Friday, June 15, 2012

Scandalous or not?

This afternoon I went to Mass at OLP for the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
There was a couple who had a child out of wedlock, participating in a ceremony/rite for couples in marriage prep at the parish. It included something (consecration?) for the Sacred Heart, possibly followed by a blessing. I don't know - I didn't stick around to see what was going on. The couples in marriage prep were mostly Latinos/Latinas. There was one attracitve Latina brunette, but unfortunately, "she's taken." Where did the Vietnamese go? (I saw one Vietnamese couple.) There is still a sizeable number of Filipinos at the parish. The other Filipino parishes in the diocese (many of which are in Santa Clara) are not so orthodox or so traditional in liturgical practice.

Fr. Jose talked about ingratitude during his homily; he talked about how we felt when people don't show their gratitude or reciprocate. So of course I could relate. Too bad the homily started to get too long, as my mind drifted.

Anyway, back to the couple. Was their presence for a rite for engaged couples scandalous? After all it was obvious that the woman had a child (probably by the man who was present) and yet not married. Yes, sins can be forgiven, but even if they are forgiven, is their presence nonetheless a true source of scandal? Could it be miscontrued as a permissive attitude towards sexual sin on the part of the Church? Could such a couple be justly excluded from group marriage prep, and instead be pastored privately? How would such a situation be handled in the early Church? Is there a danger that the Church seems too lax in its handling of sin? Should we not hold people to a higher standard when grace is available? What about taking the notion of the near occasio of sin seriously? If the couple were careful not to leave themselves alone for an extended period of time would she have gotten pregnant?

If we really want to be perfect in caritas we must avoid the near occasions of sin, rather than make excuses by saying that we are weak or trying to circumvent the law, seeing how much we can get away with before we sin. We do not have the attitude that we must preserve a woman's virginity at all costs, as if it were the highest good (as some anti-Christian critics might allege). What we want is for the faithful to be held accountable to God through being accountable to others - their parents (or her parents). Some might say that we are not treating people like "adults" because we insist on their being supervised by elders while they are engaged in courtship. But we are taking into consideration fallen human nature and concupiscence. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to prevent an unmarried woman from becoming pregnant - if she does not marry (and there may be reasons why she should not marry the father of the child) the consequences are serious for the child as well as for the mother and father. (And the likelihood of her being married is lowered as well.)

There is also a question of fostering respect for the law. If a couple can show the consequences of their sin in public, without some sort of acknowledgement of guilt, is not respect for divine law also damaged? "We can get away with anything because God will forgive us."

What, then, is the Church doing to restore boundaries to courtship and the relations between men and women? It is not enough to give rules about dating - we have to restore a culture which involves the family and greater accountability. (And there is also the pastoral problem of feminist attitudes.)

God's mercy is abundant, as the Sacred Heart reminds us, but the same devotion also reminds us that our sins against God are serious. How do we strike a balance between good pastoring and avoid causing scandal to others? I would think that a repentent sinner would not be offended by being required to do public penance or to abstain from certain rites beceause charity should motivate them to be conscious of avoiding giving scandal.

Now the couple in question are not guilty, "strictly speaking," of scandal. But is their presence scandalous on the part of the Church not exercising sufficient discretion in its pastoring?

Are sentence adverbs a good development in English?

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