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Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Clericalist Mindset.

My favorite Cardinal has it. And he just revealed it today in imitation of the Hagan Lio style of his boss:

"That’s a real problem. I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid. Marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament presupposes faith."

Leaving aside the ridiculous imprudence of Kasper revealing such, there's another serious problem. Namely, that statement is wholly, purely clericalist. Yet neither Commonweal's interviewer nor "Best-educated laity ever!™" commenters even noticed it.

How so? 

"Oh, so it's only the sacrament confected by the *laity* that's invalid half the time--but you *clerics* nail it every single time? How happy for *you*!"

Really. I mean, if we're going to indict the laity for defective sacramental intention, then we'd better worry about the clerics that the same frivolous, dork laity have produced, right? They didn't emerge from some pristine dimension unsullied by the culture, correct? If you're not willing to consider such, then why not? That's one of the places that unfortunate assumption leads. 

Yet another problem with this mindset is that it's an assault on natural marriage, as commenter Danielius points out below:

Hilarious. There goes the tradition that natural marriages are real marriages. Then what about amending the Canon Law, to make some additional rules about entering a marriage? Because if indeed 50% are not valid then how is that not a mockery of the Holy Matrimony to allow this to continue? Oh well, that would be unmerciful, wouldn't it? So instead, lets delegate the power of annulling marriages to the same priests that didn't bother to check if all is in order in the first place. That will work.

The last is crucial: nowhere in Kasper's meanderings is there a hint of clerical negligence in the marriage crisis. If you genuinely believe half of marriages are invalid, that should prompt serious soul-searching on your part, a mea culpa and admission of gruesome failure. But, nope. Vague waving at "bureaucratic" presentations, and that's it. 

Again, how convenient.

No. Half of marriages being null also suggests that this is not exactly the golden age of the church we're told it is, nor is all remotely well. A 50% failure rate is only spectacular in the batting box. And a true church of mercy shouldn't be so sanguine with souls.

Sorry, but that doesn't cut it. At least it shouldn't.


  1. Well, fwiw, Ed Peters has your back on this one.

  2. Seeing the glass half-full, there's a 50-50 chance Kasper was not validly ordained to the priesthood.

  3. Often, now, I have to check my URL as to confirm I'm not at Eye of the Tiber or The Onion.

    The daily news out of the Vatican almost parodies itself.

  4. The man is undoubtedly right about the validity of 50% of the marriages. How many budding alcoholics marry first time in the Church when they've already made a more thorough-going commitment than one to God or their prospective spouses. In a word, they are already married at the time of the sacrament. If these are valid marriages I'll eat them. The question more properly is what to do about them and it is MOST CERTAINLY NOT leaving questions of annulments in such circumstances to pastors and priests outside of established formal tribunal process. Procedures as they are may be imperfect but they preserve the sacramentality of marriage something Kasper's proposal wouldn't do.

  5. Well, maybe he and Pope Francis the Muddle-Headed are right.

    The bishops and priests have so utterly, abjectly and miserably failed to teach the Faith over the past fifty years that most people entering into marriage have no idea of its sacramental nature or the reality of what that is, so they did not have the proper intention when they entered into the marriage.

    However, the logic also leads to the conclusion that most First Communions, Confessions, Confirmations, and likely even most Holy Orders are invalid as well.

    Come to think of it, perhaps that's why the Church is in such an abysmal situation today, particularly with the desecration of the Eucharist and Liturgy rampant in nearly every parish, and the complete disdain held for attending Mass by most Catholics so-called.

    The blind leading the blind in all respects, and it ain't pretty, as we all see.

    Now where do we go from here? That's my horrible quandry right now and it makes me so damn sad and disgusted.

  6. @Steve from Long Island

    What to do? I've dropped out - not to encourage you to do so if you're not inclined. In the present environment, given the clear deficiencies in Catholic orthodoxy, and those complicated by the appalling lack of Christian fellowship at the parish level, I feel myself less and less able to participate in the life of the Church so I've stopped trying. I've worked hard enough on being a Catholic over the years. Its time for someone else - particularly our leadership - to pull their weight.

  7. Marriage actually is fundamentally different, though, because the matter of the sacrament is mutual consent to the essentials of Christian marriage.

    I've suggested that a helpful way to think about invalid marriage is to compare it to invalid confession.

    Furthermore, appealing to natural marriage doesn't help because it is literally impossible for baptized Christians to enter into non-sacramental marriages (check your Denzinger).

    To keep it in context, here is my view of Kasper's proposal.

  8. I don't recall if this was mentioned in the reaction to the Kasper proposal, but I've just finished reading the first volume of collected letters of saint Basil the Great ( As far I recall there are only two that mention second marriages - 160 and 188. I plan to get the second batch from my library soon, but I think Cdl. Kasper the Friendly Antinomian was citing letter 160, where Basil says:

    "Second marriage is a remedy against fornication, not a means of lasciviousness."

    Now, from the context of the letter its clear that Basil means second marriage after the first wife has died. (There clearly was some controversy about whether to allow marriage after the death of a spouse.)

    Letter 188 is a bit murkier, my edition from the library had a footnote to point XII saying that "digamy" refers to second marriage after the death of the first spouse. But what does "trigamy" in point IV mean? Three living wives or third marriage after the first two died? Later in the same paragraph Basil says

    "He does not reckon those who had exceeded the limits of a second marriage as worthy of the title of husband or wife."

    Given that second marriage (via letter 160) means marriage after the death of the first spouse I think its the second option. Even if this interpretation is wrong Basil still calls trigamy fornication. "Limited" fornication, but still fornication. The pair must separate and stay separated for 5 years before Basil allows for communion. Hows them apples?

    (But point IX makes me question Basils view of indissolubility of marriage: "the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned." But this is an old issue of Gospel of Luke and Mark vs. Gospel of Matthew - divorce for adultery - and not the thing Kasper is pushing.)

    Now, I don't think Cdl. Kasper The 50 Percent is stupid, so I expect that he tries to justify in that book of his going far beyond anything even hinted at by saint Basil. However, to enlist the "remedy for fornication" line as a precedent for his proposal, given what Basil means by second marriage and that he flat-out calls third marriage fornication, is pure sophistry.

  9. "the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned."

    But there is a well-established situation where this is the case (again, check your Denzinger).

    A marriage between a baptized Christian and an unbaptized non-Christian - secured under a dispensation from the Bishop - is a valid natural marriage but is not sacramental. Since it is not sacramental it can be dissolved by ecclesial authority in a case of abandonment.

    Marriages between baptized Christians, however, are always sacramental (or not valid at all), and are indissoluble once they have been consummated.

  10. Here is a citation:
    We, therefore, responding to your inquiry, in conformity with the advice of Our brothers, even though one of Our predecessors [Celestine III] seems to have thought otherwise, make a distinction between two cases: when there are two unbelievers and one converts to the Catholic faith, or when there are two believers and one lapses into heresy or falls into the error of the heathens. For if, indeed, one of the two unbelieving spouses converts to the Catholic faith, and the other does not wish to live together in any manner, or at least not without blaspheming the divine name or leading the other into mortal sin, the one who is abandoned, if wishing to, may enter into a second marriage, and in this case, We understand what was said by the apostle: “If the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so: in such cases, the brother or sister is not bound” [1 Cor 7:15]. And likewise, the canon that says: “The insult to the Creator dissolves the juridical bond of marriage for the one who is thus abandoned.” [Cf. Gratian, Decretum, P. II, cs. 28, q. 2, c. 2 (Frdb 1:1090]

    But if one of the believing spouses either falls into heresy or lapses into the error of the heathens, we do not believe that in this case the abandoned one can enter into a second marriage while the other spouse is living, even though in this case a greater insult to the Creator may be evident. For even if, in fact, a true marriage exists between unbelievers, it is still not ratified. Between believers, however, a true and ratified marriage exists, because the sacrament of faith (baptism) once conferred is never lost, and indeed it makes the sacrament of marriage ratified so that the marriage itself endures in the spouses as long as the baptism endures. – Pope Innocent III, Quanto te magis, letter to Bishop Ugo of Ferrara, May 1, 1199 (Denzinger)

  11. Thanks, Zippy. Yeah, I should probably cut Saint Baz some slack. By all accounts he was a great and a holy man, willing to fight and suffer for orthodoxy. I think my heterodoxy detector might be a bit trigger happy right now (last week it was Blessed J.H. Newman). In that paragraph(s) he was merely stating what the custom says and/or what the canons say. (And the canons in the Eastern Church have always been famously murky.) My whole purpose was to question whether Cdl. Kasper can legitimately claim him. I say nay so far.

    Sanctus Basilius Magnus ora pro nobis!

  12. I think my heterodoxy detector might be a bit trigger happy right now


    "Kasper the Friendly Antinomian" was priceless.