Amoris Laetitia · Catholic Controversies · divorce

The injustice of judging your own case

In yesterday’s post, I noted that Austen Ivereigh’s defense of Amoris Laetitia laid out a detailed proposal for how a person in an irregular marital situation might be allowed to receive communion.

What Amoris says is that a pastor approved by his bishop should arrange for, in effect, a long retreat involving an amoris-laetitia-coverexamination of conscience, a facing-up to truth, a light-and-shadows discernment, applying the truths of Catholic doctrine on indissolubility and the Eucharist to this particular, unique, concrete situation.

As far as I know, Amoris Laetitia contains no proposal creating a procedure for using the so-called internal forum. Mr. Ivereigh is proposing something not required by Amoris Laetitia itself.

Anyhow, I thought the point of  seeking a new statement on marriage was that legalism is objectionable. A specific procedure for 1. invoking the need for the “internal forum” and 2. actually doing the discernment, amounts to a new round of “legalism.”

If there isn’t such a procedure, the person in question essentially becomes the judge in his or her own case. I decide that my situation, although objectively adulterous, does not really bar me from the sacraments. I am not accountable to anyone on earth for this judgment.

To go back to the “obvious” case that Ivereigh proposed, what is to stop the abusive, abandoning husband from discerning on his own authority that he may worthily receive communion? The idea that he must have a priest’s permission to enter into the discernment process and to agree about his worthiness, doesn’t really solve the problem. What is to stop him from finding a friendly priest who agrees with him? Without any canonical process or even guidelines, what guides the priest?

Nothing. Except the priest’s own sense of how Amoris Laetitia fits in with the overall tradition that came before it.

We cannot forgo pastoral or canonical procedures completely.  It simply cannot be done. We cannot escape this problem.

british-judge-w-wig
Judge Thyself.

It is also “obvious,” but seldom discussed, that the vast majority of civil divorces are acts of injustice toward the abandoned spouse and especially toward the children. Who is taking their part? Who is standing for the integrity of the bond? Shouldn’t the Church be more prepared to accompany the victims than the perpetrators? Who stands for compassion for the children whose lives have been turned upside down? How do they feel when they see their abusive, abandoning or adulterous father going to Mass and receiving communion? Does anyone care how they feel?

One might say that this goes on already, and I would not argue. One might say that this is the way the American church has been handling contraception since 1968. Again, I would not argue.

But these are scandalous situations, that have done great harm to jpii-familiaris-consortiothe Church, her witness and to the souls who have been deprived of the fullness of Catholic teaching.

These situations should be corrected, not replicated.

John Paul II’s treatment of these issues in Familiaris Consortio was clear and compassionate. This is the document, which in practice, ought to guide pastors. The quest for either mercy or justice with no procedures at all is a vain quest.

 

 

 

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