The once-Catholic paper, known in better days as The Tablet, but now more frequently identified by other soubriquets, carries a series of letters in response to the now-famous letter from 463 brave priests in defence of Catholic teaching on the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony.
The arguments are telling, not least because of how feeble they are.
Consider this, for example, from Sr Moira O'Sullvan (and guess what, she doesn't wear a habit...): 'it seems to be pre-empting the working of the Holy Spirit during the Synod by arriving at conclusions before debate, prayer and discernment.' Is she seriously suggesting that Our Lord failed in prayer and discernment before declaring re-marriage adulterous? Or that St Paul was a stranger to debate when he pointed out that we should not eat or drink unworthily? Or that the Magisterium for 2000 years, including with great solemnity at Trent, and as recently as Familaris Consortio, had arrived at its definitive teaching without 'debate, prayer and discernment'? Does she imagine not only that there was no proper teaching before Vatican 2, but also that since then it has only emerged in the mind of Cardinal Kasper? And if not that, what?
She goes on (and on, I dare wager), claiming that the letter 'has done nothing to help move the Church towards greater unity.' How curious it is that Kasper and his cronies, declaring that they will not wait for the Synod, nor be bound by its conclusions if they aren't the conclusions Kasper has already reached, are presumably moving the Church towards greater unity, whilst those who seek to maintain the unity of Catholicism through time, and in particular its unity with Christ's clear teaching, are not doing so. What Orwellian logic is this?
That was the letter given pride of place by the Pill, so one imagines they thought it had the strongest arguments. Amazingly, as one reads the rest, one concludes that they were right to think so.
The second letter concludes: 'The Church is for all of us who are open to God's grace, including those who are in a relationship which is not included in the concept of traditional Catholic marriage.' What could that conceivably mean, except that one does not have to accept any Catholic teaching to be open to God's grace and a communicating member of the Church? Were I the editor, I would be embarrassed to publish such bilge.
The argument of the third letter entirely eludes me, so it is hard to point out its errors. It seems merely incoherent.
The fourth letter laments the bad old days when 'Mortal sin was high on the agenda,' which suggests a strange unfamiliarity with the teaching of Christ in the Gospels, who frequently warns of the danger of being consigned to Hell; and then it goes on to maintain that 'the suggestion that repentance followed by living “ as brother and sister” as laid down in is ludicrous and cruel.' Wherein lies the cruelty? If one loves somebody, then one should not want to risk consigning their soul to Hell for the sake of physical intimacy. Surely the cruelty lies in telling people that sin is healthy and acceptable...
The fifth letter seems to lack any supernatural perspective at all. However, at the sociological level, there is at least the semblance of an argument: 'they [moral rules] must be shown to benefit the society’s members while they are in force; and this must be shown, not just (as some theologians may think) by appealing to the natural physiology of the human species, but also by considering the historical, social and economic circumstances existing at the time.' I would agree (though I think there are also other considerations). But even arguing on those terms alone, I would point to the enormous damage done to abandoned spouses, to society more widely, and above all to the children of broken families (all of which are both readily observable and capable of proper scientific study and evaluation) which are brought about by a culture of divorce and re-marriage.
The sixth letter wails: 'It is hard to discover that there are still so many clergy who spend their time defining and deciding who cannot participate instead of fulfilling their vocation of leading their fellow men and women to a deep encounter with God.' But surely proclaiming the Gospel truth, especially when it is most challenging, is precisely the way to lead people to a deep encounter with God. Simply going along with the norms of a broken society leads to a superficiality, and indeed corruption, of religion that leaves people bereft of a supernatural perspective, and ultimately drives them away from God altogether.
The final letter asks: 'Can anyone really believe that the loving God who drew them to the Mass, wishes then to withhold himself from them in Communion?' Of course not. Nobody believes that. What we do believe is that, as in the Gospel, God wants people to repent and return to him; not go to the front of the temple and declare themselves righteous in the manner of the Pharisee in Our Lord's parable.
The quality of argument in all these letters is truly trivial, and tells us something deeply worrying about the lack of formation of those who have written them. We must pray and work for the re-Catholicising of the Church in this country and the world.
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