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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The best way to reply to everyone’s comment’s after some thought I believe is in post format. I have been perusing through George Weigel’s new book on Pope St. John Paul II Lessons in Hope in which I was struck by a particular passage written Weigel about understanding the man and philosopher Wojtyla. Weigel writes, “There are theologians who write as if they never studied philosophy at all—and it shows, usually in confusion…philosophy is essential prerequistite to doing theology seriously…for there is no way to understand John Paul II’s magisterium—his teaching as pope—without understanding the rudiments of his philosophical position.”[1] In light of Weigel’s point, I am really struck by his words to the point that in regards to our own discussions here, I am moved to reexamine my own life and education to understand why I have arrived to this particular conclusion. I am not a relativist, I believe the truth to be the truth; however, I do fully understand that our perceptions shaped by our environmental factors guide the manner in which we interpret the truth.

Prior to my degree in history, I was a Classics major, so I do have a background in basic classical philosophy, although I have read briefly the points of more modern philosophers—unimpressed. I am reminded in my early years as a student of the famous Plato Allegory of “the Cave.” Slaves being chained to a rock; their perception of reality dictated by the darkness and the small ray of light producing shadows on the rock, and the slave that breaks free rises to the top and see the world and everything that causes the reality of the cave below.

At this point, I must reject Cartesian philosophy that our experience could be nothing more than a dream state and our existence is the only sure thing we can possibly know. Dreamlike states do not follow any laws of nature and therefore do not possess the vital logical elements to come to any proper conclusion of the truth. For example, Descartes would say experience could be imagined; however, experience dictates that in we cannot dream of things or imagine them without any sort of priori knowledge of them, they must be revealed to us for ourselves to grasp them. Naturally, Classical philosophy makes clear that if one can imagine some attributes they have been observed to be true.

So, the Cave example illustrates also that no matter the difference of experience—there are truths that both the slave from above and the ones in the cave can both understand. The slave that escapes understands the origin of the shadows and the cause from the sun; nonetheless, the slaves in the cave can have no such experience. However, through our human reason, the slave from above could still possess the methods to explain the concept of light by having the cave slaves manipulate the shadows with their own environment. The slave from above can also block the sun entirely during the day to exhibit that the source of light, which causes the shadows, exists somewhere outside the cave, and possibly can explain it must be its own celestial body. It may be true that the slave from above cannot explain other facets of the outside world such as the nature and essence of trees, but it is possible to explain the source of light the absence of it is darkness.

Although the experiences of the cave slaves and the one from above are different—through reason—the conclusion of the truth of a source of light and darkness can still be reached by both parties.

So, what is the effect of this allegory on my own theology? I ask, “If I believe two people to be good Catholics or Christians and they’ve come to two different conclusions, what is the possible cause of their experiences that have led to these conclusions?” And, “What truths can be reached by both parties with their common experiences?”

Therefore, in regards to theology, I began to reflect on Christ, other parts of the Gospels, and St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

In many ways, in the Gospels, Christ asks us to become poor or like the poor. Naturally, the reason for this is because, like the outside the cave, those of us who have experienced being poor—I should preface destitute—can have absolutely no understanding of those who live these experiences everyday.

Let’s take a look:

Matthew 19:21

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [2]

21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” [3]

42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” [4]

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free, [5]

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. 13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”[6]

Of course, these are just the passages that I’ve found briefly, but naturally, what they tell you is to either be the poor by giving up your possessions or to be around the poor by making them your guests, and thus, by doing so, you remove yourself from the cave.

I will tell you that it wasn’t from sitting in class that gave me this understanding of Plato’s allegory, it was twofold, first with my new job, it forced me out into the poorest of poor neighborhoods in my community, I saw first hand what it was like to be poor in my community. All of my previous conceived ideas that I held in my ivory tower were washed away. The second is when I started a ministry for studying early church history at my parish and studied how the early Church Fathers used the philosophy of the pagans to better their own Christian philosophy by understanding that any can possess truth. So, it wasn’t until I left my cave that I began to put all of these things together.

So, let us bring out the lessons of Christ in the Gospel and St. Paul in marriage while examining Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia to see if we find a common understanding of the truth that has been revealed to us by experiences.

In regards to divorce let’s get straight to it with Christ’s words in Matthew Chapter 19:

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” 4 b He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 7 d They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” 10 [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” [7]

A fairly straightforward text, one that I’ve used time and time again to illustrate that all Christians must accept Christ’s definition of marriage and any of those who advocate for same-sex marriage is guilty of espousing heresy. I also agree with my orthodox Catholic brothers and sisters that Christ is very clear on his teaching on divorce. It’s impossible. I believe it to be prudent to reflect on the ending of this particular passage:

He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

 Now, I’ve grown up Catholic, I can tell you that honestly the only time in my diocese a Catholic is instructed on Christian marriage is during Pre-Cana. I will state this to be a grave mistake, in Christ words here, he instructs that there are those who are incapable of marriage—I have never heard this lesson taught in a homily or any other Catholic resource to best honest, but it’s lesson that must be stressed early on within our Catholic families. I would surmise that withholding a proper discourse on such a lesson many are married, even if they go through pre-Cana, who are not fit for marriage. Therefore, naturally, annulments, divorces, second marriages, and children divided up among all these situations are victims of the failure of the Church to teach the proper understanding of marriage early on in every Catholics’ life. As such, we shall address the experience of those children in the frameworks of the cave allegory and those who completely ignore it by the lack of mercy in their legalism. In fact, by illuminating such a glaring misinstruction by the Church with Christ’s teaching on marriage, it gives some credence to Pope Francis’ words:

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”[8]

It should not be a large leap of reason to understand that if no one is taught that there are those incapable of marriage, then there are many of us Catholics without the proper understanding for discernment in such a Christian vocation. I do not doubt by living among my own peers there are many who say forever without any concept of what that possible means. Of course, this is Pope Francis’ understanding “They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” [9]

Now, what is St. Paul’s understanding of marriage?

Advice to the Married. Now in regard to the matters about which you wrote: “It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman,” but because of cases of immorality every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

8 b Now to the unmarried and to widows I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire. 10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): A wife should not separate from her husband 11 —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; 13 and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy.

15 If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? [10]

 Again, I agree, it is pretty straightforward, but again, remove yourself from the cave. Imagine, if your wife or husband in a valid marriage leaves you, and you are one of those who cannot possibly control your desires in which St. Paul speaks. You may have corrupted view of marriage, you may be living a life of sin by adultery or adultery through a second marriage, but it would be prudent to examine whether in this particular situation when reflecting on St. Paul’s teaching by your habits, by your knowledge, etc. whether you’re fully culpable of mortal sin in such situation. I believe to dismiss such examples, which could be very common, would be merely looking at the shadows of the cave; not listening to the explanation of light by the surface slave.

Again, let’s examine St. Paul in Ephesians 5:

Wives and Husbands. 21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. 24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her 26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. 33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. [11]

This particular passage was the source of sermon message at my wedding. Do our husbands have a proper understanding that our marriage must be a true representation of Christ’s love for the Church? Many get caught up on the submission of the wife in the text; however, no one bats an eye when St. Paul says the Husband must willingly die for his wife. Again, I agree the teaching is straightforward, but the first time I heard a proper teaching on this text was when I was 27 years old, I was already well into my years of discerning marriage without the proper instruction from the Church and culture. These situations must all be considered when examining a step by step resolution when solving the Church’s marriage crisis.

Of course, let me explain, none of this is contradicted by the Catechism’s understanding on sin, the teachings of the magisterium and it is a full reflection footnote 351 in Amoris Laetitia:

“ In certain cases [emphasis added], this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.” … I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

 Of course, let us examine this under the other controversial footnote 329:

In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters,” which the Church offers them, [emphasis added] point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.”

So what about those children? Should their parents to submit to legalism? Perhaps, but it’s apparent that their parents from an early age, and I would surmise the children themselves will be, have been in a dark damp cave without the proper Christian teachings on marriage, which should have occurred throughout their entire life. And without the proper teachings, they cannot have the proper knowledge of the gravity of their actions and they certainly may not be in full possession of their will under the habit of which they should have been warned and discussed by St. Paul. Therefore, to deny these individuals of communion, is a lack of mercy to receive one who none are worthy to receive, one who may give them a proper understanding through the grace of His sacraments.

Phillip Augustine
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

[1] George Weigel, Lessons in Hope (Basic Books: New York, 2017), 11.

[2] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 19:21.

[3] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 10:21.

[4] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 12:42–44.

[5] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 4:18.

[6] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 14:12–14.

[7] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 19:3–12.

[8] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/most-marriages-today-are-invalid-pope-francis-suggests-51752

[9] Ibid.

[10] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 7:1–16.

[11] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Eph 5:21–33.