Dr. Peters on Sr. Walsh’s piece in America Magazine

The distinguished canonist Ed Peters has a response to a piece from Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, who used to work at the USCCB and who now writes for Jesuit-run Amerika Magazine.

Dr. Peters doesn’t have a combox, so… I’ll open mine up for intelligent and thoughtful commentary.

More confusion about sacramentality, and then some
by Dr. Edward Peters

The redoubtable Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, rsm, late of the USCCB, has, I am sorry to say, published in America a muddled overview of options for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Let’s try to sort some of it out.

First—and I don’t mind repeating this till my dying day—annulments are about the validity of marriage not about sacramentality. Walsh muffs this crucial distinction at least five times in her essay. [Yes, sad to say she does. But we have even seen articles from tribunal personnel who screw this up. I was talking to a priest friend the other day, who quipped: No one really understands marriage. It’s a mystery.]

There are millions of presumptively valid marriages out there (untold numbers of which were entered into with the Church’s express or implied authorization) that are not sacramental. Sacramentality is a consequence of the parties’ baptismal status—not about capacity for, consent to, or observance of ‘form’ in, marrying. [Get that? Drill it into your skull!] Annulments look only into the latter three points for only they impact the validity of marriage. The distinction between validity and sacramentality in marriage is vital not only for clear thinking about the annulment process or pastoral preparation for marriage but also for the Church’s wider social defense of marriage as a natural institution (a defense that collapses if the Church is restricted to defending only in-house religious ceremonies). Anyone who repeatedly confuses validity and sacramentality of marriage cannot usefully opine about the annulment process.

Second, Walsh’s comments on “internal forum” fall purely on her recurring-but-mistaken restriction of that process to those who marriages might have been “sacramental”, but her comments about, say, (what canon lawyers view as) “morally uncitable” respondents evidence no awareness on her part that tribunals have dealt with this and many other issues for decades. Yet again, we see advice on complex issues of law and justice being casually offered by those with little or no real experience working within the Church’s legal system and thus, with little or no sense of what is, and often what is not, actually involved in the issues they see.

Third, and perhaps most shockingly, Walsh advocates what is (alleged to be) the Orthodox Church’s approach to divorce and remarriage (basically, allowing divorcees to go thru low-profile subsequent weddings and then to live as married) as if that approach were remotely compatible with Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual morality—let alone in accord with Christ’s own words on about those who divorce spouses and marry others! How the quiet ceremony envisioned by Walsh rehabilitates what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “public and permanent adultery” (CCC 2384) completely escapes me.

I need hardly say it, but, of course non-canonists may, and some of them should, make suggestions for reform of the annulment process, for pastoral outreach to those in irregulars unions, and for the care of Catholics and other Christians in valid if non-sacramental marriages. But such suggestions need to show real understanding of the many issues that most pastors and canonists take for granted in such matters. Lest we spend so much time reinventing the wheel.

When The Book (“the five Cardinals” book) is released on 1 October, the Orthodox oikonomia suggestion will have to be shelved as a non-solution. The Book demolishes that for good.

You can still pre-order The Book at a 25% discount for a ONE MORE DAY!

Click me NOW!

Also available now in the UK! HERE

Please share!
Share

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Dr. Peters on Sr. Walsh’s piece in America Magazine

  1. Dear God –

    I know You and I had a lot of fights in our time together over whether I should or shouldn’t get married. You knew I wanted it to the point of mania at times, but such an avalanche of things happened to me that sometimes I thought You were just out to get me.

    I want to say sorry now for ever thinking that, and I also want to say a very big thank you for saving me from a whole series of disastrous relationships and potential marriage-mistakes that would have harmed me permanently, and which could not have been undone in this life.

    I can now look out my metaphorical front door and admire the avalanche that slid past, because it tidied up the front garden a treat, and made a wonderful heap at the bottom of the hill, which looks just right for a nice chapel to be built on it.

    Sincerely (for once),

    PM.

  2. Gaz says:

    I get the point that sacramentality and validity are different concepts. However, I need some examples to illustrate how these apply in different situations to better understand Dr Peters’ point.

  3. Imrahil says:

    Dear Gaz,

    shortly said, Dr Peters (if I read him correctly) is fighting the following attitude: “well, there’s normal marriage, the thing they do in city halls, and then there’s still our sacrament, an addition so to speak (just as some States have a distinct “covenant marriage”). So, there you are to choose: but if you come to us, then remember to stick to our rules too.”

    Which is wrong. Though the sacrament essentially is an addition to / elevation of the natural institution of marriage, still all marriages between baptized people that are valid marriages – in other words, that in the real sense of the word are marriages at all – are sacramental marriages.

    A particular approach in a situation would be, e. g.: (with “0” is the position that there’s marriage and then there’s sacramental marriage, and “1” the correct position that for Christians, there’s only sacramental marriage)

    Q: I love my girlfriend. I like to stay with her all my life. I want to get married. Obviously, I can’t guarantee that it’ll work out. In which case, neither of us belongs to the kind of zealots who consider themselves still bound to their failed marriage, of course.

    A0: So better have a civil marriage, only. Though it’s a pity that you don’t qualify for the Sacrament.

    A1: Well, you’re going to have to consider yourself bound to your marriage, if you want to get married. Make sure that you really want to enter marriage with her, which includes that and that; but once you’ve done so, do come for the wedding to Church and we’ll be delighted.

  4. mrshopey says:

    I need some help also in understanding.
    Suppose a Catholic marries outside the Church, no dispensations, etc. That is not only considered adultery as they are required, right now, to be married in the Church, but not sacramental too?
    In those cases, if they were to divorce, the Church would not look at it being non-sacramental, or what? How are those spoken of?
    I liked Dr. Peters suggestion in a previous post recommending removing the requirement of marrying in the Church for a marriage, of a Catholic, to be valid.

  5. mrshopey says:

    To clarify, sacramental I guess doesn’t mean they married in the Church, making it, sacramental? It only has to do with whether they are baptized or not?

  6. Andrew says:

    At least part of the confusion can be clarified by realizing that a marriage can be called a ‘sacrament’ both, in a wider and general sense, and in a narrower and stricter sense, as pointed out in the following quotation:

    … matrimonium duplici sensu vocari potest ‘sacramentum’, sensu equidem lato et sensu stricto seu proprio. ‘Sensu lato’, quatenus est ‘signum quoddam rei sacrae’, qua ratione Innocentius III et Honorius III matrimonia quoque infidelium sacramenta apellant: ‘sensu sctricto’ seu ‘proprio’, quatenus est ‘signum practicum et efficax gratiae’, i.e. verum sacramentum a Christo D. institutum. (Felix M. Capello SJ, de Matrimonio)

    (… a marriage can be called a sacrament in a wider sense of the word inasmuch being a ‘some kind of a sign of something sacred’ wherewith Honorius III and Innocent III called marriages also of infidels ‘sacraments’: and a marriage can be called a sacrament in a strict or proper sense inasmuch as it is a ‘practical and efficient sign of grace’ or a true sacrament instituted by Christ the Lord.)

  7. Imrahil says:

    Dear Mrs Hopey,

    a Catholic is bound under pain of invalidity to marry in Church (or seek a dispensation without).

    If they “marry” civilly, we may invent all sorts of words to describe their status they subjectively and perhaps excusably feel themselves in; but as to what actually happens, in terms of marriage, it is not a “merely natural” marriage (such as indeed excists but solely among the unbaptized and in baptized/unbaptized mixed marriages); it is precisely nothing.

    On the other hand, two Protestants who marry according to whatever form their own congregation sees acceptable (if even that is a requirement; I do not know) confer on each other validly the Sacrament of Matrimony (their holding to Luther’s believe that marriage were not a sacrament notwithstanding).

  8. Imrahil says:

    Note that “whatever form their own congregation sees acceptable” for Protestants regularly includes civil marriage.

  9. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Gaz and mrshopey,
    Examples of valid marriages would be:
    a) two catholics who marry in the Catholic Church.
    b) a catholic who marries a validly baptised person of another church/denomination with the proper permission from the Cath. Church.
    c) a catholic who marries an unbaptized person with the proper dispensation from the CC.
    d) two persons (of opposite sexes and without any impediments) of any other religion who marry civilly or according to their faith.
    e) any validly baptised non-catholic who marries an unbaptized person (of opposite sexes and without any impediments).

    a) and b) also have a sacramental marriage, because both parties are validly baptised. C), d) and e) have natural marriages, which are perfectly valid in the eyes of the CC.
    A marriage doesn’t have to take place inside a Catholic church to be sacramental. Protestants marry sacramentally in their own churches. However, if a catholic marries outside of the Catholic Church (i.e. with no permission or dispensation fron the CC) , there is no canonically valid marriage to begin with, and if there is no valid marriage, there is nothing that could be sacramental.

  10. GreggW says:

    A question then, since I am now confused about this: Two people are married in the Catholic Church. They later divorce. One of them, who has reverted to their protestant upbringing, then later marries again, to another baptized person who is a protestant. They marry in a protestant church (“ecclesial community”).

    Later the now married couple seeks to enter the Catholic Church. The annulment process is undertaken for the marriage that occurred in the Church between the two who divorced. It is deemed to not have been a valid marriage. Annulment is recognized.

    The two baptized Christians who had been married in a protestant church are now free to enter the Catholic Church as full husband and wife.

    There is a rite that takes place within the Church regarding their marriage. What is the purpose of the rite?

    Does it “sacramentalize” the marriage? Or did the sacrament occur in the protestant church, when two baptized Christians who were free to marry (even if the annulment of the first marriage had not been recognized yet) exchanged vows? If the sacrament occurred in the protestant church, what is the purpose of the rite the couple went through in the Catholic Church?

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” One of them, who has reverted to their protestant upbringing, then later marries again, to another baptized person who is a protestant.”

    One can no longer defect from the Catholic Church. The Protestant marriage would not be valid without an annulment, since the original marriage was Catholic.

    The Chicken

  12. slainewe says:

    So a marriage can be valid even if the parties believe in divorce? Or if the institution accepting the marriage allows divorce?

    So non-baptized persons and their Catholic partners do not receive the Sacrament of Marriage even though they are married in the Church?

  13. No Kindle version of the book?

  14. GreggW says:

    Chicken:

    Maybe that is what confused me on this. Civilly, the divorce was real and the new marriage was real. In the eyes of the protestant communion, the marriage was real. But in the eyes of the Church the “second marriage” was not real because the first had not been recognized yet as being null.

    At the point the “first marriage” is recognized as being null…does the “second marriage” automatically become valid, or does a rite need to be performed to make it valid? And at what point does or did it become sacramental?

  15. dans0622 says:

    GreggW: the “‘second marriage’ was not real” because it was attempted “outside the Church” (in other words, it would be invalid due to a “lack of form”) The Catholic Party was bound to observe canonical form but did not. The apparent prior bond was actually not an impediment since, in the scenario, it was found that there was actually no prior bond.
    No, the “second marriage” does not automatically become valid. Since the Party is Catholic, he has to marry “in the Church” in order to have a valid marriage. After the declaration of nullity is final, he has to observe canonical form. So, “the purpose of the rite” is to marry. It is a wedding.

  16. Antonin says:

    I hope that alternative perspectives are welcomed and affirmed at this combos as they are and will be at the Synod.

    I am sympathetic to Cardinal Kasper and have read his book Mercy. Let’s be clear on the issue. At issue is not the indissolubility of marriage – all people would agree that permanence, stability, and fidelity in marriage is a good thing. At issue is pastoral application of human realities and these pastoral applications are an important component of Catholic doctrine. Catholic doctrine and practice cannot and is not reduced to juridical paradigms. The purpose of canon law is to serve the gospel, not vice versa.

    As Mike Evans wrote in the combos in America, Jesus did not excommunicate the woman at the well but gave her his promise of eternal new life! And that after 6 previous marriages! [And he said to the woman who would up not being stoned, “Sin no more.” And the Lord didn’t approve of situation of the woman at the well.]

    Anybody who has dealt with people divorcing understand that pain and difficulty involved in the choice and the impact on children. It is the sick and not the well who need the doctor. It seems like the spouse of Christ today prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy is over that of severity.

    And for that, this sinner is grateful.

    [Pastoral practice, or mispractice, undermines doctrine.]

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I want to say sorry now for ever thinking that, and I also want to say a very big thank you for saving me from a whole series of disastrous relationships and potential marriage-mistakes that would have harmed me permanently, and which could not have been undone in this life.”

    Heavy sigh…

    Phillipa, Phillipa, if only you had had the grace to be born a chicken…

    Seriously, I wrote a long reply, but I hit the browser close button and lost the whole thing. This is sort of like marriages that could have been, but weren’t. Does that mean I should not have posted the comment or does it mean that I should have written it again and made it better? These are the 3:00 am-eses, as they are called. Some people call 4:00 am, “The Hour of the Wolf,” because all of your dreams and desires gang up on you at that hour seeking to devour you. To quote Commander Susan Ivanova from the tv series, Babylon 5:

    “Have you ever heard of the hour of the wolf? … It’s the time between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. You can’t sleep, and all you can see is the troubles and the problems and the ways that your life should’ve gone but didn’t. All you can hear is the sound of your own heart.”

    There are many people I would have been honored to be married to and it would be near blasphemous to say that God wished me to remain single. The truth is that I have made mistakes and some mistakes envelope things like the bubble from The Prisoner and that can exclude marriage. One must realize that for most marriage is a help towards salvation, but isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary. Still, one should use all of the helps available.

    As to the matter of validity vs. sacramentality, sacraments are only administered through the authority of the Catholic Church, but validity goes to the issue of truth and there are attributes of a marriage beyond its sacramentality. The existence of these attributes can be judged according to their truth values.

    “At the point the “first marriage” is recognized as being null…does the “second marriage” automatically become valid, or does a rite need to be performed to make it valid? And at what point does or did it become sacramental?”

    The second marriage was never valid from the start, since, in order to marry, one must be able to be married and a prior marriage excludes that. It is like the logical and: if the marriable condition is false, even though other conditions are true, the value returned is false. Also, one cannot have a sacramental marriage without having a valid marriage, so validity must be satisfied, first.

    The Chicken

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Ah ha!

    Catholic marriage is like the logical AND: everything is false unless everything is true;
    Protestant and secular marriage is like the logical OR: everything is true unless everything is false.

    The Chicken

  19. Dialogos says:

    Re. the sudden interest in the Orthodox approach to canon law: this should be a dead giveaway that there’s something fishy going on. When have liberals in the Latin Church ever shown much interest in ANYTHING the Orthodox (who are much more traditional than the Latins about most things) do? Yet suddenly there is all this interest in “oikonomia”? Is there related interest in reverence during Mass/Divine Liturgy? In strict fasting before Mass? In strong devotion to Mary and the saints? In a real understanding (driven by an historical memory and lived experience) of the threat posed by Islam? Oh yeah: the liberals show interest in Orthodoxy because of that married priest thing. This interest is nothing more than a trojan horse.

  20. Alice says:

    Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away little Catholic children memorized the following:
    “Q. Can Christians be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by Matrimony?
    A. A Christian man and woman cannot be united in lawful marriage in any other way than by the Sacrament of Matrimony, because Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament.”

    So, you see, a sacramental marriage is a valid marriage entered into by two baptized people, but not all marriages are valid. Sometimes people think they are married and they are not really married because they neglected proper form or something. Obviously these unions are non-sacramental, but they’re more than just non-sacramental, they’re invalid, even though one or both parties may think their union is a marriage, it’s not a marriage. Maybe we should invent for these supposed marriages. If I were to come up with such a term, I’d probably go back to Latin and since the Latin word that translates the English “to suppose” is “putare,” I’d call it a “putative” marriage. But that’s …LATIN… and probably too hard for them unedumacated layfolks, so it’s probably better to just throw out terms like “sacramental” and “natural” and pretend they mean what the Church means. After all, they sound more “churchy” than “putative.”

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: the dishonest use of authorities who have entirely different ideas, I just saw a good papal letter warning about such attempted misuse of Newman quotes. It’s amazing how often people try to pull this stuff.

    The other benefit of the Orthodox is that they can be used as an exotic minority without them being likely to hear about it and show up at a Catholic synod to tell the liberals off. Although frankly, at this point I think they’ve probably heard about it and might show up anyway.

  22. wmeyer says:

    So given the examples by VexillaRegis, if two unbaptized people of opposite sex are married in a civil ceremony, is that (canonically) a valid marriage?

  23. Magash says:

    The marriage of two unbaptized people is valid marriage as long as there is no impediment.

  24. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear wmeyer, yes it is ( if there are no impediments). For example, if two unbaptised atheists(with no impediments) marry in a court house, they are canonically validly married. Marriage is a natural institution (biologically and socially), i. e., this is how nature is ordered regaredless of where you live or what religion you belong to. Maybe someone else could elaborate more on this :-).
    Futhermore: if the two unbaptised persons who married civilly later get baptised – voilá! – their marriage becomes sacramental too (no church ceremony is necessary.)

  25. Hey man, I was born a chicken. But I had the operation at a reasonably young age, and thus was assured of growing up like an almost-normal human being.

    There are many people I would have been honored to be married to and it would be near blasphemous to say that God wished me to remain single. The truth is that I have made mistakes and some mistakes envelope things like the bubble from The Prisoner and that can exclude marriage. One must realize that for most marriage is a help towards salvation, but isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary. Still, one should use all of the helps available.

    Why blasphemous? It’s not blasphemous to say that. God knows what’s best for us, man or chicken. My trouble was that I thought I knew better than God on this subject (and on most others).

    I did almost get married once when I was very young, but broke it off three months before the wedding, on account of me FINALLY realising that:

    a) I would be beaten up on a regular basis (which was already happening); and
    b) bullied into contraception/family limitation (a last-minute change of heart on the part of the fiance); and
    c)almost certainly cheated on/deserted (strong suspicions that this was also already taking place); and
    d) my religion made fun of/actively opposed (found out later that this was also going on, even though he was coming to Mass with me and was a Catholic of sorts himself).

    I suppose I could have chosen to be like St Rita or some other wonderful patient long-suffering Catholic wife-saint and gone through with all of this, except that God was bellowing at me through a megaphone that This Was Not What He Wanted.

    This experience was followed a few years later by a long illness in my late 20s (not my choice), and then a solid trial of religious life in my early to mid 30s (ditto) which I quite liked, but which didn’t work out.

    God then put me back, almost effortlessly, where I would have been if I’d not tried religious life – good job, steady income. He also slid me a beautiful little apartment at a ridiculously good price and has since then blessed me in a thousand ways, to the point where I have trouble believing that He’s actually running the rest of the universe, because He seems to be exclusively concerned with me and my needs.

    I am so NOT complaining about not getting married! Burl Ives said it for me: ‘As you go through life, make this your goal – watch the donut, not the hole’.

  26. stephen c says:

    One thing I realized for the first time from this comment thread is the beautiful connection between Jesus’s happy conversation (and I believe he really enjoyed that conversation, judging by its prominence – almost a whole chapter to itself) with the wonderful human being we call by default the “Samaritan woman” (as a “failed” linguistics academic, I would love to know the top ten names of Samaritan women 70 generations ago, but I doubt there are any accurate sources for that information) and his magnificent response about the 7 or so brothers who consecutively passed away before the next brother married the consecutively former sister-in-law. Also, Phillipa, thank you for your insights on apparently unanswered prayers (my unanswered prayers are, sadly, extremely and unbelievably difficult – or seemingly difficult – too – ). I am often distressed about how little Catholics seem to care for each other’s happiness in this world – Mormons find jobs and wives for their friends and their friend’s children, Jewish people do the same, and Evangelicals regularly throw music events to give people a chance to meet. There are many Catholics who are good as the Mormons and Jews and Evangelicals in this respect, but it is harder to find them than they should be. I wish more Catholics did better than content themselves with vaguely smiling at the unaccompanied people at mass who are kind enough to take a central seat in the pews, away from the desired “end seat” where someone with a family is guaranteed to not have to sit next to a stranger.

  27. I wish more Catholics did better than content themselves with vaguely smiling at the unaccompanied people at mass who are kind enough to take a central seat in the pews, away from the desired “end seat” where someone with a family is guaranteed to not have to sit next to a stranger.

    Or … you could go up and say ‘Hi’ after Mass yourself, and compliment them on their family size and various beauties, and tell them your name, and say you’re new in town, and say how much you liked their PP and want to come again, and enquire about weekly Mass times, and then discreetly trot away before anyone gets embarrassed, and then next Sunday you can be ready to smile at them again in a nice way.

    Rinse and repeat until a friendly, open family takes you under their wing.

    Or, if you are habitually in a state of grace, you may even dare to say Hi during Mass without instantly being struck dead, especially if their toddler does something amusing, like be sick all over your left shoe.

    I should write a book.

  28. Sam Schmitt says:

    As Mike Evans wrote in the combos in America, Jesus did not excommunicate the woman at the well but gave her his promise of eternal new life! And that after 6 previous marriages!

    Jesus said quite clearly to the woman: “The man you are living with is not your husband.”

    The Church does not excommunicate those who have divorced and remarried, but like anyone who has serious serious sin to deal with, does not admit them to Holy Communion until the situation is resolved. How has the promise of eternal life been withdrawn from them?

    I don’t see how any of this is an argument to allow people living with someone who is not their spouse to receive communion. Unmarried people who are living together, men with mistresses, and people having affairs should also refrain from receiving communion. I agree that the situation of the d and r is more complicated, but the principle remains the same, and I don’t see how you can abandon this principle without contradicting the will of Christ.

  29. stephen c says:

    Phillipa – well said. But what I was trying to say – and remember, I do not know you at all, and I was not specifically responding to you, but was using your nice comment as a basis for my comment – is that Jewish, Mormon, and most Evangelical young people are surrounded by people who do not make it uncomfortable at all for other people of the opposite sex to meet them in a situation where marriage and children are the obviously desired ends. I am morally certain that most contemporary Catholics just do not care as much as they should about these very important things. Yes, there are more important things in this world, but those are very important things. If I am incorrect in thinking that this is not a common situation among non-elite young American Catholics (i.e, the ones who do not get to go to Notre Dame or Wyoming College or Thomas Aquinas College or who do not have some similar advantages in this world), please let me know. By the way, I am probably a lot older than you think I am – specifically, all four of my grandparents were more or less middle-aged in the nineteenth (not a typo) century – and this is not a current personal problem for me – but your advice would be good for most single Catholics!

  30. Hi Stephen C – I agree with you! And thank you for your courtesy and old-world charm in the face of my relentless choleric temperament.

    On the other hand, if the married were more pro-active as Catholic matchmakers, you can bet your boots that there would be miserable singles in the sympathetic Catholic com-boxes of the world, saying, ‘I feel so bullied! I feel so pushed! They keep introducing me to their psycho cousins! Gosh I hate that! Why can’t they just let me find my spouse naturally?’

    I think this is what holds some married couples/families back – as well as being exhausted with their kids, and up to their neck in their own problems, which are usually a combination of 1) staying married and not killing each other, and 2) paying off the house. They don’t want to come across as pushy, matchmaking, forcing people into a choice that they’re not willing or able to make, or making single people feel bad.

    Some years ago I actually bothered to ask a couple of Catholic ladies of my acquaintance to send anyone my way, if they found anyone. Lo! They both found the same man, almost at the same time, and sent him my way. He had been praying to meet a good Catholic woman. I believe he met one, but he didn’t believe it, so … anyhoo … Take Home Message: Be careful what you pray for, as the answer might be me.

    In a nutshell, I believe now that if God wants you to be married, He will provide various people in your life from whom you can choose. If you run away screaming from all of them, then clearly you’re not meant to be married – either because you’re too fussy and would drive a potential spouse to madness, or because you’re just not cut out for it, and God has other plans for you.

    Fr Benedict Groeschel has a rather more nuanced approach to this in The Courage to be Chaste, where he gets the reader to look at the real reasons why they might not be married. It’s well worth a read for any singles out there who are still puzzled about WHY. For me, the real question is not WHY, but the HOW of the matter – HOW will you live your life, if you are to be single?

    Sorry Fr Z, for going down the rabbit hole. I will now make a good Act of Contrition.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear Philippa Martyr,

    I guess, though, that maybe sometimes it’s excusable to stay away from inquiry about the “real reasons” etc. I guess the single in question will know already both that he’s done enough to deserve deprivation of marriage, and that even so he might have the chances and lost them through mistakes. There’s no need to rub that in. Psychologists always are against repression (of thoughts, events, etc.). I wonder whether it’s always best to interfere with a process Nature obviously has seen fit for some situations.

    I totally can understand, thus, your “not why but how” approach.

  32. Hi Imrahil –

    I understand entirely what you mean by ‘rubbing it in’, and the first time (and probably the next seventy-six times) I read Groeschel on this topic, I felt the same way.

    But with the benefit of hindsight: You can’t do the HOW properly, unless you know the WHY.
    While it’s often hard, hurtful and painful to confront the truth/s about oneself, if it’s done with your hand holding God’s, it will also be liberating. The truth really does set people free.

    Repression is certainly a virtue when it comes to bodily functions and awkward family dinners, but some hard truths need facing if a person is ever to achieve inner peace and a right relationship with God and others.

    Once you know what’s wrong, you can also set about healing it with God’s help. ‘Healing it’ does not necessarily involve marrying someone, or even making you a more suitable candidate for marriage, because marriage is not the solution for many people. Part of the reason for many unhappy Catholic marriages is that people went into them (consciously or unconsciously) looking for a solution to a set of personal problems – only to find that their troubles are now doubled, rather than halved.

    Healing involves allowing God’s grace in to touch those awful raw patches and old wounds. It brings you the grace to forgive those who harmed you and damaged you, and also gives you the grace to ask for forgiveness for the harm you have done to others, deliberately or accidentally.

    But God doesn’t generally go into people’s dark places uninvited, and He also doesn’t tend to go alone. So this is where you take your courage in your hands and trust Him, and ask Him to come with you into the dark places, and show you the things that are really causing the trouble, and ask for the help to heal them or correct them. Good spiritual direction helps immensely with this process.

  33. I guess the single in question will know already both that he’s done enough to deserve deprivation of marriage, and that even so he might have the chances and lost them through mistakes.

    See, this is where I think we Catholic singles can get all muddle-headed about marriage. It’s understandable, because we are influenced by a very loud dialogue at present that tends to put marriage at the top of the sacramental list, and leaves everything else as a poor second. (I wrote an article on this which appeared in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, some time in 2008, I think, but I can’t find it now!)

    Marriage is not a reward for good behaviour, or something God gives as a special treat to His favourites. It’s not the mystical finish line, nor is it the little low door to into the Garden of Paradise.

    So there’s no ‘deprivation of marriage’ as a punishment, and it shouldn’t be seen in that way. God writes straight with crooked lines, and singleness can and should actually be seen as a gift from Him. It’s part of your salvation. It’s far safer to let God direct the path of your salvation, especially once you’ve realised you’ve made some mistakes, and singleness – in the here and now, in the present – is part of that for many people.

  34. Pingback: End Times Catechesis - BigPulpit.com