Monday, December 04, 2006

Marriage and Celibacy on CNN

My Mother told me that last night, December 3rd 2006, CNN had a news flash on priestly celibacy, whether the Church is going to call it into question and finally let priests marry. There are two purposes for this news this week. One, there is a conference coming up this week in which Milingo's controllers will try to use his plight to cast the thinking of Catholics into confusion. Two, the media will use this confusion to mute and confuse Catholics when the Church speaks against the impending disaster that is coming in the Middle East, as the United States will get further involved in a military way in the Middle East.

For all you revolutionaries out there hoping for a change in Church discipline, consider this example from the French Revolution:

The Revolutionaries, relying on the spirit of Jansenism and the doctrines of Febronius and under the pretext of only changing the discipline of the Church, also sought to require priests to marry. Pius VI saw the main argument of the authors of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, that the Assembly was only changing the discipline of the Church. It was not changing any of the Church’s doctrines or dogmas. The Pope, in refuting this argument, showed that there are matters of Church discipline that are intimately related to the Church’s doctrine.

Matters of discipline cannot be changed due to external political pressure and they cannot be changed lightly by the Church itself. The Church in 1560 pointed out that schismatic and heretical groups throughout history would attempt to change the discipline of the Church with a view to changing doctrinal points as well, that one of the effects of changing discipline was to weaken the Church’s authority over spiritual matters. In short, discipline is in place to help preserve the dogma or the teachings of the Church. The same people who are advocating for priests to marry are often the same people who would like to change the Church's teaching with respect to contraception, homosexual unions, and social teaching on war and economics.

Both Augustine and Aquinas gave arguments to the effect that matters of discipline in the Church cannot be changed. They agreed that the apparent advantages of reform rarely, if at all, outweighed the harm done instituting new forms of discipline. For this reason, only the gravest of necessity or clear utility of a new form of discipline would warrant a change in discipline. If such a change were to occur, it would have to be able to account for the effects that such a change would have for the common good for all persons and institutions affected by the change (147-149). Pius VI showed that the few attempts to change discipline almost never led to the hoped for advantages, and so such attempts to change discipline only lasted for a short period of time.

The smallest attempts to change discipline led to more serious difficulties. Among the attempts to change discipline that led to worse consequences than the good hoped for were eliminating the external signs of the Mass because individuals or groups mocked it, celebrating the Mass in a vulgar way (that is, in the vernacular and with low class music), changing the criteria by which the Church judged the impediments to marriage, enabling priests and religious to marry, limiting marriage to certain times of the year (this is a superstition and a form of tyranny), eliminating the power of ecclesiastical courts to pronounce on the validity of marriage, using the translation of Missals as a way of promoting disobedience, temerity, audacity, revolt, schism, and all of the evils associated with these movements (149-155). In each of these cases, the innovators hoped for many advantages which never came, rarely lasted, and did not prove to be lasting (155).


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