Wise Words from Father Murray
by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 31, 2017
Criticism of the alarming and quite unprecedented direction of the current pontificate is now firmly established in the mainstream Catholic commentariat. This is most encouraging as the post-Vatican II crisis in the Church, now approaching the Arian crisis (which lasted some sixty years) in duration, enters a new and critical phase.
Father Gerald E. Murray is one of the leaders in this auspicious development. His training and doctorate in canon law give him a perspective that permits a precise diagnosis of the raging controversy over Amoris Laetitia (AL), which continues to expand as it convulses the human element of the Church. His recent article on the subject provides an objective assessment of the sheer magnitude of the unprecedented disorder that document has introduced into the ecclesial commonwealth.
“One of the most troubling and questionable affirmations in Amoris Laetitia,” writes Father Murray, “is found in paragraph 301: ‘The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.’”
Confronted with this astonishing declaration in a papal document, Fr. Murray poses the obvious questions:
“But how can anyone be so sure of the truth of this counter-intuitive assertion when applied to a particular case of an adulterous union?
“Isn’t there a greater probability that a Catholic who has separated from his spouse and entered a second ‘marriage’ in a civil or non-Catholic ceremony, and then committed acts of adultery with someone who is not in truth his spouse, would be aware that his behavior was condemned by Our Lord Himself: ‘Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery’? (Lk 16:18)
“And would he not thus be guilty of offending God by his freely chosen sinful behavior?
“Is it possible he never heard of this teaching?...
“Isn’t it the reality that he couldn’t celebrate a Catholic ceremony for his second ‘marriage’ because the Church does not consider a second union, while his spouse is still living, to be a marriage, but rather an adulterous union?” [paragraph breaks added]
As Father Murray concludes, the Church’s bimillennial discipline barring the admission to Holy Communion of people living in adulterous unions exists not merely to avoid public scandal but also reflects “the plainly reasonable assumption that someone who freely commits objectively grave violations of God’s law in a matter with which they have sufficient familiarity (in this case, the recognition by a Catholic who has been married in a Church ceremony that he is never allowed to commit adultery) is, in fact, guilty of intentional violations of that law and thus has fallen into mortal sin.”
And yet, in AL we are informed that “it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” No longer? Since when? Since the appearance of AL, and never before then at any time in the 2,000 years that have elapsed since Our Lord declared that everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.
Every Catholic who cares about the state of the Church today should read and ponder Fr. Murray’s final words:
“The Church is not in the business of supplying ‘get-out-of-jail-free cards’ to people who violate God’s law and then search for excuses why that law does not apply to them in their particular cases. To do so is to treat God’s law on marriage, or any other matter, as merely a suggestion, subject to personal ratification before becoming obligatory.”
But that, incredibly, is exactly what AL does. Thus we find ourselves in the midst of what Sister Lucia warned would be “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan,” which “will be about marriage and the family.”
As God infallibly draws a greater good out of evil, however, the voices of faithful Catholics like Father Murray remind us that no one, not even a wayward Roman Pontiff, can still the voice of the sensus catholicus. Just as it was during the Arian crisis, the Catholic common sense of the faithful will sustain the Church until her eventual restoration, even when much of her leadership has defected from its sacred duty.