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.

Who is the New Eve?

To whom does the title New Eve refer? To Mary, or to the Church? And is one of these usages in a meaningful way older than the other?

I'm not aware of any study that seeks whether one of these analogies historically depends more on or derives from the other than conversely (e.g., whether the title of Church as New Eve derives to a significant extent from the understanding of Mary as New Eve, or whether conversely, the title of Mary as New Eve derives to a significant extent from the understanding of the Church as New Eve)–though see the citation from the New Catholic Encyclopedia below. In any case, both of these analogies (Mary as New Eve and the Church as New Eve) seem to be proximately and firmly rooted in the Scriptures, and are theologically almost inseparable. That Mary, Mother and Type of the Church, has the role of the New Eve, is intimately bound up with the nature of the Church as the New Eve.

Both analogies are clearly found in the Fathers:

Mary as New Eve

Just as Eve … being disobedient, became a cause of death for herself and the whole human race: so Mary … being obedient, became a cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, xxii, 4).

Christ became man by the Virgin that the disobedience which issued from the serpent might be destroyed in the same way it originated. Eve was still an undefiled virgin when she conceived the word of the serpent and brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin received faith and joy, at the announcement of the angel Gabriel…and she replied, "Be it done to me according you your word". So through the mediation of the Virgin he came into the world, through whom God would crush the serpent (St. Justin Martyr, Apologia, ch. 100).

Church as New Eve

As Adam was a figure of Christ, Adam's sleep shadowed out the death of Christ… that from the wound inflicted on His side might, in like manner (as Eve was formed), be typified the church, the true mother of the living. (Tertullian, Treatise on the Soul, ch. 43).

The apostle directly referred to Christ the words which had been spoken of Adam. For thus will it be most certainly agreed that the Church is formed out of His bones and flesh; and it was for this cause that the Word, leaving His Father in heaven, came down to be "joined to His wife;" and slept in the trance of His passion, and willingly suffered death for her, that He might present the Church to Himself glorious and blameless, having cleansed her by the laver, for the receiving of the spiritual and blessed seed, which is sown by Him who with whispers implants it in the depths of the mind; and is conceived and formed by the Church, as by a woman. so as to give birth and nourishment to virtue….

[When Paul] was grown to a man, and was built up, then being molded to spiritual perfection, he was made the help-meet and bride of the Word; and receiving and conceiving the seeds of life, he who was before a child, becomes a church and a mother, himself laboring in birth of those who, through him, believed in the Lord, until Christ was formed and born in them also. For he says, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you; " and again, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel."

It is evident, then, that the statement respecting Eve and Adam is to be referred to the Church and Christ. (St. Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse 3, Ch. 8-9.)

Adam sleeps that Eve may be formed; Christ dies that the Church may be
formed. Eve is formed from the side of the sleeping Adam; the side of the dead
Christ is pierced by the lance, so that the Sacraments may flow out, of which the
Church is formed. Is there anyone to whom it is not obvious that future events
are represented by the things done then, since the Apostle says that Adam himself
was the figure of Him that was to come? (St. Augustine, In Ioannis evangelium tractatus 9, 10; translated by W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 3 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1979), 117.

 

From the article on Mariology in the New Catholic Encyclopedia:

Mary's spiritual motherhood of the members of the Mystical Body appears clearly only in the 12th century, e.g., in Hermann of Tournai. A factor here is the mutual enrichment of Mariology and the theology about the Church. The maternal meaning that has always been part of the concept of the Church as new Eve is applied now also to Our Lady as new Eve. ''Like the Church of which she is the figure, Mary is mother of all those who are born again to life'' (Guerric of Igny, d. 1155; Patrologia Latina, 185:188).

… The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in the pastoral on the Blessed Virgin Mary points out: ''Even more anciently, the Church was regarded as the 'New Eve.' The Church is the bride of Christ, formed from his side in the sleep of death on the cross, as the first Eve was formed by God from the side of the sleeping Adam'' (NCCB 41).  ("Mariology", edited by E. R. Carroll and F. M. Jelly, New Catholic Encyclopedia).

Marriage and Procreation

This post continues the response to the question, what has changed regarding christians' and the Church's view of marriage and marital relations, a question raised in a comment on the post Married Saints and Continence.

Traditional View (Systematized by St. Augustine)

St. Augustine understands sexual intercourse to be so ordered to children, the "one honorable fruit" of intercourse, that even a spouse who desires sexual intercourse more than necessary for procreation, unless they do so for the sake of their spouse and their relationship with their spouse who desires such intercourse, is guilty of a venial sin, inasmuch as they are unduly attached to the pleasure of sexual intercourse or something similar, as manifested by their use of sex apart from the end for which it is given.

This continence is more meritorious; it is no sin to render the marital debt, while to demand it beyond what is necessary for begetting children is a venial sin." (St. Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, n. 6)

These goods that are necessary for the sake of something else, if someone uses them for some other purpose than that for which they were instituted, he sins, in some cases venially, in other cases mortally (ibid, n. 9).

St. Thomas basically takes the same position, though he notes that one spouse ought to have marital intercourse not only when the other spouse explicitly expresses a desire for it, but implicitly shows that he or she wants it. (In IV Sent., dist. 32, q. 1, a. 2, qa. 1) Moreover, he says that intercourse which happens to be sterile (as opposed to intercourse intentionally sterile) is not a sin, and this includes not only cases where the spouses do not know that the intercourse is sterile, but also the cases where they know it (Summa Contra Gentiles 3, 122). This may possibly show that the procreative intention for St. Thomas need only be a fundamental and habitual intention, not an actual intention in the sense of actually expecting, with at least some small probability, a child from the particular act of intercourse. (It is not certain, as it is also possible that when he describes this act as not a sin, he means that one can consent to the act [as when one's spouse desires intercourse]).

Changes definitively made through recent Church teaching

The position systematized by St. Augustine can be, with variations, roughly described as the majority view in the West until some time after St. Alphonsus Liguori. Nonetheless it was not a universal position.

In magisterial documents in the 20th century, the Catholic Church has, in an authoritative way, somewhat qualified the manner in which the principal end of the marital act has to be in the intention of the spouses. The marital act must remain intrinsically directed towards procreation, and this intrinsic order of the act to procreation must be respected by those who choose to engage in martial intercourse, but the marital act need not lead concretely lead (even in terms of probability) to the procreation of children. Having marital intercourse for the sake of the relationship between the spouses can be morally good, even if children are impossible, and neither of the spouses expects or intends to have children through that act of marital intercourse.

Each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (Humanae Vitae, n. 11)

If there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained…. When the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love. (Ibid., n. 16)

Common Change of Viewpoint

The common view, in contrast to the position of the Church, is now that sexual or marital intercourse, or at least individual acts, need not be ordered in any significant way to procreation. This is the complete opposite of the traditional position systematized by St. Augustine. This view has a number of consequences. One of these is that it leads quite naturally to the abandonment of any general moral objection to homosexual unions, even if it still allows for various sound political and religious reasons to not recognize them as marriages.

Garrigou-Lagrange & Communicating Under Both Species

St. Alphonsus thinks it not improbable that more grace is given in Holy Communion under both species, and all theologians agree that if the ardour of charity is increased by receiving the second species, then greater grace is conferred accidentally by reason of the better disposition. Therefore a layman who wants to become a priest in order to communicate under both species so as to receive this greater grace is not to be dissuaded. (Garrigou-Lagrange, The Priest in Union with Christ, "The Priest's Communion", emphasis added)

I'm not sure exactly why Garrigou-Lagrange draws this rather strange conclusion (I highly doubt that St. Alphonsus would hold it), but it's perhaps a sign of some problematic approachs or views in many modern scholastics: an ultra-formal way of speaking about things; in regard to the moral life, an excessive concern with tidily categorizing all kinds of actions; in regard to the priesthood and other sacraments, a tendency to over-reify (admittedly, this last tendency was not limited to scholastics, nor were all subject to it).

Also striking is that he draws this conclusion despite remarking that in general nothing is lost by the fact that people only receive Christ's body under the species of bread, and not the Sacred Blood.

"Nothing is lost by this (that is, by the body being received by the people without the blood): because the priest both offers and receives the blood in the name of all, and the whole Christ is present under either species" (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 80, a. 12, ad 3). Under the species of bread there is also present, by concomitance, the precious blood. Thus the faithful are not deprived of any notable grace, and a fervent Communion under one species is far more fruitful than a tepid Communion received under both species.

Attitudes to Marriage and Holiness

This post is a partial response to a question raised on the post Married Saints and Continence.

The attitudes of Christians towards marriage and holiness have changed in the past centuries, and in a particular way in the 20th century.

In regard to the value of marriage and marital sexual relations, we might overall describe the change as an increase in realism (a change for the better), and a decrease in idealism (understood as orienting oneself by and striving for noble ideals–a change for the worse).

By the increase in realism I mean a greater appreciation of temporal reality, for instance, of how concretely the human ties to one's family can be an occasion and impulse to better live a truly human and Christian life, as well as how the marital act, if done with true love and concern for the spouse, can strengthen the relationship and consequently the family and Christian life of the spouses.

By the decrease in idealism I mean a lesser appreciation of the goods that though truest, are not directly visible or tangible: a lesser appreciation that only one thing really matters, that this life is only a shadow of that which is life in the fullest sense, etc.

The following texts, and some reflection on our reaction to them, may help illustrate this:

"Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage" (1 Cor 7:27). … Even if marriage had no troubles, it would still be better for us to press forward toward the things yet to come. But since marriage does have its troubles, why be further burdened by it? (St. John Chrysostom Homily 19)

Now that resurrection is at our gates, and we do not speak of death, but advance toward another life better than the present, the desire for posterity is superfluous. If you desire children, you can get much better old age, if you give birth by spiritual labor. So there remains only one reason for marriage, to avoid
fornication (St. John Chrysostom, Sermon on marriage).

As a side note, we may remark that this is said by a theologian and pastor who has a quite positive view of marriage:

"Pray together at home and go to Church; when you come back home, let each ask the other the meaning of the readings and the prayers…. Remind one another that nothing in life is to be feared, except offending God. If your marriage is like this, your perfection will rival the holiest of monks.

Seek the things which please God, and those which please man will follow soon enough…. It is possible for us to surpass all others in virtue by becoming good husbands and wives. (Homily 20).

Translations from On Marriage and Family Life, translated by Catharine P. Roth and David Anderson, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1986.

From St. Teresa of the Andes (1900-1920):

I'll give you some lights that can help you recognize your vocation… Do you have a strong desire to belong to God alone, and serve Him as much as you can, with the greatest perfection? That was the ideal God proposed to us when He created us: that we should serve Him and love Him above all things. Do you think your heart can be satisfied with the love of creatures, who for the most part and most times are fickle and fleeting? … Do you think that marriage to a young man is a happy venture, with a man with whom you can form a Christian home? Does that attract you? Wouldn't you prefer to belong to God, to live despised and unknown to the world in a convent, forming thousands of Christian hearts, being a mother of those souls, converting and bringing them to God? … Who can love us like God does? No one in the world.

… My dear little sister, think about all this. And if you're able to renounce all these comforts to live with Him, to be the bride of the divine Crucified One – clearly aided by God's grace – it's because God wants you for Himself, and because He's giving you the courage to abandon everything for Him. Letter 65, To a Girl Friend. Letters of Saint Teresa of The Andes, translated by Michael D. Griffin, Teresian Charism Press, 1994.

These statements tend to make us somewhat uncomfortable, as implying a too negative or disparaging view of marriage–unless we simply disagree with them. However, it seems to me that there are many statements of Christ and of St. Paul that tend to make us uncomfortable, and for rather similar reasons:

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:5)

Relatively speaking (in comparison with persons living in earlier times), these and similar sayings tend to make us uncomfortable, because they seem too negative or pessimistic.

From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

We are similarly inclined to see these statements (certainly if someone now makes similar statements) as implying escapism and a negative view of the created world, and have difficulty identifying with them.

Right and Wrong Ways To Assess the Changes in Attitude to Marriage

In reviewing and evaluating the changes that have taken place in attitudes to marriage and the relationship between marriage and holiness, there are two errors we should avoid. On the one hand, we should be capable of a critical look at the tradition and refrain from immediately canonizing everything in the tradition. On the other hand, we should not set up ourselves (modern man or the modern Christian) as the reference point for evaluating the developments in the tradition; if we do so, then of course we will see the present attitude as the right one, and more traditional attitudes as imperfect or wrong to the degree that they deviate from present attitudes. Rather, the teaching of Christ and of the Apostles is the principal reference point for assessing both the attitudes to be found in the authors and saints in Christian history, and modern attitudes.

If we take this approach, in my opinion we do find a certain tendency to a lopsidedness in the Christian tradition–a favoring of continence, celibacy and virginity that lends a negative tone to speech about and attitudes toward marriage. We also find, however, that the modern Christian has lost a great deal of the fire of the early Christians and of the ideals present throughout the Christian tradition, and that it is in part due to this loss that most of the Christian tradition on marriage seems to him to be obviously a distortion of the truth about marriage.

What is needed is for us to on the one hand regain what has been lost of the faith and conviction of earlier Christians, and on the other hand to integrate recent positive insights into marriage and the call to holiness into a renewed and sound Christian view of life.

Infants and Holy Communion

In the previous post, Faith, Intention and Sacramental Reception of the Eucharist, I spoke about the necessity of an intention to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist in order to enter into the sacramental union with Christ specific to this sacrament (rather than merely have Christ within one's body, just as a ciborium does). This raises a question about infants receiving Communion, as is customary in Eastern rites, both Catholic and Orthodox. Can they be said to receive sacramentally, and to receive the grace of the Sacrament?

Thomas Aquinas's position on this is not entirely clear. Though he knows about the Eastern practice of giving the Eucharist to infants, he argues that this is unfitting. The Eucharist should be given only to those who have or have had devotion to it (Summa Theologiae, III q. 80, a. 9). It can be given to those who have lost the use of reason on the condition that they previously had devotion to the Sacrament, but should never be given to those who have never attained the use of reason. It is not clear, however, that Thomas Aquinas considers these persons incapable of thereby being spiritually and sacramentally united to Christ through the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. It may even be more probable that he simply considers it unfitting to the dignity of the Sacrament to give it to those who have shown no actual devotion to it.

Two points should be made in regard to the question: first, the degree to which this was and is practice of the Church makes it virtually certain that the Sacrament can in fact be sacramentally received and fruitful for infants too young to know what they are doing. (St. Thomas was not aware of how wide-spread the practice had been). It was at one time almost universal practice to give Holy Communion to infants, at least on certain occasions, such as at baptism or when in danger of death–the latter practice was seemingly based, in some cases, upon a very literal reading of John 6:53 ,"unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you"; but even if partially based on a misunderstanding, it manifests the conviction that infant reception of the Eucharist was not merely understood as a sign for the adults, but as fruitful for the infants themselves. Again, it has remained and is common practice in multiple rites of the Church. To maintain that the Church has been and is all this time practicing a kind of abuse of the Blessed Sacrament by giving it to those incapable of receiving it, as though they were capable of receiving it, is not a very sound position.

Secondly, when infants receive the Eucharist in an ecclesial and liturgical context, the theological principle that those who are incapable of making an act of faith on their own receive the sacrament and grace in virtue of the faith of others, well established in the case of baptism and confirmation, seems just as applicable. Infants who receive Communion from those who intend to give the Sacrament to them, receive Christ sacramentally and receive grace from him.

For some more information on the practice of Infant Communion, an article by Charles Crawford, Infant Communion: Past Tradition and Present Practice (PDF), is available online.