Posted by davekeller on May 13th, 2006
What Binds Marriage? Roman Catholic Theology in Practice by Timothy J. Buckley Publisher: Continuum 1997
Dr. Timothy J. Buckley is a Redemptorist priest ordained in 1970. He has been involved in an on-going, multi-disciplinary project to study marital breakdown. His superiors encouraged him to seek theological reform based on findings. This book is a result and the theme is how to pragmatically deal with people who wish to remarry after a divorce, when to do so is considered on-going adultery based on a legalistic interpretation of Matt 19:6-10 or Mark 10:2-13. These interpretations have been heavily influenced by Thomas Acquinas and Augustine; both are prevalently cited by academics. However, in current and authorative theological treatments (such as the CCC 1600-1666) one encounters carefully worded statements from Councils and Popes that effectively synthesize and polish the thought of many contributors. Returning to Dr. Buckley’s more specific area of concern, Catholic practice penalizes adulterous remarriages by a lifetime ban on the important Catholic sacraments such as the analog to the LDS sacrament.
The Catholics distinguish between sacramental and non-sacramental marriages. This distinction is important because it informs what unions “God has joined” and hence can’t be dissolved. A marriage involving at least one Catholic marrying outside the blessing of the Catholic church can be declared invalid easily based on lack of canonical form. A marriage involving an unbaptized person (like a Mormon) can be declared non-sacramental and a Pauline privilege used to dissolve it. What is strange is that if two non-Catholic Christians marry outside the Catholic church, their marriage is considered sacramental by the Catholic church. So considered because the ministerial authority of a sacramental marriage are the validly baptised spouses and not the witnessing Priest or civil authority. Their bond becomes indissoluble even if the couple had no idea or faith in Catholic policies! This scenario can create awkward situations after a divorce and remarriage and an attempt to convert to Catholicism.
One way around some of these marital breakdowns is the annulment practice which, after the fact, can declare a valid bond never really existed. Before that option is pursued, conditions might call for an easier “pastoral solution.” There are two well known ways to obtain a dissolution of a valid bond. The Pauline privilege based on 1 Cor. 7 for cases where a Catholic was married to a non-Christian (such as a Mormon) and Petrine privilege is dispensed under the Pope’s authority as the inheritor of Peter’s powers to bind and loose in Matt 16:19. These solutions don’t cover all the possibilities and Dr. Buckley points out the irony that it is easier to repent for murder than it is for being remarried after divorce. I will try to cover more nuances as I discuss the order of development according to Buckley, which involves reinterpreting scriptures according to the needs of the faith community.
- Gen. 2:24commends marriage, but divorce is arguably an option.
- Through Moses, God sanctions polygamy and divorce.
- Jesus’ words in 5 places in the gospels require reinterpretation of 1-2, because he is perceived as reminding of the Father’s real intentions.
- ‘ Gen. 2:24 sets the “natural” order as monogomous, undivorced marriage.
- ‘ Because of hard-heartedness of the people, Moses sub-optimally allows polygamy and divorce.
- ‘ Jesus reverts it back to the “natural” order of monogomous, undivorced marriage with celibacy preferred to remarriage.
- Paul notes believer/unbeliever divorce exception in 1 Cor. 7:10-16 and Eph. 5:32′s take is that Christ‘s relation to the church is like husbands to wives.
- (1079-1141) Hugh of St. Victor begins the process of making marriage one of seven sacraments which is made canon in 1563. So 1′ and 3′ have been since been quoted to support a “supernatural order” to assign the new sacramental requirements to the highest authority possible: Jesus. However this seems to violate the idea of a Christian introduction of this sacrament and Buckley argues for a more compassionate teachings of Jesus based on the Beatitude context of the divorce teachings in Matt. 5:31-32. The divorced are “poor in spirit” in their trauma and need God and forgiveness. For Buckley, Eph. 5:25, 32 and related passages bear the brunt of introducing a supernatural, sacramental marriage.
These are just just summaries of the events calling for scripture reinterpretation as the doctrine developed. In the last chapter of the book Buckley, calls for yet another richer scripture interpretation for sacramental framework that will lend the scriptures to provide a more personalized and less legalized solution. Dr. Buckley reads the Bible from a Documentary Hypothesis framework, which I have noticed makes Catholics (and Mormons) who haven’t been introduced to this concept nervous and even after it is understood, often has a polarizing effect for or against it. He recognizes that more exegetical approaches, while informative, fail to provide a basis of consensus among Christians. Yet hermeneutics confers a degree of integrity in the search to uncover the true meaning of the teachings of Jesus.
He refers to the celebrated historian, Cardinal John Henry Newman to support his proposal for future doctrinal developments. Dr. Newman wrote an 1859 article to the effect that the consensus of the faithful, termed sensus fidelium, could be an indicator of an infallible teaching. Newman used this concept to support the continuity of the authentic Church during the 4th century flip-flops on Arianism, when the laity and not the Bishops upheld the Nicean orthodoxy. Dr. Buckley channels Dr. Newman, hoping for a similiar reception of his ideas. Newman’s paper initially caused a big stir because it shook up thought on magisterial infallibility. Nevertheless many centuries later, Newman’s positioning is regarded as a forerunner for Vatican II’s reforms.
Dr. Buckley wants to challenge the Magisterium, the top down hierarchy structure of the Catholic Church from a grass roots level. This gets him off the hook for making complex theological arguments or directly coming into conflict with the hierarchy. So the middle chapters, Dr. Buckley detailed all the surveys and conversations he made in his travels over a few decades in the England-Wales area. He describes the rise of parachurch support groups, increased training for priests, streamlined annulment tribunals, RCIA complications, the use of a discrete “internal forum” solution (which sometimes is is characterized as the “find the right priest strategy), and making some ecumenical visits to Eastern Orthodox officials in hopes that the Roman Catholic Church would move towards the EOC’s more lenient policies.
Timothy Buckley also found the mid 90′s policies contradictory and out of touch with some with the Vatican II statements that positioned marriage as more of a covenant than a contract. However, Cardinal Ratzinger limited the use of the internal forum discretion that Buckley was pushing. So my money is on Pope Benedict XVI maintaining law and order, and Buckley being out of luck, although I don’t if anything significant has happened since 1997. If anything, Benedict’s stance against relativism and against earthly happiness as a way to determine morality puts a damper on investigating theological reform. In conjunction with that thought, recently John Fowles pointed out a speech that he has “Catholic envy” for. It is worth noting that one of the fruits of the strict policy is that Catholics have the lowest divorce rate.