Archbp. Müller (CDF) on Communion for divorced/remarried. Liberals’ panic to follow.

In tomorrow’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano there is a long essay (4000+ words) by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbp. Müller, on the hotly-debate issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried.  (I haven’t checked it against the Italian yet.)

I mentioned that I had been hearing rumblings about a piece in L’O for a little while.  This seems to be it.

Müller opposes the various solutions that have been presented for the divorced and remarried.   This is not to say that the Prefect believes it impossible for the Church ultimately to find a solution to the dilemma.  Rejecting some proposed solutions is different from rejecting any possible solution.  (Please, those of you in Columbia Heights, don’t freak out when you read that and dash about like Chicken Little.  Theologians make distinctions.  Rejection of proposed solutions could be part of a process.)

At the core of Müller’s piece there seems to be a dismantling of all the arguments that depend mostly on “mercy” without the concomitant dimension of justice, the Lord’s own teaching, etc.

This is going to be spun by the left as the Bad Guy’s attempt to stop Francis.

Müller won’t be presented as the voice of reason.  No, he will be the Bad Guy.

Fishwrap will say something nasty about him, something personal, like, “Now that Müller is secure in his appointment as Prefect, he feels free to attack ‘mercy’.”

Then they will find a picture of Müller scowling.

It is so predictable.

Here is a sample from Müller’s piece:

A further case for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in terms of mercy. Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. This is correct, but it misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental theology. The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same. An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man. Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.

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70 Responses to Archbp. Müller (CDF) on Communion for divorced/remarried. Liberals’ panic to follow.

  1. pseudomodo says:

    Throughout the previous thread on this subject, no one mentioned anything regarding the practice of the Church with the so-called Pauline and Petrine Privilege.

    Is this situation simply a logical foray or extension into the ‘Petrine Privilege”?

  2. ChrisRawlings says:

    Forgive my ignorance of how the Curia works, but isn’t the head of the CDF basically the go-to guy when it comes to doctrinal matters? Obviously the Pope can overrule him, I suppose, but I thought that the head if the CDF was like a doctrinal mouthpiece fir the Church. Wouldn’t it be an issue if supreme confusion and certainly contention if the Pope simply ignored what the CDF says?

    What I’m saying is that the Reporter can spun this as a Mullerian coup, but isn’t this like Francis himself opining on the issue?

  3. FranzJosf says:

    Wow. This whole situation is really confusing. (In a way, it makes the old public relations machine, much criticized for being at cross purposes, look positively on the ball and consistent.)

    - Pope “Who-am-I-to-judge” Francis calls an extraordinary Synod, on whose pronouncements we are told to wait.
    - Freiburg Archdiocese announces it will make its own changes.
    - CDF prefect doesn’t wait on the Synod either, and sounds positively Ratzingeresque, not withstanding his supposed sympathies for Liberation Theology.

    Surely, he wouldn’t have made this strong statement without a go-ahead from the Holy Father, or would he?

    All very confusing.

  4. The Masked Chicken says:

    Refreshingly clear and sensible. I am truly sorry for divorced and remarried Catholics. Catechists and some pastors are partly to blame by not providing adequate explanations of the nature of marriage, but anyone wanting to go to Communion has enough understanding of the nature of things to have known something about the indissolubility of marriage beforehand. Who ever, ever, ever told them that the Catholic dogma (for, it comes from Christ) regarding divorce could be changed by any Pope or Council or any lesser god?

    I am truly sorry for them, but they know what they have to do if they want to come back to the sacraments.

    The Chicken

  5. pseudomodo — the short answer is “no.”

  6. Mike says:

    CDF prefect is also noted as saying women deacons are impossible.

    Same guy two summers ago that had trads on the ceiling….

  7. wolfeken says:

    Father Z wrote: “This is not to say that the Prefect believes it impossible for the Church ultimately to find a solution to the dilemma.”

    The solution is a moratorium on annulments [No. That is not a solution. When a case is presented to a tribunal, the process of seeking the truth begins. People have the right to a judgment.] and a generation or two of education on what the sacrament of matrimony really is, complete with mandatory minimums required of couples (this will mean priests saying the dreaded “no” word to lapsed Catholics, sometimes for the first time in their lives).

    The sacrament is currently a complete joke, where half of novus ordo marriages are deemed invalid upon a simple request. If annulments are not restored to a very, very, very grave reason (drunk at the altar, shotgun pointed at head, etc.) then the joke will continue, synod or no synod.

  8. ChrisRawlings says:

    It is notable that Pope Francis has never indicated any kind of change to the admission to Communion for remarried folks. The Pope paranthetically noted the Orthodox economy of salvation and spoke about mercy towards divorced and remarried people. Some Vatican observers took that to mean that changing the law with regards to the divorced and remarried was a real possibility.

    But this wide interpretive framework is nothing new. Catholics left and right bought into it as well as with regards to his “who am I to judge” or “can’t insist only on these issues” comments. We are Catholics, people, we don’t read tea leaves. Yet so many construct an entire doctrinal program for the Church based on heavy inference from the Pope’s comments in a few interviews. Did he say any of it explicitly? Nope. Implicitly? Not really even that, if we’re fair about it. I am guilty of this, too, I should add. But the only people really surprised about this are those who bought their own hype.

  9. WesleyD says:

    ChrisRawlings wrote:

    Forgive my ignorance of how the Curia works, but isn’t the head of the CDF basically the go-to guy when it comes to doctrinal matters? Obviously the Pope can overrule him, I suppose, but I thought that the head if the CDF was like a doctrinal mouthpiece fir the Church. Wouldn’t it be an issue if supreme confusion and certainly contention if the Pope simply ignored what the CDF says?

    This is exactly correct. Perhaps the Prefect of the CDF might speak without consulting the pope on something entirely routine, but given that this is a “hot topic” — and indeed, a topic that the pope himself has referred to — I think it would be astounding for the Prefect to make a public statement without consulting with the Pope first.

    That being said, this is not a formal statement by the CDF, but rather an informal statement by the individual who happens to be its prefect. So there is no reason to suppose that the pope actually read the entire statement word-for-word before it was released; Abp. Müller might have simply asked him during one of their periodic meetings, “Holy Father, there has been some confusion about so-and-so, and with your permission I would like to write a piece for L’Osservatore Romano clearly reaffirming the Church’s tradition on this matter.”

    Of course, this is just speculation on my part, but this is how it worked in the pontificate of JP2. Cardinal Ratzinger met with him regularly (once a week, if I recall); they spoke (in German!) about whatever was happening. And there were several “informal” statements made by Ratzinger in press conferences or in L’Osservatore Romano that resulted from these meetings.

  10. Robbie says:

    Mueller may be Prefect of CDF, but he’s just one opinion. The Synod may be influenced by him, or it may not be influenced by him. I’m sure his views carry weight with some, but I suspect the modernists really don’t care what his personal opinions are. Regardless, if Francis wants something done, I doubt the Bishops will turn him down.

  11. thomas tucker says:

    Of course, divorced and remarried Catholics will continue to receive Communion regardless of what the prefect or the Holy Father have to say. They do it every Sunday. And if they don’t care what the Church says about divorce and remarriage in the first place, why are they going to care what the church says about Communion?

  12. Magash says:

    wolfeken,
    At least in the United States something like 50% of annulments concern possible sacramental marriage between individuals who were not Catholic at the time of their Marriage. Many if not most concern someone who was married either civilly or in a Protestant sect often to another person who was not even baptized. Since neither participant is likely to have believed 1) That Marriage is a Sacrament. 2) That Marriage is for life. it is very hard for me, at least to see how this kind of situation describes a Sacramental Marriage, which requires that the participant of the Sacrament understand both facts, as well as the intention to remain open to the blessing of children. This does not even cover the Marriages which are invalid due to lack of form in the other 50%,because a baptized Catholic married either civilly or outside the Church.
    I believe that something that would go along way toward solving a good portion of the dilemma would be for the Church to change her default stance on whether marriages performed outside the Sacramental control of the Church are valid. In the absence of pre-Cana instruction and Sacramental Marriage witnessed by a priest the Church should default to the stance that the marriage is invalid or at least not a sacramental marriage. Let the penitent be required to notify the other party and require that party to prove validity if they choose to contest before the tribunal. This would not effect Sacramental Marriages at all. The default there would still be to declare the Marriage valid and it would go to the Tribunal just as now and require the penitent to provide proof for annulment.

  13. pseudomodo says:

    Magdalen Ross says:
    pseudomodo — the short answer is “no.”

    The Apostolic ‘privileges’ refer to dissolving purely natural marriages or valid but non-sacramental marriages. Thus the ‘Pauline’ and/or ‘Petrine’ privilege. These dissolve marriages when one converts to the faith and the partner refuses to live peaecfully. Thus they are said to be ‘in favour of the faith’.

    For marriage contracted by both baptized parties with sufficient knowledge of the faith, then they are bound for life.

    For marriages that were or are apparently or to all outside appearances sacramental, these can be dissolved through annulment where the marriage had a serious enough defect to begin with that is discovered later.

    Divorced and remarried catholics could possibley be in this category.

    I know some…

  14. Jerry says:

    @Magash: “At least in the United States something like 50% of annulments concern possible sacramental marriage between individuals who were not Catholic at the time of their Marriage. Many if not most concern someone who was married either civilly or in a Protestant sect often to another person who was not even baptized. ”

    When discussing marriage, many people treat the terms “valid” and “sacramental” as being synonymous: this is true only when both parties are baptized Christians.

    For a marriage to be sacramental, both parties must be baptized Christians (meaning a valid Trinitarian baptism). If either (or both) are unbaptized the marriage may be valid (hence the requirement for a declaration of nullity for all who have been previously married if their former spouse is still living), but it will not be sacramental.

  15. jacobi says:

    Why does everyone including the good Cardinal make such a meal of it (4000 words)? It’s all quite simple really.

    Sex outside a valid marriage between a man and a woman, is a mortal sin. Catholics who have been validly married cannot be divorced. If they choose to obtain a civil divorce and remarry, then that is adultery, sex outside of the valid marriage.

    There is as always a solution. Such people should do exactly as all others outside a valid marriage are required to do – abstain from sex. Chastity.

    Of course they should attend Mass and receive Grace for doing so. But like all others in a state of mortal sin, whatever sin that may be, they do not receive Holy Communion until they commit to, in their case, chastity.

  16. johnnys says:

    “An objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. ”

    Wow…did the Archbishop get to the heart of the matter here or what! Liberals and modernists read John 8:11 like this…..“Neither do I condemn you.” For them it ends there but Jesus goes on to say “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” But for the libs if you ignore that second part then there is no sin, no judgement. No sin means no need of Church doctrine. I think this was and is the aim of the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II crowd. Separate Jesus from His Church.

  17. McCall1981 says:

    I’ve already read someone saying that this is “the Curia” doing an “end run” around Francis and his G8 Cardinals.

  18. Sissy says:

    From a news report after Pope Francis’s trip to South America: “Pope Francis added at the time that Church law governing marriage annulments also “has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this. It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage.”
    Such problems, he said, exemplified a general need for forgiveness in the Church today. “The Church is a mother, and she must travel this path of mercy, and find a form of mercy for all,” the pope said.

    Pope Francis didn’t have to call a Synod to discuss the status of the divorced/remarried Catholics. He could have let stand Blessed John Paul II’s instruction (that those who cannot separate must live as brother and sister and not give scandal). The fact that he has called a Synod on this issue suggests to me that he believes that there is more that needs be done to assist some couples/families in this situation.

    We are talking about two different classes of persons affected by this situation. One class is Catholics who “knew or should have known” what they were getting into when they were married in the Church. I think they should be held to the highest standard. The other, at least 50% of couples involved, were not Catholic, and perhaps not even Christian, when they married the first time. For these couples at least, it seems that justice might include recognition that they really didn’t comprehend that they were entering into and knowingly consenting to a marriage that could never be dissolved.

  19. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same.”

    Wow. Does that ever get at the heart of it, or what?

  20. robtbrown says:

    pseudomodo,

    Annulled marriages are not dissolved but rather declared that there never was a bond. The Pauline and Petrine privileges exist because they make Sacramental marriage possible to someone whose situation made it impossible–thus in favor of the faith.

  21. Tom Piatak says:

    An excellent essay by Archbishop Muller. One might even be tempted to call it magisterial!

  22. LadyMarchmain says:

    Well said, Thomas Tucker.

  23. RJHighland says:

    Wow that actually was very clear and unambiguous I am rather shocked. Clear Catholic teaching from a Cardinal in Rome that is new I like it. I pray they keep it up.

  24. BBJohn says:

    Father Z,

    I do not mean to sound like a very uncaring person but why should we accept remarried couples back in to the Church [They are "in the Church".] when they are in a sinful relationship? What is our acceptance taken to be, quiet easily, acceptance of their new marriage? It feels like we would be saying “we accept your new marriage but the Church just can’t do anything because of the rules.”

    Shouldn’t such couples fix their life first before coming back?

  25. pmullane says:

    Hmm, I can see this one playing out:

    Francis calls a synod to address a genuine problem. The Synod will examine questions and put findings before the Pope. The media, professional ‘progressive’ Catholics, some nuns who may or may not be high on mind bending fungi, and the rest of the Cult of ‘the first Pope we’ve ever liked Francis the First’ fan club will decide that the Pope wants to change the Church teachings so that divorced & remarried, civilly partnerred, cohabiting, protestant, muslim, and others will be able to receive Holy Communion (They will neglect the fact that this teaching is more a eucharistic one than one dealing with the pastoral care of ‘divorced’ & ‘remarried’ Catholics. They may posit a restriction on Communion for Republicans, gun owners, people who drive SUV’s, Hitler (but not Stalin), and people who ‘like’ Sarah Palin on facebook). They will ignore the fact that in the parishes where they have a sphere of influence, it is de facto the case that these groups are encouraged to go to communion anyway, and it has had zero impact on addressing the pastoral needs of such groups.

    Back on Planet Earth, Pope Francis will agree and promulgate some kind of compromise where the pastoral care of such people and their families will be addressed. This will likely involve straightening the annulment process so that it is cheaper, simpler, less time consuming and takes into account the dire situation of catechetical formation in some areas. It may devolve some powers down to the Dioceses. What it wont do, is change what is fundamentally about the Eucharist and who can receive it. It will be designed to make it easier for Catholics who want to come back to participating in the life of the Church to straighten out their lives. That is a good thing that should be hoped for by all.

    Meanwhile, the aforementioned group of radicals will decide that Pope Francis wanted to change all the rules to everything they have ever wished for, so that Remarried people, gay people, devil worshipping people, dogs cats and cattle can receive Holy Communion, but was frustrated by the ‘men in gray cassocks’ in the Curia (boo hiss). They will express their disappointment, a painfully small group May gather in Rome under a rainbow banner and shake their ordination tambourines at the dome of St Peters cause, well, that’ll show em. Then they will realise that nothings going to change and will wait on Pope Francis the First the Second to come along and call together Vatican Council III which will declare 1968 year zero, ordain all women immediately, etc etc. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, the end.

    [Nice little rant! Well done.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  26. Pingback: PopeWatch: Surprise | The American Catholic

  27. Wolfeken–there is nothing simple about an annulment. It is a rigorous process.

    I loved this:
    God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.

  28. jjoy says:

    jacobi,

    Everyone is called to live chastely according to their state in life. The word you are looking for is Continence.

  29. Supertradmum says:

    Good, just remember, clarity is from God and confusion is from the devil.

  30. robtbrown says:

    NB: Abp Mueller is not a Cardinal.

  31. The Masked Chicken says:

    pmullane,

    So close. What you meant to say was:

    The Book of Francis {MSM translation)

    Chapter 1

    And The Francis said, “The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the first day.

    And The Francis said, “Let there be a rainbow before a lavender sky. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the second day.

    And The Francis said, “Let there be a new annulment and a new tribunal. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the third day.

    And Francis said, “Let the earth bring forth ignorant Catholics who can’t count and who have no grandmothers to slap their hands. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the third day.

    And Francis said, “Let there be a river of booze flowing in the bars so that the ignorant Catholics may get drunk and sleep together. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the fourth day.

    And Francis said, Let the women contracept and the men be viagravated. Let the grass flourish like weed good for the smoking. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the fifth day.

    And Francis said, “Come, let us make man in our Catholic High School theology class image. The world will turn, a dog will bark, night follows day, ” – the sixth day.

    Then Francis saw what he had made and it was very good.

    By the seventh day, Francis was finished re-making the Church, so he rested, but the MSM wanted to add an eight day, so Francis, in his wrath, sent a violent electromagnetic pulse that bit all of their electronics making them have to print their stories on rocks with chisels and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Book 2…

    [p.s. - for the humor impaired, this is NOT a swipe at Pope Francis, but at the mainstream media's interpretations of the fixing of the divorce and re-marriage problem and, yes, I know there are two third days - read what happens on the days]

    The Chicken

  32. The Masked Chicken says:

    Man, everything I write is going to moderation.

  33. Imrahil says:

    Dear @wolfeken,

    the only thing the Church could do in that direction is a law forbidding people with annulled putative marriages to marry, except exceptionally allowed by a certain Curial office.

    Annulments, however, one cannot stop. The only thing they do is to determine whether a marriage existed or didn’t, and that’s no matter of Church policy.

    Generally,
    with this “priest inquiring” thing, there is such a thing as a right to Sacraments. An engaged couple that approaches a priest within reasonable time (read a couple of months) to be married and that is not bound by a previous bond or forbidden by Church law, with at least one Catholic of them (the mixed marriages question comes under Church law), has a right to be married.

    I think even mandatory participation in marriage preparation programs is highly problematic from that point. Think of a couple thoroughly practicing the Faith, and suppose the specific programm is not ideal…

    And that is also true about Catholics who, say, repeatedly sin against the Third Commandment.

    Frankly, preventing of a couple to marry lawfully (and only the sacramental marriage is in that sense lawful for Catholics) would have been considered temptation to fornication in the ossified reconstructed manuals. Of course that is assuming they are not yet fornicating anyway, but still… worth a thought.

    Dear @BBJohn,
    I think we should remember that rather illegal solutions get their support for a reason. Which is that, at least in what is presented, the respective lives are, or are thought to be (I talk about the impression, here) largely unfixable. A drug addict can stop to take the drug. But can a Catholic trapped in a remarriage after divorce – and that such is forbidden is unchangeable, because the Bible explicitly says so – simply leave the partner (never see the children again and move to another town to resist temptations) without acting against his, or what he perceives to be his, moral duties?
    Note that I am not thereby suggesting a solution, but a problem.

  34. robtbrown says:

    My impression is that this synod about Catholics in a bad marriage was triggered by pre-conclave talks and/or the advisory group. IMHO, there are lots of bishops who hope that Rome can come up with a “Pastoral Solution” that will permit Communion to the Divorced and let them off the hook. And there are others who oppose that policy, know that certain priests are encouraging the internal forum approach, and are tired of reading stories from Germany–they want it settled once and for all.

  35. rhhenry says:

    Could someone please explain why when discussing marriage the Church abandons the terminology used for the other sacraments — i.e., valid / invalid and licit / illicit are replaced by sacramental / non-sacramental and valid / invalid?

    It would seem to me that valid, non-sacramental marriages are (in the terms used for other sacraments) licit but invalid — licit because the Church does not (legally, canonically) object, but invalid because no sacrament was actually celebrated.

    Any history about this would help me — for some reason my brain can’t simply accept that in this case the terms are different; I for some reason need to know the “backstory” in order to understand.

    I apologize if this takes the thread too far off-topic . . .

  36. Magash says:

    Jerry,
    I well understand the difference between valid and Sacramental. What I’m somewhat fuzzy about is why the Church should care about non-Sacramental valid marriages. Why dose a marriage which is not Sacramental need an annulment? Christ said. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” What indication is there that God had anything to do with a non-Sacramental marriage? In any case what does “valid” mean in this case?
    As I understand it to be valid the following conditions must be met (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister.
    In the case of baptized individuals married outside the Church the last condition is waived, so that if two Methodists marry the Marriage is considered valid (and even Sacramental if both convert to Catholicism.) The same waiver exists for a Baptist and an unbaptized person who marry in front of a Justice of the Peace or other civil official allowed to civilly marry.
    I guess my question is why? If the authorized Church minister is not there why should the Church consider the marriage valid? Before the Protestant Reformation there wasn’t even such a thing as civil marriage, at least not in Europe. At least not since ancient times. Sacramental marriages were the only kind and you weren’t validly married if there wasn’t a representative of the Church there.
    Civil marriage between non-baptized are routinely considered not valid by tribunals, some diocese don’t ever require they be reviewed and the bishop or even the pastor is allowed to declare them so. Why should not the same stance be taken by the Church in all cases of Marriage outside the Church. Simply require couples to Sacramentally Marry if they convert and consider all other unions not to require a annulment.
    If God did not bless the union why should the Church have to decide whether he did or not?

  37. BBJohn says:

    Fr Z.

    I don’t argue that they are in the Church. I am saying in the sense of excommunication. It used to be that the Church did have a policy where remarriage meant excommunication, automatically.

    Didn’t St. Paul ask the faithful and say it was their responsibility to remove Catholics who engaged in public sexual immorality from the community? Why is this not valid today?

    Thanks for any clarification you can offer in advance.

  38. Sissy says:

    BBJohn, Blessed John Paul II said that if a remarried couple could not separate for a “serious reason” (young children, serious illness, etc) and were willing to remain continent, and did not give scandal (perhaps by attending a parish where they were not well-known), then they could continue to live together (following confession) and still receive Holy Communion. It seems uncharitable to me to assume that we know a particular remarried couple isn’t abiding by these conditions.

  39. robtbrown says:

    Magash,

    1. The Church is concerned with non Sacramental marriages because marriage is a natural institution (Supernaturalized by the Church), and the pope and ordinaries claim jurisdiction over behavior. Every other Sacrament is intrinsically supernatural.

    2. Once again: Marriages that are purely natural are considered valid. And so they are dissolved not annulled.

    3. That the Church can dissolve them follows from Pauline/Petrine Privilege, which is found in Scripture.

  40. BBJohn says:

    Sissy,

    But what about the injustice it causes toward the other spouse who is possibly left alone with children? It puts that spouse in a place where they are tempted to just carry on and get married themselves.

    Should a man and a woman be living together before marriage? I thought the answer was no. Then why should we allow an unmarried man and a woman (which is what a remarried couple really is), live together?

    I am not saying I am definitely right on this matter. But I really cannot see how it is justified for the Church to just accept people back in without undermining justice.

  41. BBJohn says:

    To add to that, I cannot see how one can accept a gay couple in to Church unless they stop being a couple.

    In the same way, I don’t understand how a remarried couple can be allowed in before they stop being a couple. Otherwise it is sexual immorality or scandalizing in the least. A “married” couple is assumed to engage in sexual intercourse. Why should we assume that a “remarried” couple is continent while putting themselves in near occasion of sin and living together?

    As I said above, I admit I maybe wrong and perhaps even without compassion. But I just don’t see how to be compassionate here to the extent of just accepting remarried men and women in Church life without undermining justice.

    What happens to our responsibility as Catholics to make sure we remove those who continuously engage in sexual immorality (which is what a remarried couple does), from the community for their own good and that of the community?

    You can’t just say “well no one saw them have sex” because a “remarriage” implies that they are having sexual intercourse as husband and wife. Even if they are not, they still think they have some valid union and the previous commitment to ones actual spouse is forgotten.

  42. Magash says:

    robtbrown,
    I am not disagreeing with anything you have said. My point is that the Church considers a natural marriage valid by default even when entirely civil in nature., but dose not consider a civil dissolution of marriage valid by default. Because the Church insists on this position many people who would otherwise not be require to go through the process of petitioning the Tribunal are required to do so. When a Sacramental Marriage is involved there is really no choice. Only the Church can decide a Sacramental Marriage was invalid, and she has chosen to do so using the Tribunal process. However for natural marriages, while the Church has the power to dissolve those marriage actively through the Pauline/Petrine Privilege there is nothing that requires she use the Tribunal process to do that. She could just as easily set up a process which accepts that since civil authorities recognizes natural marriages the process that they use to dissolve them can also be recognized, without further investigation. This would prevent the process that exist now and requires penitents to interact with ex-spouses, sometimes from natural marriages that were dissolved civilly decades ago in a process that takes no less time than an investigation of a Sacramental Marriage. Under the present system a Catholic who chose to be married outside the Church can fairly quickly get an annulment for lack of proper form, while someone who was married in a civil ceremony while a Baptist to an atheist must spend over a year trying to get the Tribunal to agree the marriage is invalid. In the process the atheist spouse, who does not believe in the institution of marriage in the same way as a Christian, can attempt to sabotage the proceedings out of a petty sense of revenge and even if the petition is granted the penitent might have had to wait to be accepted into full membership in the Church, due to a subsequent marriage.
    Since the Church believes that natural marriage are dis-solvable why not take this more pastoral approach to natural marriage?

  43. wolfeken says:

    “my soul waits for you alone” wrote: “Wolfeken–there is nothing simple about an annulment. It is a rigorous process. ”

    Something is “simple” in my book when there is a near-100% chance the request will be granted. When I turn on my light switch, the light almost always goes on. A “rigourous process” would be if I have to do all sorts of different things each time I flip the switch because I was unsure if the light would or would not go on.

    Just about every one here who is married can get a civil divorce, apply for an annulment in his diocese, and the annulment will be granted.

    That sounds simple to me. And quite broken, making a complete mockery of the sacrament of martrimony.

    More and easier annulments are not the answer to the marriage and divorce problem.

  44. mightyduk says:

    I think a few folks here are mixing up concepts between natural marriage and sacramental marriage. Natural marriage exists and are real and normally indissoluble, it requires only effective consent. Sacramental marriage requires more, and in the case of a Catholic it requires canonical form. The Church does and has always acknowledged natural marriage, and has always presumed it’s validity. The annulment process is required to examine defects in marriage both natural and sacramental. What many here are advocating is for the Church to presume that all natural marriages are invalid, ie. not marriages at all, thus, natural marriage doesn’t exist. The Church has never taught this, so it would be an invention out of convenience.

    It’s a terribly unfortunate situation when people divorce civilly and attempt re-marriage without the benefit of an annulment of the first attempted marriage, but it would be worse for the Church to ignore the presumed natural marriage and/or annul it without sufficient evidence that there is a defect, to do that would be to change the unchangeable doctrine of the Church.

  45. Sissy says:

    BBJohn said: “Then why should we allow an unmarried man and a woman (which is what a remarried couple really is), live together?”

    I understand your concerns and sympathize to some degree. However, you asked why such couples aren’t excommunicated, and I gave you the answer (affirmed by Pope Benedict, as well). The reason “we allow” this situation is because the Pope is our leader. I’m confident that Blessed John Paul II took into account the relative claims to justice by all the parties involved when he formulated this approach.

  46. Magash says:

    I’d like to know where you get your statistics wolfeken. To begin with this is a very difficult statistic to pin down. It is not just a matter of looking at how many petitions are put before the Tribunal. Many obviously valid marriages are weeded out at the parish level, that is they never go to the Tribunal because the parish priest tells the people involved that it is unlikely that their marriage is invalid and that petitioning will be a waste of time. More are weeded out at the diocesan level, as weak cases are often referred back to penitents with the warning that they will probably be lost before the Tribunal. I have seen a number as high as 10% for this.
    Perfectly the number of marriages declared invalid by the Tribunal should be a high percentage because frivolous petitions are stopped by the pastors and diocesan staff. Just as in a criminal court successful prosecution percentages are high because prosecutors don’t bring a case they can’t win so only likely cases are sent to the Tribunal.
    Do you count lack of canonical form cases? Some diocese send them to the Tribunal and in others the bishop or even the pastors are allowed to rule on them. A lack of canonical form annulment is a slam dunk, as the marriage does not meet one of the criteria for validity-the presence of a minister of the Church. So any Catholic who was married on a beach by some Protestant minister or the mayor of Podunktown was invalidly married. If they are submitted to the Tribunal that will inflate the numbers. Canonist Ed Peters, in his Homiletic & Pastoral Review (Nov 1996) article claims that at that time 25% of Tribunal annulments were for lack of canonical form.
    In present society many (most) non-Catholics contracept. If a couple marries with the expressed intention by one or both of the participants to contracept then the marriage is invalid. This alone makes most marriages in the United States invalid.
    Numbers I have seen seem to put annulment rates in the high 80% range. Your statement that “anyone can get an annulment” is not factual in that many who would like to have an annulment never appeal for one because they are told by their parish priest that they don’t have a case. Others who are in broken marriages do not even attempt to get one because they know themselves that their marriages are valid and do not even speak to their pastor. They simply get a civil divorce and either leave the Church or live a chaste single life and like those warned off by their pastors don’t even show up in the numbers. Also annulment petitions by non-Catholics, either because they wish to marry a Catholic or because they wish to convert are not usually broken out. Such individuals obviously never attended pre-Cana instruction prior to their marriage and it is quite likely that their intentions and understanding of the institution of marriage at the time of their natural marriage was not in line with the Church’s. So how many marriage reviewed by Tribunals are Sacramental Marriages and how many are simple potentially valid marriages? I don’t know, but I think that that statistical number is also important to the discussion.

  47. Magash says:

    “What many here are advocating is for the Church to presume that all natural marriages are invalid, ie. not marriages at all, thus, natural marriage doesn’t exist. The Church has never taught this, so it would be an invention out of convenience.”
    Thant is not at all what I am advocating. I am not advocating that Church not hold that natural marriages are valid, merely recognizing that they are not insoluble. The Petrine Privilege allows dissolution by the Pope of a valid but non-sacramental marriage between a baptised and a non-baptised person. That indicates that natural marriages are not insoluble. If they can be dissolved for the sake of the Christian involved then it is within the Pope’s province to set the manner in which they can be dissolved. This can includes a bias toward the stance that they are dissolved if civilly dissolved rather than the current bias that they are not dissolved unless reviewed by a Tribunal in the same way Sacramental marriage are.
    I am advocating no change in the Church’s teaching on natural marriage only on Her response to natural marriages that have already been found broken by the same civil authorities which have recognized them. Natural marriage between non-baptized persons who have been divorced are already treated this way in many dioceses.

  48. jhayes says:

    BBJohn wrote: What happens to our responsibility as Catholics to make sure we remove those who continuously engage in sexual immorality (which is what a remarried couple does), from the community for their own good and that of the community?

    The Church does not teach that there is a “responsibility [to] … remove” any baptized Catholic for any sin. We are a church of sinners. Even people who are excommunicated are not “removed” from the Church. They cannot receive the sacraments but are still obliged to attend Mass and they continue to be church members.

    You may be thinking of the pre-1983 Code of Canon Law. Before 1983. there were two degrees of public excommunication: The excommunicate was either a vitandus (shunned, literally “to be avoided” by other Catholics), or a toleratus (tolerated, allowing Catholics to continue to have business and social relationships with the excommunicated person). This distinction no longer applies.

    Even in those pre-1983 times, that applied only to excommunications publicly announced by the Pope or a Bishop. Most excommunications are not publicly announced because they are incurred automatically (as in the case of procuring an abortion).

    Excommunication is a medicinal penalty intended to encourage the person to repent and resume participation in the sacraments – not to put the person outside of the Church.

  49. Pingback: Divorced & Remarried Catholics - BigPulpit.com

  50. jhayes says:

    Here’s the last “vitandus” excommunicate I know of (assuming Wikipedia is right)

    “Frenchman Michel Collin or Colin, born in a village of Lorraine in 1905 and ordained a priest in 1935, announced in 1936 that he had been ordained a bishop by Christ himself. He founded a community called the Order of the Mother of God (a name later changed to “Apostles of Infinite Love”), in response to the 1846 request made by the Blessed Virgin Mary, as reported later by Mélanie Calvat, one of the seers of La Salette. In 1950 he announced that he had been crowned Pope and had taken the name Clement XV. Pope Pius XII laicized him in 1951 and publicly declared him, by name, a vitandus (one who should be avoided) excommunicate.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitandus

  51. Navigator says:

    Thank you for posting this link Father. It is a deeply thought provoking and welcome paper on a topic that regrettably affects me personally. I have one question about this though, which relates to Jacobi’s comment above, which has been troubling me.

    The Church’s position centres on the occurrence of a civil law marriage as being the scandalous, and grave matter. However this seems to me to be a false, and even misleading, focus.

    If I understand it correctly, the issue is of the grave matter of the act of adultery for one who is married. Further, the fact of the civil law marriage renders the act ‘public’, and therefore a scandal.

    However, adultery (which it should be remembered is the desire rather than merely the act) is rarely private – if there are children who are involved, they certainly witness the social aspects of the adultery where the third party is presented in the role, however superficial, of the absent spouse; friends are placed in challenging situations socially of accepting the new ‘relationship’; school yards of families confronted by the irregular relationship at pick up or at school functions (much more scandalous when the school is a Catholic one).

    Or to put it another way, why would those who carry on a full relationship, but do not co-habit or enter in to a civil law marriage, be considered to have committed a less grave sin? I believe some priests might ‘draw the line’ at co-habitation, but even the Archbishop does not use that boundary, which if my understanding above is correct, is also a ‘false’ distinction.

    I am also sad to say that I have experience of a separated person in an adulterous relationship using her receipt of Holy Communion as a validation of her behaviour, and justification to her (Catholic) children that her actions are ‘right’, and telling the children the Parish Priest said ‘there was no reason for her not to ‘take’ Communion’. This has been done in the full knowledge of the Parish Priest. What ought he do in this situation?

    To my question: is the Church in focusing on a civil law ‘remarriage’ undermining the central issues here by focusing on the ‘wrong’ public act? As a faith based on reason, I see an intellectual failing on the ‘trigger’ being civil law ‘remarriage’, which undermines the Church’s moral authority on this point.

  52. Magash says:

    Navigator,
    I think the point here is that of discernment by third parties of the state of grace of another individual. If I believe that someone is in a state of sin based on inference then it is wrong for me to use that belief to attempt to bar them from reception of the sacraments. In other words if two people who are not married nor cohabitating seem to have some kind of sinful relationship, but I have not actually observed them committing a sinful act then I am inferring that they are in sin. It is not within my rights to do that. Even should I actually see them engaged in a sinful act it is still not within my rights to call for their barring from the sacraments, since they could without my knowledge have availed themselves of the sacrament of reconciliation.
    Cohabitation or civil remarriage is a public act which does allow for a certain amount of certainty on the part of the Church. That does not make one kind of mortal sin worse than the other. As a matter of fact generally speaking no mortal sin is any better of worse from an individual perspective than another. Separation from God for eternity does not have levels of severity. One cannot be more separated or less. After death one is either destine to be present in the beatific vision or not. And the act of reception to the Sacrament of Reconciliation removes all sin.
    There is a saying in jurisprudence that tough cases make bad law. In some situations there are just not good universal answers to a bad situation which can be solved by legislation or rule making. I would hesitate to second guess a priest in a situation like this because it is always possible that he knows the situation better than I do. If you are the wronged spouse I am sorry that you must suffer this. The woman will have to eventually account for her actions. If she is indeed receiving communion in a state of sin that will be held against her. If the priest has precipitated that action then he will have to account for it. That is in God’s hands. As for the children involved, proper catechisis will eventually teach them the truth. But they should also be taught that we are all sinners and that while some sins are more disruptive to the community than others that generally speaking prayer for intransigent sinners is the proper response. Remember as jhayes has states above excommunication or any barring from the sacraments is a remedial action imposed to elicit repentance in the sinner not an act of punishment upon the sinner. That is to be left to God.

  53. robtbrown says:

    Magash,

    1. In the case of civil marriages, it is not a matter of the Church determining that the marriage was invalid. The determination of validity refers to its Sacramentality.

    2. My understanding of your question is: If the Church recognizes civil marriages as valid but not Sacramental (at least, for non Catholics), why does it not also recognize that civil divorce decrees have the authority to dissolve, which would relieve Tribunals of the work? I think the answer is that the Church’s jurisdiction over marriage permits dissolution, but it does not recognize civil authorities to have that same authority.

    3. Your other question seem to be why cannot the pope accept civil divorce as dissolution? The answer is that this is a matter of Ecclesiastical jurisdiction, which can only be given to priests. Even though lay people work on Tribunals, they cannot be the authority for the decision.

  54. robtbrown says:

    Re those in bad marriages compared to those who are not cohabiting but having a sexual relationship:

    It’s not a matter of judging whether or not someone is in the state of grace. That is a matter for God.

    People not cohabiting but having a sexual relationship are by definition in a less permanent relationship than those who are cohabiting, thus less like marriage.

  55. robtbrown says:

    As a matter of fact generally speaking no mortal sin is any better of worse from an individual perspective than another.

    That is untrue.

  56. BBJohn says:

    Sissy,

    I do not understand what it means to say

    “I’m confident that Blessed John Paul II took into account the relative claims to justice by all the parties involved when he formulated this approach.”

    The claim to justice is not relative. A wife was made a commitment by a husband (for an example). Then the husband to just go and start a new commitment is not JUSTICE in any form. JUSTICE has been violated and to let him continue in it is INJUSTICE. I find your attempt to make it in to a relative matter disgusting.

    jhayes,

    The Church teaches in the letter to the Corinthians that a sinner who CONTINUES to engage in sexual immorality (like a remarried couple who refuses to end the relationship) be removed from the community. I never disagreed with the medicinal properties. I am merely pointing out that no one seems to want to give the medicine today. Everyone just wants to accept and engage in injustice toward society and the former spouse and children.

  57. BBJohn says:

    Of course some may its for the good of the new “family” but two wrongs don’t make a right. There should be a firm insistence that the adulterous relationship END and that the person returns back to their real spouse or separate and remain chaste.

    To just have remarried couples participate in Church life apart from the Eucharist is a pathetic attempt to just forget the grave injustice caused, the spouse that was hurt, the children that were hurt and the other families and society that was hurt.

  58. acardnal says:

    “As a matter of fact generally speaking no mortal sin is any better of worse from an individual perspective than another.”

    As robtbrown noted above, this is not true, and this subject has been discussed previously on this blog.

    Just as the degree of holiness one obtains here on earth determines the degree of glory they have in heaven, the converse applies to mortal sin. Some are worse by degree than others and, therefore, the degree of punishment for those sinners will be reflected accordingly in hell.

  59. Magash says:

    “Just as the degree of holiness one obtains here on earth determines the degree of glory they have in heaven, the converse applies to mortal sin. Some are worse by degree than others and, therefore, the degree of punishment for those sinners will be reflected accordingly in hell.”

    I will admit that this is confusing to me. The punishment of hell principally in my thoughts results from the exclusion from the presence of God. Just as the reward of heaven principally exists in the act of being in the presence of God. Any attempt to add degrees to that make as much sense as discussing the number of angels on the head of a pin. What could possibly be worse than eternal exclusion from God? Certainly on Earth sins have degrees of damage that they do to the community. I can even see how the degree of severity of a mortal sin could effect the effort required in purgatory to make the temporal restitution that the sin might require. But once you have been eternally excluded from God’s presence what else could matter?

  60. Sissy says:

    BBJohn, it appears from your repeated references to an abandoned spouse that you think all remarriages involve guilty parties who knowingly sinned. This is frequently not the case at all. In many cases, an application to the tribunal involves an innocent party, abandoned years prior and not even Catholic at the time, who eventually remarries and forms a family. I’ll give you just one example from a recent RCIA class. A man in his 50s was an inquirer along with his wife of 25 years. They have 5 children. She has MS. The husband had a youthful first civil marriage that lasted 2 months. The 1st wife ran off with his buddy when the husband shipped out in the Navy. He never saw nor heard from her again. [He didn't even remember in what county there were married so he could start looking for records.]
    So, yes, he, his present wife of many years, and their minor children all have relative claims to justice. These people were not even Catholic when they got married. They married with the full approval of their former protestant minister. They had no clue they were doing anything wrong when they married. People like that are very common in RCIA. In my own RCIA group 100% of the catechumen needed to have their marriages regularized! There are estimates that at least half of cases before the tribunals involve converts. I don’t know if that’s true, but regardless of numbers, this situation is not cut and dried.

  61. acardnal says:

    “there is nothing simple about an annulment. It is a rigorous process.”

    Actually, in the USA a marriage lacking proper “form” (e.g. a couple married by a municipal Clerk, Justice of the Peace, etc.) can usually receive a Decree of Nullity relatively simply by filling out some paperwork and submitting it to the diocesan Tribunal.

    Example of Petition because of Defect of Form: http://www.dmdiocese.org/pdfs/about_us/tribunal/5_Lack_of_Form_Case_Forms.pdf

  62. Sissy says:

    acardnal said: “Actually, in the USA a marriage lacking proper “form” (e.g. a couple married by a municipal Clerk, Justice of the Peace, etc.) can usually receive a Decree of Nullity relatively simply by filling out some paperwork and submitting it to the diocesan Tribunal.”

    Doesn’t that only apply to folks who were already Catholic at the time of the first civil marriage?

  63. acardnal says:

    Regarding degrees of glory or beatitude in heaven, perhaps the below quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia is helpful:

    “There are various degrees of beatitude in heaven corresponding to the various degrees of merit. This is a dogma of faith, defined by the Council of Florence (Denz., n. 693 — old, n. 588). The Bible teaches this truth in very many passages (e.g., wherever it speaks of eternal happiness as a reward), and the Fathers defend it against the heretical attacks of Jovinian. It is true that, according to Matthew 20:1-16, each labourer receives a penny; but by this comparison Christ merely teaches that, although the Gospel was preached to the Jews first, yet in the Kingdom of Heaven there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that no one will receive a greater reward merely because of being a son of Judah. The various degrees of beatitude are not limited to the accidental blessings, but they are found first and foremost in the beatific vision itself. For, as we have already pointed out, the vision, too, admits of degrees. These essential degrees of beatitude are, as Francisco Suárez rightly observes (“De beat.”, d. xi, s. 3, n. 5), that threefold fruit Christ distinguishes when He says that the word of God bears fruit in some thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundredfold (Matthew 13:23). And it is by a mere accommodation of the text that St. Thomas (Supp:96, aa. 2 sqq.) and other theologians apply this text to the different degrees in the accidental beatitude merited by married persons, widows, and virgins.

    [...]And after the last judgment accidental beatitude will receive some increase from the union of soul and body, and from the sight of the new heaven and the earth.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07170a.htm

    I hope that the good robtbrown can add some of St. Thomas’ theology, too.

    Realizing that the soul is a spirit that doesn’t occupy space or time or have any dimensions, I like the analogy of our souls being bottles of different sizes. Some may be 6 ounces, others 12 ounces and some are gallon size. Each reaches its “beatific” created perfection when completely filled (with beer perhaps?) but yet some have more volume or quantity than others. At the same time, it could be said that they are all perfectly content and happy and fulfilled in the given state for which God created them to be. The same can be said of created souls.

  64. acardnal says:

    Sissy wrote, “Doesn’t that only apply to folks who were already Catholic at the time of the first civil marriage?”

    I think Question 4 in below FAQ answers your concern:
    http://www.dmdiocese.org/divorced-and-catholic-faqs.cfm

  65. Sissy says:

    acardnal: Thank you for the response and link, but it doesn’t answer my question. Item 4 at the link addresses civil divorce. Your earlier comment addressed civil marriage. The Tribunal does not simply dismiss the civil marriages of non-Catholics for lack of proper form when they seek to enter the Church and regularize their remarriages. That avenue isn’t open to couples who were not Catholic at the time of the civil marriage. If it were, there would be a lot of happy converts! I think that could be one possible outcome of the synod on divorced/remarried couple, however.

  66. acardnal says:

    Sissy, you’re right. I misunderstood your question. A Decree of Nullity would still have to be granted to the two non-Catholics who were married in a civil ceremony but the “Lack of Form” reason would not apply to them.

  67. Magash says:

    “Actually, in the USA a marriage lacking proper “form” (e.g. a couple married by a municipal Clerk, Justice of the Peace, etc.) can usually receive a Decree of Nullity relatively simply by filling out some paperwork and submitting it to the diocesan Tribunal.”
    A stated by Dr. Peters in his 1996 article.
    “Tribunal judges have virtually no discretion in the handling of canonical form cases; it is as close to an utterly objective type of case as canon law has. And yet canonical form cases consistently account for up to 25% of all the annulments being granted in America.”
    Edward Peters, “Annulments in America: keeping bad news in context”, Homiletic & Pastoral Review (Nov 1996) 58-66.
    So that leaves 75% of annulments which do follow a rigorous process. Having dealt with the high number of RCIA candidates that are involved in this process I can tell you that it is neither quick nor painless.
    As mentioned before by me I think that to get a useful number on annulments and whether they are given too freely that one must exclude the lack of form annulments and also exclude the annulments requested by RCIA candidates. I suspect that number is at least 50% of approved annulments.
    I may be wrong but that would leave only 25% of those who successfully petitioned for annulments as Catholics who should have received pre-Cana instruction before marriage and can be said to have an actual concept of the nature of Sacramental Marriage going in. Considering the poor state of catechisis in the United States for the past 50 years does anybody think that the state of pre-Cana instruction has been any better?
    In the same article I cite above Dr. Peters states that contraception is not a canonical impediment to marriage. I don’t see how that can be reconciled with the requirement that the couple must be open to children for the marriage to be valid. Perhaps Dr. Peters, who I know follows this blog (and has post above) might be able to explain why that is? If the couple starts out there is it surprising that they could end up with their marriage before a tribunal?

  68. Magash says:

    acardnal,
    Thank you for the quote. That does make it more understandable to me, though it does not speak of the opposite case, that is damnation. I can see how one might apply what one knows of the positive experience of heaven to the negative experience of hell. Barring information to the contrary I will accept that interpretation thankfully.

  69. Sissy says:

    Magash: I think the exception available is if one or both parties had made a firm decision to definitely not have children (sorry, I can’t cite to any authority). I don’t think planning to use abc qualifies.

  70. acardnal says:

    Magash,
    Regarding degrees of suffering in Hell, another quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    Characteristics of the pains of Hell
    “(1) The pains of hell differ in degree according to demerit. This holds true not only of the pain of sense, but also of the pain of loss. A more intense hatred of God, a more vivid consciousness of utter abandonment by Divine goodness, a more restless craving to satisfy the natural desire for beatitude with things external to God, a more acute sense of shame and confusion at the folly of having sought happiness in earthly enjoyment — all this implies as its correlation a more complete and more painful separation from God.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm

    Degrees of suffering and punishment in Hell and degrees of glory in heaven are a belief of both Catholicism and Christianity in general. There are many scriptural quotations that speak to this, too, but I can’t go into them here. Here is a link to one non-Catholic source, but I suggest doing a Google search “degrees of suffering in Hell” and you can read more:
    https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=212