Pope Francis, Communion, and the outskirts of Buenos Aires

You might have a look at something that Sandro Magister posted today, which could give us an insight into what Pope Francis is thinking. HERE

Here is a sample:


he sociology of religion would have much to say in this regard. Until the middle of the 20th century, in Catholic parishes, the ban on communion for those who were in a position of irregular marriage did not raise any problems, because it remained practically invisible. Even where Mass attendance was high, in fact, very few received communion every Sunday. Frequent communion was only for those who also went to confession frequently. There was evidence of this in the twofold precept that the Church issued for the faithful as a whole: to confess “once a year” and to receive communion “at least during the Easter season.”

Abstention from communion was therefore not a visible stigma of punishment or marginalization. The main motivation that kept most of the faithful from frequent communion was their great respect for the Eucharist, which could be approached only after adequate preparation, and always with fear and trembling.

All of this changed during the years of Vatican Council II and the post-council. In brief, confessions plummeted while communion became a mass phenomenon. Now everyone or almost everyone receives it, always. Because in the meantime the general understanding of the sacrament of the Eucharist has changed. The real presence of the body and blood of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine has declined to a symbolic presence. Communion has become like the sign of peace, a gesture of friendship, of sharing, of fraternity, “the same old story: everyone else is going, so I’ll go too,” as Pope Benedict XVI said, who tried to restore the authentic sense of the Eucharist by among other things having the faithful kneel and giving the host on the tongue.

In such a context, it was inevitable that the ban on communion would be perceived among the divorced and remarried as the public denial of a “right” of everyone to the sacrament. The protests were and are on the part of a few, because most of the divorced and remarried are far from religious practice, while among the practicing there is no lack of those who understand and respect the discipline of the Church. But within this very narrow spectrum of cases there has emerged, starting in the 1990’s and mainly in a few German-speaking dioceses, a campaign for changing the discipline of the Catholic Church in the area of marriage, which has reached its peak with the pontificate of Pope Francis, with his clear agreement.

The synod’s concentration on the question of the divorced and remarried also risks losing sight of much more macroscopic situations of crisis in Catholic marriage.

Shortly before the synod, for example, there appeared in Italian bookstores a report on the pastoral activity set up by then-cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the outskirts of Buenos Aires:

P. De Robertis, “Le pecore di Bergoglio. Le periferie di Buenos Aires svelano chi è Francesco”, Editrice Missionaria Italiana, Bologna, 2014.

From this one learns that most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit, while among spouses “the majority of marriages are invalid, because the people marry when they are immature”, but then don’t even try to get a declaration of nullity from the diocesan tribunals.

It is the “curas villeros,” the priests Bergoglio sent to the outskirts, who provide this information and proudly state that they give everyone communion no matter what, “without raising barricades.”

The outskirts of Buenos Aires are not an isolated case in Latin America. And they give evidence not of a success but if anything of an absence or failure of pastoral care for marriage. On other continents Christian marriage is in the grips of challenges no less grave, from polygamy to forced marriages, from “gender” theory to homosexual “marriages.”

In the face of such a challenge this synod and the next will decide if the appropriate response will be that of opening a loophole for divorce or of restoring to indissoluble Catholic marriage all of its alternative and revolutionary power and beauty.


He continues with some observations by Card. Ruini, who generally has his head screwed on in the right direction.

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  1. tpodonnell says:

    At one point, the “meta-commentary” here and elsewhere was suggesting that what was at stake was the Church’s traditional teaching on extra-marital acts being gravely sinful (or perhaps even sometimes not sinful at all). As we enter week two of the Synod, it seems to me that what we are also debating our understanding of the nature of the Eucharist itself. Is the Eucharist a sacrament that one approaches gradually over the course of one’s journey to holiness (a journey that has stops and starts and sometimes returns to square one), such that when one is in full communion w/ the Church, it is truly a participation in the banquet of the Kingdom here on earth (i.e., one is as close to salvation as the Church can guarantee) … or is the Eucharist a sacrament that can be given to anyone “in” the Church, anyone who feels welcome? Traditionally, the Church welcomes all, but the banquet feast of the Lamb (cf. yesterday’s Gospel) does not.

    Perhaps we are still debating the first. If the debate enters in the second, then that opens the door to offer the Eucharist to murderers, rapists, terrorists, domestic abusers, et al. as well. They have just as much human dignity as you or I, don’t get me wrong, but without the sacrament of reconciliation, they cannot be brought into Eucharistic Communion.

    The revival of “gradualism” may be a re-awakening of the notion that all of us are closer or further from full communion with the Lord (those religious among us who have taken the evangelical counsels are probably closest) — could we say one of the effects of Pius X’s Eucharistic reforms was to “Protestantize” Catholic communion, such that one believes oneself to be either “in” or “out” i.e., either I am welcome into the Church in full communion, my sins and all, or I am excommunicated for eternity and can’t even step foot into a Church because I am not accepted.

  2. msc says:

    Although a convert without a strong emotional connection to certain practices that are merely customary rather than doctrinal, I nonetheless find the traditional approach to communion (completely disconnecting it from the divorce issue) both intellectually and emotionally appealing. As a sometime medievalist I also know of no time or place before the last forty years or so where frequent communion was the practice. It is good to read a clearly expressed, understandable statement of the issue. Once again, I am constantly surprised by the level of catechesis my lifetime Catholic friends received. Most have a poor idea about the history of communion or its theological underpinings. Perhaps some dioceses should be encouraging priests to address such issues in their homilies in a paedagogical rather than polemical mode.
    As for Buenos Aires, well, it’s not suprising, although discouraging.

  3. kpoterack says:

    Of course, if these priests giving communion to everyone without distinction is true (and with Cardinal Bergoglio’s permission), then why did he say the divorced and remarried couldn’t receive communion, in the book-length interview El Jesuita, the Aparecida document, the interview on the plane back from Rio and, according to the Bishop of Cordoba, two weeks AFTER Cardinal Kasper’s consistory address?

    And why did he develop this principle of “Eucharistic Coherence” according to which “people cannot receive holy communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments”?

    This is all very strange.

  4. Urs says:

    Shoot! This is what I have been worried about…. It is not only Christian marriage that is in trouble. It is Christianity itself. Jesus answered the question about why Moses allowed divorce by telling them it was because their hearts were hardened. It is true that hearts are again hardened. But this time the hardened hearts come after having the Son of God become flesh and die for us. I read somewhere before that when Pope Francis was talking to someone years ago about marriage and annulments, they both agreed that most people no longer understand what marriage is as in a lifetime commitment. (Most people do not go into marriage as a lifetime commitment but instead they go into it with the notion that they can always get a divorce if it doesn’t work out and that is reason enough for annulments…. THis is my take on what I was reading and not a quote from Pope Francis and I cannot remember where I read it to see exactly what he said.)
    I DO agree with the part that most people do not really understand marriage anymore but we must teach it not change it….
    I have been praying for Pope Francis everyday to fully understand, ‘ You are Peter’ . You are not just Jorge Bergoglio. … We cannot convert the world let alone save the world with a watered down Christianity which is not Christianity at all… sigh….I think I am a bit nervous and scared…
    Time for a prayer…Your will be done Lord. Show me how to see this and see the world through your eyes, please….Guide me in my thinking and my doing . Show me your way for every step in my life.

  5. Landless Laborer says:

    Wow, and I thought things bad in America. As a former Orthodox, I can say this is still the practice in most branches, that only a third or less will receive on any given Sunday. Among Serbs, even less.
    The best testimony to the Real Presence is posture and manner of reception, i.e., kneeling and on the tongue, an “unconscious catechism”, as some wise person put it. We have the option to receive on the tongue, I honestly don’t understand why most people do not choose it, even well catechized people.

  6. Ignatius says:

    “From this one learns that most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit, while among spouses “the majority of marriages are invalid, because the people marry when they are immature”, but then don’t even try to get a declaration of nullity from the diocesan tribunals”.

    I am sorry, but this is an absurd generalization which does not represent what is going on here in Buenos Aires, at least, from my experience.

    What it is true, though, is that there is “an absence or failure of pastoral care for marriage”. For marriage and for everything else. It is quite common, for example, that -in confession- many priests tell people that complete sexual satisfaction within marriage with the complete exclusion of a generative openness is OK if it is done “out of love” (whatever that means).

    Fr. Gustavo Irrazabal, one of the former spiritual fathers of the Buenos Aires Archdiocese seminary and current professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of Argentina (whose head is Abp. Fernandez, a close advisor of Pope Francis) wrote paper -which created a firestorm here- called – “¿Relaciones prematrimoniales en “situaciones límite?”( Teología 83 (2004) 63-70 which advocated the llegitimacy of prematrimonial sex between persons about to marry. This is a common view in the archdiocese, about which -at least- our then archbishop did nothing to oppose.

    Nothing of this is new.

    Best regards from Buenos Aires,

  7. Lavrans says:

    My fallible gut feeling is that the Church is going to publish a highly-ambiguous and nebulous statement on the matter allowing certain individuals to receive Holy Communion despite living in an adulterous relationship. The practical effect will be that millions will think the Church has changed her teachings and anyone brave enough to say otherwise will be marginalized, lambasted, or outright persecuted for being “more Catholic than the pope, the synod…” etc. The [flawed?] theology of “gradualization,” or whatever they want to call it, will result in the practice effect of priests, religious, bishops, and laity no longer calling sin a sin, but instead focusing on the “good” with the predictable result of “I’m good, you’re good” becoming the new commandment par excellence. The Church of the world – the media’s Church and the darling of many prelates, universities, and theologians – will cease being the Body of Christ and instead resemble something along the lines of the Chinese government’s church, while the Church of the catacombs will be forced underground and largely silenced. No, she will not fall and yes, the pope is still in charge. But the pope, outside of ex cathedra statements, is indeed fallible. We need to remember that St. Peter was once called “Satan” for trying to lead Our Lord away from the Cross and later even denied that he knew Christ. And we think WE have problems! St. Peter sometimes needs reminders from the Head of the Church, and he sure needs our prayers, even when it appears that he is stomping all over us. And I believe he is, make no mistake, but I still pray for him. We need a rock, your Holiness, not a reed.

    Meanwhile, the faithful will be harder to see and even harder to find, but we’ll be there in the pews of all the same churches of the world, but among the silent, suffering Catholics and not the jubilant, superficial, happy-clappy rainbow-wearing kind. Same sex couples smooching during the sign of peace in front of us. Happy adulterers and adultresses taking Holy Communion by the hand, careful not to drop their Starbucks in the other, while we wait on our knees or do not even approach out of respect and reverence. The happy-clappy priest handing over the homily to his favorite lay woman with the crew cut, while we sit and try to cover our children’s ears and discreetly as possible. The signing of Bob Marley’s “Judge Not” as our hymn, followed by an “All are Welcome at the Table of Community and Sharing” prayer, while we vomit quietly.

    We’re retreating to regather. The world will see it as a victory. We know the victory is won, but Christ never guaranteed that we wouldn’t be routed in battles from time to time. Like great football games, sometimes the winning team gets demolished in the first half, only to come back and win with a “Hail Mary.” I can see that playing out for the true Church as well. We’ll need a “Hail Mary” after getting our butts handed to us by the worldly church.

    I think its quite dark now. I’m hopeful for dawn, at least in the lifetime of my kids if not for me.

  8. george says:

    I’m not so sure this makes me any less concerned about the direction they are taking on this issue. If I am understanding correctly, they are basically saying the following:

    Catechesis is so poor that we no longer assume that Catholic marriages are valid, therefore to divorce and remarry is not, then, living in adultery. Therefore, remarriages without declarations of nullity are not a problem and they can receive the Eucharist.

    Even if the logic was sound, it isn’t addressing the problem of poor catechesis. Nor does it address the problem of all the people presumptively in a permanent state of fornication.

    In short: “The fallout of VCII has been toxic to Catholic marriage that the only solution is to completely destroy any reverence for Christ in the Eucharist.”??

  9. Pat says:

    Given the “language” of today’s relatio, you may want to address a problem you have hinted at: the pressure/influence of the gay lobby in the Vatican. This is the only way I can understand that words such as “value” the orientation have been inserted……

  10. Ignatius says:

    The paper I mentioned regarding the possible legality of prematrimonial relationships can be accessed here (in Spanish):


    Best regards.

  11. Kathleen10 says:

    I always say I know less about these matters than anyone who posts here, and I have to say it again. But to me the Synod seems a matter of protocol, what must be done to give the appearance of discussion, but that’s all it is. It seems obvious now that any decision on the matter of change of policy was done some time ago. Like most human institutions, it is what the person at the top believes that matters most and has the greatest impact, if they decide to use their authority in that way.

  12. John of Chicago says:

    “Even where Mass attendance was high, in fact, very few received communion every Sunday.”

    That is not my recollection as a kid and teen growing up in an urban parish in the U.S. during the 50s and 60s. Not only did my folks, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins go to communion every Sunday (almost all of us lived in the same parish) but so did my friends’ and classmates’ families and, based on the loooong lines, most everyone else in our large church on Sunday mornings. As an altar boy, I remember that, even with all the priests distributing Communion, it took quite some time back then. I think Mr. Magister and I are of the same generation so, perhaps, the difference is faulty memory or cultural (Italy vs. U.S.). Anyway, I can’t agree with the opening premise that relatively few went to Communion mid-20th century.

  13. rhhenry says:

    Re: invalid marriages because of immaturity:

    What about couples who are immature when married, but whose faith grows and comes fully in line with Church teaching? Is their marriage null because of the original immaturity? Has their spiritual growth somehow validated their marriage after the fact? This is becoming so confusing, so fast . . .

  14. Isn’t that kind of practice called ‘sacrilege’ in the Catholic Church ?
    I’m afraid sacrilege is a grave sin against the first commandment…

  15. I wonder whether the present debate is rooted less in a disagreement about the nature of marriage, than in a disagreement among our appointed shepherds and guardians of the faith, on the nature of the Mass and the Eucharist. If one thinks the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species is merely symbolic, and that the Mass is mainly a shared community celebration, then it may well follow that all should be admitted to holy communion, wherever they are in their “journey”.

    Only to one who believes in the Real Presence–that the Eucharist species are actually the Body and Blood of Christ–is it crucial that Holy Communion be restricted to those in a state of grace.

    Does not this disagreement therefore reflect the more fundamental fact of a deep division at all levels in the Church, but especially among bishops and cardinals, in belief in the Real Presence and Mass as a Holy Sacrifice? So, is the debate about marriage really a place holder for a debate about the liturgy of the Church? If so, its significance may extend far beyond mere pastoral provisions for those in irregular relationships.

  16. Matt Robare says:

    Clearly we need more devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Real Presence in it, so more people will remember that they need to put on a “wedding garment” before going to the king’s feast. Maybe some Eucharistic Processions.

  17. marcelus says:

    Fr. A small correction if I may.

    Curas villeros or “shanty town priests ” it would be, were neither created by nor sent by Bergoglio to these places, Theyy existed long before him, Probably as early as the 60’s. Back then, it was the priests’s choice to live inside these places and be close, phyisically to the poor. Back then, this choice went hand in hand with politics, often taking side with the fighting left and close to terrorist groups such as ERP, Montoneros etc. (google PAdre Mujica if you will). Then Jalics and Yorio case refers to this.

    Nowadays, they still live in these places, by the way they also existe within the Buenos Aires district itself, and large ones, by they are maily doing pastoral work and heavily involved in the fight against drugs and Narco dealers.

    For all the rest, this good manMagister may do well to visit BA and learn firsthand.

    As for the Synod, leaving aside the debates wich should and will take place; has anyone seen the conclusions of the 7th congregation,it went by unoticed:

    here are some highlights from the day of the 7th Synodal congregation , the one that dealt with the issues of contraception, SSM and divorce, the much dreaded scarecrow:

    “Afterwards, the issues of the responsibility of the parents in the education of their children in the faith and its teachings were addressed. That responsibility is paramount – it has been said and it is important to pay due attention. Among other things, it has been observed that the pastoral care of children can create a point of contact with families in difficult situations”

    “Speaking of children, the negative impact of contraception on society, which has led to a decline in the birth rate was stressed. Faced with such a scenario – it has been said – Catholics must not remain silent, but give a message of hope: children are important, bring life and joy to their parents and strengthen faith and religious practices.”

    “ Similarly, reiterating the impossibility of recognizing marriage between same sex!!!!, the Synod Fathers stressed the need for a respectful approach that does not discriminate against homosexuals”

    “Thus, in the first part, the Synod Fathers resumed the debate on the issue of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist for divorced and remarried, primarily reaffirming the indissolubility of marriage, without compromise !!!!, based on the fact that the sacramental bond is an objective reality, the work of Christ in the Church.

    This value must be defended and treated with proper prematrimonial catechesis grooms and bride married must be fully aware of the sacramental character of the bond and the nature of their vocation. It would also be appropriate to accompany pastorally couples after the wedding.”

    ” At the same time, individual cases-some concrete situations of great suffering-distinguishing, for example, among people who have left their spouse and who has been abandoned must be considered.. The problem exists – has been repeated several times in the room – and the Church does not leave it aside. The ministry should not be exclusive, “all or nothing” but merciful, because the mystery of the Church is a mystery comfort.

    “However, as was pointed out, for those who are divorced and remarried not being able to approach the Eucharist does not mean they are not members of the church community. Instead, they were invited to reconsider that there are several responsibilities that assume “.

  18. Nicholas says:

    The article was well worth the full read, thank you Father!

  19. Sonshine135 says:

    I have to say that this whole Synod has been a major test of my faith as it has, I am sure, for many of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ. I cannot help but have some questions. We as Catholics, believe that the Holy Spirit chooses the successor of the Roman Pontiff. In this case, we all believe that Pope Francis was chosen in this way. What would happen though if Christ’s bride decided to start allowing Communion for those in a state of adultery? Would it not seem that the Holy Spirit is not contradicting itself? Wouldn’t such a thing be a doctrinal error? Also, if doctrine becomes a suggested way to live, isn’t everything doctrinal just a suggestion with no authority? Forgive me Father, I do not despair. I know there will always be those who will be faithful to the Lord, but I am interested in your take and the take of others.

  20. Gratias says:

    Before Vatican II Communion was for those that had recently gone to confession.

    So you change one thing and this leads eventually to acceptance of the Homoheresy that has so harmed the Catholic Church. Aggiornamento accommodating to the wrong times.

  21. Mike says:

    This seems to be playing out–at least at the opening–much as “Communion in the hand” did in the 1970s. First, wide-spread abuse, followed by an official allowance, so to speak. Now routine practice nearly everywhere.
    Hasn’t hurt reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, now, has it?

  22. Cranky Old Man says:

    This is all the more interesting in light of Cardinal Erdo’s report this morning on the Synodal discussions :


    How soon will it be before we read in The Tablet or the National Catholic Reporter about “the spirit of the Synod”?

  23. Eugene says:

    I write from Canada where we celebrate our Thanksgiving day. The weather is dark, and the day gloomy which perfectly reflects my mood after reading the summary from Card. Erdo for the first week of the synod. I can’t live down what they wrote about the value of homosexual relationships. I feel betrayed and very embittered. I never thought I would live to see the day when I am in disagreement with a statement from the successors to the apostles as it relates to faith and morals.
    Lord Jesus where are you, please pour forth your Spirit on these prelates and our Pope. They are supposed to be at the service as His Eminence Card. Burke says. Instead they seem to be at the service of accommodation to the world and it’s values.

  24. Eugene says:

    “At the service of truth” – correction to my post

  25. rubyroad2013 says:

    The ENTIRE report is a disgrace. [Simply stating so doesn’t make a case.]

  26. BBJohn says:

    I think after today’s release of the report and Pope’s homily


    I don’t think the Pope is thinking what you are thinking at all. His thinking is that “Today, moral laws and doctrine are preventing people from coming to Christ. Therefore, we must put less emphasis on moral laws and doctrine”.

    God help us all!

  27. pelerin says:

    ‘Until the middle of the 20th century’ – and indeed later. I recently found the programme I was given when attending the enthronement of the first Bishop of my diocese which took place in August 1965. It is interesting to read the following (my capitals):-

    ‘IF THERE ARE ANY who wish to go to Holy Communion, they go up to the altar rails when the bell is rung.’ Even in 1965 the custom of everyone going up had not caught on.

    How this contrasts with the instruction still given on the Mass sheet for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
    The English translation reads as follows:
    ‘If you do not share our faith in the living presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread, we ask you not to join your neighbours at communion time.’ Perfect English but according to this it would be alright to receive as long as you believed even if you had nine wives or had just murdered your granny. Nothing about being in a state of grace.

  28. Joseph-Mary says:

    The attack on marriage from secular society is bad enough but now the desire to redefine it from within the Church is even more troubling. We must keep our eyes on Jesus and Mary and pray very hard.

  29. Matt R says:

    I won’t comment on Papa Francis’s practices or his priests’ practices in Buenos Aires, but I will make one observation. Celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass without the rite of distribution of Holy Communion is like walking without a leg. It’s jarring and obviously something is wrong. In contrast, the priest can seamlessly go from his Communion to the ablutions to the prayers after Communion without missing a beat. That is not to say he should. I firmly believe in frequent Communion for those who desire it and because of that desire for union with Our Lord are in a state of grace. The Church esp. since St. Pius X has recognized that frequent Communion is a good thing, and her current discipline affirms this, being that we can receive provided we come at an appropriate time (and what is not Mass but an appropriate time?) and without anything that bars us from the sacrament, whether that be our own mortal sins known to only us or ecclesiastical measures placed upon us so as to urge repentance (Canon 915).

    I’m not even bothered by the elimination of the 2nd Confiteor now that I have considered this (even if I once thought it ought to be restored). Holy Communion is not an imposition of an act outside of Mass onto the Mass. Holy Communion is part of the Mass properly speaking.

    It does not matter what form one celebrates in. But catechesis must reflect the expectation that Communion will be distributed (or at least in the case of the older missal, be a normal part of the liturgy), and we must pray and hope that people internalize the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist and its reception.

  30. The Masked Chicken says:

    “The outskirts of Buenos Aires are not an isolated case in Latin America. And they give evidence not of a success but if anything of an absence or failure of pastoral care for marriage. On other continents Christian marriage is in the grips of challenges no less grave, from polygamy to forced marriages, from “gender” theory to homosexual “marriages.”

    For all of the spectacle of this synod, one really has to wonder if they have done any real science in trying to figure out why marriages fail and trying to counteract those causes. That would seem to be the single-most important thing this synod should doing for the family, not spending days arguing where to let the horse graze once he has escaped from the barn.

    In this light, I saw a recent article on the nerd site, Slashdot, that is something that, perhaps, should have been presented at the synod [with my minor editing]:

    “Randy Olson, a Computer Science grad student who works with data visualizations, writes about seven of the biggest factors that predict what makes for a long term stable marriage in America. Olson took the results of a study that polled thousands of recently married and divorced Americans and asked them dozens of questions about their marriage (PDF): How long they were dating, how long they were engaged, etc. After running this data through a multivariate model, the authors were able to calculate the factors that best predicted whether a marriage would end in divorce. “What struck me about this study is that it basically laid out what makes for a stable marriage in the US,” writes Olson. Here are some of the biggest factors:

    How long you were dating (Couples who dated 1-2 years before their engagement were 20% less likely to end up divorced than couples who dated less than a year before getting engaged. Couples who dated 3 years or more are 39% less likely to get divorced.); How much money you make (The more money you and your partner make, the less likely you are to ultimately file for divorce. Couples who earn $125K per year are 51% less likely to divorce than couples making 0 — 25k); How often you go to church (Couples who never go to church are 2x more likely to divorce than regular churchgoers.); Your attitude toward your partner (Men are 1.5x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s looks, and women are 1.6x more likely to end up divorced when they care more about their partner’s wealth.); How many people attended the wedding (“Crazy enough, your wedding ceremony has a huge impact on the long-term stability of your marriage. Perhaps the biggest factor is how many people attend your wedding: Couples who elope are 12.5x more likely to end up divorced than couples who get married at a wedding with 200+ people.”); How much you spent on the wedding (The more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you’ll end up divorced.); Whether you had a honeymoon (Couples who had a honeymoon are 41% less likely to divorce than those who had no honeymoon).”

    In the end, what causes divorce in the U. S. is pretty darn predictable and, mostly, do not cast the, “evolved,” human race in such a good light: men largely divorce over issues related to sex and beauty; women largely divorce over issues related to money and stability. My, how we have changed from those hunters and gatherers of old. “20,000 years of evolution and all I got was this lousy divorce.”


    The whole of the Christian message is that man is not meant to be a slave to the flesh. Many modern marriages break up precisely because one cannot see even a pagan’s glimmer of Christianity in them. Yes, we desperately need more MANDATORY catechesis, but, even more, we need groups who actually show the real Christian life being lived. St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) was started on the road to conversion from atheism to Catholicism by the witness of quiet calm in the face of her husband’s death by a Lutheran lady who gave a Christian witness for hope.

    The famous composer, Charles Ives once wrote, “My God, what does sound have to do with music?” Likewise, one could write, “What does fleshly beauty have to with marriage,” or “What does a large bank account have to do with marriage?” According to Christ, not much. It is no wonder that the first Beatitude begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Is it no wonder that He said [Matt 6:19 – 21]:

    “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

    What are beauty and money, but treasures on earth? The problem, the principle problem with the desire of the divorced and re-married to receive Communion is that they, secretly, want to reduce the Eucharist to an earthly treasure. Follow: one’s belief in what Christ is doing in the Eucharistic exposes one’s own belief in what one is doing in one’s marriage. The Eucharist, received in purity, carries us up away from this life to the bosom of God’s beauty and plenificence. Such is also the purpose of a marriage lived in purity – it points to a relationship beyond this life. Those who receive the Eucharist while in adultery, at most, only merely imagine the beauty and splendor they can never have by virtue of the relationship that is offered in purity within the Eucharist. An impure relationship cannot receive a pure one. A bestial relationship (for, that is what adultery is), can never comprehend the relationship of soul to Soul that God permits for the pure of heart.

    So, for all of the many words spilled in this synod, I simply say that it is the unconverted man that complicates and reaches for the complicated solutions. For God, everything is simple. How I wish we were all ugly and poor. Then, perhaps, we would really begin to learn what Christian marriage is all about.

    The Chicken

  31. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Card. Ruini gives a clear-eyed view of the lamentable situation regarding marriage and families today. While affirming the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, he opens the door to considering replacing the current judicial process for obtaining a declaration of nullity with “an administrative and pastoral procedure,” but he warns: “It is very important, however, that any change of procedure must not become a pretext for granting in a surreptitious manner what in reality would be divorces: hypocrisy of this nature would bring great harm to the whole Church.” Given what we have seen from Dr. Peters’s comments on that procedure, is it possible to imagine “an administrative and pastoral procedure” that would not seriously degrade the integrity of the examination?

    Also, Card. Ruini then gives a lengthy discussion of the role of faith in God in the formation of a valid and sacramental marriage. Maybe I am not following him well, but does he confuse validity and sacramentality? This is another problem the Dr. Peters has warned us about. After establishing that faith is required for a sacramental marriage and that sacramentality requires validity, he says:
    “It therefore seems truly opportune and urgent to strive to clarify the juridical question of that “evidence of lack of faith” which would make sacramental marriages invalid and prevent nonbelieving baptized persons from contracting such marriages in the future..”
    It is clear that a marriage cannot be sacramental if it is not valid, but he has not demonstrated that lack of faith precludes a valid marriage. Apparently it does not, because a Catholic can contract a valid marriage with a nonbelieving, nonbaptized person. Yet the above sentence seems to conflate nonsacramentality with nonvalidity. Can anyone clarify this point? Given the frequency with which at least nominal Catholics today are marrying nonbaptized persons, often in merely civil ceremonies, I don’t think it is trivial.

  32. amrc says:

    I think that Pope Francis’s metaphor of the Church being a “field hospital” is a little off. It would be more accurate to describe “the whole world” as the field hospital. There are degrees of “injury.” Fatal wounds can be equated to mortal sins. These poor souls may be admitted to our churches, but they are not “healthy” enough — not in the state of grace — to receive the Holy Eucharist. “IV’s” of instruction may be needed first, scalpels of Confession, sutures of other Sacraments, etc. And certainly the “doctors” — the priests — “nurses” — sisters, and other “lay helpers” in the state of grace deserve and need to receive Christ in the Eucharist in order to administer to the millions of wounded in the world. (All of this by way of commenting that the ideology to let everyone, no matter what his or her marital state, receive Holy Communion, because it is “medicine” and they “need it,” is wrong.)

  33. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    From this one learns that most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit, while among spouses “the majority of marriages are invalid, because the people marry when they are immature”, but then don’t even try to get a declaration of nullity from the diocesan tribunals.

    It is the “curas villeros,” the priests Bergoglio sent to the outskirts, who provide this information and proudly state that they give everyone communion no matter what, “without raising barricades.”

    A picture of Buenos Aires is coming into focus. A diocese in shambles, slowly, genteelly declining, presided over by a negligent, beaming mediocrity.

  34. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    @Sonshine135: the Holy Spirit does not choose the pope. We pray and hope that He will inspire the cardinal electors and that they will be responsive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, but the election is made by the cardinals and is not protected by infallibility, any more than any other prudential judgment.

    This point keeps popping up, perhaps a sign of the uneasiness being felt by many who are trying to reassure themselves that the pope is always the man that God wanted. He is the man that God allowed to be elected, but God allows many things because of human choice, not because they were in His plan.

  35. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Sonshine135 says:
    13 October 2014 at 11:06 am
    …We as Catholics, believe that the Holy Spirit chooses the successor of the Roman Pontiff.

    If by “the Holy Spirit chooses” is meant some kind of (even a limited, modified) “infallibility” in the decisions of Conclaves, or anything more robust than “many of the Cardinals pray before they vote,” I have to say: This is a pious superstition.

  36. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Matt R says:
    13 October 2014 at 1:36 pm
    …or ecclesiastical measures placed upon us so as to urge repentance (Canon 915).

    “Ecclesiastical measures placed upon us so as to urge repentance” is one way to describe a penalty.

    It is crucial to emphasize that Canon 915 is NOT a penal canon, and Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty.

    The reason this is so important is that the pretense–PRETENSE–that a bishop has the authority to refuse to obey Canon 915 hinges on the pretense that Denial of Communion is a penalty.

    The foundation for the mandate contained in Canon 915 is the simple fact that failing to deny Communion to certain persons is a MORTAL SIN.

    In short: Canon 915 is not a penalty that a bishop MAY “impose” or “apply.” Rather, Canon 915 is a mandate that a bishop, priest, deacon, or EMHC cannot disobey without MORTAL SIN.

    The vast majority of Western bishops have long claimed the authority to commit this mortal sin, apparently Cardinal Bergoglio among them, if the account of the situation in Buenos Aires is to be believed. Cardinals Wuerl, Dolan, and O’Malley, and a voting majority of the USCCB, all claim this authority. A certain faction at the Synod are claiming this authority, and spinning out its consequences. It is precisely through the battering-ram of her repeated reception of Communion that the magisterium of Nancy Pelosi is prevailing over the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  37. marcelus says:

    Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:
    13 October 2014 at 4:58 pm
    From this one learns that most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit, while among spouses “the majority of marriages are invalid, because the people marry when they are immature”, but then don’t even try to get a declaration of nullity from the diocesan tribunals.

    It is the “curas villeros,” the priests Bergoglio sent to the outskirts, who provide this information and proudly state that they give everyone communion no matter what, “without raising barricades.”

    A picture of Buenos Aires is coming into focus. A diocese in shambles, slowly, genteelly declining, presided over by a negligent, beaming mediocrity.

    I’m sorry ..Are you a priest? EVer been to Buenos AIres?. Sorry to say you are evaluating this from what a book written by an Italian says. You are absolutely wrong.Church life down here is thriving! Millions,yes million attend Proccesions, just and example of course,walk miles and miles to get to a sanctuary as a sign of sacrifice and devotion.(Lujan 2014, and so) Nuestra Señora y Señor delos Milagros.

    I could not say exactly how many but milllions in a country of 40 m attend the catholic schooing systems since kindergarden.

    People live!! the Church here. Do not know what happens where you are but ..

    Just come down and see for yourself before jumping to conclusions.

    Sorry but you mosttttt wrong about this,.

  38. Ignatius_P says:

    “…most couples, on the order of 80-85 percent, are not married but simply cohabit…”

    Ignatius says:
    13 October 2014 at 9:46 am
    “I am sorry, but this is an absurd generalization which does not represent what is going on here in Buenos Aires, at least, from my experience.”

    @Ignatius: The 80-85% statistic does not apply in my experience to those living in the Capital in general (since the wealthier “barrios” offset the figure), however they are the case in the villas (in the capital and providence). Just three weeks ago I returned from a 14 month mission with a Catholic movement just outside the city of Buenos Aires (literally about 200m outside). Almost every day during 14 months I would visit families in our villa and I had plenty of opportunities to interact with families, people on the streets, at the parish, etc. I was shocked at the almost complete moral fallout in regards to matrimony in these mission fields and also at the almost complete absence of pastoral care for marriage, unless you consider ignoring these realities “pastoral.” I generally had the impression in the parish that since the late 60’s no one had talked seriously about the immorality of extra-marital sex, contraception, cohabitation, divorce & remarriage, etc. etc.

    I think you were more likely to find basic Catholic morality at the local evangelical church.

    And we wonder why places like this continue to hemorrhage Catholics…

  39. Matt R says:

    Fr. Fitzpatrick, just because it is not a penalty does not mean it is not applied or placed upon us. I admit, my terms might not be the most precise, but it is very hard to describe what exactly happens with c. 915.

    Moreover, you unfortunately missed the broader catechetical point I was making.

  40. @Sonshine135:
    Here is my alternative explanation.
    Sorry to take an extreme example, so that you can understand better.
    Every priest, every bishop is chosen by God to be a priest or a bishop. But some priests chosen by God to be priests have committed sexual abuses against chirldren. It’s their personal sin: they failed to accomplish the mission that God had given to them. Others, also chosen by God to preach and teach the Gospel, preach the world. It’s their personal sin: they failed to accomplish the mission that God had given to them. That can happen with lay people, priests, bishops and popes. And in fact it has, throughout history.

  41. I’m not saying it’s the case of Pope Francis. And failures can come not only from sin, but from all sort of bad influences (ignorance etc.) that we face as human beings. That’s why the unity between Sacred Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium is so important to consider.

  42. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    In the statements of bishops (e.g., Cardinal Wuerl) who wish to evade their duty to obey Canon 915, one will find them repeatedly calling Denial of Communion a “penalty.” This is a crucial point, because a bishop has discretion in the application of penalties. If Canon 915 is a penal canon, a bishop MAY “impose” or “apply” the so-called “penalty” of Denial of Communion.

    But Denial of Communion is NOT a penalty. Canon 915 is NOT a penal canon.

    Denial of Communion is a discipline which is NOT optional. Failure to deny Communion to those persons described in Canon 915 is a MORTAL SIN.

    The vast majority of the hierarchy appear unable to wrap their minds around this idea: There are laws–canon law and moral law–which are actually binding on them, as on the rest of the faithful.

    What Cardinals Wuerl, Dolan, O’Malley and too many others to name are demonstrating daily is that our current hierarchy is convinced that they are not subject to any law–canon law or moral law. This freedom from all law seems to be, in their minds, the principal defining characteristic and privilege of a “bishop.” The bishops who trumpet this antinomianism are clearly in favor in Rome, while those who clearly oppose this antinomianism are more and more in disfavor. This demonstrates that the Pope is an antinomian.

    The reports trickling out of Buenos Aires seem to confirm that Cardinal Bergoglio was one of these. When it comes to instruction and formation regarding the Sacrament of Matrimony, contrast the sputtering, coughing shambles of the Buenos Aires of Bergoglio with the veritable roaring powerhouse that was the Archdiocese of Krakow under Wojtyla.

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