Tuesday, 3 January 2017


In discussing the problems associated with some interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, I have mentioned the word scandal.  This is an unfashionable notion, and one that I think the proponents of a particular brand of mercy fail to understand.

In J B Priestley's play I Have Been Here Before (produced in 1937, the same year as he was writing the rather better known Time and the Conways), it was taken as axiomatic that a schoolmaster having a liaison with another man's wife would be a source of such great scandal that he would have to leave his job.

Seventy years on, that seems very archaic. And all that has changed is that such a scandal has been perpetrated so frequently that it has become common-place, and finally has been accepted as part of normal - indeed respectable - life.

Scandal, in fact, serves a role in society that is analagous to that of shame in the individual. It makes certain actions and behaviours almost unthinkable - actions and behaviours that are deemed particularly harmful both to the individuals involved and to society more broadly.

Our Lord, of course, had something to say about scandal, and it involved millstones...

That is why the doctrine of 'tolerance' is so misguided. When we tolerate aberrant behaviour, we teach others, and ultimately ourselves, that it doesn't matter. And once a critical mass of people in society indulge in it, it becomes normalised and deemed respectable: the examples are all around us. Perhaps the most obvious is contraception, where the scandal of Catholics contracepting is so widespread that nobody is scandalised any more. Yet we should be.

The Church, of course, still believes that divorce is a fiction: that valid marriages endure until the death of one of the spouses, and that any pretended union by a spouse with anyone else is adultery. 

One of the concerns I have about some of the proposed interpretations and implementations of Amoris Laetitia is, then, that it scandalises; and ultimately will normalise what should scandalise. As more and more Catholics witness people in objectively adulterous situations welcomed back to sacramental communion, they will conclude - as will the world - that the Church no longer believes what it officially teaches: and that is a very unmerciful situation to visit on the Church and on the world.

1 comment:

umblepie said...

Very good post, thank you.