Habitual adultery. I am not sure where I first read it or heard it. I wish I knew the source. It is a phrase first used to describe cohabitation and those who have divorced and remarried outside the sacramental veil of Rome. It is not only applicable to the Roman circumstances in which it was given birth. It is a rich phrase that reminds us of something we too often forget. Adultery is certainly forgivable, as is any sin against the commandments of God, but habitual adultery is itself something different. It seeks not forgiveness but approval, not an absolution but an acknowledgement that it is not really a sin at all.
Habitual adultery is done by those who think their situation irregular but not immoral and who believe the fault lies not with them but with the commandment. Either it is a wrong requirement or else it is a requirement impossible to fulfill -- in either case, it can be ignored and one must only wait for the time when the Church will catch up to where culture already is.
Habitual sin is a different problem than sin. I am not here speaking of how in weakness we commit the same sins over and over again but rather how we set ourselves up to only sin -- not in weakness but because we believe it is an error to call it a sin. Much of what we see in the world around us that challenges the morality of the Scriptures is less a challenge to sin but an insistence upon the habitual sin being justified and approved.
In a world intent upon sexual liberty, the free access to contraception and to reproductive technology when it suits them, and the right to abort the life within the womb, we do not simply face sin but the habitual sin that is convinced it is no sin at all. The answer to this cannot be absolution. The answer to this cannot be equivocation. The answer to this must be the clear and resounding voice of the Law to bring about true and honest repentance. Then absolution may apply and the sinner find the clear conscience he or she thought you could obtain by redefining the sin as no sin at all.
The Scriptures presume that Christians have will power, have the ability to practice self-control -- if not perfectly still the intent and ability with the aid of the Spirit to rein in the desires within. Sin is certainly no mere habit that is corrected by retraining but retraining in righteousness is certainly key to living as the children of God we are by baptism and faith. Habitual sin and this life of righteousness cannot live together. Something will have to give.
Something to think about. . . so have at it folks. . .
So, those previously divorced and now remarried couples in your congregation are under the ban, right? You tell them that they are habitual adulterers and that they must cease all forms of sexual expression, right?
Fr. Peters; what is your take on the difference between Orthodox and Roman views on marriage, divorce and possible remarriage? My take is more in agreement with the following: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/athenagoras_remarriage.html
Pr. Paul Becker
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