Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

Here is a translation of my homily for this Sunday:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Joh 14, 15) We hear these words in the middle of the great departing speech of Jesus, meant to comfort his disciples before he leaves them. But here we could almost doubt whether this speech is actually a speech of comfort, or rather an exhortation. Christ says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Joh 14, 15) and he will ask for the gift of the spirit, and again he says, “he who loves me will be loved by my Father.” (Joh 14, 21) It sounds as though the gift of the spirit, and God's love for us, depends on our love for him, depends on our keeping the commandments. But what about when we make mistakes, if we at some point don't keep Jesus' commandments, if we fail in love? Will we then be no longer loved by the Father? And this is supposed to be a joyful message? What is up with this?

While not entirely off the mark, this would be a misunderstanding of the Gospel message. The Gospel surely presents us here with a call to love, a call that can be, and often is challenging. But above all, it presents us with a gift. In this incredibly complex web of loving and being loved, giving and receiving, a friendship is depicted that actually exceeds all description. Jesus is telling us: God is not a vending machine, in which we throw requests from time to time to get something from him. He is not a fundamental energy of love, that is simply there and radiates blindly, without any interaction. He is a personal lover, and offers us not only his love, but also friendship. This is the great message of the Gospel: we are invited to be friends with God himself! And friendship is always a mutual relationship, which must be accepted and fostered.

Friendship means meeting each other, sharing experiences with each other, spending time together. If I were to never chat with my friends, never do anything with them, never communicate with them, our friendship would gradually dissolve. Here Jesus makes a truly great promise. He promises that this meeting with him and his Father is possible, even after he has gone from us. “He who loves me… I will manifest myself to him.” (Cf. Joh 14:21(He will remain with us, and we shall even see him. “

„The world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (Joh 14:19).

This meeting with Christ occurs in different ways. We meet him in the daily contact with one another. We will all, everyone of us, be surprised and astonished how truly, how literally Christ meant, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mat 25, 40). We meet Christ through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who “remains with us and will be in us” (Cf. Joh 14, 17), as we have heard today in the Gospel. We also meet him in prayer.

In a special way we encounter Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist. There is fulfilled in a special manner Jesus' words of comfort: “You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (Joh 14, 20). In this celebration we anticipate the future, actually unimaginable meeting that “God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor 2:9). In this life we will never wholly reach the peace and happiness that we really desire, but when we receive Jesus lovingly in the Eucharist, we already participate in a mysterious fashion in this infinite happiness. We can have an inkling what it means to be embraced by an infinite love that never abandons us and that also unites us most closely to one another. Let us pray for the grace to ever more realize and appreciate this gift of the Eucharist, this veiled encounter with Jesus Christ, and thereby to grow in friendship with him.

Pope Benedict to the Pontifical Biblical Commission

On May 2 Pope Benedict XVI delivered a short message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of its plenary assembly, which meets to discuss the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. (At the time of writing this post, an English translation of the message has not yet been posted on the Vatican's website, so the link is to the original Italian.)

Taking up themes of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, the pope affirms the necessity of considering the inspiration of Scripture in order to rightly interpret it: "Inspiration, as God's activity, brings it about that the Word of God is expressed in the human words. Consequently, the theme of inspiration is 'decisive for an adequate approach to the Scriptures and their correct interpretation,' (Verbum Domini, n. 19) Indeed, an interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures that disregards or forgets their inspiration does not take account of their most important and precious characteristic, their coming from God."

The pope further recalls the connection between inspiration and truth: " "The Synod Fathers also stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books.' (Verbum Domini, n. 19)… Through his Word, God wills to communicate the whole truth about himself and about his plan of salvation for humanity. The commitment to discover more and more the truth of the sacred books is therefore equivalent to seeking to know better God and the mystery of his salvific will."

Finally, the Pope affirms the need to interpret individual passages in the context of the whole of Scripture in order to correctly understand them. ""Finally I would like to just mention that in a good hermeneutics it is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration in a mechnical manner, as of an absolute truth, extracting a single phrase or expression. The plan in which it is possible to perceive Sacred Scripture as the Word of God is that of the unity of God's history, in a totality in which individual elements recriprocally shed light on its other and mutually open understanding of each other."

When the Pope here speaks against interpreting individual passages as containing a truth that is "absolute", this does not mean that they only contain truth in a qualified sense, but that they contain a truth that is "relative", in the sense of standing in a relation to the whole truth about God, in relation to the whole of the Scriptures.

On An Argument in Favor of The Legality of Abortion

I was asked for my thoughts on the blogpost On a Logical Argument in Favor of Abortion, which aims at analyzing the real logic behind a proposed argument that abortion should be legal, and thus manifesting the flaws in it. The argument as proposed to the author of the blogpost was:

P1: If abortion is not legal, there will be women who would be desperate enough to find a specialist to abort her fetus illegally.
P2: She would be putting herself at risk of an abortion operation from a quack.
P3: She could die along with the fetus.
C: For the life of the woman, abortion should be legal.

The author of the blogpost draws out the hidden premises that he sees as necessary in order to make the conclusion truly sound, specifically that "Abortion is necessary for the life of women" and that "Legal Abortion is not a risk to the life and health of women". Since these hidden premises are false, the conclusion is invalid.

Given that not a speculative argument, but a practical argument is being made, and that a practical argument resolves to some good which is being sought, I would suggest rather the following analysis:

P1. If abortion is illegal, certain women will choose and have an illegal abortion.

This can be derived from the premise: Certain women will, in fact, choose and obtain an abortion whether it is legal or illegal.

P2 and 3. To have an illegal abortion entails a higher risk of having a poorly performed abortion.
To have a poorly performed abortion entails a higher risk of death from the abortion for the woman who has it than having a "correctly" performed abortion does.

The truth of this premise is an empirical matter. As far as I know it is true.Note, however, the qualification "risk of death from the abortion". Theoretically the risk of death through, e.g., suicide might be higher for women who have a legal abortion than for women who have an illegal abortion. But in the absence of particular evidence for this, the point is only a theoretical one.

C1. If abortion is illegal, then the women who will choose and have an abortion whether it is legal or illegal will be subject to a higher risk of death from the abortion than if abortion is legal.

This follows logically from the previous premises.

C2. Abortion should be legal for the protection of (reduction of risk to) the life of the women who will choose and have an abortion whether it is legal or illegal.

This is a valid argument in favor of abortion being legal, and its premises seem to be true. However, it is insufficient for a practical judgment that abortion should be legal, because it is based on a very limited consideration of the goods and evils involved in abortion being legal or illegal. It considers only the women who will have an abortion whether it is legal or illegal, and it considers only their risk of dying. It does NOT consider: (1) the women who will have an abortion if it is legal, but will not have an abortion if it is illegal: the physical and psychological harm done to them, the death of the children aborted, the injustice to those children, etc.; (2) the moral harm done by failing to clearly acknowledge abortion as a moral evil. Since there are many women who will have an abortion if it is legal but will not if it is not legal, and there is a great deal of harm done by abortion whether legal or illegal, and since the moral harm done to persons by the failure to acknowledge abortion as a moral evil is itself a great evil, the judgment that abortion should be legal is unsound.

Therese of Lisieux – Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience

Today the Holy Father's General Audience was on St. Therese of Lisieiux, St. Therese of the Child Jesus. The greater part of the audience is a retelling of her life. In the last two paragraphs the Pontiff reflects on her significance for us. I have translated these two paragraphs from the Italian. (An English translation is apparently not yet available.) Pope Benedict XVI points out that the saint is especially a guide for theologians. The science of theology that relies upon study depends for its vitality upon the "science of the saints", the science that comes from union with God in love and prayer.


Dear friends, with St. Therese of the Child Jesus we too should be able to repeat to the Lord every day that we want to live from love for Him and for others, to learn, at the school of the saints, to love authentically and totally. Therese is one of the "little ones" of the Gospel who let themselves be led by God in the profundity of his mystery. A guide for everyone, especially for those who, in the People of God, carry out the ministry of theologians. With humility and charity, faith and hope, Therese enters continuously into the heart of Sacred Scripture that contains the mystery of Christ. Such a reading of the Bible, nourished by the science of love, is not opposed to academic science. The science of the saints, in fact, of which she herself speaks on the last page of The Story of a Soul, is the highest science. "All the saints have understood it, perhaps most especially those who filled the universe with the radiance of the Gospel teaching. Is it not indeed from prayer that Saints Paul, Augustine, John of the Cross, Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Dominic and so many other illustrious Friends of God drew this Divine science which ravishes the greatest minds?"(Ms C, 36r). Inseparable from the Gospel, the Eucharist is for Therese the Sacrament of Divine Love that lowers Himself to the utmost to raise us up to Him. In her last Letter, on a picture that represents the Baby Jesus in the consecrated Host, the Saint wrote these simple words: "I can not fear a God who for me has become so small! (…) I love Him! For he is nothing but Love and Mercy!" (LT 266).

In the Gospel Therese discovers above all the Mercy of Jesus, to the point of saying: "To me He gave His infinite mercy, through it I contemplate and love the other divine perfections! (…) Then all seems to me radiant with love, Justice itself (and perhaps more than anything else) seems to me clothed in love"(Ms A, 84r). Thus she expresses it also in the last lines of the Story of a Soul: "As soon as I look to the Holy Gospel, I breath the perfumes of Jesus' life, and I know which way to run … It is not to the first place, but to the last that I hurry … I feel that even if I had on my conscience all the sins that one could commit, I would run, my heart broken with sorrow, into the Arms of Jesus, because I know how much you love the prodigal son who returns to Him" (Ms C, 36v-37r). "Confidence and Love" are therefore the final point of the story of her life, two words that like beacons have illuminated her whole path of holiness, so that she can guide others in the same way as hers, the "little way of confidence and love," of spiritual childhood (cf. Ms C, 2v-3r; LT 226). Confidence like that of a child who abandons itself into the hands of God, inseparable from a strong commitment, rooted in true love, which is a total gift of self, forever, as the Saint says in contemplating Mary: "To love is to give everything, and to give oneself" (Because I love you, Mary, P 54/22). Thus Therese shows all of us that the Christian life consists in living fully the grace of baptism in the total gift of self to the love of the Father, in order to live like Christ, in the fire of the Holy Spirit, His very love for all others. Thank you.

Ratzinger and the Magisterium on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics

Cardinal Ratzinger, who proposed in 1972 that there should be some possibility in certain cases for divorced and remarried couples to receive the Eucharist, seems to regard the teaching of the Church (see the last post–The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics), and in particular Familiaris Consortio, as having definitively settled the matter.

In a letter to the editor of The Tablet, responding to Theodore Davy, he wrote that his suggestion in 1972 was just that, a suggestion, that the matter must be subject to the judgment of the magisterum, which "spoke decisively on this question in the person of the present Holy Father in Familiaris Consortio."

Again, in an interview with Peter Seewald, published as Salz der Erde (1996), he was asked "Is discussion of this question [of reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried] still open, or is it already decided and settled once and for all?" He responded:

As a matter of principle it is decided, but of course factual questions, individual questions, are always possible. For example, perhaps in the future there could also be an extrajudicial determination that the first marriage was invalid. This could perhaps also be ascertained locally by experienced pastors. Such juridical developments, which can make things less complicated, are conceivable. But the principle that marriage is indissoluble and that someone who has left the valid marriage of his life, the sacrament, and entered into another marriage cannot communicate, does in fact as such hold definitively.

The Church on Reception of Communion by Divorced and Remarried Catholics

While the present practice called for by the Church in regard to the reception (or non-reception) of Communion by divorced and married Catholics, a practice which emphasizes the objective and visible unity in the Church and in the life of faith that is appropriate to the Eucharist, may not be strictly a necessary consequence of the nature of the Eucharist and of marriage (one significant argument that it is not a strictly necessary consequence is the allowance under certain circumstances for non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist, though they are not objectively and visibly united in the fullness of the faith and life of the Church), it is a practical decision of the Church that has been repeated several times, and in itself calls for obedience. In what follows I outline some of the major points in the Church's practical teaching on this matter and in the surrounding discussion by theologians.

1972: Ratzinger's article On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage, in which he clearly states the Church's firm conviction of the indissolubility of valid sacramental marriage, but suggests a certain toleration of some second, non-sacramental marriages, that would allow the partners to receive Holy Communion, is appropriate and in keeping with the Church's tradition.

April 11, 1973: Cardinal Seper, prefect of the CDF, writes to the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (USA), speaking about "new opinions which either deny or attempt to call into doubt the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church on the indissolubility of matrimony", and closing with the practical guideline:

In regard to admission to the Sacraments the Ordinaries are asked on the one hand to stress observance of current discipline and, on the other hand, to take care that the pastors of souls exercise special care to seek out those who are living in an irregular union by applying to the solution of such cases, in addition to other right means, the Church's approved practice in the internal forum (probatam Ecclesiae praxim in foro interno).

March 21, 1975: Upon a request for clarification of what the "Church's approved practice in the internal forum" is, Archbishop Hamer, the secretary of the CDF wrote:

I would like to state now that this phrase [probata praxis Ecclesiae] must be understood in the context of traditional moral theology. These couples [Catholics living in irregular marital unions] may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.

1978: The International Theological Commission publishes "Christological Theses on the Sacrament of Marriage", in which it affirms, thesis 12: "In receiving the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist, the church would let such parties believe that they can, on the level of signs, communicate with him whose conjugal mystery they disavow on the level of reality." Their life contains an "objective contradiction" to Christ's teaching, and is thus an obstacle to eucharistic unity.

September 26-October 25, 1980: Synod of Bishops meets in Rome to consider "The Duties of the Christian Family in Today's World"

Ratzinger writes a pastoral letter to the priests of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising in which he states that those living in a second marriage, whose first marriage was invalid (or who are convinced of its invalidity?), but its invalidity cannot be canonically proven, can receive the Eucharist provided no scandal is caused. He further called for study of cases where the first marriage was valid, but someone wants to return to eucharistic union without abandoning the second union. (Referenced by James Coriden in "Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried" — I have not yet been able to find a separate verification that this is accurately represents what Ratzinger wrote, or the text of the letter itself.)

November 22, 1981: Familiaris Consortio re-affirms the Church's practice of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Eucharistic Communion.

84. … [Divorced and remarried Catholics should not consider themselves or be considered as separated from the Church.]… However, The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

July 27, 1991: Theodore Davey ("The Internal Forum," The Tablet 245, no. 7878 (27 July 1991) 905-906), arguing from the statements of Cardinal Seper and Archbishop Hamer quoted above, interprets the "internal forum" practice as allowing for Eucharistic Communion in a number of situations: when a person is subjectively certain of the nullity of his or her previous marriage; when there are various reasons for not approaching a marriage tribunal; when there is the conviction of the validity of the previous marriage that since deteriorated to divorce and a second marriage has taken place, giving the following guidelines for the use of this solution:

  • there is no possibility of reconciliation between the spouses since the first marriage has irreparably broken down;
  • acknowledgement of any responsibility for the failure of the first union, and where necessary reparation is made;
  • the second marriage has been in existence for some time, morally speaking it is impossible to separate because of new obligations arising from the second union, and the partners to it are genuinely doing their best to live an authentic Christian life;
  • such Eucharistic sharing should in no way be seen as a questioning of the teaching on indissolubility, and by preaching and teaching, such a practice must be regarded as entirely exceptional.

He closes with the words "It should be noted that among the pastoral theologians who have helped to formulate these norms by their writing, the most distinguished is the present prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger." (referring particularly to Ratzinger's article On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage).

October 26, 1991: Cardinal Ratzinger responds to Fr. Davey in a letter to the editor ("Church, Pope and Gospel," The Tablet 245, no 7891 (26 October 1991) 1310-1311). What he had written was not "norms in any official sense", but "formed part of a suggestion (Vorschlag) I made as a theologian in 1972. Their implementation in pastoral practice would of course necessarily depend on their corroboration by an official act of the magisterium to whose judgment I would submit. . . . Now, the magisterium subsequently spoke decisively on this question in the person of the present Holy Father in Familiaris Consortio." He also addresses Davey's use of Cardinal Seper's statement:

Cardinal Seper’s mention in his letter of 1973 of the "approved practice in the internal forum" which Fr Davey cites was not referring to the so-called internal forum solution which properly understood concerns a marriage known with certainty to be invalid but which cannot be shown to be such to a marriage tribunal because of a lack of admissible proof. Cardinal Seper for his part was not addressing the question of the validity of a prior marriage, but rather the possibility of allowing persons in a second, invalid marriage to return to the sacraments if, in function of their sincere repentance, they pledge to abstain from sexual relations when there are serious reasons preventing their separation and scandal can be avoided.

July 10, 1993: three bishops in Germany (Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, Oskar Saier) issue a pastoral letter to those involved in pastoral activities in their diocese, in which they stated that a pastoral dialogue was needed to determine whether the "generally valid" prohibition against the remarried receiving the Eucharist "applies also in a given situation," and that there ought to be "room for pastoral flexibility in complex, individual cases." Citing Familiaris Consortio, they note the Church's teaching that "divorced and remarried people generally cannot be admitted to the eucharistic feast as they find themselves in life situations that are in objective contradiction to the essence of Christian marriage," but remark that canon law can "set up only a valid general order; it cannot regulate all of the often very complex individual cases."  ("Pastoral Ministry: The Divorced and Remarried," Origins 23 (March 10, 1994), pp. 670-673).

October 14, 1994: after a series of meetings between the German bishops and Cardinal Ratzinger, the CDF sends, under the authorization of Pope John Paul II, a letter to the episcopacy worldwide: Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the Faithful, which restates the position of Familiaris Consortio (including the two reasons cited above), adding, moreover, apparently in response to the suggestion that exceptions could be made in particular cases, "The structure of the exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations." (Origins 24 [October 27, 1994] 337, 339-41).

The German bishops respond to the CDF's letter with a message to the people of their dioceses in which they state that "we do not find ourselves in any doctrinal disagreement," with the position laid down by the CDF, but "the difference has to do with the question of pastoral practice in individual cases," and that there does "exist room, beneath the threshold of the binding teaching, for pastoral flexibility in complex individual cases that is to be used responsibly." (Ibid., pp. 341-44). This certainly seems to be disagreement from the statement of the CDF that the practice affirmed by Familiaris Consortio "cannot be modified because of different situations". However, they acknowledge that in light of the CDF response some of their own statements and principles "cannot be the binding norm of pastoral practice."

1998: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes the introduction to "On the Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried", published by the Libreria in the dicastery's series ("Documenti e Studi", 17). He there addresses and rejects a number of proposed reasons to change the Church's practice. He also indicates the need for further study regarding the possible applicability of epikeia in cases where, for instance, the judgment of an ecclesiastical court on the validity of a first marriage is mistaken, and regarding whether or not baptized persons who do not believe in God can enter into a valid sacramental marriage. (Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 refers back to this position of his, and affirms that the issue continues to need study.)

June 24, 2000: The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are Divorced and Remarried, clarifies that Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion," does not refer to what is subjectively grave sin, but to what is objectively so, and in particular, that it applies to those living in a second, invalid marriage. Pastors should do all they can to ensure that individuals themselves respect this law, but if they do not succeed in this, then "the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy."

July 25, 2005: Pope Benedict XVI in a meeting with clergy in the diocese of Aosta again indicates the need for further study regarding the possibility of a valid marriage by baptized christians without faith. "Those who were married in the Church for the sake of tradition but were not truly believers, and who later find themselves in a new and invalid marriage and subsequently convert, discover faith and feel excluded from the Sacrament, are in a particularly painful situation. This really is a cause of great suffering and when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly complex problem and ought to be studied further. But given these people's painful plight, it must be studied further."

Feburary 22, 2007: Sacramentum Caritatis states "The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist."

References: Kenneth R. Himes & James A. Coridan, "Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried", Theological Studies 57 (1996), 97-123.

James A. Schmeiser, "Reception of the Eucharist by Divorced and Remarried Catholics: Three German Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", Liturgical Ministry 5 (1996), 10-21.

Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus: "Living a Christian Life", Ch. 9: Marriage, Sexual Acts, and Family Life; Question H: What Should Spouses Do If Their Marriage Is Troubled? — http://www.twotlj.org/G-2-9-H.html

 

Ratzinger On the Indissolubility of Marriage and Pastoral Practice

Not much notice has been taken of Ratzinger's article on the dogmatic-historical aspects of the indissolubility of marriage and their relevance to present teaching and pastoral practice: "Zur Frage nach der Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe: Bemerkungen zum dogmengeschichtlichen Befund und zu seiner gegenwärtigen Bedeutung" in Ehe und Ehescheidung: Diskussion unter Christen, Kösel-Verlag, München, 1972. Perhaps that is to some degree because many communities and pastors "solve" the problematic simply by ignoring the Church's teaching and directives.

Unlike the 1970 letter on celibacy, of which Ratzinger was a co-signer, which simply called for a re-consideration of the discipline of celibacy, not for a change in it, as has often been claimed, this article actually seems to suggest that a change in discipline (not doctrine) is appropriate, inasmuch as the Church should allow for some flexibility in certain cases in dealing with persons living in a second marriage.

Ratzinger traces two lines in the Church's doctrine and practice: on the one hand, the consistent conviction that a sacramental marriage cannot cease except by the death of one or both of the spouses, thus excluding the possibility of a second marriage; on the other hand, a recurring toleration of illicit (and invalid/non-sacramental/non-Christian) marriages in order to avoid still worse evils.

He sees the Orthodox way, in which these tolerated exceptions become the norm, as mistaken, yet nonetheless proposes that some room for such pastoral toleration of second marriages should be given. Concretely, he proposes that when the marital life of the first marriage cannot be restored, a second "marriage" has existed for a long time, with children and the resulting obligations to them, and in which the life of faith is manifest, it should be possible for a pastor and a Church community to permit this couple to receive Holy Communion.

Read the entire article: On the Question of the Indissolubility of Marriage

Crucifixes in Public Classrooms in Italy

The highest European court of human rights announced last Friday, the first Friday in Lent, at 3:00 PM, its judgment on the case of Lautsi and others vs. Italy, on whether crucifixes in classrooms in public schools was prejudicial to the right of non-Catholics to educate their children in accordance with their own convictions, as well as against the right to freedom of religion. The decision was in favor of the state of Italy's right to have crucifixes in its classrooms–more precisely, the judgement was that Italy's decision to have crucifixes in its classrooms does not violate the two rights mentioned (the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their convictions and the right to freedom of religion).

While the court's judgment to some extent depends on the practical judgment that crucifixes do not have a significant religious influence ("A crucifix on a wall is an essentially passive symbol and this point is of importance in the Court's view, particularly having regard to the principle of neutrality…. It cannot be deemed to have an influence on pupils comparable to that of didactic speech or participation in religious activities"), it still seems overall a good outcome, making an important distinction between a state's being "neutral" in regard to religions, and being "secular".

Read the full text of the court's judgment (PDF)

Aquinas on Marrying to Support One's Parents

Is someone obliged to marry if that is the only way he can support his parents?

 

This article is from Quodlibetal 10, q. 5, a. 1.

Whether someone is bound to contact marriage in order to support his father by the marriage dowry, if he is not able to support him otherwise.

Objections

It seems that a son who cannot support his father unless by marrying he receives a dowry from which he can look after his father, is not obliged to contract marriage in order to support his father.

1. Since charity is orderly, he is obliged more to himself than to his father. But it would be praiseworthy for someone to face death in order to preserve his virginity. Therefore someone is not obliged to contract marriage in order to save his father's life.

2. Further, precepts are not opposed to counsels. But preserving virginity is a counsel, as is evident from 1 Cor. 7:25. Therefore the precept of honoring one's parents does not oblige someone to lose his virginity.

On the contrary: Affirmative precepts are binding at certain times and in certain places. But the time when one's parents are in need is a time when one is bound to honor one's parents. Therefore at that time someone is bound by this precept. And so it seems that he is bound to contract marriage, if he cannot otherwise support his father.

Response: It should be said that the case proposed does not seem to be readily possible, since it can scarcely happen that someone is unable to support his parents without contracting marriage, at least by manual work or by begging. But if this were to happen, the judgment to be made in this case concerning the preservation of virginity would be the same as concerning other works of perfection, such as entering religious life.

Now different people have different opinions about this. Some say that if someone's father is in need, he should give all that he has, if he has anything, for the support of his father, and he can thus licitly enter religious life, committing the care of his parents to the heavenly Father, who feeds even the birds.

But because this opinion seems too severe, it seems to me better to say the following: he who desires to enter religious life may see that he cannot live in the world without mortal sin, or cannot easily do so. If he fears the danger of his committing mortal sin, then, since he is more obliged to care for the salvation of his soul than for the bodily need of his parents, he is not obliged to remain in the world. But if he sees that he can live in the world without sin, it seems one should make a distinction: if his parents can in no way live without his services to them, he is obliged to serve them and to forego other works of perfection, and he would sin by leaving his parents; but if they can in some way be supported without his services, just not respectably, he is not therefore obliged to forego works of perfection. The case is different when someone has already entered religious life; for since he has already died to the world by religious profession, he is freed from the law by which he was bound to his parents in worldly services, as the Apostle teaches in Rom 7:6. But in other, spiritual matters, such as by prayers, etc., he is bound to serve his parents.

What has been said about entering religious life can also be said about the observance of virginity and other works of perfection.

Replies to Objections

Reply 1. To the first objection, therefore, it should be said that if someone has not professed virginity, he should not die of hunger before contracting marriage [but should marry if that is necessary in order to live].

Reply 2. To the second objection it should be said that nothing prevents a precept from being opposed to a counsel in a particular situation.