|A Nice Day for a White Wedding|
UPDATE II: How is this playing the press? Predictably. If there is an expectation game with the October Synod, this plays into the hands of those who want a "more merciful" Church, as Reuters has it.
- Reuters: "...in the latest sign that the Argentine pontiff wants the Catholic church to be more open and inclusive."
- Reuters: "The pope has said the Church must end its obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, and become more merciful, or risk collapsing "like a house of cards".
- Time: "Some hope a major Vatican meeting next month on family concerns might lead to permission for divorced Catholics who remarry to receive Communion."
Why be negative about the grand weddings of cohabitating couples in St. Peter's Basilica? Isn't it wonderful that they are doing the right thing? After all, nobody's perfect. Do you imagine, Bear, that there are no improprieties before many Church weddings?
First of all, this is not the hill the Bear would pick to die on. In the great scheme of things, this is small potatoes. Nonetheless, it feels like there is something off about it. Is there, or is the Bear just being growly?
The problem is that these are couples who have approached a relationship God wants as marriage as some cheap imitation. The quaint expression "living in sin" really does capture it. One assumes they have gone to confession, but, even so, should we pull out all the stops? What message are we sending? That there are multiple paths to your big Church wedding, including concubinage? Shouldn't there be a whiff of the penitential?
Yes, by all means have the weddings, but do it in a way that does not ignore the irregularity of the situation. Not to punish anyone, but to avoid scandal, to send the message that it is good to get married if you are living in sin, but better not to have lived in sin at all. A nuance? Perhaps. But in religion, as in conversation, nuance matters.
UPDATE: The Bear and his mate seldom disagree. (It is foolish, after all, to disagree with someone called "Red Death.") The last time was over the baptism in the church of the baby obtained by the lesbian pair in Argentina. Her argument was, "It's a baby!" But she disagreed on the Bear's cautious disapproval of the weddings, arguing, "Who am I to judge?"
So the Bear must think upon this matter again, since he respects his mate. (In fact he respects her enough to have married her 35 years ago.)
The Bear's argument is subtle, and easy to mischaracterize.
First, let us stipulate that all of the Catholic parties have repented, gone to confession, and everyone concerned is ready to enter into Holy Matrimony as the Church sees it.
Second, let us all agree that their being married is better than their living together without being married. As far as they go, weddings are a good thing, and a joyful occasion that would ordinarily be unclouded by controversy.
Third, let us all cast aside opprobrium and not only hold nothing against the couples, but wish them the very best.
So on what grounds might one object?
Simple. Concubinage, or living in sin, or cohabitation, or whatever you want to call it is a public sin, and an ongoing offense against Holy Matrimony. Sorry to smudge the frosting on the wedding cake, but it is fornication plus a public, though no doubt, unintended, insult to the sacrament of matrimony, which, if you have not noticed, has taken a lot of flak lately.
Public sins cause scandal, and should be treated differently than private sins, because they can cause more evil. As noted originally, if years of concubinage end with the public approval of the pope himself, not to mention a white wedding in St. Peter's Basilica, what does that say about living together? That it is just another path to the nice church wedding? That the Church treats those who have cohabitated for years the same as the bright-eyed kids who have remained chaste? What message does it send about chastity in general?
Everything is a message with Pope Francis. One supposes his message here is, "If you're cohabitating, why, you should get married! We're all about forgiveness! The Church will welcome you!" The Bear doubts those cohabitating need the reminder, but let's hope the Pope is right.
On the eve of the October Synod, the Bear has to wonder if another message is intended. "The Church's old way of thinking about marriage is loosening up. We all need to relax about these matters and meet people where they really live."
What better way to frost the the Synod than with wedding cake icing?