The Peril of False Mercy: Divorce, Remarriage, and Holy Communion

Sandro Botticelli, The Last Communion of St. Jerome (1495) (detail)

Imagine a kid who has a severe peanut allergy, but wants a peanut butter cookie. Peanut allergy is one of the worst of the food allergies, since it can be triggered by even trace amounts of peanuts (even 1/1000th of a peanut), and it can be deadly. But to a little kid, that risk might seem too abstract. All they know is that they want that cookie, and their dad is telling them that they can’t have it. It seems unfair and mean, and they’re likely hurt by it.

That’s the image that came to me in considering this question of giving Communion to someone who is divorced and remarried. The Eucharist is beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful gift that God has ever given us. For anyone to be unable to receive the Blessed Sacrament is an enormous tragedy, and it’s wonderful that there are “remarried” people who ache for it, because the Eucharist is worth aching for. I wish more Catholics felt this, actually: that more of us pined for receiving the Eucharist on the days that we aren’t at Mass, or can’t receive at Mass for some reason.

So I can completely sympathize with why someone would want to receive Our Lord at Communion despite knowing that they’re not eligible to present themselves. Now that almost everyone presents themselves for Communion, it’s also embarrassing to be the only person left seated, particularly if you’ve got a pushy usher by your pew, trying to force you to get into line. Moreover, the difference between divorce and annulments strikes some people as too academic and abstract: they just see someone else they consider divorced-and-remarried in line for Communion, while they’re told not to present themselves. Given all this, it’s not hard to see why so many people think it’s merciful to encourage them to go ahead and receive Communion anyways – or even, to try to get the Church to change her teaching in this regard.

But here’s the thing. Encouraging those not in right relationship with God to receive Communion as if they are is a false mercy, just as it would be a false mercy to let your allergic kid eat a peanut butter cookie. To receive Communion unworthily risks your life as surely as eating a peanut butter cookie allergically. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

In other words, if you’re receiving Communion while you’re not in right relationship with Jesus, you’re poisoning your own soul, a sort of spiritual suicide caused by committing mortal sin. And the person who is divorced and remarried is objectively not in right relationship with Jesus, because they’re in a state of adultery (Mark 10:11-12 says this outright). In other words, even if your priest tells you it’s okay to present yourself for Communion, just like it wouldn’t be okay to steal a car if your priest tells you. In both case, there’s a higher Law at place, one that none of us here below can change.

These are some strong words, but they’re what the Gospel tells us. And stepping back, there’s a certain logic to what Paul is saying about receiving the Eucharist unworthily. After all, the Eucharist is Holy Communion, Communion with Jesus Christ Himself. And communion always requires a certain intimacy and right relationship. If you don’t have that, because you’ve chosen some sin or sinful attachment (like being in an adulterous relationship) over that relationship with Him, it’s not right to behave like you do. We recognize this in other contexts as well, obviously: in the right context and right relationship, the sexual act is a beautiful God-given expression of love and communion; in the wrong context, it’s rape, or adultery, or fornication, and it’s horribly wrong.

So it’s precisely because of the beauty and intimacy of this gift of Communion with Jesus Christ that we need to search our souls (all of us, not just those who are divorced and civilly “remarried”) to make sure that we’re receiving Him worthily.

Fortunately, there’s always, always, always a way out, this side of eternity. If you’re not in the spiritual state you need to be, because of marital issues or any other reason, there’s an easy cure. Repent, go to confession, gets washed clean in the Blood of Christ, and receive that outpouring of graces. Choose Christ at all costs, choose Christ over all earthly loves and pleasures, and do whatever it takes to be able to receive Him wholly and completely, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. When you do that, you’ll know what true mercy feels like.

78 Comments

  1. Very, very nice. Makes you wonder why we’re not hearing this anywhere else. Hopefully, it’s just a media failure, but it seems like even the bishops most in support of the ban have given up on 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 as an argument in their favor, depriving themselves of the truth that it is their approach that is the merciful one.

    1. In my experience, it is a teaching well understood by Catholics. I don’t know any divorced and remarried Catholics who take communion. The sad fact is, that all whom I have met in that situation, leave the Church when they do that because they know they are at odds with Catholic Teaching.

      I know one couple who lived about 25 years, in the Church and not receiving communion because the husband could not get an annulment from his previous marriage. They were married in civil court and did not receive communion until he died of cancer. He received viaticum when the doctors knew that he wouldn’t leave the hospital alive. And his widow came back to the Sacraments soon after.

  2. Joe, you said,

    Now that almost everyone presents themselves for Communion,….

    I don’t know what you meant by that. Unfortunately, many Catholics say this with disdain. As though they can see the spiritual condition of their fellow Catholics. It irks me no end every time Catholics turn on other Catholics and act like the proverbial Pharisee:

    Luke 18:The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    I’m sure this is not what you intended by that remark. We are not called to judge our fellow man. But to give all our fellow men the benefit of the doubt.

    2479 Detraction and calumny destroy the reputation and honor of one’s neighbor. Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect. Thus, detraction and calumny offend against the virtues of justice and charity.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

    1. De Maria,

      I meant exactly what I said. In other ages in the life of the Church, very few people went up for Communion, so it didn’t raise any eyebrows if you stayed seated. Now, the opposite is the norm, and sometimes, it’s very noticeable if someone remains in their pew. This is exacerbated by well-meaning ushers who try to usher everyone into the Communion line. That’s an objective observation: I’m not even sure how one could deny it (frequently, everyone present will go up for Communion).

      That wasn’t intended as a commentary on the problem with everyone going up to receive, but since you raise that issue, I’ll bite. If you’ve got a parish in which everyone presents themselves for Communion, but few people go to Confession, you’ve either got a surprisingly sinless parish or a lot of people receiving unworthily. You can acknowledge this (again, a pretty objective observation) without judging the spiritual state of any particular Catholic, much less being a Pharisee or “”turn[ing] on other Catholics.”

      Obviously, you don’t want the pendulum to swing too far in the other extreme, the sort of scrupulosity and Jansenism that St. Pius X combated by encouraging frequent Communion. We should want everyone to receive, but we should want them to do so worthily, and ideally with time for spiritual preparation. On this last point, St. Francis de Sales has sound advice in Introduction to the Devout Life.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Excellent post, Joe, but it is a sad day when it is necessary to write these things owing to what seems to be happening in the occult synod.

      Hey, everyone, we are gonna have a Synod but we don’t trust the Bishops to speak openly about what they really believe..

      As to communion by everyone, there was also a time when Communion was distributed to the communicants only after Mass.

    3. MJY,

      There are many ways that indulgence masks itself as “mercy,” but this is just the most public one right one.

      As for the Synod being off-the-record, I’m actually not opposed to that. I think it allows for a freer debate, without concern for scandalizing the faithful, and without creating the temptation for bishops to say the popular or political thing. In taking this view, I’m definitely influenced by my experiences with courtrooms. Most courtrooms don’t allow cameras, because it changes the dynamic in a negative way.

      I also think it’s a healthy break: the Internet is full of people who think that they have the right to know all the inner workings of the Church so that they judge them and commentate on them. Ecclesiologically, that’s an insane view of the Church (in my view, it’s not even a particularly healthy way to run a country, but it’s what we’ve got).* I don’t need everyone’s reaction to whether or not St. Nicholas should have punched Arius in the face.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      *I mean this as a criticism of the 24 hour news cycle, not democracy as such.

    4. Joe, you said:

      That wasn’t intended as a commentary on the problem with everyone going up to receive, but since you raise that issue, I’ll bite. If you’ve got a parish in which everyone presents themselves for Communion, but few people go to Confession, you’ve either got a surprisingly sinless parish or a lot of people receiving unworthily. You can acknowledge this (again, a pretty objective observation) without judging the spiritual state of any particular Catholic, much less being a Pharisee or “”turn[ing] on other Catholics.”

      I disagree Joe. That is not an objective observation at all. The only fact you are considering is that nearly everyone is going to Communion. You have no facts about the spiritual condition of the individuals taking communion. Nor about their level of understanding of the Faith. Therefore, it is a subjective opinion.

      Here’s my opinion. I believe that in the age when few people went to communion, it was because they didn’t understand that venial sin did not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace. Therefore, many of the people who sat in the pews and refrained from receiving communion, were faith Catholics who had not made it to confession and did not realize that the Confiteore and Communion itself remitted venial sin.

      I also believe that in that age, scrupulosity was more prevalent.

      But here’s an example of what I am complaining about. You’ll see my complaints in the comments. I have nothing against the blog or the blogger (Devin Rose). I actually found out about it from your panel on the right and have participated there whenever. Note that I am on both sides of that argument. I don’t agree with cradle catholics who are on cruise control and don’t want to learn or obey the requirements of the Faith. Nor do I agree with people who look down on everyone else and have the attitude that they are God’s gift to the Church.

      Bottom line, I believe the Church teaches us to mind our own business and leave the judgement of souls, to God.

    5. De Maria,

      Let me put my point a slightly different way. If you’ve got a parish in which everyone presents themselves for Communion, but few people go to Confession, there are exactly two possibilities:

      1) The people in line aren’t going to Confession, but need to be: in that case, you’ve got a problem of people receiving unworthily.
      2) The people in line aren’t going to Confession, and don’t need to be: in that case, you’ve got a surprisingly sinless parish.

      As far as I can see, (1) and (2) are the only possible options, and you’re not presenting a (3). Like I said, that’s a pretty objective observation: either X or ~X is true, and I’m just spelling out the implications of them both.

      You say that it “is not an objective observation at all” because I can’t judge the state of individual souls. I’m not judging any individual souls, nor do I need to. I’m just pointing out the obvious. Can you show me where you think I’m calling some individual’s spiritual state into question? Because both of your comments seem to presuppose that I’m doing that, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that impression.

      Let me put the shoe on the other foot: in your last few paragraphs, you claimed that prior generations “didn’t understand that venial sin did not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace” (I disagree: prior generations had a much better understanding of the mortal-venial distinction than most Catholics living today, at least in the US), and that “scrupulosity was more prevalent” (agreed). Making those judgments doesn’t require you to say, “Mr. Brown was scrupulous and needless fretted about venial sin,” or any other judgment on an individual.

      How is that any different than what I’ve done here, other than that you apparently don’t like my assessment? I’m doing the exact same thing to the present generation that you’re doing to the prior ones, and yet you’re suggesting I’m engaged in the “judgment of souls” somehow.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    6. Hm? It seems we have a difference of understanding on the definition of the word “subjective”.

      Here is how I understand the word.

      sub·jec·tive
      səbˈjektiv/Submit
      adjective
      1.
      based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
      “his views are highly subjective”
      synonyms: personal, individual, emotional, instinctive, intuitive
      “a subjective analysis”

      ob·jec·tive
      əbˈjektiv/Submit
      adjective
      1.
      (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.

      Please explain in what sense your assessment is not subjective.

      What I hear you saying is that your subjective opinions are not biased (and therefore, you call them “objective”).

      You think I don’t agree with your assessment.

      Now, you say that it is either a “very sinless parish or many people are receiving unworthily”. Why do you even go there? It it isn’t that I don’t agree with the assessment, I don’t agree with your making the assessment in the first place. I don’t think the Church teaches to sit there and wonder why people are going to communion. I think the Church teaches “mea culpa”.

      And finally, I’m glad that you recognized that my opinions about the time when few went to Communion were subjective. That was the reason I presented them. In order that you would recognize the subjectiveness of my opinions and thereby recognize the subjectiveness of your own.

    7. De Maria,

      I understand what objective and subjective mean. I presented two possibilities: either X or ~X, either they’re receiving unworthily or they’re not. You’ve never disputed that these are the only two possibilities, and I’ve never offered my view as to which view is more likely. So once more: where is the subjective part? You keep asserting that I’m presenting my own personal view about the state of people’s souls, but you’re not actually showing me where or how you’re coming to this conclusion.

      As for the rest, your whole beef was that it was wrong to judge people’s souls (which is true, at least in this context) and therefore wrong to discuss the general spiritual problems parishes face (which is false), and now your claim is that you intentionally passed judgment on the souls of prior generations to make some sort of a point? This conversation is getting silly.

      I.X.

      Joe

    8. Joe HeschmeyerOctober 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM
      De Maria,

      I understand what objective and subjective mean.

      Apparently not.

      I presented two possibilities: either X or ~X,

      No. You presented two subjective opinions. You are now trying to justify this by fitting it into a mathematical formula, but people aren’t numbers.

      What you are now describing as “either x” was that opinion that they must be sinless, but you have no evidence to that effect except that they went to communion. So, that is subjective.

      What you now describe as “or ~X” was the opinion that they must be receiving unworthily. Again, no evidence for that statement either. Therefore it is subjective.

      All you are doing is wondering about someone’s state in life. Why?

      either they’re receiving unworthily or they’re not.

      Both of those elements are subjective. Mathematical formula. 1X + 1X = 2X 1X + 1X does not equal Y.

      You’ve never disputed that these are the only two possibilities,

      Why would I?

      and I’ve never offered my view as to which view is more likely.

      In other words, your applying your subjective conclusions impartially (objective has the meaning of impartial).

      So once more: where is the subjective part?

      In the fact that this is your personal opinion based upon intuition.

      You keep asserting that I’m presenting my own personal view about the state of people’s souls, but you’re not actually showing me where or how you’re coming to this conclusion.

      I thought I had. But, let me give you an example of an objective assessment of the situation. Go to the front of the line and ask each would-be communicant to tell you why they think they can go to communion. Then, you won’t have to muse about it. You’ll make an objective assessment based upon real evidence rather than intuition.

      As for the rest, your whole beef was that it was wrong to judge people’s souls (which is true, at least in this context)

      Agreed.

      and therefore wrong to discuss the general spiritual problems parishes face (which is false),

      When did I say that?

      and now your claim is that you intentionally passed judgment on the souls of prior generations to make some sort of a point?

      Really? You don’t believe that I juxtaposed my subjective opinions next to yours in order to highlight for you the error you are making?

      This conversation is getting silly.

      I think you want it to portray it as silly so that you can ignore the error you are making and draw attention away from the point that I’m making. And that is that God doesn’t call us nor does the Church teach us to sit there and wonder whether our fellow parishioners should be going to communion. That’s the point I’m making. If you think that is silly, so be it.

    9. De Maria,

      Let me try one more time. Stop me when you find something “subjective,” and explain how anyone could disagree with what I’m saying here:

      A) The state of being in mortal sin and unworthy of reception of Holy Communion is an objective one, even if unknowable to you or me.
      B) Catholics, on the whole, are not free from mortal sin.
      C) Therefore, a parish in which everyone presents themselves for Communion, but few people go to Confession, there are exactly two possibilities:
      1) Confession was necessary before worthy reception (X, in which case, Communion was received unworthily), or
      2) Confession was not necessary before worthy reception (~X, in which case, you have an unusually holy parish.

      I’m not trying to put anything into a “mathematical formula.” I’m using X and ~X in the logical sense, not the mathematical sense. They either are or aren’t in mortal sin.

      You repeatedly assert that these are just “intuitions” and “opinions,” but repeatedly asserting these things doesn’t make them any truer. What I’ve described here is true of any parish fitting this description in any place in the world, and in any age, past, present, or future.

      It’s like saying that a person is either a rocket scientist or he isn’t. Either X, or ~X. That’s objectively true, quite apart from what you may feel about rocket scientists.

      As for this conversation being silly, it certainly has been. All of this arose out of you reading the line “Now that almost everyone presents themselves for Communion, it’s also embarrassing to be the only person left seated,” and assuming that I must think that the people in line were in mortal sin (even though nothing in the context remotely suggested this), and then being too proud to admit that was a misreading or projection, even after I’ve cleared it up several times.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    10. Joe HeschmeyerOctober 12, 2014 at 11:42 AM
      De Maria,

      Let me try one more time. Stop me

      Ok.

      when you find something “subjective,”

      Ok.

      and explain how anyone could disagree with what I’m saying here:

      Ok.

      A) The state of being in mortal sin and unworthy of reception of Holy Communion is an objective one, even if unknowable to you or me.

      Stop right there.

      explain how anyone could disagree with what I’m saying here

      We haven’t, in the previous messages, been discussing the actual state of anyone’s soul. We have been discussing the “assessment” of their souls. Something which you agree is unknowable to you or I. Or even, in an absolute manner to the Communicant:

      CCC#2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits”- reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

      A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges: “Asked if she knew that she was in God’s grace, she replied: ‘If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there.'”

      So, I’m not sure why you have introduced this here. I guess I should say that I disagree with your introducing this element here because it would tend to confuse the issue at hand.

      The question of whether this element is subjective is tricky. Certainly, I agree that the actual state of one’s soul, whether in grace or in sin, is objective. But only known to God. However, our “assessment” of that condition is subjective.

      Since I’ve stopped you, I don’t know how to proceed from here. So, I’ll let you take the helm.

    11. The question of whether this element is subjective is tricky. Certainly, I agree that the actual state of one’s soul, whether in grace or in sin, is objective. But only known to God. However, our “assessment” of that condition is subjective.

      Right. This is why I caveated that a thing might be objective and unknowable. I’ve been trying (apparently unsuccessfully) to convince you that I’m not trying to assess any individual person’s soul. But for some reason, you seem very convinced that I am, to the point that you’ve just written: “We haven’t, in the previous messages, been discussing the actual state of anyone’s soul. We have been discussing the “assessment” of their souls.

      It’s true that we’ve been discussing the assessment of individual souls, but only because you keep accusing me of doing this, and I keep deny doing this. For example, earlier I said:

      “You say that it “is not an objective observation at all” because I can’t judge the state of individual souls. I’m not judging any individual souls, nor do I need to. I’m just pointing out the obvious. Can you show me where you think I’m calling some individual’s spiritual state into question? Because both of your comments seem to presuppose that I’m doing that, and I’m not sure where you’re getting that impression.”

      Now, it sounds like you at least recognize that the position you’re accusing me of holding (and which you’re arguing against) isn’t actually the position that I’m holding or arguing for. Having recognized this, you might go back and reread my prior comments, and see if they make more sense.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    12. Joe Heschmeyer October 12, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Now, it sounds like you at least recognize that the position you’re accusing me of holding (and which you’re arguing against) isn’t actually the position that I’m holding or arguing for. Having recognized this, you might go back and reread my prior comments, and see if they make more sense.

      I think we’re talking past each other Joe.

      I.X.

      De Maria

  3. Joe,

    Generally, I agree with most everything you write. But today, I have a few questions concerning your reading of St. Paul.

    Seems to me that your “in other words” is closer to being “in other meaning”. Paul writes that we must not participate in the Eucharist in an unworthy manner, not that we must be a worthy participant. Huge difference. After all, is any of us really “worthy” of the Sacrament? I doubt it.

    Secondly, he writes that we must not receive the Sacrament without “discerning the body”. I take that to mean: if you don’t accept the reality of transubstantiation, then don’t take Communion.

    Yes, there is that phrase about examining one’s self. But I don’t see that as a call for someone else to tell another that they may not participate in the Eucharist, but rather that each individual should decide for himself, after said self examination.

    I say this as someone with a dog in this fight. I myself am not divorced (I’m a widower), and I know personally of no divorced person being denied Communion. But turning someone away from the Sacrament just seems wrong to me.

    1. You say, regarding self-examination:

      “But I don’t see that as a call for someone else to tell another that they may not participate in the Eucharist, but rather that each individual should decide for himself, after said self examination.”

      By what standard should the prospective communicant decide whether he is worthy? His own? This would fly in the face of virtually everything our religious literature and tradition has to say on the nature of morality. Thus the examination must be meant as a means of comparing himself to an external standard of some sort. As ever, we turn to the Church to convey the information on this matter of morality, which she does when she tells us that the standard is to have no grave sin on one’s conscience.

      Because of the secret nature of the remedy (Confession), it’s very difficult to know whether another person does have grave sin on his conscience. Some people are very open about their sin and unrepentance, however, and this presents a challenge to anyone charged with distributing Communion. Knowing, as we do, the very bad consequences of receiving unworthily, the minister faces the choice of whether to knowingly provide the equivalent of the peanut cookie to the allergic person. This cannot be morally acceptable, any more than assisting a person in committing suicide could be.

    2. B. Prokop,

      Your reading of 1 Cor. 11 isn’t wrong, but I don’t think it’s complete, either. Paul certainly (even principally) has in view a recognition of the Real Presence, but he also talks about the need for a communicant to examine himself before going up to receive.

      Other than that, see Restless Pilgrim’s comments below (quoting the Didache and Justin Martyr). The Church has always been bound – by Christ, in Matthew 7:6 – to guard the sacred from profanation. And so She has always had rules regarding who She could and could not commune.

      I.X,.

      Joe

    3. B. Prokop,

      You are correct that no one is worthy of the Eucharist. It is by the mercy of God that we receive this grace.

      I think what you’re missing is that we are not supposed to judge ourselves. Scripture says:

      Hebrews 13:17

      17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

      Jesus Christ established the Church and gave the Church authority over our souls. That is why, elsewhere, Scripture also says:

      John 20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

  4. I cannot express in words how wrong the Church is on this issue. The Church should not prohibit anyone from coming up to receive Christ. Jesus would not have done that. How can the Church say it welcomes back those who have divorced and remarried, yet tell them they are not welcome to receive Holy Communion? It makes no logical sense. There are hundreds of thousands of Catholics and ex-Catholics that are directly impacted by this wrong-headed and wrong-hearted teaching. Why should they go through the sham of an annulment in order to receive Christ? Why can’t they just go to Confession, be forgiven, then receive Communion? Look at it this way: You can go out today, murder someone in cold blood, then realize you have done wrong and go to confession. You can receive the Eucharist that very day, even after you have murdered someone. But, if you divorce and then re-marry outside the Church, you can’t receive Communion? That is insane! If you go to confession and repent, that should be the end of it. I don’t remember Jesus saying to the Samaritan woman at the well that she had to go get an annulment. I grew up in a church where a certain woman was a wonderful member of the church. Very involved in many ministries. A very Godly woman. However, when it came time for Communion, she had to sit in her seat while everyone else (Sinners, all!) went up for the Eucharist, all because she was divorced and remarried and her husband, not a Catholic, would not consent to an annulment because he (rightly so) thought it was silly. I am not divorced, but I left the Church for a long time. I tried to come back. Had my marriage convalidated. I was even going to be a Eucharistic Minister. But, when I went to class and realized who could and who could not receive Communion….I dropped out. I cannot in good conscience go along with the Church’s rules on this. And, while I’m venting, this Family Synod in Rome is also a Sham if it does not address this issue. The Bishops have already made it clear that they will not be addressing the subject of divorced and remarried people receiving Communion. What a shame. What a missed opportunity to show Mercy. What a missed opportunity to act as Jesus would have acted. By allowing these people to receive Communion, the Church is in NO WAY endorsing divorce. It would simply be FORGIVING these people, showing God’s Mercy and allowing them to receive the Holy Eucharist. By not addressing this issue at the Synod, it will be another 50 to 100 years before the Church gets around to looking at it again. By then, many more people will have left the Church. I know many people who are in this boat, and I would without any hesitation advise them to walk right up and receive Holy Communion in good conscience. Jesus would not refuse them, where the Church does. I am ashamed of my Church’s teaching on this issue. It is hypocritical for the Church to say it welcomes these people back to the church, and then not allow them to receive Communion. What’s the point of coming back, especially when most Protestant churches are more than willing to welcome them without restrictions? Your example of a priest telling someone to receive Communion and to steal a car is absolutely ridiculous. How can you be so wrong headed as to compare the two? Seeking Jesus and wanting him is the same as stealing a car? THIS is the problem with the Church and THIS is why so many have left….RULES. Stupid rules. Rules that make no sense. Rules that PUSH PEOPLE AWAY from God. The church should be about welcoming people, but instead it is obsessed with following canon law. I fear for my church. I pray for my Church. May God help those who are making the decisions about this issue.

    1. You say that the Church shouldn’t stop anyone receiving the Eucharist. However, we see this practice from the very beginning. For example, in the Didache (1st Century), we read:

      ” On the Lord’s day, gather yourselves together and break bread, give thanks, but first confess your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. However, let no one who is at odds with his brother come together with you, until he has reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be profaned.” – Didache, Chapter 14

      So here we see that unrepentant sin and unreconciled Christians cannot receive communion. We find Justin Martyr (2nd Century) saying something very similar:

      “This food we call Eukaristia [the Eucharist], and no one is allowed to partake but he who believes that our doctrines are true, who has been washed with the washing for the remission of sins and rebirth, and who is living as Christ has enjoined” – St. Justin Martyr, First Apology

      Here we find the three basic conditions to receiving communion:

      1. Baptised
      2. Orthodox belief
      3. Right living

    2. > Jesus would not have done that.

      What makes you so sure of that? If we find precedent for restricted Communion in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, as well as authoritative teaching from the Magesterium…

    3. > How can the Church say it welcomes back those who have divorced and remarried, yet tell them they are not welcome to receive Holy Communion?

      Any baptized Catholic in a state of grace can receive Communion.

      > There are hundreds of thousands of Catholics and ex-Catholics that are directly impacted by this wrong-headed and wrong-hearted teaching

      What’s to stop us applying that logic to any other difficult teaching? There are hundreds of thousands of Catholics and ex-Catholics that have been directly impacted by the Church’s teaching on (i) abstinence before marriage (ii) belief in the the Real Presence (iii) veneration of the Virgin Mary…

      > Why should they go through the sham of an annulment in order to receive Christ?

      You call it a sham, but again we have strong support from both Scripture and Tradition that annulments are legit.

    4. > Look at it this way: You can go out today, murder someone in cold blood, then realize you have done wrong and go to confession. You can receive the Eucharist that very day, even after you have murdered someone

      That is true, assuming that the person is (a) truly contrite and (b) doesn’t intend to go and repeat the sin.

      > But, if you divorce and then re-marry outside the Church, you can’t receive Communion? That is insane!

      What exactly would they confess to the priest though? Surely it would be sleeping with someone whom the Church does not recognize to be that person’s spouse. If I’m contrite for something I confess, I need to affirm that I don’t want to continue in what it is that I’m confessing. If I don’t affirm that, am I really contrite?

      > If you go to confession and repent, that should be the end of it. I don’t remember Jesus saying to the Samaritan woman at the well that she had to go get an annulment

      It sounds like you’re trying to use the Bible as an answer book in a Sola Scriptura fashion, which the Catholic Church rejects.

      However, please consider what Jesus after each encounter: “Go and sin no more”. There is forgiveness, sure, but then also an exhortation to change, following the encounter with Christ.

    5. > However, when it came time for Communion, she had to sit in her seat while everyone else (Sinners, all!) went up for the Eucharist, all because she was divorced and remarried and her husband, not a Catholic, would not consent to an annulment because he (rightly so) thought it was silly

      Don’t you find it significant that this women chose to humble herself and follow the guidance of the Church when it came to the reception of the Eucharist?

    6. > But, when I went to class and realized who could and who could not receive Communion….I dropped out. I cannot in good conscience go along with the Church’s rules on this

      Out of interest, why do you trust the Church when it comes to Her teaching concerning the Eucharist (i.e. Real Presence), but not when it comes to who should receive?

    7. Tommy,

      This is obviously a topic for which you hold a great deal of emotion.

      As such I’m not sure you’ll read what I have to say, but I hope that you will.

      You mentioned that “You can go out today, murder someone in cold blood, then realize you have done wrong and go to confession. You can receive the Eucharist that very day, even after you have murdered someone.”

      This is true, but let’s bring the analogy a little closer to the topic. You can have an affair, realize that you have done wrong and go to confession. You can receive the Eucharist that very day after you have had an affair.

      What you cannot do, is murder the first person on your hit-list, and go to confession while fully intending to murder the remaining 15 people on that list, and still receive communion. You cannot have an affair and go to confession with no intention to break off the affair, and still receive communion. You cannot be absolved of a sin for which you are not contrite, and which you do not deeply desire to stop committing.

      Because Christ taught that marriage is indissoluble (Matthew 19:6), meaning it cannot be dissolved, then the divorce decree cannot affect the marriage bond. The divorce decree only has power to affect those civil aspects of marriage (distribution of property, taxation, etc.)

      Another quality of marriage is that it is exclusive (again, Matthew 19:6), the two shall become one flesh. Since you may only have one exclusive indissoluble union, you can only be married to one living person. As such we can’t even rightly talk about a person getting ‘remarried’ unless they are a widow or widower. Either the first or the second union would not be a legitimate marriage. This is why we have the annulment process, which you called a ‘sham.’ It is an act of mercy, helping a person determine if their first union actually rose to the level of an exclusive indissoluble union or not. If their first union was invalid, they are now free to enter into an exclusive indissoluble union (since no previous union exists).

      If the person had a valid marriage in their first union, then the person with whom they are now living (and presumably sharing a sexual relationship) is not their spouse. If they are not contrite, and desiring to stop having a sexual relationship with someone other than their spouse, they cannot be absolved, and therefore cannot approach communion.

      If the person did not have a valid marriage in their first union, an annulment would discover that and would enable them to validly enter an exclusive indissoluble union.

      This is certainly a very emotional topic because it relates to our two deepest desires, to be one with God, and to be one with another. The Church desires this for us as well, but we cannot force God into being one with us when we are willfully continuing in sin without repentance.

      I pray God’s blessing on you, and his peace.

    8. Jesus would certainly have done that. It is Jesus who said, “do not give your pearls to swine.” The Eucharist is the Pearl of Great Price. We certainly will not give it to anyone who does not believe in the great sacrifice which Jesus made in order to give that to us.

    9. Tommy, you wrote: “If you go to confession and repent, that should be the end of it.” Well that’s exactly right. But the word you seem to be skimming over is “repent”. You can’t come out of the confessional with full intent to jump right back into bed with your “second wife” or “second husband” and call that sincere repentance. Adultery, like any sin, can be forgiven but you have to first decide to stop doing it.

    10. Thankyou for expressing exactly how I feel. I am currently going through a divorce after 18 years of married life. My spouse cheated on me for over 1 year with a work colleague, lied to me on so many occasions about what she was doing and who and what he was, brought him into our family on the pretence of him being a “friend” all for the purpose of gaining the acceptance and trust of our children in having him around, only to eventually remove me from the marriage and replace me with him.
      So yes I am getting a divorce, despite a priest telling me I should not do so and should instead actively fight to get my wife back or instead wait for her to tire of this other man and then be available to return to me! This to me shows the emotional intelligence of a knat. I told him I never wanted her back and felt so abused by her that I needed psychological counselling. Why would I ever want to go back after being treated like that. Sometimes things happen in a marriage that cannot be forgiven. I deal with her in a civil way for the sake of our children but reconciliation with her is just not possible.
      According to the Church, if I now met someone else and fall in love and wish to enjoy the happiness and love and intimacy that comes from such a relationship, I am in conflict with God and the church and cannot receive holy communion. Therefore I have to lead a celibate life, and never again experience the happiness that comes from being in an intimate, loving relationship with another person. I have now met such a person and this conflict is a very real issue. I am in a dilemma and feel very ostracised by my church, when in effect I feel like I did very little wrong. I didn’t want to blow up my marriage but felt I had no choice. I tried to forgive her but she had to agree to stop the affair, which she wouldn’t, therefore our relationship was effectively over. I am now being punished because the only person I can be with is someone with whom I cannot live a healthy life mentally or emotionally. It is true that a murderor can go to confession the same day and receive communion immediately and yet if I continue to see my new girlfriend and eventually wish to marry her I will forever be unable to receive communion. In other words the church is saying that this is worse the committing murder.
      I will eventually leave the church like so many others because who wants to be somewhere where you are not accepted as an equal and never can be. How many good people are pushed out of the Church because of this rule? What did they really do to deserve that treatment? This rule is extremely unfair and unmerciful. So please don’t tell me that the church is merciful when it maintains rules such as this. There are many good reasons why divorces happen. To then punish those who are victims of divorce in such a way that they feel they have to leave the church or remain perpetually unhappy and bitter for the rest of their lives is not only crazy it is downright mean. I cannot accept that this is how Jesus would behave if he were here now.

  5. If a Diocese, or parish, fails to catechize it’s parishioners in an effective way, or even allows or fosters heterodox or heretical doctrines to grow in these same communities…is it the flocks (parishioners) fault for not adhering to the orthodox disciplines and canon law of the Church, or is it the magisterium’s fault, because they have failed to properly educate their flock’s/parishioners in the orthodox faith, and then hold them accountable as if they really knew the orthodox faith all along?

    Moreover, we hear everywhere in the Church today people talking of the “New Evangelization”…that is, the evangelization of the multitudes of baptized Catholics who really know little or anything of the doctrines of their own Church or faith. Doesn’t the very fact that we need a ‘New Evangelization’ demonstrate a confession from the Church hierarchy that there has been a massive failure on their part in the area of catechesis and evangelization?

    What I’m trying to get at, is that even though a person belongs to a Church, and has received one or more of the Sacraments, doesn’t mean at all that he has the least idea of what the Catholic faith, sacraments, Bible, or person and teachings of Jesus Christ really is, or really means. They might be Catholic…but really… in name only. For the most part, many of these are more or less ‘disciples’ of modern culture, which can be a combination of one or more philosophies, theologies or cultural trends, ie..hedonism, feminism, atheism, new age..etc…

    The problem is that these same hedonists, etc… are already baptized, even though they have never discovered the true splendor, beauty or truth of our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy Church. I know something about this because for about 20 years I was one of these same people. Nobody ever taught me personally, one on one, who Jesus is, or even asked me what I think of God or the meaning of my life here on Earth. So I was baptized, and went to Holy Communion, was confirmed (without having any ‘firmness’ in anything), and didn’t understand what any of the Church sacraments were really all about. I was just following what other people in my Catholic school and Church did, and was forced by my parents to go to Church on Sunday’s. No on ever talked to me about Jesus…only about sports, girls, hunting, rock and roll, and how I might make money some day in the future.

    The problem I see, is that the Church hierarchy needs to discipline itself. It needs to set rules such that only those persons who are actually taught the Catholic faith in an personal, orthodox and real way, are held accountable for keeping the canon law, sacraments and disciplines of the Church. There should be an inquisition of sorts for every Catholic, and at many stages of life, that both truly tries to teach and foster the Faith, and then does not allow the sacraments until the understanding and significance of those same sacraments is truly known. That is, the Church should not marry anyone who does not have a true love for both Jesus, and a true knowledge of the the orthodox doctrines and Church disciplines as taught in the Catequism of the Catholic church.

    Rushing the faithful mindlessly through all of the Sacraments is highly neglectful on the part of Pastors and Bishops. It’s similar to rushing inner city school kids through High School even though they skipped classes, flunked tests and never read a complete book in the entire time they attended school. In many ways the Church operates in pretty much the same way…at least from my perspective over the last 40 years living on the West Coast of the USA.

  6. I, as a Catholic from birth, stand my every statement I made. I have been following this blog for some time. I really enjoy it and get a lot from it. But this particular blog hit a nerve. It, to me, sums up why the Church is having so much trouble keeping members. There may be members on the rolls, but they are not going to Mass. The Church is driving people away because of its slavish obedience to rules. Jesus emphasized mercy and forgiveness. The Church needs to take his advice. I appreciate the comments you all have made. But the Church’s teaching on this topic does not pass the common sense test. Trust me. The Church is indeed driving people away because of this issue. People see the Church as unforgiving. I know these people. Most of them are EX Catholics who are now going to Protestant churches because they feel more accepted. This is a shame. A shame on the Church. Christ did not emphasize rules. He simply did not. As Pope Frances said early in his papacy, “we should err on the side of mercy.” I pray that he will address this issue at the Synod, but I am not holding my breath. This will be my last post about this topic. I appreciate you all taking the time to respond. I know you are doing it from the best of intentions, but I must disagree with my Church on this issue.
    God Bless.

    1. Tommy,

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you read and enjoy it here. You were more or less my target audience for this post, so I really appreciate your honest and forceful feedback. I know some other readers already responded to your initial comment, and there’s not a whole lot more that I would add to their responses.

      I did want to hone in on one particular area, already mentioned by Timothy and Restless Pilgrim. In your initial comment, you said, “You can go out today, murder someone in cold blood, then realize you have done wrong and go to confession.

      Amen! There’s no limits to God’s mercy. But if you were planning to kill someone on Friday, you couldn’t go to Confession for it on Thursday. Why? Because you’re obviously not repentant, if you’re planning to go ahead with it anyways. That’s not a limit to God’s mercy. That’s a limit on our willingness to receive His mercy.

      So apply that same principle here: if someone is divorced and remarried, and is sexually active with someone who — in the eyes of God and His Church, isn’t their spouse — what does that Confession look like? Are we talking about someone who is actually willing to stop sinning? Or are we talking about someone who asks for forgiveness while still doing the thing that they know to be wrong?

      You said that this teaching causes people to leave the Church. Absolutely! Jesus has many of these kinds of hard teachings, and if we’re only willing to take Jesus on our own terms, we’re going to end up unhappy, because He calls us to more. Recall the reaction of the crowds after He taught the Real Presence: “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” […] After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:61, 66).

      You say that Jesus wasn’t into rules, and you try to pit Jesus against the Church. But Jesus is the Chief Shepherd and Head of the Church (1 Peter 5:4; Colossians 1:18). She is His Body and His Bride. You can’t have one without the other, which is why persecution of the Church is described as persecution of Christ (see Acts 9).

      Read what Christ has to say in Matthew 19. When the Mosaic Law on marriage is brought up, Christ’s correction of it isn’t to make it looser (as you might imagine, envisioning Him as not being really into the rules), but to make it much stricter, to the point that the Apostles are shocked (Mt. 19:10).

      Finally, you mention mercy, which is the focus of my post. But what you’re describing isn’t mercy, but indulgence. Your perspective on this has been the divorced and remarried party. But there are other people involved in the situation, and hurt by it. Making divorce easy is a false mercy, both to the divorcing party, and to their kids and spouse, and everyone that they hurt along the way. Christ is all about mercy, and mercy looks like strong rules on marriage for precisely this reason. If you want to see how “merciful” weak rules on marriage are, just look at modern American society, at all the wounded young people who’ve grown up in shattered homes, at all those who’ve given up on the very idea of marriage. Read the stats on juvenile crime and teen pregnancy for kids who grow up in single-parent households. Like I said, that’s a false mercy.

      People who have been divorced and are civilly remarried are living in a state that risks the salvation of their souls. That’s not a problem that we just put a band-aid on so that they feel welcome. We’re called to a much more radical, uncomfortable mercy, trying to draw them in to have their wounds healed. In calling them to repentance and encouraging them to repair their wounded relationship with Jesus Christ, we’re pointing out the path of true mercy.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    2. Tommy said:

      The Church is driving people away because of its slavish obedience to rules.

      No, Tommy. People are leaving the Church because they don’t want to submit to God’s rules.

    3. Tommy, I suggest you read Matthew 7:13-14.

      If your faith is a popular one, that should be cause for concern. The fact that many people are falling away from the faith and that there are few who agree with the Church on all matters of faith and morality is actually a very encouraging sign. There are very few Catholics, and there are many people who call themselves Catholic.

  7. Thank you, Joe. After 33 years of marriage, my husband has “civilly” divorced me. I regularly go to confession and receive communion. He does not – yet he regularly attends mass and cantors. And, yes, he is now applying for a marriage license while our marriage is considered “valid and sacramental”. I pray for him daily – it’s like having a prodigal husband. I plan on moving far, far away once I can sell my home because it is difficult to be in the same town – but I would be offended to my very core if all of a sudden the Church said that my vows meant nothing, and that he was free and clear, after having once said that my marriage was valid and sacramental. I am still living my vows. I have never betrayed him. My focus is on my faith and my family. It’s difficult to put into words – but what protections do we, who are left behind have – other than the Church? No one else is telling him that his actions are wrong. Everyone else is applauding him for finding a young girl – the same age as his daughters. Society once “shamed” men who did such things – not anymore. Now we wives are considered throwaways – and, because of “no-fault” laws – we are left destitute in the process. Mercy for the divorced and re-married – not feeling it.

    1. I’m sorry,but I must respond to your post. It seems there is a grave misunderstanding of my original post. In NO WAY am I saying divorce is Okay. In no way am I saying that the Church should sanction divorce. I have been married to the same woman for 26 years, and happily so. I have nothing but sorrow for people who are in your shoes, and I know some who are. Your husband has committed adultery and is not free to participate in the sacraments. You, however, being the victim, are. You are also free to remarry and receive the Eucharist. My concern is about the Church’s definition of a Valid Marriage. Some people, like yourself, through no fault of their own, find themselves divorced from a man or woman who either cheated on them, beat them, beat or abused their children, etc… These people, over time, have remarried outside the Church and now find that they are not free to receive the Eucharist unless they get an annulment. This is my concern. I am in no way endorsing divorce or asking the Church to endorse divorce or say your vows meant nothing. I am wanting the Church to recognize the gritty realities of life. People are not perfect. Sometimes, people marry someone they thought they knew, but that person turned out to be something entirely different. They Church should not force these people to go through an annulment after they have remarried. The Church should recognize marriages from other Christian churches, as it does baptisms in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what my post was about. Not sanctioning divorce. Some of the responses to my post felt like legal briefs. Like they were prepared by lawyers. And we all know the problems Jesus had with lawyers. He could never get them to see the Spirit of the law instead the letter of the law. I feel the Church is acting in the same manner on this issue….wanting to dot every i and cross every t instead of showing mercy on those who have divorced for a “valid” reason. I feel very sorry for you. I know it must be horrible having a spouse leave and forsake their vows. I shall pray for you. I know people who are going through what you are going through. It is tough. I know a woman whose husband cheated on her and left her. Then divorced her. She found another man over time and married him outside the Church. She then discovered that she was not welcome to receive Communion. This is my concern: people like you, not your husband. The words I have for your husband are not fit to include on this post. My concern is for people like you, not your husband. Sorry for any misunderstanding or poor wording on my part. Again, I am so sorry for what you are going through.

    2. Thank you for your prayers – I can always use the support. But, because I understand and love my Church, why would I ever consider re-marriage? Why would I place myself in that position of committing adultery myself? I,too, am called to chastity and celibacy by my husband’s actions. I have had to explain that to someone who wanted to ask me out (I felt like I was back in college – having to explain why I couldn’t go out on dates this time around). I hate being alone – but God has filled my life with my children and grandchildren to fill that void.

    3. Tommy,

      I don’t really get where you’re coming from. So far, you’ve disregarded:

      (1) human reason: when several other people gently showed you where you were wrong, and why, you simply waved it away as too “lawyerly,” and hinted that Jesus would have a problem with these people;

      (2) the explicit teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church: The Church forbids anyone to divorce and remarry and receive the Eucharist. But you place yourself above Her authority, and declare, “You are also free to remarry and receive the Eucharist.”

      (3) the explicit words of Jesus: the real Jesus says, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). You say the opposite, that the abandoned party is free to remarry.

      So far, the only authority you’ve cited has been the Imaginary Jesus in your head, who says not to worry about the law, man. On that authority, we’re to disregard the real Jesus’ explicit teachings, as well as the teaching authority of the Church (teaching authority given Her by Jesus Christ, btw), and anything approaching human reason?

      I.X.,

      Joe

  8. As I understand it, in the Synod of the family, the Church is considering the question of how the divorced and remarried are going to be treated in the Church. Pope Francis is asking that they not be treated as though they are excommunicated. Which, in my opinion, means that some mechanism for forgiveness of their sin be accepted and implemented in order that they be admitted to the Sacraments and receive the helping grace of our Lord in this age when the family is besieged from so many sides.

  9. There are a few possibilities that could result from the Synod:

    1) A textual reading of Trent/the Cardinal Burke option: i.e. no communion whatsoever until the death of the spouse that canonically hinders the validity of the ‘second’ marriage.

    2) A historical reading of Trent. Session 24 made an explicit decision to not condemn the Eastern praxis.

    http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/it/quaderni/articolo/3461/matrimonio-e-%C2%ABseconde-nozze%C2%BB-al-concilio-di-trento/

    (Chrome’s translation into English is good enough to get the gist of it).

    And:

    http://www.ancientfaith.com/specials/orientale_lumen_conference_xviii/archimandrite_robert_taft_sj

    Fr. Taft, erudite as always, summarizes some of the historical work on Trent in a German text that isn’t available in English.

    This view would interpret Trent in a way that would recognize that the indissolubilem unitatem was nevertheless dissolved (though withering away on its own, and not as a consequence of committing adultery). We shouldn’t be so cavalier in rejecting this counter-intuitive interpretation either because Trent EXPLICITLY says that matrimony can be dissolved. Matrimonium ratum non consummatum ie Matrimony contracted but not consummated can be dirimi dissolved, in canon 7. We see also see that language in canon 3.

    Trent’s language doesn’t only include impediments to matrimony impeding the act of marriage itself, but also can dissolve the marriage after the fact.

    3) The third option is that the Synod could affirm that the marital bond between the first couple does indeed exist, but for couples who regret their irregular second putative marriage but nevertheless have significant pastoral reasons to stay together (and to remain separated from their true spouse) could be re-admitted to Eucharistic communion without remedying their state (while expressing contrition in their heart).

    That’s already not a pastoral aberration too far outside the normative praxis for other sins since this is routinely done for men who regret their vasectomy but aren’t required a second surgery as a precondition for being restored to Eucharistic communion.

    I wouldn’t be very surprised if Pope Francis went with Options 1, 2 or 3 and I give them relatively equal probability.

    My concern is for the people who advocate Option 1 and say that 2 and 3 are ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE.

    What happens to those people if the Synod does go the other way? Do they lose their faith altogether? Join the SSPX?

    It’s one thing to dismiss 2 and 3 as fanciful and wishful thinking and highly unlikely. It’s another to dismiss them as impossible.

  10. This view would interpret Trent in a way that would recognize that the indissolubilem unitatem was nevertheless dissolved

    O, so the principle of non contradiction is done away with.

    Yay!!!!!!!

    It is great to be alive during a revolution

  11. Traditional examination of conscience:

    SIXTH PRECEPT
    TO OBSERVE THE LAWS OF THE CHURCH CONCERNING MARRIAGE.
    Have I entered into marriage or aided any one else to do so without permission from the Church to marry or before a State official or a Protestant minister; or without dispensation within the forbidden degrees of kindred; or with any other known impediment?

    Let’s just start a bonfire and officially destroy Catholic Tradition on Oct 31 st, the celebration of the protestant revolution ,and let’s just stop kidding each other that we are not destroying doctrine

    1. Did you miss the words, “permission by the Church”?

      Have you ever read the words:

      Matthew 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      And do you know what they mean?

      Tradition is one thing. Discipline is another. The Church is free to change any discipline whenever she believes it is beneficial to the laity.

  12. Mighty Joe Young,

    History is clear that permitted remarriage is a minority tradition in the historical record (Lactantius, St Basil), but its praxis is there nevertheless rightly or wrongly.

    That it is in the record proves nothing. As St Cyprian says, “…custom without truth is the antiquity of error.”

    So what can we say?

    A penetential second marriage *is* a tradition and not a novelty.

    That Trent forbids it– case closed? Maybe. But more interestingly for the Synod, maybe not!

    I say again: There are no less than three ways the Church can respond, each with their own problems.

    1. A fourth way is for the Church to confess that it has, for the most part, completely failed to teach its millions of members what exactly IS Catholic marriage, and that there has been a MASSIVE failure of catechesis over the last 40 years which is only now starting to turn around somewhat. Since most of these Catholics have very little understanding of the Sacrament of Marriage in the first place (or any sacrament for that matter), they are in a position similar to the Roman soldiers who crucified the Lord. Indeed they were doing an evil act, but the Lord also knew that they were largely ignorant of the magnanimity of what they were doing, and so we learn from the Lord’s prayer for them: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing”.

      With so many poorly catechised Catholics being married on a daily basis, the Church is in a situation similar to the illegal immigration problem that we have today in the U.S. Because the US greatly needs low cost farm labor it has been accustomed to ‘turn a blind eye’ to the enforcement of it’s immigration laws and thereby permits, and even encourages, multitudes of illegal immigrants to cross our southern border. Only after this illegal immigration starts to be a highly noticeable problem does the government, and media, then begin debate about the almost impossible job of deportating such large numbers of people, and so amnesty for them becomes an easy proposition.

      I think the Church is now in a similar position regarding Catholic marriage. Parishes have let countless millions of Catholics to marry without these same parishioners (practicing or not) knowing WELL the conditions required by the Church and it’s canon law. In my personal experience, I’ve seen this in almost every Catholic wedding that I’ve participated in over the last 30 years. Attention paid to true Catholic faith and doctrine was at the bottom of the list of things done to prepare for Catholic a wedding. Also, in almost every case premarital sex before marriage was the norm. So, in my opinion, overlooking true catechesis before marriage is like letting the immigrants cross the southern border ‘willy-nilly’. And only when the Church views the magnitude of the problem do they need to call for Synods and conference to deal with the problem.

      But the solution is always available, both for the US and for the Church. CLOSE the borders of both, until the correct and legal conditions are met. For the US, immigrants can enter according to laws we already have on the books, and we can make new ones if necessary. For the Church, Catholic sacramental marriage can be given to a man and a woman who truly confess their faith in God and His holy Church, and it will also be done in FULL AWARENESS of Canon law and its responsibilities. Like the border crisis it might be hard to do…but still, with the help of God it can be done.

      Just my opinion.

    2. AwlmsOctober 14, 2014 at 11:37 AM
      A fourth way is for the Church to confess that it has, for the most part, completely failed to teach its millions of members what exactly IS Catholic marriage,….

      Mea culpa, friend. Is it a failure to teach or a failure to learn? The Church successfully taught many more millions who were not divorced, what marriage is about.

      Unfortunately, self-centeredness often prevents people from hearing the loving messages taught by the Church, until it is too late.

    3. De Maria,
      In my case of reversion to the faith it was the Church that failed to teach me in an effective way. It wasn’t until I went to a library to investigate what a ‘Saint’ was, that I pulled out a book on the “Life of St. Francis”, and was within 2 days completely converted (reverted?). No one ever approached me, or spoke to me about Saints before, and so I had no idea of what it really meant to be a lover and follower of Christ. But the life of St. Francis did the trick for me, even without anyone else to talk to. Slowly, I met others in the Church who read about the Saints and other holy Catholic literature, but they were few and far between.

      Knowing how valuable this type of literature is led me to give away almost all of my Lives of the Saints books to others over the years. Now I give out mainly Catholic Radio cards to thousands of people (i.e.. 20,000 cards last Saturday at the 2014 San Francisco Rosary Rally led by Archbishop Cordileone). In doing this, I’m trying to do to others what was never done for me when I was ignorant…by actively seeking them out and giving them holy literature and local EWTN Catholic Radio info. Hopefully some of them might find in it the treasure of spirituality that it really is? (As a side note, I also give out this website to any who seem capable of benefitting by it when I talk to them)

    4. Awims,

      I’m a revert myself. I came back to the Church when my wife conceived our first child. I guess it was at that point that religion became important enough for me to seek for God.

      Your mission sounds awesome! When I first came back to the Catholic Church, I also hungered to explain the aspects of the Faith which I didn’t understand when I was growing up. And which I think, ignorance of those things, in part, led me to leave the Church.

      However, in my case, I don’t think it was the Church’s failure to teach which was the problem. Like all the other kids, I went to CCE. But I had no interest in religion.

      Let me give you a comparison. When I was in school, I was a great student. I was the kid who raised his hand and answered most of the questions. I got A’s. When I was in high school, I got the highest score in my school in the SAT.

      But, in CCE, I was the kid who covered his face with the book so that the Priest (yes a Priest taught me CCE, I guess that sort of dates me) wouldn’t call on me. And I barely passed. I could memorize any old filthy ditty that kids would repeat in the playground. But I couldn’t memorize my basic prayers. When I went into the confessional for the first time, I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. I was pleasantly surprised that the words were taped on the wall. So, no, I can’t blame the Church for not teaching me. I simply didn’t care enough to learn.

  13. Dear Joe,
    I want to take this comment in a different direction, so please humor me. There is a lot of hype/excitement/anxiety around the latest document, which is being called “Relatio.” I, as an outsider, would find it helpful for some clarity on the process for creating and the process for clarifying/editing doctrine in the Roman tradition. I understand this to be a”working document” and not doctrine yet. One member said something like “the Pope just creates doctrines” at the adult Sunday school class, which I responded that it was not so simple because there were also Doctors of the church, like St. Augustine, and there were ecumenical councils that have vitally shaped doctrine. I felt his comment was stating “the Pope says it, and it is law.” I stated that a Pope can speak on any topic, and Pope Francis does, but that his statements do not instantly change RC doctrine. He looked very confused. We are going to talk next week about the role of tradition in the Roman Church and the role of scripture in the Protestant churches.(Spoiler, Catholics do read and use scripture and Protestants do utilize tradition!!!) I am sure there are brothers and sisters in the RC that hear some Protestant people say “the Bible says, I believe it, and that ends its” and have the same confused look on their face, which is clearly not what Sola Scriptura is about. We often over simplify things of other faith traditions to the point that we end up making a straw man logical fallacy.

    So could you do me a favor and help us understand the process for creating doctrines and clarifying doctrines? (they may well be two very different processes)

    P.S. it is too bad you are in Rome right now because KC is going crazy for the Royals. I have never seen so many bandwagon fans in my life!!!

    1. Doctrine is the truths in the Original Deposit of Faith as a result of Divine Revelation and we come to understand that Original Deposit of Faith ever more deeply and fully under the guidance of The Holy Ghost.

      Doctrine is not created by man.

    2. Rev. Hans,

      I did get your message, and I love the Royals post-script. I think I’ve been a bit obnoxious on Facebook: too much talk of baseball for my religious friends, and too much talk of God for everyone else. Non je ne regrette rein.

      More seriously, your question is multifaceted, so I won’t pretend that what follows is an exhaustive answer. Instead, these are a just a few points that might help you present your (much needed!) talk:

      1) Doctrine isn’t true because the Catholic Church says it’s true. Rather, the Catholic Church says it because it’s true. We can’t make a true thing false simply by denying it.

      2) The Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church: “the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”

      3) The Catechism is very helpful in explaining the basics here. Read paragraphs 84-95. You might also read parts (particularly section 10) of Dei Verbum, the Vatican II document on Sacred Scripture: it’s the source for many of those Catechism quotes.

      4) Doctrine does develop over time, but “develop” isn’t a euphemism. For example, the Church didn’t immediately define the intricacies of the Trinity and the dual natures of Christ on Pentecost (CCC 249-256 alludes to some of the development of doctrine related to the Trinity). In Acts 15, we see that even points that we would today consider basic were hashed out over time, and with disputing. Sometimes, it’s not clear why a position is right or wrong until you have time to talk it through.

      So a lot of what we call doctrinal development is really one of two things happening: (i) the Church grasping the connections between truths that she already holds [e.g., she knows the Father is God, that Jesus is God, that the Holy Spirit is God, that the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and that there is only one God; the Trinity is simply the explanation of how these things are all true], or (ii) determining when a debate is settled. At a certain point in the conversation, it’s sufficiently clear that one side is advocating something heretical, that she’ll step in and put a stop to it. This is a sort of “negative definition”: by saying what the Church doesn’t mean by her teachings, we come to a deeper understanding of what she does mean.

      There is a third way of doctrinal development, also: the application of existing doctrine to new circumstances (for example, what does the Gospel have to say about bioethical issues?). But what she can’t do is “develop” by denying something she’s previously affirmed. The Trinity is a natural development of what the Church taught from day one about the divinity of Christ, etc. If, instead, the Church were to suddenly claim that there were multiple gods, that wouldn’t be a “development” of doctrine, but a denial of doctrine. Last week, Cardinal Pell put it this way: “We’ve got to be intellectually coherent and consistent. Catholics are people of tradition, and we believe in the development of doctrine, but not doctrinal backflips.”

      5) I’ve written a post on point, by the way. I haven’t found a better way to express this idea since then, really.

    3. 6) In addition to doctrine, there’s also discipline. Oversimplifying things a bit, doctrine refers to what we believe, discipline refers to how we put those beliefs into action. So, for example, the Church can call upon her faithful to fast, to abstain from meat on Fridays, to promise celibacy before getting ordained, etc. These aren’t things that Christ ordered, but things which the Church has decided are a sort of “best practices.” On these disciplinary issues, the Church uses her prudential judgment, and her authority over the faithful. [Every church everywhere has disciplines, but they usually don’t call them that / aren’t aware that they exist. Simply in declaring the date and time of church services, you’re enacting a church discipline]. Since these rules come from the Church, she can change them if she would like to… as she did by relaxing the rules around abstaining from meat on non-Lenten Fridays.

      7) As you said (bravo, by the way!), Church teaching isn’t determined from every word that comes forth from the mouth of the pope. If the pope is speaking ex cathedra (by explicitly employing his authority as pope to define a doctrine), he is capable of speaking infallibly; so, too, is an Ecumenical Council. That’s the highest level of authority. But there are other degrees of authority by which the Magisterium can act.

      In 1998, the CDF released an Oath of Fidelity for theologians (to make sure Catholic theologians were Catholic) that carefully distinguished the level of assent required to different types of teachings. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a phenomenal “doctrinal commentary” explaining the different levels of teaching authority, and the sort of teachings that fall into each level.

      Hope that helps, and best wishes for a good talk – it’s an important subject to discuss as we try to grow together as brothers in the Lord.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    4. Joe,
      Thank you so much for these links! They are most helpful in showing the way of how the Roman church helps to clarify doctrine. It makes me appreciate the Lutheran system of governance, though I will probably need to be reminded of this before and after our annual Synod Assembly. Has anyone ever tried to make a flow-chart for how doctrine is clarified? It would be quite the undertaking.

      Also, did you feel that great breeze in Rome? I figured you would feel that huge sweep from the Royals on the other side of the pond. Peace!

    5. I just sent you a facebook friend request. I hope you accept.

      Also, I saw you asked on FB for places to go this summer. If you are going to go somewhere, then you so go all hardcore. First, a Catholic leper colony in India is very hardcore, http://crs-blog.org/the-loss-of-pain-inside-a-leprosy-colony-in-kolkata-india/ . Second, to help the Palistinian Christians is a life-changing experience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_the_Palestinian_territories .

      I would personally recommend CPE at some point during seminary, which is often done during the summer for seminarians. I had my summer CPE unit with hospice in CA, and one of my closest friends from that experience was as Roman seminarian. St. Luke’s has the most amazing CPE program in the KC metro area, and you could save money by staying local. I know people who have gone through the St. Luke’s CPE program and can personally vouch for it.

  14. 1 Thess 4

    Our Lord and Saviour told us it is the will of God that we be sanctified and saved and this Synod is aught but a temptation of its Creator. The Lord is an avenger and in his exegesis of this passage, St Thomas warned his readers of this truth as he reminds them to flee sins of the flesh – even the carnal sins one commits with one’s own wife.

    The Cardinals and Bishops at this Synod are on spiritual quicksand and they ought to depart the Synod and save their souls for after the Synod has promulgated its execrable excuses for mortal sin, their objections to same will ring hollow – besides, who will hear them when Our Pope will accept that which has been planned long in advance?

    Is there any sentient being who thinks the Pope does not approve of the evil already promulgated?

    Come on…we were not all born last night.

    1. There is a difference between Doctrine and discipline. This Synod is addressing the discipline of the Church regarding certain Doctrines. Not the Doctrine. Doctrine will not be changed. Indeed, it can’t be.

    2. Is there any sentient being who thinks the Pope does not approve of the evil already promulgated?

      Me. It seems to me that Pope Francis is surveying the available options, trying to figure out what in the world we can do for the messy pastoral situations that we find ourselves in with millions of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. His role even during the Synod itself, has been primarily one of quietly listening to the bishops speaking. If he were trying to push some sort of heretical agenda, I would expect him to take a more dominant role (at least behind closed doors at the Synod itself).

      I.X.,

      Joe

    1. Well, now that the bats have spoken, I will proceed to root, root, root for the Royals (up through this year’s Series). After all, if the Orioles have to lose to somebody, I want them to be the best!!!

      Well played, KC!

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  21. I agree with Joe, De Maria’s argument though undertable from the point of being merciful “providing a mechanism for forgiveness… by receiving the Sacrament” but still falls short of the Truth of the Gospel. The mechanism is already there set by Jesus and his Church that is to repent, confess and sin no more, only then can one receive the Holy Eucharist. What this Amoris Letitia and some bishops are proposing is the acceptance of sin under the pretenses of false mercy. This is NOT the Gospel of Christ, but rather a clever maneuver of the Devil that sadly many in the Church have fallen.

  22. So only way for the remarried to receive communion is: no sexual relations with current spouse, get a civil divorce from second spouse and stay celibate or get an annulment for the first marriage. Is this correct?

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