“For they shall sow wind, and reap a whirlwind, there is no standing stalk in it, the bud shall yield no meal; and if it should yield, strangers shall eat it.” Osee (Hosea) 8:7
Once upon a time, a Feeneyite* writer — Charles Coulombe, I think — made some remark about Baptism of Desire. The remark went something like, “Have you ever heard of Matrimony of Desire? Doesn’t make sense, does it? Neither does Baptism of Desire.” In other words, neither implicit nor explicit desire for a sacrament realizes that sacrament.
Except that is what Pope Francis seems to think. The canon law requirements for sacramental matrimony don’t matter — that’s just legalism. The vast majority of marriages that would pass the canon law definition are actually null, while cohabitations are valid marriages. Why can’t we extend this type of rationalization to any type of relationship at all, heterosexual or not? It’s about grace, not hard and fast definitions, right?
I’ve seen this attitude called “lifestyle ecumenism.” It follows pretty logically from religious ecumenism, the type promoted by all Popes since St. John XXIII. If we should presume God’s grace is at work in all people of any religious adherence — “at work” doesn’t narrowly mean “guiding them on a track to Catholicism,” but justifying them before God right now — then why evangelize? Who cares? That’s what the Fathers of Vatican II effectively taught us, if not in so many words (they couldn’t be that succinct), then by so many gestures. Popes John XXIII through Benedict XVI were all Fathers or periti of the Council, and now we arrive at the first Pope who is a child of the Council — Francis. Francis simply applies to family life the same facile indifference and specious criteria that the older generation of ecumenists applied to religious affiliation.
Presume grace on the part of all and bite your tongue — nay, don’t foster any feeling in your heart that would prompt your tongue to move in the first place, except in praise and affirmation and accompaniment. Shocked that Francis won’t rebuke adulterers he meets? What of all the heathens and heretics and schismatics whom Pope St. John XXIII and Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus (sic) Benedict XVI received and didn’t try to convert, at least in the published parts of their conversations? Pope Francis makes Catholic family life (a functional nuclear family) seem like an unattainable ideal? What about treating the Catholic Faith as some incomprehensible mystery whose truth Protestants and atheists are simply incapable of perceiving through no fault of their own?
So I say, this has been coming ever since the condemnation of Fr. Feeney.
*I don’t use the word “Feeneyite” as a pejorative way of denoting a heretic’s idiosyncratic position, like “Lutheran.” It’s neutral, like “Thomistic.” If St. Thomas’ understanding of predestination is the Thomistic understanding, then Fr. Feeney’s understanding of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is the Feeneyite position. Now, many would say that it’s not Fr. Feeney’s position, but the Church’s, which Fr. Feeney simply championed. Fine, but that won’t do when the dispute is precisely over which characterization of the Church’s position is correct. Saying “strict” or “literal” doesn’t work because all sides claim to represent the correct (and hence strict, literal) interpretation of the dogma. The easiest shorthand I’ve ever seen for Fr. Feeney’s position and that of his defenders is “Feeneyite.”