I like Ross Douthat and all, but the inside Roman Catholic baseball discussions of divorce at his New York Times blog — NEW YORK friggin’ TIMES!! — are perhaps more appropriate for a parochial website like CTC than at the place for all that’s fit to print. Here’s a recent sampling. First Douthat quotes Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry:
I think this is a grace we often overlook. God’s law is as hard as His mercy is infinite. And none of us are righteous under the law. And none of us, if we are honest, can even be said to want to be righteous under the law, in every single dimension of our life. But, particularly in these delicate and demanding aspects of sexual life and life situations, the grace of wanting to want God’s will is already very precious and important. And is it not in those phases, where we are broken down, and all we can muster the strength to pray for is to want to want, or even to want to want to want, that the Church should be most present with the succor of her sacraments?
… If I am a divorced-remarried-unchaste person and, during the eucharistic liturgy, I cry out in my heart, “O Lord! I do not understand your law, and I do not have the will to follow it, but I love you, and I beg you for forgiveness of my sins and the grace to want to want to follow in your footsteps and to be able to humbly receive your body”, is this a contrition that is “sufficient” for me to be able to receive the Body of Christ?
I think so.
Douthat replies in part:
Whatever the complexities and shades-of-gray involved in human sin, it is very clear in Catholic teaching that the medicinal effect, the “succor” of communion, is inseparable (like a two-dose drug) from the succor of a good confession, and you simply can’t make a good confession, and thus be in a position to benefit spiritually from communion, if you don’t intend to take some positive step to separate yourself from a gravely sinful situation or arrangement. To use a higher-stakes version of the professional case Gobry references — if you work at a job that by its nature requires grave sin for full participation (let’s say, I dunno, you’re a lieutenant for the Wolf of Wall Street in his salad days), and you make a confession of sin but have no plan of any kind to disassociate yourself from the business, your confession is by definition insufficient, and saying “I do not have the will to stop defrauding people, Lord, but I pray to gain it” is a sign that you should be praying and not communing.
The same logic, then, would apply to someone in an institutional arrangement that amounts to public adultery under the church’s definitions. You need not have the full desire to change (of course everything is grayer than a term like “perfect contrition” might suggest), but the desire to have the desire is not enough: You need to have some intention to change your life, some idea of alteration, to confess and commune in good conscience.
Can anyone possibly imagine a Reformed Protestant writer for the New York Times blogging about union with Christ or the ordo salutis and the bearing of these debates on denominational politics with reference to American citizens that belong to NAPARC communions? If not, then why do some argue that the anti-Catholic prejudice still exists in the United States? I am well aware that it used to and I can well imagine Paul Blanshard‘s jaws tightening if he were to encounter Douthat while surfing the Times’ webpages. But Ross Douthat free and frequent comments on Roman Catholic faith and practice at the newspaper considered one of the most secular in the nation sure needs to be added to the calculations of anti-Catholic prejudice.