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Friday, February 2, 2018

Chesterton, Dale Ahlquist, and the Civil War in the Church

What would Chesterton think of Amoris Laetitia?
I'm a great fan of G.K. Chesterton and the American Chesterton Society. Let me amend that statement. I am a great fan of Chesteron and was a great fan of the Society. Dale Ahlquist, its founder, has done a splendid job bringing Chesterton to a modern culture that knew little about him. If Chesterton isn't yet a household word, there are many in the last two decades who have come to know him through Dale's work and programming on EWTN. I congratulate him for that.

Unfortunately there's a "but." The first problem for me was the Society jumping on the hate-Trump bandwagon. Up to that time I belonged to the Society, had attended several of their annual conferences, and subscribed to Gilbert, the Society's magazine. I did not renew my subscription, however, after the Society's taking sides that would have, if successful, guaranteed Hillary Clinton's election. After several anti-Trump articles, the final straw was a suggestion from one of their main writers to enter Chesterton's name on the ballot as a write-in. What insanity! So I did not renew my subscription and have no plans to attend another conference.

But what finally made me lose confidence altogether was Dale Ahlquist's support for Amoris Laetitia and his comments made on a panel for the AOTM (Argument of the Month) town hall essentially calling Church teaching "crazy" and arguing for an "exception" using a friend's marital situation as an example. You can watch it below. If you only want to hear Dale's comments go to minute 23 on the tape.

From a legal perspective, exceptions make bad law. A law is either a law or it isn't. There may be extenuating circumstances that make breaking the law less egregious (There are different degrees of murder and felonies, for example), but a moral imperative is a moral imperative.

It was exceptions that gave our country abortion on demand for all nine months. It started out with hard cases (rape, incest, and life of the mother) until the exceptions became the rule and gave us the most permissive abortion law in the world -- baby-killing through all nine months and murder by neglect of those born alive "by mistake"! Ahlquist's exception like all the exceptions suggested by those interpreting Amoris Laetitia will do the same thing the abortion exceptions did. They will be expanded until they annihilate the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage like the abortion exceptions annihilated the sanctity of life.

But there's one more thing that bothered me about Ahlquist's comments. He said the only alternative offered to the woman was divorce. It that's true, her adviser was wrong. If she and her husband agreed to live as brother and sister, she could go to Communion. What's "crazy" in Ahlquist's mind appears to be the idea that anyone could actually give up the marriage bed even when they have no right to it.

It's not the first time I've run into that thinking. I met a priest from New Jersey at one of Fr. Paul Marx's Marriage and Family Life Workshops that emphasized Natural Family Planning using periodic abstinence to space pregnancies. The priest told me (I was teaching NFP at the time), "My couples could never do that." I was 27 and expecting my third child and could only shake my head and reply. "Father, you must have a real problem with celibacy if you think married couples can't abstain for good reasons." And the best reason of all is to return to the reception of the sacraments.

Think about what great graces would descend on our sex-saturated society if every couple in an invalid marriage knelt down and, before God, offered their choice of continence for the salvation of those enslaved to lust. And then returned to the sacraments living as brother and sister. How much of the marriage relationship is sex after all? Isn't it primarily an intimate union of the mind and heart? Show me a marriage where sex is the most important element and I'll show you a marriage in trouble.

Believe me, I'm not minimizing the sacrifice. It would be heroic. But how many do it already without choice because of physical impairment or illness? No one ever died from not having sex!

Perhaps the husband of Dale's friend wouldn't agree to live as brother and sister and that's where the divorce situation arose. Well, that would be sad, but there are many sad realities in life. Think of all the martyrs who refused to embrace "exceptions" knowing that martyrdom was the alternative. Thomas More didn't just give up sex to defend marriage; he gave up his head!

To undermine the indissolubility of marriage to "fix" sad marital situations is what would be, in Dale's words, "crazy."

I don't think for a minute Chesterton would agree with Dale Ahlquist's reasoning at all. He loved faith and family too much and was always prophetically aware of the misdirection the world was taking. He would recognize the great thing it is to sacrifice a good for something even better.

May the apostle of common sense pray for us living in this world of insanity! And I'll close with a quote of Chesterton's that has always been among my favorites.

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”?

I think that is what Chesterton would have said in reply to the flawed reasoning based on Amoris Laetitia that justifies the return to Communion of those living in adultery.  


sally kuczynski said...

Most people think they are exceptional and therefore they should be able to get divorced. Dale Ahlquest knows of one such couple, but there are many couples who think the are exceptional. Most people think they are unique, therefore the Catholic church must bend to their way of thinking so they do not have to follow church laws. Divorce now in the Catholic church is permissible under certain conditions. Frank Sinatra meet those "conditions". Of course he had money to meet those conditions. Some Kennedy's also meet those "conditions". There are others who were legitimate and the church had a right to undo the wrong.

With Amoris Laetitia divorce will have a legitimacy that goes beyond reason. Women need marriage, children need marriage, as do men and society. The pope should be doing everything he can to strengthen marriage. Marriage is sometimes hard and does not meet the requirement of what secular society says a marriage should be like, which is all love and kisses and no problems. Don't let our Catholic church fall into a secular society way of thinking about marriage.

Fr. VF said...

The word wanted here is "continence," not "celibacy."

Pseudo Bonaventure said...

"But what finally made me lose confidence altogether was Dale Ahlquist's recent support for Amoris Laetitia and his comments made on a panel for the AOTM...."

Just a small point... these comments were made an AOTM more than a year ago.

Susan Matthiesen said...

1) Re the woman married to a man unable to get an annulment. My answer: Dale did not give all the facts. The man must be a Catholic and must have known that he could not receive an annulment before he married again. Did he tell this to the woman who, not being Catholic, may or may have not understood at the time. He clearly knew what he was doing, however she probably innocently married him not understanding the entirety of the situation.

So - we can see the dilemma. However, in this day and age when annulments are easily obtained why is it that the man cannot get one? My guess is that he's too lazy because annulments take about two years and are a lot of work. It's just easier to go along with Pope Francis and Amoris Letitia. Without all the evidence and facts, Dale merely presents an example of what might be and nothing concrete with rock solid evidence.

However, since the woman, Dale says, is now a Catholic and has been "received into the Church", my question is how did she get past Confirmation? She was confirmed and the problem just now popped up? Something in Dale's story isn't quite right.

2) Dale wears a HOODIE to this forum while the others are dressed nicely. What's the message there? I can think of several, none of which I'll say here except that he must want to look different from the others - "Hey, look at me. I'm such a rebel. See how cool I am leaning on my elbow and calling other people "stupid."

He didn't even excuse himself for burping @ 24:14-16 on the video, unless of course that was an act on his part burping up the Chesterton quote - "It's coming up right now."

If he actually burped he should have said, "Please excuse me." If it was an act of "burping up" a Chesterton quote and he thought that was funny, then he's merely what he himself called other people - stupid.

Therefore, seeing him in the few minutes he appeared on this video, I made the decision never to read anything he writes. Because of his slovenly appearance and manners, I deduced that his mind and its workings must also be in the same condition. Why would I want slovenly thought entering into my mind? And I don't even want to go into a discussion of that green and pink plastic awareness bracelet he's wearing.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks for the clarification, Father. I made the change. And thank you too, Pseudo Bonaventure. I didn't notice the date on the conference, since it was new to me and the AL debate seems to be going on all the time. I hope Dale has changed his tune since then.

Susan, actually the man need not be a Catholic. The Church recognizes the marriages of baptized Christians. So if he was married in a Protestant service the Catholic church still recognizes the marriage.

Don't be too hard on Dale. He writes some excellent material on Chesterton. I generally read his articles on the Chesterton works we choose for our local Chesterton book club. We all have blind spots, some very serious. I would not trust Dale's advice on the theology, but his writing on Chesterton is generally sound. He's also somewhat of a comedian which has always made the Chesterton Society meetings very entertaining. Unfortunately clowning around during a discussion of the indissolubility of marriage strikes me as being inappropriate and demeans the seriousness of the subject.

Susan Matthiesen said...

If it was the case that he was a protestant, and even though the Church recognizes the marriage of baptized Christians, if he had been married in a Protestant church, the marriage could have more easily been annulled since it was not a Catholic Sacrament. Which is why I suspect that he was a Catholic.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I'm not sure that's true, Susan. Under canon law (1055-1062) the Church affirms that two baptized persons who contract a marriage are bound and it is considered valid unless proof is presented to the contrary. I have several relatives who are invalidly married because their Protestant spouses were previously married. I think they need to follow the same procedure as Catholics seeking annulment. You can read the canon laws here:

Sweat said...

Dale Alquist and the American Chesterton Society do very good work, and are thoroughly orthodox 99.9% of the time. But occasionally they do wander off the straight and narrow as was done here with Amoris Laetitia. I can recall another time of poor judgment on their part back in the days when the Harry Potter series was all the rage. Sadly, they actually came out in favor of it! This all serves to prove that even the best of us can't be totally trusted at times. "It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man." (Psalm 117:8)

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Amen to that, Sweat. But I have to say that I'm no longer willing to invest the time and money in attending their conferences. The last one I attended had a young post-aborted woman speaking whose talk was very self-absorbed. I've spent most of my adult life fighting abortion, but I kept scratching my head wondering why they invited her to speak. Of course, Chesterton was against abortion and wrote about it, but she didn't make much of a connection to him. It just seemed more fitting as a witness at a Project Rachel conference.

John C. Hathaway said...

I'm sick of "Strain the gnat and swallow the camel" being abused. Our Lord is talking about being strict about minor points hypocritically while breaking more important parts of the Law. To say that critics of AL are "straining the gnat and swallowing the camel," in this context, is to imply that those critics are all engaging in Eucharistic sacrilege and/or sexual sin that would dwarf divorce and remarriage.

Capreolus said...

I'm glad you wrote this article. I used to support the Chesterton Society (i.e., subscribed to their magazine), but then I noticed their support of Mark Shea in a certain project (a film about Innocent Jones, or something like that), and I mentioned to Mr. Ahlquist that their collaboration made me uneasy. He responded that that project was a one-time thing; however, a little later, Ahlquist and Shea were collaborating on some new endeavor. Given Mark Shea's temperament and views, I decided that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark, so to speak, and have given my financial support to less suspect Catholic organizations.

P.S. If anyone is wondering why I would be suspicious of someone working with M. Shea, let me add that in a recent post of his at "Catholic and Enjoying It," he called a fellow Catholic he disagreed with over some federal policy a "filthy, murdering liar." Hardly Chestertonian.