Fr. Murray’s clear explanation of problems with Communion for divorced, remarried.

From The Catholic Thing. My emphases and comments.

Fidelity – to Spouses and Christ’s Words

By Fr. Gerald Murray [A good friend… Fr. Murray, J.C.D., is pastor of Holy Family Church, New York, NY, and a canon lawyer.]

[QUAERITUR…] Is the most serious problem confronting Catholic families today the fact that the Church does not consider divorced and remarried Catholics suitable to receive Holy Communion? I don’t think so. I doubt most Catholics would. [But…] But in the run-up to the October Synod on the Family a number of influential churchmen seem to be of the opinion that this is the most significant problem we must deal with, and deal with in a way that the Church has never done before. A full court press is on by those who advocate that the Church change her teaching and practice on this matter.

That teaching and practice concern the indissoluble nature of marriage, and hence the adulterous nature of any second marriage entered into while one’s spouse is still living. In 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in a statement issued under the instruction of Pope John Paul II, stated quite plainly: “Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion.” [Not terribly foggy, is it?]

That teaching and practice also concern the clear obligation that anyone who is conscious of being in a state of mortal sin may not receive Holy Communion. If someone who is knowingly in a state of mortal sin receives Holy Communion, that person commits a mortal sin of sacrilegious reception of the Body of Christ. [I suppose we only ask whether or not people still have any notion that this is grave matter, if they know what the Eucharist is.]

That teaching and practice also concern the public nature of marriage, [And here we go… public.] such that any claim that a marriage was entered into invalidly must be proven before an ecclesiastical tribunal. It is not sufficient for one or both of the spouses to assert that, in good conscience, they consider their marriage to be invalid, and thus they consider themselves free to marry again. If this standard of private judgment were adopted, how would we deal with a claim of invalidity by one spouse when the other spouse was equally convinced that the marriage was valid?

The CDF stated in 1994: “The mistaken conviction of a divorced-and-remarried person that he may receive holy communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, [able!] on the basis of one’s own convictions, to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible.”

Marriage is regulated by canon law in order to safeguard the sanctity of the sacrament, to set forth and uphold the rights and duties of the couple, [OH NO!  “Rights and DUTIES”?!?!?  But Father! But Father!  Nobody has no duties no more!] and to provide for the common good by defending the nature and purpose of marriage. [Because they are not the only two people on the planet.] Catholics are obliged to marry in the Church and to submit to the laws of the Church on marriage. This is part and parcel of the Christian vocation to be living members of the Mystical Body of Christ, with due submission to the Pastors of the Church and the laws enacted to safeguard the Faith and the unity of the Church.

The Code of Canon Law teaches (canon 1134): “From a valid marriage there arises between the spouses a bond which by its nature is perpetual and exclusive. Moreover, a special sacrament strengthens and, as it were, consecrates the spouses in a Christian marriage for the duties and dignity of their state.”

This leads to the question: How do we know if the marriage is valid? Canon 1060 states: “Marriage possesses the favor of law; therefore, in a case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven.” [PROVEN! Not “asserted”.  But, these days, after decades of silly education etc., you can lead people in a discussion from point A to B to C and, when you get to your inescapable conclusion, she will say, “That might be true for you… but it isn’t true for me.”  Nevertheless, the Church has laws, procedure, tribunals.]

[This is where life gets real…] This presumption of validity is absolutely crucial to the life of the Church: What you vow at the altar has a real effect: you become married for life. It is not make believe, it is not a contingent thing subject to reversal. You are married and you will be treated as such by the Church. If a cause exists that rendered the vows ineffectual, that has to be proven, not simply asserted. [GMTA]

A lawfully married person is permitted to formulate a doubt about the validity of his or her marriage, but that doubt must be submitted to an ecclesiastical tribunal where it will be adjudicated.

So the notion[which is something you use in… sewing… I believe…] that an individual should be allowed to judge the validity of his own marriage, with the juridical effect that he would be able to declare the marriage invalid and then remarry in the Church is truly revolutionary. [In the Roman way of thinking, revolution, res novae, are always bad.] It destroys the objective legal order in the Church. The reality of any marriage bond would be subject to self-decreed disappearance based on the personal judgment of the person involved.

[And now Fr. Murray will be accused by revolutionaries as conducting a war on mercy.] It has also been have suggested that even when the validity of the first marriage is not impugned, it would be merciful to give Holy Communion to “contrite” persons who remain in invalid second marriages. The strange notion [ut supra] that Catholics who persist in an adulterous second marriage should be able to receive Holy Communion is completely wrong. Adultery is a serious offense against God’s law.

Again, the CDF stated in 1994: “In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.[Unclear in any way?]

The CDF also warned: “If these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” [Which has, in fact, happened.  There has been widespread, antinomian disobedience, And now there is widespread error and confusion even on the part of not a few of the Church’s pastors.]

So it comes down to this: misplaced charity [which isn’t actually charity] seeking to eliminate the hurt that some divorced and remarried Catholics experience in not being able to receive Holy Communion has led to insistent proposals that, if adopted, would depart from Christ’s own words, gravely offend against Catholic doctrine, and threaten the unity and peace of the Church. Let us pray for the Synod Fathers.

Super Fr. Z kudos to Fr. Murray for this clear explication of the issues.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rollingrj says:

    Simple, clear, concise. No “what if”, hair-splitting, or waffling. So, no more “yes, but…”.

    The problem to solve is finding a better pastoral practice than what is now entrenched.

    Another example of poor catechesis coming back to haunt us.

  2. kpoterack says:

    “The problem to solve is finding a better pastoral practice than what is now entrenched. Another example of poor catechesis coming back to haunt us.”

    KP: Yes, we did have all of that wonderful teaching of JPII in the 80’s and 90’s on marriage. Where it was followed, it bore fruit (literally and figuratively) among a number of good Catholics. I see it every day among the Catholic college students I teach who were the products of faithful and (often) large Catholic families borne to parents who would have been young married ‘JPII Catholics’ back in the day. I now see these youngsters go on to have their own good marriages. The Church’s teaching works.

    However those teachings were roundly ignored by most nominal Catholics and, sadly, many of the hierarchy remained mute.

  3. kay says:

    This issue has now leeched into tv shows. Not news shows but dramas. Its just awful. The storyline makes the Church into the one holding back the ability of two people in love to marry b/c one has had a prior marriage. Tell me that NBC and its writers didn’t specifically go there with a purpose, this purpose; to showcase Kaspar’s leaked words that are causing the uproar. They jumped on the chance.

    There’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle without looking “mean” and we all know in 10 second sound bites or 140 character tweets Fr. Murray’s explanation isn’t going to cut it. That’s what I find so agonizing.

  4. Dennis Martin says:

    In my view, one of the pastoral urgencies in this regard is to recover awareness that the Mass is objectively the expiatory Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, such that being present without receiving Communion is of great spiritual value. The emphasis on frequent Communion has, in this regard, backfired, giving far too many people the impression that the whole purpose of the Mass is to receive Communion and that the Mass remains incomplete, for me (it’s all about me) if I cannot receive Communion.

    Most of my putatively Catholic students take for granted that reception of Communion is the purpose of the Mass, period.

  5. “But in the run-up to the October Synod on the Family a number of influential churchmen seem to be of the opinion that this is the most significant problem we must deal with, and deal with in a way that the Church has never done before. ”

    If these “influential churchmen” include bishops (German or otherwise), then we see once again that bad actions have bad results. For instance, the action of appointing bishops from that generation of malformed priests who were ordained without sufficient seminary instruction in moral and sacramental theology. Surely, shame on any bishop who needs to be reminded of what Fr. Murray explains so clearly. Indeed, should not any bishop be able to explain it just this way?

  6. kay says:

    @Henry Edwards – you’re so right. Fr. Murray explains it so clearly that every bishop should be able to do the same AND it should be to the point that with practice, it becomes much shorter and even more concise so people don’t tune out after the third sentence. Its all contained in the 3 sentences. Message delivery and mode are key in these times of short attention spans.

    @Dennis Martin – I’ve tried it but the looks I get when I don’t get up with the masses to go to receive communion make me feel like I’ve committed a murder/death/kill on an innocent puppy. The look in their eyes – they can’t comprehend why I’m not going to get communion and something must be wrong or worse yet, I’m an intruder (not Catholic but of some other religion as I’m not doing the handholding or upraising of hands during the Our Father as I’m older). Better to just go after having had confession on Saturday and then go to Saturday mass. They have so little time for confession on Sunday that its not worth the consequences of 16 hours.

  7. jacobi says:

    “There has been widespread, antinomian disobedience,”

    How right you are, Father. The Church is now awash with pent up heterodoxy due to decades of the failure, or just abandonment of Catholic teaching and religious education.

    I personally strongly suspect we are now at a critical stage. If an attempt is made to change the Church’s law on the indissolubility of marriage, then the damn will burst and we will be into widespread and open rejection of Catholic belief.

    Now that will not be the end of the Church, which cannot fail after all, but it will be the beginning for some time, centuries perhaps, of a smaller Church, “the little flock of believers” that Pope Benedict wrote of in 1969, republished in 2009, the little flock being possibly smaller than even he foresaw?

  8. SebastianHvD says:

    I do think that there’s a big difference between giving scandal and committing a sacrilege: Someone who’s marriage is indeed invalid but has not been annulled would only be giving scandal when going to communion but is in no way committing a sacrilege. [?!?!?] If that person seeks communion in a parish where his marital state is unknown, he can’t even be blamed of causing scandal. The only thing he could still be blamed of is breaking canon law – I think breaking canon law in such a situation is morally in order. The sacrament of the Eucharist is more important than canon law.

    [Wrong. Reception of Holy Communion when you ought not receive is sacrilege, even if it is not public scandal.]

  9. joan ellen says:

    Fr. Z, thank you once again for a most important post topic – marriage. And thanks to Fr. Murray for his clear explanation and catechesis on the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    Kay says: “There’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle without looking “mean” and we all know in 10 second sound bites or 140 character tweets Fr. Murray’s explanation isn’t going to cut it.”

    Perhaps, Kay. Fr. Murray’s explanation can help restore the Sanctity and Sacredness of Marriage. His statement is a ‘significant step in the long road’ to this restoration. If enough of us support his statement and what the recent popes have written…and promote the restoration of the Sacrament of could cut it. Key words here are ‘enough of us’. The Sacrament of Matrimony is beautiful, and though I am a widow I gratefully encourage others to do what they can to support this beautiful Sacrament, and as said above, the order that comes with it. kpoterack says: “The Church’s teaching works.”

  10. SebastianHvD says:

    Hmmpfh. Well, Frère Roger received Communion although Canon Law clearly stated “he oughtn’t”. That even gave rise to public scandal. But Cardinal Ratzinger still thought it wise to let him receive the Sacrament. I think this goes to show that there are situations where the Grace of the Eucharist is more important than Law&Order. And I think using the term “sacrilege” in these situations is a misnomer.

    [Wrong again. Sacrilege is correct term. Furthermore, you are attempting to argue from one particular case, indeed a unique case, to exonerate hundreds of thousands of other cases. Furthermore, Frère Roger received Communion from both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. According to the Code in can. 844, the local bishop can determine if a non-Catholic can be admitted to Communion. If a diocesan bishop, how much more the Supreme Pontiff who is Legislator.]

  11. acardnal says:

    “I think this goes to show that there are situations where the Grace of the Eucharist is more important than Law&Order.”

    Those who receive Communion sacrilegiously, do not receive any grace. They only incur the guilt of another mortal sin.

  12. benedetta says:

    There is no good theological reason to permit a current iteration of civil union to do violence to the sacrament of marriage. The times we are living in permit an opportunity to teach young people of the beauty of a sacramental marriage in the sense of our destiny as God’s children and co-heirs. Render unto Caesar…and, render unto God…Just as a priest ordained receives an indelible mark, Catholic spouses are united in eternity. Sacraments change people. The vows we take have import well beyond taxes and benefits.

  13. Daniel W says:

    Excellent clear exposition, thanks Fr Z for posting, it will be useful in catechesis.

    With the clarity of Fr Murray’s explanation, the point that is open to change comes into focus: “That teaching and practice also concern the public nature of marriage, such that any claim that a marriage was entered into invalidly must be PROVEN before an ecclesiastical tribunal.”

    All of his points about the public nature of marriage (and any adultery in a subsequent civil marriage!) show the importance of the presumption of validity in the face of personal doubt. The PRESUMED tragic loss of life with the Malaysian airline disaster highlights a difficulty the church has dealt with for millennia regarding the loss of a spouse who is reasonably presumed to be dead but where this cannot be proven (non habeas corpus).

    The Church does not require the standard proof of death in these situations, but merely that the local bishop reaches certainty that the spouse can be presumed dead, in which case he issues a decree of presumption of death and the presumed widow/er is free to marry. (see canon 1707)

    There are persons who cannot remarry because they cannot prove in the external forum the invalidity of their marriage through the complicated tribunal processes with its rules about evidence etc, but they could convince the local bishop or other authority that there is sufficient reason to presume invalidity with the same certainty as presumed death.

    Therefore, I hope Pope Francis legislates a parallel to canon 1707 for cases where invalidity can be reasonably presumed but not proven using the current complicated processes. I also hope it will have suitable safeguards (stronger than 1707) of oversight etc. It would be open to abuse, as is the present system, but at least it avoids the option of leaving it up to the individual to decide, which Fr Murray rightly shows will be disasterous. Canon lawyer’s seem to agree that a parallel to c.1707 would solve the anguish involved in some many of the problematic cases, and suggest at least a second episcopal opinion beside that of the local bish.

  14. Bosco says:

    I should only like to point out that on 14 September 1994 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF, (the very same document referred to by Father Murray) issued a letter to all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the Faithful within which letter Cardinal Ratzinger stated:

    “The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “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, for example, for 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'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.”

    Why is no mention ever made of this ‘exception’ when the issue is presented/discussed?

    [It is not true that “no mention (is) ever made” of this. That is a particular situation. Furthermore, it deals with the risk of scandal. It also underscores the good of children and places huge responsibility on their shoulders, a responsibility which would be very hard to maintain while also avoiding the risk of scandal.]

  15. acardnal says:

    I think that living a life of willful incontinence is uncommon and that’s why it’s not mentioned frequently. Why would a man/woman engage in another marriage to live a deliberate life of abstinence? Does it occur? Yes. But it would be a sui generis circumstance in my opinion.

  16. Bosco says:

    Rare it may be, but it is a situation of sufficient import to have moved Pope John Paul II (Familiaris Consortio and Catechism of the Catholic Church), Cardinal Ratzinger (CDF ref. above), and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (June 24, 2000) to specifically identify this exception.

  17. ConstantlyConverting says:

    “Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion.”


    “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”

    As man and wife vs civil marriage allows the caveat that some adulterous couples use to excuse “Josephite” living conditions, blaspheming the Holy Family by overvaluing “abstinence” and undervaluing the entire other life of relationship.

  18. ConstantlyConverting says:

    Ah, since Bosco beat me to it, I can respond then.

    I am the oldest of a “blended” family. There is no “best interest” of anyone to allow the destruction of persons for the sake of ego. Most of my siblings, myself included, have made many choices we very well may not have had the Church stood by her teaching, rather than “pastorally” accepting illicit marriage, outright adultery and scandal in the eyes of the children who behold lying, adulterous parents.

    I returned to the Church after many long years away. I have little to no interest to have any discussions of faith with parents who hide behind technicalities of “sexless” to demean the institution of marriage with the Eucharist in their mouths. Including my own parent, whose decisions, while teaching me patience and self-awareness, make me ill.

  19. Bosco says:

    I suggest the only thing old Bosco beat anyone to was the citation of a more complete recitation of various pronouncements by the Pope and other ecclesiastical authorities.
    I am not sure what a “blended family” is, my friend, i.e. a family resultant from a lawful Decree of Nullity or one from a civilly remarried situation absent a Decree of Nullity.
    Whichever it be, I am sorry for the difficulties you experienced in your life and those particular circumstances which gave rise to them.
    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  20. jm says:

    No one believes in mortal sin anymore, so referencing it is kind of useless. [I don’t accept the premise.] Especially when we are told the Mass is stye source and summit of spiritual life. What are well-meaning remarries supposed to do. they are good people, after all! And from the Pope down, all we hear is God knows we are trying, and He is merciful. Hell is not an especially real risk for an of us.

    With these factors in mind, does anyone think the defense Murray offered will convince. Hardly. If we stress God’s love for man, and de-emphasize His Holiness and the supernatural nature of salvation, our harder rules will fall on a paganized Catholic laity and be rejected. Which is what we see happening.

  21. lelnet says:

    “Is the most serious problem confronting Catholic families today the fact that the Church does not consider divorced and remarried Catholics suitable to receive Holy Communion?”

    Of course not. It would, indeed, be reasonable to argue the precisely contrary position…that the routine _flouting_ of Canon Law and Church Doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, down at the parish level where communion actually _happens_ for most people, is the most serious problem confronting Catholic families today. (I am not, I should say, certain that it is. But I’m also not certain that it isn’t.)

    The wink-and-a-nod treatment that parishioners in flagrantly adulterous unions typically get from their pastors at communion time doesn’t merely promote scandal among the faithful (although it certainly does that)…it makes us seem to be terrible hypocrites when we try to go out in the world and teach about the disordered nature of homosexual “marriage”.

    To those like “ConstantlyConverting”, I can only say…I have been somewhere very like where you are. My story is much like yours. I am truly glad that, despite the awful example you had, you — like myself — are back in communion with the Church. I rejoice for all who have overcome these difficulties, and mourn and pray for all those who haven’t yet been able to. I know that the latter group number in the millions. Quite a number are my friends. I suspect some are yours.

    Leaving aside the (perfectly valid!) arguments to the effect that the Church _cannot_ change its rules so as to admit the invalidly married to communion, I will say that even if it could, it _should_ not. We want that population of millions to be smaller…and every accomodation made with untruth makes it larger, instead.

  22. ConstantlyConverting says:

    “It would, indeed, be reasonable to argue the precisely contrary position…that the routine _flouting_ of Canon Law and Church Doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, down at the parish level where communion actually _happens_ for most people, is the most serious problem confronting Catholic families today. ”

    I will hazard the argument that Ven Fulton Sheen, with his teachings on marriage and the Trinity, would see the assault on marriage as a direct assault on, Paul’s natural law reference to knowing in earthly things, the Trinity.

    I really must thank my Protestant husband and anyone who prayed for me when I was away. But as Paul says, the believing spouse, as Christ gave his life for the Church, sanctification and all that.

    This matter is of no small importance.

  23. Deacon Augustine says:


    “I think this goes to show that there are situations where the Grace of the Eucharist is more important than Law&Order.”

    The sacraments are not “magic bullets” or talismans which wield their effects regardless of the state of those who receive them. In order to receive the grace of Holy Communion, one must be properly disposed to receive and co-operate with that grace. When one is not properly disposed, then the reception of the sacraments becomes an occasion of condemnation, not grace. The law is merely a statement of this reality and is given so that we might approach the sacraments without fear of condemnation – the law has Mercy written into its bones.

    Unfortunately, those who advocate admitting the divorced and remarried to Communion, like those who allow Communion for supporters of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage”, have a false understanding of the sacraments which is based on superstition rather than true religion. No doubt false catechesis and formation lie at the root of this superstition, but if one is an adult Catholic, then there is the obligation before God to cast off childish superstitions and form one’s mind in accordance with the truth of Christ. There is no conflict between law and the grace of the sacraments – rather adherence to the law ensures that we can actually benefit from the grace of the sacraments.

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    Very beautiful post. I am edified by it.

    The Chicken

  25. tcreek says:

    Below is the first sentence in the lead editorial in the March 28, 2014 edition of The Criterion, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

    “Pope Frances has been giving Catholics who are civilly married after being divorced hope that they might be able to return to receiving Holy Communion.”

  26. scriba in regno says:

    Fr. Zuhsldorf points out, in response to SebastianHvD, that reception of Holy Communion when one ought not to receive is sacrilege, even if there is no public scandal. Sebastian’s argument was that someone whose marriage is invalid but “has not been annulled” would not commit a sacrilege if he received Holy Communion, provided that he avoided giving scandal, because he would “only” be breaking canon law. This, he argues, would be fine under these circumstances, given the importance of the Eucharist in a person’s life!

    His argument contains one correct point, from which he draws erroneous conclusions, and I would like to draw some further attention to the nature of the error. When someone is said to have received Holy Communion sacrilegiously on the basis of a purported second marriage, the speaker usually means that he is living in an adulterous relationship, because his prior marriage is presumed to be valid.

    Sebastian sees that this presumption can be rebutted, as happens whenever a declaration of nullity is issued. Such a declaration does not change the underlying sacramental reality; it merely expresses the tribunal’s judgment about what that reality is, and has been from the beginning. Because of this, Sebastian says correctly that, if a union is actually invalid and the parties to it are consequently not married to one another, then no adultery is committed if either party marries someone else while the other is still alive. That is true, so far as it goes, whether a tribunal of the Church has judged the union to be invalid or not. Let us set aside for the sake of argument questions relating to the circumstances in which someone could be sufficiently sure that his first marriage was invalid.

    What Sebastian ignores is that there are many mortal sins, other than adultery and causing scandal, some of which will objectively be involved in the situation he describes. That is so, even if the person receiving Holy Communion is totally honest and correct in believing that his first marriage was invalid.

    First, people do not have an absolute right to the sacraments. The sacraments belong to Christ, and are offered to us through His Church in accordance with discipline that she imposes for the good of souls generally. “Breaking canon law” in this respect is not like driving 5 miles over the speed limit on an empty road, or failing to observe a stop sign when you can see that there’s no other vehicle for half a mile in any direction.

    Receiving a sacrament, or attempting to do so, in deliberate violation of the Church’s discipline surely constitutes grave matter in itself; to say nothing of the pride that is likely to be involved. Pride is surely involved in relying on one’s judgment both about the validity of the marriage, instead of upon that of the tribunal established by the Church for the very purpose, and in determining that one may simply ignore the Church’s law on one’s own authority.

    There is another basic principle which Sebastian has overlooked: someone who does what Sebastian describes might not be committing adultery, but he will certainly be committing fornication. For someone to be precluded from receiving Holy Communion on the basis of a first marriage, he must be cohabiting in a subsequent relationship with another partner, without the initial union having being declared null. Sebastian assumes, without stating, that if the first marriage was actually invalid, the second union will necessarily be valid. However, that will never be the case, as the Church’s law stands.

    A Catholic’s ability to receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony is just as dependent on the Church’s discipline as his ability properly to receive the Holy Eucharist. The Church has the authority to impose conditions on the circumstances in which Catholics may marry, and that affect the validity of those marriages. For a (relatively) long time now, the Church has required as a condition of validity that Catholics observe the canonical form of marriage (e.g. marry before a priest or deacon who has jurisdiction to assist at marriages in that place), or be dispensed from doing so. She similarly requires that anyone with a living spouse from a prior marriage may not attempt another marriage, without that prior marriage having been declared null.

    Therefore, someone in that position cannot comply with the Church’s requirements for a valid marriage, and it is literally impossible for him to enter into one, even if his first marriage is later determined to have been invalid. If he attempts to do so, the attempted marriage to his second partner is a nullity, even if his first marriage is also null. Either way, he will be living in a sinful state with his purported second wife. His sin may be fornication rather than adultery, but that hardly means that he can go to Holy Communion with a clear conscience…or without sacrilege.

  27. Bosco says:

    Excellent exposition scriba in regno.

    When we substitute our own assessment for that required by Church Law, we may have correctly intuited the first marriage was invalid however, in addition to disobedience, scandal, and fornication, there are also the sins of pride, i.e. substituting our own judgement for that required by Christ’s Church, the sin of presumption, and putting God to the test. A real moral viper’s tangle.

    “And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’.” Luke 4:12

  28. Rynodog13 says:

    A big thank you to Father Murray and Father Z for speaking clearly on this.

    Sadly, however, the practice that is occurring in the Church today doesn’t defend marriage but simply provides another hoop for the abandoning spouse to jump through before they can receive Holy Communion.
    Step 1: Abandon your marriage. (Precious few priests still hold up the truth that this is a grave sin unless you have a valid reason to separate. And the bishop… according to canon law… is supposed to approve the separation. But even if you have a valid reason for separation it still doesn’t provide a valid reason for abandoning the marriage, for claiming you are not married, for giving up on the one you vowed to love until death.)
    Step 2: Finalize your civil divorce. (Precious few priests still hold up the truth that our Catechism plainly spells out that this civil divorce can NOT be tolerated and DOES constitute a moral offense unless it remains the only possible way to provide legal protections in cases when a separation is morally licit. There are legal separation alternatives in almost every state so a civil divorce is rarely the “only possible way.”)
    Step 3: Apply for your annulment.

    This has become a virtually guaranteed path to getting representatives of the Church to profess that your next “marriage” is somehow not an adulterous marriage. In the Peoria, IL diocese in 2011 the tribunals made 131 decisions on annulment cases. All 131 times they said that there was not a valid marriage. Yes, 131 out of 131. How does a person who knows they are married expect to have a chance to have the validity of their marriage held up in light of that?

  29. Bosco says:


    At the risk of showing my age, there was an old vaudeville saying: “Will it play in Peoria?”. Evidently it still does.

  30. Justalurkingfool says:

    I do not think it played all that well for the late Monsignor Clarence Hettinger, from Peoria?

    Yes, old news, but the truth ages well.

    This man misses men like Monsignor Hettinger. God help us.

  31. Rynodog13 says:

    A different tune has been playing in Peoria for a couple decades now. Basically, dress up in a costume and make up a sad song about how little you were loved. Sing this song and get a few witnesses to sing it with you. The hearers will then condemn the rascal spouse of being incapable of providing “an intimate partnership of life and love.” Who needs to listen to the song of those silly old Saints who persevered through difficult marriages on their paths to Saint-hood (and often times the conversion of their spouses). God wants us to be happy now! And, obviously, that old spouse can’t make you happy. How do we know this? Well, the spouse who doesn’t want to be in the marriage anymore tells us exaggerated horrible stories and “forgets” to tell about the times their spouse sacrificially loved them.

    So many leaders in the Church now promote the happy over the holy… either openly, or through their silence in the face of the obvious abuses that lead to 131 out of 131 cases resulting in a “congratulations, you were never married and can marry someone who you think will make you happier!” verdict.


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