Sunday, 11th March, 2001: On the Eve of my 35th Birthday, I make a personal committment to the Church's Authority and receive job prospects
The story above [ie. below, for blog readers!] must be completed now, but just to say at the beginning that this has been a hell of a week. Cathy woke me about 8:30 on Monday morning (I don’t usually sleep in that long, but I think the day before had wiped me!) to say that Eastern Regional Libraries were on the phone and wanted to make a time for an interview about the Branch Coordinator’s position at Montrose. We set the time for Wednesday at 1pm. Later that day, I received another phone call, this time from Mt Scopus College (a local Jewish school), about the Library Technician’s position there. We made an appointment for an interview on Tuesday at 12:30pm.
Then, in the post that day, I received two letters: one from Pastor DB and one from my District President.
The President's letter was a surprise. It was very short, but simply said:
“David, I am deeply disappointed in your bad mouthing of me. I have reports from two different events where this has happened in recent times. You are not helping anyone by such behaviour least of all yourself and ultimately you hurt our Lord. You might also find some more useful time in getting your email accessible.”
I was very surprised at this, and I immeadiately rang him (something he ought to have done for me when he heard such reports) to query him on it. The two occassions, he said, were at Zone Pastor’s meeting and at the Pastors and Wives get together last Friday. This I find remarkable--because first of all, others who were at the Zone meeting have no idea what he was talking about (unless they took the fact that I expressed disappointment with his revelation of my situation in the Pastor to Pastor newsletter as “bad mouthing” him), and secondly because the only people who were at the Pastors and Wives gathering that day were myself, Peter and Susie Holmes, and our hosts (A. and his wife), and P.'s wife. All of whom I would trust with my confidence and my life!
Yet the President's letter (actually a copy of an email he attempted to send me) has the time on the top “4:03pm Friday 2nd March”, which was less than two hours after this meeting. Who the source of this information was still remains a mystery. In any case, the whole episode was enough to make me feel like I was being “pushed” out of the LCA. Things were becoming decidedly unpleasant.
Pastor DB's letter was also disturbing.
In the wee small hours of Saturday morning at Vermont South,
I cannot let our ‘phone call be the last contact we had before next Friday. I humbly ask your forgiveness for speaking to you in anger, for judging your motives and actions presumptously, and for any hurt at all that I caused. There are many reasons why I spoke as I did. But, I’m not going to even try and excuse my behaviour. I simply beg your forgiveness.
David, I want to try and explain to you the depths of my reaction and feelings over you leaving our Church. You will remember that I was one of those who vigorously stood up for you in our final year at Seminary. We stood up as your classmates beside you and publically supported you against what we all regarded as unfair treatment following your vicarage. I did so because I believe that it was right, and because of my genuine affection for you.
I have defended you against those who have derided you and ridiculed you as a ‘liturgical purist’ and against the charge of being ‘too Catholic’. But much more than all this, what you said last Tuesday at Box Hill [regarding my marriage and inability to receive communion until an annulment is granted] has haunted my mind and my heart in the deepest possible way.
David, I cannot begin for one moment to appreciate what it must be like for you to face the rest of your life knowing that there will be no place for you at the Lord’s Table. The thought is too terrible. As I try to understand what you said, and what it means, it grips my heart like death.
As I search the Scriptures, I cannot see Christ in the scenario that you spoke about and which you are prepared to enter into. For the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), there was a place at the Lord’s Table. For the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), there is a place at the Lord’s Table. For St Peter who on three occasions publicaly committed apostacy (John 18), there is a place at the Lord’s Table. For St Paul who perseucted the church and murdered St Stephen (Acts 7), there is a place at the Lord’s Table.
But for David Schütz who married in faith and good conscience, who divorced in shame and repentance, and who married again in faith, good conscience and repentance, there is no place at the Lord’s Table in Rome. As I read the Universal catechism there is no way that your first marriage can be seen as invalid. From that, I cannot image David Schütz without the Blessed Sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”
If this is the teaching of Christ’s true Church, through His supreme vicar on earth, then the Pharisees need no longer be scandalised, and they need no longer ask, “Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9), because plainly he doesn’t.
I fear that this burden will be greater than you can bear. I fear also for Cathy and you and your most beloved children. I share the same pastoral concern as the Universal Catechism:
"1634 Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise."
David, please accept this letter, with all its faults, as a testament of the love that I hold for you as a dear brother in Christ. I don’t know what else to say. I am at a loss and I am very sad. We will perhaps share a most unlikely bond--we will both be prevented from sharing the Lord’s Table in Rome.
May our heavenly Father bless you, may Christ our Saviour be with you, may the Holy Spirit’s fellowship keep you from all danger. Amen.
Your brother in Christ,
I showed these letter to Cathy. She said that she agreed with it. This was my response to DB:
I can get to you, even if you can't get through to me. Both you and District President appear to be having trouble getting through to my email, but I think it is a problem with the LCA's server, not mine, since I am receiving other people's emails.
First, may I begin by saying thank you for your letter. It has clearly shown for me the depth of your pastoral concern and love. I am honoured by this.
Secondly, yesterday's encounter was the work of God... [Here follows the story I related in the last entry on this blog]...
Finally, with regard to the issue of my marriage and communion.
I do not want to sound too certain or dogmatic on this point, because I am not. I am trying to work it through on so many planes--theological, spiritual and emotional--that I am far from thinking clearly on this. Emails can sound cold and hard sometimes, so I want you to realise that what I am writing now cuts very deep to the core. Furthermore the issue is complicated by the fact that it is actually two issues that coincide: a) the issue of communion, and b) the issue of divorce and remarriage.
Catholic practice and teaching here (and I mean not just Roman, but the whole history of the church) has acknowledged that there are situations when a person should not come to the sacrament, and when those in charge of administering the sacrament have the duty to advise someone that they would not receive it to their good if they did. These situations are usually to do with both faith and repentance for sin. In the latter case, a person who is committing a sin, but is not repentant of it, would be advised not to come to the sacrament.
With respect to divorce and remarriage, the unanimous teaching of the church has always been (according to the teaching of Christ) that anyone who does remarry after a divorce is entering a relationship that could be adulterous relationship. Now the Catholic church is doing its damnedest to uphold this witness--even if they probably could handle things better pastorally. I think it is fair to say that the Lutheran Church has capitulated to society on this one, in the name of being "forgiving" it has actually become permissive. Again, that is not a pastoral solution.
You are right when you describe the way things happened for me. I married in faith and good conscience, I divorced in shame and repentance, and I married again in faith, good conscience and repentance. The latter was only possible because at the time I fully believed that, having been forgiven for the sin of divorce, I was free in the sight of God and the Church to remarry. For this reason, I have been advised that my current marriage, though irregular, could not be viewed by the Catholic Church as a "grave" sin (ie. on the same level as adultery) because it was entered into with the understanding that I was free to remarry.
Yet in fact, I may not have been free to remarry (the jury is literally still out on that one). Here is where the LCA has got it wrong in the way it deals with divorce. We have given the impression that when a person repents for the breakdown of their marriage, and receives absolution, that that marriage is effectively dissolved, and the repentant and absolved sinner is free to remarry. But that is not the case, is it? That person still has a living spouse, and to enter into a new marriage would put one into a permanent situation of bigamy in the eyes of God. How can one who is living in a bigamous relationship (with whatever good intentions) be admitted to the sacrament? To compare it to another, perhaps more serious case: If a man were committing adultery, and his pastor knew about it, that pastor could not admit that man to communion until he had both repented of and abandoned the adulterous relationship.
Let's look at the situations you cited in your letter. The woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery were both expected to "go and sin no more". (Whether they were ever invited to the Lord's table is another matter of which we know nothing). Two people who were at the Lord's table, Peter and Paul, both repented of their sin, and were received with forgiveness. Even the tax collectors and publicans were called to repentance, and forgiveness given so that they could live a new way of life. But there cannot be absolution without the intention to put the repentance into practice by living a new and holy life.
Now, my marriage is, at least by current judgement, irregular. It is technically bigamous (I cannot bring myself to call it adulterous, although Christ's words would seem to indicate that). However, I am bound to Cathy by vows of love and faithfulness, which, as our wedding text said, I will never let leave me. I am bound in justice and righteousness to Cathy and to my children with whom God has blessed our marriage. I once intended to witness to the evil of divorce by remaining celibate for the rest of my life. Thank God that I did not keep to that resolve! O happy sin (as the hymn says) that led me to being a husband to the woman I love and a father to two beautiful daughters.
But now I fully intend to witness to the stand of the Church against the evil of divorce by living with the consequences of this decision and in due submission to the authority of God's word and church on this matter. The cost is great--as you say, I may never be able to receive the grace of God at the table of the Lord (at least until both our previous marriages are annulled, or death changes the equation one way or another). But I am not cut off from grace. I am baptised, I believe, and so I will be saved. I do not believe that I could be saved if, having recognised what I believe to be true in my deepest conscience, I went against it because I could not submit myself to it.
And here is an important point. You challenge the authority of Rome because you believe it misuses the office of the keys. Or to put it another way, because you do not agree with the way in which Rome exercises discipline, you are questioning whether it has the right to exercise such discipline. This does not follow. One must first investigate whether Rome's claim to authority is valid--did Christ give his authority to Peter and his successors to bind and loose or not? Evidently, I am convinced that he did. Having acknowledged this authority on the grounds of scripture and tradition, how could I then turn around and deny it by my refusal to submit to its teachings and discipline? What value authority, if I can choose to submit to it only when it gives me what I want?
This whole business is about lawful authority under Christ. I do not need someone to stroke my soul and tell me it is all alright if it isn't all alright. Can you disolve my first marriage? Can you tell me, with full authority, that my current marriage is regular and right in the sight of God? Or can you even tell me the opposite? You have declared my first marriage valid, how then can you declare my current marriage valid? What are you trying to say? That my first marriage has been disolved by an act of the state? Can it do that? after what Christ said about "let no-one separate"?
My only hope is to fully submit myself to Christ's Lordship and authority on the matter, and to do this, I must seek out those who exercise this authority. If they judge me to be free to remarry, I will accept their judgement. If they judge me not to have been free to enter into a new marriage relationship, I will accept their judgement on this too. I will never sever my marriage with Cathy--what? shall we sin all the more that grace may abound even more?--but I will live to the full the covenant of marriage with her that I should have lived with my first wife, and I will live a life of prayer and faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I will go to every mass knowing that in this mass the body and blood of Christ is indeed being offered for my sin whether I commune or not.
There is probably so much here that you would say is not "rightly dividing law and gospel". But things are not always as black and white as "law" and "gospel". I am a broken, sinful human being, who never the less is justified through faith in Christ in baptism, and I live by the mercy of God. I do not demand that he change his law for me. It is enough to know that Christ has died for me, and that I will sit at God's table in eternity when I will be free from all brokenness, and all the grey stains of sin.
In the meantime, I trust that God is leading me, and that only if I turn back in fear from the race that is set before me will I fail to receive the promised reward.
This exchange of letters became an opportunity for Cathy and I to frankly discuss our marriage, our previous marriages, the question of how we were going to raise the children, and the matter of communion. There is much more to discuss yet, but we touched on several topics:
1) I reiterated that I was committed to my marriage to her. If the Tribunal decides that my first marriage was valid, then I will not regard myself any less married to Cathy, I will simply recognise that our marriage cannot be regarded as a sacramental marriage.
2) I will not continue to commune in the Lutheran church, even while I am awaiting a decision from the tribunal. Cathy was a bit taken aback by this. I think she thought that I would freely commune with her at St Paul's and that she would be able to receive communion with me in the Catholic Church. I tried to explain about "validity" of the sacrament, and how this was dependant upon the validity of the ordination of the celebrant.
3) I will not begrudge her or the church if the annulment is not granted, and I will live as a non-communing Catholic. I will regard God as having given me an inestimable blessing in Cathy and my children for which I will be ever thankful, even if I cannot have the privilege of receiving communion
4) It is natural that I should want to share my faith with my children, and so have them grow up with a love for the Catholic church. At the same time, I want them to grow up knowing the best from the Lutheran tradition also. I do not now want to set in concrete any promises such as "we will bring them up Catholic/Lutheran", because I believe that Cathy needs time to get to know the Catholic Church also. There is prejudice there that is not her fault, and she wants to learn more about this "new" faith of mine. Her feelings with regard to how the children are raised may change. For now, she is just struggling to come to terms with the fact that I include the Hail Mary with the Our Father and the Creed when I pray with Maddy.
On Tuesday, I wrote this letter to Fr [now Bishop] Anthony Fisher.
This has been quite a week. I have my interview with Eastern Regional Libraries tomorrow (Wednesday), but today I also was interviewed for a position at Mt Scopus College in their primary school library.
Just before the interview, I went into St Scholastica's across the road, and lit a candle and prayed before the image of our Lady. I believe the interview went well, but I have heard nothing yet.
However, Fr Greg Pritchard surprised me by phoning to offer me the position of Music Coordinator for his parish (2 days a week, $10,000) as soon as I wanted it! I would have liked to have said "yes" straight away, but it will depend on what happens. Both these jobs I am being interviewed for are 3.5 to 4 days a week, so that would leave me time to take up Greg's proposal.
Please pray for me--a lot! It seems as if things could be falling into place for me just as I am feeling a little pressure from the LCA to leave. The Summit is this Friday too. Hopefully by Friday I will know the outcome of the interviews. It could be a day for celebration on Friday night! (not trying to count my chickens before they hatch).
Cathy and I have just had a long heart to heart about the nature of our former marriages and our committment to our current marriage in the light of the changing scene. This was a very constructive discussion. We are still trying to finalise a time when you can come for dinner.
God bless. See you soon.
Yesterday, I took Maddy to Mass at Our Lady’s (Ringwood - Fr Pritchard's parish) before going to her swimming lesson. Fr Paul was saying Mass, and Maddy was very good for a change.
Afterward, Fr Greg came to the playground where I was playing with Maddy. He was returning the summit papers that I had left behind at the Holmes’ last night.
We fell to talking about the Music Coordinator position, and he showed me the organ and the music collection. I realised that I really could do this, and moreover that I wanted to do it. He asked me if a May 1st starting date would be alright, and I said I thought it would be.
At that stage, I don’t think that I had really realised what I was doing, but during Maddy’s swim time, I realised that what I had decided to do was to take the job regardless, and seek part time work to fill in the rest of the time. I felt that this job would be important for three reasons:
1) It was the sort thing I was gifted at and enjoyed doing
2) It would give me a good background for future employment in a liturgical field in the Archdiocese
3) It would give me a meaningful place in a Catholic parish community
The more I thought about it, I realised that I didn’t want to do Holy Week at Knox/Frankston/Casey. Not only did I not have the physical energy for it, but emotionally I didn’t want to do it. I began to think more about Palm Sunday as a possible “last service” day, and taking Holy Week as a holiday. As I think about it now, I would like to make Easter the last time that I celebrate that feast as a Lutheran. I would like to receive communion one last time with Cathy, and then start anew the next week.
When I got home and went through the paper to look at what was on offer, and I realised that I didn’t really want to apply for any of the jobs there. I began what was a very up and down day for me--from being depressed about the fact that I may not have gotten either of the jobs that I had been interviewed for, to being excited at the fact that I had finally made the decision to pack it in, and set a date for it.
When Cathy came home, I suggested to her my idea, and told her that I had definitely decided to do the job at Our Lady’s. She was concerned that I was swapping one “every Sunday” job for another, so I rang Greg to clarify with him the expectations. Greg said that he envisaged 2 weekends in four being the usual, depending on the roster, of which I was in charge. So that settled that. I decided to let the school component of the job rest for a while, but I need to follow that up soon with the principal.
This morning I went to church at Our Saviour's to discover that they had begun thinking in terms of Palm Sunday as being the last service also, and had begun making other arrangements for Holy Week and Easter. They have decided now that I was able to confirm this to have a farewell BBQ, inviting Frankston and Casey people also, the night before, on the 7th of April.
But the really pleasant surprise is that have offered the Manse to us rent-free until the end of the financial year. They intend to sell it, to pay off some of their debt on the church. The district is also cutting $60k from the debt (basically the interest of the last 10 years), as long as the congregation continues with its pay-back scheme to which it has committed itself. So everything is turning out fine there as well. The rent-free offer will be worth about two or three thousand dollars to Cathy and I and give us a chance to save up for the shift. It also gives us a definite date to work towards.