Thoughts on the Tiber Tea Party

First of all, hat tip to Ed Peters. Worth a read in light of the Vatican’s statements on the issue. Oh, and for those still trying to claim the statues were of Mary or Mary and Elizabeth (which I totally thought how it would plausibly be explained), the Vatican itself clarified that they weren’t. See link in Ed’s piece.

So, my very non-moral theologian self thinks this is PROBABLY the scenario. Again, I’m not making any hard proclamations, just trying to provide some perspective for the “What in the @#$%!% is going on?” crowd.  In short, I think the Principle of Double Effect is probably in play, so I don’t think the idol dunkers are guilty of “Thou shall not steal.”

So, what is the Principle of Double Effect for my equally non-moral theologian readers? Here is a good description, although the examples most often given are medical.    What can I say? We are in strange times. I would read the full article but here’s the snapshot.

  1. The action must be morally good, or indifferent, as to object, motive and circumstances.

  2. The bad effect(s) may only be tolerated, not directly willed.

  3. The good effect must be caused at least as directly as the bad.

  4. The good effect(s) must be proportionate to compensate for the bad effect(s).

I’m not omniscient but I’m pretty sure everyone involved actually had the desecration of the church and praying to idols in mind, not petty larceny. My bet is that they were American seminarians (because we Americans just do stuff like this – it’s in our historical DNA). Like I said, I think they felt motivated to stop people from bowing down to idols AND to stop the desecration of the churches. So that action and motive would be morally good. Check box number one.

On to number two! Stealing (many have used the term relocated) or smashing idols, offending the indigenous people, etc., was presumably not the direct will of the actors. By the way, do you know how many saints have smashed idols??? Lots. Nobody accuses them of theft. I have to wonder, if the idols were simply smashed in the church, would anyone actually say boo about this? The outcome is the same. Idols are gone. Tossing them in the river is a historically traditional Catholic way of doing things like this. Sounds like idols and the remains of heretics have been tossed into rivers for centuries, so the actual method of disposal kind of shows even more good intent.

They’re good on number three, because placing these idols in a church or bowing down to them is WAY worse than anything else of which the idol dunkers could be accused.

And number four really depends on whether or not you like said idols. If you do not and you hold to the First Commandment (not sure why nobody mentions that one, and it’s all about trying to pin breaking the Seventh Commandment on the idol dunkers), you’re going to see a HUGE good effect in getting rid of them and zero bad effect.

The stealing issue is where people are trying desperately to hang their hats. So here are some questions.  What if I took someone’s gun because they were clearly having some mental issues and I thought they might shoot themselves or others? I took the gun. Would people consider that stealing? How about if I took my drunk friend’s car keys? What if I took an acquaintance’s porn magazine and tossed them in the garbage? Put a stack of campus flyers from Planned Parenthood in the trash? Protection of others is always the intent. So can that be said of this incident? Some are going to say yes and some are going to say no, but I think this act shows a level of commitment to spiritual health and safety. It can be more abstract to faithful Catholics than we realize. Isn’t that supposed to be our utmost concern? I think we all forget this on our best days, but from time to time, it is in the forefront and I think that’s where these gents were yesterday. Bowing down to idols and desecrating a church with them is a HUGE spiritual danger to the soul. This wasn’t an anthropological museum. It was churches and the Vatican.

And one last little note to those who suggest this just shows peoples’ hate for the indigenous people, the pope, the synod, puppies and kittens, etc., etc., etc… Is that what motivated the canonized saint idols smashers of the past?  Nope. It’s actually their love of God and for the pagans led astray. I’m sure this isn’t going to stop those hyperventilating over this, but maybe it’ll help those saying “Hmmmm…”  To all the moral theologians out there, feel free to use the comment box. This is just my guess about it all but in light of the fact that all the idol disposing saints of the past have not been accused of breaking the Seventh Commandment, I really can’t see accusing these guys.

If you’re going to give me a scolding, please make it educational and cite your sources.



Show…Me…the Canons!

Fight the false history, people!  Here’s a newsflash!  People who commit mortal sins should not be receiving Communion! This applies to you.  This applies to me.  This also applies to people who find themselves in really sad and/or hard situations. This does not now, nor has it ever meant, that said sinners are necessarily excommunicated.  That’s a whole separate issue.
Lately, I’ve seen many try to confuse the situation by suggesting that people who are not free to receive Communion are excommunicated.  Seems to be the new liberal strategy of the day.  The fact is, most people who may not receive Communion are simply in a state of mortal sin that doesn’t rise to the level of excommunication.

Now, some are creating imaginary canons and applying imaginary scenarios to them.  Ed Peters clarifies that nicely.  Might be nice if the Crux folks investigated a bit, but sadly, I think this is their chosen method of operation as of late.  They seem to be running on a “Let’s just say that John Paul II did something and hope nobody actually verifies it”, adding a “He who frames the question…” flourish, concluded with a “Repeat the lie until everyone believes it” move.

Fr. James Keenan writing in Crux this week makes his own a question raised (last July, it seems) by Rocco Buttiglione in L’Osservatore Romano: “Is there any contradiction between the popes who excommunicated divorced and remarried persons and Saint John Paul II who lifted that excommunication?

That’s fake canon law. John Paul II never lifted any excommunication against divorced and remarried Catholics because, quite simply, there was no excommunication against divorced and remarried Catholics for him to lift. Shall we talk about it?

Let’s all watch Ed school those so desperate to admit all to Communion.

Buttiglione writes in the L’OR piece upon which Keenan draws: “Once upon a time, divorced and remarried persons were excommunicated and excluded from the life of the Church. That kind of excommunication disappears from the new Code of Canon Law and Familiaris Consortio, and divorced and remarried persons are now encouraged to participate in the life of the Church and to give their children a Christian upbringing. This was an extraordinarily courageous decision that broke from an age-old tradition. But Familiaris Consortio tells us that the divorced and remarried cannot receive the sacraments.

Gracious! However far back in Church history Buttiglione needs to search for an excommunication of divorced-and-remarried Catholics, he apparently thinks that the 1917 Code itself excommunicated divorced and remarried Catholics and that, only by making a “courageous decision that broke from an age-old tradition”, could John Paul II ‘disappear’ that “excommunication” from the new (1983) Code of Canon Law.

I’ve kind of learned along the way to ask for citations mainly because it’s fun to watch their heads explode when they don’t actually have one.  So much “fake Catholicism” out there nowadays, I really don’t trust much.

There is just one problem with Buttiglione’s and Keenan’s canonical narrative of a pope kicking down a penal door locked against divorced-and-remarried Catholics—and thus with their broader ‘if-John-Paul-could-then-Francis-can’ claim, namely: the 1917 Code did not excommunicate divorced and remarried Catholics.


Oops is right, and it’s a biggie for Crux peeps!

Neither Buttiglione nor Keenan provide a citation for their claim about what canon law allegedly did up to the time of John Paul II (nor, come to think of it, did Abp. Scicluna who was, it now seems, uncritically repeating Buttiglione’s claim and extending it to embrace adulterers!), so one is left to guess at what they had in mind. But a couple of ideas occur to me, some of which I have addressed before.

Ed points out what I said earlier: the liberal spin doctors are in full swing with each repeating the error as truth and it won’t be long before they’re all parroting the same talking points.  It spreads like a wildfire.  The response we need to keep repeating in our best Jerry Maguire voice is “Show me the canons!”  Heck, let’s even slow it down a bit for dramatic effect.  “Show…me…the canons!”

Maybe Keenan and Buttiglione had in mind the Pio-Benedictine excommunication levied against Catholics who attempted marriage in violation of canonical form; problem is, this sanction was applicable to all Roman Catholics (not just to divorced-and-civilly-remarried ones) and, more importantly, it had already been abrogated by Paul VI in 1970, a dozen years before the 1983 Code went into force!

Or maybe Keenan the American (if not Buttiglione, an Italian) recalled when American Catholics who divorced and civilly remarried were indeed excommunicated for that offense; problem is, that rule was peculiar to American (not universal) canon law, it dated back only to 1884 (hardly ‘age-old’), and, most importantly, it too had already been abrogated in 1977—again by Paul VI, not John Paul II—several years before the 1983 Code was promulgated.

Cue Britney Spears, JCL: Oops, they did it again!

Or maybe by “new” Code of Canon Law, Buttiglione and Keenan meant the 1917 Code which, in its day, was certainly new; problem is, I can’t find an excommunication for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics in the main, pre-Code, penal document of the 19th century, Pius IX’s Apostolicae Sedis moderatione (1869). Do Buttiglione and Keenan know of one? Of course, even if one were found lurking somewhere, it had obviously ‘disappeared’ from codified canon law some 65 years before John Paul II arrived on the scene.

So, in short, John Paul II had zippo to do with lifting excommunications on divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics.  Is this just poor education on the part of Keenan, Buttiglione, Scicluna, and the growing number embracing this falsehood, or is it simply tactics on their part?  Regardless, thanks to Ed Peters for showing us the error of their ways.

Or maybe Buttiglione and Keenan understand by the term “excommunication” a much older usage that sometimes blurred the distinctions between “excommunication” (as a canonical penalty, c. 1331) and “denial of holy Communion” (as a sacramental disciplinary norm, c. 915); problem is, their claim about what John Paul II supposedly did demands that they use canonical terms as he and the Church understand them today—and as Buttiglione himself recognizes when he notes above that, despite the (alleged) lifting of a (non-existent) excommunication, divorced-and-remarried Catholics are still prohibited the sacraments (a statement wrong in some respects, but right enough in this regard).

So what does this mean? So much confusion exists about “excommunication.”  I often refer people to this and so I shall again:  Excommunication is FAR different from not being free to receive Communion.  When you are excommunicated, you are barred from ALL of the Sacraments, public worship, and the Christian community in general. When you are in mortal sin, you are to refrain from Communion and encouraged to the hilt to cease sinning and get thyself to confession to rectify the mortal sin, but you are never to cease your Mass-going obligations.  Big difference!

So much contextualizing and back-storying, just to address one more fake canon law claim. But at least such research allows one to argue better not ‘if-John-Paul-could-then-Francis-can’, but rather ‘John-Paul-didn’t-and-Francis-shouldn’t’.

Sadly, it is necessary, Ed, and we thank you for doing so.  The question is, are people going to start doing their own homework or are they simply going to go with what’s most convenient for them to buy?  Honestly, people!  We’re talking about eternal life here!  It’s worth putting in just a little effort to go beyond the comfortable.  I mean, I’d love to believe that I no longer have to deal with hard situations in life and can just get to heaven because I mean well despite my sins, but I’m not so sure I’d be happy with the everlasting outcome of that stupid move.  I’m a mom.  The reality we employ around here is that the easy way, more often than not, is the wrong way, and at some point, the wrong way will bite us in the end.