is Christ’s love for His Church.
He relates conjugal love to this love in various ways, of which we shall mention three.
- a) The Church’s Subjection to Christ
Thisconcept is expressed in Ephesians 5: 22. ‘Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord.23. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, he who is the saviour of his body. 24.And as the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives be subject to their husbands in everything’. It is clear, and has always been taught by Holy Mother Church, that St. Paul is hereby teaching that the husband has authority over the wife.
The Pope, by contrast, interprets this phrase as the spouses’ mutual subjection in marriage: in general (Discourse of 11 August 198224); and in their sexual complementarity in particular (4 July 1984)25.
In the former discourse the Pope accepts that the wife be subject to her husband, but adds: ‘Love makes the husband simultaneously subject to the wife, and thereby subject to the Lord Himself, just as the wife to the husband’. In the latter discourse he again understands spousal subjection in a reciprocal, and in this instance also in a sexual, manner: as ‘a spiritually mature form of... mutual attraction’.
In conclusion, then, the Pope attempts to subsume the wife’s subjection to her husband to a form of reciprocal subjection, but then why does St. Paul here insist on
the unilateral submission of the wife to the husband no less than three times (in the verses 22-24 quoted above)? In neither discourse does the Pope quote, discuss, or even mention verse 23, which describes the husband as ‘head of the wife’ which particularly clearly entails his authority over her.
The reason he gives for this innovation is the difference of ‘contemporary sensitivity’, of ‘mentality and customs’, of ‘social position of women in regard to men’ (Discourse, August 11 1982). But is the husband then no longer ‘head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church’? Have St. Paul and Tradition been put in second place to the modern world? and Truth to ‘sensitivity’?
- b) The ‘Union in one Flesh’ as a Sign of Christ’s Union with the Church
The Pope understands thisphrase of the spouses’ carnal union.The Council of Trent, by contrast, understands thephraseof the unity of the spouses’ spiritual bond.
- c) The Expression of Agape
The Pope presentsthe conjugal act as ‘the most profound expression of Agape’. Here he confuses two radically different forms of love: natural sense-love (not necessarily in the state of Grace) and supernatural rational love which is a participation in the Inner Life of God (that is to say Agape, or Charity). The former love is too different from the latter to be able to serve as its expression26.
26 Of course it may amount to Charity if the agent is in the state of Grace.
27 A doctrine is of course not Catholic simply because it is based on Sacred Scripture, as the Pope does. Martin Luther based his teachings on the Sacred Scripture but was a heretic. What is necessary is to base doctrines on the Sacred Scriptures as they have been interpretated by the Church and Tradition. For this reason we speak above of the Pope’s ‘personal theories’.
A similar objection may be made to the Pope’s vision of the conjugal act as an expression of innerTrinitarian love, which is certainly the boldest claim in his whole theology of marriage. As an instance of this doctrine we quote (Discourse Nov.14 1979): ‘Man images God not only through his humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning’, and (June 25 1980): ‘Being one flesh is a sacramental expression which corresponds to the communion of persons’.
We see in conclusion how the Pope endeavours to relate conjugal love to God’s love in novel and eroticizing ways, without foundation either in Sacred Scripture27 or in Tradition.
- B. The Undue Elevation of Conjugal Love
1. Divinization and Finalization
We have explained how conjugal love is elevated by its divinization: its assimilation to the divine love of Charity.
By assimilating conjugal love to Charity, the Pope not only divinizes it, but also finalizes it, presenting it as a way of fulfilling the meaning of man’s life. Forsince God is the sum total of all good and all perfections, the raison d’être of any given thing is determined by its imitation of some good or perfection of God Himself. The perfection of God which man in particular is capable of imitating is His knowledge, and, above all, the love of Himself. This love, as we have explained above, is a total self-giving love. By claiming that conjugal love amounts to total self-giving love, the Pope then in effect claims that man can fulfill his raison d’être by conjugal love (including the act proper to it). Indeed the Pope asserts explicitly that total self-giving love in marriage enables the ‘accomplishment of the true meaning of one’s own being and one’s own existence’( 16 Jan. 1980).
2. Consequences of the Undue Elevation of Conjugal Love
There are two types of consequence that flow from this undue elevation of conjugal love: an internal type, that is to say a type of consequence for other doctrines that go to make up Theology of the Body, and an external type, for the way in which this system is generally understood as a whole.
- a) Internal Consequences
Nowif conjugal love is elevated to the level that we have just described, then it clearly cannot coherentlybe presented as negative in any way, whether by reason of concupiscence(in the sense ofthe inherent disorder of the sensitive appetite), or in its relation to virginity and celibacy.
- i) Concupiscence
Sexual concupiscence is combatted with the virtue of chastity: which means total abstinence outside of marriage, or moderation within marriage. Total abstinence combined with vigilance over the will and the imagination are sufficientto avoid the taint of concupiscence on our actions; moderation in the use of the sexual faculty within marriage is, by contrast, insufficient to avoid this taint completely, owing to the inherently disordered nature of the faculty as a consequence of Original Sin. Marriage does however offer a context for the non-sinful exercise of the sexual
faculty, despite its inherent disorder. This is what the term‘remedy of concupiscence’ signifies (see above).
Pope John Paul II does not of course deny the existence of concupiscence as a source of sin, but neglects that it is inherent to the conjugal act, even if not in a sinful manner. For this reason he is able to state (Discourse October 29, 1980): ‘Through Grace the Holy Spirit impregnates sexual desires with everything that is noble and beautiful’, and (September 26, 1979) is able to talk of ‘Original Innocence’ as of something which in some sense is still accessible to man.
- ii) Marriage in Relation to Virginity and Celibacy
The Council of Trent declares dogmatically (s. 24 can.10): ‘If any-one were to say... that it is not more blessed and better to remain in virginity or celibacy than in marriage: Anathema sit’. Si quisdixerit… non esse meliusacbeatiusmanere in virginitate aut caelibatu, quam matrimonio: Anathemasit.
In line with this teaching, Pope John Paul II (Discourse, July 7 1982) refers to St. Paul’s words that ‘Whoever chooses marriage does well, while whoever chooses virginity… does better’ (I Cor 7. 38), and continues: ‘… let us remember that according to St. Paul, the unmarried person is anxious… how to please the Lord’ (I Cor 7.32). To please the Lord has love as its foundation. This foundation arises from a further comparison. The unmarried person is anxious about how to please God, while the married man is anxious how to please his wife’.
In another passage (Discourse, April 14 1982) the same Pope, referring to Our Blessed Lord’s statement (Mt 19. 10-2): ‘There are those who made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’, declares that these words: ‘give no reason to assert the inferiority of marriage, nor the superiority of virginity or celibacy inasmuch as by their nature virginity and celibacy consist in abstinence from the conjugal union of the body…, but only for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven’.
In this second passage, he again admits the superiority of virginity or celibacy, that isfor the motive of the Kingdom of Heaven (which is clearly equivalent to that of the love of God). But he specifies that the motive for its superiority is this,rather thanthat of abstinence from the conjugal act. And yet it is impossible to divorce the one motive from the other. For virginity or celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven/for the (perfect) love of God, essentially consists in total abstinence from conjugal love, which is precisely that which lends this state of life its character of supernatural sacrifice in which resides its very superiority.
This reluctance to demean the conjugal act in any way corresponds to a tendency to place the two states of life on the same level. And indeed thePope declares
(FamiliarisConsortio § 11): ‘Christian Revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person in its entirety to love: marriage and virginity or celibacy’28.
28in a similar way we read of a ‘vocation to marriage’ in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1603).
29In conformity with this view, we note Pope John Paul II’s initiatives to raise to the honour of the altar married individuals and couples.
This third passage presents bothstates of life as objects of vocation, as ways to love in a total sense, and consequently as possessingan equal moral value. As such it may be said to place the two states on the same level. This conflicts with the Council of Trent as it does with the second passage above.The second passage in particular had presented the virginal or celibate state as superior to the married state on the basis of a disparity of love,whereas this third passage (from FamiliarisConsortio) places the two states on the same level on the basis of a parity of love.
In conclusion, we observe incoherence in the way that the Pope relates the two states of life: at one time viewing the virginal/celibate state as superior; at another time viewing the two states as of equal value. The latter view,on account of its foundation in a central principle of his thought, namely that of total self-giving love, must be held to be the predominant view29.
- b) External Consequences of the Undue Elevation of Conjugal Love
The elevation of conjugal love also has consequences for the way in which Theology of the Body is generally understood.
Pope John Paul II, as we have explained, divinizes conjugal love by designatingit as ‘total self-giving love’. But since conjugal love is understood by the World and is presented by recent Magisterium (see above) as sexual love, this divinization is generally understood as a divinization of sexual love.
The same Pope equally divinizes the act of conjugal love, that is to say by designating it as ‘total self-giving’, but since the total self-giving of the conjugal act (in so far as it is realizable by the spousesin their mutual commitment and devotion, see above) may exist even outside marriage, this divinization is also generally understood as a divinization of sexual love.
The divinization of the conjugal act (in the Pope’s teaching) and that of the sexual act and sexual love in general (as the Pope’s teaching is generally understood) is clearly at variance with Catholic sensibilities, and less consonant with the Catholic Faith than with the clouded vagaries of Fallen Nature and the perverse lucubrations of its mouthpiece, Gnosis. It is atparticular variance with the Catholic Faith and
sensibilities when such a loveis presented as an expression of the Inner Life of the Most Holy Trinity30.
30A dozen or so years ago an employee of the Propaganda of the Doctrine of the Faith informally and in so many words admitted the fallacy of Theology of the Body to the author in a conversation at the Sant’Ufficio.The fact that this system of Theology sustains a Trinitarian doctrine of the sort that which we have just mentioned should suffice to show its fallacy to any-one possessed of a Catholic sensibility, even if he were unconvinced by our critique of it above. To find such concepts in the Catholic Magisterium and in the mouth of the Vicar of Christ himself, is testimony to the remarkable expansion of eroticism in the bosom of the Catholic Church in the twenty years following the promulgation of Gaudium et Spes.
31cf. our discussion of ethical personalism in ‘Family under Attack’
The fact that this divinization has been made at the expense of the true divine love, that of Charity, constitutes a substitution, or eclipse, of Charity (and of its perfection, sanctity) by sexuality. This is true even if the Pope did not intend such an effect, and even if he did not devote more thoughts and words in his Pontificate to sexuality than to sanctity.
- C. The Root Error of Theology of the Body
We have contended that the formal principle of Theology of the Body is the conception of conjugal love as ‘total self-giving’. This is a personalist principle of the moral order. It is grounded in a personalist principle of the ontologicalorder, namely that love determines personhood31.
These principles apparently derive from Trinitarian theology which teaches that:
- i) within the Most Holy Trinity the Relations constitute the Persons(so for example Divine Fatherhood constitutes the Divine Father);
- ii) the love between the Divine Persons is one of (total) self-gift.
Applying these two principles to marital ethics, we see how Pope John Paul II can claim that the love between the spouses is one of total self-gift, and that this love constitutes their personhood: makes them what they are as persons.
We must however object that what is true of the Most Holy Trinity is not true of marital ethics, nor indeed of (human) interpersonal ethics in general. As to the first point, we have argued above that marital love is not a total self-giving; as to the second, love does not determine human personhood ontologically, but only morally. Ontologically the person is a unity of body and soul and his actions (such as his love) are a consequence of his nature(agere sequitur esse) rather than determinative of his nature.
In synthesis, the root error of Theology of the Body is the misapplication of Trinitarian theology to marital ethics.
From the theological standpoint, this error is one of the confusion of the supernatural and natural orders; from the philosophical standpoint it is one of subjectivism: a disregard for the objective order - the concrete objective reality of things - whether that of Faith or Reason, in favour of the subject.
We have seen evidence of this subjectivismabove in the person being understood in terms of his ‘love’, in abstraction from human nature andfrom body and soul; in marriage being conceived in terms of ‘total self-giving’ in abstraction from the sacrament, the bond, and Grace; in its elevation without regard either for concupiscence or for its inferiority to celibacy/virginity; in its assimilation to Christ’s love for the Church in untraditional and eroticizingways.
Before proceeding to examine the encyclical of Pope Francis, we shall briefly investigate the influence of the spirit of the World onmarital ethics in the recent Magisterium, in the light of our brief synthesis of that spirit above.
In the first subsection, on Gaudium et Spes and the modified code of Canon Law, we saw how the concept of the finality of marriage was suppressed and how ‘procreation’ then moved into the background and ‘conjugal love’ into the foreground.We then observed how this love acquired an erotic content whichwas to intensify over the succeeding years.
In the second subsection, on the liturgical changes and on a new code of Canon Law, we saw how the gravity of mortal sins was (indirectly) belittled.
In the third subsection, on ‘Theology of the Body’, we saw how conjugal love, and particularly the act of conjugal love, was glorified, and how‘negative’ concupiscence was played down. We witnessed a complete openness, or license, on the part of the Pope in talking aboutsuch matters. At the same timewe sawnothing in his words to diminish the gravity of impurity. In fact one of the great strengths of this Pontiff’s moral teaching is his upholding of the Natural Law, and his consequent insistence on the virtue of purity32.
32We do not deny that Pope John Paul II wrote much that was Catholic and true, and much in supportof chastity and purity, also in his discourses on Theology of the Body.
How can we doubt that this encyclical, publically called into question by the same Cardinal Caffarra(amongst others) to whom Sister Lucia had written, is not part of the clash between the Church and Satan that we have mentioned above?
In this brief glance at AmorisLaetitia we consider marriage, adultery, and ‘sex education’.
- a) Marriage in Itself
The Exhortation AmorisLaetitiastates in § 80: ‘Marriage is firstly an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ which is a good for the spouses themselves, while sexuality is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman’... Nonetheless the conjugal union is ordered to procreation by its very nature’.
In the footnotes, four references are provided for this text: Gaudium et Spes § 48 with regard to the ‘intimate partnership’; the Code of Canon Law (1983) c.1055 with regard to the ‘good of the spouses’33; the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2360 with regard to the ordering of sexuality to conjugal love; Gaudium et Spes § 48 again with regard to the ordering of marriage to procreation.
33cf. Footnote 9 above
There are two things to note when comparing this passage of the Exhortation with recent Magisterium:
1) It representsa step forward, inasmuch as it now explicitly presents married love as the primary end of marriage(‘Marriage is firstly...conjugal love’);
2)This doctrine is a further example of the eroticizing tendency in recent Magisterium,manifest herealso in the re-iteration of three doctrines (which we have treated above) describing marriage as an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ and a ‘good for the spouses’, and concerning the ‘ordering of sexuality to conjugal love’. The suggestion that conjugal love is essentially sexualin content will indeedsubsequently be elaborated in exclusively secular terms in § 150 entitled ‘The Erotic Dimension of Love’.
- b) Marriage in Relation to Virginity or Celibacy
We have just seenhow Pope Francis takes recent Magisterium a step further by explicitlydesignating ‘love’ as the first finality of marriage and by explicitly giving this ‘love’ an erotic content.We shall now see how he does so equally by explicitlyplacing marriage on the same level as virginity and celibacy (Exhortation§ 159quoting Pope John Paul II Discourses, 14th April 1982):‘… ‘the biblical texts do
not furnish a motive to sustain either the ‘inferiority’ of marriage, or the ‘superiority’ of virginity and celibacy based on sexual abstinence’.
By ending the quotation here and by introducing inverted commas around the terms superiority and inferiority, Pope Francis gives the impression that the Holy Scripture, as well as Pope John Paul II, view these two basic choices of life as on the same level, in other words as of equal value. This, however, is not true. The Holy Scripture and Tradition, culminating in the Council of Trent (as we have shown above) teach that the latter choice of life is superior.
As for Pope John Paul II,he here acknowledges the latter choice as superior, as we have seen above, explaining at the end of the paragraph in question that the Lord: ‘... proposes to his disciples the ideal of continence and the call to it, not by reason of inferiority, nor with prejudice against conjugal union of the body, but only for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven’34.
34 We have pointed out the difficulties of this statement above.
It is true that Pope Francis speaks later in this section of the perfection of the consecrated life, but he does so not in the absolute sense in which this perfection is understood by Tradition, but only in a relative sense in a brief review of respective strengths and weaknesses of the two different states of life, which states, he claims, enjoy ‘complementarity’.
In short then, Pope John Paul II tends to view the two states of life as of equal value, whereas Pope Francis asserts this thesis explicitly. This certainly corresponds to the importance he too accords to conjugal love.
It is certainly the spirit of eroticism already manifest in the above quotations that is behind the Pope’s indulgent attitude towards adultery.
a)Advocacy of Adultery
In the document AmorisLaetitia § 298, the Pope speaks of ‘divorced and remarried’ couples in the following terms: ‘The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate’(FamiliarisConsortio § 84), and he adds in footnote 329 ‘In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Gaudium et Spes§ 51).
‘Expressions of intimacy’ refers to sexual relations, as appears from a reading of the complete passage ofGaudium et Spes, and from the fact that the said ‘expressions of intimacy’ are contrasted to cohabitation ‘as brother and sister’. Consequently, the text may be summarized as follows: Many divorced and remarried couples who live together for the good of their children, find that sexual relations (i.e. adultery) are fruitful for their relationship and for the good of their children.
We see then that:
i)Adultery is justified; that is:
ii) as a means to an end: namely the couple’s fidelity and the good of their progeny;
iii)in a particular situation, indeeda situation experienced by ‘many’;
iv) in purported continuity with preceding Church Magisterium.
We may reply to each of the points as follows:
i) Adultery is condemned expressisverbis in the Old Testament in the VI Commandment, and by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the New (Mt 19.9; Mk 10.11-12). Furthermore, Our Blessed Lord specifies it as one of the sins that exclude the sinner from eternal life (Mt.19. 17-18), in other words as a mortal sin. Being, therefore, an intrinsic evil, it can in no way be justified.
ii)St. Paul (Rom 3.8) declares explicitly that an evil cannot be done asa means to a good;
iii) Here ‘Situation Ethics’ is in operation, with the principle that the conscience creates a norm according to the situation in which the individual finds himself. The Church has, by contrast, condemned situation ethics, and understands the conscience as a judgement which applies objective moral principles to particular actions;
iv) The Pope (or his collaborators) suppresses essential parts of the passages from which he quotes. In the first passage, Pope John Paul II, when speaking of the ‘divorced and remarried’ who live together for motives which include the good of their children, declares that they must live in perfect chastity: if they do not, they cannot receive Holy Communion. In the second passage, the Council recommends sexual relations for reasons of fidelity and the good of the children, but only among those who are sacramentally married.
In other words, Pope John Paul II states that a ‘divorce and remarried’ couplemay live together for the good of their children but in perfect chastity; the Council states that sexual relationscan promotethe fidelity of a couple and the good of their children within marriage. By combining the two passages while cutting out the references to chastity and marriage, Pope Francis purports to justify adultery on the basis of preceding Magisterium.
b)The Ecclesial Status of Adulterers
The Exhortation states in § 299 that the ‘divorced and remarried’ are, ‘as living members, able to live and grow in the Church’ and proposes that they be integrated in the public life of the Church, as god-parents for example. The Church’s Tradition along with St. Thomas Aquinas on the other hand, consider them as dead members of the Church, like dead branches of a living tree. For this reason, and by reason of their bad example, it is clearly not appropriatefor adulterers to assume positions in the public life of the Church, nor has it ever been permitted for them to do so.
c) The Admission of Adulterers to Holy Communion
We may conclude from § 298 and footnote 329 analyzed above, that if adultery is no longer considered as a mortal sin, then adulterers have the right to be integrated into the life of the Church, even as far asreceiving Holy Communion is concerned. Let us now examine one of the passages of the document that says so explicitly: ‘[…]the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same [...]This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists’.(§ 300 with footnote 336).
What kind of justification for access to Holy Communion does the Pope here have in mind? ‘Situation Ethics’? but, as we have already explained, this ethic is null and void. Or is itperhaps the ignorance on the part of the couple that adultery is a mortal sin, or that Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is a further mortal sin? It is true that a mortal sin is not imputed to a sinner who did not know that it was mortal; nonetheless, the sin in question is mortal objectivelyand is a grave offence against God. For this reason, any form of spiritual assistance, discernment, declaration, or intervention on the part of the Church must be directed towards instructing the couple concerning the objective natural and Divine law, and to leading them to live in the Grace of God: not leaving them in ignorance and sin for fear of offending their sensibilities. In short, the Church’s task here is not to avoid offending the faithful, but to avoid offending God.
3. ‘SEX EDUCATION’
Now that European schools have been flooded with ‘sex education’ programmes of an immoral and purely hedonistic order (and we fear that even worse is to come), an intervention from Holy Mother Church becomes increasingly more opportune and urgent with every day that passes. With the publication of AmorisLaetitia, one might perhaps have hoped that the Hierarchy would have adopted some truly Catholic stance in regard to the issue, for example:
i) A proposal to found new, and authentically Catholic schools, or at least to found new institutes to teach Catholic doctrine in existing schools;
ii) An appeal to parents to educate, or at least to supervise the education of, their children themselves, as they are indeed obliged to do in accordance with the primary end of marriage (i.e. the procreation andeducation of children);
iii) A clear exposition of Catholic doctrine on marriage, on the acts contrary to it, on purity, on impurity, and on the fact that all sins against purity are mortal.
Instead of this, the period § 280-286 entitled ‘The Need for Sex Education’ is singularly lacking on all of these counts.
i) Far from proposing alternatives to the present ‘sex education’ programmes, the document limits itself to suggesting certain modifications or change of accent within them;
ii) The educative role of parents is not even mentioned, in marked contrast to the document ‘The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality’, promulgated by the Vatican some 20 years before (in 1995), which, in view of the dangers of treating such matters in school, firmly collocated ‘sex education’ within the family35. In the passage in question, AmorisLaetitiain fact entirely ignores the primary end of marriage, concentrating (except for one single reference to the ‘natural procreative end of sexuality’) on the secondary end of marriage, i.e. on love: indeed on a love understood exclusively in an emotional, and above all in a sexual, sense. One reads for example about ‘education for love, for mutual self-giving’ (§ 280); about the ‘capacity to love’ (§ 281-2) and the way that ‘young people show love’ (§ 284).
35 The document breathes an authentically Catholic spirit, apart from a personalist over-insistence on ‘love’.
36Again in marked contrast to ‘The Meaning and Truth of Human Sexuality’.
37 İt is uncertain what is being referred to here. Certainly the Greek and Roman ‘love-poets’, for instance, would have imagined they were engaged in some such communication, but certainly in complete abstraction from chastity.
iii) With respect to Catholic doctrine on marriage and purity36, nothing at all is said. Sexuality is in fact treated in an exclusively psychological manner, without so much as anallusion to morality. The evil to be avoided is no longer sin, but rather sociological or psychological problems such as: ‘trivialization and impoverishment’ (§ 280); ‘the flood of pornography’, the deformation of sexuality, the cripplingand ‘distortion’ of the capacity to love (§ 281-2); ‘narcissismand aggressivity’,‘toying’ with bodies and desires (§ 283); immaturity (§ 284); isolation (§284-5), not accepting one’s own body, fear of the other (§ 285).
We see that sexuality outside marriage is not condemned. Rather, it seems actively to be encouraged, so that the section in the final analysis is entirely compatible with ‘sex education’ programmes: those already in force and those yet to be imposed upon the children: ‘The sexual urge can be directed through a process of growth in self-knowledge and self-control capable of nurturing valuable capacities for joy and for loving encounter’ (§ 280).‘The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect, and deeply meaningful communication37’, in preparation ‘for sexual union in marriage as a sign
of an all-inclusive commitment enriched by everything that has preceded it’(§ 283, viz. also § 284).
Indeed, the section is compatible even with ‘Gender38’, inasmuch as its author contemplates sex education not only for adolescents, but even for ‘children’ (§ 280 and 281); and is pleased to assert: ‘Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors39, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture etc. [...]; But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories [...]’. The section ends with a warning against ‘condition[ing] legitimate freedom and hamper[ing] the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential’(§ 286)40
38 An ideology as bird-brained as it is despicable
39But in which case why, pray, is ‘not accepting one’s own body’a problem (cf. § 285)?
40 The deleterious effect of this passage is not diminished by Papal disapproval of ‘Gender’ on other occasions, since the latter statements have the effect only of confusing, rather than of correcting, the former statements.
The intention in writing this essay was to investigate how the concupiscence of the flesh, or, more particularly, the spirit of fornication, or impurity, has been able to penetrate the mind of the contemporary Church. We have been at pains to trace it back, through various canons of the New Church Law and various doctrines of recent Magisterium, to the Second Vatican Council, where the spirit of Fallen Nature made its official entry into the Catholic Church.
This spirit of impurity corresponds to the World’s vision of sexuality. Quoting our earlier analysis of this vision, and alluding briefly to the period extending from the last Vatican Council to the present pontificate, we shall proceed to examine how and to what extent this spirit informs the encyclical AmorisLaetitia.
A. ‘Sexuality does not have a particular finality. Its use is pleasurable and a means for expressing love between two persons, not necessarily married to each other’
We have seen how Gaudium et Spes suppressed the term ‘finality’, a suppression all the more evident in the New Canon Law, when one compares the new and the old canons. Subsequently, up to and including AmorisLaetitia, the procreation and education of children has never regained its previous, traditional status.
The suppression of this term, either in isolation orin association with the designation ‘primary’, certainly marks the breach in the bastion of perennial Church marital teaching, on the part of the Demon Asmodeus41.
41 We have accordingly chosen as frontispiece for this essay a detail from the Ysenheimer Altar by Matthaeus Gruenewald represented an androgynous demon storming a church.
42connected with this, we observe the intellectual dishonesty of the argumentation for adultery (analyzed above). Besides, how could argumentation against the Natural Law and Faith be otherwise?Such dishonesty was a feature of the Council (see the book on the book on the Second Vatican Council by Professor de Mattei), but this is surely its first instance in a Papal document.
43although see above for the theological problem involved
44 although see the next section for a doubt in the case of Pope Francis.
45Pope Francis not hesitating even to speak publically of perversions in this field with complete nonchalance
It is this suppression that has permitted an undefined ‘love’ to move into the foreground of marital ethics, contemporary Churchmen not viewing sexuality solely as pleasurable (in conformity to the most superficial of worldly attitudes).
In the period inaugurated by Gaudium et Spes, Church Magisterium insinuated increasingly that this ‘love’ was in fact the primary end of marriage and erotic in content, until the encyclical AmorisLaetitiawas finally to state both doctrines explicitly (see above).
Up to this point the encyclical represents solely a development of recent marital heterodoxy; in its advocacy of adultery, by contrast, it represents a novum of particular moral gravity, ever closer to the spirit of the World in all its headstrong and brazen audacity42.
B. ‘Sexuality is unqualifiedly good, and is to be used and talked about with complete license’
The unqualified goodness of sexuality had been insinuated since the Council by the suppression of the Church doctrine on the concupiscence of Fallen Nature. This suppression was particularly evident in Canon Law, and in ‘Theology of the Body’.
Its putative goodness was elevated to a divine level by Pope John Paul II, albeit in the context of marital love as a whole43. In conformity with this view, marriage was no longer regarded as inferior to virginity or celibacy. Pope Francis followed his predecessor, at least on the latter count.
Both Popes, while sustaining Church teaching on sins against purity44, speak about such themes with complete license45,Pope Francis in effect recommending this
license also publically, inasmuch as he supports school programmes of ‘sex education’.
C ‘Sexual morality is determined by the canons of hedonism’
If the Church officially maintains Her position on the gravity of sins against purity, we have observed how recent modifications in Canon Law and the Magisterium have opened the door to Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin under certain conditions. The dispositions of Pope Francis for adulterers to communicate (also under certain conditions), must be seen in line with this relaxation of Eucharistic discipline.
As noted above, the great novelty ofAmorisLaetitia is the advocacy of adultery. In the light of this laxity one cannot but be alarmed at the Pope’s analysis of the sexuality of contemporary youth in exclusively sociological and psychological terms, without so much a hint at morality. Impurity, alone or with another, is nowhere condemned. Indeed, as we observed above, it seems actively to be encouraged, as in the phrase: ‘The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love...’ in preparation ‘for sexual union in marriage as a sign of an all-inclusive commitment enriched by everything that has preceded it’. What is the nature of the love thatis supposed to ‘enrich’sexual union,if it is not sexual love? But if the author of the text does not intend this, because it is contrary to Church teaching, why does he not say so?
In short, although the encyclical does not promote sexual hedonism explicitly,it advocates impurity of a particularly grave type (that is to say adultery);it analyzes sexuality in terms of psychology, which is typically allied to a hedonistic world-view; it instills a permissive spirit into the faithful; and it passes over the Church’s perennial condemnation of impurity in complete silence.
In a word, what we are hearing ever more clearly, from the Second Vatican Council to the encyclical AmorisLaetitia, is the voice of the World. This voice proclaims the following message: ‘Sexuality is for love; it is an unqualified good; it should be used for the pursuit of happiness’. Cardinal Browne OP has been proved correct in stating that the innovations proposed at the Council were to ‘pervert the whole meaning of marriage’.
Some-one might object: ‘The Church has changed Her outlook on these matters - and about time too’. To which we would reply: The Churchin Her declarations is not like a government or a firm which changes its policies according to changing circumstances:Rather She is Guardian and Teacher: Guardian and Teacher of the
Faith and morals. Faith and morals constitute Supernatural Truth, Revelation, the DepositumFidei. The Truth does not change in itself, but only in the depth and profundity of its expression; Revelation is a revelation of x and not of y; the DepositumFidei is deposited as it is and not as anything else.
In the face of Truth, which in the last instance is God Himself, the virtues required of man are humility, docility, obedience, subjection, and subjugation. Man is on this earth to serve, he is a ‘useless servant’ in the words of Our Blessed Lord, a mere instrument, whether he is Pope, King, or layman. When Councils or Popes take it upon themselves to touch, alter, or reform that which is untouchable, unalterable, and irreformable, then the consequences will be grave indeed.
The Status Quo
Amongst the various indignities that have followed AmorisLaetitia we wish to mention solely: ‘The Meeting Point, Course of Affectivity and Sex Education for Young People’, emanating from the Pontifical Council for the Family, and widely distributed to the young on ‘World Youth Day’ in Poland last year. Here the Personalism of Pope John Paul II encounters the sexual amorality of Pope Francis, in a glorification of love, where neither mortal sin nor parental responsibilityis mentioned even once. The document is charged with eroticism, which does not shrink even from pornography, a fact which is entirely reprehensible.
The glorification of eroticism has drawn a veil of obscurity over both marriage and (perfect) chastity: over marriage, by obscuring its finality which is the procreation of children; over (perfect) chastity, by obscuring its very possibility. The result is that married couples enter marriage without knowing what it is, and hence end up by failing in the enterprise; while less and less young people embrace the religious state46. For the religious makes a vow of perfect chastity, but if the Church does not say what that vow is or what it means, why should a young person make it? And if marriage is on the same level as the religious state (which is virginity\celibacy in its ecclesial form), then why take the trouble to embrace the latter?
46 İt seems that recent Vatican documents on the religious life tend to its further diminution
The Hierarchy and the Clergy are not fulfilling their duty tocommunicatethe Faith on these matters. A number of their members seem saturated by the same spirit of eroticism that they are preaching. They demand liberation from celibacy, and their scandals47 continue day by day, as monotonous as they are nauseating.Here we see
47Let them meditate on the pains that they are accumulating for themselves, either in Purgatory where a rigorous reparation will be exacted even for a single sign of the Cross made without reverence, or in the deepest abysses of Hellreserved for the damned clergy. Or if they have no pity for their own souls, let them at least have pity on the victim souls who have offered their lives in expiation for the sins of the clergy.
48cf. Sacra Virginitas, Pope Pius XII
Asmodeusat work again,in this his most gratifying, and final, assignment: that of contaminating the men and the doctrine of the Church.
God has been passed over and ignored, together with His purpose inscribed in human nature, which is the procreation of children for the population of Heaven; together with the love due to Him, which is total self-giving love,whether in the Blessed Eucharist received in the state of Grace, or whether in the love of perfect chastity, the love of purity, the supernatural love of Charity in its perfect ordering to Him: the love with undivided heart, the love which is more blessed and higher, and a more perfect sign of Christ’s union with His Church, than is marriage itself 48, the love of which Our Blessed Lord Himself said: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’.
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis
Mater purissima, ora pro nobis
Mater castissima, ora pro nobis
SancteJoannes Evangelista, ora pro nobis
SancteAloisi Gonzaga, ora pro nobis
SancteDominice Savio, ora pro nobis
SancteJoannesBaptista, ora pro nobis
SancteJoannes Fisher, ora pro nobis
SancteThoma More, ora pro nobis
A spiritufornicatione, libera nos, Domine.