Editor’s Note: The following interview with Bishop Marian Eleganti O.S.B was conducted by Dr. Maike Hickson on behalf of OnePeterFive. Eleganti is Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Chur, Switzerland and the Youth Bishop of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. Bishop Eleganti has signed, a few days ago, the “Profession of the truth about sacramental marriage” of the bishops of Kazakhstan which responds to the confusion stemming from the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Maike Hickson (MH): You have signed a few days ago the statement of the Kazakh bishops concerning Amoris Laetitia in which the traditional Catholic moral teaching is being confirmed and the novelties concerning the “remarried” divorcees and their access to the Sacraments is being rejected. What has moved you to take this step?
Bishop Marian Eleganti (BME): My conscience. Inconsistency is for me not a signature of the Holy Ghost. But now there exist several contradictory interpretations of Amoris Laetitia which are being promulgated and defended by bishops and bishops’ conferences; not to mention the chaos at the basis how every individual priest himself has to deal with the question, together with the concerned couples. Where are there any objective criteria left for the examination of conscience and the decision?After all, nobody can assess the state of grace. Since Pope Francis has remained silent concerning the serious questions connected with these problems, such as whether the heretofore teaching of the popes is still valid (here I think especially of John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor and also in this context of the traditional teaching on the intrinsically evil acts) – see here also the pope’s own conduct toward the Dubia – all kinds of people are talking. Why then not we, too? It is about the question as to whether the proclaimed, so-called “paradigm shift” through Amoris Laetitia is truly a breach (with Tradition) of the Church’s teaching or not, in accordance with the substance of this newly created word. If yes, the popes would contradict each other in their Magisterium, and even cancel each other. That would be fatal. This questions is currently also being discussed with regard to the so-called re-reading of Humanae Vitae. Here is indeed more at stake than a mere footnote.
MH: As bishop in Switzerland, do you see the concrete consequences of the reigning confusion among the faithful since Amoris Laetitia?
BME: It is more or less the same picture as everywhere.
MH: Do you know of concrete cases where now “remarried” divorcees, without changing their state in life, go to the Sacraments?
BME: This is not only since Amoris Laetitia the case. Many have praised themselves now with the fact that their heretofore illegitimate practice seemingly has now become official. I think of many pastors who have given access to Holy Communion to such couples for years, and for reasons of mercy and of conscience.
MH: How do you see the danger that Amoris Laetitia and its claim that a couple in an “irregular situation” does not necessarily need to be in the state of mortal sin may have as a consequence the watering down of the whole moral law? That is to say – as is now already being stated for example by Father Chiodi in Rome with reference to Amoris Laetitia – that the use of the pill or of other contraceptives might sometimes be, not only not sinful, but even necessary?
BME: No one can dare to make a judgment about the state of grace, neither the pastor nor the concerned couples themselves. Saint Pope John Paul II has stated in this context that only the objective situation of the civilly remarried couples itself is decisive as to why they may not go to Holy Communion, unless they abstain from sexual marital acts. He also then stated that this is also about the clarity of the teaching and the coherence between the doctrine and the sacramental practice in the Faith. With it, however, no judgment was made concerning the state of grace of the concerned persons. It was a great mistake at the two Synods on the Family that this differentiation has not been made understandable, but, rather that priests and civilly remarried couples have been misled by asking them to make an assessment of the state of grace which, with the best will, they can not make at all. Instead of holding on to objectively assessable facts – as done in the heretofore teaching tradition and sacramental practice – such as the nullity of the first marriage (the only legitimate reason for the justification of a so-called second marriage) and the existence of absolute norms that forbid everywhere and always intrinsically evil acts such as adultery (independent of circumstances, good intentions, and mitigating circumstances), one has created, in the meantime, more confusion and chaos of interpretations, rather than clarity. After all, there is no such a thing as a right life in the wrong [das richtige Leben im Falschen]. With other words: when there exists a valid, indissoluble marriage bond, nothing – not even the much invoked well-being of the children of a second union – justifies the living together more uxorio in a second civil marriage, unless one abstains from the sexual acts that are only reserved for the sacramental marriage. That is the case because they are – just like the Holy Eucharist – a real symbol and in both cases (Christ-Church; Bridegroom-Bride respectively Husband-Wife) they represent and at the same time realize the indissoluble covenant. Otherwise, we would really have the pastorally accompanied divorce and remarriage which Jesus very clearly rejected. Chiodi represents obviously a situation ethics which has been rejected by the heretofore Magisterium of the popes.
MH: Cardinal Reinhard Marx – the President of the German Bishops’ Conference – has shown himself now to be fundamentally open toward possible blessings for homosexual couples. Would you like to comment on this step?
BME: This is not really surprising and follows the logic of the “individual case-exception-rule” [“Einzelfall-Ausnahme-Regelung”] which, by the way, at the long run becomes the rule and the normal case. For now, he speaks about individual cases, but the criteria for it are not being given.
MH: As bishop, what is your concern in our situation of moral confusion, and what would you like to tell your fellow bishops?
BME: This historical process, respectively this moment in the Church’s history in this question and other questions about which – as it says so nicely – one now “has to think anew” – such as, for example, the assessment of artificial methods of birth prevention 50 years after Humanae Vitae, and more, is not yet closed. As we know, time is greater than space and hopefully will prove where Christ stands. Therefore, the bishops have to come out and say what they believe in their consciences. Like Saint Ignatius, I always make the decisions with the view of a possible better insight and then act according to my conscience. Deeper insights can always come. It is, however, often a martyrdom to get to them or to present them according to one’s best will and conscience and with honorable and reasonable arguments and intentions.
MH: What do you think, how could the Catholic Church come back to a clear voice with a clear teaching concerning the question what kind of conduct is pleasing to God and what kind of conduct puts the souls of people in danger and at risk?
BME: In standing all together with the pope and in leading an honest dialogue, without manipulative tricks, intimidations, or taboos concerning what to say or what to think; but, rather in truth and with love, in mutual respect and with reverence for the consciences of the others. Up to this point, however, the pope has in this context not yet presented an infallible new teaching, but, rather, has renounced to exercise his teaching office in not giving a clear, magisterial and unmistakable answer to the dubia. This is troubling to the Little Ones [the Parvuli] – of whom Jesus speaks in the Gospels and who write to me personally. I also think of them when I speak publicly.