Separating What God Has Joined

Protestantism and Liberalism promote divorce. In saying so, I do not limit my meaning specifically to marital divorce; I mean broadly that both the heresy and the ideology separate what God has joined together — sometimes including man and wife joined in lawful wedlock.

In regard to Protestantism, about five years ago I wrote that it, “tends to separate what God has joined together: ruler and believer (per Luther), faith and good works, Scripture and Tradition, grace and merit, divine assistance and the sacramental economy, belief and reason, etc.” About Liberalism, I noted ten years ago two of the “divorces” that it favors: “Onanism [contraception] separates the two ends of matrimony, divorcing marital love from the responsibility of properly rearing and educating children. Indifferentism separates salvation from the ‘society of the elect,’ the Catholic Church.”

This theme of separating what is joined in the divine economy (including both the natural and supernatural orders), or contrariwise, of doing the right thing and keeping joined what God has wed, is an important one. If we are to work for a Christian restoration of society, then reuniting what God has joined together is a moral imperative for us — even if, in certain of these cases, we can presently only rejoin them in our minds.

In addition to the shocking rates of marital divorce, an effect of the larger crisis in the family, here are a few of the other destructive “divorces” of modernity:

  • The divorce of “Christianity” from Christ’s Church.
  • The divorce of Church from State.
  • The divorce of the unitive from the procreative purposes of matrimony.
  • The divorce of ecclesiastical authority from the obligations imposed by Tradition.
  • The divorce of ecclesiastical and civil authority from both reason and the common good.
  • The divorce of Faith and Reason, which was made possible when the sciences were divorced from the traditional hierarchical schema which saw theology as “the Queen of the Sciences.”
  • The divorce of the arts from the glory of God, giving us l’art pour l’art, or “art for art’s sake.”
  • The divorce of daily life and customs from the Church’s liturgical year, with its fasts and feasts.

The list could be enlarged, but space permits me to keep it short and to consider further only three of these divorces.

Church and State. The concept of statecraft that gave us Christendom was the union of throne and altar. Since the time of Theodosius the Great (ruled: 379-395), one and the same act — sacramental Baptism — made one both a member of the true Church and a member of the body politic of the Empire. To be a member of the Church was coterminous with being the subject of a Christian monarch. It was expected that statecraft, public morals, professional standards (think guilds), and daily life would be carried out as Christians would carry them out. Without making exaggerated claims regarding the success this ideal achieved in every era, we can certainly state that the ideal as such was a given in the society, and that it was good.

The ideal was viciously attacked by Liberalism. In fact, as can be discerned from this excellent definition of Liberalism, the separation of Church and State is, historically and in the Catholic mind, integral to the error of Liberalism.

The Holy Roman Empire embodied this Christian notion of the Sacrum Imperium. The same ideal of a sacral society is embodied in the beautiful Catholic social thought of the Spanish Carlists, among many other movements.

The great divorce of Church from State, of God from politics, has given us evil politics. It can be no other way.

To the person who will object that God did not join Church and State, but that such was a medieval idea jettisoned by the modern Magisterium, let me recall that Vatican II’s Dignitatis humanae said of itself that “it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

Unitive and Procreative Purposes of Matrimony. When the marital act is divorced from marriage, it is immediately abused. The result is either the sin of fornication or that of adultery. But, even within the context of matrimony, it is abused when its unitive and procreative aspects are separated. This is the sin of onanism. It has been pointed out by many prescient commentators that we will never succeed in defeating abortion until the contraceptive mentality is rooted out of the popular mind. The explanation is simple. What is abortion but a contraceptive “B Plan”? How much more can one divorce the unitive and procreative aspects of physical intimacy than to exert violence against the frail and innocent life that results from the act? It is the contraceptive mentality of selfish and greedy pleasure over parental responsibility and loving self sacrifice that gives us abortion. To the extent that we remove the former vice from men’s minds, the latter atrocity will disappear.

But abortion is not the only evil that follows in the train of onanism. If sexual intimacy is about pleasure and is not about offspring, then what of the most effective — and I mean guaranteed 100% effective — method of contraception: homosexuality? There is no moral barrier between unnaturally attracted men or women engaging in such depravity, or even calling it marriage, if venereal pleasure can be rightly divorced from the blessing of offspring. And once we go down that rainbow path of making the obviously teleological complementarity of the sexes into something arbitrary, what protects us from denying the distinction of the sexes full stop, calling them instead “genders” that are mere “social constructions,” and then constructing more of them at will so that the newly-minted genders conform to the pathological states of the sad victims of the now multi-generational sexual revolution?

Not only has the divorce of procreation from the marital act perverted that act, but it has also perverted procreation itself, as witnessed by the all-too-real house of horrors that is the multi-billion dollar infertility industry.

It should also be mentioned that neither the contraceptive mentality nor abortion is entirely new. Moreover, the modern Western concepts of romantic love where we find them have tainted roots going back a very long way, but that subject would take us too far afield.

Authority and Tradition. It is sometimes said that the Orthodox East holds up Tradition at the expense of authority and that the Catholic West holds up authority at the expense of Tradition. However much this oversimplification leaves out — and that would be quite a lot — it does seem to trace the broad lines of a trend we see in the West, especially since the Renaissance and even more the Protestant Revolt.

All human authority has an authority over it, namely God. Beginning with the Apostles, who were immediately subject to Christ while He walked on this earth, the ecclesiastical hierarchy was subject to the Divine Will and to God’s law — both the natural law and the supernaturally revealed law of Scripture and Tradition. In this sense, the Catholic tradition of both civil and ecclesiastical governance was never absolutist. The rule of one in authority always had to conform to a higher law that was anterior to it — one which was received by tradition.

Perhaps the most obvious practical manifestations of this truth were the various oaths of office that were taken by monarchs on their coronation (see here, here, and here) and by bishops and popes on assuming their important offices in the Church.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has included two of these papal oaths of office in a much discussed study he recently penned. From that source we learn of the oath promulgated by the Council of Constance: “I, N., elected pope, with both heart and mouth confess and profess to almighty God, that I will firmly believe and hold the Catholic Faith according to the traditions of the Apostles, of the General Councils and of other Holy Fathers. I will preserve this faith unchanged to the last dot and will confirm, defend and preach it to the point of death and the shedding of my blood, and likewise I will follow and observe in every way the rite handed down of the ecclesiastical sacraments of the Catholic Church.”

In another oath His Excellency cites, from Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum (which he calls “a miscellaneous collection of formularies used in the papal chancery until the eleventh century”), the newly-elected Roman Pontiff swore, “To change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein; with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort.”

That same oath has the Holy Father promising to maintain the Faith, the liturgy, and the discipline he has inherited:

“I promise to keep with all my strength, even to the point of death and the shedding of my blood, the integrity of the true faith, whose author is Christ and which through your successors and disciples was handed over up to my humble self, and which I found in your Church. I promise also to bear with patience the difficulties of the time… I promise to keep inviolate the discipline and the liturgy of the Church as I have found them and as they were transmitted by my holy predecessors.”

One aspect of the Authority-Tradition divide is the conception of obedience and law that arose in the Church beginning with Counter-Reformation. Dr. John Lamont makes an interesting case that the Jesuit concept of obedience, admirable as it was in the many saints who practiced it, was influenced by philosophical nominalism, and ultimately led to the contemporary status quo that witnesses a radical tension between obedience on the one hand and fidelity to the Catholic faith and morals on the other.

At the very least, it seems that, in recent times, the classical definition of law from Saint Thomas — “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated” (ST, Ia, IIae, Q. 90, A. 4.) — has been truncated by half. Excising both reason and the common good from the medieval idea, the common contemporary understanding of law, at least in the minds of many, is that which is promulgated by some legislative authority. This is legal positivism, and it is a problem.

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It is often said that modern society is fragmented. It is my considered opinion that we owe this fragmentation to these and other divorces that have separated what God has joined together. If we are to be effective Catholic Counterrevolutionaries, it is a duty for us to oppose these divorces first in our minds, then in our homes, and ultimately in the larger societies of which we are a part. To do so effectively, we must join true Christian virtue to genuine Catholic militancy.