Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In which I stick my nose into someone else's business

I am a Protestant, as I have repeatedly said. So in a sense I haven't got much of a right to get involved in the present kerfuffle concerning Fr. Guarnizo's set-up by a lesbian. Tony Esolen's comment here (first comment in the thread) is excellent.

However, as this post shows, I do have an interest in the Sacrament. Besides, since Dr. Peters (see below) has made this a matter of canon law, I should think that an interested outside observer should be able to look at the arguments for himself.

I want to add that the Catholic leaders of Washington, D.C. should consider that their handling of this is a scandal, in the technical sense, to traditionally minded non-Catholics. To be clear, I have many reasons (which I don't intend to go into) for not accepting the claims of the Roman Catholic Church. But this bad treatment of a faithful priest trying to protect the sacrament from profanation by an open and proud lesbian is yet an additional reason. The hierarchy here, so far from preserving truth (which is truth on their own terms) is placing itself on the side of those who wish to destroy the Church and on the side of a woman who set out to persecute a real Catholic priest.

Now, you can read here Dr. Peters's learned disagreement with Fr. Guarnizo's refusal to give Holy Communion to Johnson. The nub of it appears to be that Peters believes that, despite the fact that Johnson lives openly with another woman as a lesbian and bragged about this fact on purpose to the priest ahead of time, Fr. Guarnizo could not really have known that her sin was "obstinate, manifest, and persevering."

Ironically (at least ironically in my opinion) Dr. Peters apparently thinks a priest could be justified in withholding Holy Communion from a person who was in "gravely immodest dress," because that would mean that the person was "objectively indisposed" to receive the Sacrament, but not from Johnson, who was running an obvious sodomite set-up of Fr. G. and bragged about her lifestyle.

That's pretty striking. In this day and age, when gravely immodest dress is so common, a devout Catholic young woman who had received poor guidance concerning her clothing (and I gather there are a lot of these out there) might approach the rail in, comparatively speaking, all innocence to receive the Sacrament, and Dr. Peters's argument would support denying it to her, while Peters supports the punishment of Fr. G. for refusing it to a hardened sexual sinner who boasted ahead of time of her sinful lifestyle and clearly indicated her intent to continue therein!

Without belaboring the point too much, let me just say that if a person who is living in open sexual sin approaches a priest ahead of time and introduces deliberately in conversation the fact that he is living with a mistress (whom he has brought with him), with a male lover, or a woman with a lesbian lover, this seems pretty obviously to count as showing the sin to be obstinate, manifest, and persevering. It should not be necessary for the priest to have known the person for a long time for such an open declaration to be sufficient evidence on this point. This seems only logical.

Finally, here is a thought experiment that I posted at a different blog. I think it says it all. If Dr. Peters or those who agree with him want to maintain his argument, they're going to have to show some relevant differences here, and I think they're going to have a hard time doing that. Or else they could just bite the bullet and say that this priest, too, would be "breaking canon law." Which, to put it mildly, should call either the present state of canon law or their interpretation thereof into question.
Imagine that the U.S. slides further into debauchery and that pedophilia is legalized. Now imagine that a man shows up at his mother’s funeral mass with a 7-year-old boy in tow, whom he introduces with a proud smirk to some target Fr. G., before the service, as, “My boy lover (isn’t he beautiful?).”

Based on this learned analysis of canon law that we are hearing about, is this hypothetical Fr. G. breaking canon law if he refuses to give the Sacrament to this man when he approaches the rail?
Can we be done now?

6 comments:

ignorant redneck said...

Why thank you, Ma'am, for this excellent summation of what Traditional Catholics are thinking about this mess.

As a personal aside--if things like this are part of the reason you are not Catholic, consider how hard it is to remain Catholic with this sort of thing being common! Sometimes it's all I can do not to bolt for the Orthodox.

Alex said...

It doesn't apply to all the sacraments, but Roman Catholic teaching stipulates, I believe, that a person must be in a state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion worthily. So when a 'proud' and strident lesbian shows up and demands the sacrament, Fr. Guarnizo has good reason to justify refusing the sacrament to this woman (and her companion). The only line of argument that could show his judgment was wrong, proceeds on the assumption that homosexual conduct is not sinful. In other words, being in the 'state of lesbianism' does not constitute unworthiness to receive Holy Communion. That assumption seems to be implicit in Dr Peters' censure of Fr. Guarnizo.

In any case we should ask Dr Peters, how can anyone really know that a sin is "obstinate, manifest, and persevering"? There is no window into the human soul. A priest must always use his (fallible) judgment about whether a communicant is worthy to receive the sacrament. Of course his judgment is informed by 'external evidence' - i.e. what he can infer by observation of the communicant's behaviour and testimony etc.

Lydia McGrew said...

One does wonder what would count as "obstinate, manifest, and grave" in Dr. Peters's book if not this.

I'm guessing, based on his reference to Fr. G's not having known the woman before, that he's thinking of some kind of situatin where this person is a regular member of the priest's parish and the priest has admonished about the sin over a period of time.

But it's just incredibly rigid to imply that the sin can't be obstinate and manifest otherwise.

Peters also separately discusses the idea that the person must be internally disposed. In that discussion he's pretty heavily relying on the difficulty of reading another person's heart. But if openly announcing before that one is living in a state of sin isn't enough to indicate that one is internally indisposed to receive the Sacrament, I don't know what is.

Here I'm less sure of my ground in canon law, but I would have thought it would apply even to a sin that isn't manifest to others, if the person makes it clear to the priest that he is determined to continue in it.

For example, suppose a mafioso approaches the priest before Communion and snickers to him happily about the people he has had killed and the people he intends to have killed right after Mass that day. Is the priest supposed to give him Communion if he approaches the altar rail?

Here's something I don't know: Is canon law supposed to be infallible? I would have thought not. It would seem like an obvious place where fallible interpretation of Catholic teaching is taking place.

It may be that we're entering an era not anticipated in the canons, an era in which individuals deliberately test priests and try to "get them in trouble" by boasting of their sin and then presenting themselves for Communion. Was this at all common in the past? Not that I know of.

Perhaps canon law on "being internally disposed" to receive Communion needs to be revised or updated to address that sort of situation.

But in her case, the "manifest" aspect would seem to be satisfied in any event.

Alex said...

But if openly announcing before that one is living in a state of sin isn't enough to indicate that one is internally indisposed to receive the Sacrament, I don't know what is.

A key point. Unless of course Fr. Guarnizo's superiors are are prepared to equivocate on the morality of homosexual conduct.

In the Church of England, equivocation about this form of depravity is fairly commonplace. I was under the impression that the Church of Rome is holding the line on this front.

Lydia McGrew said...

I think, Alex, that they are determined to pretend that this is all about its not being sufficiently manifest or obstainate and his having no capability to judge her as not internally disposed to receive.

That is to say, they aren't going to admit that this has anything to do with their downplaying the gravity of the sin. You'll see that Dr. Peters says he's admitting it to be grave.

I share your suspicions that in point of actual fact, despite their protestations, a failure really to think lesbian sexual sin all that bad is part of what lies behind this. That was why I came up with my somewhat mischievous thought experiment.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

A strong Catholic Church against unholy secularism is good for non-Catholic Christians. ++Dolan's stance against the HHS mandate is helpful.

Thanks Lydia for taking the archdiocese and Dr.Peters to task here.