On Divorce: Ratzinger Then and Benedict Now

On Divorce: Ratzinger Then and Benedict Now December 9, 2014

It seems that Pope Emeritus Benedict has changed his mind, and wants to make it  known that he is repudiating an argument he made forty years ago.   Six years ago the Pope asked Gerhard Mueller, then Bishop of Regensberg, to oversee the publication of his collected theological works.  Benedict was  a prolific theologian, and his opera omnia  are being published in German in a 16 volume set.    (The first(?) volume of an English translation has been published by Ignatius Press.)   Three weeks ago, Vatican Insider, the Vaticanista column at the Italian paper La Stampa, called attention to the fact that in the republished version of his writings, Benedict had made major revisions to an article then Fr. Ratzinger had written back in 1972 on divorce and remarriage.

In this article, Ratzinger sketched out an argument in favor, in certain limited circumstances, of allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion without either an annulment or the promise of living as “brother and sister” in their new marriage.  The argument bears some similarity to the Orthodox justification for allowing remarriage and was referred to by Cardinal Kasper in his now famous speech last February.  (An English transcript of parts of that speech can be found here.)  Il Stampa argued that the original article was published at a critical time in Ratzinger’s theological evolution, after he had broken with the “progressive camp” (with whom he had been aligned) at Vatican II.

One of my favorite Vaticanistas, Sandro Magister, has published the text of the conclusion of the original article and the revised version.   They are worth reading in full as I think they encapsulate two major perspectives on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried.   Here I will extract a couple key passages to highlight the change in tone and argument.

In the original, Ratzinger made it clear that he wanted to move beyond the strictures of canon law, which he felt yielded an incomplete approach to the problem:

One must expressly remember the margin of latitude that is to be found in every process of annulment. This discretional margin and the disparity of opportunity that inevitably stems from the cultural level of the persons involved, as also from their financial resources, should put one on guard against the idea that justice could be perfectly satisfied in this way. In addition, many things simply are not judicable, even though they are real. Juridical questions must necessarily be limited to that which is juridically demonstrable, but precisely for this reason they can overlook decisive facts. Above all, in this way the formal criteria (errors of form or  intentional disregard for ecclesial form) become so prevalent as be able to lead to injustices. Overall, from the juridical point of view the fact of focusing the question on the foundational act of marriage is inevitable, but nonetheless it constitutes a limitation of the problem that cannot fully render justice to the nature of human action. The process of annulment indicates practically a group of criteria to establish if the parameters of marriage between believers cannot be applied to a particular marriage. But it does not exhaust the problem and therefore cannot advance the claim of that rigorous exclusivity which must be attributed to it in the domain of a particular form of thought. (emphasis added.)aa

Benedict, on the other hand, very much grounds his argument in canon law.  After a brief discussion of the Pauline and Petrine privileges—which he makes a point of noting were not included in the 1983 revision of canon law—he begins a detailed argument based primarily on canon law itself:

Over the course of time there developed more and more clearly the awareness that a marriage apparently contracted in a valid manner, because of juridical or practical defects, cannot really be concretized and therefore can be null. To the extent to which the Church has developed its marriage law, it has also elaborated in detail the conditions for validity and the reasons for possible nullity.

The nullity of marriage can stem from errors in juridical form, but above all from a lack of understanding. In dealing with the reality of marriage, the Church recognized very quickly that marriage is constituted as such through the consent of the two partners, which must also be expressed publicly in a form defined by law (CIC, can. 1057 § 1). The content of this joint decision is mutual self-giving through an irrevocable bond (CIC, can. 1057 § 2; can. 1096 § 1). Canon law presupposes that adult persons know on their own, on the basis of their nature, what marriage is, and therefore also know that it is definitive; the contrary must be expressly demonstrated (CIC, can. 1096 § 1 e § 2).

It is not surprising that a theologian of Benedict’s depth would change his mind over the course of a 50 year career:  if  Augustine can do it, so can Benedict.   But in reading the original and revised arguments, two things did surprise me.  The first was the way in which the argument changed.  Forty years ago, Ratzinger saw serious shortcomings in basing an approach to divorce strictly on canon law, and tentatively proposed an alternative.  Today, Benedict pretty much bases his entire argument on canon law.    Though he does not say so explicitly, my interpretation is that he sees marriage primarily as a disciplinary matter and that any changes in practice must be done in this context.  For instance, when discussing whether in the modern setting sacramental marriages actually occur, he frames the question of “understanding” in terms of a pre-condition given in canon law.  He then immediately warns against determining the nullity of a marriage based on psychological grounds, precluding any approach to this question that is not juridicial.

What is not clear is why he views canon law as the privileged for viewing what really is a multi-dimensional problem.  As the highlighted quote above makes clear, in 1972 Ratzinger felt that the law is important, but there are some questions which are not juridicial in nature.    To be fair, in his conclusion Benedict looks at the pastoral dimension more broadly, quoting John Paul II on the urgent need for pastoral care for the divorced in our midst.   He also ties his concerns closely to a more general concern that people are receiving the Eucharist too frequently and unworthily.  (This leads to the curious suggestion that perhaps it would be better to encourage people to receive communion less, in part so that they could be in “solidarity with divorced and remarried persons”.)  I would not go so far as to call this passage an afterthought, but it does appear to me to be a codicil to the main thrust of his argument.

Second,  Benedict does not engage with his younger self in any meaningful way:  he does not explain why his original argument was incorrect or incomplete.  Indeed, he seems to pretty much ignore it.  After rereading the revised version several times, I found only one passage which seems to address his previous argument:

At the same time, the Church must continue to seek to plumb the breadth and boundaries of the words of Jesus. It must remain faithful to the mandate of the Lord, and cannot even stretch it very much.

I infer from this that he feels that his younger self was “stretching” (distorting?) the gospel with his proposal, but he does not say so directly.  This approach to rethinking his original ideas strikes me as somewhat disingenuous:  he cannot simply consign his former position to the memory hole.  I think it would have been much more interesting had he published a postscript explaining more directly why his earlier proposal did not “proclaim the message of faith in a convincing and comprehensible way and seek to open spaces in which this can be truly lived.”

I am not going to comment in detail on the specific proposals of Benedict today versus his younger self.  I will note that, as I have said earlier, that the suggestion laid out in the 1972 article is interesting but I am not sure that it can work in our current Western culture without a significant recalibration of how Catholics view marriage and the Church.   And the solution Benedict seems to favor rests on preserving the status quo; here I agree with Bishop Tobin that this is no longer possible.  (Such a position reminds me of Zizek’s arguments about the obscene underbelly of the law, but that is a subject for a different post.)

I want to conclude with a question about the nature of this revision.   I am sure that many commentators will regard this as Pope Benedict re-entering the debate about communion for the divorced and remarried (though, interestingly, Fr. Z emphatically denies that this is the case).  I think there is a certain element of this, especially since his earlier words are being used to support a position he now strongly disagrees with.  But I think that the way he is doing this reveals a man who is walking a narrow path.  He wants to comment, and perhaps feels that he has a duty to do so.  On the other hand, I am sure that he is keenly aware that his unique status as “Pope Emeritus” puts him in an awkward position with regards to his successor.  I get the sense that a lot of folks would like him to be the leader of the “opposition,” however defined.   Indeed, the mutterings about defects in the election of Pope Francis (whatever their extent–see the comments to my earlier post here) seem to be based in some wish that the clock could be turned back and Benedict’s resignation rescinded.  Following the example of St. Augustine and making corrections to a position taken decades ago is a via media between saying nothing and directly entering the discussions.  If my interpretation is correct, then I admire him for taking this path.  For all my criticisms of the content of the revision, the form may be the best choice possible.


"Being an German, where Greta Thunberg has a large group of followers and is all ..."

Greta Thunberg as an echo of ..."
"I don't think they are calling for medieval wars to arms ourselves with weapons and ..."

The Church is not an Army, ..."
"Thank you for this interesting comparison. Though I must admit I find perhaps a bit ..."

Greta Thunberg as an echo of ..."
"Thanks. I didn't know he was 11 years old. ;-)"

A Christian Interpretation of the Mahāvākyas

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What I found surprising on reading was just how vague the earlier argument was; there’s not much to give any indication as to how the proposals could possibly work in practice. For instance, the idea was that “through an extrajudicial route and on the basis of the testimony of the pastor and members of the community” permission can be granted; but there is no indication of how the gathering of testimony, recognition of it as adequate, and granting of permission would occur in an “extrajudicial” way. Any official process for this would be pretty clearly a juridical process; but how one would do it appropriately without an official process is unclear. Likewise, the older argument says only that the juridical aspect is not exhaustive; but this is different from saying it can be set aside, and the earlier argument gives no indication of how one would make the modification in a way that would not, in fact, be setting aside the juridical aspect.

    I don’t, however, see the newer argument as in any way viewing canon law as privileged; he only even mentions it as one of the ways in which the Church has “brought to light the boundaries of the applicability of the Lord’s words, defining their scope in a more concrete way.” The newer argument seems to me to boil down almost entirely to distinguishing areas of the topic that have been addressed by the Church directly in various ways, from areas of the topic on which we still mostly have questions, and then ends with some practical points for the interim. I’m inclined to read the whole revision as a deliberate withdrawing from the lists, and a refusal to be dragged into the debate just because of something he briefly said four decades ago.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I agree the earlier argument is short on details. I think it was the theological equivalent of a Gedanken experiment: he was exploring some overlooked avenues in our tradition. I think it is possible to have an “extrajudicial process” at least in terms of outlook. A judicial process is grounded in rules, procedures and precedents. The Orthodox are very clear that in their process they are not creating precedents or legal exceptions: they are showing mercy. This is not to say that were something like this implemented, a bishop would not have some procedures in place, and probably look to how he decided previous petitions when evaluating new ones. But, ideally, the outlook would be different, and canonists would not play the central role they do now in annulment proceedings.

      I disagree about the role of canon law in Benedict’s argument, but that may be because in my reading, most of the opposition to these proposals has come from canonists. (At least, in the sources I consult, these are the people most cited.)

  • It’s obvious that the problem of having a “retired pope” is surfacing. I was glad to see the back of Benedict, but I don’t think papal resignations are a good thing, in general.

    • I see your point, but I don’t blame Benedict for setting the example of resigning. People die far less quickly than they used to die.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      I think it is a problem only because we have placed very unreasonable demands on the papacy. Certainly here in the States, extremely powerful bishops (e.g. of Chicago) have retired and quietly gotten out of the way of their successors. My point was that Benedict is trying to do the same thing but I think other people are trying to drag him back in against his will.

      • Dante Aligheri

        Yes. And, I don’t mean to derail the thread by any means, but I think it’s ironic that an age of collegiality, rightly reasserted by Vatican II, we have actually seen the Papacy become more central to the life of the everyday Catholic than he has ever been – largely thanks to 24/7 access and expectations. The Pope is expected to do now what he never had to before. Much like evolving status of the U.S. President, come to think of it – being held responsible for everything that happens under his watch.

        This can be very draining for anybody. And I agree that some are trying to bring Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI back against his will.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          I think you have hit on something very important here. Another aspect of it is the drive to canonize every Pope in the 20th century. I think we can agree that over the course of history we have had a lot of popes who were not saints, and I think trying to stuff every Pope in this box for ideological reasons does the Church no good.

        • It was John Paul II Wojtylwa who created the phenomenon of the “rock star” pope. I knew Jesuits in Sri Lanka who always insisted that he was no “saint” at all, but, rather, a megalomaniac pope who was creating a “cult of personality” that reflected the governing style of the dictators amongst whom he grew up, in the East.

        • “It was John Paul II Wojtylwa who created the phenomenon of the “rock star” pope. I knew Jesuits in Sri Lanka who always insisted that he was no “saint” at all, but, rather, a megalomaniac pope who was creating a “cult of personality” that reflected the governing style of the dictators amongst whom he grew up, in the East.”

          Ten years on, I have a certain degree of sympathy for this view for two reasons.

          1 I think that there is a tremendous degree of cult devotion to the pope, to a degree that never existed in previous centuries. To me, the last straw was when the National Catholic Register started breaking down exactly what pope Francis “meant” when he encouraged women to breastfeed in church. At that point, it seemed less devotional and theological and more like reading tea leaves.

          2 I was troubled by the fast tracking of Pope John Paul’s sainthood in light of the sex abuse scandal. It seemed to be a way for the leaders to say “Don’t ask what he knew and when he knew it. Don’t ask what any of the leaders of the Church knew and when they knew it. Everything is fine. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” I think that a part of them (the leaders and conservative members) wanted to quash investigations into the coverup.

        • Mark VA

          Dismas and Emmasrandomthoughts:

          Dismas, you wrote:

          “I knew Jesuits in Sri Lanka who always insisted that he was no “saint” at all, but, rather, a megalomaniac pope who was creating a “cult of personality” that reflected the governing style of the dictators amongst whom he grew up, in the East.”

          Pope John Paul II experienced two totalitarian systems, both ruled by dictators who fostered a personality cult. One was from the West, and one from the East (in Europe, in both cases).

          The vague insinuation in the Jesuits’ statement is that those from the East are at a lower level of cultural development (i.e. they are less democratically minded, by nature), and thus are more prone to fall under the sway of charismatic and strong personalities – whereas those in the West, being more culturally developed, have learned to live under the rule of law.

          I imagine these Jesuits latched on to the dictator from the East, because JP II was likewise from the East, so it seems like a better fit. Further, the statement implies that those in the East are wholly products of their Eastern environment – thus, since Stalin ruled in the East, then Wojtyla, having experienced this environment, was also compelled to emulate his example.


          Putting all this together, I believe a thinking person should see how shoddy is this whole syllogism. I think one may debate this issue from more intelligent perspectives, and without mixing in one’s feelings about this pope.

  • Ronald King

    I must give my initial subjective response to the style and structure of Pope B16’s writing above without getting into the ideas expressed since I must go shortly. It is difficult for me to easily break down what he is attempting to convey. I have a post graduate degree in psych. with decades of reading research and publications in this area. It seems that each area of expertise has developed their own language which separates the “expert” from the outsiders and creates a subculture of elitism which gives the impression of authority and legitimacy. It also creates a false idol and the illusion of supremacy. Reality gets lost in the façade which is created by the intellect in order to establish something which appears real and concrete in order to maintain a sense of control and stability when there is ambivalence and fear in reality.
    See I just did the same thing.:(

    • Your point reminds me of a book that I read in college. If only I could remember the title.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Canon law is an insular discipline since most people do not have any first hand experience with it. Perhaps we need a TV show (EWTN, are you listening?) about a resolute band of canon lawyers and the cases they deal with: call it Canon Law and Order.

      Also, your comments about “reality gets lost in the facade which is created by the intellect in order to establish something which appears real and concrete” cuts very close to home for this pure mathematician! 🙂

      • Ronald King

        David, If only…I was quite good in mathematics in high school but had poor attention. I did like the feeling when the light came on and I was able to understand the solution to the problem. After my discharge in 1970 I didn’t want to work hard in school so I majored in psych. only to understand why I felt so unworthy. My unworthiness began in the family history and was reinforced in the Church with all of its defenses against revealing its shame and projecting it on her children.
        Mathematics has no shame and its reality is there for all to see until a light comes on and a new aspect of reality is discovered. In this discovery there is joy and a desire to look more into the mysteries yet to be discovered. Math/science is pure and it reveals the works of God.
        Canon law, in my opinion, is subjective and is based on control. It seems to me to be a defense mechanism which protects against the revelation of underlying shame within the Church. Canon law is human control of human thought and action. “Do this. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?” That’s an old lyric from an old song I just remembered.
        I know nothing about canon law but I do know how a spark of God’s Love feels and it has no feeling of connection in my limited experience to canon law. Pope B16 seems to be a very humble man who seems to have difficulty with understanding human relationships and the vulnerability inherent in those relationships. Theological ideas seem to be his passion rather than the vulnerability of human relationships.
        Mercy requires being vulnerable and open to the unknown and risking losing oneself to oblivion. That is my impression of the journey of the dark night of the soul. In this particular case with divorce it would seem that the Shepherd would offer nourishment to the souls who suffer the pain of a loss of love. In doing so the Shepherd would risk losing his life for love rather than keeping his life within the known of tradition.
        I hope this makes sense.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

          Well, canon law has a lot of facets. On one level, it is just the “employee handbook” for the Catholic Church: that big book human resources writes that no one reads, but is important for codifying practices to make sure policies are clear and (theoretically) enforced consistently and fairly. But on another level, canon law is treated as a definitive statement of faith, which is a burden it simply cannot bear.

        • pe B16 seems to be a very humble man who seems to have difficulty with understanding human relationships and the vulnerability inherent in those relationships.

          You are correct, and he never should have been pope; nobody with such a strong lack of “affectiional” relationship skills should ever try to be a “pastor”–let alone a pastor of the whole world. And, like many of my “same-sex-attracted” friends, I think his problem began and ended in his immature responses to eroticism.

        • dominic1955

          That is precisely why the Church has chosen to deal with issues like marriage through Canon Law and not psychobabble. Encouraging people in what would be at least objectively a state of mortal sin is as far away from “loving” as one could imagine. There are ways to fix this issue, but its not easy and its not smooth, necessarily. I know what you are trying to say, it does make sense as far as that goes, but you use “human relationship” and “vulnerability” as a cudgel. You project your “diagnosis” of sorts on a man you, at least I would doubt, have no personal knowledge of. Hmm… I’m sure my taking issue with this is evidence that I too lack “vulnerability” for “human relationships’. Oh well.

          • Ronald King

            Oh well, I guess you have a different perception of my comment than I intended. What is your feeling towards me?

        • dominic1955

          I’m not playing that game.

          • Ronald King

            Dominic, you stated above, ” I know what you are trying to say, it does make sense as far as that goes, but you use “human relationship” and “vulnerability” as a cudgel.” Why would you make that statement. It hurts me that you write something that suggests that I would have such an aggressive intention to harm the Pope with my words. I am an introvert and it had taken me decades to develop a compassionate understanding and appreciation for introverts including myself. If you want to know more why I wrote what I wrote I would be happy to tell you. Psychobabble is for the uneducated and inexperienced. Everything written and verbalized represents the inter/intrapersonal history of the author. Those in power have a duty to be transparent and vulnerable with those who are influenced by them.

        • dominic1955

          Well, then what did you mean? He’s not psychosexually mature? He’s a rock, he’s and island-one that never feels no pain and doesn’t cry? “Those in power”, in this case the Pope, need to make sure the Sacraments are available to the Faithful, maintain orthodoxy and orthopraxis, and get people to heaven. When you’re the pope, you don’t need to be “vulnerable” with all the throngs of people under you. Vulnerability, in its proper sense, should be reserved most for your closest family, friends and confidants.

          • Ronald King

            I see how vulnerable you are and I will stop because this topic of vulnerability needs to be face to face.

  • Benedict changed… and canon law too.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      How has canon law changed? Certainly it was redrafted in 1983, but I think that had minimal effect on the core canons about marriage.

  • Roger

    Its sad when the retired guy has to step in and clarify the Church’s truth. Should th ecurrent Pope have done this? Deo Gratia, Pope Benedict!

  • I, for one, would like to see people parse out exactly why the divorced and remarried are barred from communion, because the Church actually gives two different (albeit related) answers. This may seem insignificant, but these different answers actually have implications for potential solutions.

    One answer is that divorced and remarried people are engaging in illicit sexual relations (adultery) and no one may receive communion in a state of mortal sin.

    The second answer is that the divorced and remarried are a source of scandal because they are publicly living in a state of sin.

    These answers may seem identical, but they are not, and they have profound implications for how the divorced and remarried can remedy their situation.

  • Maybe some of us here should try to be a bit clearer as to what “mortal sin” is and is not. A priest once asked his congregation how many people they thought praying beside them in church were in a state of “mortal sin.” HIS response was that, obviously, NOBODY was. To commit a “mortal sin,” according to the strict theological definition of it, one must be fully aware of the hurt it does to God, and one must commit it either IN ORDER to profess one’s “freedom” from God’s will for one’s life–in order to rebel, in other words–or, in order to hurt, or “revenge” oneself upon God. No one knows of these purposes, except the sinner. “Objective mortal sin” exists in a vacuum–only on paper, as a guide for confessors and the kinds of theologians who like to obsess about such things. However, nobody who would turn up at a mass regularly could possibly have that intention. I think that the Church could EASILY declare that it knows that a divorced and remarried person who comes to mass after a set probationary period is NOT in a state of “mortal sin,” and is merely just another “sinner,” entitled to confess, resolve to somehow “regularize” their position with the Church, with some pastoral “guidance,” and then receive Communion.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      While I think you are correct to counter an overly broad definition of mortal sin (that often shades over into the scandal someone else commented on), to anticipate the counter-attack, let me quote the CCC on mortal sin, which is somewhat less narrow than what you have written:

      For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

      1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

      1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

      1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

      In a different direction, I am partial to notions of mortal sin as a “fundamental choice against God” which I have heard ascribed to Bernard Lonergan. However, I have not read enough about this to comment critically as to how it might apply to the divorced and remarried.

      • Well, I think that this definition is much too broad, and that it’s semantics like these that cause people to say that they’re “recovering Catholics” who cannot deal with the “guilt” that the Catholic Church tries to foist upon people.

        Consider THIS: Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
        And then this: Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent.

        “Knowledge” of WHAT, and “consent” to WHAT? Isn’t it “knowledge” of the hurt the sin does to God, and isn’t it “malice” against God—a desire to oppose His will?

        I’m sorry, but I think MY definition works better than the one you propose, and I’m quite sure that MINE is the one that caused the priest in my anecdote to insist that nobody at his mass was a “mortal sinner”—unless, perhaps they needed and exorcism!

        • dominic1955

          If someone claims they are “recovering Catholics” because the Church tries to “foist” guilt upon them, maybe they are just projecting their own guilty conscience in the “thou dost protest too much” sense.

          Knowledge of what? Keep reading the quote from the CCC. Knowledge that what was done was grave matter. Consent to what? Same deal. Traditionally understood, it is not that terribly hard to fall into mortal sin.

          Exorcisms and demonic possession actually do not necessary have anything to do with the state of someone’s soul. People can be in a state of grace and still be possessed. Its reckless and irresponsible for a priest to assure people that just because they drag themselves to Mass that they are free from mortal sin. It would be accurate to say that one can only know the state of their own soul with moral certainty outside of being granted an extraordinary grace, thus, one should work on themselves and not worry too much about the perceived faults of their neighbor.

  • dominic1955

    Thank you for pointing out what the CCC says. The problem with the “fundamental option” theory in moral theology is that it practically removes responsibility for each moral act, as traditionally understood, and places one’s life in an arc or sorts. Basically, there is no “mortal sin” then because who could *really* fundamentally choose to be against God? As it has been understood, doing something like intentionally skipping Mass lands you in mortal sin even if you don’t explicitly hate God or usually skip Mass. You go to confession for it and then you’re back in God’s good graces. You still have an obligation to go to Mass even if you are in a state of mortal sin.

    Furthermore, yes, going to Mass does predispose the soul towards cultivating virtue and despising vice if you are already in a state of grace but that doesn’t mean you cannot throw it away. Until this life is over, even the greatest saints still suffer from concupiscence and also until death, it is always possible to fall. We do not hold an “assurance of salvation” as some Protestants do.

    If it is otherwise, then I don’t see what is the point in arguing details about repentance and such. If, practically speaking, there is no mortal sin than who cares who does what?

  • If, practically speaking, there is no mortal sin than who cares who does what?

    “Mortal sin” and “hell” are obviously what makes your sort of religion work for you; you are welcome to it.

    The reason I care “who does what” is because I wish to be loved and to love.

    Even in the days when I was more or less an ultramontane and fundamentalist Catholic, I never believed in a God who could send people to Hell (or allow Hindus, Muslims et. al. to put themselves there) My “faith” is more or less a “trust” (“…the substance of things HOPED for..,” etc.), and I could never trust a deity who would do that.

    I like the story of the French priest who attended a party that Marcel Proust was at. He said, “I am required by my profession to believe that there is a place called ‘hell,’ but I am not required to believe anyone is in it.”

    • Ronald King