A: …The whole thing is a hot mess that makes me despair for the possibility of rational dialogue.
B: It’s not that bad, is it? It’s the usual slogan-swapping that we get with everything.
A: No, in this case there seems like a pathological inability to mention what we’re actually fighting over.
B: Seems pretty obvious to me: admit them or don’t.
A: No, That’s where the problem starts. All this talk about “admitting them to communion” makes it seem like we issue tickets and have turnstiles. It conjures up the image of everyone having to apply for a communion license, and the only question the clerk asks is “so, are you divorced and remarried”?
B: You’re looking for too much logic in what is a pastoral problem.
A: Okay, so what’s that problem? I suppose there’s some canon that specifically singles out the divorced and remarried in a special way, and we want to get rid of it?
B: I don’t know. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
A: If some canon singles out the divorced and remarried, and this canon makes all the divorced and remarried “feel singled out”, then I suppose we could just “stop singling them out”. Maybe we could write more canons about who was “not admitted” to communion so the divorced and remarried wouldn’t feel so isolated. Or maybe we could stop referring to the divorced and remarried under that description and just refer to “those who are not ‘admitted’ to communion”. If all one means by a “pastoral” response is the use of more sensitive language with no change in the facts of who is “admitted” to communion, then a pastoral response is something so hollow that it’s hard to see why anyone would bother to make it.
B: You’re belittling pastoral care. The whole point of Vatican II was to stop the language of condemnation and exclusion and promote a religion of spiritual power and beauty. “Sensitive language” has to be a part of that, even under your tendentious description.
A: So we change descriptions of things without changing the facts described? Do we try to re-frame the issue so that the facts, while not changing, are described in a different way?
B: The issue is over framing and presentation, yes. There does seem to be a smaller group that says that, if divorce and remarriage is a sin, it’s only a single sin of getting remarried. Future acts of intercourse are not sins. Hence Thomas Reese SJ:
The problem is that conservatives do not see divorce and remarriage as simply one sin, which can be confessed and forgiven. They see it as a continuing sin each time the couple has sex.
A: Well, that’s at least a proposition that can be debated, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the “con” side. Has it really come to this, that while conceding that it’s a sin to consummate a marriage, the future sex acts fall under a completely different moral description?
B: You cut off what he says later, though: “Some have portrayed this as a conflict between truth and mercy. Should the church emphasize the teaching or the mercy of Jesus?”
A: No doubt the passive voice protects those too embarrassed to admit what they just said. The account of “truth” in the first sentence is Nietzschean – as though truth were just the ugliness of raw power and exploitation, and was opposed to the sort of “mercy from the bowels” that strikes the good Samaritan. The “mercy” is just as Nietzschean – an absence of truth, a failure to face up to reality.
B: But who’s in conflict with himself now? I know for a fact how much you value Nietzsche, but here you are trying to portray his thought as embarrassing. And isn’t your example at odds with itself? The whole point of the good Samaritan is that out attempts to rationally divide our neighbors from the outsiders is exactly what needs to be overcome by Christ. We need to move past an idea of charity as “he is my neighbor” (in a “state of grace”) and “he is an outsider” (not in “a state of grace”) and get to an account of charity as one who breaks open in mercy for another, and so makes that other a neighbor.
A: So that is our Catholic Nietzscheanism, eh? Given we have to choose between a “charity of rules” and a “charity of the bowels”, we need to choose the latter?
B: Right. You can see why those who want the latter are at a dialectical disadvantage, since they refuse to give rational criteria the decisive role. You started off in despair of rational argument. You probably should. That’s exactly what can’t be the rule any more. That’s the charity of the Levite and the Priest. How much real charity has come out of centuries of Scholastic wrangling about “mortal sin” and “the state of grace”?
A: That’s a lot of different claims. It’s bizzare that you’re trying to convince me of them.
B: But that’s the usual demonic voice of reason: “How can you live without me? You try to talk yourself out of me, but you’re only using me to do so!” Reason simply works out the inspirations of the bowels.
A: At the end of the day, both of us probably find the voice of the other Satanic.