When asked to comment on the paragraphs of the Relatio Finalis which treat the matter of the so-called "divorced and re-married" and permission to Holy Communion, Cardinal George Pell remarked:
There's nothing in the paragraphs as they stand that is heretical or false doctrine or advocating a false practice.
Do you feel comforted? Me neither.
The Chinese have a saying:
(bù jìn zé tuì)
To fail to advance is to retreat.
That is to say, if you are not advancing into enemy territory, if you are not capturing his troops, cutting off his supply lines and destroying his infrastructure, if you are not in some way compromising his ability to conduct war, you are losing.
Granted, the heretics and apostates attending the 2015 Synod were held in check insofar as they were prevented from injecting outright heresy into the Relatio Finalis. A great catastrophe was averted, and for that we should be thankful. But merely defending the truth, while absolutely necessary, is not enough to win this battle. The opposing error must be ruthlessly and relentlessly condemned, and those who proffer it obstinately must be excommunicated, anathematized, cursed and damned. Upholding truth and condemning error are two sides of the same coin; to attempt the one without committing equally to the other is to fail in both.
"But," I hear someone whine, "we can't do that, as it will drive people away from the Church. After all, as St. Francis de Sales said, 'You catch more flies with honey than vinegar'."
With all due respect to that great Saint: Offering honey to flies has brought us little more than an infestation of maggots.
Snark aside: If you are genuinely concerned that the condemnation of error could drive people away from the Church, I would like to familiarize you with a Catholic doctrine which has received far too little attention over the last 50 years: the Universality of Grace.
(As it seems full disclosure is all the rage these days: I do not possess a Ph.D. in theology. I'm just a Catholic blogger, and the following is my opinion.)
The doctrine of the Universality of Grace can be summarized in four short statements (all of which can be found, with ample source material, in Ludwig Ott's classic Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp. 238-242):
- Despite men's sins, God truly and earnestly desires the salvation of all men.
- God gives all the just sufficient grace for the observation of the Divine Commandments.
- God gives all the faithful who are sinners sufficient grace for conversion.
- God gives all innocent unbelievers sufficient grace to achieve eternal salvation.
We hear much these days regarding God's desire to see all men saved from sin and the damnation it rightly deserves. Pope Francis, for example, brings it up at nearly every opportunity - something which is, in itself, perfectly laudable. But we hear virtually nothing of the corollary of this truth, i.e. that God always and everywhere gives everyone the sufficient grace they require in order to observe His Commandments, repent of their sins and seek out the means for achieving eternal salvation. This means that everything a person needs in the way of grace to eventually attain heaven is given to him in precisely that measure which he requires, and no one on the Day of Judgment will be able to say that God did not provide him with the sufficient grace to attain sainthood. In other words, if people fail to observe God's Commandments, repent of their sins and seek out the means for achieving salvation, they ultimately have no one to blame but themselves. Not me, not you, and certainly not God. (Which casts an entirely different light on the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, but that's another conversation for another day.)
But, what if someone takes offence at the words or actions of a Catholic?
Well, what of it? Are we to suppose that a layman or prelate who strongly condemns sodomy, adultery, pedophilia or any such sins, and thereby offends the sensibilities of another, could possibly thwart the will of almighty God in ensuring that such a person receives sufficient grace to effect his conversion? Not even the devil himself can accomplish such a feat. How, then, could any effort on our part bring about the same? If God always gives sufficient grace - and He does - then, regardless of whatever circumstances a person may find himself in, failure to attain heaven falls to him and his unwillingness to cooperate with that grace. Having an abusive father, an alcoholic mother, or a perverted uncle - or even, heaven forbid, a pedophile priest - does not grant you a Get Out of Jail Free card. It's on you and you alone to respond to God's gratuitous gift of grace.
But what of scandal? If, by speaking plainly regarding sin and forcefully in the condemnation of error, we drive people away from the Church, are we not effecting evil by our actions and thus guilty of giving scandal?
Hardly. Scandal is an action which is evil in itself and performed with the intent to bring about another's spiritual ruin. If your condemnation of sin occasions another person's either leaving the Church or refusing to enter her, the evil resides not in your having condemned the sin - which is always and everywhere good - but in the person's inordinate love of the same.
So, for heaven's sake, stop worrying about "offending" people by speaking plainly and emphatically in the condemnation of sin and error. To do so is to doubt both the sufficiency of God's grace as well as man's freedom and the moral culpability which results from it.
|St. Anthony of Padua, Hammer of Heretics|
proving that love of Christ requires hatred of error
since AD 1195