Pope Francis’ General Audience on the divorced and remarried

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At his Wednesday General Audience, His Holiness Pope Francis spoke on the situation of the divorced and civilly remarried.   The MSM has inadequate reports about what the Pope said.

First, let’s be clear about something.

People who marry in the Church and then civilly divorce and then civilly marry someone else, are out of sync with their true spouse, with the Church, and with Christ.  They are still married to their true spouse in the eyes of the Church because they are still married in the eyes of Christ.  Because they are living out of sync with the truth, they cannot be admitted to Holy Communion.  Furthermore, if they are not willing to amend their lives in an appropriate way, they cannot be given absolution.  Their situation is spiritually perilous and, often, it gives public scandal (i.e., it undermines the social fabric and makes it easier, by their bad example, for others to do the same and think that it’s okay).

Here’s what the Pope said (not my translation – my emphases and comments):

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

With this catechesis we take up again our reflection on the family. After speaking last time of wounded families caused by the misunderstanding of spouses, today I would like to focus our attention on another reality: how to take care of those that, following the irreversible failure of their marital bond, have undertaken a new union. [i.e, divorced and civilly remarried.  The “union” they have undertaken may be recognized by the state but it is not recognized by the Church, because it is not recognized by Christ.]

The Church knows well that such a situation contradicts the Christian Sacrament.  [Get that?] However, her look of teacher draws always from her heart of mother; [Do I detect Google Translate at work?  This is tricky, but it is closer to something like “Her teacherly gaze draws upon her motherly heart…”.  I hear in that a gaze of one who teaches and corrects, but does so in a loving way (which is sometimes stern, as when a loving mother must warn a child away from the hot stove for the umpteenth time).] a heart that, animated by the Holy Spirit, always seeks the good and salvation of persons. See why she feels the duty, “for love of truth,” to “discern the situations well.” Saint John Paul II expressed himself thus in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (n. 84), pointing out, for instance, the difference between one who has suffered the separation and one who has caused it. This discernment must be made. [Recently, the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming October Synod mistranslated Familiaris consortio 83. HERE]

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If, then, we look at these new bonds with the eyes of little ones – and the little ones are looking – with the eyes of children, we see even more the urgency to develop in our communities a real acceptance of persons that live such situations.  [I must ask: Are these people not being accepted far and wide?  What is “acceptance” in this context?] Therefore, it is important that the style of the community, its language, its attitudes are always attentive to persons, beginning with the little ones. They are the ones who suffer the most, in these situations. [One might add here that, if we are to be most attentive to the children in these situations, perhaps parents should avoid choices that will hurt those children and… stay together.  There may be some few situations where separation is necessary but, for the most part, if people strive to overcome their passions and appetites and selfishness and choose to act for the good of their children, many of these “broken” marriages can be avoided.  Perhaps that’s where we ought to put our efforts as a Church right now: helping to heal marriages that are struggling rather than try to “fix” something that’s broken with quick fixes?] Otherwise, how will we be able to recommend to these parents to do their utmost to educate the children in the Christian life, giving them the example of a convinced and practiced faith, if we hold them at a distance from the life of the community, as if they were excommunicated? [Perhaps telling children the truth about the situation could be a good start: Holy Communion can be received in the state of grace.  That’s a start.  Also, is it possible that children seeing that their parents do not receive Communion and who then explain why would be giving in a powerful way an “example of a convinced and practiced faith”?  We must not not not slip into the trap of thinking that reception of Communion is obligatory for the daily practice of the Faith.  Mass isn’t to be reduced to a Communion Service.  I fear that in many places it has been. Sometimes we practice our Faith by not receiving Communion.  We violate our Faith and give a bad example of the Faith to others when we receive Communion when we shouldn’t and people know we shouldn’t (which could be the situation of pro-abortion politicians, openly homosexual persons in civil unions, and the divorced and remarried.] We must proceed in such a way as not to add other weights beyond those that the children, in these situations, already have to bear! Unfortunately, the number of these children and youngsters is truly great. It is important that they feel the Church as a mother attentive to all, always willing to listen and to come together.  [How true this is.  And how true it also is that people who are divorced and remarried are still obliged to teach their children the Faith and are still obliged to attend Holy Mass on days of obligation (including every Sunday, of course).  They must still practice their Catholic Faith even though they cannot be admitted to Holy Communion while their manifestly discordant situation continues.  Sometimes a Mother has to say “No.”]

In these decades, in truth, the Church has not been either insensitive or slow. Thanks to the reflection carried out by Pastors, guided and confirmed by my Predecessors, the awareness has greatly grown that a fraternal and attentive acceptance is necessary, in love and in truth, [truth] of the baptized that have established a new coexistence after the failure of their sacramental marriage; [I am not sure of what that means.  I am unaware that there was a lack of “coexistence” with people whose marriages failed.  What am I missing?  The Church is always available to them, even if they are not able to frequent the sacraments while their relationship is disordered.] in fact, these people are not at all excommunicated, they are not excommunicated! And they are absolutely not treated as such: they are always part of the Church.  [Again, I am not sure what this means.  Are there places in the world where the remarried are being shunned as if they old category of vitandus was still in force?  It is true that the divorced and remarried are not excommunicated.  No authority in the Church is saying that they are.  That said, it remains true that people in these situations share a burden of those who are excommunicated: they may not receive Communion.  The excommunicated may not receive sacramental absolution until the censure is lifted (or in some cases until the process of lifting the censure has been initiated through a confessor).  The remarried, however, not being excommunicated, can seek the Sacrament of Penance and they can receive absolution provided that they have a firm purpose of amendment of their lives!  The Church does not say that the remarried cannot confess their sins.  The Church says that a person who is in the state of mortal sin (whatever that sin is) who has no intention to amend his life cannot be absolved.]

Pope Benedict XVI intervened on this question, soliciting careful discernment and wise pastoral support, knowing that “simple recipes” do not exist (Address to the 7th World Meeting of Families, Milan, June 2, 2012, answer n. 5).

Hence the repeated invitations of Pastors to manifest openly and consistently the community’s willingness to receive and encourage them, so that they live and develop increasingly their belonging to Christ and to the Church with prayer, with listening to the Word of God, with frequenting of the liturgy, with the Christian education of the children, with charity and service to the poor, with commitment to justice and peace. [cf. Familiaris consortio 83.]

The biblical icon of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18), summarizes the mission that Jesus received from the Father: to give his life for the sheep. This attitude is also a model for the Church, which receives her children as a mother that gives her life for them. “The Church is called to be always the open House of the Father […]” No closed doors! No closed doors! “All can participate in some way in ecclesial life, all can form part of the community. The Church […] is the paternal home where there is a place for each one with his difficult life” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, n. 47). [Again, this is all correct, but… are there places in the world where doors are being closed in the faces of the divorced and remarried?  I don’t know of any.  And… sometimes a good Mother must say “No.”]

In the same way all Christians are called to imitate the Good Shepherd. Above all Christian families can collaborate with Him by taking care of wounded families, supporting them in the community’s life of faith. [The Spiritual Works of Mercy apply.] May each one do his part in assuming the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinite love!

A passionate call from Pope Francis to reach out to people who are in irregular marriages!

I will repeat here what I say at Sunday Masses: Never underestimate the power of an invitation.  Be inviting to people who are estranged from the Church!   You never know how your invitation might be the little drop of healing balm in a grace-filled moment that stirs a wounded heart and mind to deeper conversion.

Invite people to come to Mass.

Invite people to go to confession with you.

The Ordinary Synod is coming.  Between now and then, especially in September, there will be a torrent of pieces – especially from the Left, which seek to undermine the Church’s teachings in the name of “mercy”.  They will portray those who uphold the Church’s teachings as being against “mercy”.

But “mercy” without truth is not merciful.

I urge all of you, especially pastors of souls, to obtain the so-called Five Cardinals Book™, Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church.  The essays in this book provide a useful overview and response to all the issues that are being raised.  Also, priests have communicated how useful this book is as a resource in the preparation of couples for marriage.

BTW… another book is on the way.  More about that later.

The moderation queue is ON.


John L Allen’s take HERE:


One could read the pope’s call for welcome and encouragement as an indirect boost for the reform position, a way of preparing Catholic opinion for an eventual change. That’s an especially tempting conclusion in light of his emphasis on discernment in different situations.

Just as easily, however, one could read his language as a way of preparing people hoping for such a change for disappointment. Francis could be saying, “Even if we don’t budge on the Communion ban, that doesn’t mean we’re abandoning you.”

It’s notable that Francis explicitly said that remarriage after divorce “contradicts” the sacrament. Moreover, in ticking off ways in which divorced and remarried believers can still be part of the Church — through prayer, attending liturgies, etc. — Francis didn’t say anything about Communion.

Bottom line: Both sides could read what Francis said Wednesday and feel encouraged, but neither can claim a papal endorsement.

In the end, perhaps that was the point.


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  1. We should not read this as if he is speaking specifically about the United States. I don’t think he is. [Which is why I asked if there are places in the world where that is going on. I don’t know of any. Perhaps some readers do.] Of course, here divorced and remarried people function fully in parishes and seem to be readily “accepted”. I would imagine that in South America it is maybe very different. Perhaps there are many in South America whose children are shunned from parishes because of irregular unions. Or perhaps those “married” couples believe themselves to be excommunicated. If we read the Holy Father’s words through that lense, they make a lot more sense. It seems that he wants to draw those people back, especially their children.

  2. tcreek says:

    The Church should accept those from failed marriages who are in a second unions? [Yes. The Church does not reject sinners. The Church wants people to amend their lives and return to the Sacraments.] What about accepting those in a third union? [Yes… or fourth or fifth or seventy times seven.] Are we to be so unmerciful as not to accept them also? What about a Catholic who marries a spouse who has received an annulment and that marriage fails? Can we annul the annulment and let the innocent spouse marry in the Church? etc. etc. etc. [The rest of that didn’t make any sense to me.]

  3. Of course, every divorced Catholic living in illicit subsequent remarriage is–just like every single and licitly married Catholic–obligated to attend (without receiving communion) every Sunday and holy day of obligation. He (or she) can also practice his (her) faith by attending and participating prayerfully in daily as well as Sunday Mass, Eucharistic adoration, praying the rosary and divine office (even seven times) daily, singing in the choir, participating in parish and service activities, etc.

    In any event, I wonder whether anyone can provide a single example–among the tens of thousands of Catholic parishes worldwide–of a parish where divorced remarrieds are explicitly and consciously excluded from thus practicing their faith (even including receiving holy communion if they choose), even serving as EMHCs, etc. I’ve not observed any such exclusion in the many typical parishes I’ve attended. So why this scolding about “welcoming”? Who’s not welcome?

    Indeed, the only places where it’s seemed clear that all divorced remarrieds voluntarily refrained from regular holy communion have been TLM communities.

  4. Siculum says:

    I too am racking my pea-brain and can’t think of any places in the world today where divorced and remarried people are being artificially excluded from anything in the Church. I’ve been wondering this for two years. [Perhaps there are some villages somewhere where this goes on.]

    Thank you for making the point about how not receiving Holy Communion when not in the State of Grace is also an act of Faith. (And, speaking from personal/observed experience, a demonstration of Faith that really can separate the sheep from the goats.)

  5. Knittingfoole says:

    I don’t understand what some of this means. There cannot be a failure of a sacramental marriage, can there? What I mean to say is that there cannot be a failure of the sacrament. [I think we know what “failed marriage” means in common discourse.] When God acts, He acts permanently, as when one is baptized. If there was not a sacramental marriage to begin with, then it wasn’t…a sacramental marriage, and if it fails, then, it was just a civil marriage? Take my example. I was married outside the Church. I left the Church for a long time. When I came back after civilly divorcing my “husband” I sought an annulment. The annulment was granted, not to dissolve a sacramental marriage, but to declare that no such marriage took place. So if one can say that a sacramental marriage fails, then one could also say that no such sacramental marriage existed in the first place, and then we run into a nonsense statement. That is different than saying that the people in a sacramental marriage can fail.

    That being said, I can see the need to invite people in these irregular situations to come back and experience healing. I felt like I was excommunicated before I came back! Not because of my marriage and divorce, though. I was not remarried so that made it simpler for me. I “felt” like I was excommunicated because I had rejected Church teaching for so long. I guess I might really have excommunicated myself on that score. I made my confession and came back. My local parish was very welcoming in this regard.

    The problem is, so many people who are in these situations do not see the need for healing nor do they recognize that they have done anything requiring confession our contrition. One such person I know of is indignant that they should have to have an annulment or not remarry. They just don’t even want to consider it. They want to do things their way, and the Church is being “mean” to them. They “feel” excommunicated, which of course they are not. All I can do is pray for them, they have refused any invitation to come back, but maybe the seed is planted.

  6. dmwallace says:

    This continued talk of the Church as the welcoming mother makes me think of an analogy: A nice Italian mama invites me over to her house for supper, [Ummmm…] she let’s me in her kitchen, she let’s me smell the sauce that has been simmering for hours, he talks gently to me, she welcomes me to sit at her table, but she refuses to give me any food. Well, that’s not very welcoming; I feel “out-of-communion” with her family, her meal, etc. Perhaps this is the feeling of those who are divorced and remarried without a decree of nullity? They are being told that they must come to mama’s Sunday supper, that they are encouraged to help out in the kitchen and talk with family at the table, but they can’t eat the food. Now, objectively speaking, folks in this situation are living in a state of mortal sin; can they truly participate in Church life? It seems that sometimes the Church is talking out of both side of her mouth. [It only seems that way if you start from the point of view of emotions and then don’t move beyond emotions and into reason (which distinguishes us from brute beasts).]

  7. Packrraat says:

    My husband was one of those who returned to the Church after an invitation. His college roommate one day was going down to the Newman Center for confession and asked my husband, whom I hadn’t met at the time, if he’d like to go too. And he said, “Yes.”

    [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

  8. chantgirl says:

    Does it really matter if these couples are officially excommunicated? [Yes, for reasons I explained, above.] If they can’t receive Communion because they are living in a state of mortal sin, the end result is the same. I know the Pope wants to keep the “doors open” for everyone, but at some point we have to address the fact that if the people in question were to die in this state, barring some great miracle, they would find the gates of Heaven closed. This welcoming attitude has the danger of encouraging the presumption of the mercy of God.

  9. moon1234 says:

    chantgirl I have to agree 100%. There is a fine line between being accepting and that acceptance giving scandal to others and our children. Children learn by watching and doing. If they do not see any consequence for the incorrect actions of others, then what have they learned?

    Those who KNOW their faith can understand the situation. Those who do not know their faith or who are still learning, will be scandalized. It is one of the main reasons why so many have lost the belief in the real presence. They have watched the Mass become a meal in many places. The loss of reverence for the sacrament eventually leads to a loss of belief.

    Does anyone wonder why so many Catholics support homosexual marriage? It is because they do not understand the true meaning of marriage or it’s purpose. I understand the Holy Father’s wish to bring people back, but that has to be done by preaching the truth in a clear and concise way. I can see the mainstream media using this piece to say “Pope requires Catholics to accept divorced and remarried.”

  10. Giuseppe says:

    If one persists in an irregular marriage and goes to confession to confess other sins, but opts not to confess the irregular marriage as a sin, is one still forgiven the other sins confessed? It’s not like the person forgot to confess the irregular marriage; he or she made a conscious decision to withhold a sin. In other words, they are not firmly resolving, with the help of God’s grace, to sin no more or to avoid the near occasion of sin. They may be resolving not to repeat the other confessed sins, but does that count? Is one really forgiven the other sins if the sacrament occurred under these circumstances?

  11. jhayes says:

    Here is Benedict’s 2012 reply concerning divorced and remarried couples (Francis referred to it)

    As regards these people – as you have said – the Church loves them, but it is important they should see and feel this love. I see here a great task for a parish, a Catholic community, to do whatever is possible to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not “excluded” even though they cannot receive absolution or the Eucharist; they should see that, in this state too, they are fully a part of the Church. Perhaps, even if it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, they can nevertheless have ongoing contact with a priest, with a spiritual guide. This is very important, so that they see that they are accompanied and guided. Then it is also very important that they truly realize they are participating in the Eucharist if they enter into a real communion with the Body of Christ. Even without “corporal” reception of the sacrament, they can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. Bringing them to understand this is important: so that they find a way to live the life of faith based upon the Word of God and the communion of the Church, and that they come to see their suffering as a gift to the Church, because it helps others by defending the stability of love and marriage. They need to realize that this suffering is not just a physical or psychological pain, but something that is experienced within the Church community for the sake of the great values of our faith. I am convinced that their suffering, if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church.


  12. Mike says:

    Maybe nobody can “claim a papal endorsement” — but I confidently, and wearily, expect this pronouncement to be cited (out of context) as support for additional clerical claptrap about “not politicizing the Communion rail!”

  13. dmwallace says:

    Father, that was my point — though I expressed it in haste and thus not clearly. People are approaching this from the standpoint of emotion, as you say. When the Church plays to the “all are welcome” bit and to quote Francis, “It is important that they feel the Church as a mother attentive to all, always willing to listen and to come together,” she is playing into this false foundation. Unfortunately, we don’t find “sin” or “repentance” in today’s Audience.

  14. anilwang says:

    I think one of the chief causes of many of the issues raised at the synod has to do with catechesis and I don’t mean just the quality of the formal catechetical material presented at first communion, confirmation, and marriage.

    Even if a Catholic goes through all the catechetics (unfortunately, many don’t) and keep the faith until after post secondary education (again, many don’t), and even of the formal catechesis at those times are high quality, they are rarely discussed any other time. So it appears that they didn’t matter. Given this, a young Catholic will likely enter dating with un-Catholic assumptions and find him or her self too emotionally committed to get out if it is founded on the wrong foundations. At that point the rules and regulations on where and how the wedding must take place and how much waiting time is required is a burden when compared to the “alternatives”, so they may marry outside the faith. And even if they make it past this point, formal marriage catechesis “is never discussed again so it doesn’t appear to matter”, at least when compared to the relentless “catechisis of the culture”.

    Given this, is it any surprise that the Catholic family is in the state it is?

    One of the great things of the Early Church and (to our shame) many Protestant Services is that regular catechesis is a part of the homily/sermon. Granted, it’s not appropriate for the homily to be so long that the Liturgy of the Eucharist is a rushed through afterthought, but would it hurt to spend an extra 5 minutes to repeat some fundamentals of the faith each homily?

    Ideally the liturgical calendar of the Novus Order could be extended to cover certain topics such as contraception, the nature of marriage, the nature of the Eucharist. the nature of Sin, a well formed conscience, etc. These topics fit naturally in many existing feast days. All that would be required is that a priest discuss these topics in addition to what they normally discuss in their homilies. Granted many priests already do this, and many priests will refuse, but the bulk of priests try to be faithful would at least attempt to do what the Church asks.

  15. ChrisRawlings says:

    It is really hard to conceive of any parish that would err on the side of rigorism and shun a remarried divorcee given the broad tendency towards laxity and political correctness disguised as compassion that predominates at least in the United States. Perhaps such abuse happens here and there, but surely it is a small minority of cases. Maybe it is far more common in the third world? Even that would be shocking.

    And still–STILL–the basic view of the rest of the world, including many Catholics, I’m sure, is that the Church’s view of such persons is nasty, cold, and bitter. It is a hideously warped and twisted view, but it still seems to be the predominant one among all but the most involved Catholics. Surely some will find anything short of a wholesale override of the doctrine of indissolubility to be merciless and unkind, and sure Familiaris Consortio spends a lot of time trying to explain how valuable divorced and remarried souls are to God and the Church. If it takes Pope Francis giving homilies that basically just gloss Familiaris Consortio to help people understand that the Church teaching on marriage IS merciful and good, then, hey, that is at least partly what the pope is there for, right? It is frustrating and bizarre to me that they will only listen to “the pope of the family” if he is read through the words of Francis. And I am frankly skeptical that anything short of what Card. Pell called “doctrinal backflips” will molify most people. But it isn’t crazy at all to think that Pope Francis is basically just repackaging Church teaching in a nifty Franciscan bundle.

  16. Sonshine135 says:

    If, then, we look at these new bonds with the eyes of little ones – and the little ones are looking – with the eyes of children, we see even more the urgency to develop in our communities a real acceptance of persons that live such situations.

    I see this as the all too typical Francis doublespeak. Instead of informing these people of the danger that their immortal soul is in, we dance around accepting them. As a little child, that tells me that it is okay for Mommy or Daddy to be in that situation. [I don’t see it that way. I don’t think Pope Francis is saying that it’s “okay” to be in a second “marriage”.] Talk about you mixed messages. I just don’t get it.

    I agree that “simple recipes” don’t exist. Bravo!
    I just don’t see where the Pope is going with this. [I know. Sometimes it is hard to read him.]

  17. Henry Edwards responds well. As usual.

    Is it really this complicated? The same rules apply to anyone not in the state of grace, excommunicated, or whatever. We can all still, and should, attend Mass, participate in devotions and such. Even in a sinful state, participation should include, instead of defiance in sin, humility and openness to God in the most appropriate way we can. Most do stay away from personal shame or rebellious indignation. Or ordinary laziness.

    When we frequent our church that is a good influence on us that can actually change us for the better. God does hear the prayers of sinners, especially those made with confidence. Jesus came to save sinners, not the righteous. God can change bad situations with a snap of His fingers.

    Things are twisted up today. People are led to believe that we get to make up religion to our liking, make God into our own personal image. So when we decide to live in sin, we might say to ourselves ‘the rules have changed for me. God wants this for me’ instead of ‘yea, those are the rules, here’s the ideal that God has set before me, and I am not living up to them’. If folks saw life in this latter way of the immovable ideal, they might understand better how we can go to Church in limited participation rather than indignantly staying away because the Church doesn’t do as we wish. No, God is not our servant. Its the other way around.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    To walk amongst the people, the Church has to have two legs. While one might be encouraging to someone who is divorced and re-married as a means to help them not lose hope and, thus, wean them away from their sin, at the same time, the equally pernicious sin of presumption reins large in the hearts of many a divorced and re-married couple precisely because they do not have the clear and correct teaching of the Church presented to them, thus, falsely assuming that because the Church is being encouraging, they are also being forgiving, without requiring a conversion of heart.

    Knittingfoole is correct to point out that:

    “The problem is, so many people who are in these situations do not see the need for healing nor do they recognize that they have done anything requiring confession [or] contrition.”

    One wonders whether or not such people understand what Jesus meant when he said to, “take up your Cross, daily, and follow Me.” The problem, morally, is not the divorce (although it does indicate a failure in the normal order of grace); it is the re-marriage, which is the true fleeing from the Cross.

    In a well-ordered society, should a spouse be abnormally separated from another spouse, society will rise up to take up the slack – certainly, that must be the case in the Catholic Church. The divorced Catholic wife should feel as if she has a thousand brothers willing to pitch in and help set a good example of manliness for her sons and daughters. The divorced Catholic husband should have the security of a throng of sisters willing to teach and help his little ones about the ways of women. Doesn’t anyone take it to heart when Christ said, “Whoever does the will of My Father is brother and sister and mother to me?” Are we not brothers and sisters in Christ?

    If such support were available, then the temptation to re-marry would be diminished. This is far more helpful than being, “accepting,” after the divorced has given into the temptation (and, make no mistake, it is a TEMPTATION) to re-marry – all assuming a sacramental marriage existed, from the beginning (so, excluding annulled situation). If such people do not feel that divorce is a Cross they must bear, they will never look for a Simon of Cyrene to help them carry it. If they do not see divorce as a Cross, if they remain insensate to the pleadings of the consciences, then the acceptance we give them for their re-marriages is a form of psychological enabling of the worst sort – in fact, in my opinion, it would be cooperating in the sin of presumption. I speak of those people who see no need for reconciliation with the Church, because the Church is being so accepting, because, after all, in their mind, they did what they had to do. They will never believe that they simply gave into the temptation to have someone in their bed with them – no, they are better people than that! One wonders exactly how people with such distorted consciences can really teach their children about the Faith? Parents, first of all, teach the Faith by example – yeah, re-marriage, that sets a good example of giving up when the going gets tough.

    When the Church addresses these people, as well as those who are frightened or losing hope and really need to hear words of encouragement and consolation, then She will, truly, be walking with both legs. As it is, right now, the Church is walking before the world with a noticible limp, favoring the left leg.

    As much as we need to hear about mercy from the pulpit, I wonder just exactly when would be a good time to speak about justice? People in sin who worry about God not loving them are missing the point, after all. It’s not that God will run out of love, it is that they will run out of time. I, sometimes, get the impression that some liberals in the Church don’t believe that every man’s conscience is slaved to a ticking clock. It does no good to cover it over with the blanket of acceptance. The clock will ring, come what may.

    It seems as though some liberals want to run a hotel for sinners without a wake-up call from the front desk.


    The Chicken

  19. Spade says:

    “If they can’t receive Communion because they are living in a state of mortal sin, the end result is the same. I know the Pope wants to keep the “doors open” for everyone, but at some point we have to address the fact that if the people in question were to die in this state, barring some great miracle, they would find the gates of Heaven closed.”


    But nobody is in hell until they’re in hell. So I’d assume the hope is that, like all other sinners, they figure it out and get right before that time. And they’re not going to do that unless they’re in the door.

    Of course, those who wait until midnight sometimes buy the farm at 2345, but the Church must try.

    Also [insert snarky comment about many parishes treating these people better than somebody who might want to hear a song not written between 1960 and 1980, or not have to watch a dance show during mass]

  20. DeGaulle says:

    I, of course, reserve the right to be wrong, but my interpretation is that the Pope is not addressing any parishes where there is an absence of welcome for those in irregular relationships, but rather those on the Left who would wish to imply that this is the case. My prediction is that he is preparing the ground for a rout of the liberals. We may pray that this be the outcome.

  21. Akita says:

    I think a new conundrum will be increasingly on the horizon and that is how do you minister and make feel welcome two homosexuals who proclaim their marriage to one another and who announce their offspring are the result of donor gametes? Do you avert your gaze when they present for holy communion? When they demand enrollment into the school and explain to the other children that they are Porsche’s two mommies or two daddies do we go along to get along?
    When two people do not understand the gravity of their sin yet are embraced by the parish, does that not give scandal? I think it is the necessary tragic, tragic fallout of the sins of the parents necessitating the exclusion of the children into the sacramental life.

  22. jhayes says:

    Sonshine135 wrote: Instead of informing these people of the danger that their immortal soul is in, we dance around accepting them

    As Benedict said in 2012 (as I quoted above) our task is to make divorced and remarried Catholics “feel loved and accepted”. You can’t succeed in that if your strategy is to withold love and acceptance in order to express your disapproval of their actions.

    I doubt that any Catholic in that situation is unaware that the Church teaches that their situation is objectively gravely sinful. If not, I would leave it to your priest to discuss it with them – not to try to convey a personal message that they won’t be worthy of your love and acceptance until they change their ways.

    Several people have commented that, in their experience, the divorced and remarried and not “excluded” in US parishes. I suspect that is probably so – that they are not turned away if they come to Church. But that is quite different from whether they are made to feel “welcome and accepted,” as Benedict put it. Are they sought out and invited to join groups and activities within the parish and to develop friendships with people they meet at the parish? Do people offer lunch dates with them and play dates with their children?

  23. jacobi says:

    How often does it have to be said. Those living in adultery are welcome at Mass as are all other sinners, such as contraceptors, abortionists, the Greedy, the Proud, those who defraud the poor of their just wages, and so on, and so on.

    It’s just that they may not receive Holy Communion until they have Confessed with true intent not to commit that particular sin – whatever it is – again.

    You don’t have to have a PhD in theology to work that one out. Yes they can come and have a coffee and chat in the parish rooms afterwards – but they may not receive Holy Communion!

    And, no, their will not be an eventual change. There cannot be. Heretical schism perhaps, well that’s their problem. No one has to be a Catholic you know.

    But change – no!

  24. Gerard Plourde says:

    It seems to me that we must first acknowledge that the Church has long recognized that circumstanses exist wherein a valid marriage has not been entered despite the outward appearances (hence the existence of the annulment process). In an ideal circumstance, the couple (or the spouse recognizing the defect) will seek guidance from their/his/her parish priest to determine if the defect can be remedied or if the bond cannot be actualized. Sadly, for a number of reasons, it is rare that this happens. As a result, it is also hard to get a clear picture of how many of these divorced and remarried Catholics may actually qualify for annulment. The moral muddle that infects human nature since the Fall speaks to the possibility that it is more likely than we would care to admit. As none of us is competent to make this determination (unless we are actually in a position to be adjudicating a particular case, a role I can say with certainty that I will most likely never have), it seems that Pope Francis’s call to be welcoming is a call to mercifully guide the lost sheep back into the fold without compromising doctrine but also without assuming a positon of judgment to which we are not entitled.

  25. Laura R. says:

    I first heard about this from an AP reporter who had set up his camera on the sidewalk opposite the Cathedral this morning and was looking for interviews from rank and file Catholics going to Mass. He informed me that Pope Francis, who was progressive, had issued a statement that divorced and remarried Catholics were to be specially welcomed and were (if I heard him correctly) no longer excommunicated. [“no longer”?? That’s a distortion. They WERE NOT excommunicated to begin with!] He said that a couple of people had already agreed to speak on camera and had responded enthusiastically to the news, and he was looking for other responses for balance. I said that I was not going to speak on the matter without having read the statement myself, but that I was glad that he was at least looking for a balance of opinions, and that the media too often often seize on comments from the Pope and use them out of context.

    So much for informed, in-depth reporting. I wish I could have read this post beforehand, just to have provided the man with a bit more actual information, but he admitted that he deals in sound bytes, after all. To me this was one more example of the media what George Weigel has called “The Great Catholic Cave-in” which they never cease to hope for.

  26. chantgirl says:

    jhayes- I’ve never encountered a parish of Catholics in the US that didn’t welcome sinners. In fact, most parishes bend over backwards to make people in compromising moral situations feel welcome. The problem is that many people in the Church and society equate welcoming with acceptance of behavior. Homosexual activists have been increasingly attacking the Christian notion of “love the sin; hate the sinner” as hateful. People are unwilling or unable to accept the distinction between loving a person and criticizing their actions ( an almost daily task for any parent!).
    When the Pope speaks of welcome, the culture hears acceptance. Frankly, it seems that the Holy Father has moved the goalposts from the last synod. Before the first synod, he gave Kasper quite a platform to push his idea of Communion for those in mortal sin. After the revolt at the synod, the Pope seems to be backpedalling from the Communion for those in mortal sin position (although from this talk it sounds like he may be considering it for those whose spouses have betrayed them), but is now lecturing us about welcoming sinners. I don’t really know what he means by “welcome” in this context, but I sure know what the world thinks “welcome” means. A little clarity here from the Holy Father would be great.

    As an aside, the most merciful and welcoming priest I have ever encountered was the ninety-something little old priest who heard my confession at about 10pm one night after I had been away from confession for years. This kind man told me in the most gentle way possible that if I died with mortal sin on my soul, that I wouldn’t make it to Heaven. That’s the way to a sinner’s heart- with gentle and genuine care for the state of their eternal soul. The priests who did not challenge me to change were the ones who saw me walking around in chains and did nothing to help me escape.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    dmwallace – The actual case is that the nice Italian mama invited you in, and then she saw that you had a huge gaping gut wound. You reached for the spaghetti, and she slapped your hand away and started trying to bandage you up while calling 911. You kept reaching while your blood kept spurting, but she kept trying to help your obvious deadly wound. Finally she yelled, “Are you nuts!? If you eat with a gaping gut wound, you will die!”

  28. Imrahil says:

    Three unrelated points if you suffer:

    1. about the “no longer excommunicated”: Bigamy used to be an actual excommunicable (ferendae sententiae) offense under the old Code.

    2. I think, with all due respect, the Holy Father is focussing a bit too much on the (correct) technical fact that they aren’t excommunicated.

    The Pope emeritus once treated that (I believe when still cardinal), in an interview, in (roundabout) the following way,
    P. Seewald: What about the excommunication of divorced and remarried people?
    Cdl. Ratzinger: First, I’d like to note that, although they do bear the chief mark of excommunication which is exclusion from the reception of Holy Communion, the canonical penalty of excommunication does not, strictly speaking, apply here. – Now for what you meant with your question.

    3. Let’s face it: As long as the Church holds as certain or at least possible that the life of the divorced and remarried is – not only a sad state which to overcome is laudable, not only a sort of cultic impurity banning reception of Holy Communion, and not only a venial sin (this or a combination of it is often tacitly assumed by people defending Catholic practice, very well in our camp), but – mortal sin, the status of the div&rems in the Catholic community will necessarily be precarious.

    And though some of them might keep both faith and hope, even, perhaps, the joy of faith, but I’d count all such instances as heroism, and heroism shouldn’t generally be expected. Those who are told that they are constantly mortally sinning might repent, but as long as they don’t, or as long as they can’t seriously consider getting things in order as something really possible, the rational among them may keep believing the tenets of faith but will despair, and the emotional ones are drawn into losing the Faith.

    It is written: “With the Lord there is forgiveness in order that (!) He be faithfully served.” In order that He be, not “despite He isn’t”. If there cannot be forgiveness (and we are talking about those to whom quitting the second union seems impossible as long as that status lasts – the rest may exist, but do not come into this discussion), people will naturally think, “so I’m a lost cause anyway, alright, hence why bothering”. Returning to the bosom of Venus seemed but the natural thing to do for Tannhäuser, when he was told there was no forgiveness for this same sin.

  29. Tom Piatak says:

    You are exactly right that a concern for children affected by divorce should lead us to redouble our efforts to limit the number of divorces in the first place. And one way of doing that is by reminding people, in clear language, of Our Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage.

    We know that loosening secular law on divorce led to a great increase in the number of divorces. Any attempt to loosen the moral law on divorce would have the same disastrous effect.

  30. The Cobbler says:

    I don’t understand what some of this means. There cannot be a failure of a sacramental marriage, can there? What I mean to say is that there cannot be a failure of the sacrament. [I think we know what “failed marriage” means in common discourse.]

    I think in common discourse terms like “failed marriage” are used in no small part because people commonly no longer think of marriage as necessarily lasting until death. I’m less concerned about not knowing what it means than about it being the wrong way to speak about marriage, conceptually. The speaker can turn around and say that civil remarriage after divorce contradicts the Sacrament, but with the concept as expressed one cannot say why, whereas with the correct understanding that the Sacrament, if it existed in the first place, cannot be undone in any manner except death, the reason why such “remarriage” is wrong is obvious.

    By way of comparison: if a math teacher were concerned that his students think of the equals sign as an operation rather than a statement about a relationship, and it came out that he says “two plus two makes four” rather than “two plus two is equal to four”, I’d say, “Well, there’s your problem…” Granted he’d probably only be compounding the students’ experience with calculators (where the equals button does perform a simplification operation), but compounding the incorrect way of thinking is exactly the issue. Now, if I heard of all this in a different language than the math teacher actually speaks, I’d reserve judgement until I knew whether the translation is accurate… But I would, say, have misgivings about sending my son to a math school where the head teacher uses that sort of language even while the school debates what to do about kids making algebra mistakes due to that misunderstanding!

    I may have said this before, but whereas the SSPX is technically a priestly movement, if the synod (or anyone in authority over the Church, synod-supported or no) were to tear down marriage as those of us who’ve taken it seriously strive to live it according to the Church’s teaching, the next equivalent of the SSPX would be a lay movement led by married couples. I am not saying I think it would be right. But I am saying it would be entirely predictable. You can’t come up to parents who are trying to help their kids understand algebra and tell them that we should no longer concern ourselves with the difference between operations and relationships and expect them to appreciate you as a teacher.

    As to John Allen’s theory, verbally hedging your bets is not leadership and it’s not teaching, and I for one am sick and tired of the world pretending it’s either or both. If you want an idea of how sick of it I am, I am beginning to find Donald Trump of all people refreshing simply because he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks or to tear the media up if they try to paint him a color he disagrees with. And no, I don’t look up to or even like Donald Trump — that’s my point. I shouldn’t have to turn to a celebrity business mogul just to find a man with a backbone, let alone to find a man with the basic competence to talk straight in the midst of controversy. Sheesh!! Would that better men than Trump had half his nerve.

    [P.S. Father, the Preview button is giving me a message instead of a preview, “CleanTalk. Spam protection ***Forbidden. Please enable JavaScript.***” For what it’s worth, I have Javascript enabled.]

  31. jhayes says:

    Chantgirl wrote: When the Pope speaks of welcome, the culture hears acceptance

    Rightly so, I believe. Benedict said “to help them to feel loved and accepted, to feel that they are not ‘excluded'”

    But, of course, it is the person who is “accepted” not their conduct.

    Just as it is the person who is “loved,” not their conduct.

    It’s that worry that loving and accepting the person will be interpreted as approving their conduct that gets in the way of doing what Benedict (and, now, Francis) ask us to do.

  32. dmwallace says:

    Well, I’m Scottish, so what do I know! The problem is, however, that no one in the Church is telling these people the gravity of their situations. That’s my point.

  33. Benedict Joseph says:

    The doctrinal and pastoral questions are solved. If certain parties achieve their goal and make that a seeming falsehood that will be a comment on another day.
    What is not solved to my satisfaction is the continual toying with this issue in ways that do not clarify, but only magnify an addiction to a “perception of ambiguity” a certain element is unable to relinquish.
    First, I have never in my life heard anyone ridiculed or chastised for divorce and remarriage. here is no problem of exclusion.
    More importantly, an individual in a position of ultimate authority exercises that authority responsibly when clarifying issues, not muddling them. Is it really necessary for parties on both sides of any given issue to continually employ tools required for biblical exegesis for statements issued from the Vatican?
    What is the purpose in our time of commenting on any issue without clarity, and at the same time couching ideas with the diminutive and embellishing the statement with saccharine imagery. It leaves me feeling manipulated. It diminishes my ability to trust. Isn’t this exactly what you don’t want to engender in your audience? Distractions, ambiguity, and distrust. I don’t understand.
    Or do I?

  34. Mike says:

    This isn’t an unusual statement from the Holy Father…he tends to try to bring many sides into the speech/talk/homily he is giving at any given moment. In that sense, he’s hard to read as to intention in regard to the upcoming synod.

    For some clarity, I recommend reading Waugh’s Brideshead Revisted. It’s nearly all there, in one novel.

  35. joan ellen says:

    It seems Pope Francis boils it all down to we must love the sinner & hate the sin.
    Clear instruction on what kinds of words to use in that effort may be helpful. Welcoming is always welcome.

    Asking someone to pray with us or with a group may be one of the easiest ways to be welcoming.
    Passing out or having available good examination of conscience leaflets may be the best way to communicate what is a sin…should the person(s) heart (& head) not be aware of it/them.

    I ‘see’ much good coming from this preparation for the Synod on marriage and family. The controversies seem to be fomenting better prayer lives…better Catholic lives… in many of us.

  36. acardnal says:

    The Church “welcomes”, “accepts”, “loves” sinners but not the sin. Sinners are “welcome” only in the sense that Christ and His Church wants them to repent, to convert, to give up their sinful behavior and become holy. That is His goal! He told the prostitute, “go and sin no more.” If someone is living in a persistent state of unrepentant mortal sin such as divorce and remarriage that can be a big challenge.

  37. jacobi says:

    @ dmwallace,

    We are, in so many walks of life, expected to obey rules and behave appropriately. If not, we are free to leave, and indeed as responsible people should, and go elsewhere. That is our choice.

    To stay because you like the smell, and expect your host to accept your dissonant behaviour, and change their behaviour to accommodate yours, is just not on.

    And as for being Scottish, what on earth does that have to do with this discussion.

    I mean, what school did you go to?

  38. jhayes says:

    I had some recollection that, at one time, people were excommunicated for remarrying after divorce without an annulment. In looking around, I found this that indicates that was the case in the USA only from 1886 to 1997.

    In 1884, American bishops at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, becoming increasingly alarmed at the rising American divorce rate, decreed that any American Catholic who remarried after a civil divorce was automatically excommunicated from the Church. The Decree read in part:

    it clearly appears that a most serious guilt attaches to those who seek to dissolve their marriages by appeal to the civil authorities, or, what is worse, obtain a civil divorce and attempt a new marriage,in spite of the lawful bond which still exists in the sight of God and His Church.To punish these crimes,we decree that an automatic excommunication be automatically incurred by those who attempt a new marriage after divorce.

    In 1886, papal approval was granted and this decree was instituted only in the United States; no where else did Catholics have such a severe penalty placed upon them for remarriage.


  39. jhayes says:

    Typo – 1997 should have been 1977

  40. CharlesG says:

    Isn’t this yet one more of those statements that, while certainly capable of being explained in a way consistent with Catholic doctrine, can and will be used by the promoters of doctrinal change in the Church as well as by the Catholic-hating mainstream media to push their agenda, without any correction from the Pope? I have to say I am near despair about the impending synod and what the Pope will enact in its aftermath.

  41. DJAR says:

    “He informed me that Pope Francis, who was progressive, had issued a statement that divorced and remarried Catholics were to be specially welcomed and were (if I heard him correctly) no longer excommunicated. [“no longer”?? That’s a distortion. They WERE NOT excommunicated to begin with!]”

    In “the old days,” Catholics did indeed consider divorced and remarried Catholics “excommunicated,” and that was the word we used for it. The reason is this: Said Catholics could not make their Easter duty, and a Catholic who did not make his/her Easter duty was considered excommunicated.

    Catholic Encyclopedia, 1917, Paschal Tide
    •”Lest any be kept away from Communion by the fear that the requisite preparation is too hard and laborious, the faithful are frequently to be reminded that they are all bound to receive the Holy Eucharist. Furthermore, the Church has decreed that whoever neglects to approach Holy Communion once a year, at Easter, is liable to sentence of excommunication.”

  42. Pnkn says:

    well…. here’s athougt

    Recently, a family member who is a Lutheran (and hates that I am a Roman Catholic and declares that I am being fed lies and cannot rely upon anything that I read on the internet or in the news but who refuses to send me a reliable source) told me that…..
    -It is a matter of personal choice whether or not to kill unborn babies because it is cruel to the baby to let babies born without heads be born
    -it is a matter of personal choice to commit suicide after devastating war injuries because the vast majority of those victims wish to die
    -None of these decisions have anything to do with “Thou shalt not kill” – and in fact a person does NOT have the right defend themself or their family against violence
    -all of these decisions are personal and have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

    So I have written to the pastor of that church to ask to explain such beliefs as having nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs, because in Catholicism everything is based upon one’s religious beliefs.

    Oh well. Never mind that if my father (her husband) had wished to commit suicide he should have done so (he died a long lingering death) – “this is not the same.”

    When will people ever listen to Jesus ?

  43. Kathleen10 says:

    I hate to be Eeyore, but, as with so many of his talks, I’m concerned about what prep work he may be doing for the Synod.
    I can’t imagine where divorced and remarried aren’t accepted either. Perhaps if your definition of “accepted” is to receive Holy Communion, and that isn’t happening, then those people could of course make noise about not being “accepted”. Those people certainly seem to have found some receptive ears.
    The focus on the children’s suffering is true in a way, but in many of these talking points from progressives it often feels manipulative. How can we argue about a point in which children are “suffering”? I think children suffer today from many things, from being torn apart in the womb, to being told that good is evil and evil is good. More suffer from these I bet than suffer from societal displeasure because their parents are remarried. Those children suffer, but not from society, certainly not American society. So, maybe, once again, the Pope is talking about somebody else, some periphery we don’t know about.
    The section about language is worrisome. We know there is growing desire from progressives to remove words such as “gravely disordered” and similar terms as it regards homosexuality. “Adultery” is another word that reportedly causes things to get into a twist. So to see the Holy Father talk about softening vocabulary here causes me angst. I can’t wait to see how these progressives manage to soften adultery right out of the Ten Commandments.

  44. Norah says:

    In my corner of Australia I know of no one, divorced and remarried, same sex attracted, fornicators, those who contracept, adulterers etc, who has been excluded from being a member of a parish and participating in Holy Mass. Whether or not these people have received Holy Communion whilst not in a state of grace I can’s say.

  45. Ganganelli says:

    I wonder if there is an age gap here. Every divorced and remarried Catholic in my extended over the age of 60ish just simply left the Church altogether after their remarriage. For those younger, most just go to mass and receive communion as if there was nothing sinful at all.

  46. Phil Steinacker says:

    I live in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and my parish is a Novus Ordo church with, as you might imagine, a pretty liberal pastor and an equally progressive deacon (without getting into details, I have my reasons for remaining there, despite liturgical abuses and other difficulties).

    Yet, a situation brought to their attention a few years ago resulted in a decision which hardly comports with the views of catholyc progressives and which no one here has reported so far.

    A woman who had been a lector and her boy friend had applied to become Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Before training began, we had begun the process for updating the parish directory, which included color photos.

    From the address submitted for the directory, it was noticed that these two parishioners were cohabitating, which led the very liberal pastor to instruct the equally progressive deacon to inform them that they could NOT be permitted to serve as EMHC. Furthermore, she was informed that she was no longer permitted to serve as a lector. The reason given was that Catholics are not permitted to serve in those capacities when in a state of continuing, unconfessed mortal sin because of the strong potential for scandalizing others.

    I do not know this is an archdiocesan policy, whether Canon Law or rubrics or any other set of Church laws applies here, but I support the decision. This, even though she was a good friend of mine. The reasoning is solid, and transcends friendship, family, or hurt feelings.

    However, my purpose in sharing this story is to highlight another point I’ve only barely detected in the comments, and that is that in the overwhelming majority of cases those continuing in unconfessed mortal sin do so undetected by the rest of the congregation – including the pastor.
    Those divorced and remarried without annulment, those cohabitating, fornicating, and acting upon homosexual inclinations, do so below the radar unless they “out” themselves, as my friend unintentionally managed to do.

    So, how in the world can anyone “welcome” such sinners? How might they be accepted? Certainly, Scripture calls us to admonish sinners, and that mandate is the Spiritual Work of Mercy which leads off the list. To do so, however, the sin must be clearly obvious and, preferably, to all – or at least the pastor. The only exception may be the case of two obvious homosexuals pretending to be married who come to the church with children they purloined through the cooperation of outside resources – mostly straight people. That may be the only instance of folks continuing in unconfessed mortal sin, especially if they are loud and clear that they view being “welcomed” as equivalent to “accepting” their sinfulness.

    I am, therefore, perplexed about the conditions “on the ground” which the pope seems to imagine in which folks in continuing, unconfessed mortal sin are not welcomed or accepted. I submit most are, if for no other reason than no one normally will be able to discern it unless flaunted.

    And again, if we do know, are we not mandated to admonish sinners our of true charity? I am most unimpressed with arguments twisting authentic charity which Pope Benedict XVI called for into the lie that being “loved and accepted” precludes the first Spiritual Work of Mercy demanded by Scripture. That mandate is NOT reserved to priests. One may consider prayerfully the best way to kindly but clearly and firmly to warn others of the eternal consequences of their sinfulness (in the rare instances when we can become aware of it), but that charge to do so is upon each of us. One might say that to suggest it be left exclusively to priests is a particularly pernicious form of clericalism not anticipated by the Church.

  47. Phil Steinacker says:

    EDIT: I should have made two points more clearly than I did.

    “So, how in the world can anyone “welcome” such sinners? How might they be accepted?”

    It simply cannot be done unless the sin is manifestly known, otherwise such “secretive” sinners are just as welcome and accepted as the rest of us secret sinners.

    “That may be the only instance of folks continuing in unconfessed mortal sin, especially if they are loud and clear that they view being “welcomed” as equivalent to “accepting” their sinfulness.”

    The salient portion of that sentence should read, “continuing in OBVIOUS unconfessed mortal sin…”

    My apologies for my sloppiness.

  48. Bea says:

    “May each one do his part in assuming the attitude of the Good Shepherd, who knows each one of his sheep and excludes no one from his infinite love!”
    Of course, God excludes no one from His Infinite Love. He loves His creatures, His creation. Even if they have chosen hell and are there, He still loves us. It is not that the Church (or we) excludes/rejects sinners, it could never do that, it is that the sinners have rejected Christ and His Church by rejecting Him and His Teachings. This is the job of all of us (out of love) to point the way to salvation.

    The cry of John the Baptist is still in force: REPENT. REPENT. Make straight the ways of the Lord
    As in Matthew 3:
    2And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
    3For this is he that was spoken of by Isaias the prophet, saying: A voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

    And John, The Baptist (through us) is still crying in the desert and in the desert (the spiritual desert) there are few who hear.

    As to the word “excommunicate” it has taken on a life of its’ own. As if it meant cut off from God, cut off from the Church completely. When I was growing up I had come to understand that the origin of this word was simply not to be able to go to communion, until one repented and straightened ourselves out from cutting ourselves off from God by our sins. “ex-communicate” and in Spanish “des-comulgados”, in other words: not being able to go to communion, which is really what this issue is all about.

  49. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I think we have to remember that Pope Francis comes from Argentina. From my slight knowledge of that country, its church and its history I can imagine that it is possible that the divorced and remarried were shunned. Indeed in the UK the divorced and remarried were shunned several decades ago. Were they not excluded from the Royal Enclosure at Ascot racecourse in living memory? Times have changed!

  50. joan ellen says:

    acardnal: Yes…unrepentance is a big challenge…as also when a ‘new family’ (children) is involved. The ‘old family’ (original) suffers greatly…the spouse & children.

    Norah: Divorced people (spouse & children), are accepted by the Church, not necessarily by some laity within the Church. Sometimes, divorced people…spouse and children are avoided like the plague…even in this day and age. I know of a priest who believes 2nd marriages are from the evil one. It is impossible for a child to have more than one dad and one mom. I am saying a step-father and step-mother is a blatant lie to the divorced child… The ‘step-parent’ is ONLY a ‘legal’ wife or husband…nothing more…to the divorced child. Often, someone to be tolerated, out of Christian charity. Turtle Doves understand this. Why can’t we? Sorry, Father, this is not a rant. This is reality…truth and Truth.

  51. Sonshine135 says:


    My bigger point is this doublespeak that comes from the Vatican that includes the word “acceptance”. Sometimes we also see the word “tolerate”, but let’s focus on acceptance. Acceptance is defined as the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group. Do you know of any Catholic Church in existence that fails to “accept” a divorced and remarried couple? What about a gay man or woman? Of course not. We all come to the church supposedly, because the very fact we are broken people. We are seeking the remedy that will repair our life. We go through this journey, each with our own symptoms, looking for the cure.

    The opposite of acceptance is exclusion. So, I am always led to ask the question- how do we as Catholics exclude people from church? How do we make them feel unwelcome?

    There are a couple of areas here that I see. You probably would not want a person in a persistent, declared state of mortal sin to teach Catechisis. You probably wouldn’t want them coming in and being allowed to talk about how great their second “marriage” is. The main exclusion; however, for those in a state of mortal sin is from Holy Communion.

    Thus, the reason I call this double speak:
    The Francis formula for these audiences seems to be reiterate church doctrine; then tell Catholics that even though this is doctrine- we must create a loving and accepting environment. So this begs to ask the question, what is meant by “accepting”:

    Do we let them teach catechisis and look the other way?
    Do we let them teach others about how great their second marriage is- even without an annulment from the first?
    Do we ignore the doctrine of the church out of acceptance and mercy and admit them to Holy Communion?

    I don’t have the answers to this, and it is never clearly explained. My gut feeling is that this is a signal to those Priests that want to answer “yes” to the questions above. It tells them that if they do answer yes, that the Vatican will do nothing about it. I base this theory on empirical evidence of the situation at hand. Again, we the faithful don’t know, because statements like this are such broad generalizations. If this be the case; however, the message from the Vatican is that we are to admit people to “field hospital” and instead of curing them of what ills them, we are to ignore it in the name of fake mercy. This is mercy that makes their mortal flesh feel better about what they are doing, but kills the immortal soul. Furthermore, will we also be held accountable for this fake mercy? My gut says yes. This is my concern.

  52. JonM says:

    Respectfully, I have to disagree with taking the tortuous path to interpreting this audience as a positive or moment of clarity.

    To the average baptized Catholic in 2015, to hear that divorced and remarried are ‘not excommunicated’ certainly sounds like such folk are eligible to receive Communion. Very, very few know the technical canonical conditions of formal excommunication. And in truth, they are not nearly as crucial as they once were (as there once were tiers describing how distant members of the Church would have to be.)

    To the average person, this sounds like it is acceptable to divorce and remarry, period. Without a clear, direct, and focused discussion on the possibility of increased invalid marriages, this conversation is one that pleases the world.

    Speaking personally, the Protestant side of the family is completely shocked and confused at this suggestion that, ceteris paribus, divorce and remarriage is just fine (to say nothing of the hammer and sickle incident.)

    The Catholic side of the family that to a man does not attend Mass more than once in a while takes this as confirmation that Communion is open and one need not go to Confession. These are the facts on the ground I have seen in my personal situation and what I hear from virtually all of my peers.

    At some point, we cannot keep blaming the AP, Reuters, MSNBC, etc. for selective quoting. At some point, the buck stops with the conductor.

  53. Sam Schmitt says:

    Which is why I asked if there are places in the world where that [the divorced and remarried not welcome in a parish church] is going on. I don’t know of any. Perhaps some readers do.

    I think the pope may be referring to the fact that the divorced and remarried are currently barred from acting as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, catechists, teachers, and as baptism and confirmation sponsors. I seem to remember Pope Francis calling for an end to these restrictions, but I can’t find it now. I’d appreciate if someone could find this or tell me I’m mistaken.

  54. kpoterack says:

    “Who today actually thinks that remarried divorcees are actually excommunicated?”

    Since this has been brought up several times, I think that it is worth answering. I watched an interview with Card. Scola last year (and I think Card. Caffara, as well) in which it was said that in ministering to remarried divorcees (in a totally orthodox way) many of these people – “of an older generation” – automatically assume that they are excommunicated. I think that this was a common myth sincerely believed by a number of Catholics who are now 65 years and older – at least in Italy, if not elsewhere. They just remarried civilly and stopped attending Mass altogether, so they never had contact with a priest to set them straight.

    Card. Scola said that he made a point of seeking these people out and setting them straight. This is the milieu, I am certain, to which Pope Francis is speaking. Many people of this generation thought this way, and still need to be corrected.

    Now, as to other things, I agree that Pope Francis is not yet expressing himself absolutely clearly on this issue of penance/communion for remarried divorcees. I think that he doesn’t want to preempt the advice of the Synod, and this is why he is not saying too much specifically, yet. However, as Sandro Magister has documented, virtually everything he has been saying on the topics of marriage, sexuality and family, has leaned very traditional since last October.

    Also, it is very interesting to me to note that in this address Pope Francis quotes “Familiaris Consortio” art. 84 and says, “The Church knows well that such a situation CONTRADICTS the Christian Sacrament.” In that very article 84, JP II uses the word “contradict/contradiction” twice: 1) “divorced persons who have remarried . . . are unable [to receive communion because] their state and condition of life objectively CONTRADICT that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist,” 2) “Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who . . . [are] ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in CONTRADICTION to the indissolubility of marriage.”

    Clearly, Pope Francis had to have read all of article 84 – including these parts – as part of his preparation for his talk. For him to make the point about “contradiction,” but to end up rejecting the logical conclusion which JP II drew from it, would be downright . . . strange.

    To me, at any rate.

    Anyway, keep praying and doing whatever you have been doing for a good outcome on this issue – the battle is far from over. However, I think that, on balance, this is part of a number of good signs.

  55. kpoterack says:

    One other point, I find the place where Pope Francis quotes himself from Evangelium Gaudii (n. 47) to be possibly indicative: “All can participate in SOME way in ecclesial life . . . ” (my emphasis added). He does this in the paragraph after which he states the ways in which divorced/remarried CAN participate, which is basically cribbed from Familiaris Consortio, art. 84: “with listening to the Word of God, with frequenting the liturgy, with the Christian education of the children, with charity and service to the poor, with commitment to justice and peace.”

    Maybe it is just me, but I see that as the pope implicitly saying that, though such people cannot participate in ALL ways – like others – they can participate in SOME ways. (“The Church . . . is the paternal home where there is a place for each one with his difficult life.”) And this would be of a piece with his previous statements about “integration” of the divorced/remarried into the life of the Church and even finding additional ways (i.e. godparents) short of communion.

  56. WYMiriam says:

    JonM, you have put most of my own musings and frustrations on this latest address of Pope Francis into a succinct summary. Thank you.

    For my part, I am going to try to remember, when I need to read Francis, to ask St. Jude [patron of hopeless cases] to help me understand what the pope is *really* saying. Or at least to point out to me the *important* parts so that I can skip over the rest of it. Or at least to make me stop and pray for wisdom, clarity, and brevity for the pope.

    And I don’t know how it came about that I used to think that the remarried-after-divorce-without-a-decree-of-nullity were excommunicated. But it had to come from somewhere! I don’t find it in the list of sins which incur excommunication in volume 3 of Moral and Pastoral Theology by Henry Davis, S.J. (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1946). So, how has this error persisted for so long? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it refuted in public (e.g., in sermons or pastoral letters from bishops). What a shame that Catholic education is in such shambles!

  57. WYMiriam says:

    Correction: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the error about divorced-and-civilly-remarried being excommunicated refuted until I read the Pope’s message and this blog entry of Fr. Z’s — which means to say, today.

  58. The Cobbler says:

    Clearly, Pope Francis had to have read all of article 84 – including these parts – as part of his preparation for his talk. For him to make the point about “contradiction,” but to end up rejecting the logical conclusion which JP II drew from it, would be downright . . . strange.

    To me, at any rate.

    It would be objectively strange in the extreme.

    However, if the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot reasonably expect an absence of strangeness in this world at the present time.

  59. Bea says:

    Nicolas Bellord says:
    6 August 2015 at 4:36 AM
    I think we have to remember that Pope Francis comes from Argentina.

    Yes, Nicolas, you’re right. It also holds true for Mexico. Many women tolerate their wayward husbands for the sake of appearances because it is usually couples that are part of a certain kind of society. Some men have a “casa chica” that is, another household with another woman. If they actually divorce, though not exactly shunned, women are left with a feeling of merely being tolerated by their former “friends”, Of course there are true friends that do not abandon them, but this is not always the case. There is still a stigma in Mexico on divorced women even if they do not remarry.

    Perhaps all this talk is directed to Latin countries and not to saxon countries who are more tolerant and kind towards divorcees.

  60. jhayes says:

    WYMiriam wrote And I don’t know how it came about that I used to think that the remarried-after-divorce-without-a-decree-of-nullity were excommunicated. But it had to come from somewhere!

    If you lived in the US before 1977, it was true. In 1977 the US Bishops voted to revoke the excommunication decree that had applied only to US Catholics. Paul VI approved the revocation.

  61. acardnal says:

    joan allen wrote: “acardnal: Yes…unrepentance is a big challenge…as also when a ‘new family’ (children) is involved. The ‘old family’ (original) suffers greatly…the spouse & children.”

    I concur.

    Those in mortal sin (e.g.the divorced and remarried) should attend Mass in the hope the God’s grace will touch their soul and move them to repentance in Confession. But they should not receive holy communion until they do so.

  62. Imrahil says:

    Dear jacobi,

    a Catholic is not free to leave the Church if he doesn’t like in it. You know, that conscience and Mystical Body thing – which surprisingly is still felt, openly or subconsciously, by a lot of people “with problems”.

    It is the mark of good Catholicism that people remain believers and members even if they are sinners, rather than (quite irrationally, in fact) just opting to go elsewere. And while it is not good if someone doesn’t or thinks he cannot repent – let me put it colloquially: don’t we, in a sense, see precisely here whether Catholicism, in the sense of the general atmosphere shaped by Catholic faith and Catholic culture, “works” – or whether the utterly un-Catholic “pick and choose among religions, or among varieties of Christianity, that one which suits you” idea prevails. [*]

    [* The idea is not un-Catholic w.r.t. varieties of Catholicism, different shapes of spirituality and forms of worship, etc., non of which heretical; but it is if Catholicism is just treated as one brand of Christianity next to the various Protestant ones etc.]

  63. WYMiriam says:

    jhayes, I had seen that comment earlier, and I thank you for repeating it. I just wonder why Fr. Davis didn’t mention it in his Moral and Pastoral Theology, published in the USA and in 1946. (Of course, he couldn’t cover every single permutation and combination, but surely something as serious as this might have merited mention?)

    *sigh* so much to learn, so little time!

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  65. JabbaPapa says:

    Please forgive me, Father Z, for my rather knee-jerk reaction the other day to this news.

    I wish to repost something I wrote elsewhere.

    I think I’m beginning to understand the source of the confusion regarding divorced-remarried and excommunication, and the Pope’s recent statements.

    Prior to the Council of Trent (which greatly decreased the cases where one could be excommunicated), and prior more particularly to the 1869 Papal Bull Apostolicae Sedis Moderationi, there was a censure that existed of “minor excommunication”, that was in most respects similar to the penalty currently incurred by the divorced-remarried — except that it is no longer referred to as an “excommunication”.

    There’s an interesting teaching too, of Pope Martin V, that : “to avoid scandal and numerous dangers, and to relieve timorous consciences, we hereby mercifully grant to all the faithful that henceforth no one need refrain from communicating with another in the reception or administration of the sacraments, or in other matters Divine or profane, under pretext of any ecclesiastical sentence or censure, whether promulgated in general form by law or by a judge, nor avoid anyone whomsoever, nor observe an ecclesiastical interdict, except when this sentence or censure shall have been published or made known by the judge in special and express form, against some certain, specified person, college, university, church, community, or place.”

    So the Pope has in fact simply reminded us of Catholic teaching that has been in force since the 15th century concerning the “pastoral” (to use the current vocabulary) welcome of those under some penalty, except the more formal openly public penalties that may exist, and since the 16th and 19th centuries concerning the divorced-remarried in particular, and all others who in mediaeval times may have incurred the penalty of minor excommunication.

  66. joan ellen says:

    jacobi and Imrahil: People “with problems have them because of sin…theirs or someone else’s. These sins cause people to have “spiritual depression” which can only be helped, maybe even remedied, via the Sacraments…unless a “chemical problem” also exists…from legal/illegal drugs…including alcohol, coffee, sugar, and even grains. In other words, because of an “allergy” to a substance that is not properly, nor can’t be, processed by the body.

    People in the state of grace, excepting for the “chemical problem”, do not have a “spiritual depression”. We could say Joy is the absence of Sin for people “with problems.” Perhaps it could also be said that Sin is from lower, banal thinking while Joy is from higher, wiser thinking.

    As for people who go elsewhere: Is it fair to say they go elsewhere because they are people “with problems”? Could they be going elsewhere to keep their faith or their human dignity? Perhaps they put more stock in modern psychology than the faith…and so lost it. Perhaps they are struggling with God & His Church. Perhaps they want to avoid sin… (another or others in their parish may be an occasion of sin for them. These are people who have made choices, not people “with problems.”

    Are these choices “life giving” choices. Not in my book. Only Catholicism…the Eastern Church and the Western Church…offers apostolic succession with the life giving 7 Sacraments and the help of thousands of saints for life here on earth and life there…in Eternity. We people need soul vitality…with peace and joy here and there. We find it, here and there, in Catholicism.

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