H.E. Most Rev. Michael Sheehan Archbishop of Santa Fe, NM has issued a Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating.
Archbp. Sheehan had this letter read in all parishes of that Archdiocese.
I think this pastoral letter could be seen as a stage in the New Evangelization. But then, I am not a Cafeteria Catholic.
Let’s have a taste of the first part of his letter with my emphases and comments.
Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. [No cringing, sensitive, apologetic beginning. He gets right into it.] The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God. [In other words, “repent and believe the Good News (Gospel)”.]
First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no “third way” possible for a Christian. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions. [“Amen!”, brother! Tell it!]
We have three groups of people who are living contrary to the Gospel teaching on marriage:  those who cohabit;  those who have a merely civil union with no previous marriage;  and those who have a civil union who were married before. [There are consequences…] These people are objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best – and this is, sadly, often the case – they are ignorant of God’s plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God’s commandments and His sacraments.
Of these three groups, the first two have no real excuse. They should marry in the Church or separate. [Again, he is not cringing, he is not watering the message down with weasel words.] Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” – as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin. [OOH-RAH!]
The third group, those who were married before and married again outside the Church, can seek a marriage annulment and have their marriage blest in the Church. Please remember that divorce still is no reason to refrain from Holy Communion as long as they have not entered into another marriage or sinful relationship. Many Catholics are confused on this point.
Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them – not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same. In accord with this, I would remind you of the following:
There are 6 points, including not being able to receive Sacraments. Not just Communion, but also Penance, unless you are changing your life. They can’t be EMCH’s or sponsors for Baptism or Confirmation.
Apply this to the situation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the attacks on the canonist Ed Peter’s for pointing out the obvious!
The columnist for NCFishwrap, Heidi Slumphf, had – in the name of Fishwrap - a little tiff about Archbp. Sheehan’s pastoral letter.
Sheehan’s threats to cohabitating couples [threats!]
By Heidi Schlumpf
Created Apr 06, 2011
by Heidi Schlumpf  on Apr. 06, 2011
Two comments:I wonder if Sheehan will widen his rule against “sinning godparents” to include other sins? [Which means… what? I think she is trying to be sly. But Archbp. Sheehan has addressed things that are public not private. Marriage, civil or in the Church, is a public, verifiable relationship. ]
[Now she displays her new and hard-won expertise, which allows her to critique the Archbishop…] And, having just finished teaching a college course on “Persuasion,” [A course, perhaps, on 19th c. English novels?] I’m struck how un-persuasive this letter is. [Arguments can be legitimately attacked through the procedure they follow, or through their premises. Archbp. Sheehan’s premises are the perennial teaching of the Church and her positive law derived from both natural law and divine positive law. The argument is pretty straight forward: if you are doing X then you can’t do Y. If Heidi has a problem with the Archbishop’s letter, does that mean she doesn’t accept his premises? She doesn’t say she disagrees with anything he says. But wait… Heidi is going to be sly again.] But then I wonder if that is its purpose. [It seems…] It seems Sheehan has no real interest in persuading or teaching, but rather only punishing those who disagree with him. [HUH? Let’s get this straight. The Archbishop issues a clear document short enough to be read from pulpits. It is correct in every respect. She doesn’t say she disagrees with what he says. She doesn’t openly dissent from its teaching. Instead, she is applying to Archbp. Sheehan what the NCR and others applied to the “Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come”, Bp. Olmsted of Phoenix over the dust-up with the formerly Catholic hospital that did abortions. Bishops who talk clearly and straight, even when they are right (or within their rights, in the case of Bp. Olmsted) are mean. They are mean old mean meanies. They want to punish instead of affirm. The way you affirm is never to mention sin and never to apply any consequences to anyone for any reason. Be accepting, even when what the people are doing is demonstrably and objectively contrary to divine law. And, if you are forced to talk about these things, you must always, always, cringe and wring your hands, and use soft, mollifying words, which people can more easily ignore.] Oh, and making those who already agree with him happy for “laying down the law.” I think we’ll see a lot of that in response to this letter. [I’m one of them.]
WDTPRS Kudos to Archbp. Sheehan.