Friday, April 15, 2016



The other pastoral situation that drives me up the wall is when we have lovely people who are not Catholic who wish to become Catholic. These people were to free to marry, but the person they married, who is not Catholic, has a previous or many previous marriages. However, the current marriage is good, children are loved and cared for and they love each other. Neither were Catholic when they married and married with the right attitude.

Only one partner in the marriage wants to become Catholic. The spouse has no interest. He will not participate in an annulment procedure and his ex-wives would scoff at such a thing. WHAT TO DO?


Or, you have a Catholic who is either a widow(er) or has an annulment who is in a marriage with a protestant who has a previous marriage and he won't cooperate or his ex spouse won't. WHAT TO DO?


I've been a priest for 36 years and never, ever in my 36 years after I have informed someone that there is nothing I can do to help them to return to Holy Communion other than the person ceasing to have sex with their partner or separating, that I've had anyone actually do it. And today, what people don't call sex, I find interesting. (I do have couples who aren't having sex because of health issues, this is very common, but if not for the health issues...)

If you are madly in love, in a committed relationship and one that is a civil marriage and you had a priest tell you that the only way for you to save your soul is to separate from your spouse/paramour/or whatever you call it, WOULD YOU DO IT?  



Ana Milan said...

The Catholic Church is not your church or my church, it is Christ's Church on earth which He founded on the First Apostles. He made the rules for all time - our forefathers kept them, with great sadness & some bitterness, but because they wanted to be part of Christ's faithful, with tenacity. This Exhortation is a slap in the face to them for the cross they endured with confidence.

If people to-day are too soft and too caught up in this Modernist world to follow Jesus, then so be it. It is challenging and He allowed many to go their way - their decision. The successors to the Apostles of to-day do not have the authority to change any commandments given by the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. The souls they misguidedly think will be saved by such gestures will in any case be lost, along with their own.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are many things we would all like to do that could cast us adrift from the Church and maybe lose us the chance of everlasting happiness in heaven if we chose to do what we liked. Sometimes it's hard being a Catholic, a follower of Christ. We need good priests to direct us and keep us on the straight and narrow. Maybe we are all a bit lax because priests since Vat II haven't been careful enough to tell people to avoid even venial sin.

I had a priest tell me in confession for every venial sin I mentioned, "Oh everyone does that". He was normally good in confession but that was an off day. I have to say that when I commit those venial sins it does come to mind "Oh everyone does that" and it makes it easy to shrug my shoulders and go on as I am without attempting to change - because a priest told me it was okay. Whereas, if he had said to me "Pull your socks up because if you become lax in small things you could become lax in more serious sin".

Keep on as you are, Father. I think it is more serious to be too soft than to be over rigorous in many ways.

TJM said...


Marc said...

It seems so difficult to avoid sin and love God, doesn't it? But Christ told us to take up our cross and follow him. He did not promise that things would be easy for us or that we would be happy in the worldly sense.

Is it difficult for a serial adulterer or other habitual sinner to stop sinning? Yes, but with the grace of God, everything is possible.

This post reminded me of something that St. Alphonsus wrote in his Preparation for Death:

"S. Thomas Aquinas says that the lost 'will chiefly grieve that they have been condemned or nothing, and yet most easily they could have obtained eternal life.' The second remorse of conscience will be the thought of how little was required to obtain salvation. The greatest torment in hell to the lost soul will be the thought for what trifles it has lost itself, and how little there was to do that it might have been saved. Then will the soul say: 'Had I mortified myself by not looking at that object; had conquered that undue deference to human opinion; had I fled from that temptation, that companion, that assembly, I should not have been condemned.'"

Anonymous said...

Don't the concepts of Pauline and Petrine privileges, and the distinction between natural and sacramental marriage, come into play here? Even if this isn't the case, it seems to me that most Protestants and all non-Christians have a subjective view of marriage that differs from the Catholic understanding of sacramental marriage; thus the intent they _actually_ had when they married--had they been Catholic at the time--may well be grounds for an annulment. (Perhaps not--what about two devout Baptists marrying, each of which, despite any formal understanding of sacramental theology, nevertheless strongly believed marriage to be indissoluble based on God's command?)

Is it always a requirement that both putative spouses participate in the annulment process? Seems to me that if Francis and the bishops had no problems changing the presumption that Catholic marriages are valid to a presumption that Catholic marriages aren't valid--which is essentially what they did last fall--then a fortiori they could change the presumption regarding a non-Catholic or non-Christian marriage with a lot more justification, thus obviating the need for a reluctant spouse's participation in the annulment process.

Of course, we could just say that all this is pharisaic, say that Christ was just constrained by and operating within the context of his times, quit worrying about marriage, and just shack up . . . :-)

Marc said...

Anonymous, I'm not so sure that the Church actually teaches that the baptized persons getting married have to have some internalized understanding of the permanence of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Pope Pius XI says, "And since the valid matrimonial consent among the faithful was constituted by Christ as a sign of grace, the sacramental nature is so intimately bound up with Christian wedlock that there can be no true marriage between baptized persons 'without it being by that very fact a sacrament.'"

The "intention" sufficient for the confection of the Sacrament of Matrimony is the intent of the parties to contract a marriage with each other. In mixed marriages, for example, it is not even necessary that the non-Catholic intend to confect the Sacrament so long as they intend to marry. In fact, the non-Catholic does not even need to believe that marriage is a Sacrament in order to confect a Sacramental marriage.

Anonymous said...

I might give up the sex if I were properly informed about the torments of Hell and my likelihood of ending up there. But this will not be learned from any of the Catholic priests that I know in my Diocese.
Having been raised a baptist I would say that few if any Baptists would understand the concept of Mortal sin and so would not expect that the sin of divorce/remarriage requires any kind of sacramental confession and absolution. Hence, lacking a proper understanding it would likely not be mortal sin for them. seems that maybe there should be some allowances made for non Catholics and even more so for non Christians. For any baptized catholic especially those married in the church the assumption should be that they should have known the teaching of the Church.

Marc said...

Anonymous, it is not necessary for one to know that something is a "mortal sin" in order to commit mortal sin. It is necessary for one to know that the matter is grave. Surely Baptists are aware that adultery is a grave sin since they have read the Ten Commandments.

For sin to be mortal, the matter of the sin must be grave and the consent of the will must be to commit the grave matter. In this instance, adultery is always grave matter by its nature. Consent of the will, in turn, is merely the intention to commit the act of adultery. As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains, "It is not necessary that the explicit intention to offend God and break His law be present, the full and free consent of the will to an evil act suffices."

So, you can see that there are no "allowances" for non-Catholics since, as mentioned before, every marriage between baptized persons is Sacramental and, therefore, indissoluble.

Anonymous said...

that's just the point though. divorce would be seen today by most baptists as unfortunate and possibly sinful depending on the circumstances. But almost no baptist would any longer consider the second Marriage to be living in Adultery.

George said...

A Sacrament requires form and matter

The matter of the Sacrament of matrimony is the physical and spiritual selves of the man and woman who are to wed; the form is the vows that each make to each other before God, as witnessed by those in attendance. The vows between the two are the solemn promises which are made to each other which brings into existence, and manifests as a reality, the covenant between the two. The two that are wed, the man and the woman, confect and complete the sacrament, both in the ceremony and in the conjugal act proper to the married state. Marriage between a man and a woman is that which was instituted and ordained by God Himself ,and so has a special significance corresponding to the relationship of the creature to the Creator, that is, our covenantal relationship as sons and daughters of God the Father. A marriage is covenantal, in that it represents a sacred, formal, unconditional agreement between the man and the woman, and between them and the Creator, and it is also sacramental, in that by the goodness and action of God, it confers grace.
We should keep in mind the words of Christ himself : “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
All this is true of course according to if, in the eyes of the Church, there was no defect or impediment and a marriage did in fact come into being and did exist.
God will accompany those with His grace who, with a sincere and dedicated effort, persevere in conforming to His will and obeying His Holy laws. If at times one fails, His mercy is always available in the Sacrament of Confession.

Alter Anonymous said...

Re the discussion between the other Anonymous and Marc,

I've long found it interesting that while both Protestants and Catholics have a wedding/marriage liturgy/ceremony, there is no marriage dissolution ceremony (unless, for Catholics, you count the annulment process itself, though that certainly isn't liturgical). This fact suggests, at least to me, the indissolubility of marriage (lex orandi, lex credendi). Yet Protestants--who used to take a pretty strong stand against divorce--have somehow skirted this fact, or else they just don't see it that way.

For those Protestants who don't have a sacramental theology, or who don't extent that theology to marriage, what exactly do they think is happening at a wedding ceremony? Is it merely asking God's blessing on a civil relationship? That would seem to allow more leeway for divorce given that it doesn't necessarily suggest permanence, especially given today's environment. Or are the two people entering into some sort of covenant or even mere contract in which God somehow participates or at least witnesses? Are there promises made before God or to God? If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then how can a civil divorce function to dissolve this religious covenant or release one from these religious promises? As far as I know, it just seems to be something that Protestant theology ignores (presumably our of convenience). Even devout Protestants I've known well and who have been unwillingly subjected to divorce by the other spouse didn't raise this issue.

John Nolan said...

Let us consider the following scenario.

A Catholic man, who has never been married, meets and falls in love with a woman who was married according to Anglican rites and has grown-up children. Some years previously her husband took up with another woman and divorced her.

He cannot marry her unless the first marriage is annulled. But the woman cannot accept that her marriage was null and void and that her children are (technically) illegitimate; whatever her husband might have done subsequently, she made her vows 'until death do us part' and remained faithful to the marriage bond.

She is of course right. In the 1970s 'quickie' annulments were common in the US and caused great scandal. Pope Francis seems to want a return to this situation which amounted to divorce on the cheap, using every loophole in Canon Law. The Church of England accepts annulments in principle but admits them only in rare and exceptional circumstances. If annulments can be easily obtained at diocesan level with no appeal to the Roman Rota, then the whole procedure is a sham.

The man therefore has two options. He can either sever the relationship and his prospect of future happiness (remember that both parties have done nothing wrong) or he can enter into an irregular union and try and square it with his conscience.

What would the legal positivists on this blog advise him to do?

Marc said...

Sever the relationship so that he can maintain his prospects of future happiness in Heaven.

George said...

John Nolan:
Difficult scenarios have come to my mind also.

The first avenue to go down is to determine (if it is possible to do so) whether or not there existed a defect in the previous marriage. It may be necessary to persuade the woman to go this route and that an annulment would not make her children illegitimate.
Say that a person enters into a legal contract or agreement with another person to build a house. The house is built and the person is satisfied with it, but it is subsequently found the there was defect in the contract, after which the contract is then determined by a judge to be null and void. That does not impact the 'legitimacy" of the house, the soundness of its construction, or the purpose for which it was constructed. Children are not made illegitimate by an anullment. If it is found that there are no grounds for annulment, then with the help of the pastor, one can proceed further into exploring the remaining options.
It is of utmost importance to note that the woman was faithful to her husband in the first marriage. What if she did not want the divorce but could not prevent it? This is something that needs be taken into consideration. If it was the woman who wanted the divorce, then we have a whole different situation altogether.
All options should be presented to the husband along with the possible ramifications of choosing a particular option. This includes severing the relationship.

Today (April 16) is the feast day of St Bernadette. One of the things that she said that Our Lady told her is that she would not promise her happiness
in this world, but only in the next.