The Tyranny of Lawlessness

The Amoris Laetitia crisis in the Catholic Church has many facets and unanswered questions. One question is: why are so few bishops and cardinals asking for clarification of the ambiguities in the document? Why are so few coming to the defense of the plain teaching of Jesus?

Ignatius of Loyola, former soldier, originator of the “servile” theory of obedience.
Over at Rorate Caeli,  John R. T. Lamont, DPhil offers a possible answer: too many Catholics have accepted a servile concept of obedience to authority.
The explanation lies in a false conception of religious authority, which considers it to be above the law rather than subject to law, and that sees the surrender of intellect and will to the religious superior as virtuous and indeed obligatory. This conception has deep roots in the history of the Church.

His argument is long and complex and I will not attempt to review it all here. But his bottom line is very much to the point of this blog.

This programme (of Pope Francis and his allies) does not intend to allow any divorced and remarried Catholics whatsoever to receive communion. Instead, it decrees that reception of communion is to be subject to the decision of the priest who gives it – a decision that is to be guided by considerations that are general enough to make the will of the priest in practice the determining factor. (my emphasis.) 

The programme is presented to the public as an increase in freedom for the divorced and civilly remarried. They will no longer be inconvenienced by having to get an annulment. Many of them will not go through the “process” of “accompanying” and simply give themselves permission to go to communion. (Let’s face it: many of them already are.) And since Amoris Laetitia does not actually establish a new process that defines “accompaniment and discernment,” it is easy to see why they would feel ok about giving themselves permission.
Oon the other hand, if a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic presents himself or herself to the priest in good faith, asking for “accompaniment and discernment,” there is no process or criteria in place to determine whether they can receive communion. This is when Dr. Lamont’s point kicks in with a vengance:
This replaces the divine law concerning marriage and the Eucharist with the authority of the priest, and enshrines the superiority of this lawless and therefore tyrannical authority over the authority of God Himself.

The priest decides, with no reference to any authority outside of himself.

It looks so neat and tidy.

This is exactly comparable to the havoc that “no-fault” divorce created in American civil marriage and divorce law. Presented to the public as an increase in freedom for couples in “loveless” or “dead” marriages, the reality has been quite different. One party can divorce the other unilaterally, against the wishes of the other spouse. Quite often, the adulterous spouse seeks the divorce, and the law assists them.

No fault was presented to the public as a solution to the problem of legalistic, proceedings requiring one party to prove that the other was having an affair. The advocates of this far-reaching legal change did not seem to realize that these “sham” proceedings could only work if both parties agreed to make it work. The partners in the “dead” “loveless” marriage had to cooperate to make the court believe that one had met the legal criteria for a “cause” for divorce. The “loveless” partners had to agree to most of the terms going into the court, or they would not cooperate with each other.  Under the no fault regime, no one has to provide evidence of anything. One party can end the marriage against the explicit wishes of the other.

Family courts have become sources of tyranny in our culture, where the most powerful, the most vengeful, the richer systematically prevail over the weaker, gentler and poorer. Where the faithful spouse is at a disadvantage. God forbid the Church should replicate this form of “progress.”

But Dr. Lamont’s insight suggests that this is exactly what will happen. Under the interpretation of Church law inspired by Amoris Laetitia, the priest will have more, not less authority, because he will no longer feel himself bound by the annulment process defined by canon law. The more lawless divorced and civilly remarried spouses will give themselves permission. Those who most wish to follow Christ, will become the weaker parties, disadvantaged by the dismantling of legal processes.

French women rioting for bread, during the Revolution

Looking across history and cultures, one can see this pattern: Lawlessness benefits the already strong, and harms the weak. The alternative to law is not freedom, but the Law of the Strongest.

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