Claret conquers Cuban Concubinage
These days some Catholics often wonder what's to be done about the number of divorced and remarried Catholics. This has long been a subject of concern for Cardinal Kasper, but Cardinal Pompedda also recently made noises about the matter. Faithful Catholics, like Cardinal Trujilo, aware that the Church has no power to reverse her teaching about Christian marriage, made it plain that there is no need to revisit the question about denying the Eucharist to those who insist upon living in adulterous second "marriages".
One move that the Kasper - Pompedda camp seems fond of is a reductio ad absurdum premissed on the innocent children born of the second marriage. So one might say: look at the innocent children, what will become of them without a mother and father living a normal life together? it would be wrong if the Church asked their parents to live separately; therefore, the Church should recognize, if only in the way of an unfortunate fait accompli, the positive moral status of this second (or third or 26th or whatever) union.
I think that we are right to be concerned about the fate of the children and the circumstances of their education, whether they have a home with mother and father, or only one parent. Yet the problem we face isn't altogether new, and some of us might be interested to see how a saint handled a similar situation in Cuba, about 150 years ago. Do consider the following example yourselves, but it seems to be the case that his approach coincided with the conservative approach today: it's unfortunate for the children, but there's no helping the fact that the parents must separate.
The saint in question is Antonio Maria Claret, the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. He arrived in Cuba from Spain in 1851. The island was in moral disorder, especially as regards irregular living situations, so to speak. Many of the Spainish planned to return to Spain after a period in Cuba, and so they regarded their attachments on the island as transitory. His biography relates:
"The unhappy fact was that the Spanish-descended Cubans rarely condescended to marry their Negro and mulatto concubines, even when their half-caste progeny might number as many as nine or ten. Rightly suspecting that this intolerable state of affairs might prove typical, he attacked the problem vigorously. A committee was appointed to study each case individually. On its recommendations, he let it be known, all such unions must be regularized or, where impediments existed, dissolved!"
Certain areas of the island proved more tractable in this matter than others. The carnal man is not so easily separated from his concubine! Surely, the educated readers of this blog recall a similar incident in the life of Pope St. Gregory VII, one of the most remarkable men of all times, when he had to put down a revolt of German clerics who "informed the papal legate that they would rather renounce their priesthood than their wives, and that he for whom men were not good enough might go seek angels to preside over the Churches." When asking a man to live in perfect chastity, whether he is a priest or layman, it is no easy request, and so we should hardly be surprised at the open revolt of lay Catholics today in this matter.
But it's one thing when people drag their feet in returning to virtue, and it's another when they throw their immorality in the face of a saint! Needless to say, Gregory VII crushed the revolt in Germany, applying the ban of excommunication where needed, principally against the Holy Roman Emperor, who had been behind the clerical agitations. Anthony Claret also knew where to draw the line:
"He foresaw the defiance he must surely encounter in a society addicted to self-indulgence and shot through with corruption. It was simply appalling that concubinage and divorce were casually practiced by a large part of a public traditionally Catholic and certainly sentimentally attached to the Faith! . . . . the situations he would inevitably confront in the more sophisticated localities were bound to demand more drastic measures than admonishment, loving kindness and holy example! How would he manage to convince the more affluent Cubans that their undeniable affection for the Faith must be earned by the sacrifice of their no less characteristic sensuality?
. . . .
"When the archbishop finally, under his right and duty, demanded a list of all the divorced and those living in concubinage [in this difficult area of the island], even the civil authorities undertook to trick him with an obviously inaccurate report. The warden of the prison insolently escorted three pregnant women into his presence to inquire cynically which he was obligated to marry! This was the last straw. Anthony Claret demanded and obtained the warden's arrest. The man was admonished to devote his term on the less familiar side of the bars to meditation upon his 'novel problem of conscience.' Doubtless he would thereafter be able to decide for himself which of these 'disgraceful females' held the most valid claim upon him!"
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