Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why We Will Lose the Marriage Battle (conclusion)

     When there is a great evil, it is a commonplace of Catholic belief that saints will arise, known and unknown, and that many will suffer and make sacrifices in reparation for the sin and corruption which are endemic to a given culture. I would like to propose that in the case of America the unsung heroes of this struggle are the laity: the faithful in the pews who, year after year and decade after decade have practiced their faith diligently while listening to indifferent homilies promoting a narcotized, emotional version of the Gospel, discouraged in their own communities for advocating for the unborn even to Catholic organizations, relegated to holding raffles at the church door a few days a year and allowed to ride a bus to the March for Life every January (it gets them out of the way).
Those people who receive no encouragement or leadership from a clergy which refuses to preach homilies against birth control, adultery, divorce, or even abortion. Whose children are taught an unrecognizable version of Catholicism. Who either must  find out for themselves, or remain in partial ignorance, of, the deposit of faith embodied in the Church, the nature of Catholic spirituality, the limitless value of the Real Presence and the meaning of the sacraments that are peformed for them.

     This has driven many Catholics "off the grid"-- people leave the church or form their own pockets of orthodoxy. It is not for nothing that one of the names of the devil is "scatterer".

     It is logical to blame the culture--our culture is not indifferent to faith, it is hostile to it. Not just the Christian faith, but the very concept of faith and belief in God as it has been understood in Western tradition. But does blaming the secular culture make any sense? The world is just doing what the world has always done, which is to encourage worldliness and false gods and ultimately sin. If things have gotten worse--if people are behaving more licentiously than in times past, if vice is becoming institutionalized and religion mocked, if Catholics don't go to mass and  if we usually display complete ignorance of church teachings, it isn't because our culture is intolerant or corrupt. Our culture is intolerant and corrupt because Catholics are not living Catholic lives.
 
     The brouhaha over public acceptance of homosexual marriage is  rank hypocrisy on the part of American Catholics as a group. We do not respect the institution of marriage ourselves. It is not likely that anyone is going to seek our guidance on the subject. A few months ago, watching a talk show on EWTN I stared at the screen in disbelief as Cardinal Wuerl  suggested that the annulment process ought to be "streamlined", and that there had to be a way to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. On a woman's show on the same network a program on divorce featured a short talk by a priest on how to get an annulment ("it's easier than you think") and one of the commentators, discussing the divorce of a friend, mentioned the problem  of "communication breakdown".  If you're not Catholic this might not make any sense to you, unless you are an Evangelical Christian. (Evangelical Christians read the Bible, quote it often, and therefore believe in the indissolubility of marriage; they are in the forefront of the only real effort to preserve marriage among American
Christians.)  If you are divorced, like me, and trying to live a Catholic life, you probably understand why I barely restrained myself from throwing a shoe at the television screen.

     I do not begrudge the Eucharist to anyone who is in a position to validly receive it. If you're not, you are at worst committing a sacrelige, at best, getting absolutely nothing real from the experience. And I certainly understand the frustration of Catholics who are trying despite their own weaknesses to live good lives. But they are not going to do so at the cost of my four grown children being told by the Roman Catholic Church that a family which has its own problems, which is struggling to heal from the kind of crises that beset a lot of families now, is a family in name only, because their parent's marriage never really existed.

    Here are some statistics from What God Has Joined Together: The Annullment Crisis in the American Church by  Robert Vasoli:  America contains 6% of the world's Catholics, and our tribunals churn out 75% of the annulments in the entire Roman Catholic Church. Of those annulments 2/3 are on "psychological" grounds and of those "psychological" annulments which are appealed to the Roman Rota 92% are overturned. In 1968 there were about 600 annulments a year. Now there are around 60,000.

     I do not know what kind of streamlining the Cardinal had in mind---things seem pretty streamlined already. Vasoli's book came out in 1998. I do not know what the figures are now. Significantly it is the only book on Amazon by a Catholic which I could find giving an accurate picture. There is another one, by someone who is an apologist for the status quo.
    This isn't just a bad statistic--it is indisputable evidence of the abuse of a sacrament by the Catholic clergy, and public sin on the part of a great many lay people. There isn't evidence of Catholics who use birth control, or receive the Eucharist unworthily, or have abortions, or commit adultery--there can't be. And abuse by the clergy is hidden. But this kind of disobedience is public and open, and it is enabled by the clergy. I know faithful priests, and they have helped me in countless ways as a person who is divorced and Catholic. But most people like me are probably suffering in silence, abandoned by the clergy as well as their spouses. The one refuge should be the church. It is not. And the silence on this topic is defeaning. The bishops are talking about abortion, finally. They are even talking about sexual abuse. Finally.  But the only Christians who publicly defend marriage in the face of divorce--who try to keep their own marriages together--are Evangelical Christians.

    If Catholics are offended by the prospect of public acceptance of homosexual marriage, they should be more offended by the tolerance in their own church of no-fault divorce and "psychological" anullments. It goes along with all the other accomodations the clergy has made--if not officially then in fact, to human weakness and public opinion. It is obviously easier to build a parish center than to preach a homily against birth control. And it is a lot easier to criticize the gay couple down the street than to discourage a couple from divorcing.

    St Francis of Assisi said the devils are God's constables. I do not doubt there will come a day soon when a Catholic priest is taken to court because he refuses to marry two people of the same sex, if it has not happened already. The bishops can beef up Pre-Cana talks all they want, they can display the happy stable marriages of parents with 10 kids on cable night and day, and they can give out certificates to couples on their silver anniversary...if they do not preach on the sacrament of marriage as it is understood in Christian theology--which includes an exhortation to take up one's cross daily---if their defense of marriage does not include the idea that all marriages are indissoluble, not just Christian marriage--then they can fight this one out without me.  The salt has lost its savor. If Christians are not going to act like Christians, we can hardly expect anyone  else to respect to our opinions on public morality. We do not even represent our own teachings.(beginning)

more on the anullment problem 
on communion for divorced and remarried catholics 

  



    

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