Rorate Caeli

Texts of the Abstracts from the Steubenville Symposium on Marriage and the Family

Those who watched the livestream of the September 8, 2015 symposium with Cardinal Burke and a panel of experts heard an abstract read aloud by each of the panel members. Cardinal Burke's address, as well as the full-length papers of the panelists, will be published in a book from Emmaus Road entitled From the Beginning:The Mission and Vocation of the Family in the Contemporary World. Those who pre-order between now and September 14 will receive a 35% pre-publication discount (click here): $12.95 instead of the list price of $19.95.

Meanwhile, for those who did not watch the livestream or who would prefer to have the abstracts in writing, here they are, in the order in which they were given at the event. Some of the abstracts were read in modified form.

The Synod on the Family:

Addressing the Instrumentum Laboris

His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Followed by a Panel Discussion

September 8, 2015
Franciscan University of Steubenville


The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Problem of Relativism
Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, JD, JCD

Pope Francis has taken the extraordinary step of convoking two synods of bishops in a brief period of time to discuss issues pertaining to marriage and the family in the Church and in the world. His concerns about these issues are well founded as evidenced by the numerous challenges to and attacks on marriage and family that many people throughout the world, including faithful Catholics, have encountered particularly since the close of Vatican Council II. This paper addresses the need for the synod of bishops on “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World” to affirm clearly the traditional meaning of marriage first and foremost due to the Divine nature of that teaching. Moreover, the suggested pastoral solution that proposes a “narrow gate” for participation in the sacramental life for those in irregular unions has been considered and rejected on numerous occasions in the past at various levels of the Holy See. Additionally, any purported change to the Church’s teachings and laws on these matters would raise numerous issues, including the risk of relativizing these heretofore-absolute truths about Christian marriage as an indissoluble and exclusively faithful union between a man and a woman, which Christ raised to a sacrament between the baptized.

Marriage as a Natural Community Requires a Lifelong Commitment
Patrick Lee, PhD

As a natural community marriage is the union of a man and a woman who have committed to sharing their lives on all levels of their humanity—bodily as well as emotionally and spiritually, of the kind that would be naturally fulfilled by conceiving and rearing children together (even though in some instances that fulfillment is not reached). The nature of marriage requires that it be founded on a lifelong commitment and constitute an unbreakable bond. The moral bond of marriage—the set of rights and obligations to each other created by the mutual consent of the spouses—is distinct from the fullness of that community. The marital union may be more or less full, without weakening the marital bond. No one can promise what he or she has no control over. But the marriage commitment is to voluntary conduct. Thus marriages cannot die of themselves. The marital bond remains even though the feeling of love or the depth of the union to which the spouses have committed may erode.

Oikonomia in the Church Today?: Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church and Developments from Vatican II to the Present
Pia Crosby and Stephen Hildebrand, PhD

Both the Gospels and the Letters of Paul witness to the Lord’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, wherein adultery can be a cause for separation but does not indicate the permissibility of remarriage. The Fathers, nearly unanimously, understood this teaching of the Lord, despite erroneous claims that Christians could not have contradicted Roman law (they did) or that the Fathers understood the rupture of a marriage to entail the possibility of remarriage (they didn’t).
Ambrosiaster alone in the patristic tradition stands for genuine divorce and remarriage. Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Basil—who is most often erroneously placed in the company of Ambrosiaster—Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, and Augustine (the list could go on) all witness to the permanence of marriage and the acceptance of separation in certain circumstances, but not with a view toward re-marriage. Special consideration must be given to Basil in order to show (1) that he does not endorse divorce and remarriage and (2) that he does allow an oikonomia that anticipates Kasper’s. (In this usage the term oikonomia means “an accommodation.”) Basil tolerates a divorced man co-habiting with a woman who is not his wife but stops short of Kasper’s indication that such a man can be admitted to communion.
From Melkite Archbishop’s Zoghby’s plea at the Second Vatican Council that the Church follow the Eastern Orthodox practice of oikonomia, there has been a vibrant debate of it among leading Western theologians and prelates. In the early 1970s, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had come to much the same conclusion as Kasper now has. Under the influence of John Paul II, he changed his position while serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. John Paul and Ratzinger/Benedict XVI repeatedly re-affirmed the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the inability of the divorced and remarried to receive communion. In July of 2013, Pope Francis himself re-opened what seemed to be a closed discussion in response to a journalist’s questions about communion for the divorced and remarried out of a desire to offer truly merciful pastoral care to those in very painful circumstances.
The proposal for oikonomia raises questions about how the contemporary Church can rightly make use of the customs and traditions of the ancient Church. To adopt and expand this practice would constitute distortion rather than development in the Church’s understanding of marriage and the universal call to holiness, for it denies the truth about marriage and deprives the faithful in difficult circumstances of the call to heroic virtue in imitation of Christ.

The Evil of Divorce and the Dignity of the Human Person: Understanding the Immorality of Divorce through St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
Donald Asci, STD

In Familiaris Consortio Pope St. John Paul II describes bearing “witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage” as “one of the most precious and urgent tasks” of Christians, especially married couples, in our time. While it primarily “reconfirms the good news of the definite nature of conjugal love that has Christ as ‘its foundation and strength,” Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage also includes the explicit recognition of the immorality of divorce itself even apart from the compounding evil of civil remarriage after a divorce. However, as recent discussions of the indissolubility of marriage surrounding the Synod have suggested, few seem to find exploring the evil of divorce itself to be an important topic, much less an urgent task, with the focus being shifted instead to the cases of those who compound the evil of divorce with a civil remarriage and their situation regarding Eucharistic communion. This essay addresses divorce as a grave offense against the dignity of the human person by approaching the question through the spousal meaning of the body articulated in St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. Viewing divorce from the perspective of the spousal meaning of the body makes the evil of divorce more dearly an affront to the intrinsic value of the human person and a type of consumerism in the marital sphere, which in turn likens divorce to the evil of euthanasia. This essay secondarily examines how divorce can in some cases be a form of despair, especially despair in the face of suffering or despair over the possibility of reconciliation, which sets divorce against the sacramental character of marriage. Finally, this essay proposes that by failing to address the evils of divorce clearly and adamantly, Catholics may be undercutting our attempts to defend the dignity of the human person in other situations (e.g. euthanasia, abortion, and the sex industry) and our attempts to foster Christian hope in general and in the sexual sphere specifically.

Communion for the Divorced and Remarried
Michael Sirilla, PhD

In his proposal, which appears in the current Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Ordinary Synod, articles 120 and following, Cardinal Walter Kasper recommends a new pastoral discipline for the Church in which bishops would decide on a case-by-case basis whether to admit divorced and “remarried” Catholics to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion after repenting of their divorce but without requiring the sacramental confession of adultery and a firm commitment to live in complete continence. This suggested
change in pastoral discipline is presented as more merciful than the Church’s current practice; but in fact it constitutes a grave sin of scandal in the strict sense. This is established by looking at his proposal in light of the following six points of immutable doctrine:
1. Sacramental marriage is a lifelong marital bond, dissolvable only by death.
2. The act of abandonment of the active divorcer with the intention to sever this bond is gravely sinful.
3. Those who attempt “remarriage” commit a further grave sin that Christ calls adultery.
4. Reception of Holy Communion in a state of unrepentant mortal sin is itself a grave sin of sacrilege.
5. Bishops who admit (or those who direct or encourage bishops to admit) unrepentant persons to Holy Communion commit a grave sin of scandal.
6. Divorcees who repent, commit to live in complete continence, and receive sacramental absolution are
not in a state of mortal sin (at least with respect to the divorce and “remarriage”); but those who do not are in a state of mortal sin, given their full knowledge and consent. If a pastor discerns invincible ignorance on the part of the couple in this regard, it is his solemn duty to inform them clearly of their situation and urge them to repent so that they may truly find the mercy of Christ.
The Synod fathers and the Pope must reject Cardinal Kasper’s ersatz proposal of mercy as found in the Instrumentum Laboris and instead unequivocally reaffirm Christ’s genuine offer of mercy as found in the Church’s perennial practice and expressed by Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, a. 84.

How the Liturgical Reform Has Contributed to the Crisis of the Synod
Peter Kwasniewski, PhD

Many factors have contributed to the precipitous decline of Catholics’ knowledge of and adherence to the Church’s Magisterium on marriage and the family. A neglected factor, however, may turn out to be the sacred liturgy, which is where Catholics most commonly encounter the Church and her teaching. It is worth asking whether tremendous changes in the form of the liturgy itself, taken together with prevailing customs of celebration, may have contributed to confusion, uncertainty, ignorance, laxity, and heterodoxy in the realm of marriage and family. My essay tests the hypothesis in five areas: the suppression or marginalization of key Scripture texts in the reformed lectionary; the advance of feminism and egalitarianism in liturgical ministries; the doctrinal and spiritual deficiencies of contemporary church music and other sacred arts; the disconnect between the Church’s exalted doctrine and the horizontal, anthropocentric ars celebrandi of wedding ceremonies; and the almost total loss of asceticism in connection with the reception of Holy Communion. If the argumentation is cogent, it follows that the Church today must take much more seriously the urgent need for a “reform of the reform” as well as the promotion of the traditional form of the Roman Rite, which is unencumbered with the foregoing difficulties.

Pharasaism and Marriage
John Bergsma, PhD

In current discussions of marriage within the Catholic Church, it has at times been asserted or implied that those who support the Church’s standing doctrine on marriage—the non-recognition of second unions, publically indicated by abstention from Eucharistic communion by those in such unions—have a “Pharisaical” attitude toward the divorced and remarried. This stated or implied accusation needs to be submitted to critical scrutiny. The following points need to be made:
l. The Pharisees had few or no objections to divorce and remarriage, but Jesus did.
2. Jesus preached a more rigorous practice of Divine and moral law than the Pharisees.
3. Jesus criticized the Pharisees not for rigorous moral standards, but for using religious legalism and casuistry to avoid the demands of the Divine and moral law.
4. Jesus criticized the Pharisees also for insisting on exaggerated interpretations of ceremonial law, which were difficult for the poor to follow.
5. In sum, Jesus was unyielding in his fidelity to Divine and moral law, but generous in his interpretation of ceremonial law. The indissolubility of marriage belongs to the former.

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