Saturday 25 April 2015

But why not...?

The question that arises from my last post, is But why not continue to teach the indissolubility of marriage, whilst operating a merciful pastoral practice when people fail to live up to that ideal?

In the first place, the question as posed risks misleading people. Chastity is not an ideal, in the sense of some unattainable aspiration. By the grace of God, it is a real possibility, and its attainment is a proper goal of Christian living.

But leaving that aside, there are more important issues at stake.

One is the integrity of the Church. Were she to proclaim one thing formally, but endorse its contradiction in practice, that integrity would be compromised: and we do not have the right to compromise Christ's mystical body.

A second, and related, issue is the corruption of the Church's mission. The Apostles were sent out by Christ to teach all things He had taught, and baptise all peoples, to incorporate them into Him.

But it is a self-evident truth that teaching is about more than proclaiming doctrine. What we do often teaches more clearly and convincingly than what we say: hence the well-known dictum often attributed to our Holy Father's namesake, St Francis of Assisi. Preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary.

The result of the Church adopting a pastoral strategy in contradiction with her doctrine would be initially confusion, and eventually a widespread belief that the Church doesn't really mean it, with regard to the doctrine.

One only has to reflect on the lack of teaching on Humanae Vitae, in particular the lack of a call to repentance and confession of those who breach its teachings, and the resultant conviction of much of the world, and indeed many Catholics, that it is an optional teaching.

Likewise, one can see how changes in devotional practice, combined with a lack of proper catechesis, have affected belief about something as central as the Real Presence.

Indeed, it seems likely to me that some of those promoting ++Kasper's 'pastoral solution' are hoping for precisely that outcome: that the Church's teaching will be silenced, and eventually treated as optional, and beyond that as outdated. And that risk is real. For while the Church, formally, is indefectible, there is no guarantee that the majority of the bishops, or the majority of the Faithful, will not fall into error - witness the Arian crisis.

So it is a matter of great importance that the integrity of the Church's teaching, which she has Christ's mandate to proclaim to all nations for all ages, is maintained both in her formal teaching and in her pastoral practice. 

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