Letters to the Editor

Doctrine v. Ministry

Dear Editor: While I entirely agree with the sentiments (The Editor’s Space, Aug. 5) you expressed about Church unity (and would underscore that as Catholics we are obliged to do so), I respectfully disagree with your observations about how that should be done. More importantly, I disagree with your assessment about the state of the Church now and its clear teachings on the sacraments, including marriage.

Specifically, it is true today that certain bishop conferences, such as the German, Maltese, and Brazilian, have published “Amoris Laetitia” guidelines that instruct

pastors it is within Church teaching to distribute Communion to individuals who have been divorced, and are now married to a different person. Thus what was once taught as absolute truth is now different in Germany, while still in effect across the

border in Poland. No less than the former Prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith said the same about the unchanging nature of the Church’s teaching about marriage. I believe that this signifies a real problem that goes beyond just disagreements about style.

Reflecting on the Church crisis in the teaching of marriage, many people remind me of the need for mercy and compassion in the Church, similar to the point you raised referring to the beautiful ceremony in Queens blessing civil marriages. However, Pope Francis would agree his papacy has no monopoly on mercy and compassion, and I recoil at the suggestion by many that the Church in the past was a mean-spirited place. That is dangerous and wrong thinking that in my opinion is designed to rationalize the guilty conscience of the massive numbers who have left the Church.

Finally, I also cannot help thinking of St Thomas More in this situation. It occurred to me that if the German bishops’ interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” had been around in the 16th century, Thomas More might have died a wealthy and respected man, with a large household and many grandchildren. His executor and former friend, Henry VIII, wanted nothing more than to have a divorce and remarry Boleyn (after a period of discernment of course). The Church was in his way. I believe More could have possibly consented under this interpretation.

Instead, More’s head was pegged to a stake on London Bridge, only to have his daughter retrieve it after 30 days. When asked for last words before sentencing to death, More said he was really being executed because he “would not bend to the marriage” and could not sign the oath to Henry VIII marriage because “the sacrament of marriage is especially strong, as it was given to us by Our Savior Himself, whilst he actually walked this Earth with us.” (Referring to Matthew 5:22)