Church’s teaching on marriage
Frank Muscat began his letter (June 28) with the quotation from John Paul II. A very long time before John Paul II was born, hundreds and hundreds of years, theologians taught that same doctrine concerning the Pauline Privilege and the dissolution of marriage by the Roman Pontiff. So there is absolutely nothing new in John Paul II’s assertion!
In the next paragraph, Mr Muscat made reference to a “canon seven” in the Council of Trent’s declarations on marriage. He is referring to Session XXIV. There are countless other “canon seven” in the Council of Trent’s sessions! The canon refererred to by Mr Muscat finishes by declaring “anathema” those who do not admit the indissolubility of marriage. According to A Catholic Dictionary, “anathema” means excommunication and is the word used instead of excommunication in the condemnatory doctrinal decrees of councils.
The Council of Trent was not the first General Council of the Church to deal with matrimony’s indissolubility. Hundreds of years before Trent, under Pope Innocent III in 1189, the same doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage was given. On this occasion we had also the teaching on the Privilegium Paulinum mentioned 800 years later by John Paul II.
Incidentally, some time ago, I came across a comment on the decisions of the so-called International Theological Commission. If I remember rightly, the subject was Christ’s descent into Limbo and the existence of Limbo.
I suggest my friend try to come across the negative statements some theologians made on this latter occasion. I say this because I would not like to comment on this point, except to state that no “commission” or, better, representatives of commissions, are over and above general councils’ teachings.
No theological commission can remove a dogma and the consequences of “anathema sit”. These are eternal, and to them is also subject the Roman Pontiff. That is the value of Mr Muscat’s assertion in the first paragraph “I maintain it is neither”, that is, according to Mr Muscat, indissolubility of marriage is neither a “dogma” nor “definitive teaching”.
Among theological books in my library, apart from the Summa Theologica of St Thomas Aquinas, I have the Dominicans Prumer and Hugon, according to whom “indissolubility of marriage” is a doctrine to be held de tide. I have Jesuits Genicot, Iorio and Boyer: again, for all these, it is a doctrine de tide. Genicot says expressly that the Council of Trent defends indissolubility “against heretics” and Boyer says pars de indissolubilitate ex iure divino est de tide definita in Tridentino. Not only but also ex iure diivino. And, yet, for Mr Muscat it is neither “definitive dogma” nor “definitive teaching”!
Not only! But Mr Muscat goes on to say that “Mgr Gauci seems to be out of sync with authoritative scriptural, patristic, sacramental, moral and canonical materials”. Shall I challenge Mr Muscat to a public discussion on the subject in question. If he offers it, I shall definitely accept!