By Don Pietro Leone
A spiritu fornicationis
libera nos, Domine
(invocation from the Litany of the Saints)
RECENT CHURCH MARITAL DOCTRINE UNTIL POPE FRANCIS
From the beginning of Her history, the Church had taught and practiced the ascetic life. In fact this is one of the features which distinguished Her from the World, and which indeed corroborates the very authenticity of Her Faith. For how could She live, and convert such multitudes to, a mortified and chaste life so at variance with Fallen Nature, if the Faith which She preached were untrue?
Until the XXth century, this spirit of asceticism had prevailed in the Church: until it began to be sapped by an opposing spirit: that of the World, namely of Fallen Nature. The latter spirit had, over the course of the centuries, grown in extent and power, and was now in the course of penetrating the minds and souls of the Churchmen themselves. Vacillating Faith, poor doctrinal formation, moral weakness, lack of courage, superficiality, and sentimentality on the part of the Hierarchy certainly all played a role in their subsequent endeavours to accommodate this spirit to the Catholic Faith. The moment for its official entry into the Church was marked by the Second Vatican Council.
As far as sexuality is concerned, this spirit is manifest in a new emphasis on an undefined ‘love’ at the very heart of marital ethics.
This emphasis is first manifest in recent Magisterium in the Council document Gaudium et Spes (§ 48), and was later codified by Canon Law (CIC 1983) in terms of a reversal of the order of the ends of marriage. The teaching of the Magisterium on sexuality was later notably affected and developed by official dispositions on the reception of Holy Communion, and by ‘Theology of the Body’.
Consequently we shall now proceed to examine:
1) The new conception of love in Gaudium et Spes, and then in Canon Law;
2) The relation between mortal sin and the reception of Holy Communion;
3) Relevant elements of ‘Theology of the Body’.