Father Peter Damian Fehlner on Ratified, Non-Consummated Marriages

Posted supplementary to my two previous posts (1 and 2):

When are the sacramental graces of marriage received?  It has recently became fashionable to state, categorically, that no such sacramental graces are received until a sacramental marriage is consummated, as though a non-consummated marriage is not fully a sacramental marriage.  This is simply false.  The essence of a sacramental marriage consists in the contract, both as to the celebration of the sacrament and to the permanent state following on that celebration.  The first is known as marriage “in fiere” and marriage “in facto esse”.  Use has nothing to do with constituting the essence of marriage.  This is certainly very logical, whereas the new proposal is hardly that.  The conferral of sacramental graces is a presupposition for the holy fulfillment of marriage rights and duties, including use of the marriage act or sexual intercourse.  Hence, it is only logical that it be conferred before use of the marriage act.  If the sacrament is celebrated worthily, viz., the spouses are in the state of grace, an increase of sanctifying grace follows immediately on the administration of the sacrament, together with the effecting of the marriage bond with the rights and duties which this entails.  It is the marriage bond or “vinculum” which is the essence of the marriage state or permanent marriage contract, not the use of the marriage rights.  The right to actual graces in order to carry out the duties of the married state which are many besides the use of the marital act is rooted in the vinculum which constitutes a kind of proximate disposition for their conferral at the appropriate time and circumstances.  This is clearly the teaching of St. Thomas and is concurred in by St. Bonaventure.  Although a few modern theologians consider the vinculum a kind of quasi sacramental character, the majority of theologians prefer to abstain from the use of this terminology.  (Cf. F. Sola, SJ. Sacrae Theologiae Summa, volume 4, Madrid 1953, pp. 837-843 for magisterial and theological authorities.)  The principal magisterial authorities for this teaching are Leo XIII (Arcanum divinae sapientiae) and Pius XI (Casti Conubii).

Why is the petrine privilege limited to sacramental marriages “ratum sed non consummatum”?  A recent opinion claims that this restriction is related to the relative imperfection or incompletion of such a sacramental marriage.  Only the consummation of a sacramental marriage makes it fully sacramental, so the theory goes.  But this contradicts the long standing explicit teaching of the Magisterium for over a millennium.  Any marriage, but especially a “matrimonium ratum”, if intrinsically and fully indissoluble.  Intrinsically means that those united permanently by the marriage bond cannot end that bond, nor can the existence of spiritual or psychological frustrations on the part of the spouses, sometimes described as the “death” of a marriage, effect a dissolution of bond.  But this has never been meant in the teaching of Christ and of the Church to exclude the possibility of dissolving or ending a marriage by legitimate authorities apart from the spouses.  This authority belongs to God because he is the one who instituted marriage and defined the nature of the contract.  His authority extends to all marriages, sacramental or merely natural, all of which by his disposition end with death.  In one instance, that of the so-called “Pauline privilege” he has when certain conditions are fulfilled decreed the end of a natural marriage “in favor of the faith” in one of the spouses who converts to belief in Christ and is baptized, but the other refuses to live in peace with the converted spouse.

In some special cases Christ has conferred on the successors of St. Peter to dissolve non-consummated sacramental marriages in particular and relatively rare instances.  The reason for this delegation is to be found, not in the incompleteness of such a marriage as marriage, but in the imperfect clarity of the sacramental sign, the same rationale underlying the Pauline privilege, the only difference being that in the case of the Pauline privilege the dissolution is effected directly by God himself  (no delegation for this has been given either to civil or ecclesiastical authorities).  The rationale is this: in these cases the sign value of marriage is either not clearly present (natural marriage) or only partially in the case of a non-consummated sacramental marriage.  According to the teaching of Casti connubii, this sign value is twofold: that of Christ with the Church and by extension with souls (a spiritual union) and that of the Divine Word with his human nature (a physical union).  The first is realized immediately on celebration of the sacrament, the second only with consummation.  The vicarious power to dissolve the bond granted by Christ to the Pope in regard to non-consummated sacramental marriages is limited to those instances where “spiritual death” has occurred (e.g., solemn profession in a religious order) or where this is postulated by the spiritual need of one or the other spouse.  But with consummated sacramental marriages the sign value is such that Christ reserves all questions of dissolution of the bond to himself because of the perfection of the sign.  Evidently the perfection of the sign is not the equivalent of perfection of the marriage, which must be decided on other criteria, particularly when the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph is taken into consideration. (cf. the treatise cited above, pp. 826-827; 830)

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Sexing up Canon Law

In response to my last post, “Christopher West: Sexualizing Christianity,” one of his supporters posted a lengthy comment, defending the sexy assertion that the sacramental grace proper to marriage is not confered through the wedding vows but through the act of the consummation of the marriage, so that no sacramental marriage really exists until the spouses engage for the first time in the marital embrace.  He (or she) also claims that sacramental grace is also conferred every and each time the spouses engage conjugal act “in a human fashion.”

Since this is so interesting and crucial to the argument, I have chosen to reproduce the comment here and answer it below. Continue reading

Christopher West: Sexualizing Christianity

I recently became aware of an exchange between Dr. Mark Lowery and Christopher West that took place in around the turn of the year 2002.  Dr. Lowery’s assessment of Mr. West’s work was fair.  Like many today, he commended the Theology of the Body apologist for his flair getting across to audiences around the country the reason why “the bedroom needs the Church.”  And like many today, he expressed his reservations about the way in which West “sexualizes Christianity.”  Lowery intimates that a kind of inversion has taken place in West’s understanding of the relationship between sexuality and Christianity:

Put another way, so clearly does he see how sexuality must be taken up into Christianity that he can give the impression that Christianity has been taken up into sexuality.

Continue reading

Compendium of TOB Posts

The following list provides links to all the posts that I have written either here or on Dawn Patrol about the Theology of the Body. I will update the list if I have missed any, or if, God forbid, I add others.

Update: Missed posts added to compendium (dates in red text).

Further Update:  Added posts (dates in green text).

  • “Hope of the World” (November 11, 2008):  The first reference I made to the “new chastity movement” on this blog shortly after the national election in the context of our lack of will to elect a pro-life president in the United States.
  • “Thinking Like a Man” (April, 16, 2009):  Why it is necessary for men to fight the good fight of chastity, rather than hope to be delivered from temptation by a new and holy fascination with the body, as is suggested in West’s presentation.
  • John Paul the Great and Hugh Hefner the Magnificent” (May 8th, 2009):  My original reaction to Chris West’s Nightline interview with a focus on the problem of prudery.
  • “Christopher West’s blind spot:  TOB has to be seen through Church’s historical teachings” (May 14, 2009):  A response to those who say that the critique is an attack on Christopher West and a closer look at the question of “original innocence” and its relation to the effect TOB can have on our redemption.
  • “Schindler’s list: Sparks fly as JP2 Institute dean raps Christopher West for errors” (May 29, 2009):  An analysis of the responses of Professors Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein to the critique of West by Professor David Schindler.
  • “Virgo redacta:  Christopher West and the dangers of overanalogizing Mary” (June 18, 2009):  An attempt to answer the defenders of Christopher West, by addressing some of the specific problems with his presentation, namely,  the phallic symbolism of the paschal candle  and the way that the Blessed Virgin is eroticized by his presentation.  More generally, I touch upon his problematic use of analogy. (See, notation on new information contained in this post).
  • “To Chris West: Enough Already. How about a Response?” (June 24, 2009):  A critique of the methodology by which critics of West are dealt with by implying prudery or animus as a motivation for the disagreement, or that disagreement with West constitutes disagreement with John Paul II.
  • “St. Agustine and the Theology of the Body” (June 27, 2009):  Comments on and several quotations from Msgr. Cormac Burke’s defense of St. Augustine’s views on marriage.  Another critique of seeing prudery where it isn’t.
  • “The Theology of the Body and Courage: Fighting the Real Fight” (July 14, 2009):  Why it is important for men to focus on agape rather than eros.
  • “Martyrs, Mystics and Rhetoricians” (July 31, 2009):  A response to Father Thomas Loya’s defense of Christopher West, with a focus on the hermeneutic of discontinuity manifested by the new “holy fascination” with the body advocated by Christopher West and his followers.
  • Shame on You.  Amen. (September 1, 2009):  Thoughts inspired by a discussion on The Linde regarding the nature of shame and its relation to modesty, with an emphasis on the cultivation of prudence in the face of the American TOB crusade against prudery.
  • Cardinal and Bishop Support Christopher West (September 8, 2009): Text of Cardinal Rigali’s and Bishop Kevin Rhoades letter of support of Christopher West and his work.
  • In Defense of Purity (September 20, 2009):  Introductory post to my commentary on Dietrich von Hildebrand’s work In Defense of Purity, proposed as a sure way of coming to understand the true meaning of the Theology of the Body.
  • In Defense of Purity I (September 29, 2009):  Commentary on the first chapter of von Hildebrand’s book, focusing on the meaning of shame, particularly in its positive aspect, and distinguished from that shame which seeks to protect the person from use, with a particular reference to its correlation in John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
  • A Response to Christopher West (October 30, 2009):  My reply to the response to Christopher West, in which he finally breaks his silence regarding the controversy surrounding his presentation of the Theology of the Body.
  • Theology of the Tango? (November 1, 2009):  An example of the American version of Theology of the Body gone off the rails.
  • Christopher West:  Sexualizing Christianity (February 8, 2010):  A commentary on a 2001/2002 between Dr. Mark Lowery and Christopher West, indicating that the recent objections to West are nothing new, and have gone unanswered for years.
  • Sexing Up Canon Law (February 12, 2010): A response to a commenter’s objection to my previous post on the sexualization of Christianity by Christopher West.  Specifically, I focus on the meaning of the canons governing the dissolution of a ratified but non-consummated marriage and what that means in terms of when sacramental grace is conferred in marriage.
  • Father Peter Damian Fehlner on Ratified, Non-Consummated Marriages (February 13, 2010):  The magisterial and theological tradition concerning this question from a professor of dogmatic theology.
  • Theology of the Body:  Of Sign and Fulfilment (March 4th, 2010):  An explanation of the Churches use of theological analogy and the reason why  Christopher West’s use of analogy is theologically incorrect.
  • Christopher West Takes Sabbatical (April 13, 2010):  The announcement from TOB Institute that Christopher West is taking time off to “reflect more deeply on fraternal and spiritual guidance he has received in order to continue developing his methodology and praxis as it relates to the promulgation of the Theology of the Body.”
  • Toward a Climate of Chastity E-Book (April 20, 2010):  Announcement of Dawn Eden’s publication of her master’s thesis on Christopher West’s work as an ebook.  Links provided.
  • Dawn Eden’s Thesis and Defense (June 15, 2010):  Announcement of Dawn Eden’s re-publication of her master’s thesis on Christopher West’s work as an ebook, and the text of the defense of  her thesis.  Links provided.
  • That for Which We Fight (July 2, 2010):  A commentary on two opposing views of feminism with a special reference to Theology of the Body and a recommendation for a balanced approach.
  • Alice Von Hildebrand’s New Essay on Her Husband and Christopher West (July 21, 2010):  A brief announcement and acknowledgement of this blog author’s contribution to the essay.
  • Good Reason Why Not to Have Someone Live-Tweet a Conference. (August 1, 2010):  Some of the sensational and eyebrow-raising tweets from the TOB conference.
  • Theology of the Body and the Mystical, Magical Train (August 5, 2010):  An analysis of remarks and practices of Father Thomas Loya’s pastoral approach to TOB, including his use questionable images and theories concerning admiration for the naked body.
  • Father Loya: Peer Reviewed:  (August 1o, 2010) A guest post from Christina Strafaci concerning the legitimacy of public critique of the pastoral approach of certain TOB evangelizers.
  • More TOB Discussion (August 11, 2010):   A highlight from a discussion between Genevieve Kineke and Heidi Saxton.
  • Where I am at Right Now with Theology of the Body (September 24, 2010):  An assessment of the Theology of the Body debate impasse.
  • Christopher West’s Translation of John Paul II’s Body Language (October 10, 2010):  A response to Christopher West’s assessment of his critics in the light of his charism to popularize the Theology of the Body.
  • The Way of Ugliness (November 6, 2010):  A critique of an aspect of Christopher West’s multi-media event, “Fill These Hearts,” specifically his use of an anti-Catholic movie to illustrate his point that the Church has been filled with prudery prior to the Theology of the Body.
  • Alternate States of Unreality (February 9, 2011):  A reflection on Christian Occultism and its similarities with the current attempt at popularizing the Theology of the Body in the United States.

On Peace Patrol

My latest contribution to the peace process.

In the context of the Holy Father’s remarks it appears to me that this “real and deep victory” concerns the refusal to consent to lust of thought, recognizing its intrinsic evil, but without the transference of the evil of that act onto its object, namely the body of a woman. And the danger of not winning that victory, in Manichaean terms, would be to excuse the sin of lust on the basis that one is overcome by the evil of a woman’s body. At least in this context, there does not seem to me to be a mandate to have a “fascination at the human sexual-body,” just an urging not to allow our rejection of lust to become a rejection of the goodness of the human body.

Thanks Dawn.