I’m convinced that the perfectly logical, Star Trek Spock figure doesn’t exist, and if he did, he’d miss part of what it means to be human.
What prompts that musing (“I write to see what I think,” someone wrote) is my consternation over the box the Catholic Church is in over divorce and remarriage and my own mixed and less than pristinely logical feelings about them getting out of the box. (I’m totally setting aside the question of pastoral ministry to GLBTetcetera people.
I’m Orthodox Christian. I believe all that that Orthodox Church teaches and that what it has practiced for a millennium or more is sound practice. When the Roman Catholic Church assembled in the Council of Trent in the 16th Century and pondered (perhaps among other things) divorce, it was aware of and acknowledged the practice of the Orthodox, from whom they’d been in uneasy schism for 500 years or so (yes, they would reverse that), on divorce and remarriage:
- Divorce was seen as a grave sin. This is important. It’s not a throw-away line.
- Remarriage was not categorically forbidden. It has been good to see rigorist Roman Catholic writers describe Rome’s categorical ban as “rooted in the very words of Christ himself,” because they don’t inexorably follow from Christ’s words.
- Remarriage ceremonies were, for lack of a better term, penitential in comparison to the crowning service for first marriages.
This, I believe, is sound practice, that handled pastorally can contribute to the salvation of people. Without trying to speculate too wildly, the Roman Catholic practice seems likely to drive wounded people from the Church and, if they are weak sexually, to make serial fornicators or adulterer of them.
I am all but certain that Rome would have a very plausible answer to the preceding sentence. It might even be perfectly logical, but that may bespeak a real limit of logic more than an error in Orthodox practice.
But for the Roman Catholic Church to become like the Orthodox Church on divorce and remarriage at this historic juncture would be seen as a vindication of a different, thoroughly modern, practice on divorce and remarriage:
- Divorce is no big deal.
- Remarriage, if you want to bother (and it’s totally optional; shacking up is just fine if that’s better for your “family” financially), is your basic human right so long as your intended is a consenting adult.
- Marriage ceremonies are a bunch of hocus pocus; do it however you like.
Ross Douthat (H/T Rod Dreher) really believes the current Catholic dogma (from whence flows its practice) and paints an apocalyptic picture of what contradiction and reversal would bring. He urges the Catholic faithful to oppose the Pope if necessary to prevent reversal.
I think the Roman Catholic Church really should abandon that dogma, not in favor of the sexual liberationist superstition, but in favor of the older Orthodox practice. But I can’t begin to imagine how it can actually do that without the consequence of which Douthat warns – and more.
* * * * *
“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)