Communion for divorced/remarried. Ed Peters on what’s at stake.

Sacramental marriage is either indissoluble or it not.

Over at his fine canon law blog, canonist Ed Peters has something to say about an upcoming, building controversy.

Let’s understand what’s at stake
by Dr. Edward Peters

I suspect we’ll see more of this in coming months: [Yes.] certain Catholics, including some prelates, calling for the admission of divorced and remarried Catholics to holy Communion, which calls will be lionized by the secular press, [Not to mention the Fishwrap!] of course, and only occasionally countered by other Catholics, such counters being dismissed by the secular press. Pope Francis’ governing style seems unlikely to put the kibosh on pro-reception agitation or, for that matter, to discourage its occasional rebuttal. So we’ll just have to deal with it. [I am not sure about that.  I suspect that Francis puts the kibosh on whatever he doesn’t like.]

[NB:] To me, though, the whole thing is rather simple: either holy Communion is Who the Church says it is or it isn’t; either typical divorce and remarriage by Catholics constitutes objective grave sin (nb: no one is reading souls here, rather, one is noting public conduct) or it doesn’t; and, either those manifestly remaining in objective grave sin are prohibited from reception of holy Communion, or they aren’t. [Plain, clear thinking like this, rare, will be swept aside!]

Now, since time immemorial, the Church has answered all three questions affirmatively. But if she were to answer any ONE of those questions negatively, Eucharistic discipline would certainly (and immediately, and drastically) change for divorced and remarried Catholics—and inevitably for several other groups, too. [Such a thing would introduce cataclysmic doubt among the people of God through the whole Church.] Those calling for this momentous change need, therefore, to understand exactly what they are asking the Church to do; those opposed to the change need to understand exactly what’s at stake in the call. [This means YOU.  Get that?  DID YOU?]

Now, frankly, no one in the Church is challenging the Church’s answer to the first question, but, if the Church decides that typical divorce and remarriage is not objectively sinful for Catholics, and/or if the Church decides that holy Communion need not be withheld from those who openly persist in objectively sinful conduct, then we are all in for, as the saying goes, interesting times.

We are in for interesting times.

In the meantime, remember that Archbishop Müller published that piece which was surely known and approved by Pope Francis.  HERE

Get ready for you who defend marriage to be accused of being cruel, of hating mercy.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ray from mn says:

    If “divorce and remarriage” are to be declared “unsinful” that wouldn’t matter much to me, not having married in the first place. But could I nominate a few of my favorite sins for being moved to the “unsinful category?” I’d save a lot of confession time. Probably a few gallons of gas, too.

  2. paulbailes says:

    This sounds like the devil’s game plan 1967 all over again. Start a push to review dogma (then contraception, now adultery aka remarriage after divorce), then sit back and watch while people anticipate a convenient decision. When dogma is belatedly confirmed (what else!), the damage has been done.

    All Satan in concerned about is getting souls to Hell. If he can get that result from the HF simply taking his eye of the ball for a while, that will do. A papal apostasy might be nice, but not necessary.

    IMHO, Paul VI is not such a hero for publishing Humanae Vitae, rather something of a villain for letting doubt grow in people’s minds (and then not acting against the resistance to his encyclical).

    Likewise, as the clock ticks, Francis is culpable *by the hour* for not putting the kibosh on this spurious speculation. Indulging people in their futile dreams is no mercy. When we find that Catholics have given up on the sanctity of marriage (as they have on the contraception issue), an eleventh-hour declaration by Francis re-affirming the Church’s unchangeable teaching won’t wash to excuse him from responsibility for the practical apostasy of millions.

  3. McCall1981 says:

    Are they talking about actually giving communion to the remarried,? Or is it about streamlining anullments and that kind of thing?
    This whole issue is very disconcerting.

  4. Lisa Graas says:

    I think I should offer my two cents as one who obtained a civil divorce with the blessing of the Church (via a priest who counseled us) and who has continued to live as married and separated. Folks, there is no one on this earth who is worth giving up Jesus Christ.

    The state says I am divorced. The Church says otherwise. It’s the Church I listen to.

  5. snoozie says:

    how, oh how, does this POSSIBLY square with Matthew 19? If this happens than why is any adulterer not admitted to Holy Communion?

  6. StJude says:

    Thanks Lisa for: “Folks, there is no one on this earth who is worth giving up Jesus Christ.”

    I am in the same boat and those words are comforting.

  7. paulbailes says:

    Bravo Lisa! (and StJude)

  8. Phil_NL says:

    It will revolve around the third question, of course. ” (T)hose manifestly remaining in objective grave sin are prohibited from reception of holy Communion, or they aren’t” – well, the interesting thing is that, on the whole, a remarriage carries with it the assumption* of objective grave sin, but de facto pretty much nothing else does. Not even voting for abortion-enabling laws, for example…. One can more easily find bishops defending withholding communion from remarrieds, than withholding it from pro-abort politicians.

    So it is a bit peculiar that we single out remarried couples. Of course, two wrongs mdoes not make a right, and the canonical solution would be to deny the latter category as much as the former. But in terms of making one’s position vulnerable, the treatment of politicians certainly is relevant and didn’t make it any easier for the church to stay the course, quite the contrary.
    Moreover, and here we get to that ‘*’ , I frankly I don’t see how a remarried couple is sinning more or differently that an unwedded cohabitating one. Behavior is the same, the latter didn’t bother to get a piece of paper, but is otherwise just as public (or private). The justice-of-the-peace-wedding-license of the remarrieds isn’t worth cowdung in a spiritual sense. I can understand the instinctive objection from people used to a unified – i.e., secular marriages are marriages, ecclasisatical marriages are marriages – approach to marriage, but even countries where that has been the norm have since warped the concept of marriage as applied by the state in such a way that a distinction is needed (not to mention much of Europe had this distincition since Napoleontic times). A remarried couple did not attempt a sacrament which they were ineligable to receive (ecclasistical marriage), but got a get-a-tax-reduction-and-joint-ownership-of-property license from the state (what they call marriage, but is hardly more than a historical accident in terms of its nomenclature).

    Untill the Churh can get its policies straightened on all these fronts, I fully expect to see this matter pop up with increasing vehemence and frequency.

  9. Paul M. says:

    Phil_NL says: “a remarriage carries with it the assumption* of objective grave sin” and “Behavior is the same [between unmarried cohabitants and the re-married]”

    I don’t understand what you are suggesting is assumed in the case of remarriage. Divorce and remarriage itself is sin, and the Gospels of Luke and Matthew have Jesus Christ quoted as condemning re-marriage itself, and not just the assumed acts taking place within that re-marriage, as adultery. So what are you arguing is being assumed in the case of remarriage? The notoriety? If so, I think that we can’t avoid the notoriety. Marriages need witnesses for validity in secular law, just like canon law. They also take place before public officials or in public ceremonies or (in the case of common law marriage) have as the principal requirement the fact that the spouses hold each other out to the public as husband and wife. Thus, it is unavoidable that civil marriage is notorious, and this is besides the public filing that you mentioned.

    Second, there is a huge difference between unmarried cohabitants and the re-married. The former are fornicators. The latter are adulterers. The gravity is greater in the latter case due to the violation of the bond of matrimony.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Dear @McCall1981,

    they are. Whatever else is, hypocrisy is not a particularly German thing (given that this has a certain German drive behind it.)

    The problem is, taken points 2 and 3 combined, that it people reject the statement that those already remarried will go to Hell for not showing their partners the door, in any circumstance whatsoever.

    That the Church excludes not only the subjective, but also the objective grave sinner is only understood insofar as it is by some weird exception (and we’re not reading souls) that some sin might be merely subjective.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Paul M., I think the dear @Phil referred to those who cohabit after a divorce.

    Which, however, is better than remarriage, see Chesterton’s The Superstition of Divorce.

  12. Imrahil says:

    They, i.e. e.g. the German bishops, do not by the way suggest solubility of the marriage bond, but an Eastern-Orthodox style “lesser remarriage in spite of the existing bond” where, then, what is technically adultery becomes either allowed or a venial sin.

    I explain this because some time ago, I saw one here surprised at Bp Fürst upholding the indissolubility of marriage.

  13. jacobi says:

    You did well to highlight this Father. I agree there is a crunch coming.

    Divorced and re-married are in an objective state of mortal sin and if they receive Holy Communion, commit a further grave sin. A new factor these days is that frequently their motivation is social respectability, not the achievement of Grace. The Sacrament should not be sought ”out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect”.

    If the Church were to decide, or more likely under the present style, to imply, in the interest of a false idea of retention of numbers, that any of the three mentioned conditions no longer applied, then the concept of there being “two“ Churches, at present resting uneasily in the background, would come to the fore, and we would all have to choose between a Church in Continuity, and a Church of Rupture and heterodoxy.

    The Modernist/Relativist danger, and indeed Reformation, that St Pius X warned about, would have arrived, just as the Protestant Reformation did in the sixteenth century.

    Oh yes, we do live in interesting times.

  14. DaveH says:

    I agree with your comments and will also posit that, if changes are approved/modified, it will be the beginning of the end for the Sanctity of Marriage. One of the many comments I have made on articles relating to the German Diocese was: “If the Pope, whether implicitly or explicitly, would authoritatively join with this borderline schismatic diocese, it would gut the Sacrament of Matrimony and be the beginning of the end for the safety and security of the Family and monogamous marriages. No marriage would be safe, none would be permanent and fidelity would be thrown under the bus. Destroying 2/3rds of the marriage bonum would effectively null the Sacrament and marriage before the “I Do’s” are even spoken. Of course, that is already being done through specious annulments, so, in a sense, it would simply be an extension of that which is already in effect, which, again by extension, the Pope already approves of. It essentially would be the completion of the only known perpetual motion machine to exist and would be wholly (holy?) owned by the Catholic Church – fall into love, get married, fall out of love, get divorced, fall into love, get remarried with or without annulment, get to receive Holy Communion with or without annulment, fall out of love, get divorced…” “The hoops that divorced Catholics may need to jump through are of their own making, not the Church’s. They are and remain those peoples problems and it is they who need to change and correct the problem within established laws and doctrine of the Church under the proper pastoral care that protects and preserves Church Doctrine, The majority should not be forced to endure a change that would only benefit a minority who chose their own predicament to begin with.”
    And a couple of followup questions: Why is Holy Mother Church trying to Bless the usurpation of the first marriage by Blessing the grave sin of the second? Why is Holy Mother Church full of compassion for the divorced and remarried, but has no concern for the effects “tolerating” divorce has had on the innocent spouse and children of the first? As I mentioned, destroying 2/3rds of the safety and security of Catholic marriage will effectively render it a useless and unnecessary Sacrament. And then the bewilderment dawns when Marriages, families, Mass attendance, and donations suddenly nosedive in the God-Is-Love-In-All-Forms-Catholic-Church-INC parishes.

  15. Charliebird says:

    Fr Z said, “Get ready for you who defend marriage to be accused of being cruel, of hating mercy.”

    As a teacher of the Faith in a supposedly solid Catholic high school, though where CINOs abound, I have realized that we need no longer wait for that time of accusation…it is here:

    “Blessed are you, when men hate you and cast you off and revile you, when they reject your name as something evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.” (Luke 6:22) – I suggest we memorize that verse.

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Could someone sketch what the practice of the various autocephalous Orthodox Churches are in this case (uniform or not), what effects that has, what has happened in instances of past Union, and what the implications are for possible future Union?

  17. Dundonianski says:

    I often read with admiration and some awe, the remarkably erudite posts that appear on this blog. The sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a clear target for Satan, and I note this morning in my local paper today (UK) that my city “”sees a slump in the number of weddings” the lowest level in 40 years. I always felt great certainty during the reign of Pius XII , but sadly as the years have passed and pontificates have come and gone, my confidence in those tasked with retaining and defending the doctrinal purity of Christ’s church has become as eroded as their fidelity to the true faith. These are not interesting times, these are dark and dangerous times. As a post scriptum,I do not read Francis through Benedict

  18. iPadre says:

    “progressives are the gravediggers of real progress. Their assumption that automatic progress is the law of history denies the moral responsibility on which true progress depends.” Dietrich von Hildebrand

  19. Phil_NL says:

    Paul M.,

    The assumption is, not to put too fine a word on it, fornication, as that’s the only things that really stands; the paperwork itself is irrelevant. For starters, a civil divorce in itself is not sinful (that would be conditional on circumstances) and often merely a way to sort the (civil) legal consequences of a break-up. A second marriage would not be sinful if the first one wasn’t recongnized by canon law to begin with. And canonically, if there was a marriage to begin with, a civil divorce does not end it, nor does a new marriage have any effect in and of itself on the existing one. That a civil marriage is a public act is, in my opinion, of so little consequence that it becomes irrelevant; without that civil marriage people would do just the same, cohabitating couples tend to be just as public. The paperwork creates a difference in law where there is none in reality.
    We need to rid ourselves – a least in the common law countries – of the notion that there’s one kind of marriage. For better or worse, that is simply counterfactual these days. I do not see how something that has only a civil effect and is civilly defined, without any control over it from the Church or even moral reasoning, should matter in ecclesiastical terms.

    And that brings us to the distinction that the Church can and needs to make in this issue, namely between adultery and fornication. The problem is, these are not linked to a civil marriage, but to a canoncially valid one. It’s perfectly possible for cohabiting partners to be adulterers as well (if one or both had valid first marriages). That distinction is however lost: there is discussion about admitting remarrieds to communion, there’s no discussion about admitting cohabitants. and not becasue they are habittually denied, quite the opposite. And so we reach the problem that the Church is, at least de facto, grossly inconsistent in how it treats various categories of sinners. With only those who get a civil paper to sort property questions singled out, at least in practice.

    I’m not arguing that it would therefore be a good thing to admit remarrieds, but I do argue that the Church did bring the current discussion upon itself by poor judgement in other areas, and that the discussion will only grow louder until the Church presents a consistent approach to all related issues as well.

  20. rtjl says:

    I don’t see the problem of divorced and “remarried” Catholics as being solved by denial of communion alone. If such persons are denied communion and if that is all that is done, these people will simply change parishes, go somewhere where nobody knows them and will present themselves for communion there. Most people in the parish will presume they are married and never ask.

    No. The way to solve this problem is through baptism. Parents who cannot demonstrate that they are validly married should not have their children baptized. Baptism is not a right or entitlement. It is given after some evidence of discipleship has been provided, either evidence on the part of the one being baptized or on the part of those who are charged with the forming the baptismal candidate in discipleship. If those asking that their child be baptized cannot give evidence that they themselves are disciples there is no reasonable basis for presuming that their child will be raised as a disciple and baptism should be denied. (it’s hard enough in today’s world even for people who are disciples to raise their children to be disciples) The child can enroll in RCIA and be properly catechized when they are old enough and then he/she can be baptized. (I know, ha ha, as if it’s easy to find good RCIA programs)

    Try this policy out and watch how fast you get accused of being “cruel”. And if you are a priest watch how fast you get put in place by your bishop. The charge will be that “it’s not fair to punish the child for the ‘sins’ of the parents” but then the people saying this don’t really believe divorced and remarried Catholics have sinned at all.

  21. rcg says:

    They are carpet bombing us. The idea is that we will either weary of the assault or they will find a crack give up on and drive a wedge in to eventually break all values down. It’s what happened to the USA. Even if we hold fast they are making a catalogue of all the reasons we should not be allowed to interact or manage anything in open society and should be suppressed.

  22. PA mom says:

    Rtjl-isn’t the real fix to preach the full truth about marriage? And by this I mean joyful, complex presentation. Stories of those who have been counseled, of young people finding the right one, of golden year couples, of how marriage’s purpose is to help us grow in holiness.
    Honestly, when my marriage was in trouble, I had to go to the parish library where I happened to find a great book on it just when I needed it.
    Just start talking about it, much, much more.

  23. James C says:


    That’ll never happen. The present pope has strongly condemned the denial of baptism to unmarried parents as an evil practice. I expect a bishop who tried to institute such a policy would get torpedoed as fast as the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. There are many things you can do in the new regime, but some things are especially forbidden.

  24. mrshopey says:

    If we could step back and look at our obligations as Catholics (Christians), what is required of us is very small, really (precepts). We are not required, although we know it is best, to receive communion every Sunday. We are asked to get in line, reconcile with God, Turn away from sin, for the Easter season. It is no longer listed under precepts requiring us to marry in the Church. I am not sure why and confusion may have started there in addition to no solid teaching.
    We hope to move beyond what is just required (precepts) but that is up to each of us.
    The Church, in requiring this, is being generous in my view. It doesn’t excuse sinful behaviors, situations but tell me a lot. Namely, they know we are sinners and some may be battling things that once a year is practically impossible for them to get in line and receive. That doesnt take away Sunday obligation either.
    Dr. Peters is right.
    We need to consider what this will say about we believe and know about the Marriage and Holy Communion.
    But first, we need to realize the Church was first gracious in their approach and what is required. Ever patient..

  25. frjim4321 says:

    The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the
    weak. (EG #47)

  26. mrshopey says:

    And finishing up Fr. Jim’s comment about communion being medicine for weak;
    It doesn’t take away mortal sin, tho. Confession, valid, only removes that. Communion for those who are in mortal sin can be much worse. Like a person with cancer refusing to deal with the real problem, addressing the cancer – denying it.
    If their culpability is partially removed, given horrible advice – OK to receive in objective mortal sin, then let them inform their own conscience of the sin – mortal – and bring themselves in line.

  27. TomG says:

    But of course fr jim doesn’t mean to imply that those in objective grave sin may receive Holy Communion!

  28. Eliane says:

    If Francis does not “put the kibosh” soon on okaying communion for divorced/remarried Catholics, will we no longer need annulment tribunals? Even though annulments seem to be pretty much rubber stamped, the process of getting there is hard on some people, especially those who say the questionnaires force them to emotionally revisit events they would rather forget. And I’ve known others to simply say, “I’ve sent in my paperwork.”

    The broader implication for this issue is that communion, as in Protestant churches, would by extension become open to anyone who wishes to receive, without regard to state of sinfulness. Will that be the first legacy of this very troublesome papacy? If so, what will be the second?

  29. kpoterack says:

    Just to give some more information, in a recently published interview (12/12), Archbishop Mueller (in response to Cardinal Marx) said that he, “as one can easily see, did not speak of any end to the discussion, but of its basis in the teaching of Christ and the Church, which is not under discussion.” He also added that the confession of faith “is not to be confused with a party program, which can be adapted in accordance with the wishes of members and voters.” Responsible pastoral teaching, he concluded, is always built “upon sound doctrine.”

    Also, to back up Fr. Z, he definitely did consult with Pope Francis before he published his long article in L’Osservatore Romano, as you can see from this letter of his:

  30. Robbie says:

    Maybe Archbishop Mueller’s piece was the definitive word on communion for the divorced and remarried, but maybe not. It shouldn’t be forgotten the Pope told a group this past Spring to continue with their work even if they got a letter from the CDF.

  31. Eliane says:

    Mueller is neither pope nor Time’s Person of the Year. What does Francis say?

  32. Odhren says:

    If ADULTERY is not clearly a mortal sin excluding a person from Holy Communion then what is? Why is this even being discussed? I would venture to say that no one is actively denied Communion who goes up to receive anyway. That is wrong, but it happens constantly. Someone pointed out fornicators and many other people who go up when they should not. If it is made Orthodox style official that first marriages don’t ‘count’ for some reason up to the third or whatever, then it’s all over. Might as well go to the Orthodox parish up the road. Their Liturgy is better anyway. I’m being sarcastic…sort of.

  33. mrshopey says:

    Also, a person who is trying to do what is right (get in line with what God is asking us and having previous marriages looked into – annulments) is never denied a spiritual Holy Communion! They can, should, make it often! His grace is there for the taking if we ask and humble ourselves.
    Maybe others do not understand this. Maybe they need to be introduced to it.
    What a perfect time to present it during Advent; time of waiting.

  34. Marine Mom says:

    All reason and natural enquiry must follow faith, not precede it or trespass on its domain. Here, in the most Holy, and Sublime of the Sacraments, faith and love are paramount, causing their effects in ways beyond man’s knowing. God, who is outside time, outside your human ways of measuring things, brings about by His limitless power great and unsearchable things in heaven and earth; you cannot track those wonders of his to their author. If the works of God came easily within the grasp of human reason, there would be nothing in them to wonder at, nothing to make you say they transcended human speech. “The Imitation of Christ”, Book Four, 18-5

  35. jacobi says:

    “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”.

    Couldn’t agree more, Fr Jim!

    It is essential nourishment for the weak, who have resolved not to sin again, who have Confessed all their grievous sins, with sincere intent not to sin again, said their Act of Contrition, done their Penance, and then approached the Sacrament after examination of conscience, a further Act of Contrition, in a continuing State of Grace, and otherwise pleasing to God, to receive that powerful medicine and not to achieve social respectability, or put one over those boring oldies who always seem to have been together etc., etc.

    Mark you, I would like to think that if the wing comes off the aeroplane the next time I go on holiday, a short but very sincere act of contrition on the way down, would suffice?

  36. ocalatrad says:

    This whole debate by the modernists is their typical revisionist claptrap. Reassess, review, reread and rewrite all that we have believed without question from time immemorial. I don’t understand what is so difficult about “But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” My parents separated a couple of years ago and my father has threatened divorce. It is a painful, painful experience. It embitters the married couple and throws the childrens’ lives into disarray. This ought to be an easy “debate” to resolve.

    And I might add, liberals are correct to say that the religious Right has no business arguing the “sanctity of marriage” when divorce is the law of the land and is readily done by so-called Christians.

  37. Odhren says:

    Not continuing to commit adultery is not a ‘weakness’. That’s called being spiritually dead. A lot different than weak. What about all those people who DID NOT get ‘married’ again, because they believe in the Church’s teaching? Guess they were just silly and didn’t know they could have gotten away with it. Oh and fornication? Get with the times. Adultery is just a little weakness that needs some medicine. Just a venial sin. Fornication is just an imperfection, not even venial. The only mortal sin is being a serial killer or committing genocide. Sorry we didn’t let you know that years ago. You worried for nothing.

  38. kpoterack says:

    “Mueller is neither pope nor Time’s Person of the Year. What does Francis say?”

    Elaine, here is what Pope Francis said in a Nov. 8 address to the Apostolic Signatura in a speech about ecclesiastical tribunals and the (mainly) marriage annulment cases that they handle:

    Hint: it’s quite good. It doesn’t sound to me like he wants to junk the tribunal system -far from it. Notice how he uses the phrase “justice-which is the first form of charity” toward the end. This is Pope Francis in his own words, not Archbishop Mueller. In all I have read of this issue, it is clear to me that Pope Francis wants to see if there can be some sort of easier way to determine the validity of putative marriages and wants open discussion and, if possible, “creative solutions.” It most likely (IMHO) will result in some sort of reform of the tribunal system – notice that he appointed a very learned canonist, Cardinal Erdo, as relator of the synod.

    It is also possible that his approach may create a “mess” as people wanting to change Church teaching will see this as their opportunity to push for change. I hope not. All we can do is pray for him and the Church.

  39. Scott W. says:

    The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the
    weak. (EG #47)

    You are correct. However, if the medicine is mixed with a cocktail of poisonous lies it cannot heal.

  40. robtbrown says:

    It is not likely the Synod will settle the situation. There will be bishops pushing to extend the German policy to the Church, but there will also be bishops (incl Abp Mueller) who understand the problem with it. The Apostolic Exhortation will then probably say something like every bishop should decide after much prayer what diocesan policy should be.

    Thus it will be a return to the Hermeneutic of Ambiguity. And that raises another issue. There has been in the Church a tendency to think it more prayerful to avoid controversy (cf ambiguity) than to defend Truth. That might be a good missionary strategy, but it does little for the Catholic in the pew.

  41. LarryW2LJ says:

    This is what has always puzzled me about some catholics and the whole “Sola Scriptura” gang of Protestants.

    Mark 10:9

    Right out of the mouth of Jesus, Second Person of the Trinity, the Word Made Flesh! And there it is in black and white! How can you nuance or dance around it? I just don’t understand and never have.

  42. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the
    weak. (EG #47)

    Does that mean that everyone should go to Communion? Drug Dealers? Murderers? Abortionists? Businessmen and women who are known to steal from their employees and customers?

    Or does it mean that generally the Eucharist is for everyone, but that there are certain situations in which one should not receive the Eucharist?

  43. Ben Kenobi says:

    Father Z:

    I’m one of those folks who would substantially benefit if the Church changes here. Please, keep fighting for the sacrament. Just because it would be convenient for me – doesn’t make it right. We have to wait and do the right thing in the right way and wait for everything to get regularized. Until then, she, and I are on the outside looking in. Does it bother me? Not one bit. The breach was committed years ago and the breach must first be corrected. I am not responsible for the breach, but I have chosen to help fix it. You don’t fix things by pretending that there is nothing wrong.

    Thanks again Father, and please understand that there are others like me out there. Keep fighting the good fight.

  44. Ben Kenobi says:

    “What about all those people who DID NOT get ‘married’ again, because they believe in the Church’s teaching? Guess they were just silly and didn’t know they could have gotten away with it.”

    Here here! Thank you!!

  45. frahobbit says:

    “But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: …”. If the object of the sentence is ‘maketh her to commit adultery’ it seems to me that one may never put away his wife. It seems it is only a question of whether she committed adultery already, (i.e. “except in the case of fornication”), so putting away would not be the cause. It is NOT that unfaithfulness is a legitimate excuse for divorce, as many CINO seem to think.

  46. St. Epaphras says:

    Another “two cents’ worth” by one who stuck with the Church’s real (traditional) teaching on Marriage. I married as a protestant who had walked away from the Church as an almost-but-not-officially Catholic. However, the unambiguous Catholic teaching on divorce and remarriage was firmly in my mind when we married and ever afterwards. This has shaped my entire adult life. I could have walked away from my marriage any number of times and had a much easier life in many ways (although I would have remained single), but Jesus did not offer us the “Easy Button”.

    One day in the very early days of our marriage, this Scripture passage was burned in my soul: “Do not therefore lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. For patience is necessary for you; that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise (Hebrews 10: 35-36).” It goes on to say “For yet a little and a very little while…” I realized life is short, eternity is long and God has a much bigger plan that what we can see at any one time.

    Many years and very many severe trials later, I was officially received into the Church. Now that same husband, who was previously extremely anti-Catholic, is at last showing interest in the Church and goes with me to Mass faithfully, in itself a miracle.

    One purpose of marriage is to help the spouse to get to Heaven. Period. All along through the years that quiet inner voice would say to me to consider my husband’s soul.

    Lisa Graas, StJude and others, by living the Church’s teaching on Marriage you set an example to any and all and you will be rewarded for it. If you don’t see it here on earth, you will see it later. You did what you could, you stood firm and God never told us it would be easy. I can’t help but think that should remarried people with no annulment be allowed to receive Communion and not be considered to be in a mortally sinful state, that would make a WHOLE LOT of us to seem like nothing but fools for obeying the Church.

  47. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the
    weak. (EG #47)”

    I’ll see your EG and raise you a St. Paul:

    1Cr 11:27-32
    “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.
    But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged.
    But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

    What, exactly, is unlawful marriage except the spirit of the world? Yeah, contraception, abortion, fornication, adultery – liberals want it, all.

    Make no mistake: what is, fundamentally, at stake, here, is not simply marriage – far from it. What is at stake is our understanding of the very nature of God, himself. Is, God, the Father, a mere mortal who gives into the pouting of his divorced children? Is God, the Son, so fickle that, just like us, he would consider that his first Bride didn’t quite work out, so, why not find someone else and get re-married – never mind that he had a three year engagement with his Bride (in which, He, literally, engaged her in continual dialog and healings) and bought her union with the price of a His own blood? Is, God, the Holy Spirit, some pleasant, undefinable cosmic energy that touches and twangs our minds with little thoughts that we just wanted to hear, all along, or is He HOLY? Today, it seems that people no longer want the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. They find the inspiration of the Merely Pleasing Ghost much easier to live with.

    That is what is at the heart of this problem: the definition of the Holy. People are, today, afraid of the Holy. Marriage can, no longer, be holy. Chastity can, no longer, be holy. Priests can, no longer, be Holy. The Church can, no longer, be holy. To be holy is to be separated. To be holy is to be outside. To be holy is to be unique. Funny, that no one stops to ask if that might not be a good thing.

    No, we live with ponticating psychologists who have branded guilt as a disease, who have made self-expression the measure of health, and licentiousness the basis for moral reasoning.

    You want to stop this nonsense? Stop letting psychology be pretend science, stop letting marriages be pretend unions, and stop letting bishops be pretend prelates.

    Legend has it that, once, when Notre Dame was losing a game badly, the players gathered in the locker room during half-time looking for the coach. The coach, Knute Rockne, walked into the locker room, look around, confused, and said, “Oh, excuse me ladies, I thought this was the Notre Dame locker room,” and left. They went on to win the game.

    Well, I thought this was the One, Holy, Catholic Church. I wish those who can’t bring themselves to believe it would leave the locker room.

    The Chicken

  48. Ben Kenobi says:

    “They, i.e. e.g. the German bishops, do not by the way suggest solubility of the marriage bond, but an Eastern-Orthodox style “lesser remarriage in spite of the existing bond” where, then, what is technically adultery becomes either allowed or a venial sin.

    I explain this because some time ago, I saw one here surprised at Bp Fürst upholding the indissolubility of marriage.”

    Would the Church have everyone who’s anniversary was that day, congratulate them and then publicly divide the lesser marriage from the greater? No? That would be cruel?

    Then I conclude that this is a all a lie.

  49. Ganganelli says:

    I’m totally confused by this but sometimes it helps if I use “obama language” to help me think through these things. If Obama’s government grants a civil marriage and then Obama’s government grants a civil divorce, why should the Catholic Church care?

  50. Ben Kenobi says:

    “I frankly I don’t see how a remarried couple is sinning more or differently that an unwedded cohabitating one. Behavior is the same, the latter didn’t bother to get a piece of paper, but is otherwise just as public (or private).”

    If there were no difference between the two, why do we see the push to regularize?

  51. Rancid says:

    “To me, though, the whole thing is rather simple: either holy Communion is Who the Church says it is or it isn’t”

    Doesn’t it all really come down to this?! If one believes in the Real Presence, that Communion is THE BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY of Our Lord Jesus Christ, how can this even be an issue to discuss?

    St. Paul says “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.”

    People seem to think that it’s not charitable to deny Communion, rather than the true charity that it is in trying to prevent them from falling into even more grievous sin. This seems to be an issue of Human Respect. It seems that we worry more about what people want than what God wants.

  52. tcreek says:

    Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics would be the next step in the assault on the Sacrament of Marriage. A major attack began during the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s with the institution of annulment mills in many dioceses, especially in the United States. Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have issued many warnings about “the scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage destroyed in practice by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity.” – Pope Benedict (quoting Pope John Paul) to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

    Pope John Paul II taught that “it is a fundamental duty of the Church to reaffirm strongly…the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage” (Familiaris Consortio, 1981). He affirmed the discipline of “not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried,” adding that –
    “reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”

    For 35 articles on the annulment scandal see this link from

  53. tcreek says:

    If the link to Catholic Culture in my post above does take you to the correct page, type “annulments” in the search box.

  54. McCall1981 says:

    @ kpoterack
    Thanks for posting those links, they are pretty reassuring. It’s good to know that Archbp Muller consulted with Francis before he issued his statement.
    I’d love to see what Fr. Z has to say about it.

  55. Johnno says:

    There are SOME INSTANCES of divorced/remarried people worth discussing with regards to communion and clarifying-

    1. Spouses who have been divorced by their ex against their will. Didn’t want the divorce but were strong armed by the law and ex into civilly divorcing.

    2. Those who have committed the sin of divorce and remarriage and now having truly repented, but stuck in their predicament need to know what to do in order to receive communion.

    3. Those non-Catholics who were divorced and remarried without knowing the gravity of their situation who are now converts to the Catholic faith and now are therefore receiving proper moral instruction.

    These are cases that are rare but with legitimate need of pastoral care. Arguably, there will need to be a heavy burden (perhaps the new family stays together, but the spouses having confessed, must now take the cross of having to privately abstain from sexual relations?)

    As for everything else, arguably a good number of marriages were null to begin with. It’s a process of knowing who. It shouldn’t be handed out like candy.

    I believe the Church should also set up its own registry of married catholics separate from that of the government. It should not require any government papers if two Catholics want to get sacramentally married. I would personally throw away any tax benefits the State provides as a protest that I do not recognize the secular state’s definitions or views of marriage. Only the Catholic one. And besides, if logic like that of the Obama Administration has its way, there are actually better benefits and tax relief granted to co-habiters and unmarried than to married people.

  56. LadyMarchmain says:

    Lisa, StJude, BenKenobi: We are all in the same boat. Perhaps we need some kind of lay apostolate to extend support to others facing this difficult situation.

    I came to the Catholic Church over this teaching. I could read with my own eyes what Jesus said, and he didn’t mince words. The Protestants have wasted reams of paper and oceans of ink trying to justify their relaxed views, and I just couldn’t sign on.

    But my question is: what’s the fuss about? The last time I looked, 97% of applications for annulments were granted. The procedure for regularizing a union are also about as easy as they can be made. Haven’t we already lowered the bar as far as it should go?

    St. Epaphras, thank you for your kind words! God bless you for your warm compassion.

  57. acricketchirps says:

    Well, at least I’m sure we can all agree that those with too large a carbon footprint should be excluded from Communion, right?

  58. kpoterack says:

    “But my question is: what’s the fuss about? The last time I looked, 97% of applications for annulments were granted.”

    Lady Marchmain, just as with the Argentinian experience of capitalism, there may be a similar experience of marriage tribunals which is this Pope’s base of experience. I have been told that cases will languish in Latin American tribunals sometimes for years. (In the USA, the typical annulment takes 3-6 months to process.)

    Also, I don’t think that 97% figure is world-wide.

    A knowledgeable priest-friend who has lived around the world confirmed this for me. He said that American tribunals (and maybe those of some other developed nations) work with the efficiency of a modern office. Plus, he said that (believe it or not) many Americans (and perhaps some others) actually want to get their status clarified, whereas in other countries, they don’t seem to care as much. That is, they will get married in church for cultural reasons, divorce, civilly remarry, and never come back to church. In such cases, I fully agree with you, how much lower do we really want to lower the bar – especially for people who show no motivation to return to the practice of the faith?

  59. robtbrown says:


    1. That’s a matter of a quick, simple conversation with a priest.

    2. It’s not a matter of repenting. A divorced Catholic who now in a civil 2d marriage is in an adulterous situation. There are a few solutions: 1) Decree of annulment of the first marriage; 2) Leave the 2d situation; 3) Live as brother and sister (good luck with that).

    3. That’s a simple matter of application of the Petrine privilege that is handed when someone intends a Catholic wedding.

    BTW, the Church does have its own registry of marriages.

  60. tcreek says:

    This is what happens when the “Church” starts lawyering the teachings of Christ. It is for good reasons that annulment particulars are kept secret.

    1979 – Joseph Kennedy and Episcopalian Sheila Rauch, after 9 year courtship, are married in Catholic Church.
    1986 – Kennedy’s hires Beth Kelly to work on campaign staff. She becomes his personal secretary.
    1991 – Kennedy, Rauch granted civil divorce. They were married 12 years and had twin boys.
    1993 – Kennedy applies for annulment from Boston archdiocese but Rauch refuses to agree. Kennedy marries Beth Kelly in civil ceremony.
    1995 – Kennedy is granted annulment.
    1996 – Rauch finds out about annulment. She claims that Kennedy was able to unilaterally “cancel” nearly 12 years of marriage. She applied directly to Holy See.
    1997 – Sheila Rauch writes book, Shattered Faith.
    2005 – Roman Rota, highest appellate tribunal of the Church, reinstates Kennedy-Rauch marriage, 10 years after Boston annulment.

    Should Joe Kennedy receive the Eucharist? Some bishops would answer, Yes.

  61. robtbrown says:


    1. I don’t think it’s just a matter of American efficiency. The quick US annulments usually came from a quick reference to “incapacity for the bond”: The marriage failed, therefore, one or both of the partners were not capable of marriage. During my years in Rome there was a priest in the residence where I lived who had been Defender of the Bond for a diocese known for easy annulments. He didn’t think anyone in the world was married, and I’m not exaggerating.

    I knew a Canadian who was Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Angelicum. He once told me that for a time he had worked in an American marriage tribunal. He quit because he thought the entire process was a joke, little else than processing annulment papers without consideration of whether there were grounds for annulment (see above: incapacity for the bond).

    2. In Europe, unlike the US, there is more of a link between Church attendance and belief. Those who are not practicing Catholics usually don’t attend mass.

    3. In certain S American nations divorce and annulment procedures are handled at the same time by lawyers who have both Civil and Ecclesial degrees.

  62. robtbrown says:


    The Kennedys are rich and famous, and the sad truth is that there are priests and bishops who are not willing to stand up to them.

    When radically pro abort Ted Kennedy received Communion at his mother’s funeral, I told one of my mentors at the Angelicum. I explained the Kennedy money, power, and pro abortion politics. His answer (translating from the Italian): There’s no wall so high that a golden ass can’t jump over it.

    On the other hand, I was told that when Justice Brennan died (the reputed brains behind Roe v Wade), there were priests in DC who refused to do his funeral.

  63. Paul M. says:

    tcreek: There was no “reinstatement of the marriage.” No annulment is granted unless two tribunals agree that the marriage is null and agree on the reasons. In the Kennedy-Rausch case, the tribunals (Boston and Rota) did not agree. Thus, no annulment.

  64. tcreek says:

    Paul M. — What would be the status of the marriage if Sheila Rauch had not appealed to the Roman Rota? Was the marriage in limbo for 10 years?

  65. Paul M. says:

    tcreek: the case would have been sent to the ordinary appeal tribunal as a matter of course, even if there was no appeal. The ordinary appeal tribunal would have examined the declaration of nullity and either ratify the declaration by decree (after which the parties would be free to remarry) or, if they weren’t sure, go through the same examination process as an appeal.

  66. ejcmartin says:

    In an age of no fault divorce one can just simply say “I don’t” and move on. If the Sacraments are opened up to the remarried what will happen when someone who has been unceremoniously dumped through no fault of their own sees that their ex is treated so kindly by the Church? A lot of progressive types talk about being pastoral but those who are on the receiving end of a no fault divorce have been deeply hurt, having the Church accept their ex with open arms will only deepen the wounds.

  67. Paul M. says:

    “Was the marriage in limbo for 10 years?” Depends on what you mean by limbo. Neither party was free to marry during those 10 years while the appeal was ongoing at the Rota since the 2nd decision had not issued yet, and neither party is free to marry now since the 2nd decision was negative (and assuming that a second appeal was not pursued).

  68. OrthodoxChick says:

    What is supposed to happen in a case such as this?

    I have an aunt and uncle (both now deceased) who divorced civilly due to one of them developing quite a severe gambling addicition. A few years later, the one with the gambling addicition had finally overcome it and never gambled again. Once the addicition was overcome, the couple re-married one another, reunited their family under one household, and returned to Church. Neither had remarried someone else during the years they were civilly divorced. I was a young child at the time, but as far as I’ve heard, neither ever even dated anyone else while they were divorced. When they presented themselves for Communion, they were told that they could never receive again because they had been divorced and it didn’t matter that they had reconciled and remarried one another. They both left the Catholic Church heartbroken, but remained devoutly Christian. Their rationale was that if they couldn’t receive Communion, then that rendered the Catholic Church the same as any other Christian church (in their situation) because they had no access to the Real Presence regardless of which church they attended. Not saying I agree with that rationale, but that’s how they viewed it and apparently no one counseled them otherwise. They died outside of the Church. Neither received a Catholic funeral. I pray for them often, fearing for their salvation.

    I’m sure situations like theirs are more the exception rather than the rule, but might that be an example of a case where the Church could have ministered to them somehow? Or at least communicated Her teaching more clearly to them?

  69. robtbrown says:


    By any chance, do you know that last name of the priest who told them that?

  70. Imrahil says:

    Dear @OrthodoxChick,

    she sure could, given that there was no grounds to withhold the Sacraments to begin with.

    Reminds me of a Chesterton saying: “The vices went loose and did damage; but the virtues also went loose and did greater damage.”

    Here: a zealous pastor apparently poorly instructed. What do they teach Church law for, in the seminaries? Or… did they?

  71. OrthodoxChick says:


    I don’t know the name of the priest, but I know that they attended Mass at their local parish. They were residents of Providence, RI at the time.

  72. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The reconciliation and remarriage of persons formerly married to each other should have been a great joy to the Church. That pastor was just plain wrong.

    (OTOH, seriously?? Why would any Catholic just believe one word from one parish priest and not ask for a second opinion? Why didn’t they ask the bishop or anybody else? Was this pastor such a Svengali that they just believed him???)

    In re: “the perfect,” a more literal translation of the wording is “a reward for the perfected ones,” and the Pope is making an obvious allusion to the Communion beliefs of the Albigensians. The Albigensians notoriously believed that only a few people were worthy of receiving Communion because they were perfected and would never sin again — in fact, they were so sinless that they could run around breaking every Commandment without sinning, because all things were pure to the pure.

    The truth of contemporary Catholic life is that a lot of Catholics (like Nancy Pelosi, it would seem) sincerely believe that they are “good people” and that they should receive Communion always, no matter what they actually do. They have no sense of sin, so obviously they are sinless and perfected, at least in their own minds.

    Only weak people who have a sense of sin, and who are thus able to repent and seek Confession, are able to safely receive the medicine of the weak and sick (the “débiles”). Even the sinless Virgin Mary knows well that she is weak when compared to God, and the mightiest saints know their own weakness. This is the state of mind in which we should receive Communion, which Pope Benedict XVI called a feast laid for beggars.

  73. Ben Kenobi says:

    “if logic like that of the Obama Administration has its way, there are actually better benefits and tax relief granted to co-habiters and unmarried than to married people.”

    The battle is one worthy of being fought. Marriage comes from God – not the state. If the state denies what God has taught is marriage, than the state itself shall pass. We should not cede recognition of marriage by the state so easily, we should fight for it – if not for us, but for our children so that they may live in a world that understands what marriage means.

  74. Ben Kenobi says:

    “If the Sacraments are opened up to the remarried what will happen when someone who has been unceremoniously dumped through no fault of their own sees that their ex is treated so kindly by the Church? A lot of progressive types talk about being pastoral but those who are on the receiving end of a no fault divorce have been deeply hurt, having the Church accept their ex with open arms will only deepen the wounds.”

    To receive our Lord and Saviour who was crucified just one week after he was proclaimed the Messiah? Christ knows. Why do you think it was taught that Matthew 19 was a hard teaching, “who can bear it”? The idea that you are a part of your spouse until one or the other dies, is what Christ himself says is what God wants for marriage. It’s the truth. No matter what the ex does after will matter in the eyes of God.

  75. OrthodoxChick says:

    That’s just the kind of people they were; not just with their priest, but with doctors as well. They weren’t college-educated and they felt that people who were, people who held important positions, must know what they were schooled in.

  76. robtbrown says:

    In re: “the perfect,” a more literal translation of the wording is “a reward for the perfected ones,” and the Pope is making an obvious allusion to the Communion beliefs of the Albigensians.

    My guess would be that it is a reference to Jansenism. Jesuits usually don’t make references to the Middle Ages.

  77. UncleBlobb says:

    “Get ready for you who defend marriage to be accused of being cruel, of hating mercy.”

    If that happens, I’ll know I’m doing it correctly.

  78. biberin says:

    I’ve never heard of anyone getting a declaration of nullity in 3-6mo. That’s an urban myth. My case has been languishing at the local level for 3 years because of short staffing and an uncooperative respondent.

    Most people I know, even good Catholics, think that not receiving Communion is some kind of a tradeoff for remarrying. They miss the whole middle step, where it’s about objective mortal sin.

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