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Desperate Nonsense from Dr. Mirus

by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 20, 2016

Just when I thought Jeffrey Mirus was waking up to the calamity of the current pontificate, having praised him rather effusively for his candor, I now see that he is back to his usual defense of the indefensible. The results are simply laughable.

By now the whole Catholic world knows that in a letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires, Francis praised their “guidelines” for implementing Amoris Laetitia which, in “particular cases,” would allow those living in adulterous “second marriages” to receive absolution and Holy Communion without ending their adulterous sexual relations.  Francis declares that “there are no other interpretations” of his document.

Francis thus approves a flat-out contradiction of the Church’s bimillenial discipline, affirmed by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, rooted in the very words of Our Lord condemning divorce and remarriage as adultery per se, without exception, and the very words of Saint Paul warning of the divine penalty for the unworthy reception of Holy Communion.

In desperation, Mirus declared in his first column on the subject that this is merely “a prudential question, which means legitimate disagreement about the best [his emphasis] course is possible. I have repeatedly made the point that the rules governing reception of Communion are disciplinary, not doctrinal.”

That is absolute rubbish, and Mirus knows it — or should know it if he is going to dispense opinions on such a crucial spiritual matter. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 1998, in line with the teaching of John Paul II and all of Tradition, here we are dealing not with a mere changeable discipline but rather a moral norm tied inextricably to the indissolubility of marriage as an objective fact, no matter what claims are made regarding subjective inculpability:

In other words, if the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception.

That is, not even the Pope can change a disciplinary practice based on the intrinsic impossibility of a divorced and “remarried” person receiving Holy Communion while continuing adulterous sexual relations.

Moreover, a party living in adultery is not entitled to declare that his “conscience” tells him his first (i.e., only) marriage was really invalid because as the CDF further admonished:

[M]arriage has a fundamental public ecclesial character and the axiom applies that nemo iudex in propria causa (no one is judge in his own case), marital cases must be resolved in the external forum. If divorced and remarried members of the faithful believe that their prior marriage was invalid, they are thereby obligated to appeal to the competent marriage tribunal so that the question will be examined objectively and under all available juridical possibilities.

In an absurd bit of Pharisaical casuistry, Mirus contrives a scenario in which one partner in adultery threatens to leave his “second wife” and the children if she will not continue to provide him with sexual satisfaction rather than living as brother and sister. In these circumstances, says Mirus, adultery is a venial sin on account of “duress.”

Oh please. By that logic abortion is a venial sin if one partner to adultery threatens to end the adulterous relationship unless the child is murdered in the womb. Even the hard-hearted Pharisees would have found that contention appalling. At any rate, Mirus simply ignores the intrinsic, objective impossibility of receiving Holy Communion while continuing to engage in sexual relations out of wedlock.

Clearly stung by the wave of criticism his first article provoked, Mirus has published a second, even more ridiculous, attempt to defend the indefensible. Continuing to assert, falsely, that “it is within the authority of the Pope to change the discipline governing Communion in such circumstances,” Mirus attempts to walk back his position by adding: “But, with many of my critics, I also believe that the state of the Church in the twenty-first century is such that this approach will inevitably occasion widespread abuses which are likely to make matters even worse than they are now.”

So, according to Mirus, the Pope has the authority to change a bimillenial discipline even if it will “inevitably occasion widespread abuses which are likely to make matters even worse than they are now.” And what are these inevitable widespread abuses? Obviously, the widespread sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion by public adulterers and the consequent profanation of the Blessed Sacrament.

No, Dr. Mirus, Popes have no authority to approve inevitable widespread sacrilege and profanation by abandoning a moral norm that renders “reception of the sacraments… intrinsically impossible… without exception.”

Reaching a new height of casuistry even for him, Mirus further declares (in his headline): “Even Pope Francis does not know the proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.” (The reader may pause here for a moment of uproarious laughter.) He then argues as follows:

no pope is protected from error when, in private correspondence, he explains the proper interpretation of any Magisterial document, including those he has issued himself…. Such private utterances are unprotected by the Holy Spirit; therefore, they are totally irrelevant…. We may find that, in the future, the Magisterium will side with this pope’s critics.

So, according to Mirus: (a) Francis has the authority to change a bimillenial discipline the CDF warns is an exceptionless moral norm, (b) even if this change will inevitably occasion widespread sacrilege and profanation, and (c) even if future Popes find that Francis erred, although (d) Francis did not really change the discipline because his letter is irrelevant and no one should pay it any attention.

This is called trying to have it both ways: Yes he can, no he didn’t, but if he did he could well be right, although he could be wrong.

Say goodnight, Dr. Mirus. You have nothing but obfuscation to contribute to this discussion. Meanwhile, in light of the Message of Fatima, honest observers of the ecclesial scene know that we are in the midst of what Sister Lucia warned would be the “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan” — the battle over marriage and family.