Thursday, November 10, 2011

Catholics Marrying Heretics: Forbidden and Condemned without a Dispensation and Abjuration of Heresy

Please read also

I recently wrote an article on the same topic as this one (which this one replaces), in which I stated that the Church merely tolerated the marriages of Catholics with non-Catholics when she grants a dispensation.  My thanks go to my opponent Emmanuel as well as to my friend Francis for correcting me on my mistake (both of whom made substantially different comments, and hold substantially different positions in regard to related issues).

The reason that I began to spend more time studying the Church position on such marriages was because the Dimonds hold them out as an example of a Church discipline, which justifies their position on receiving sacraments of Eucharist and Confession from public heretics and schismatics.  My main articles refuting their position are entitled Re: “Sacraments from Undeclared Heretics” Debate – The Important Quotes and Sacraments from Undeclared Heretics - Debate Analysis, and have both been slightly revised to take into account the matter discussed in the present article.  The important thing to note is that nothing has changed in terms of the position that I believe must be held:  Catholics may never ask for the Sacraments of Eucharist, Penance or Orders from any priest who, by his own public words and actions, can and ought to be known as a heretic or schismatic.

Toleration vs. Permission, My Previous Oversight

In examining the issue of mixed marriages, I had erroneously read the encyclical Quas Vestro of Pope Gregory XVI as stating that any and all marriages of Catholics with non-Catholics are merely tolerated, but it was shown to me that any time a dispensation is granted by the Church, this amounts to a sanction or permission.  It is only those marriages that do not receive the dispensation that are merely tolerated, and which are in fact absolutely condemned by the Church's ecclesiastical law, as demonstrated by the following quotes:

Pope Gregory XVI, Quas Vestro, #1, 6, 8: "If, indeed, in certain places, because of difficulties of place and conditions, such marriages are tolerated, the reason is surely a sort of moderation. It is in no way to be considered approbation or approval, but merely a toleration, brought about not willingly but by necessity to avoid greater evils...

"Sometimes because of conditions of time, person, or place, the marriage of a non-Catholic to a Catholic without the precautions prescribed by the Church cannot be prevented without danger of greater evil or scandal to the detriment of religion...

"We grieve that this type of toleration is necessary... Also see that such toleration towards mixed marriages does not extinguish the memory of the canons execrating such marriages as well as of the constant care of the Church to prevent her children from entering into such marriages to the loss of their souls."

And those marriages which receive the dispensation are no longer considered to be tolerated, but permitted and licit, as the following quotations imply:

Pope Benedict XIV, Magnae Nobis, #2, 4, 5: "Nor is it necessary for us to prove in full the antiquity of the discipline by which the Apostolic See always condemned the marriage of Catholics with heretics...

"When a dispensation is requested to allow a Catholic to marry a heretic or to remove some canonical impediment which exists between the contracting parties, neither the permission nor the dispensation is granted except with the addition of this expressed law or condition, namely that the heresy must first be abjured. Pope Innocent X was on his guard and ordered that such dispensations should not be granted at all unless there was proof, supported by authentic documents, that the heretical fault of the heterodox contracting party had been rejected under oath...

"Finally, from what We have said so far, it is obvious that the Apostolic See has always both disapproved and condemned such marriages unless the abjuration of the heresy preceded; it still abominates and detests them."

From this last statement, then, it follows that the official (disciplinary) position of the Apostolic See is that it does not disapprove and condemn such marriages if an abjuration has taken place and a dispensation has been granted.

For a detailed exposition of the Catholic discipline concerning tolerated marriages which are not granted a dispensation, we turn to Pope Pius VI:

From the Rescript of Pius VI to Cardinal de Franckenberg, Archbishop of Mechlin, and to the Bishops of Belgium, July 13, 1782 (Denz. 1496-1499): "And therefore we must not depart from the uniform opinion of our predecessors and from ecclesiastical discipline, which do not approve marriages between parties who are both heretics, or between a Catholic on the one hand and a heretic on the other, and this much less in a case where there is need of a dispensation of some sort...

"Passing now to that point about the requested assistance of parish priests in mixed marriages, we say that if the above named admonition to recall the Catholic party from the unlawful marriage has been fulfilled, and nevertheless he persists in his will to contract it, and it is foreseen that the marriage will inevitably follow, then the Catholic priest can lend his material presence, nevertheless in such wise that he is bound to observe the following precautions:

"First, that he does not assist at such a marriage in a sacred place, nor clothed in any vestment betokening a sacred function, nor will he recite over the contracting parties any prayers of the Church, and in no way shall he bless them.

"Secondly, that he will exact and receive from the contracting heretic a declaration in writing, in which with an oath in the presence of two witnesses, who also ought to sign their names, he obligates himself to permit his partner the free use of the Catholic religion, and to educate in it all the children who shall be born without any distinction of sex.

"Thirdly, that the contracting Catholic make a declaration signed by himself and two witnesses, in which he promises with an oath not only never to apostatize from his Catholic religion, but to educate in it all his future offspring, and to procure effectively the conversion of the other contracting non-Catholic.

"Fourthly, that which concerns the proclamations commanded by the imperial decree, which the bishops hold to be civil rather than sacred acts, we answer: Since they have been preordained for the future celebration of marriage and consequently contain a positive cooperation with it, a thing which certainly exceeds the limits of simple tolerance, we cannot consent that these be made...

"It remains now to speak about one more point, concerning which, although we have not been expressly interrogated, nevertheless we do not think it should be passed over in silence, insomuch as, in practice, it could too frequently happen; namely, this: Whether the contracting Catholic, afterwards wishing to share in the sacraments, ought to be admitted to them? To this we say that as long as he shall demonstrate that he is sorry for his sinful union, this can be granted to him, provided he shall sincerely declare before confession that he will procure the conversion of his heretical spouse, that he renews his promise of educating his children in the orthodox religion, and that he will repair the scandal he has given to the other faithful. If these conditions obtain, we are not opposed to the Catholic party receiving the sacraments."


From the very detailed exposition of just how the Church views those who marry heretics without obtaining a dispensation, it is clear that the principles involved, in order to be consistently applied to other sacraments, would at the very least require both an abjuration of heresy and a dispensation from the Church before one could approach the heretic for any other sacraments, except for Baptism in cases of necessity.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Q. 82, Art. 7, Reply to Obj 2: "Baptism alone is allowed to be conferred by heretics, and schismatics, because they can lawfully baptize in case of necessity; but in no case can they lawfully consecrate the Eucharist, or confer the other sacraments."

But after abjuration, such priests would no longer be heretics, so long as they publicly professed the Catholic Faith, thus making any such hypothetical dispensation irrelevant and superfluous.  Because priests, by their vocation, necessarily publicly profess (that is, they publicly and externally state that they hold to) the Catholic faith, but a non-Catholic spouse does not necessarily.  So in the case where an abjuration takes place, it would make the priest Catholic on account of his renunciation, under oath of heresy and his subsequent public profession of Faith in the Mass and since the faithful cannot know if he still harbours secret heresy in his heart.  A non-Catholic spouse who has abjured would only become Catholic by doing the same (that is, publicly professing the faith after his abjuration).

Unless the abjuration, in the case of a non-Catholic spouse, were followed by a solemn and sincere profession of the Catholic Faith, then it is still a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, and a most unfortunate compromise of the Church's law prohibiting the same.  If the early Christians were so willing to be martyred rather than be defiled, how did the Church ever permit heretics to marry the children of God?

It is reasonable to conclude that before the hierarchy of the Church could fall into heresy and schism, thus losing their Catholicity and usurping the Church's buildings (as happened beginning with the alleged election of Leo XIII, there had to be compromises of another nature in the discipline of the Church.  This stuff does not just happen over night.

To say that we disagree with the pastors of the Church when they dispense with the Church's good laws is entirely permissible.  I heartily disagree with the decisions of the popes to grant dispensations for any Catholic to marry someone who does not believe or love God.

Nevertheless, the Dimonds' argument that "mixed marriages are proof that one can lawfully approach known heretics for the Eucharist or Penance" still falls flat on its face for, as shown above, if we apply the principles of mixed marriages to the heretic priests one would approach for the sacraments, then before the Church would grant a dispensation, as it were, the law of the Church would require the heretic to abjure.  If a priest, who professed to be Catholic, but otherwise held to some public heresy or schism abjured (and did not relapse), then he would be a Catholic.  And of course, it is permitted to receive sacraments from a Catholic priest.

FINAL NOTE:  The Dimonds seem to imply in their arguments that our position in this matter is based upon a belief that "the Church commands ABSOLUTE AVOIDANCE of ALL HERETICS ALL THE TIME".  We do not believe that at all.  We certainly would be pleased if this was a realistically achievable way to live our lives, but it is impractical.  Certainly, we must avoid heretics as much as we reasonably can (like the spiritual poison they are), and we should shun all familiar discourse with them and never commune with them in religious matters.  But anyone who tells you that it is even a sin to buy apples from a heretic in the market is definitely scrupulous and unreasonable.

No comments:

Post a Comment