“If you don’t commit adultery, I’ll kill myself!” – “Well, okay.”

Francesco-CoccopalmerioMy friend Fr. Gerald Murray has again offered some insights over at The Catholic Thing about…

The False and Dangerous Coccopalmerio Gambit

Ready for some casuistry? [which is the use of clever but unsound reasoning, especially in relation to moral questions; sophistry. synonyms: sophistry, specious reasoning, speciousness, sophism, equivocation
… ]
Should the Catholic Church allow a man and a woman to receive the sacraments in the following case? A woman living with a married but divorced man tells him that she no longer wants to live in sin; the man threatens to kill himself, and she, following her confessor’s advice, stays with him?

In an interview with Edward Pentin, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio offers this example and says: yes. He refers to his recent book on Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in which he speaks of this case:

Think of a woman who lives with a married man. She has three little children. She has already been with this man for ten years. Now the children think of her as a mother. He, the partner, is very much anchored to this woman, as a lover, as a woman. If this woman were to say: “I am leaving this mistaken union because I want to correct my life, but if I did this, I would harm the children and the partner,” then she might say: “I would like to, but I cannot.” In precisely these cases, based on one’s intention to change and the impossibility of changing, [See the fatal flaw?] I can give that person the sacraments, in the expectation that the situation is definitively clarified.  [Fail.]

What’s the harm to the partner in her departure? “But how can she leave the union? He [her civilly married spouse] will kill himself. The children, who will take care of them? They will be without a mother. Therefore, she has to stay there.” 

He even states that the woman who desires to end the adulterous relationship would be guilty of killing her partner by leaving: “But if someone says: ‘I want to change, but in this moment I cannot, because if I do it, I will kill people,’ I can say to them, ‘Stop there. When you can, I will give you absolution and Communion.’”

The argument posed here is a quintessential “hard case” being used to establish a premise in favor of treating publicly known adultery as no longer an obstacle to the lawful reception of Holy Communion. But this premise sanctions emotionally manipulative coercion [Right!] and victimizes the woman further by treating her desire to live a virtuous life as the cause of harm to another.

How can that be? Obedience to God’s law is the cause of good in the life of the woman in question and that good radiates out to those around her. Her departure might shock the man into realizing how abusive his behavior has been toward her. His children are his responsibility, along with their mother, assuming she is still alive and involved in their lives. Her decision to follow God’s law will bring the children sadness, but more importantly gives a living witness of the Christian duty always to obey God’s law.  [One of the things that continues to shock me and other sensible people is the assumption that any sticky situation people get themselves into can be “fixed”.  Sometimes people get themselves into jams that can’t be fixed with some solution masked as “compassion” or “mercy”.  True mercy usually means helping the person through the suffering their self-created situation has gotten them into and then finding God in the redemptive suffering.  Happiness in this short life is not the ultimate goal.  Happiness in the next life, for eternity, is the goal.]

The man in question uses the threat of suicide to coerce this woman, not simply to remain in his household to raise his children, as would be the case if he agreed to live in a chaste, brother and sister relationship for the sake of the children; he is coercing her into committing acts of adultery. He is sinning gravely on two counts. She is conscious of her objectively sinful behavior and wants to conform her life to the demands of the Gospel.

Her culpability is mitigated by the force and fear imposed upon her by this man’s threat. [Yes.] Nonetheless, [NB] when grace moves a person to reject sin, the Church must never tell that believer that she need not worry about her sinful situation because the man she is civilly married to is somehow entitled to adulterous relations, lest he kill himself.  [That’s it, isn’t it?  Think about what the promoters of the Kasperite position claim: the matrimonial state is an ideal that some people can’t attain… people who get themselves into sticky situations shouldn’t have to reach for an ideal that they can’t attain.   Isn’t this a denial of God’s grace?  Isn’t it a denial of something that Church teaches definitively?  cf an anathema of the Council of Trent.  Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossibleHERE]

Is it an authentically Christian pastoral approach to allow a deadly threat by the man to go unchallenged? Could the threat of suicide likewise be invoked to allow other gravely sinful situations to continue? [“If you don’t let me get that dress for the party at Danny’s place I’LL KILL MYSELF!”] If he were sexually abusing his children, and threatened to kill himself if they were removed from the house, would anyone think they should be left there? Why should his demand to continue in adulterous acts with a reluctant woman be treated differently?

An underlying assumption here may be that once the woman agreed to live with this man more uxorio, she somehow lost her right to refuse pseudo-conjugal rights, and that such a refusal would harm him, if not kill him. This is a backwards way of looking at the plight of a woman who, moved by God’s grace, wants to live faithful to the Sixth Commandment.

[Watch this…] By allowing this “suicide exception,” the Church would be tolerating the woman’s exploitation and reinforcing the man’s mistaken notion that he can, without any consequences, manipulate another person, until such time “that the situation is definitively clarified” (whatever that means).

The role of the priest confessor in this case is to help this man and woman to live virtuous lives, which means abandoning threats to commit suicide and giving good example to the children by living a chaste life together. If that is not possible, the priest should advise the repentant woman to live in accordance with her upright conscience by departing.  [HEY WAIT!  Surely the role of the confessor is to affirm people just as they are!!?!]

Sad to say, Cardinal Coccopalmerio believes it is impossible (emphasis added) for some Christians to change their situation: “I say in the book, it’s necessary to instruct the faithful that when they see two divorced and remarried that go to the Eucharist, they ought not to say the Church now says that condition is good, therefore marriage is no longer indissoluble. They ought to say these people will have reasons examined by the ecclesial authorities on account of which they cannot change their condition, and in the expectation that they change, the Church has placed importance on their desire, their intention to change with the impossibility of doing so.”  [impossibility]

Sed contra: “With God all things are possible.” Mt 19:26

Right.  Fr. Z kudos.

And now…

A reading from the the Council of Trent.

Mind you, the what the Council of Trent is still true.  Right?  Even though it was a few centuries ago, it is still true what that Council taught and we Catholics are obliged to accept what that Council taught.

Celebrated on the thirteenth day of the month of January, 1547.


On keeping the Commandments, and on the necessity and possibility thereof.

But no one, how much soever justified, ought to think himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one ought to make use of that rash saying, one prohibited by the Fathers under an anathema,- that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able; whose commandments are not heavy; whose yoke is sweet and whose burthen light[That, dear readers, is true compassion.] For, whoso are the sons of God, love Christ; but they who love him, keep his commandments, as Himself testifies; which, assuredly, with the divine help, they can do. For, although, during this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, not therefore do they cease to be just. For that cry of the just, Forgive us our trespasses, is both humble and true. And for this cause, the just themselves ought to feel themselves the more obligated to walk in the way of justice, in that, being already freed from sins, but made servants of God, they are able, living soberly, justly, and godly, to proceed onwards through Jesus Christ, by whom they have had access unto this grace.


CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The more I learn about the Council of Trent, the more I amazed at the ability of men who had limited access to books, no antibiotics, no anesthesia, no telephones, and no computers, to not only hand down the Deposit of Faith, but to definitively clarify some of its important points.

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    I regret that I wrote “the more I amazed” rather than “the more I am amazed”.

    I was quite certain that within the last week, there was a story, perhaps linked at the Drudge Report, about how Google has revised its 160 page search engine rankings manual to take into account grammar and spelling (summary: illiteracy just became more expensive). I cannot find it now, either at the Drudge Report archives, or by using Bing. Here is an earlier article about this topic:

    Matt Cutts Says Poor Grammar and Spelling Can Kill Rankings, by Daniel Threlfall , for AudienceBloom.

  3. thomistking says:

    What such a poor man needs is psychological help, not for the Church to enable his abuse (or his mental disorder if he is actually suicidal).

  4. JesusFreak84 says:

    I don’t intend to engage in hyperbole, but if a man says to a woman, “Stay with me *and keep having sex with me* or I’ll kill myself,” I don’t see how that isn’t rape. The priest who tells the woman to “give in” is literally encouraging her to consent to her husband violating her sexually. That’s sick on so many levels…

  5. Imrahil says:

    Well, although the word “casuistry” was intended by the writer to mean what our reverend host said, it does not mean that in fact.

    English speakers in the 19th century have felt it advisable to call the Church names. One of these names, which they used when offended by the Church’s outrageous claim that there’s always at least one path that can be trodden without at least the common courtesy to have a bad conscience afterwards, was “casuistry”.

    Casuistry means the art application of general moral principles to actual situations and the distinction of the actual moral obligations from the burdens added (perhaps inadvertently) by those rather quick to offer counsel.

    That is it, and it is a good thing, no matter how our Holy Father (whose order most specifically was called with the term) may like the word.

    Ceterum censeo out.

    To the point: as a casuistical case, the case may in fact be interesting. But two years ago, it would have been a given to honor the indissolubility of marriage at least by denying oneself sacramental Communion.

    There were in fact many words written to the effect not to forget that sacramental Communion does add a bit, but the real encounter with grace etc. comes in both the spiritual and the spiritual-and-sacramental Communion.

  6. iPadre says:

    An interview goes like this:

    Interviewer: “What do you thing of this book Mr. Jesus?”

    Jesus: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

  7. Phil_NL says:

    Likewise, as an employer, you can never fire an employee, as he might kill himself.

    Likewise, as a teacher, you may never fail a student, as he might do unspeakably terrible things in response.

    Likewise, when driving a car, you may never overtake, for fear that the person being overtaken exhibits such road rage that the ER is filled to the brim.

    Likewise, when driving a car, you may not fail to overtake, lest the other driver becomes paranoid because you follow him, and in a paranoid rage sets out on a killing spree.

    I knew that exercising Christian charity was hard, but the cardinal makes it very hard indeed.

  8. DeGaulle says:

    Is such coercive moral blackmail with its intention to obtain sex against the will of the other conceivably a form of rape? For example, if the man in the example threatened to kill the children, rather than himself, if he didn’t receive sex, how would we regard it?

  9. iprimap says:

    If I am unable to be responsible for my own behavior (e.g., I cannot stop drinking alcoholically), then how am I able to be responsible for another person’s behavior (e.g., if I just do this, then he’ll stop drinking)?

    This whole thing of “I got to commit adultery so that he doesn’t commit suicide” is exactly the same as the spouse of an alcoholic enabling the alcoholic’s behavior.

    Here is what my Catholic sponsor and his sponsor (my priest confessor) 30 years ago would say about the alcoholic situation: “Leave. If the drunk kills himself, then that’s on him. You didn’t get him drunk and can’t get him sober, but you got to take care of your safety first.”

    And here is what they would say about the adulterous situation: “Leave. If the adulterous partner kills himself, then that’s on him. You can’t relieve his addiction to sex and you got to take care of your salvation first.”

    I would also be asked: “Are you addicted to sex too? Do you need to go to Sexaholics Anonymous too?”

    Yes, there is such a thing:


  10. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Another situation of Old Errors, New Labels. Trent clearly defined this.

    It’s morally offensive to me that this Cardinal suggests the woman is bound to continue fornication with someone simply because that person threatens to kill themselves if she stops.

    It should be morally offensive to anyone, especially to women, that he suggested this.

    This woman who wants to escape is basically the man’s sex puppet because he’s a sick person….so this Church prelate tells her to be a good little sex puppet and give the man what he wants. As if it would be her fault if she left and he harmed himself.


  11. JARay says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you Father Z

  12. JonathanTX says:

    A side note about the word “casuistry.”

    Google Ngram ( https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=casuistry&year_start=1700&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=7&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ccasuistry%3B%2Cc0 ) shows that the use of that word has peaked during a few particularly interesting eras:

    * Immediately before the American Revolution
    * Before and after the American Civil War (though its used noticeably declined during the war itself – perhaps war dulls the desire for pretense of moral justifications)
    * 1896-7 – Plessy v Ferguson, Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee
    * During the rise of Nazism in the 30s
    * 1961 – Eisenhower’s Industrial-Military Complex, JFK sworn in, Yuri Gagarin, Bay of Pigs, Preparations for Vatican II
    * 2001 – 9/11

    Nadir of use was during 1985, in the heart of the Reagan-Thatcher years.


  13. Benedict Joseph says:

    Mr. Pentin’s interview with Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s set off a number of alarms. Ecclesiastical concerns aside, the school of thought he represents appears to have abandoned common sense.
    In this specific situation you have the justification of psychological enslavement of a party by a clearly unhinged individual. How is this unbalanced character working the others in his life? It is a debasement of both parties. It is the reinforcing of unmistakable psychological disorder. The Cardinal is essentially substituting clueless mollycoddling for the adult response which is unquestionably to withdraw abruptly while enlisting another party to intervene.
    The Cardinal proposes the use of gasoline for extinguishing a fire. It is pastoral malpractice and it is a betrayal of Christ’s Gospel and His Mystical Body.
    It reveals the shallow reasoning underlying inadequate “pastoral care” frequently provided in word and deed from those sporting ecclesiastical leadership roles which garner media attention.
    A broader reading of the Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s perspective appears to justify a form of prostitution. “You require X or Y or Z from me for whatever “morally justified” purpose? Then I want some action.”
    The attempt to provide painless solutions for painfully disordered situations is an exercise in futility and beneath common sense, let alone the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit upon those called to pastor adults. In any scenario conceivable, that too is sin.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    Being female and once young and foolish, that situation is not altogether foreign to me.
    What a horrifying notion, to tell women they ought to stay in a relationship in which the partner is so immature or unbalanced and is threatening suicide. One can’t be thinking about the well-being of women in this bizarre situation, because to live with such a person can hardly be healthy over the long-term. The partner is not likely capable of it. One can’t be thinking about the well-being of children, because parents have a responsibility to provide sound moral leadership and actually raise the children to be balanced adults. Unbalanced people have a hard time raising balanced children.
    On no level is it “compassionate” to tell a woman to stay in an abusive relationship. Women are living real lives, not theoretical lives, and there are times when for the safety or mental well-being of a woman or her children, a separation must occur. No one is responsible for the decisions of another, while we have a responsibility to care or perhaps try to help, we are not to be held captive to someone else’s actions, especially when children are involved. Children are owed a good moral example and a safe and nurturing environment. If you are married and separate, then you must live out your vows, but that does not necessarily mean under the same roof. Sometimes that is impossible. If that’s hard, oh well. Life can be hard.
    One of the biggest reasons I was attracted to Catholicism was exactly that it asked me to do better. There were a set of norms and expectations that were higher than what I was accustomed to or lived. That was so appealing! These men want to take that away, lower it so there are no expectations. Do they not realize they will be removing the appeal of Catholicism for many people who are not Catholics? What will be the point of being a Catholic or living a Catholic life?
    How utterly foolish and short-sighted to propose such nonsense. It is heartbreaking to see Catholicism dismantled by these little men.
    Dear God, protect us from these innovators.

  15. KAS says:

    WOW, I am amazed at the totally horrid advice by this Cardinal. Let the woman be exploited, emotionally abused, manipulated, and used, rather than tell the poor abused woman to get out immediately?

    A person threatening to kill themselves should be taken very seriously! She needs to report this so he can be taken in and evaluated as a possible threat to himself and others. I am shocked that this was not obvious to the Cardinal, that when a person is threatening to kill themselves they need immediate help.

    Bad advice from a leader who ought to know better.

  16. robtbrown says:

    Cardinal Coccopalmiero doesn’t seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Let’s apply his arguments to another situation:

    A man embezzles $5,000,000, after which he marries and has children with his wife. Some years after the embezzlement, he is found to have taken the money. His argument against returning it is that his family is used to living an affluent life. They live in an expensive house, the kids attend private schools, the family takes expensive vacations, and has nice cars, a Lexus and a Tesla.

    According to the Cardinal the money should not be restored to its rightful owner because it would disrupt the family.

    Beam me up, Scotty. There’s no intelligent life down here.

  17. majuscule says:

    I wonder if the folks over at the Fishwrap are complaining about taking advice from celebate old men–what can they possibly know about marriage and family life? It’s one of their favorite phrases when it comes to church doctrine.

    Somehow I doubt it in this case…when it seems to actually apply!

  18. Poor Yorek says:

    On the casuist theme, from the Apologia Pro Vita Sua Part I Mr. Kingsley’s Method of Disputation:

    I wish I could speak as favourably either of his drift or of his method of arguing, as I can of his convictions. As to his drift, I think its ultimate point is an attack upon the Catholic Religion. It is I indeed, whom he is immediately insulting—still, he views me only as a representative, and on the whole a fair one, of a class or caste of men, to whom, conscious as I am of my own integrity, I ascribe an excellence superior to mine. He desires to impress upon the public mind the conviction that I am a crafty, scheming man, simply untrustworthy; that, in becoming a Catholic, I have just found my right place; that I do but justify and am properly interpreted by the common English notion of Roman casuists and confessors; that I was secretly a Catholic when I was openly professing to be a clergyman of the Established Church; that so far from bringing, by means of my conversion, when at length it openly took place, any strength to the Catholic cause, I am really a burden to it—an additional evidence of the fact, that to be a pure, german, genuine Catholic, a man must be either a knave or a fool.

  19. Imrahil says:

    It is not really to the topic, but

    when a person is threatening to kill themselves they need immediate help

    is very much dependent on what you mean by “help”.

    It may, sometimes, be institutionalization in closed confinement.

    In other cases, whether he isn’t serious, or when he is seriously contemplating suicide but rationally so, he may as well need, figuratively and perhaps literally, get their rear beaten in black and blue. Let’s not confuse (quite possibly innocent) psychic disease with (quite possibly healthwise speakingly sane) moral failure: either is ill-treated if treated as if it were the other, and contemplating suicide may well be either.

  20. pjsandstrom says:

    Father, Your comments and comments of the others are interesting and worthwhile, but if your presentation of the ‘case’ is correct you seem to miss an important ‘point’. You say: “Think of a woman who lives with a married man. She has three little children. She has already been with this man for ten years. ” There is also mention of a ‘civil marriage’. This would mean that with ‘small children’ — under 10 year old, presumably, there is almost certainty that if she is the mother of the children — the man is the father of these children too. Unless there are non-mentioned circumstances this couple in their 10 years together have been ‘raising a family’. There is no mention of children from the man’s previous relationship (nor of the woman either). It would be ‘pastorally appropriate’ to take into to account the questions concerning the validity of the previous relationship at the very least — and not to ‘jump to conclusions’, etc.

  21. KateD says:

    I did not read beyond Cardinal Cocopalmiero’s hypothetical. My reality was not far from that , but the children are ours…..When the situation is impossible, that’s when we MUST turn to God AND trust the true precepts of our faith. He is the only One who can make right such an impossibly tangled mess, because all things are possible through Him. It may not work exactly how we might have supposed it should, but it is ALWAYS infinitely better than our wildest imaginings…because He is our Father and He loves us and wills the highest good for each and every one of us, including the “partner” and children. Truly. Trust Him.

    These Cardinals need to trust God.

    Anyone living in an irregular situation should not listen to the hollow promises of false charity, but instead verify what they hear against the bible and Catechism…and do what is pleasing to God, not what’s expedient or permissible. My ‘husband’ and I lived apart for many years and it caused grave hardship for my children and I, but I trusted in God and prayed for their father always hoping for his highest good…..and God provided a miracle. My husband became a different man, a more Godly man. That’s His normal mode of operation and He wants to provide those miracles, but we have to make ourselves open to receiving Grace in our lives and allow those we love to be free from temptations that lead them to sin in ways that impede God’s grace. Regardless of what men may say, God’s law has to be followed and we have to be free of sin, if we want to live in friendship with Him.

    Those cardinals are wrong and they endanger the immortal souls of those left in their pastoral care, but also, because Grace does not operate optimally in irregular marriages, those in it are often subjected to greater real world difficulties…so this ‘remedy’ proposed by AL is really a lose-lose. Tragic.

  22. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    @pjsandstorm: It is implied that these are NOT this eoman’s biological children, but the man’s children from his presumably prior sacramental marriage (“now the children think of her as a mother”).

    Again, no where in the cited text is any reference to the rights or responsibilities of this man to his sacramental spouse, nor the children’s biological mother’s right to his conjugal affection alone or to be with her own children as their mother.

    The Cardinal, by his examples of poor reasoning, and by his reference to the “impossibility” of grace to allow change in these people’s lives, reveals his lack of supernatural Faith.

    When one lacks supernatural Faith I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that clouded logic leads them to the conclusion that women should stay in live-in sexual concubinage to mentally sick men. It would be, I suppose, an “impossibility” for God to provide the graces necessary to help this woman or the mentally unstable man who has been committing adultery for the past 10 years.

  23. Sonshine135 says:

    Wow! So now it is perfectly acceptable to blackmail the church into giving you Holy Communion so you don’t kill yourself? This is the depth of thinking in the Vatican right now? How much harder can they make it for me to turn people toward Catholicism?

  24. Kerry says:

    In his bio-pic, Coccopalmerio will play Joe Biden.

  25. pappy says:

    Bishop Sheen tells almost the same story of a man he met in Paris. Bishop Sheen
    advised him “you may not do evil that good may come of it”. Despite spending the night in prayer at Sacre Coeur, the man did go back to the woman. The point of the story was a missed opportunity for grace and repentance.

  26. Poor Yorek says:

    With due citation to Star Trek, The Trouble with Tribbles .

    Interlocutor: Your eminence?
    Cocopalmiero: Yes?
    Interlocutor: I find that Tribbles do indeed have one redeeming characteristic.
    Cocopalmiero: Oh? What is that?
    Interlocutor: They do not talk too much. If you’ll excuse me, sir?

  27. Oneros says:

    “Her culpability is mitigated by the force and fear imposed upon her by this man’s threat”

    But this is just the point, and Father conceded “Yes” to it.

    If her culpability was lowered to the point that it wasn’t mortal, then there’s no *absolute* barrier to communion.

    There are many forms of duress, internal and external.

  28. The Cobbler says:

    Wow, I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Here I always thought that “intention” meant “what I aim to accomplish”, which means that I can’t intend things I know to be impossible, by definition. Now I see not only that it means “what I’d like to be so, regardless of whether I do anything about it”, but that if the reason I don’t do it is that it seems in my estimation to be impossible, then people should treat me as if I had done it anyway!

    Bow before me, peasants! For I intend to be absolute dictator of this world, but it is impossible, so you should respect my intention!

    Hey, wait… if I should be treated like the absolute world dictator I “intend” to be, I think I’ll decree that no clergyman shall open his mouth to speak any language but Latin. That should get rid of a lot of controversy — only smart people will be permitted to engage in these discussions.

  29. Absit invidia says:

    What “impossibility?” She either loves God enough to change her situation or she loves a creature (or creatures) MORE THAN God. She possesses the free will to act and is neither physically chained to the wall or being held by gunpoint. In summary, the Church is rewarding laziness, idolatry (prioritizing a creature(s) before God, scandal, and vice.

  30. Dundonianski says:

    I am struck by the bitter irony of this most excellent but yet appalling exposé of Coccopelmerio, justifying mortal sin, juxtaposed to the picture of Pope Francis presenting himself to The Sacrament of Penance. Amoris Laetitia may not be the actual draughtsmanship of Francis, but surely there can be little doubt that this circumvention of Christ’s Divine Law and Church Teaching through the millennia has his approval- ergo , mortal sin may be “discerned” down to the venial range-God have mercy upon these faithless prelates!

  31. iamlucky13 says:

    Is Cardinal Coccopalmerio genuinely only addressing this example to those pastors who find themselves counseling women facing the threat of a partner killing themselves if they don’t allow a partner to have intercourse with them against their will, or is he suggesting that the same logic applies to all who find it difficult to leave an illicit relationship?

    @ Oneros
    “But this is just the point, and Father conceded “Yes” to it.

    If her culpability was lowered to the point that it wasn’t mortal, then there’s no *absolute* barrier to communion.”

    That is my understanding, as well, but that doesn’t invalidate the multiple concerns raised about the Cardinal’s portrayal of such a situation.

    @ pjsandstrom
    “It would be ‘pastorally appropriate’ to take into to account the questions concerning the validity of the previous relationship at the very least — and not to ‘jump to conclusions’, etc.”

    The first conclusion we can not permit ourselves to jump to is that the previous marriage was invalid. The Church has tribunals and a process for helping couples stuck in the unfortunate situation of believing their marriage was invalid. We are granted the presumption of validity for beneficial reasons, but that means we also need to be faithful to that presumption of validity unless and until determined otherwise.

    Amoris Laetitia, of course, is not the first papal document that has dealt with circumstances like those you pointed out apply. Pope Francis himself quoted excerpts from Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, and although he did not include one of the particularly challenging assertions of his predecessor, Pope Francis also did not overturn what he said:

    “This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.'”

  32. Moro says:

    Two things:

    1. Be sure to bookmark this post. I suspect it will prove useful in the future for unmasking the asinine rhetoric of the left.

    2. His claim of impossible rectification of such a situation is ridiculous. It is also the premise that is used over and over again to justify communion for the divorced and remarried. It’s a premise that basically says we can’t all be holy. The truth is we can, if we want to and cooperate with God’s grace. If you recall, the Universal Call to Holiness was part of the Second Vatican Council. So by saying that this situation cannot be rectified, one is essentially rejecting an essential teaching of Vatican II.

  33. gaeliel says:

    My grandma told me a story about her boyfriend who came to her with a pistol threatening to kill himself if she wouldn’t marry him. She told him to go right ahead as long as long as he didn’t do it inside and she wouldn’t have to clean up the mess.

  34. Hugh says:

    @ Oneros:
    “If her culpability was lowered to the point that it wasn’t mortal, then there’s no *absolute* barrier to communion.”

    The assumption here is that the Church rule is: “If I’m NOT in a state of mortal sin, I CAN go to communion”.

    But that is not quite what Canon 916 says. Carefully worded, it says…in effect… “If I AM in a state of mortal sin, I CAN’T go to communion”.

    That’s not the same thing. And the difference between the two statements, logically speaking, is of moral and theological significance, as follows: granted one may never go to Communion if one is conscious of being in a state of mortal sin, there are nevertheless all sorts of situations in which one may NOT lawfully go to communion EVEN IF one is in a state of grace/not conscious of being in mortal sin.

    For example, one may have already communicated up to the canonically permitted number of times that day (Canons 917 & 921), one may be under excommunication or inderdict , one may not be a baptized Catholic …

    … and here, the case of the woman, is another instance. Regardless as to her subjective state of innocence (ex hypothesi), the woman, choosing to have sexual relations with the man not her husband, is still leading an objectively sinful lifestyle by refusing to refrain from objective acts of adultery. Which means that under Canon 915, a pastor must refuse her Communion.

    In Familiaris consortio,n.84, Pope John Paul II gave two reasons that justify the absolute rule of canon 915.

    The second one was the error and confusion about the indissolubility of marriage that would arise if those in adulterous relationships were given Communion.

    The first reason is even more basic and in a way (I think) grounds that confusion or error: “They [the couple] are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that 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.”

    What is to be understood here, in the light of the various commentaries given by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and the CDF, is that, regardless as to the subjective state of one or both parties, the acts of adultery they are performing, considered as external acts alone, constitute an objective contradiction of the love between Christ and the Church, signified and effected by the Eucharist. And THAT I think is the *absolute* barrier to our woman receiving communion.

    Perhaps someone has written on this? It seems to pertain to the vital link between the sign and the signified in the sacraments, and how this brings in the status of the recipient as well. We know that if a sacramental sign is essentially compromised (defective matter, words) it can’t bring about the sacramental effect. In the case of this woman: granted, she truly receives the sacred species when she communicates, but arguably her objective situation of adultery means she is not in a position to receive grace from that reception since her objective lifestyle contradicts the Christ/Church/Eucharist relationship: she is “eating and drinking unworthily” notwithstanding her subjective lack of guilt as to the adulterous lifestyle.

    [As an aside: I was thinking about this lately and the relation between Canons 915 and 916. It seems to me that if someone in her situation, –not conscious of grave sin, but insisting on continuing externally gravely sinful acts and aware of Canon 915–approaches a pastor intending he give her Communion, then she is intending that he, the pastor, choose to ignore his obligation to keep the law of the Church with respect to dispensing the Sacraments (Canon 915) — ie that he commit a grave sin. So as she is joining the Communion line, her intention that the Pastor give her Communion is itself gravely sinful, EVEN IF her conscience as to her sexual congress with her partner is clear.]

    Final thoughts:

    1. Fear (here, of the partner committing suicide) can itself be a sin, according to St Thomas. “Accordingly when the appetite shuns what the reason dictates that we should endure rather than forfeit others that we should rather seek for, fear is inordinate and sinful.” (Summa Th: II-II Q 125, “I answer”). St Peter denied Our Lord no doubt out of great fear. He still sinned gravely.
    2. Bracketing supernatural knowledge granted to particular individuals (John Vianney, Padre Pio) the Church has presumed that a given person’s subjective state is in principle unknowable ab externo (indeed we only find out about our own state at the Particular Judgement) and that all that can be determined and acted upon is that soul’s objective actions.

    But the liberal interpretation of A.L. elevates ordinary pastors to the epistemological position of a St John Vianney or St Padre Pio — ie, capable of determining that a given soul, bent on performing objectively gravely sinful acts in the future, is nevertheless sufficiently guiltless as to be worthy of Communion, as opposed to being in grave peril of eternal damnation. This woefully imprudent and reckless judgement is I daresay entirely without authority or precedent in the Church, or any theological argument.

    3. Whatever is implied by A.L., let’s not forget that Canon 915 is still the law of the Church and binding on all pastors.

    Thanks to Fr Z and Fr Murray for the excellent, ongoing work clarifying the issues here.

  35. ajf1984 says:

    Just a passing thought, after reading so many of my fellow commentors’ wonderful posts: Why is it that, when a priest/bishop/cardinal/Pope speaks out against contraception/marital infidelity/etc., the left is so quick to say “What would he know? He’s just some grumpy, celibate old (usually) white often) man who has no idea what it is to love or be loved. Ignore him and his Church!” yet here, a Cardinal is addressing the very same issues but is probably going to be greeted with Hosannas from the left. He’s still celibate, old, white, and a man, but suddenly he’s an expert on sexual relationships within faux-marriage! If my eyes don’t stop rolling soon, they’re liable to fall out…

  36. The Masked Chicken says:

    Show of hands: how many people realize that this situation exactly parallels that of the recent movie, Silence? Instead of, “If you don’t step on this image of Christ, I will kill these hostages,” one has, “If you don’t have sex with me, I will kill myself.” This general class of junior high school level moral conundrums, one could call the, “blue face,” conundrums – “If you don’t do x [x = what I want you to do], then I will do y [= bad consequences, such as holding my breath until I turn blue in the face].

    a. This technique of the false dilemma is used in brainwashing and cults. The classic example is the four finger threat in 1984, where Winston must say that he sees five fingers, when there are only four, or else receive an electric shock. In effect, the woman is being forced to say that adultery is not a sin or receive a moral shock.
    b. There are two really effective ways to shut down this type of argument:
    1. The wife can grab the second horn of the dilemma and argue as thus, “Well, okay, if you want to kill yourself, I can’t stop you, but who will take care of your kids? I won’t be here. These children need their father. So, are you just going to abandon them? Have you no concern for anyone, but yourself?
    2. The wife could say, “What? You say, if I don’t have sex with you, you will kill yourself, but I say, if I do have sex with you, then I will kill myself, and, then you will have neither sex nor a wife.” Christ used this sort of argument against the Pharisees.

    In any case, this whole scenario is sophomoric. One judges the morality of an act by the antecedent, not the consequent, otherwise, one becomes guilty of consequentialism. Sadly, the good Cardinal’s argument for the scenario he posits is nothing more than consequentialism, writ large. G. E. M. Anscombe has provided the standard Catholic response. From, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, entry:Anscombe, G. E. M.:

    “Her main objection to consequentialism is a moral one. If all that matters is results, then there is no limit to what we might do in order to achieve the best results possible. In order to save the lives of many of our soldiers we might, for instance, murder a bunch of children. This is basically what she believed had been done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it is unthinkable from her moral perspective. Indeed, it would have been unthinkable from the point of view of all major moral philosophers, including utilitarian ones, before Sidgwick. At least so she believes. Why she thinks this is not entirely clear, but Mill has certainly appeared to be a rule-utilitarian to some people, and rule-utilitarians typically defend rules forbidding murder. Perhaps Anscombe read Mill in this kind of way (she does not say). Another possibility is that she regards consequentialism as so unacceptable that it would be uncharitable to read anyone as holding it if their views are at all ambiguous. Mill’s views are certainly open to a variety of interpretations. What is clear is that Anscombe regarded the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill as fatally flawed because it advocates the greatest happiness of the greatest number without (in her view) adequately specifying what is meant by happiness and without realizing (in her view) that “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” makes no sense (see Anscombe 1981a, p. 129). She does not fully explain why she thinks this to be the case, but people have wondered whether the concern is, or should be, with the best happiness or the most, and of living people or all living sentient creatures or all future sentient creatures or what, and how one might measure happiness at all. So she might have thought that utilitarianism simply does not name an identifiable theory at all.

    Another problem with consequentialism is its ignoring of intention, without which we seemingly cannot make sense of human behavior. This means that, while we can indeed pass judgment on actions in a consequentialist way, we cannot consistently live as if consequentialism were true. We cannot, that is, live our whole lives as if intentions do not matter, even though we can pretend that they do not when deciding what to do or expressing approval or disapproval of actions. Consequentialists then are almost inevitably in bad faith. They pretend to believe what they cannot and do not in fact believe.”

    That, is my argument a, above. Essentially, the good Cardinal would make the woman not only an adulterer, but a liar, to boot. What can one say to such an argument except, “You are thinking not by God’s standards, but by man’s.”

    Can psychological pressure mitigate the subjective imputation of guilt? Yes, as in the case of the priest in the movie, Silence, but, whatever the subjective guilt, evil remains to be vanquished by the braver soul.

    The Chicken

  37. SenexCalvus says:

    As a high school teacher, I can’t tell you how often I hear stories of boys threatening suicide to keep their girlfriends from leaving them. Thanks be to God, our atheist counselor has the Christian decency to help these vulnerable young women LEAVE such abusive and sexually exploitative relationships. If only one could say the same about Cardinal Coccopalmerio!

  38. Daniel W says:

    I think all of you who are deriding Coccopalmerio need to familiarize yourselves with the heresies of Novatian and Jansen to ensure you are not falling into the same traps of rigorism.

    Novatian opposed the pope of the time for mercifully accepting back those who had denied the faith under persecution. Jansenists opposed granting absolution to those with attachment to venial sin.

    Pope Francis is merely continuing the fight (championed by Jesuits) against jansenist tendencies.
    A partner threatening suicide if sex is refused is applying sufficient pressure such that giving in to these threats would not be mortally sinful, despite the matter being sufficiently grave.

    The council of Trent insists that not only the matter of sin (adultery) must be confessed, but also its circumstances, so that the gravity of the sin can be correctly judged. Any priest who would judge as mortally sinful the sin of a woman so coerced is bringing judgement on himself! Christ himself insisted that circumstances can “cause” a woman to commit adultery.

    Those who hold that absolution must be withheld from those with attachment to sin which is venial because of diminished imputability for sin which involves grave matter (i.e. adultery) are (at least materially) Jansenist!

    What is required for sufficient purpose of amendment is that the woman does everything possible to achieve a situation where the man does not coerce her for sex (and of course that she does not initiate it).

    See Cath Encyc article ….
    “The Jesuits encouraged Roman Catholics, including those struggling with sin, to receive Holy Communion frequently, arguing that Christ instituted it as a means to holiness for sinners, and stating that the only requirement for receiving Communion (apart from baptism) was that the communicant be free of mortal sin at the time of reception. The Jansenists, in line with their deeply pessimistic theology, discouraged frequent Communion, arguing that a high degree of perfection, including purification from attachment to venial sin, was necessary before approaching the sacrament.”

  39. MrsMacD says:

    Someone very close to me is in a similar situation. They’re not married and he told her he would kill himself if she left, so she stayed. Now he has a second lover and they all live ‘happily’ together. What a mess!! Mind you, she knows she’s not living the Catholic life. She doesn’t go to church except for the big events of my children and she doesn’t recieve Jesus, or try to. If you read this post please say an Ave for her.

  40. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    “I think all of you who are deriding Coccopalmerio need to familiarize yourselves with the heresies of Novatian and Jansen to ensure you are not falling into the same traps of rigorism.”

    Eh, no. To be rigorous would be to deny that the repentant can be forgiven. To be Jansenistic would be to deny the sacraments to those who are not already perfect, which is not what anyone here is desiring. Threatening to kill oneself is an immature manipulation of emotionally instable people, no different than a toddler threatening to hold their breath to get their way, and should be treated the same way, “go ahead”. What this is really about, is the creation of convoluted excuses to continue in a convenient situation rather than doing the difficult but right thing. Real Christianity is about not being a pansy and picking up your cross and marching forward.

    One has to wonder if this need to excuse convenient sexual sin which Cdn Coccopalmerio and others seem so desperate to do is simply a form of projection.

  41. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Daniel W.,

    I don’t think I should let your comment go without clarifying why the situations you describe do not apply, generally (although they can, in very exceptional cases), as an argumentum ad misericordium, for the reception of Holy Communion to those in the situation Cardinal Coccopalmerio describes.

    First off, the Novatianist Heresy concerned people who had already repented of their sacrificing to false Gods or renouncing the Faith and were asking to be re-admitted to the Sacraments. Novatian said, “No.” Of course, this is wrong. God commands us to forgive the repentant sinner. In the Cardinal’s case, however, no repentance has, actually, occurred so the appeal to Novatianism does not apply. We are not being too strict. She has simply not repented and asked to be re-admitted. How can one make an analogy to Novatianism, when the situations are, clearly, different?

    She could, in theory, be admitted to confession (a prerequisite for Holy Communion), if she had at least the purpose of repenting for those freely committed acts of adultery she committed before her, “husband,” issued his death threat, since, those acts would been done, you must admit, free of coercion and she would have been flat-out morally culpable, but the Cardinal does not even mention this minimum requirement that no one should disagree with. He goes straight to unrepented mercy. If the woman had married the man knowing on their, “wedding,” day that he would kill himself if she didn’t have sex with him, then, in fact, no wedding would have even taken place (even if she had an annulment), because coerced marriages are, prima facie, invalid – no shotgun weddings allowed.

    As for coercion as a mitigating factor, even in the Catholic Encyclopedia article of Jansenism that you cite, the Bull, Cum occasione (1653) states that the following notions are heretical:

    1. Some of God’s commandments are impossible to just men who wish and strive (to keep them) considering the powers they actually have, the grace by which these precepts may become possible is also wanting;
    2. In the state of fallen nature no one ever resists interior grace;
    3. To merit, or demerit, in the state of fallen nature we must be free from all external constraint, but not from interior necessity.

    In other words, sufficient grace is always given to do the good, but men, through their weaknesses, may resist it. Psychological impediments (the interior necessity in article 3) reduce the culpability of the sin and may, in certain cases, reduce the subjective guilt of a mortal sin to a venial one, but this is a vague variable, since neither science nor human experience can precisely state by how much any degree of impediment reduces human freedom, except for genuine mental incapacity, such as from psychosis or involuntary motor actions resulting from brain tumors or somnolence or the like. Assuming the wife has none of these pre-existing conditions, the question, then, becomes how much force is brought to bear on the woman and how much the woman is able to resist it.

    This gets us into the areas of buckling in engineering. Now, this does have a precise definition, in limited cases (engineers, out there, I know a lot about bifurcation theory – I’m simplifying for the discussion). The mathematician, Euler, gave a formula for the onset of buckling of a column:

    P = (pi)^2EI/ (KL)^2, where P is the critical load the column can bear before buckling, E is the modulus of elasticity, I is the moment of inertia, K is the effective length factor (.5 for simply attached, irrotational columns), and L is the column length. One might re-write this using anthropomorphic variables, where E is the strength of faith, I is the amount of grace given, K is the degree of influence of complicating factors (sin), and L is the number of complicating factors (number of temptations at one time). If the woman’s faith is not strong or the husband has undue influence (as in threatening to kill himself), the load it takes to buckle the woman ‘s resolve to resist sin will be low. Since God always gives sufficient grace, however, let me be very clear, is it not the Cardinal who is denying this sufficient grace? Is it not the Cardinal who is, in reality, being Jansenistic, although in the negative sense of despairing of God’s sufficient grace?

    Again, one cannot appeal to consequences as an excuse for demanding mercy. That the man might kill himself would be tragic, but irrelevant to whether or not the woman should stop having sex with her adulterous partner. If the man is mentally ill, then, she might have a responsibility, in charity, to try to get him help, but having adulterous sex does not constitute, “help,” as any co-dependent of an alcoholic will tell you – giving a spouse a drink because they threaten to kill themselves, if you don’t, is not charity, at all. In fact, one becomes a cooperator in their sin. This is what the Cardinal seems to not understand. In other words, is the woman truly under so much coercion that she must sin? I am both scandalized and very angry that he would propose this example. Except for the death of the man or his extraordinary conversion, the Cardinal is condemning the woman to being a sex slave for many years. He is so wrong, I want to ask him to spend a week at a woman’s shelter. His advice should not be about Communion, at all. That is out of the picture. His only advice should be about how to escape the situation. Oh, this makes me mad!

    There are a very few (a very, very few) situations where a sexually active woman who is civilly divorced and remarried without a clear annulment might be privately admitted to Communion (in fact, I can only think of one), but he has chosen a very wrong-headed and wrong example, which does not meet this criteria. No. I hate to say this to a Cardinal, but he is, in my opinion, simply wrong. This is an Appeal to Pity and it is fallacious. In my opinion, the very day the husband threatens to kill himself if the woman doesn’t have sex with him is the day she should steal out if the house, unaware, never to see him, again. There is no marriage, here. She should call the police and explain the threat and have him arrested, if possible (cell phone recorders are great). If not, she should find a lawyer and only speak to the man through him.

    In fact, let me be clear, what we are dealing with, here, is identical to sex slavery. Are the slaves dispensed from sin? No. Objective sin always occurs when one has sex outside of marriage. Is their imputability for the sin reduced? Yes, most definitely, but the first duty of any prisoner or slave (and, this woman is a prisoner) is to escape, if the conditions of being a prisoner or slave violate moral norms. Not to attempt this, in itself, would be sinful (one might not succeed, obviously).

    So, it seems to me that the Cardinal is not talking about mercy, at all, but despair – despair of the conversion of the man or the freedom of the woman. Isn’t the Eucharist a sacrament of hope, however? It is strange that he would propose the reception of the Sacrament while, implicitly, denying the hope it signifies.

    The Chicken

  42. The Masked Chicken says:

    One more thing, this particular post does not lend itself to what should be the primary task of those dealing with modern relationships should be – figuring out why marriages fail, in the first place. The Church (or, at least certain poor representatives of it) does bear some responsibility in this area, I think, since Vatican II. Interestingly, modern mathematics has been able to deduce to 90% accuracy when a marriage is going to fail and, yet, I strongly doubt that anyone at the Vatican knows about the research. Why not? Isn’t it better to cure a problem while it is little than have to deal with headaches when it is allowed to grow so large that one has to worry about special cases for Communion?

    The Chicken

  43. Justalurkingfool says:

    Had, anywhere along this journey of my living hell, there been a
    sitting bishop among the many that I have asked for help, even
    at this moment, who cared as you do and properly exercized his
    lawful authority, all of our seven total children and sixteen
    grandchildren would see forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation.

    But my Cardinal/Archbishop is unwilling to accept his responsibility.
    And, yes, he knows who I am and access to everyone’s contact information.


  44. Daniel W says:

    BenjaminiPeregrinus wrote:

    “One has to wonder if this need to excuse convenient sexual sin which Cdn Coccopalmerio and others seem so desperate to do is simply a form of projection.”

    So, when you read the gospel story of the adulterous woman, your reaction is “One has to wonder if this need to excuse convenient sexual sin which OUR GLORIOUS SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST and others seem so desperate to do is simply a form of projection.”

  45. Justalurkingfool says:

    PLEASE, consider very carefully what others have gone through and
    continue to face, each day, as a consequence of what is going on in these circumstances. PLEASE, read the comment underneath the linked video below. It does not matter if you listen to the song.


    Karl J

  46. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    Daniel W- Logic man! Think. Our most Holy and perfect God and Savior Jesus Christ did not say to the adulterous woman “go and sin freely, you’re in a tight spot so don’t worry about it”. The accusations; Jansenist, Rigorist, Blue Meanie; which you are leveling at those of us who don’t deny the existence of objective reality don’t add up. I in no way oppose forgiving the repentant what I do oppose is calling red blue because repainting is a hassle.

    On the other hand when clergy, especially prelates, chronically excuse sexual sin because it is convenient to do so, and doubly so when they are defending sodomy (not the case described above), at some point one wonders if there isn’t extra personal motivation involved. Not an accusation just a thought. After all they, and we are, are not all holy, good and perfect.

  47. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    Justalurking- It sounds as if you have been through a difficult and painful experience, while I’m not clear on details I do hope you find peace.

  48. Elizabeth M says:

    Wow, no more reading Romeo & Juliet for my kids. (sarcasm)

  49. Daniel W says:

    Jesus required that the woman “Sin no more” but he did not tell the woman to leave the man she was with. St JPII also did not insist a person leave, he required a commitment to live as brother and sister. If you follow the logic, Coccopalmerio also requires a commitment to live as brother and sister … as far as humanly possible.

    Coccopalmerio’s statement could be improved as follows (capitalized words inserted):

    “In precisely these cases, based on one’s intention to change and the HUMAN impossibility of changing, I can give that person the sacraments, AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT REJECT the expectation that the situation is definitively clarified WITH THE AID OF DIVINE GRACE.”

    Fr Z is correct to point out that the flaw in Coccopalmerio is to speak of an impossibility.
    If you read St JPII carefully in Veritatis Splendor, he is clear that divine grace makes following God’s beloved Law in difficult situations possible. What is impossible for man is possible for God.

    A lot of the debate would be clarified if people were careful to speak of “human impossibility” rather than imprecise and ambiguous “impossibility”, and to be more explicit about the role of grace in the universal possibility of following God’s law.

  50. Daniel W says:

    Actually, the passage from Trent that Fr Z referred to is clear, and I don’t see how it is different from Coccopalmerio. The Fathers at Trent explicitly state that there there may be some things commanded that “thou art not able (to do).” The penitant must be admonished to pray for the grace to do what the council of Trent explicitly states they ARE NOT ABLE TO DO (without the aid of grace, which will not be lacking).

  51. Justalurkingfool says:

    Is it not clear to anyone how living celibate with someone
    Other than your spouse, does violence to the positive
    Obligations in marriage? are those obligations suspended?

    Is it then possible to do a theoretical good(for children of
    Adultery), while you violate your obligation to your

    Or do the marital obligations only hinge upon sex with
    Someone other than your spouse?

    Is sex the only “protected act” in marital vows?

    It is intrinsically wrong to not live up to your marital
    Obligations, as I was taught. They are vows before God, unto death.

    Has the teaching of the church changed to allow an
    Intrinsically wrong act to be done, for years, in order to do a
    Theoretically good act?

    What if this is done in front of the children from the first marriage?

    What if the first marriage is valid? and the first spouse is faithful
    And never wanted a divorce?

    Karl J

  52. Daniel W says:

    Dear Karl,
    I know of an abandoned husband who also suffers this injustice. The problem with JPII’s original proposal that a commitment could be made to live “as brother and sister” was that this commitment could remain in the internal forum (i.e. between penitent and confessor). Abandoned spouses and their children have every right to know that such a commitment has been made if the adulterous spouse wishes to return to receiving communion while remaining in a civil union.

  53. Justalurkingfool says:

    For me, and I think objectively, the brother and sister accomodation is not defensible. As at it’s best, it remains adultery, excused for the good of children born in adultery.

    This exception is responsible for countless destroyed marriages and loss of faith and this reality has long been known the the hierarchy.

    It renders our marriage, that I have, successfully, defended twice in marriage tribunals, invalid, in my opinion. I was never informed during marriage prep of such an accomodation and, truthfully, I would have never married, under such circumstances, had I known of it.

    It is wrong and it needs to be anathemized/condemned/rejected.

    I am still living, so I write against it. But, those who know me and who
    know my personal experiences, know it has destroyed my faith.

    I cannot abide as a practicing Catholic, along with it. It prevents me from
    seeing God, as loving.

    My only hope is that, if God is truly loving, He will forgive me if I am wrong.

    Karl J

  54. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    “Jesus required that the woman “Sin no more” but he did not tell the woman to leave the man she was with. St JPII also did not insist a person leave, he required a commitment to live as brother and sister. If you follow the logic, Coccopalmerio also requires a commitment to live as brother and sister … as far as humanly possible.”

    I think we can assume that the woman caught in adultery was just that, “caught in the act of adultery” not cohabitating in an adulterous state.

    Do you not see that “as far as humanly possible” opens the door to freely engage in every and any sinful impulse because doing the right thing is “hard”, this is an entirely subjective parameter which justifies almost anything. Is God so faithless as to deny his children the grace to do what’s hard?

  55. Justalurkingfool says:

    How does one “sin no more”, when one has abandoned one’s spouse
    and lied on numerous occasions in attempting annulments, as the
    very proof to substantiate the lies and the non justification for the abandonment is left before the very Church courts which decided against nullity and those court officials, their bishops and those above those
    bishops do nothing in the face of agony and decades of being asked to
    intervene, as the abandoner, actively, is treated as the spouse of the
    replacement partner, by those in authority, already mentioned?

    In such a case, are not those in authority, materially and knowingly
    part the ongoing injustice, since they know, pretty much , everything
    that there is to know?

    Karl J

  56. Daniel W says:

    Dear BenjaminiPeregrinus,
    I agree the woman in the Gospel was caught in the act of adultery. I am referring to the purpose of amendment required by Our Lord.

    Your argument about “as far as humanly possible” opening the door is the same argument used by Jansenists. As you see, the Council of Trent teaches there may be requirements of the Law that in some circumstances “you can not do,” (humanly) and what is required is that the penitent be open to the graces that enable one to do them. My Protestant friends also say Confession is carte blanche to sin. Go ahead and throw your stones at woman in abusive relationships who find it impossible to leave but are willing to take steps to remove the occasion of sin.

    I don’t think I will respond again, I am happy to disagree with you (and agree with Pope Francis, the Council of Trent and Jesus who blames men who “cause (woman) to commit adultery”).

  57. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Daniel W.

    I cannot let your statement go without comment.

    You said,

    “Jesus required that the woman “Sin no more” but he did not tell the woman to leave the man she was with. St JPII also did not insist a person leave, he required a commitment to live as brother and sister. If you follow the logic, Coccopalmerio also requires a commitment to live as brother and sister … as far as humanly possible.”

    There are several problems with this analogy.

    1. If you look at the Old Testament, the specific passages referring to stoning of adulterers are from Deuteronomy 22: 22 – 29 and Leviticus 20: 10. They deserve to be quoted because they make an important distinction between impossibility, which removes guilt, and mere difficulty, which does not:

    Deu 22: 22 – 29
    If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

    If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
    Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

    But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
    But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
    For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

    If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
    Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

    Lev 20:10
    And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

    In the Jewish Law, only a man could give a bill of divorce – the woman was without appeal. It is clear that there are several possibilities:
    a. Both the man and the woman are married to other people
    b. The woman is married, but the man is not
    c. The man is married, but the woman is not
    d. Neither are married

    Cases a, b, and c are, clearly adultery, while d is fornication. Further, both parties, clearly consented to the act, since, if this were rape, the woman would have been spared under Jewish Law (Deut 22:25).

    Now, in any case, you are reading contemporary interpretations into the New Testament, because if one or the other person, man or woman were still married, Jesus would never have told the woman not to , “leave the man she was with,” because the man she was with would have either her husband, who had not given her a bill of divorce, and Jesus would have told her to go back to him or, if she were single (the likelier case), then she was, “with,” no one and Jesus would not have told her to stay with a man who had not put away his wife by a bill of divorce.

    Coccopalmerio’s scenario specifically mentions divorce, whereas the story of the woman caught in adultery does not, so you are comparing apples to oranges. It is, tacitly, assumed that at least one of the parties was not divorced in the story of the woman, because that would have been required to activate the law of stoning. So, when Jesus says, “Go, and sin no more,” He wasn’t telling her to live with the man as brother and sister because he couldn’t – at least one of them was still legally (known legally) married to another. In St. Pope John a Paul II’s example, both parties are, at least, legally divorced and re-married. It is a totally different scenario.

    2. In the story, it is clear that many people knew the woman was not married to the man, so, living in the same house would have been the sin if scandal, so, Jesus would have never told her to avoid one sin, but commit another.

    3. Jesus never said, “live together as brother and sister.” One is not permitted to read something into the text that isn’t there, nor make an argument from silence. If He had meant for them to live as brother and sister, He would have said so, since that would have been a radical break from Jewish Law.

    4. Now, in the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8: 3 – 11, the word for condemn, katakrino, is a strong word, close to damning. If a Jesus had condemned her in this since, it would have been comparable to cursing the fig tree. She might have well have died on the spot. He left open the possibility of grace. We do not know the woman’s disposition at the time. The text does not say that she was repentant. She might have merely been afraid. We don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus is being shown in this text as being not merely merciful – he is not excusing what the woman did nor denying it nor explaining it away – he is exercising His divine prerogative to suspend the Law which He, as part of the Blessed Trinity, had established for Israel to obey. The Pharisees were not, on the face of it, wrong to stone the woman. If Jesus told the lepers he cured to show themselves to the elders, thus, obeying the Law of Moses, then he was not abrogating the Law, at this point. It is clear that he was suspending it for the sake of a higher lesson involving either the hypocrisy of the Pharisees or the fact that He condemns no one in this life.

    5. We live in the New Dispensation, however. We are under the Law of Grace. A Catholic woman who civilly divorces her husband and marries another, without a valid annulment, and then cries foul when made to have sex with him under threat of bodily harm when she comes to her senses and wants to leave or amend her life is in a tragic position, but it is in no way comparable to the situation of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. One might say that that woman was found out or discovered by her accusers, but the modern woman is living with the man in plain sight with the blessings of modern society. They expect her to be having sex with him. It is the Church which, rightly, objects. How much slack should they cut her, since she went into every step of the affair with eyes wide open? She came to her senses after the fact and wants to go back to Communion, but, oh, she trapped herself in a bad situation and wants our pity. What should that pity look like? That is the matter up for discussion.

    If she, really, wanted to receive Communion, then, logically, she should go back to her true husband – if he will have her (no annulment was sought) and claim protection under the law as a test case. You see the whole damnable problem, here, is that civil law does not recognize ecclesial law, so this whole mess is a form of political cognitive dissonance. In the Old Code of Canon Law, before 1983, a woman could, in certain cases if the bishop has warned her to leave her civilly re-married husband, be excommunicated (this would have been rare, I think). Although this penalty was omitted in the 1983 Code, it puts the lie to the notion that the Church has not taught that divorce and remarriage has a direct affect on sacramental reception – and the thinking was not in the direction of mercy. This is Pope Francis’s innovation or at least the innovation of those who would read Amoritis Laetitis outside of Church tradition.

    Now, there are, truly, impossible situations. Suppose the divorced and re-married wife were chained in a cage and forcibly raped when her husband wanted sex. In this case, even the Levitical Law recognized no sin for the woman. This is a truly impossible situation.

    Does mental coercion constitute impossibility and exonerate a wife? No, not in general, unless it is so severe as to be mentally incapacitating, but that is not what Cardinal Coccopalmerio posited in his scenario. As long as the woman is a free agent, she has moral responsibility in the matter. Can the coercion reduce culpability to merely venial sin? Perhaps, but, in my opinion, not in the scenario Cardinal Coccopalmerio puts forth. The woman has options beyond having sex with the man. This is a case of human difficulty, but not human impossibility. Adding the word, human, to the word impossible, does nothing to change the law, which is of divine origin. Just because man can’t do something does not mean that God cannot. That is not a Jansenist position.

    6. You wrote,

    “Go ahead and throw your stones at woman in abusive relationships who find it impossible to leave but are willing to take steps to remove the occasion of sin.”

    You and Cardinal Coccopalmerio are piling objection upon objection. Clearly, the woman’s situation is not impossible, no matter how much Coccopalmerio asserts this, as I have suggested several ways out of the situation, if she truly were committed to remove the occasion of sin. She is not penned in a cage, forced to perform sex with the man. She may feel coerced, but the priest, as an outside agent, has a responsibility to help her overcome that coercion, not allow her to live under it.

    Mercy, true mercy, in this situation, would be to help the woman get out of the situation, not stay in it. If you do not understand this, then, perhaps you do not see why Cardinal Coccopalmerio has chosen such a particularly odious example to defend his stance on Communion for certain divorced and re-married.

    All that being said, why should I bother to listen to this arcane plea for reception of Communion when, clearly, the Church is not acting to stop these situations from occurring in the first place? One simple thing – requiring permission of the diocesan bishop or the Tribunal before being allowed to civilly divorce, would eliminate most of these hard cases (that used to be the case in the 1880’s in the U. S.). Also, we know why couples break up, but has the Church moved to incorporate these empirical findings in their marriage preparation or a Tribunal proceedings? Apparently, not. The Church can do so much more, but in some cases, it must put itself directly in the path of civil law and it seems that, unlike in the Medieval period, the Church is unwilling to do that. The problem of divorce will not be solved until the Church has recovered its strength, which has been eroded by Modernism.

    The Chicken

  58. The Masked Chicken says:

    Sorry for all of the typos. I hope what I wrote makes sense. One sentence has to corrected:

    “In the Old Code of Canon Law, before 1983, a woman could, in certain cases if the bishop has warned her NOT to leave her civilly re-married husband, be excommunicated (this would have been rare, I think).”

    The Chicken

  59. Justalurkingfool says:


    Why aren’t you teaching in Rome, and required for all Bishops to learn from?

    Karl J

  60. Imrahil says:

    Dear Daniel W,

    As you see, the Council of Trent teaches there may be requirements of the Law that in some circumstances “you can not do,” (humanly)

    I think it is – begging your and the readership’s pardon – rather important to see that this is precisely what the Council of Trent does not teach. This is precisely the contrary of what the Council of Trent does teach.

    The Council of Trent teaches the following (quoting Ott’s Dogmatics from memory):

    1. It is [morally] impossible to remain, even with grace free from even venial sin throughout all one’s life, except in case God really exceptionally grants that, as the Church believes about Mary.

    2. However, on each occasion even if grace would not be given, it is within human (!) possibility to keep free from sin (although only with grace you can thereby acquire supernatural merit).

  61. Imrahil says:

    [note: When the Council of Trent says it is possible on each single occasion to keep free from sin, it means subjective sin. It is the precise definition of e. g. mental incapacity that you cannot choose not to do what you do, and I should say people do commit things that would objectively be sins in state of mental incapacity.]

  62. BenjaminiPeregrinus says:

    Daniel W- It is possible that we aren’t talking about the same thing. A woman in some despotic third world country who is in a forced “marriage” is not free and so not culpable of sin if that “marriage” is adulterous in nature. A woman who is in an adulterous living condition and authentically afraid to change it, because the man has beat her to a pulp in the past and says he will kill her if she leaves, is not culpable of sin (though someone should try to help her). Sin is a choice. The men in these situations are sinning. I am not throwing stones at victims.

    The good Cardinal on the other hand is arguing that the inconvenience, pain and difficulty of ending an adulterous situation is sufficient justification to continue in it. He has gone so far as to concoct hypotheticals which are difficult to take seriously and which look an awful lot like excuse making.

    Feel free to agree with PF.
    I am unable to see how anything I have said is in disagreement with Trent.
    As far as the Teaching of Christ goes, you have failed to demonstrate that ‘go and sin no more’ means something other than the words. I’ll also continue to believe his plain words that “he who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”.

  63. Imrahil says:

    Well, just as an aside,

    a woman who is in an adulterous living condition and authentically afraid to change it, because the man has beat her to a pulp in the past and says he will kill her if she leaves, is not culpable of sin…

    while I sincerely hope the burden of sin would be very light on her, I doubt she is actually “not culpable of sin” viz. at all. It is one’s duty never to sin under no threats whatsoever. Especially not under any threats whatsoever.

    And of course, we have to concede at least this to Card. Coccopalmerio: For us Christians, “if you don’t sin, I’ll kill you”, has always and ever been a much less harsh threat, precisely if meant serious (and if not involving too much torture),promising instant eternal reward, than “if you don’t act as I want you to, I’ll kill myself”.

  64. Daniel W says:

    Dear Imrahil,
    Thanks for the intelligent reply, supported by Ott. It would be great if you could give me the reference in Ott so I can find the part in Trent. You must admit however, that the passage from Trent Fr Z quoted teaches there are things “You cannot do” (without grace). So I would like the passage from Trent you are referring to if you can.

    However, you’re point is not directly relevant.

    I have not argued that the adultress is free from sin, but that she is free from mortal sin if she is under duress. This is because I do not reject our Lord’s words that sometimes circumstances might “cause her to commit adultery.”
    The matter in question is what purpose of amendment is necessary, and the Church requires detachment from all mortal sin, but not from all venial sin, and therefore not from adultery under severe duress.

  65. Justalurkingfool says:


    Would you pray for our family, please?


  66. Daniel W says:

    Dear Karl,
    I will offer up the effort to use my internet time well for the rest of Lent. Including only coming here twice a day and posting even less, for you and your family

  67. Justalurkingfool says:

    Thank you very much.


  68. Imrahil says:

    Dear Daniel W,

    seems like Trent thought this was too obvious to merit mentioning. After all, if I couldn’t have chosen to act differently anyway, what business would even God Himself have to reproach me for it? (Note the miles-wide chasm between Catholic and Calvinist thinking.)

    Anyway here goes:

    Ott, IV/I $9: “Without a special privilege of grace, even the justified person is not able to avoid all sins including the venial ones. De fide. […] For a right understanding of the dogma, the following has to be kept in mind: […] “Omnia” has to be understood collectively, not distributively, i. e. the single sin can be avoided with the help of ordinary grace [*], but not all of them altogether. “non posse” means a moral impossibility.

    [* I would indeed add “and theoretically even without it”, but certainly the practical difference is naught, because the unfaithful will get their sins forgiven on converting, and at least the justified faithful all get enough grace to fulfill the commandments, de fide, $11/2a. ]

    But most of all, $9/2b. ” In the state of fallen nature it is morally impossible to man to fulfill without sanitizing grace the whole of moral law for a longer time and overcome all major temptations, sent. certa. As according to the Council of Trent the justified person has need of “a special help of God”, i. e. actual grace, [which he invariably does get if not resisting it $11/2a], all the more a non-justified person cannot without actual grace avoid all [emph. orig.] grave sins, although by reason of her natural freedom she has the ability to avoid the single sin and keep the single commandment [as it were “of course; emph. mine].

  69. Hugh says:

    Daniel W,
    you’re assuming that because the divorcer “causes” the divorcee to commit adultery then the divorcee must be free from serious sin. This would be to view the external cause of sin – the divorcer’s act of divorce-as the sufficient, completive cause of sin, thus dispensing the divorcee wife of culpability for any subsequent adultery on her part.

    But the Catholic & scriptural understanding is that BOTH may be in serious sin thereby. Otherwise the theological analysis of scandal, by which the scandalizer causes another to sin, makes no sense. The reason why someone who leads one of the little ones to sin – scandalizes – deserves to have a millstone hung around his neck and cast into the sea (Mt 18.6) is because he has caused THEM to sin seriously and risk their salvation thereby.

    Again, it is undeniable that Satan causes us to sin as Eve pointed out. On your own argument, therefore, we never sin mortally when we are caused to sin by Satan. Well that’s a relief, eh? I don’t think so. Satan causes us to sin in that He tempts us. He is an external cause. But the internal, and sufficient, cause of our sin is the assent of our will.

    Again, Our Lord says: if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, for it is better to lose one part of your body than to go to hell with your whole body.

    Clearly, the phrase doesn’t mean that being caused to sin automatically exculpates.

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