The Ecumenism of Matrimony, ‘Graduality,’ and Sacraments of the Perfect

Reading Vatican Insider today, the thought struck me that they may have contracted with the editorial staff of The Onion for their coverage of the Synod on the Family.

But this is no joke.

The quotes below are attributed to Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi:

During yesterday afternoon’s session, “it was underlined that even imperfect situations must be considered with respect: for instance, de facto unions in which couples live together with fidelity and love present elements of sanctification and truth,” the Vatican said in its summary. “It is necessary to truly love families in difficulty.” [Bold emphasis mine.]

“Elements of sanctification and truth”: This language is adopted from ecumenical ecclesiology, which points to such elements in other religions to show how they, too, in addition to the Catholic Church “subsist” in Christ’s true Church. It’s the Church of the Concentric Circles, which vague concept stands in opposition to the clear dogma that Christ’s one true Church is the Catholic Church, headed on earth by Christ’s Vicar, the Pope.

But not only do we have the Church of the Concentric Circles, we now also have a morality of concentric circles, where “imperfect situations” (adulterous unions, fornication) must be “considered with respect” because there is some aspect of fidelity and love which are, of themselves, elements of sanctification and truth.

One must wonder about the extent of moral ground covered by these circles. When does grave matter (which is always objectively mortally sinful) cease being so because it has been evaporated by elements of sanctification and truth? How long does an adulterous union have to last before it transforms into something non-sinful? Do polite manners and courtesy during a one-night stand count, or is a longer term required — say five years for a faithful and loving third marriage? And what of unnatural unions?

There are no answers to these questions, and for a very good reason: they lie beyond the revelation given by Jesus Christ to the Church. She at least is a faithful Bride and must be true to Him, even if certain Cardinals have erroneous notions of a mercy that dissolves truth.

The new name for this sloppy moral system is “Graduality.” It’s being applied by progressivists to moral questions surrounding matrimony now, but my guess is that they would not apply it consistently to sins they find personally irksome.

This kind of thinking undermines basic Catholic thinking about the integral elements of the moral act.

Father Lombardi also tell us this:

“In spite of appearances to the contrary, people are no longer satisfied by selfishness and instead seek ideals. Humanity desires happiness and the Christian knows that happiness is Christ, but no longer succeeds in finding the suitable language to communicate this to the world.”

When did humanity stop being satisfied by selfishness and seek instead “ideals” — and what ideals are they? Did this effect of Original Sin really cease? When? And what are these “ideals”? Christian ideals? Natural law ideals?

We finish with one more specimen of loose language:

“With regard to the approach to the Eucharist by the divorced and remarried, it was emphasised that it is not the sacrament of the perfect, but rather of those who are on the way.”

I have never heard of a “sacrament of the perfect.” Why? Because it does not exist. All the sacraments are for those on the way (in via). But the Eucharist is a sacrament of the living, which term is standard in Catholic sacramental theology. This means it is only for those in the state of grace, because to receive it otherwise is sacrilege. The sacraments of the dead (Baptism, Penance) are for those not in the state of grace, and their primary purpose is to get people into that state (and for Baptism, to get them into the Church).

The emphasis should be on getting those spiritually dead properly disposed to those two sacraments of the dead, as needed, so that they may validly receive them and then partake worthily and fruitfully of the sacraments of the living. This is a tall order, but it is the mission of the Church.

It is nothing new that humans seek their happiness outside of Christ. The Church’s traditional remedy to this is summed up by Saint Paul, and finds its way into the Mass of a Doctor of the Church:

Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)