|Archbishop Sheehan of Santa Fe needs to think about the fact the woman in the background didn't get the marriage thing right at first. And God said it was good.|
I read Jamie Mansons' latest post with a great deal of interest because she describes a letter from Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe which seemed sort of out of character for Sheehan. Archbishop Sheehan was the bishop who stated during the Notre Dame/Obama fiasco that a majority of US bishops disagreed with the combative tactics of some of their brothers. His was a very rare critical voice during that time frame. So I decided I would look up his actual pastoral letter, which was apparently read in all parishes, in order to ascertain if Jamie was off base, or if Archbishop Sheehan was channeling a different Sheehan. The following are the six main points he deals with when it comes to shacking up, civil marriage, and divorce and remarriage without an annulment:
Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them - not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:
1. People in the above three situations cannot receive the Sacraments, with the important exception of those who agree to live chastely (“as brother and sister”) until their situation is regularized. Of course, those in danger of death are presumed to be repentant. (The ultimate escape clause for poor pastoral teaching. When you are on death's door you are presumed to agree with us, so you are forgiven.)
2. These people may not be commissioned as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not only because of scandal, but even more because one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin. (We have a lot of priests and bishops committing sacrilege rather than just saying Mass,)
3. Nor are such people to be admitted to the role of sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation, as is clearly stated on the Archdiocesan Affidavit for a Sponsor. It is critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic - and can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin? (No, but I guess one can be considered a serious priest or bishop.)
4. When it comes to other parish ministries and organizations, I feel it best to leave these situations to the judgment of the pastor. Prudence is needed, avoiding all occasions of scandal. We must see their involvement in the parish as an opportunity to work urgently to bring such people to repentance and the regularization of their lifestyle. (Oh, if only we laity were given permission from our bishops to take the same license with our clerical caste.)
5. Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes - children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths. (They are opinions formulated over time, starting in the twelfth century.)
A Church wedding does not require some lavish spectacle and entertainment costing vast sums of money (Indeed, how often we have seen the most costly weddings end in divorce in but a few months or years!). While beauty and joy should surround a Christian wedding, we must remind everyone that it is a sacrament, not a show. (This is all true, maybe Catholicism should consider the 'moonie' solution. It would save everybody a lot of money.)
6. Those who are married outside the Church because of a previous union are urged to seek an annulment through our Marriage Tribunal. If it can be found that the first marriage lacked some essential quality for a valid marriage, the Tribunal can grant an annulment. Your pastor can help someone start a marriage case for this purpose. It is important for such couples to continue to pray and get to Mass even though they may not receive Communion, until their marriage can be blest in the Church. (What difference does this make if one has already been more or less consigned to hell for living in a state of 'perpetual' sin.)
I guess Jamie was right and Archbishop Sheehan is channeling a different version of himself. Perhaps he needed to prove to his brother bishops that he was at least on board with their marriage crusade. At least he didn't attack gays, and he actually put the onus on straights. That alone puts him on the margins of the USCCB. It's so much easier to attack those silent closeted gays, than all those openly divorced straight couples with their mixed families of children.
On the other hand, just in numbers alone, these Church teachings on divorce and marriage have far greater impact on the pews than the teachings on gay marriage. I'm sure there was more than one priest that really really wished he didn't have to read this letter to his flock. Most of these six points have been ignored for decades by most priests. I can think of at least a half a dozen couples who went through pre cana classes in a state of mortal sin and went to the altar in the same state. Does that invalidate their Catholic wedding by making it a sacrilegious event?
There is a difference between teaching and dictating. Jesus taught, the Church dictates. Jesus stated pretty obvious facts like the one about a man committing adultery in his heart when he lustfully looks at another woman. Any therapist can tell you that for most people, that is indeed a fact and one of the early steps to a failed relationship with one's current spouse. If this kind of thing is truly mortally sinful, it's not because of the sexual connotation, it's because it violates a sacred relationship. Hence Jesus also talks about hardness of heart as the reason for Moses allowing divorce. Jesus said nothing about hardness of penis', but the Church takes this teaching about relationship and love, and turns it into a whole host of dictatorial doctrines about correct sex and where to put aroused genitalia. And these dictates have had a harm ratio that is far more devastating for women and children especially when they are coupled with Catholicism's dictates on gender roles.
I keep wondering why it is that the hierarchy has insisted that people be perfect Catholics before they can access the sacraments. (except for priests) I've come to the conclusion they don't believe sacramental grace actually works the way Jesus said it would, as balm for healing souls and hearts. I suspect this failure to believe and trust has an awful lot to do with the fact that in their dictated sacramental lives it doesn't work for them. And then things get all convoluted and the assumption is it won't work for laity either, unless laity are living perfect Catholic lives, and then it doesn't matter if it doesn't work. By definition no one would ever know the difference. Sinners because they can't test sacramental truth, and faithful perfect Catholics because it wouldn't matter if nothing happened.
This is so different from Native tradition in which Native healers expect their prayers and ceremonies to be reality tested. Apparently Catholicism is above and beyond any kind of reality testing. No wonder it's getting so unreal.