Thursday, 3 September 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod (Part 6)

Professor Doctor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur, Switzerland
The final paper was given by Professor Doctor Eva-Maria Faber of Chur in Switzerland. The original language was German and the title is “The gift of life itself – Reflection on a theology of biography”. I am working from the translation into French. The whole paper is pretty hard going and it is hard to elucidate what her message is.

She starts by quoting St Ignatius and one of his exercises which says leave the Creator to work directly with the creature and the creature with his Creator and Lord. She says that a married couple should be seen as two individuals each with their own vocation. She rejects the warning in the Lineamenta that this could lead to individualism. Overall she seems to be suggesting that the individual should deal direct with God and ignore what the Church has to say which is a bit of a contradiction if the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ Jesus.

Professor Faber claims that the modern idea of marriage concerns persons rather than society or family and there should not be a 'fixed synthetic observation of marriage' by which I think she means the teaching of the Church. She says one has to recognise that marriage is not just about family, as family life, by which I suppose she means the period of bringing up children, is very short and in this age of longer lives there is a long period where children do not feature. She claims this is a revolution. As a grand-father all I can say to that is 'baloney'.

She then says that the doctrine of the Church on marriage has changed since Vatican II but is still incoherent. She specifically mentions the ius in corpus, matrimonium ratum and matrimonium consummatum. From this one may surmise that her argument is that consent to marriage has been redefined. In the 1917 code of Canon Law consent is deemed to include perpetual and exclusive right to the body of the other – the ius in corpus. If that is initially denied i.e. the marriage is not consummated, then that is grounds for annulment of the marriage. As a result of Vatican II the idea of consent has been modified to “that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other” (Gaudium et Spes 48).

The 1993 Canon Law took account of that by saying, 1057.2, that Matrimonial Consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage. Now what Professor Faber is saying is that failure to do that i.e. not to consent to mutually give and accept etc is grounds for annulment.

Further that it takes a lifetime for the couple to do that and therefore grounds for annulment exist on a continuing basis throughout the marriage as there is never complete giving and accepting; there is always room for more giving and accepting so a marriage is always dissolvable. Indissolubility goes out of the window. Canon Law does not mention the 'human act' in the definition of consent which is questionable but she takes no notice of that and carefully elides from giving consent to something, to actually doing that something.

Professor Faber then goes on about how difficult it is to give and accept, in this continuing relationship. It is all incredibly difficult for a couple to harmonise their relationship in her view. She makes no mention of love or divine grace helping them. It is all pretty grim. Cohabitation is a way of recognising how difficult it all is in her view. Trial marriage is therefore acceptable? Graduality is invoked!

She insists on the need for individuals to flourish and therefore couples must not, in this post-modern world, think of their marriage as a fatal straitjacket where they think they are everything to each other.

The Church's teaching does not recognise this and tends to be totalitarian! It imposes the burden of fidelity despite the individuality of their biographies, of their needs and developments. She does not actually mention 'open marriages' but gets pretty close to it.

The Professor deals at length with the breakdown of marriages. She say that the Church has put too much emphasis on the question of remarriage rather than examining the breakdown. There I would agree with her. Those who want to bless remarriages with access to communion glide over the trauma of the breakdown of the first marriage particularly for the children. But of course the reason for denying communion to the remarried is exactly there in the terrible destruction of the breakdown.

But then she goes on to say that where there is marriage breakdown there is no longer a marriage. She claims that the Church recognises that by allowing separation – that is utter nonsense.

She goes on to query whether there is such a thing as a marriage bond; predictably St Augustine comes in for a bit of a beating for having, allegedly, invented the idea. She then picks up the idea of Schokenhoff that it is too much to expect anyone to remain celibate and chaste after a breakdown of marriage.

She insists on the state of individuals – their biography, existential challenges, their dignity. “These people must not become cases for the application of principles”. So are principles never to be applied? If not why have principles? Perhaps she would prefer Groucho Marx to the Church: “Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others”. Or was that Cardinal Marx?

For Professor Faber everything about a marriage breakdown is complicated and the Church's teaching is much too simplistic to deal with it. It is rather like saying that one should abolish the crime of murder because the circumstances of every murder are different.

She finishes by saying the Church should change its doctrine on indissolubility and that it has power to do so in the same way as it changed its teaching on unbaptised children and Limbo. Well as the document that announced that change said:

"This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis. However, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the theory of limbo is not mentioned. Rather, the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God."

But then I suppose Professor Faber regards the very clear teaching of Christ as something that can be ignored and perhaps is not even the teaching of the Church! She certainly ignored it in this paper and indeed makes no mention of it or that divine grace can lead us to heroism in the most difficult of situations. She sees everything as 'existential' which I have come to believe means 'stuck in the mud'.

1 comment:

  1. Since writing the above I have found a very interesting post by Chiesa at:

    Professor Eva-Maria Faber has published a book by several authors which goes much further than anything said at the Shadow Synod. In response there is an article A FAREWELL TO CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE by Martin Grichting. He says that those living in adulterous relationships or ‘gay marriages’ are not looking for mercy but approval of their sinfulness. Knowing the arrogance of the liberal lobbies and the LGBTs I am sure that this is correct.
    Professor Faber forecasts an exit from the Church of enormous proportions if they do not get their way. I firmly believe they will not get their way so schism is now looking beyond doubt but I also believe that it will be a fairly small schism confined to middle Europe – about as important as the Old Catholics.

    Incidentally it appears that Professor Faber is a member of the Lutheran - Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission. She was recently asked:

    "What does the joint Reformation commemoration in 2017 mean to you?

    I hope that the reconciled fellowship between different churches can grow, thanks to the anniversary. I cherish the same hope for 2019 when we in Zürich celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Switzerland."

    I think she has gone Native


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