Faithful Catholics have been told by the progressive (read: heretical) faction of the Church that their aims at alleviating the pain and suffering of those who are divorced and “remarried” do not affect doctrine, that doctrine cannot or will not change. Cue Cardinal Kasper:
Q. So you mean you cannot change doctrine but you can the discipline?
A. Doctrine, in so far as it is official binding doctrine, cannot change. So nobody denies the indissolubility of marriage. I do not, nor do I know any bishop who denies it. But discipline can be changed. Discipline wants to apply a doctrine to concrete situations, which are contingent and can change. So also discipline can change and has already changed often as we see in church history. (Source)
What they are proposing, as Cardinal Kasper says above, is “merely” an application of the doctrine; that is, the discipline or pastoral practice, being applied in certain concrete situations which may be at variance with the official teaching. Now this sure sounds like a win-win for everyone. Doctrinal conservatives get what they want (purity of doctrine remains in tact) while Pastoral liberals get what they want (second and third and fourth marriages, for all intents and purposes). Everyone’s happy….except that everyone is not happy and the proposed set up is a sham. It’s a fictional and legal fantasy which pretends that doctrine can be formally divorced from practice. Or to put it another way, that you don’t have to practice what you preach. In the old days, we use to call that plain old hypocrisy. In theological-speak, Cardinal Sarah described it like this:
“The idea that would consist in placing the Magisterium in a nice box by detaching it from pastoral practice — which could evolve according to the circumstances, fads, and passions — is a form of heresy, a dangerous schizophrenic pathology. I affirm solemnly that the Church of Africa will firmly oppose every rebellion against the teaching of Christ and the Magisterium.” (Source)
A dangerous schizo pathology! There’s nothing like dispensing with the diplomatic mumbo-jumbo and telling it like it is. And the good Cardinal did just that, God bless him, and raised the stakes of this poker match.
So, in light of how this whole game is playing out, it was indeed a surprise to read something yesterday which scuttle-butted the whole pastoral/doctrinal meme that is being passed around the stalls of the Vatican these days. I had the good fortune to stumble across this blog post over at Mark Lambert’s blog where he dug up a talk that Fr. Rosica gave at Assumption University in February 2014:
I don’t thing any part of this has upset me as much as this YouTube clip which I posted a link to yesterday. At 48:10, Fr. Rosica states:
“Will this Pope re-write controversial Church doctrines? No. But that isn’t how doctrine changes. Doctrine changes when pastoral contexts shift and new insights emerge such that particularly doctrinal formulations no longer mediate the saving message of God’s transforming love. Doctrine changes when the Church has leaders and teachers who are not afraid to take note of new contexts and emerging insights. It changes when the Church has pastors who do what Francis has been insisting: leave the securities of your chanceries, of your rectories, of your safe places, of your episcopal residences go set aside the small minded rules that often keep you locked up and shielded from the world.” (Watch the YouTube Talk Here)
Apparently, not all progressives really want to protect doctrine at all. In point of fact, some of them are quite open to changing the doctrine to suit the practice. And they have no inhibitions in telling you that, either, as far Fr. Rosica just did. Of course, such a position puts one clearly outside of Catholic thought which says that doctrine cannot change so as to contradict a previous understanding. Even Vatican II said as much:
“The divine Redeemer wanted his Church to be equipped with this infallibility in the definition of doctrine on faith and morals. It commensurate with the deposit of divine Revelation, which is to be sacredly guarded and faithfully expounded. In virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful–who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)–he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be not reformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal.” Vatican II (Lumen Gentium n. 25)
If that is not a “show stopper”, I am not sure what is. Fr. Rosica is patently wrong. Magisterial doctrine, especially concerning sexual ethics and marriage, does not and cannot change so as to contradict previous teaching and understanding. We are dealing with issues that are of spiritual life and death importance. If the doctrine concerning marriage can be changed by practice as Fr. Rosica says above, then the Church has erred in its moral guidance. If it has erred in its moral guidance, then everything She says about Herself – even in Her solemn magisterium – would be subject to change and make the Church and her witness completely irrelevant and unnecessary. It would call into question the entire Catholic worldview and its understanding of salvation history. It would mean the end of the Catholic Church as we have known her for her first 2000 years. It would also mean a massive exodus of Catholics from the Church itself. And it would mean Catholic claims of infallibility and indefectibility are the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on humanity.
Cardinal Sarah has basically said as much, labeling this pastoral fraud as a heresy. So if it’s a heresy and the Church accepts it, the Church will have erred and forfeited its divine claims. It’s really that simple, and no amount of circling the square is going to change any of that. There will be high stakes indeed at the upcoming Synod.
The progressive camp has been telling us that there will be no change in doctrine, and yet here we see that one of their own has admitted that once the practice changes, doctrine is not too far away from changing as well. And, that’s true! Is that not how the liturgical saying goes? Lex orandi, lex credenda: the law of praying is the law of believing. It’s the same principle at play here: the law of practicing is the law of believing. To pretend that this is not the case is to engage, as Cardinal Sarah says, in a dangerous schizophrenic pathology.
We might be schizos for a time, but not for long. Man will not and cannot live in a perpetual contradiction. There can only be one final and consistent outcome.
So, as much as I admire Cardinal Sarah’s bold declaration, alas, the schizo pathology will pass and we will be left with just a simple acceptance of adultery as a way of life IF the progressives get their way.
But, it is our firm hope that the loyal and faithful resistance to this temporary insanity will usher in some bold, frank, and hard talk at the Synod, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen too…because the fate of the Church and the souls of a billion hang in the balance.