In a lot of the discussion about admitting the soi-disant 're-married' (as opposed to people who are truly re-married, after the death of a previous spouse) to Holy Communion, one gets the impression that those keen on 'mercy' see the adultery of the new relationship as some kind of technical problem; something only those who are pedantic and legalistic would worry about.
But that is not the case. The problem the Holy Father, Kasper and the rest face is that Our Lord makes it quite clear, both in the Gospel and in the continuous teaching of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, that adultery is a serious sin; and also that serious sins have serious consequences.
That is quite apart from the culpability of the sinner; even a sin where the subjective culpability is minimal causes harm and is evil. And adultery is by no means a victimless sin.
The immediate victims, of course, are the spouses and also any children involved. And I do not just mean the moral danger to which the children are exposed. Academic research shows that 'exposure to step-parenting is the strongest known predictor of child abuse, and exposure to divorce has measurable detrimental effects on children's outcomes.'
But the damage is not limited to those immediately affected. We know both from theory (open systems theory) and from experience (see, for example, the very limited societal approvals given first to contraception and then abortion) that any small relaxation in the moral censure for evil actions in the realm of human sexuality inevitably leads to widespread abuse and an attitudinal shift.
So even a perceived softening of the Church's teaching against divorce will, quite inexorably, contribute further to the already catastrophic rates of divorce and separation we now witness, with all the tragic consequences, both for individuals and for civic society, which that entails.
And then, there is the further harm that is done, by making it ever harder for young people to contract valid marriages; if the last bastion of truth undermines that truth, how are they to believe what it is required that they believe?
These are precisely why the ancient maxim that hard cases make bad law is so important. Of course, there are some people who are in terribly distressing situations, possibly with little subjective fault of their own. But an attempt to be 'merciful' to them, by pretending that adultery is OK in their specific situation, is profoundly misguided - and further imperils their souls too, if they no longer feel the need to address their situation through repentance and amendment.
Finally, there cannot be an irreconcilable conflict between truth and mercy; if we seek to offer mercy at the cost of truth taught us by Christ Himself, we have abandoned both truth and mercy.
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