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Analyzing The Heterodoxies Of The “Shadow Council”

July 25, 2015 breaking No Comments

By MAIKE HICKSON

As some readers might recall, on May 25, 2015, the presidents of the German, Swiss, and French Bishops Conferences had organized a private conference at the Gregorian University in Rome.
This “Shadow Council,” as it soon was called, was criticized for its secrecy and obliqueness. The suspicion arose that this meeting was intended for preparing some revolutionary strategies and argumentation in order to promote the liberalizing agenda at the upcoming October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.
On July 15, the Shadow Council’s presentations were unexpectedly published by the three national bishops conferences. This therefore gives us an opportunity at least to get an impression of the methods of discourse and of the substance of the presentations. As expected, the content of the presentations is quite shocking and revolutionary. One could barely even imagine that such documents would be ever published by a Catholic bishops conference.
In the following, I will briefly give some of the crucial and most scandalous arguments and claims, all of which tendentiously aim at undermining the traditional moral teaching of the Catholic Church.
First, a laywoman, Professor Anne-Marie Pelletier of Paris, France, spoke at the gathering at the Gregorian University about the “Reception of Matt. 19:3-12,” which deals with the very words of Jesus Christ concerning the fact that Moses had come to allow divorce (for men) because of the “hardness of hearts.”
In this context, Pelletier’s most troubling and arcane argument is that exactly because Jesus’ own words were so clear about the indissolubility of marriage, they are thus open to change. She said: “Exactly because the votum of Jesus — in favor of marriage and against divorce — is so clear, it is also open. . . . This openness is not relativism, but the capacity to deal with the future.” Or something.
With reference to the Pauline privilege — according to which a marriage can be invalid if both spouses were non-Christian at the time of the wedding, and if one of the two spouses then later becomes a Catholic — Pelletier claims that, therefore, there exists “the possibility to dissolve an existing marriage . . . which has been overlooked by the traditional exegesis [of 2,000 years?!] — and thus even to grant the permission to enter a new marriage.” She illogically continues, as follows:
“But according to the New Testament, God Himself can dissolve a marriage — if the bond of the faithful with Him which has been concluded in baptism cannot [sic] at all be otherwise saved. Consequently, the Church has to make use of her power to bind and to loosen, and to do so in more cases than in the past — for the sake of the Faith.”
Pelletier claims that, otherwise, the Church would lose many of the faithful by their being disallowed to “remarry.” With these lines of argumentation, Pelletier effectively argues in favor of an undermining of the Sacrament of Marriage as it has been established by our Lord Himself.
Professor Eberhard Schockenhoff of Freiburg, Germany, spoke on “Sexuality as an Expression of Love — Reflections on a Theology of Love.” His main argument is that “many people doubt today whether they are truly able to make an irrevocable decision [i.e., a permanent vow], even as the Christian ideal of an indissoluble marriage presupposes. They give as reason for their doubts that we humans can only promise love and loyalty for the present, or for a reasonably measurable period of time, but not for our whole remaining lifetime.”
In this regard, a lifelong relationship must now be regarded as a form of “mutual overextension.” Therefore, people can “only face the next part of their lives” when it comes to “common projects of partnership [sic].”
With this, Fr. Schockenhoff further undermines the indissolubility of marriage by claiming that people are now having much too long a life to endure the same spouse for such an extended time — as if God’s grace would not be healing and would not be abundant!

“Positive Elements”

Abbot Professor François-Xavier Amherdt of Fribourg, Switzerland, had as his topic: “Sexuality as an Expression of Love — Reflections on a Theology of Love,” as well. He stresses the “positive elements” in irregular relationships, as we have heard them, unfortunately, in the midterm report of the last October 2014 Synod on Bishops on Marriage and the Family.
Professor Amherdt explicitly said: “My thesis is that a differentiated look upon each individual situation is necessary, and that it is of worth to point out the value of the ‘logoi spermatikoi’ — those seeds of the Spirit which are starting to be seen in some relationships — and to which one should rather strive to appeal, instead of to condemn — in the sense of our better seeing a gradual pedagogy of God, and in the sense of our thus providing an accompanying pastoral care.”
We see here a renewal of the “law of graduality” which had also been brought up at the last synod, implying that one should allow a person who lives in the state of sin to receive the sacraments because he could and would gradually outgrow his sin. According to this approach, Amherdt proposes that the Catholic Church accept the status of a mere civil marriage:
“In this context, it would be appropriate if the value of the civil marriage [in contrast to a sacramental marriage] would be more stressed in the teaching of the Church; this value lies in the fact that this civil marriage is already binding and often open to life.”
Professor Alain Thomasset, SJ, of Paris had some of the most troubling proposals to make. He spoke about “Taking Into Account the History and the Biographical Developments in Ethics and in the Pastoral Care of the Family.” Thomasset proposes a relaxing of the Church’s attitude not only toward “remarried” divorcees, but also toward cohabitation, contraception, and even homosexual couples.
Therefore, I list here his three main quotations in order to more adequately support my claim:
First, he says: “Concerning remarried persons: It would be important to recognize that, in certain cases and under certain conditions, the sexual acts of these couples are not any more to be regarded as being morally culpable. This would make possible the access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and of the Eucharist.”
Second: “Concerning married couples: Sexual acts with a non-abortive contraception could be regarded — according to the circumstances — as not subjectively culpable, insofar as the couple remains open to the conception of life in the frame of a responsible and magnanimous parenthood and insofar as the actions are expressions of self-giving and of mutual love.”
And, third: “Concerning homosexual persons who live in a firm and faithful relationships: A similar softening of the objective sinfulness of the sexual acts could be undertaken; the subjective moral responsibility could be reduced or even omitted altogether. This would be in coherence with the statement (and the witness of many professed Catholics) that a homosexual relationship which is lived in stability and loyalty can be a path to holiness: a holiness to which the [Second Vatican] Council calls all Christians (Lumen Gentium, chapter 5). Additionally, the homosexual person should be reduced neither to his sexual orientation, nor to his sexual acts.”
The last sentence of these quotations shows how far we have left behind here the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, as it has been taught for centuries.

A “Theology Of Biography”

Professor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur, Switzerland, spoke about: “The Gift of One’s Own Life — Reflections on a Theology of Biography.” In her talk, this Swiss professor claims that family life is not any more so important for a marriage:
“With it comes the challenge to recognize that intrinsic value of marriage which is not exclusively related to the foundation of a family. Already with respect to quantitative aspects, both the higher life-expectancy and the longer duration of marriage turn the time of partnership without the responsibility for children into a longer period of time — longer than the phase of family life [i.e., the raising and education of children].”
In stressing the theological change endorsed at the Second Vatican Council — where procreation was placed as the secondary purpose of marriage, after the community of life and of love, she insists that this now has to be even further developed:
“The Second Vatican Council has decidedly referenced the bond of marriage to the ‘inmost community of life and of love’ (Gaudium et Spes, n. 48). This radical change in the understanding of marriage [away from the priority of the procreative aspect of marriage] should not only consist in exchanging [or modifying some traditionally] central notions, but it also has to lead us to the insight about how complex the foundation and preservation of a personal community is (i.e., as a community of two individual persons).”
She continues: “There are incoherences inherent in the current Church’s teaching on marriage, since this change of perspective [away from procreation, toward the priority of conjugal love] has not yet been spelled out for all areas.”
Faber shows a leniency toward those who are not willing to enter the Sacrament of Matrimony: It is important to note just “how difficult it can be for two people to come at the same time to the same decisions with regard to their partnership. It can be an expression of loyalty of a person toward his partner, and to the commonly undertaken history, to forgo taking (at least not yet) the step into marriage, because the [other] partner is not yet ready for it. These insights propose a differentiated evaluation of forms of partnerships outside of marriage, for example with the help of the category of graduality [the reference is to Familiaris Consortio].”
Faber also claims that there are times where a separation of a couple is necessary, because one’s own personal self-fulfillment is supposedly hampered by the spouse:
“A frequent reason for divorce is to be found in situations in which people see themselves in their marriage as cut off from their biographical potentials for further self-development. To postulate here, in a generalizing way, that one should have a heroic self-denial is problematic insofar as spouses also in marriage are placed, each of them, into an individual vocational history (see 3.2.). When the partner makes impossible certain steps of growth in one’s own life, this can well lead to fundamental existential conflicts of values.”
We see, once more, how a speaker is undermining the very idea and concept of the indissolubility of marriage, as if God does not have sufficient wisdom to know what is good for men.
To sum up the tone and message of the Shadow Council: We are dealing here with a liberal or insouciant attitude toward sin with which the sinner is left alone or effectively on his own. He is left remaining in his state of sin instead of being called to repent and truly to convert his life, as the great St. John the Baptist had proclaimed and required, even unto the shedding of his own blood.
May we follow the saint and may we not be led astray by these falsely merciful preachers of disrespect for God’s laws of love.

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