As a pro-life leader, I take exception to Father Pavone’s suggestion ("A Pro-Life State of the Union," November 2007) that the pro-life movement’s goal is to reverse Roe v. Wade so that "the legality of abortion is determined state by state." On the contrary, many of us do not want to see each state decide how to kill, when to kill, where to kill, or whether to kill preborn children. Many of us are striving for legal protection of the preborn child as a person whose right to life would be guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. It is possible that personhood could be restored by the U.S. Supreme Court or the Congress of the United States. Let’s not seek nor suggest a lesser goal.
— Judie Brown, President, American Life League
Reconciled Couple Should Remarry
In the October 2007 issue, Fr. Vincent Serpa responded to a question regarding whether a couple who enjoy a sacramental marriage but are civilly divorced are "allowed to have intercourse" or should the couple first be civilly remarried. While I believe that Fr. Serpa meant to emphasize the reality of the sacramental marriage which perdures even through the civil divorce, I do not believe that his answer as reported is complete.
Fr. Serpa concludes that this couple who reconciled are "free to live as man and wife" but does not answer the second part of the reader’s question and does not direct this couple to follow through with a civil marriage as a public expression of this reconciliation. The couple should also be directed to a civil marriage for multiple reasons: 1) scandal which would arise from their situation; 2) the "sign of unity" which sexual intercourse physically expresses should be made after a true exchange of all goods ("all my worldly goods I thee endow"); 3) pregnancy which might arise; 4) the state has a vested interest in protecting marriage and its goods; 5) a couple who has reconciled should effect this in word, thought, and deed in a public way (much like it is required the first time around).
Catholic marriage should witness a true unity of persons both sacramentally and civilly.
In short, Fr. Serpa’s response, perhaps edited inappropriately, is incomplete and should be addended in the next issue.
Fr. Serpa replies: Nonsense! Are they validly married or not? If the couple is validly married, then there is nothing the state can add that is essential to the marriage. The sign of unity comes from the sacrament—not the state’s requirements. Incidentally, I don’t know where the quote "all my worldly goods I thee endow" comes from. It’s certainly not in the current marriage liturgy.
Let’s get our priorities straight: There is no scandal when validly married people live as husband and wife. Nor does the offspring of such a marriage produce scandal. The attempt at divorce is what was scandalous. I say "attempt" because the state cannot dissolve what God has united. All it can do is facilitate the equitable division of goods that were held in common. I dare say the state does a miserable job of protecting marriage.
In the Quick Questions section of the March 2007 issue of This Rock, Jim Blackburn’s response about Matthew 12:31-32, [blasphemy of the Spirit], is totally incorrect. The footnotes in the American Bible say this:
The Pharisees are said to attribute Jesus’ exorcisms to satanic power, and thus to deny the unique presence of God in Jesus. They thereby assign his entire work and teaching to evil principle, making it anti-God. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven because it negates the evidence of God’s saving action in history.
I would ask that Mr. Blackburn correct this misconception and give readers the correct interpretation.
— John F. Sloan
Jim Blackburn replies: The footnote is correct, but it is incomplete since it might leave the reader believing that the Pharisees could not later repent and be forgiven. To deny the power of the Holy Spirit is to deny the power of God to forgive sins. Such a sin is unforgivable in the sense that holding to such a position puts one outside the necessary means of forgiveness. If one remains in such a position, forgiveness is impossible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, "There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss" (CCC 1864). Therefore, my original answer was, indeed, correct.