Bringing out the Big Guns

Okay, some have taken issue with my previous post regarding Cardinal Kasper’s recent article in America Magazine. One in particular, Lutheran Pastor Mark Henderson, has claimed that it is the Catholic Church, and not the Eastern Orthodox or Protestant Churches, that is out of step with dominical and apostolic tradition in this matter. 

So now it is time to pull out the big guns, and refer my readers to an article by a real patristics scholar and not simply an amateur such as myself. Dr Adam G. Cooper, of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, published this article on “Cardinal Kasper and the Church Fathers” in the Catholic World Report some months ago. You may wish to read it, if you think that Cardinal Kasper has the tradition of the Church on his side. Dr Cooper is, of course, a convert to the Catholic Church like myself. His article was recommended to me by another (still) Lutheran pastor who was of the opinion that the arguments stack up. 

If anyone feels that they can show contrary evidence – ie. that the Early and Patristic Church really did believe that it was possible for a Christian in a sacramental marriage to divorce and legitimately remarry – I would like to see it. I simply am not convinced by claims that the Latin Church has misinterpreted the rule of our Lord on this matter.

Again, I will encourage readers to consider Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 5-7 over again. Paul is quite prepared to withhold judgement from those outside the Christian community (‘Who am I to judge?’), but by golly he holds those within the community to the highest possible standards – standards some might today regard as ‘unrealistic’. Similarly, he is ready to allow that a Christian married to a non-Christian is ‘not bound’ should the non-Christian spouse abandon the marriage, but he seems a very long way from allowing the same to those married ‘in the Lord’. His teachings in fact appear to give strong support to the Early Christian expectation that those who have been divorced or even widowed should remain unmarried for the rest of their lives.

I’m just saying that the current Catholic teaching and practice seems to me to be in complete concord with both Scripture and the Patristic witness. As usual, I’m happy to be proved wrong.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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4 Responses to Bringing out the Big Guns

  1. Mike says:

    I have always thought the term “unrealistic” a cop-out. It’s an attempt to deride the opposing view and shut down the argument.

    I don’t envy the person who married young and stupid and later broke up. Although they are not alone. Alongside them I would put the gay man or woman who feels they could never enter heterosexual marriage but longs for a homosexual relationship, the priest or religious who committed to their vocation young and later feels the longing for sexual intimacy, the man with a wife of many years who now longer interests him sexually or who is no longer interested in sex, or is a coma patient or has forgotten him through Alzheimer’s, or the man who loved a dozen women over 30 years but never had that love returned. Nor the remarried man who converts and finds that suddenly the rules have all changed!
    We should not put one of these cases before the others either. If you argue the cause of one, it follows also for the rest. For whatever reason, many, many, people find themselves in a situation where they can’t fulfil their heartfelt longing for sexual intimacy and companionship in any way that makes sense to them. This is a reality and we can’t trivialise it. But neither can we make it some kind of pinnacle of the world’s worst possible sufferings, and consider living a chaste life some kind of impossible task.

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks, Mike. That answers precisely the question Tony asks at the end of a long conversation on this topic in the previous post. There are very many people outside the Church (and within it, as we are discovering) who reject the Church’s moral teaching as “unrealistic”. Some would say it is “unrealistic” of the Church to even teach that sexual intercourse belongs within marriage. Some would say it is unrealistic for the Church to exhort her members to remain faithful even to the point of martyrdom. Others would simply say that Christ’s exhortation to “love your enemies and do good to them that hate you” is unrealistic. The fact is that Christian discipleship and the universal call to holiness will always appear “unrealistic” to those outside the Church. Christ calls us to a level of perfection and sanctity that would indeed be “unrealistic” without his grace and mercy, forgiving us every time we fail and need to start again, but his grace and mercy are never to be used as excuses for avoiding the very real and very difficult road of faithful discipleship.

      • Faz says:

        Classic straw man, David. You set up the opposing argument — even better you reduce it to one word: ‘unrealistic’ — then burn it down.

    • Faz says:

      I won’t go down the homosexual relationship path, Mike, there be dragons (or, it’s a string, if not a post, if not a blog all on its own!), but …

      A priest of religious does have a way of ‘getting out of’ (for want of a better phrase) their vocational promise and choosing the path of marriage and family.

      In the context of this discussion I’m not sure what ‘sins’ your alluding to in the examples that follow.

      If you argue the cause of one, it follows also for the rest.

      I don’t think it does.

      I also don’t think relationship break up happens because of ‘one thing’. Lack of sexual attraction, for example, can be a symptom of many other issues related to the individuals or the relationship dynamics.

      This is a reality and we can’t trivialise it.

      I agree! In my view, a form of trivialising is coldly applying a rule without compassion or mercy or understanding and suggesting that ‘one size fits all’.

      But neither can we make it some kind of pinnacle of the world’s worst possible sufferings, and consider living a chaste life some kind of impossible task.

      Or promote an argument because ‘it’s not impossible’?

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