Changing Marriage Discipline Will Change Doctrine

Recent headlines in the mainstream media suggest that the Catholic Church is close to making major doctrinal changes on divorce and remarriage.  The Huffington Post has suggested that the Church will “open the door” to changes in doctrine on divorce.  And, Time magazine predicted that the Pope has “signaled a new openness” to allowing access to the sacraments to those Catholics who have been divorced remarried, or are currently cohabiting.

The celebration may be misguided. While Pope Francis has indeed presided over wedding ceremonies in which the couples had lived together before marriage, his participation in the sacrament of marriage for these couples does not signal a change in what the Church believes about permanency of the marriage those couples entered into. Instead, Pope Francis showed how the mercy of God can bind up broken relationships into a lasting bond patterned on Christ’s love for the Church.

It is likewise with the Synod.  The Synod’s preparatory document, the Instrumentum Laboris, asks whether the Church should emend its discipline to better serve the new evangelization of contemporary culture—not whether it should change its doctrine to accommodate it. Among the questions it raises are whether the process for granting an annulment should be made easier (IL 98-102), and whether the Church should permit Catholics who have obtained a civil divorce and remarriage, but who are still married to their original spouse in the eyes of the Church, to receive communion (IL 97). Many in the Church—including the editors of America Magazine—are saying, that there is no harm in changing what we do in these matters, since this change can be done without changing what we believe. But others, such as the canonist Ed Peters, are questioning whether such a clear distinction between discipline and doctrine is possible.

The annulment process could be changed without changing what Catholics believe about marriage. An annulment is a juridic process in which a Church tribunal declares that two people who had a wedding never actually married each other because something went wrong—one of them was forced into it, didn’t realize what he/she was doing, was already married, etc. Changing that juridic process would not change the fact that, if the tribunal finds that the couple did marry each other, Catholic teaching prohibits them from divorcing each other and marrying someone else.

Permitting a Catholic who has obtained a civil divorce and remarried to receive Communion without an annulment of their prior marriage is trickier. Presently, the Church presumes that every marriage is valid until proven otherwise (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1060). Divorced and remarried Catholics are therefore presumed to be living in a repeated state of adultery, since they are engaged in a sexual relationship with someone other than their actual spouse. Since adultery is a grave sin, and since people who receive Communion in a state of grave sin commit the sin of sacrilege, the Church teaches that divorced and remarried Catholics should not present themselves for Communion (Canon 916) and should be refused Communion if they do (Canon 915), unless they have previously been absolved of their adultery through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But that absolution can’t happen unless they propose to amend their lives by ceasing their adulterous relationship (Canon 987).

In order for the Church to change its discipline to allow Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, one of three things would have to happen:

  • The Church would have to stop presuming that marriages are valid until proven otherwise (Canon 1060).
  • The Church would have to stop teaching that people in a state of grave sin shouldn’t receive the Eucharist (Canons 915-16).
  • The Church would have to stop teaching that Sacramental absolution requires the resolution to stop sinning and amend one’s life (Canon 987).

If all of this were really just discipline, any or all of it could be changed. The difficulty is that a lot of this discipline expresses doctrine:

  • The fact that people who are in a state of grave sin can’t receive the Eucharist comes from Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). It was taught at the Council of Trent (Decree on the Eucharist, Chapter 7), and is reiterated in the Catechism (CCC 1385).
  • The fact that people who are in a state of grave sin can’t be absolved without proposing to stop sinning and amend their lives also comes from Scripture (John 8:11). It was taught at the Council of Trent (Decree on Penance, Chapter 4), and is reiterated in the Catechism (CCC 1451).

That leaves us with the presumption that marriages are valid unless proven otherwise.

Most of the suggestions about permitting Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics presume that a majority of marriage are invalid until proven otherwise. On this assumption, there is no reason to presume that divorced and remarried Catholics are living in a state of repeated adultery, because their first marriage probably wasn’t valid. That being the case, they can be admitted to Communion without changing Church doctrine about sin and Communion.

There’s a problem with this line of reasoning. If the basis of permitting Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics is that their first marriage was probably invalid, why should the Church presume that their second (or third, or fourth) marriage is valid? A presumption against the validity of marriage has to apply to all marriages equally. And whatever other implications may follow from this conclusion, it would mean that most married/remarried couples should not present themselves for Communion, and should be refused Communion if they do, because most married/remarried couples aren’t actually married. That, of course, is ridiculous. But it shows that you cannot change Church discipline about Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics without considering its inevitable effect on doctrine.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps it is a sign that something has gone awry. Consider the fact that marriage is the only Sacrament in which lay people exercise an ordinary Sacramental ministry—priests don’t marry people; people marry people. In the Western tradition, priests witness what lay people do when they get married, but the spouses themselves confer marriage on each other (CCC 1623). If we presume that most spouses are incapable of entering into a valid marriage, then are we not guilty of despairing that God will send enough laborers into the vineyard to meet the needs of the Church in the New Evangelization? It would be like presuming that most priests and bishops were so incapable of knowing what they were doing when they conferred the other Sacraments that you would never know whether your children were baptized, your sins were absolved, or whether the center of Mass was bread or Jesus. Most lay Catholics wouldn’t dare entertain such thoughts about their pastors or about the Sacraments, and would be quick to admit that a person who did was struggling in the depths of doubt and despair.

If we trust God to provide faithful ministers of all the other Sacraments, why then would we doubt that he would send faithful ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage? Faithful Catholics trust in the mercy of God too much to ever believe that he would permit such a thing to happen. And so, while the annulment process might become expedited, it is unlikely that we will see major changes to Church discipline coming out of the Synod any more than we will see major changes to Church doctrine.

Jacob W. Wood

By

Jacob W. Wood is an Assistant Professor of Theology and a Faculty Associate of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned his Master's in theology from St. Andrews University and his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

  • DefensorVeritatis

    Perhaps what we will see is a more “practical” or “technical” approach. It may be that the annulment process will indeed become more simplified – and severed from Rome. If the Episcopal Conferences or the individual bishops become the arbiters of the annulment process, then for good or ill, it will be much easier to rectify invalid and irregular marriages. Is it Justice? That is for weightier minds to discuss – but the slow dissolution of the Anglican world gives little hope to holding to doctrine through decentralization.

  • GG

    A great article, but the damage is already begun. The Liberal prelates are now in charge. The narrative is no change in doctrine, but the reality is that they have placed doctrine in a box labelled small minded man-made rules to be ignored and the focus is on license to be called mercy.

    The 1970 style Liberals have been given new life and they will attack with full force while the soft right spins and spins.

    • FernieV

      ” … and they will attack with full force”. Possibly. More reason for us to pray and offer sacrifices asking the Holy Spirit for light for the Synodal Fathers and the Holy Father (he is always asking for prayers).

      • GG

        Pray without ceasing.

        • jacobhalo

          As faith without works is dead, prayer without action is dead.

          • GG

            I think we all agree with that. I am just agreeing that prayer is powerful.

          • BillinJax

            And action without prayer is like an army without rations or medics. See Jesus in the garden.

            • GG

              Yes, prayer is the key to everything.

            • jacobhalo

              Yes, we need both. It is like before taking a test in school. If you didn’t study for the test, prayer is not going to help.

          • Ladasha Smithson

            I know you mean well, but the whole idea of “pray as if evenything depends on god but act as if everything depends on you”, is the exact opposite of the theology of grace.

      • MgW

        Amen! Amen!

    • Fred

      There is a cowardly dimension to all this that we must recognize. While the left has slowly been poisoning our society through infiltration of government control we’ve been largely silent, complicit and afraid to speak truth to lies. Not among one another of course, but to those who spread deception and have been duped. I know it is intimidating being slandered and screamed at by the disciples of Alinsky, but we must be more bold and not cower. The prince of this world grins from ear to ear when we shy from this important mission. Having said that, I too feel overwhelmed wondering how the genie can ever be put back in the bottle getting society to recognize the purpose and sacrament of marriage. Not so much on subject of perverted marriages, but regarding recognition of divorce and annulment.

      • GG

        Well, a big part of the problem is that we Catholics do not live as Catholics. The world could change if we lived as we claim during mass.

        It helps if we have support from the princes of the Church. At this point, the opposite is happening and at the very least I hope for intellectual honesty and not spin. That is why Crisis magazine is such a wonderful and edifying mission.

        • Fred

          Amen. The duty lies with all of us.

        • DE-173

          “Well, a big part of the problem is that we Catholics do not live as Catholics. The world could change if we lived as we claim during mass.”

          Oh come on it doesn’t matter if you leave Mass and then proceed to cut off other people in the parking lot with the middle digit of your dominant hand extended upward, and then go home to engage in chemically sterilized relations with your concubine as long as you hold the proper attitudes on maintaining federal spending for “the poor”.

      • John Byde

        Totally agree. There is a massive fight going on now and the crazies have the bit between their teeth (witness the Supreme Court judgments in the US about “gay marriage”, whatever that is). It’s so easy and so often justified to criticize the weak leadership of the top brass that we neglect our own lack of involvement. We all need to be asking ourselves, “How can I help the fight the good fight, successfully and without resorting to the tactics of hatred of the other side?” Slowly but relentlessly a forbidding old word from our Christian forebears is rumbling towards us. The word is “martyrdom”. There is no place left for comfy Christianity.

    • Jacob W. Wood

      If a given change in discipline really can’t happen without a change in doctrine, which is what I am arguing, then there’s good reason for hope! Catholics trust that the Holy Spirit guides the Church into all truth and defends it from error. And the Holy Spirit can steer the Church aright through any prelate–just as he can bring about the salvation and sanctification of the world through you and me, even though we’re not perfect either.

      Why then, one might ask, should we pray, if God has already promised guidance and protection to the Church? St. Thomas Aquinas responds: because perhaps God has willed to confer that very guidance and protection today through our prayers (http://newadvent.org/summa/1023.htm#article8). So let’s get to work and pray for the Synod!

      • BXVI

        Would that my faith were as strong as yours. I am tempted by Satan to view this as a sort of litmus test of whether the Church is in fact guided by the Holy Spirit or instead demonstrates itself to have been a big fat fraud all along. Or maybe we are approaching the final test of the Church described in, I believe, CCC 675. I pray for greater faith.

        • John Byde

          That’s an interesting point. Am reading the book of Job at present and how Satan was allowed to test him.

      • GG

        Dr. Wood, thank you for your reply. I agree. My comment was to point out the serious nature of what is occurring now. Yes, we have faith God will prevail in the end, but trials are here and will get worse.

      • jacobhalo

        I think that the Holy Spirit was on vacation at Vatican II.

        • Nita Finke Austin

          AMEN

    • Rick DeLano

      The soft have spun, that’s for sure.

      Time for resistance.

  • Lego Man

    It’s really sad seeing all this played out, just as Our Lady of Fatima and La Salette forecast. On the other hand, it’s a real joy to know all this and have the choice to say YES to God – I WILL BE FAITHFUL WHEN SO MANY ARE NOT! TO be His friend when His shepherds so wickedly betray Him. We don’t have to take part in the betrayal. Well done to Crisis for continuing to shine light on this.

    • John Byde

      It is sad, Lego Man but there is reason for hope. The eternal battle is already won and God wants to see how we face up to the fight. Also Jesus never predicted peace on earth; he pretty much said that what is happening now would happen. We know that we have a chance of eternal reward but our task here is to lead Christian lives without the hate and anger we see around us. Tough to do, but possible. Chin up!

  • Daniel P

    Is anyone suggesting that *Catholic* first marriages should be assumed invalid, sight unseen? I don’t think so, though I could be wrong. That, of course, would either make the annulment process expendable, or — as you say — make it a farce, where second marriages “count” somehow but first marriages don’t.

    Presuming that non-Catholic marriages (or some subset of them) are invalid does not involve changing doctrine.

    • Jacob W. Wood

      Daniel,

      Thanks for your comment! Just to clarify: since only Catholics in a state of grace can receive Communion in the Catholic Church, the question of Communion for divorced/remarried persons at the Synod touches only upon the validity of marriages where at least one of the spouses is Catholic.

      • Daniel P

        Oh, I know that. But many people were married in non-Catholic churches (or in courthouses), and then became Catholic. Currently, their first marriages are presumed to be valid. I think that presumption is unnecessary — at the very least, it’s not a matter of doctrine. (This was the sort of situation I recall Pope Benedict being very concerned about).

        I agree that Catholic marriages should always be presumed to be valid, unless proven otherwise.

        Thanks for the response! God bless you!

        • Jacob W. Wood

          Daniel,

          Good point! But even in the case of converts we run into the same problem: Church doctrine prevents us from admitting someone to Communion who is living in a state in which they repeatedly commit acts of adultery. If we presume that the marriages of converts are invalid, we would have to withhold absolution and Communion from every married convert until they could prove that their marriages were valid or obtained annulments–which would place an impossible burden upon the converts. It would be a bit like saying that their marriages were “guilty until proven innocent,” rather than the current system, in which we presume that their first marriages, like everyone else’s, are “innocent until proven guilty.”

          Likewise, God bless!

          • Michelle

            If we presumed that non-Catholic marriages are invalid, then converts would only have to have their marriages convalidated. I don’t see that as an impossible burden.
            How do we assume that non-Catholic marriages are valid when the Church’s doctrine on marriage is wildly different from every other religion’s view of marriage? We already discriminate against other religions that don’t conform to our matrix for baptism. People from those religions who convert have to receive sacramental baptism. Sometimes we’re not sure if there was a valid baptism or not and those people are baptized again, just in case.
            There’s something wrong when we look at the marriage of two Catholics and the marriage of two atheists and assume that both are sacramental and valid. Maybe 50 years ago, we could make that assumption. Not anymore. The world’s view of marriage has drifted further and further away; the Church’s has remained the same. Presuming that non-Catholic marriages are invalid and that converts would need to have their non-Catholic marriages convalidated would eliminate many of the issues with nullification.
            The Tribunals should be focused on investigating the validity of Catholic marriages.

            • Jacob W. Wood

              Michelle,

              Thanks for your comment! There’s a lot in there, but on the subject of convalidation:

              In order to convalidate a marriage, you have to establish why the marriage wasn’t valid in the first place. Otherwise, you can try over and over and over again, but you’ll never achieve a valid marriage. It’s like a pen without ink–I can try to write with it over and over and over again, but unless I diagnose the problem and fix it (by filling the pen), I’m never going to actually write anything. That’s why the Church has different laws about how to go about the process of convalidation, depending on what made the marriage invalid in the first place:

              http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P46.HTM

              This means that you don’t escape the tribunal question by resorting to convalidation. Each individual marriage would still have to be investigated, very often requiring the work of a tribunal. Moreover, the difficulty I pointed out in the article would remain that one could not receive Eucharist until his/her marriage situation were regularized.

              • Daniel P

                “In order to convalidate a marriage, you have to establish why the marriage wasn’t valid in the first place.”

                But that’s a matter of discipline, right, not a matter of doctrine? There’s nothing preventing the Church from “validating” a marriage that in its essence may have been valid from the beginning. We already do this, with “conditional” baptisms, where we are uncertain as to whether a person has already been baptized.

                • Jacob W. Wood

                  “But that’s a matter of discipline, right, not a matter of doctrine? ”

                  Yes and no. Some things that could prevent a couple from being married are matters of doctrine (like the fact that men cannot marry men and women cannot marry women–the Church can’t change that), some are matters of discipline (like the minimum age for contracting a valid marriage–the Church can, and has changed that).

                  Before convalidation takes place, you have to establish what precisely prevented the previous wedding from making a valid marriage, otherwise you can’t be sure that the marriage is going to be valid after convalidation. For example, let’s say that one of the people that wants to get married doesn’t believe that marriage lasts until death. Before convalidation can take place, someone first has to investigate the previous wedding and figure out that it wasn’t valid because he/she believed that. Then, convalidation can take place, but it will never produce a valid marriage until:

                  A) Someone teaches him/her what Catholics believe about the indissolubility of marriage, and

                  B) He/she accepts the Catholic teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, and

                  C) He/she renews his/her consent while believing the Catholic teaching about the indissolubility of marriage

                  That’s just one example of why convalidation can’t function as a quick fix. But the basic point is that, in each case, it would have to be investigated why the marriage wasn’t valid the first time, so that you could be sure that the couple actually entered into a marriage upon convalidation, and then permit them to receive the Eucharist.

                  • Michelle

                    I don’t understand why you would need to establish this. In our current system, yes. But if we cease assuming that non-Catholic marriages are valid, then the process of convalidation should simply be one of catechesis, then convalidation.
                    We may be talking past each other. I think you’re focused on non-Church weddings between Catholics, while many comments are concerning non-Catholics who are wanting to convert.
                    Non-Catholics don’t have the same doctrine of marriage that we do. So, how could their marriages ever be valid under our doctrine? Then we should assume they are not valid. Then we should provide correct catechesis on the doctrine of marriage before a convalidation occurs during the process of conversion.

                    • Jacob W. Wood

                      Michelle,

                      I see your point. I think we are discussing the same situation, however, as I did not intend my comments solely to apply to those situations in which Catholics get married outside the Church without a dispensation to do so (this is called in Canon Law a “defect of form” and renders the marriage invalid). I intended my comments to include this, but also to include any of the other ways in which a wedding might not result in a valid marriage. The point is that to avoid committing the same mistake, you have to figure out why the previous marriage was invalid. And it might not be something so simple.

                      But there is a deeper question here about what you need to know to get married. Non-Catholics can get married because marriage is a natural institution, given by God to humanity at Creation. We say that Jesus “elevated marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament” at the Wedding Feast of Cana, not that he instituted it then, because he took a natural institution and made it sacramental.

                      Marriage, in its natural form, still exists. A good way to remember what it entails is “free, total, faithful, fruitful” (freely entered into, lasting until death, monogamous, and open to children). If you can understand that, you can understand what you need to get married. And if you didn’t think that when you got married, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage either. If you were at least open to those things when you exchanged consent, whether you knew them to be true or not, it’s sufficient (Canon 1099).

                    • Michelle

                      And looking around society today? It’s a rare thing to find people entering into marriage freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully.
                      I just think that we have come to a point in time when marriage has been so diminished that assuming all non-Catholic marriages are “free, total, faithful, and fruitful” is absurd. We can look around and see with our own eyes that it isn’t so. Yet, the annulment process for non-Catholics is complex and drawn-out.
                      I’m not in any way advocating for a change in the tribunal process for Catholic marriages. We have to assume that Catholic marriages are valid. But we really need to open our eyes to the reality of the non-Catholic world. Are most marriages freely entered into? Yes. Are most marriages assumed to last until death? No. Divorce is an out for most people. Are most marriages monogamous? Probably, but we’re seeing an upswing of open marriages. People marry for the legal benefits, but still pursue other partners. Are most marriages fruitful? Ha. Ahaha. Ahahahaha! No. No, they’re not. Just look at the birth rates.
                      For converts… stop assuming their previous marriages were valid. And for converts who are coming into the Church together, stop assuming their marriage is valid, provide good catechesis, and elevate it through convalidation.

                    • Martha

                      “Are most marriages fruitful? Ha. Ahaha. Ahahahaha! No. No, they’re not. Just look at the birth rates.”

                      Agreed, wholeheartedly. Sadly. Like I said in a previous comment, if annulments are granted on the grounds that one partner was not open to life (and my friend’s was), we are in BIG trouble. Pretty much every Catholic couple can file on those grounds.

            • Michelle

              To put it simply, there should be two different flowcharts for Catholics and for non-Catholics.

              For two Catholics who want to marry:
              1) Have either of you been married in the Church?
              a. No. ——-> Congrats. Sign up for pre-Cana.
              b. Yes.
              1. Former spouse living?
              a. No. ————> Congrats. Sign up for pre-Cana.
              b. Yes. ————> Head to the Tribunal.
              For non-Catholic converts:
              1) Are you married?
              a. No ————> Proceed with RCIA.
              b. Yes. ————-> Marriage must be convalidated prior to final acceptance in the Church.

      • HigherCalling

        And it touches on what it means to be in a “state of grace.” If it is determined that divorced and remarried persons are now free to receive Holy Communion (meaning that they are in full communion with the Catholic Church and her teachings), and that to receive Communion requires being in a state of grace, what does that say about the definition of “state of grace”? It would seem to undermine or even obliterate the original definition; for if a divorced and remarried Catholic, barring annulment, is considered to be in a state of grace (even after a valid confession), and is still living in what amounts to a Church-approved and fully functioning second marriage (including participating in the marital act and having no desire or requirement to stop), then being in a “state of grace” has utterly changed. So has the examination of conscience, what it means to be absent of sin, to possess sanctifying grace, and to be in the friendship of God and have the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And it changes Holy Communion and the meaning of the Eucharist itself. “Hail Mary, full of grace” can never mean the same thing again.

  • john

    There is a middle way that doesn’t require any real change in either discipline or doctrine that probably applies for a large number of “divorced/remarried” Catholics who want to live in full communion with the Church. When their first marriages were clearly un-sacramental (for example, the original spouses were not Catholic, but one or both became Catholic after the first divorce), making that relatively simple annulment quicker and easier would, I think, go a long way toward healing part of this rift. It may make the easy cases easier, anyway. The hard cases will still be hard, I’m afraid.

    • JP

      The Catholic Church recognizes the validity of non-Catholic Christian marriages, as long as both spouses are baptized. Again, it is up to the Marriage Tribunal to determine of the previous non-Catholic marriage was valid. Remember, it is the spouses who are give the Sacrament to each other. The Priest is just a witness.

  • Tomacz Tesla

    I will remain loyal to the Magisterium no matter what the Vatican does.

    • jacobhalo

      If the Vatican teaches an untruth, you will still be loyal to it?

      • Martha

        No, I think what Tesla is saying is that he will remain faithful to the perennial teachings of the Church throughout time, which is the Magisterium. The Magisterium is much larger than the current Pope and hierarchy. It is the Church as handed down from Christ. If this hierarchy decides to teach an untruth, it is they who are being unloyal to the Magisterium.

        • jacobhalo

          Thanks, Martha for the clarification.

    • John O’Neill

      Look to the Pius X Society they are still maintaining the traditional magisterium which cannot be found anywhere in Notre Dame University or Georgetown University ; those two universities are the center of the New American Catholic Church, a church dedicated to keeping secular American culture strong in the world.

    • jacobhalo

      I’m sorry Tomacz, I misunderstood you.

      • Rose

        I am not loyal to the Vatican. I am loyal to the Church. Capital “C” – One True Holy. You know the one I mean! But what about all of us as a group? The “dark” church folks are united, all reading the same dreck (NCR, America, HuffPo, etc), and going to the same rallies and spewing the same rhetoric about mercy, global warming, gay rights, women, over-population, relativism, gradualism, etc. They control the world, from the UN to the EU to the USA. And about HALF of the actually practicing Church, those in the pews, those in the sanctuary, equally lost.

        So, folks, do we have a plan or strategy? I have heard schism (a bit dramatic), join SSPX, wait it out, give it time, trust God, or just pray… none of this is very inspiring.

        Other day I met a priest here from Rome who said, “It will take 50 to 100 years for the Church to recover from this Pope.” Now that was only his opinion. But if the Pope, God forbid, in confusion is swayed by the Boys’ Club (Wuerl, O’Malley, Maradiaga, deBruz, Kasper, Marx, Gomez, at least a dozen Cardinals are lost), what DO WE DO?

        It is THE Church, and we are required by God to stamp out heresy and admonish the sinner. But how, especially with the first commandment now being “Be Pastoral, Be Nice, Compromise.” Pray, well obviously. To me that does not seem enough. But I am a homebound disabled older woman. WHAT CAN I DO TO LIFT UP MY FELLOW CATHOLICS? What are we going to do together so we still have a Church? To me this feels like Vatican 2 all over again, and the damage from the assumptions due to that is still reverberating.

    • Rick DeLano

      I am afraid there have been times in the history of the Church where loyalty to the magisterium meant resistance to the Vatican.

      St. Athanasius, pray for us!

  • FrankW

    Thanks for posting this article. I have the same concerns expressed by the author about this synod, and don’t see any way that the Church can allow those divorced and remarried without an annulment to have their marriages blessed by the Church.

    To do so would remove the permanency of the sacrament of marriage, and essentially allow Catholics to divorce and remarry at will while continuing to participate in the Sacramental life.

    I can’t help but wonder if the real solution to this problem doesn’t lie elsewhere. Why do so many couples married in the Catholic Church end up getting divorced?

    I’ve seen couples that didn’t take the marital preparation seriously, couples who were just looking for a nice Church to get married in, and one of the two was raised Catholic but drifted away from the faith years earlier, and I’ve seen some marriage prep that offers little to no substance about the Catholic faith.

    The Catholic Church needs to get more serious about preparing couples for marriage, and lay the choice before them: If a couple is presented the view of Catholic marriage as is (including its ban on artificial contraception, and its expectations of both husband and wife throughout the marriage, the responsibilities of parenthood in the eyes of the Church) and
    that couple doesn’t honestly want to follow that life, then the Catholic Church needs to have the courage to tell them that the Catholic sacrament of marriage is not for them.

    • Tim

      Not only marriage, but all Sacraments. How many infants are Baptized even though the parents knowingly don’t practice the faith and are doing it just for family peace? Or, how many youngsters automatically receive their First Communion and don’t even know their prayers, let alone the rudiments of the faith just because “kids always make their First Communion in second grade”? How many teens are Confirmed only because they are being forced to by their parents (or promised that afterwards they don’t have to go to religious instructions any longer)? How many godparents and sponsors are non-practicing Catholics because the parish no longer requires a “practicing Catholic” statement from their pastor? How many bishops allow liturgical abuses to continue despite receiving letter after letter after letter from discouraged faithful Catholics?

      • angie

        Oh Absolutely agree with you Tim.

    • Joan

      It took me many years to see this connection, don’t think I’m nuts. But due to the Synod, the other day I decided to re-read that beautiful and concise encyclical, Humanae Vitae. Why are Catholics divorcing in record numbers? Because they are contracepting in record numbers. They are bringing physical and spiritual and emotional sterility into their young lives. Look at large families that practice their Faith. There is not even a hint toward divorce. Catholic, big families are happier, more cohesive, and the parents must work together as a team. They are not spiritually impeded and their marriage is not run out of steam at age 40, regardless of all that “poverty and brats” imposed on them by the outmoded, unenlightened, anti-feminist Church.

  • Steve Frank

    Many ancient bishops faced horrible torture and death rather than compromise and burn literal incense to the Roman gods of their age, yet it seems many of the church leaders of today are perfectly willing to metaphorically burn incense to the gods of political correctness and human applause, all so they can avoid paying a far lesser price. The price for taking a stand for the faith back then was the stake or the coliseum. Today it’s disapproval from the editorial board of the New York Times. And yet it seems leader after leader (both Catholic and Protestant) seem to fear man rather than God. Can you imagine the twelve apostles handing out surveys to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the rest of the ancient churches asking how all the people felt about Christ’s commandments regarding marriage and sex, and then changing the rules based on that feedback? Do you think the same apostle who said this:

    Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal 1:10)

    would be holding a synod to figure out a way to make the faith more appealing to a sexually decadent culture (keeping in mind that the Gentile culture of the first century was probably even more decadent that ours today if you can believe it). No way. It’s sad to see what’s happening today and it’s only going to get worse I’m afraid. I heard a preacher say this many years ago and it has stuck with me forever….”genuine Christianity has never been popular and it never will be”. Jesus said “If the world hated me it will hate you too”. Yet church leaders of today seem to think it’s their job to make the whole world love Christianity and the Church. Where did they get this idea that if they were doing things right then world would love them? Have they read the words of Christ?

    • jacobhalo

      Steve, “Am I trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?”. That is one of the problems. The goal of Vatican Ii was to bring the church into the modern world. It should had been to bring the modern world into the church. Vatican II clerics have been trying to placate the people, instead of instructing them in the faith. It is one of the reason we have so many cafeteria Catholics.

      • Rick DeLano

        “The goal of Vatican Ii was to bring the church into the modern world. It should had been to bring the modern world into the church.”

        That might be among the top five summaries of the catastrophe now descending upon our Holy Mother the Church I have ever read.

        • Guest_august

          But they say all the Popes since Vatican II are all Saints. They even call some of them the Great.

      • Steve Frank

        All the leaders of the Catholic Church need to do is look at the current state of mainline Protestantism if they want to see what “placating the people” leads to. I can tell you exactly what will happen if the Church gives the impression that it has liberalized it’s views of marriage and sexuality after this synod. The media will swoon over the whole thing, there will be wall to wall coverage of how the Church has finally caught up with the times, and polls will show that the vast majority of Catholics are happy with the liberal changes and will say they are more likely to stay in the Church because of them. But all these gains will be illusory and temporal. Most of the “Catholics” who applaud the changes will remain the nominal adherents that they always were. Further liberalizing the church will not cause them to become fully practicing Catholics. They will remain cafeteria Catholics and what will happen is that their children, the next generation, won’t even bother with their parent’s nominal adherence to the faith. They’ll just walk away from the church altogether. That’s what happened in mainline Protestantism.

        The only branches of Protestantism that are not in a demographic death spiral are the Evangelical/Pentecostal churches, which are the only ones that ignored the advice of the 60s/70s liberal church leaders and theologians who told Protestants to get with the times or become irrelevant. Now it’s the liberals who are irrelevant. Why can’t Catholic leaders see what happened to Protestantism and not realize that following the same course will bring the Catholic Church to the same end?

        • Catholic pilgrim

          Exactly! The liberals (like Kasper & company) want to turn our Holy Church into Protestant Anglicanism (with divorces/adulteries, Women clergy, birth Control, Abortion, Homosexual “marriages”, No mention of Satan or Sin, “free” sex for all y’all, “Islam like all religions are the same” crap, etc.). Look how relevant Anglican Protestantism is to the lives of modern Brits. Ironically, they laugh at it & mock its relevance! Is that what they also want of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church?
          The gates of Hell (if I’m still allowed mention the word) will not prevail against Her, but we still have to unceasingly fight for Her. God help us all. Prayers & actions will be greatly needed.

          • jacobhalo

            The worst part of it is that the Pope agrees with Cardinal Kasper. The pope demoted Cardinal Burke because he wants to teach truth. I just Cardinal Burke on EWTN and he is really a great man. Nothing wishy washy about him. He reminds me of the clerics before the disastrous Vatican II.

            • Catholic pilgrim

              I too just saw Raymond Arroyo’s new Cdl. Burke interview. What a refreshingly clear teacher is he. After the interview, my benefit of the doubt about Pope Francis’s promotion of Cdl. Kasper & his ideas was removed. I don’t know what to say besides doubling our praying efforts for the Synod & our Pope & publicly encouraging Cdls. Burke, Muller, Pell, etc. Honestly, I’m simply astounded about all.

              • jacobhalo

                Cdl. Burke is an example of how the clerics spoke and taught pre-Vatican II. They didn’t mince words. When the pope speaks, we have to interpret what he says.

          • John Byde

            True. Here in Switzerland the main protestant church has gone down the “homosexuality is wonderful path” and I ask myself: don’t they see what happened to the CofE? They are facing oblivion while the Catholic churches not 60 km from Calvin’s Geneva are packed. I rack my brains to understand why they would do this but can’t find a reason.

        • Marilyn

          The pope and Cardinals are largely over 70, many over 80, the bishops are probably almost all over 60. When these men reached the “age of reason” mass media comprised your local newspaper, radio, and maybe TV with 3 channels. I don’t think they really comprehend that every utterance, homily, decision, paper, phone call to nutty lady in Argentina, etc, is interpreted, twisted, and broadcast to every nation in 24 hours. And that the “emphasis” is always pro-left and anti-Christianity. The Vatican, despite Lombardi being a fine spokesman, is not running it’s own show, not managing the message. They can hardly be blamed, they just don’t understand. But nothing has been more demoralizing for Catholics and edifying for gays and goofballs than the very public, dramatized “battle of the bishops” playing out over the past year. The Holy Father has ultimate responsibility, not because of some “buck stops here” notion, but because he is in a position to see the damage his own vague and histrionic language causes. Does he want chaos to create a vacuum for new, uh, gradualness? Or after 18 months, is he learning? Either way, it’s a shame for the Church to have to “get her hands dirty” grappling with the MSM, but it may be necessary if we are to be heard at all, en pointe.

    • Martha

      Spot on, Steve. Your first paragraph is extremely poignant. Everyone is so spineless these days, but why? Why has everyone lost their zeal and become complacent smiley-face stickers? The watering down of the True Faith, I suppose. The fact that no one really believes that ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’, perhaps. And when ‘it’s all good,’ why would anyone bother to incur censure, much less the coliseum?

  • MgW

    This is a very informative article which I am keeping on file for reference. I will share it to sober the tipsy and calm the fearful. The secular media should be ignored. I do not trust anything I read about The Catholic Church in the mainstream media. It is the devil’s spinning wheel. And I second Fernies comment. We HAVE to fast and pray over this Synod. That is the power of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ.

    • GG

      It is not fair to blame the media. There is plenty of evidence, straight from the Cardinals, that support media reports.

      • MgW

        Yea true, they take what only the liberal ones say, tho!

        • GG

          That is who has the floor and who is allowed to have run of the place.

      • John Byde

        True. The media do what the media do (correct grammar?) but they get a lot of help from some cardinals who should know better.

  • John O’Neill

    Dolan has already opened the door to homosexual marriage in the diocese of New York much to the joy of his democrat handlers. It is only a matter of time before the Francis Church begins to approve of everything that the New York Times tells it to approve. Francis is proving to be a disaster and he has brought back the extreme Liberals of the sixties and seventies and put them into positions of power. How much longer before they bring back the god awful liturgical dancers to our churches or teach our children that Moslems and Catholics share the same faith. O tempora O mores.

    • jacobhalo

      John, the liberals of the 60’s and 70’s never left. They have had the reins since Vatican II. The post-vatican clerics just don’t teach doctrines in which they don’t believe. When was the last time you are a sermon about receiving communion with mortal sin on your soul? or the devil, or hell?

      • John O’Neill

        You are right there; they never really left but there was a time there under John Paul II and Benedict XVI that they were slinking under the rocks more now they are out in the open and the Faithful must search elsewhere. I do have a friend who is now a Pius X priest in Idaho and I keep in touch with him quite often; he did warn me to not trust the Vatican II insiders.

  • Jdonnell

    Newly minted theology professor, Jacob Wood, takes a position that expresses the voice of inexperience. The realities of the modern world necessitate change, just as changes have taken place in the past to accommodate shifts in social patterns. It wasn’t that long ago that popes were denouncing democracy. The comments on this article reflect reactionary thinking. The sensus fidei is overwhelmingly in favor of contraception, flexibility in marital issues, and ordaining women. “Custom is the best interpreter of laws” (Canon 27).

    • Fred

      Yes, and Jesus decried to the masses that Moses acknowledged their divorce because of the hardening of their hearts to God’s plan for marriage. Personally, I find peace in the words of Jesus and not in the make it up as you go along world that we live in.

      • Jdonnell

        You are correct about Moses, but he also accepted it. Making it up as you go along has to happen in many instances, as foolishly happened when the bishops placed strictures on artificial contraception.

        • Fred

          Has to happen, or we allow it to because of our ulterior motives and desires?

          • Jdonnell

            Certainly some of that, but people involved have to deal with their own consciences. The structure of society, family, work, and mobility, and more create conditions–even longevity–never before face by the institution of marriage.

            • Fred

              It’s much easier to write about doing all the things we know we should than it is to live the life we know we must, and there are plenty of distractions along the road to deflect out gaze. Pray that we all live lives that are filled with more than just good intentions.

              • Jdonnell

                Pray also that we accept others who have divorced and remarried and continue to receive Communion.

                • GG

                  We accept people, not perpetual adultery.

                  • Martha

                    Hear, hear.

                • Yankeegator

                  I pray that they stop because they eat and drink damnation unto themselves…

                  • Jdonnell

                    Yeah, those gators are something.

        • JP

          But, we are not Jews and Christ expresses unhappiness in what Moses allowed. Christ, for one of the few times, went to the “Right” of Moses. Christ was telling everyone that the New Covenant he was about to decree would change Matrimony forever.

          Christ’s Bride is His Church. And Christ is the Perfect Spouse; He will always remain Faithful. But, Christ did something more. He raised the Union of Man and Wife and sanctified it. He demands that once a Man and Woman enter into a marriage union that the look to His Faithfulness. For no Man can put asunder the union of Man and Wife anymore then they can put asunder Christ’s Union with His Bride. Marriage and the Cross, therefore are forever linked.

        • DE-173

          Too bad your parents didn’t avail themselves of contraception.

          • Fred

            Ouch.

            • DE-173

              I find the biggest proponents of contraception to be those safely outside its powers.

              • Fred

                I believe the “biggest proponents of contraception” are those that are filled with the notion that the biggest problem is that there are too many people and wish to control population through preventing it and killing off the elderly and infirm, you know, those that idolize Margaret Sanger.

              • GG

                Just like abortion. The only ones who get an opinion are those who get to live.

                • Dawn Hartman

                  Are you saying that all those sperms warded off by diaphragms and condoms should be allowed to express their anti-contraception opinion?
                  More evidence of ridiculous conservative Catholic extremism.

                  • GG

                    Why would you conclude that from my remark? I referred to a baby not sperm or egg? Should I use smaller words or draw pictures ?

        • Fred

          I guess the point is, yes we live in a very messy and confused world where people believe freedom is nothing more than their God given right to do whatever they want, whenever they want. I used to add as long as it doesn’t harm another but that clearly doesn’t apply anymore either with our victim-less society mentality emboldened with rights of entitlement to other people’s property. So, I guess we accept that not all hear God’s word, and many that do still don’t. If that’s your point on acceptance, I get it. That doesn’t mean we have to accept that behavior contrary to the will of God is … acceptable. We have a duty to lead others to Christ, and that includes ever strengthening our relationship with him when we stumble and pray for forgiveness for our sins.

        • Martha

          The Church has always had strictures on artificial contraception, as much as the technology had progressed at the time, even when ‘the sin of Onan’ was the only method they had.

    • Daniel P

      Thanks for the ad hominem. Sheesh!

      “Newly minted”! Talk about despising people for their youth! Read the letter to Timothy, man.

    • Sam Schmitt

      So you’re saying that most Catholics in western Europe and the US are confused and in error about what Christ has taught about marriage – I don’t doubt it. But how does this make it necessary to change doctrine? T

      Speaking of confusion, the “sensus fidei” is not the same as the results of a poll. Even if it were, you would have to consider all Catholics of all times (including popes and bishops), not just the laity in 21st century western Europe and North America.

    • GG

      Oh, 1968 logic still exists in some places I guess. Please put the bell bottoms away and accept the fact Truth is not relative.

      • Martha

        Ha! Don’t forget to also stash the bong, your ‘Age of Aquarius’ 45, and your beaded headband when you do away with the pants.

        Lord, why have you burdened us with these stiff-necked people! ;D

      • Jdonnell

        You miss my locus completely. I never wore bell bottoms or leisure suits.

        This issue is not a question of relativism, though many things–most things in our lives–are probably relative. The issue of married priests is an example. To some, celibacy is a “truth,” though history (and even current practice) show otherwise. Touching the Eucharist in the reception of Communion was something that up to the changed liturgy was thought by the same hidebound, handwringing Crisis commenter-types as something that was verboten for all time, except by priests and a few designates. In the past, women were stuck with a husbands who beat them or turn out to be criminal, or who disappear, etc. because they had no recourse. That has changed. That they separate should not mean the end of any cohabitation. That is only one instance of a new set of realities. Cardinal Kasper–hardly a bell bottom type–makes the case for “mercy” in his new book of that title. The Sept. 15 issue of America carries a summary of the book in an article by Kasper, who asks at one point regarding marriage, “If a person after divorce enters into a civil second marriage but then repents of his failure to fulfill what he promised before God, his partner and the church in the first marriage, and carries out as well as possible his new duties and does what he can for the Christian education of his children and has a serious desire for the sacraments, which he needs for strength in his difficult situation, can we after a time of new orientation and stabilization deny absolution and forgiveness?”
        Whatever the bishops come up with concerning divorce, I hope that divorced and re-married Catholics will embrace the Eucharist in good faith.

        • GG

          Such muddled confusion. You mix up too many unequal items and then draw erroneous conclusions. Among other items the central question is who is the authority? Do we love God more than illicit orgasm.

          The Church knows the answer and has taught it for 2000 years. The Kasperites are as old as the world and as wrong as they are old.

  • Watosh

    I am leery of the annulment process. There are unquestionably legitimate grounds for granting an annulment. So in those cases, the granting of an annulment exists as a possibility. But recently it seemed that an annulment was justified on the grounds that the seeking of an annulment were grounds to justify that the marriage must not have been valid. This made a mockery of the annulment process, and gave rise to the observation by many Catholics and non-Catholics that annulments had become the Catholic equivalent to divorce. Couples that had been married for many years and had a number of children, some in their teens, were given annulments. In other words it seemed like if a marriage Catholics had entered into went sour, they could always manufacture reasons for an annulment. Too, annulments sometimes were granted simply because one of the parties to a marriage sought an annulment. So I am fearful that this idea of “streamlining” the annulment process is just a cover for more evasions of Catholic doctrine. Now this idea of marriage preparation is no panacea. I think the greatest force to prevent divorce and to make those considering marriage stop and think, is to know that they are making a lifetime commitment, period, and if they made a mistake they will have to live with it.

    • Fred

      It was perhaps the last issue for me to resolve before I accepted and came into full communion with the church. I married stupidly at a young age and divorced, and felt I didn’t need the church to tell me what I already knew was an invalid measure. I have less issue today with the concept of the church reflecting on it than I do with the process – it should not take 2-3-4 years to complete. I can only imagine the number of people who get to that point of wanting to be whole again and feeling like they are not welcomed back.

      • JP

        Yours is not an unusual situation. However, whoever makes the final decision must ultimately answer to God. If he (they) were wrong, then that is on their shoulders. I think it is very serious business. I remember one priest tell his parishoners, ” I love you all. But, I do not intend on going to hell over you. I will not sugar coat the Gospels”.

        There has been 50 years of terrible Cathechisis. From the parents, DREs, priests, and Bishops, there’s enough blame to go around. It is rare for a priest to refuse marriage because he believes the couple is not ready for it. Traditionally, that responsibility fell on the parents (if their children were still young and the parents still exhibited some influence). Additionally, in the distant past it was difficult to get civil divorces, and there was much social stigma. Annulments were very difficult to attain. Not so much anymore.

        I’m not sure what the Church is going to do. It most certainly not change its Doctrine. However, going the Cdl Kasper’s route would be a disaster. Allowing the people to present themselves for Communion with the taint of Mortal Sin on their souls would spell an end to the Church as it has been for 2000 years.

        • Fred

          Totally agree that there is plenty of blame to spread around, including our own cowering to the dark forces in this world. Did you read my post yesterday about the German Cardinals? Sad commentary.
          I am at peace with my previous mistakes and am ever thankful for Christ leading me to my wife and to him.

      • DE-173

        “it should not take 2-3-4 years to complete.”

        Why do people think that. Do they think that there’s an abundance of people capable and willing to serve on canonical courts?

        Maybe if there were fewer people seeking annulments there’d be a little less stress on the capacity of these processes.

        • Fred

          I have no doubt that this is largely a supply and demand problem. Though my priest didn’t share all his feelings about the Tribunal, he did express that he had much frustration with the process – beyond just case load. It was easy for me to wait because I was on fire if you will. Still, I was a little perplexed at how a case as seemingly simple as mine could take about a year and half. My Deacon told me that others in our RCIA group who had complications of children and lack of support from witnesses could take years longer. Clearly if we had foundations for better marriage preparation including priests willing to say no there would be less “supply” and that would help. I don’t think we should expect or want the ranks of the canonical courts to expand to accommodate. However, maybe open discussion and process review could result if improved organizational efficiency – or maybe not.

          • LarryCicero

            My wife’s took more than three years. Non responses. Apparently the marriage wasn’t recorded. It can take a long time to invalidate when you can’t validate the facts.

            • Michelle

              My husband just received an affirmative response for a “marriage” that was legally annulled less than a year after it occurred (and having never established a domicile together).
              It will be four years next month since we started the process.

    • Martha

      I, too, think Protestants are more right than we care to admit when they call annulments ‘Catholic divorce.’ I’ve personally known waaaaayyy too many people who went through the process with no good reason and got their annulment.

      One of my friends got an annulment because the spouse was not open to life. Ha! Of course that’s a terrible thing, but are we ready to annul 90-95% of Catholic marriages? Because guess what? That’s an estimate of how many Catholic couples contracept. Any time one of them gets sick of their marriage, they can always pop into the chancery and get the ball rolling on those grounds, if they even care enough to be in ‘good standing’ with the Church.

  • RonCz

    There is one consideration that was not mentioned, when a
    spouse who has not sinned, been faithful in the marriage and found that the
    other spouse has left for a new life with different person. That spouse should be allowed to remarry in
    the Church since the original marriage vows were proven invalid because one of
    the two people were not seriously making a commitment.

    The spouse left behind should not be punished for life
    because of what someone else did.

    I know it’s hard to prove judicially but at least in doctrine
    it’s sound whether or not it’s enforceable.

    • JP

      Read the Gospel of Saint Matthew, and what Christ said about marriage, adultery, and the hardness of one’s heart. Generally speaking you are wrong. And I mean in a very general sense. Christ said, “What God joined, let no man put asunder.” Adultery, and abandonment of a spouse doesn’t necessarily invalidate the marriage sacrament.

      In each case, it is up to the Marriage Tribunal to determine whether the marriage was valid in the first place. This may not seem fair from a human perspective; however, from a spiritual perspective it does make perfect sense. Christ wishes for both spouses to be with him in Eternity – even the selfish, faithless spouse who abandons his/her family. Christ’s Bride is the Church, and he will never “Divorce” us. The Marriage Act is something Christ takes very seriously. In that regard, once a couple is joined in Matrimony, they bind themselves (until “death do them part) they are bound to each other just as Christ is bound to His Bride.

      The difficult part for the Marriage Tribunal is determine if the said marriage was a nullity in the first place.

    • DE-173

      Just because some jackrabbit has a midlife crisis and trades the minivan in on a Corvette, and the forty year old wife for a woman of twenty-five, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a valid marriage.
      Allowing “remarriage” will not remove the pain of being discarded for that woman, and all you have done is create more problems.

    • Jacob W. Wood

      Ron,

      If a person is unfaithful to their wedding vows, it might mean that they didn’t realize what marriage was when they made their wedding vows, and that they consequently didn’t intend to be faithful to their spouse for life. If so, that would be grounds for an annulment, and the situation could be remedied through the annulment process that already exists (or as it might be emended in the future).

      On the other hand, sometimes people know what they’re promising, yet fail to live up to their promises. That’s how the Scriptures speak of the people Israel– like a spouse who knows what he/she promised and yet has been unfaithful to God (see especially the Book of Hosea). The Good News of the Gospel is that God doesn’t follow suit and seek after another people when Israel is unfaithful–God stays faithful to his promises even when we haven’t stayed faithful to ours, and is always waiting for us to be reconciled with him. That was especially the case on the cross, when almost all the disciples fled and abandoned Jesus, but he stayed faithful in his love for them (and for us!).

      For a spouse who has a valid marriage and has been abandoned, it is senseless to deny that living out the kind of love which God has towards his people will mean a very painful suffering with Christ crucified–a suffering which has to be really and frankly acknowledged for what it is. But that same love which calls abandoned spouses to suffer with Christ may also be their only source of true consolation. It shows that no matter what may happen to us, and no matter who may abandon us, God will always be there with open arms waiting to console us in the midst of our loneliness. For God knows what it’s like to suffer abandonment–it happened to him too!

  • somebigguy

    As this author suggests in his final paragraph, I cannot imagine any substantive change vis a vis marriage. We are not protestant; we don’t make the rules. God does.

    Having said that, I fully expect the secular/atheist culture– including self-identified “Catholics”– to continue spinning Pope Francis’ words to suit their appalling agenda.

  • margaret Allain

    I’m afraid it will be the same as after Humanae Vitae, the rumours the endless discussion of the Catholic Church in the media, will leave those poor souls who have not had the benefit of true catechesis (those of us of a certain age were blessed with such) to feel entitled to continue in what is not true paths to holiness and what Our Blessed Lord wants for them. It is just damaging.

    • GG

      Right, except we cannot not just blame the media this time.

  • Michelle

    I understand the reasoning for presuming Catholic marriages are valid, but what about the presumption that non-Catholic marriages are valid? It seems to me that so many of the annulment issues are not with Catholic marriages but with Protestant or atheist marriages that have to be nullified before those people are free to marry Catholics or to convert.
    Why do we presume that non-Catholic marriages are sacramental?

    • JP

      Michelle, I don’t think atheists are married in the eyes of the Church (that is, assuming they just live together after being married in City Hall). Secondly, if a couple where both spouses are baptized and enter marriage in a Protestant Church, the RCC will recognize the marriage as valid. All they need upon conversion to the RCC is to have their union blessed by a priest.

      Protestant marriages are not sacramental. But, they are still valid. The Church sees them as “Natural Marriages”. And in the Church’s eyes, the graces as well as obligations set forth by Christ still apply.

      • Jacob W. Wood

        By way of clarification:

        Only marriages between two baptized persons are Sacramental; marriages between a baptized person and a non-baptized person, or between two unbaptized persons, are natural marriages. According to Catholic teaching, Protestants have sacramental marriages, provided that both spouses are baptized.

      • Michelle

        No, they are considered valid. I know a recent convert. She and her husband were rabid anti-theists before being struck by conversion. She was blown away to discover that they did not have to have their justice of the peace marriage convalidated.
        This is part of the problem for converts. Atheists or Protestants who convert are assumed to have valid marriages. Since their marriages are presumed valid, how much focus is there on the Catholic doctrine of marriage?
        Society has trivialized and demeaned the non-Sacramental institution of marriage in so many ways. Yet we still assume that people without the fullness of the truth are able to enter into a marriage that the Church considers valid. If any change needs to happen, this is where it needs to be.
        For Catholics, we need (as always) better catechesis. Better marriage preparation. Better understanding of what marriage is and should be and how to order your life in such a way to prepare for that even before you go out seeking a spouse.
        For converts, we need to stop assuming that every marriage out there somehow stumbled into validity. A natural marriage shouldn’t be assumed valid. Convalidation of existing unions should be another part of the conversion process. For people who are divorced and convert to the Church, we should look at them the same way as never-married Catholics.

        • JP

          I’m only going by what I remember reading in the past. Over at Father Z’s site you can post your question to him in detail and he will certainly answer it. Or better yet, look it up in the Official Catechism.

    • ForChristAlone

      I propose the Church assert than NO marriages other than Her own are valid. There is no commonly held empirical referent between Catholic marriages and all others.

  • JERD2

    Subtle distinctions on these subjects among theologians will only be interpreted by the vast majority of Catholics as the church changing its teaching to allow for “catholic no fault divorce.” That conclusion will then lead to speculation about the church changing its teaching on contraception and gay marriage.

    • Daniel P

      I don’t remember reading the commandment: “Thou shalt not do anything that will make people speculate.” If we allow the speculators to intimidate us from doing the right thing, we will be capitulating to them. That doesn’t mean loosening any current disciplines is right — indeed, I think we ought to enforce current disciplines better — but it does mean that we shouldn’t be backed into a corner out of fear of being perceived as “lax”.

      • GG

        But, are being backed into a corner by the dissident Left who are allowed to freely spread errors as if there is no consequence.

        • Daniel P

          A synod is where errors are spoken, and then condemned. So I wouldn’t rush to any judgment on the basis of what is being “freely spread” at the moment.

          • GG

            There is no rush, just intellectual honesty. A synod is at the service of truth not a vehicle to spread propaganda and error.

    • Protestantism is the religion created and defined by theologians. Catholicism is the religion created and defined by Jesus Christ.

      • John Byde

        Not sure about that. Many protestants would argue with reason that their religion is closer to the bible than the catholic church’s version

        • jacobhalo

          The Catholic church gave protestants the bible.

          • John Byde

            I thought that was Wycliffe and Gutenburg!

  • thebigdog

    The feminization of the Church seems to have put the spotlight on Mercy while locking Justice in the closet.

    • Jdonnell

      As Cardinal Kasper writes in “Mercy,” “God’s justice is his mercy.”

      • GG

        Ok, so those in perpetual adultery ought to stop and live as brother and sister. We agree.

        • Jdonnell

          The response of a judgmental prig.

          • GG

            The response of a judgmental prig.

      • Dave

        Your quote doesn’t make sense. If God’s justice was to send you to hell for a mortal sin then we’re would his mercy be? Would his mercy be only for the righteous? Would he be merciful by sending you to hell instead of hell?

        • Jdonnell

          The quotation makes eminently good sense, especially if you look at the rest of what Kasper has to say. In my opinion, he does a great job of raising the issue but does not go far enough. If you are interested in the issue, you will quit sending these silly replies that are pointless. You dismiss the quotation by one of Catholicism’s leading thinkers. The same mentality led your predecessors to dismiss Aquinas.

          • jacobhalo

            Cardinal Kasper is straying from the teachings of Jesus.

          • ForChristAlone

            Kasper is a heretic. Intriguing only to the other apostates in the Church (like you)

          • jacobhalo

            Kasper want to change the teaching of Jesus on marriage. Therefore, he is a heretic.

            • Jdonnell

              Your nasty attitude is hardly in line with the “teachings of Jesus.” The current use of annulment is a backdoor way of allowing married couples to split up. It gets looser and looser.

          • jacobhalo

            Leading thinker? He is an educated idiot like many liberals are.

            • Jdonnell

              Maybe he is an “idiot” to idiots. He is a Jesuit and a Cardinal and one of the Pope’s main consultants. He has written books on Christology, etc. that are regarded by many theologians as excellent. I’ve actually read him, unlike the idiots who denounce him–and who throw around words like “liberal” without knowing what they are talking about.

              • jacobhalo

                Anyone who wants to change the infallible teachings of Jesus is not only a idiot, but a heretic.

                • Jdonnell

                  You just get more and more clever, don’t you? Jesus taught ideals, including giving away your coat and divvying up your money. Does that make you a heretic, besides being an idiot?

        • Michelle

          God doesn’t “send” anyone to Hell. He gives us free will to choose to turn away from him. How much more tortuous would it be for a soul who has rejected God to be in his presence for all eternity?

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            This is what the Fathers like St Isaac of Syria and St Maximus the Confessor teach.

            According to the saints, the “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendour in the saints. It is the “fire” of God’s love; the “fire” of God Himself who is Love. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) who “dwells in unapproachable light.” (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

            Thus it is the Church’s spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God’s splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light.

      • thebigdog

        Again, Jesus to Faustina: “”He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice ..”

        So, you are wrong.. but let me guess, you don’t believe that hell exists do you?

        • jacobhalo

          I heard one neo-theologian say there might not be anyone in hell. I wonder where Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot are?

    • Dave

      I believe it was St. Faustina who put the spotlight on mercy. I do remember there was another voice in her diary though screaming for justice.

      • GG

        The mercy Faustina write about is not the ” mercy” of the 70s heretics we have today.

      • thebigdog

        Yes, Jesus told Faustina “He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice ..”

        Thanks for helping me make my point.

    • Dawn Hartman

      Are women now allowed to be ordained as priests and occupy positions of power in the hierarchy? I hadn’t heard.

      • thebigdog

        That you consider the sacrificial lives of priests to be “positions of power” certainly proves that you are not yet able to discern the will of God.

        Mercy without Justice is counterfeit Charity.

      • ForChristAlone

        Get lost

      • GG

        Still rebelling against the drama of your upbringing?

  • meggimann

    The smoke of Satan is now emitting from within the Church.

  • Akira88

    People will spend thousands of dollars on lawyers for a divorce. When it comes to the annulment process there are all kinds of excuses from I don’t want to give my spouse the satisfaction to it’s too much money. American Bishops and Priests have been giving soft soap sermons for so long that part of the resolution should be coming from clear – very clear- sermons from the pulpit.

  • Lone Star

    I think Michelle’s “questionaire” approach is just brilliant, and would certainly streamline the annulment process. It would cull out a large number of marriages that were not legally entered under Canon Law, and grant an automatic annulment where it is obvious the marriage was not validly formed.
    It seems there are a high number of young Catholics who marry non-Catholics, and those weddings occur by and large outside of the Catholic Church. Generally the young Catholic is not bothering to obtain a dispensation from the Catholc Church to marry in a non-Catholic ceremony, probably because the young person has never been told that this is required step. The ceremony often is either with a justice of the peace, or some “rent-a-clergyperson” willing to preside over a ceremony at the couple’s preferred “destination wedding” site. The non-Catholic spouse may not want to get married in a stodgy old Catholic church when she had her heart set on a wedding on the beach at Malibu (at which a Catholic priest will definitely not serve). So what happens when the Catholic and non-Catholic realize that they really have different understandings and expectations of marriage, and the two decide to divorce? For the Catholic, who may later finally meet a fellow Catholic and desire to form a valid Catholic marriage, there should be an easier process to demonstrate that that the first marriage was not validly formed.

  • pdxcatholic

    “Pope Francis showed how the mercy of God can bind up broken
    relationships into a lasting bond patterned on Christ’s love for the
    Church.”
    Only time will tell how lasting these bonds actually are. Isn’t the divorce rate among Catholics only slightly lower than in the general population?

  • cestusdei

    Doctrine will not change. Not the way the dissenters would like.

  • Michelle

    How about this as another twist?
    I recently spoke with someone who converted, along with her spouse and family, to the Church. She and her husband had been married for almost 20 years. Since their marriage was presumed valid, no convalidation was necessary.
    Some time after their conversion, it was revealed to her that she had in fact been baptized Catholic as an infant. Her parents were not practicing, but had her baptized to appease family and never gave it another thought. It wasn’t until after her conversion that one of them remembered that distant ceremony and brought it up to her in passing.
    So now, after years of marriage, after converting, and after participating fully in the Mass, she and her husband suddenly realized that their marriage was invalid because she had been baptized Catholic. They had to have their marriage convalidated. Now, they didn’t have full knowledge, so a mortal sin was not committed. But this is yet another case in which a presumption of validity is not good.

  • hombre111

    Presuming marriages are valid until proven otherwise is a cart rattling along in front of the horse. Someone of considerable importance to the Catholic faith said, “By their fruits you will know them.” A sacramental marriage includes the promise to love as Jesus loves. When such love is missing, it is a travesty to call the marriage sacramental, whether or not the couple were baptized, and whether or not they were married by a priest.

    • GG

      With that moral relativism you no longer have the Church of Christ but the Church of Hombre. Arrogance + post modern relativism is a deadly combination.

    • Such promise is not part of marriage, sacramental or not. And for the simple reason that no one is capable of loving as Jesus loves.

    • thebigdog

      “A sacramental marriage includes the promise to love as Jesus loves”

      Yes, and love to Jesus was, is and always will be doing the will of the Father. God hates divorce… therefore, distributing annulments in bulk, probably isn’t part of His plan. It’s sad that the limp-wristed lefties of modernity have commandeered the definition of Charity and turned it into a 70s Coke commercial with hand holding hippies.

    • ForChristAlone

      You’re like a bad penny. A worthless progressive “priest.” Perhaps we should apply the same reasoning to your “priesthood” since you no longer love Christ’s Church as He does. I hereby declare your priesthood null and void.

  • Monica E

    you couldn’t have picked a more dreadful picture to go with the article. When can we be done with awful religous art from the 50s?

    • John Albertson

      ditto – something was very wrong with the piety that produced such “art” – it fell apart so quickly

      and yet that sort of syrup still is beloved on more traditional blogs – such kitsch is nostalgia, not tradition

      • Tamsin

        Yes, the priest is fey and the Jesus is … not manly, but it’s actually a very fun and startling reminder for children that Jesus is present at the sacrament. It would be nice to have a modern (not modernist) re-working of the scene. Perhaps a Jesus with one eyebrow raised, in warning to the young couple.

    • GG

      It is a nice change from the usual “Catholic art” that is left over 70′ s effete nonsense.

      • Tamsin

        Woodcut Jesus, with oversized hands. Or perhaps a big Jesus Puppet-on-a-Stick.

    • Tamsin

      I assume the art is taken from a catechism book for children, and it is consistent with all the illustrations in children’s books from that period. Its popularity in certain quarters must reflect an attachment made in childhood.

  • Dick Prudlo

    The Father permits a great deal that the faithful wish He didn’t. The Arian heresy, like all heresy is the concoction of man’s pride.

    Man’s pride is on full display in Rome today. The modernist’s are now doubling down on the finishing touches of VAT II, and they will get their way. Their favorite means is ambiguity and novelty and a cold blast air we will soon feel is the disappearance of all dogmatic truths passed down.

    One may soon ask the question: Is there salvation INSIDE the Church?

    • Let us pray for the intercession of St. Nicholas that Card. Pell will land his fist onto Card. Kasper.

  • Many bishops are pining to become Anglicans or Episcopalians. Perhaps the latter churches will provide an ordinariate for Catholic Anglicans or Catholic Episcopalians, where they wouldn’t have to believe in Christ, His Church or pretty much everything else, except in feminism and homosexualism, all the while maintaining their traditions of felt banners, polyester vestments and pop songs.

  • justanotherlittlesoul

    What I don’t understand is how, even if a the first marriage was invalid, the second union can be considered legit. If the first marriage had not been annulled, then the second marriage was not blessed by the Church. Therefore, the couple is still in a state of mortal sin because presumably they are sexually active without being married within the Church. (Hence they are not married.) How is it acceptable for this couple that is having relations outside of marriage to receive Communion, but not acceptable for a dating couple who is having sex to receive? Your point is right, Jacob. You can’t separate the practice from doctrine. Ultimately, if we permit the divorced/remarried couple to receive Communion, we would eventually have to conclude that sex outside of marriage is not a mortal sin.

    • Dawn Hartman

      Here’s an idea: Why don’t you tend to your own marriage and mind your own business?

      • Why did you make it your business to chastise those you think are meddling in others’ business instead of minding your own business?

      • GG

        Look in the mirror.

      • John200

        Here is another idea: Proposing that the Church ought to promote mortal sin is everyone’s business.

        We are under orders to oppose mortal sin, and the sin of scandal to boot.

        I do not see how to separate practice from doctrine. I will not try.

      • ForChristAlone

        Why don’t you get off a website that is intended for faithful lay Catholics (which you are not)?

      • kag1982

        No. That would be too sensible and much less fun.

  • thebigdog

    The leftists that have infiltrated the Church have no problem with shotgun annulments because they consider them redistribution of commitment.

  • We have to be honest, we Catholics, lay and clergy. Do we REALLY believe that there is a God and that a person/God incarnated named Jesus REALLY existed?

    I think we are taking our faith for granted. If we think and meditate deeply, carefully, and slowly away from the troubles and noises of this world that is surrounding us, we will find the TRUTH.

    Don’t be surprised that even a Pope doesn’t believe in God.

    • meggimann

      Great comment – after all, what is this eucharist that all the sad, victimized in “irregular relationships” are clamoring for? If it IS, in fact, the real body and blood of Jesus, then why should reception of His Real Presence hold value when His words hold none?

      • And again, do we, us, lay and clergy, those of us who believe in a regular, normal, godly marriage between one man and one woman, in the Ten Commandments, in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, in the Incarnation of God Jesus and His Resurrection and His Second Coming, do we REALLY believe in all of the above? Are we REALLY HONEST in our belief? Or we’re just doing it out of HABIT and PRETENDING, or by INHERITANCE?

  • John Byde

    I agree that there will be no major changes. However, that is not what is at stake here. As GG puts it so eloquently below, it’s not what actually happens, but what is perceived to have happened that counts here. Kaspar has seized centre stage, the media has leapt on his words, he has not been slapped down by the Pope, etc. This gives the impression – a false one – that changes are in the offing. That will be the take-away message for liberals.

  • Fred

    I think the money line is
    “If we presume that most spouses are incapable of entering into a valid
    marriage, then are we not guilty of despairing that God will send enough
    laborers into the vineyard to meet the needs of the Church in the New
    Evangelization? It would be like presuming that most priests and bishops
    were so incapable of knowing what they were doing when they conferred
    the other Sacraments…”

    I hate to be cynical, but I do believe that most priests are a cut-above the norm in thoughtfulness and I do believe that the majority of the hoi polloi are incapable of discerning much beyond what to have for lunch.

  • Fred

    I wish I knew the rest of the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. What did she do and what happened to her after she met Jesus?

    • Hugh Lunn

      She hooked up in a 1/2 dozen other serial monogamous relationships. She had some difficult times when Paul and his entourage came through. Eventually she took to the Gospel of Thomas and thrived in Gnostic Gospel sects.

  • Hugh Lunn

    Bergoglio spends much of his time promoting Protestant Evangelical
    sects. In the Southern hemisphere the Evangelicals and the Moslems are
    cheering the laxity and confusion of the SinNod, they will reap the
    rewards by claiming many lost Catholics.

  • hombre111

    It is a great joy to see the German cardinals developing the argument about the unfolding of marriage love over a lifetime, arguing that we grow into the meaning of our sacraments–or don’t. I have been making this point on Crisis for years. By their fruits you will know whether or not it is a sacramental marriage, or a sham.

  • kag1982

    How is a process rubber-stamping annulments by a bishop any different than permitting a remarried divorcee to receive Communion?

  • Ray Sullivan

    There is always the option of not recognizing any Justice of the Peace marriages as being valid, since by their very nature, they aren’t sacramental. Therefore, if the original marriage was a secular JP marriage, and the second marriage was a church marriage, then that would provide some relief to those seeking Holy Communion..

  • bonaventure

    Amazingly, not one expert from the international Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family has been invited to the synod. Not one person.

  • Edward

    Well, I think the crisis is broad in scope. Foremost is how to get Catholic married couples and families to live a holy and happy life. This is not easy in today’s society. I hope the synod comes up with some good ideas like a more holistic and in depth marriage prepatory course.

  • De Maria

    You said,

    Changing Marriage Discipline Will Change Doctrine

    How does that follow? As I understand Catholic Teaching, Doctrine is absolute, but discipline is not. Therefore, disciplines can and have changed in the Catholic Church without damage to any Doctrine.

    Let’s take, for example, the discipline of eating fish on Friday. Today, the discipline says that we can eat fish or substitute a good deed. Yet there has been no hint of any Doctrine being changed.

    There are other disciplines that have changed. Communion in the hand, communion in both species. Yet, the Doctrine of the Eucharist is unchanged.

    So, why must a change in a marriage discipline change the Doctrine of Matrimony?

  • De Maria

    If I may make another observation, didn’t marriage discipline change when the annulment process was first instituted many years, perhaps centuries, ago? I don’t see an annulment process in Scripture. Nor have I heard of one instituted in the first century Church. But correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Fr Xavier

    I think, however, with all the talk a gradualism, that the development is going to come in the area of just what an “intent to amend” for absolution really means.

    After all, anyone who is a priest or knows a priest knows that habitual sin and confession is more the norm than particularly extraordinary. People confess premarital sex month after month, pornography and masturbation, contraceptive use within marriage, and clandestine adultery that keeps happening.

    So intent to amend can’t mean that people have to think it’s probable they will change forever after from that moment forward, or in the face of experience they’re deluding themselves.

    Perhaps the intent to amend can be a little more remote than has been allowed thus far.

    Such a re-reading of what exactly the intent necessary for valid absolution consists in…would not be a dogmatic change.

  • Judy

    Neither Church Doctrine, nor, Dogma CAN be changed.
    It is not possible.
    NO ONE has the power to do this.
    (Great post, though!)

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  • Mark

    God hates divorce. Yet, God divorced Israel, his bride. And God divorced Israel for cause. And, I suspect, he hated that he had to do so. Yet, no sensible Believer would suggest that God sinned by divorcing Israel. Additionally, God did not remain “celibate” after divorcing Israel. He offered his love to the world. Annulment was never mentioned with respect to God and his bride Israel. When did the concept of annulment enter the Christian community and lexicon? I’ve searched the Bible exhaustively and can’t find it. God’s relationship with Israel is repeatedly referenced in marital terms. God’s bride Israel was unfaithful and after long-suffering he divorced Israel and offered his love to the Greeks, Romans, and everyone else. I thank God that he did so. And I’m also thankful that his own righteous actions clearly communicate fundamental doctrine about how we manage the pain and chaos of a broken, sinful world. God was not under bondage to an unfaithful, unloving, and abusive bride. God permitted divorce because, in his sovereignty and in his own foreordained and actual experience, he knew that it was sometimes the most just way forward. He didn’t “annul” his covenant with Israel and claim that he was deceived, forced, etc. He reluctantly and after long-suffering divorced his bride for cause and moved on and forward without being held in bondage. In other words, he terminated his covenant with Israel for cause. He didn’t claim it never existed. He clearly and boldly terminated it for cause. As such, why would we now entertain the extra-biblical concept of annulment and deny just cause divorces to fellow Christians? Why would we embrace a doctrine of marriage as a life-long and unbreakable sacrament when God didn’t even support it in the Old Testament. As Christ said, “Moses permitted divorce….”. And, let’s be clear and honest intellectually, that the subsequent “because of … hardness” language doesn’t negate the permission that God granted. God certainly wouldn’t “permit” new sin (i.e., divorce) because another sin (“hardness”) had been committed. We know that he would never advocate or “permit” sin. As such, how are we then to interpret these “Moses permitted” words? We certainly cannot then say that all actions (i.e., divorce) under this permission were sinful. The most obvious, logical, and intellectually honest conclusion is that God permitted divorce because it is a broken and sinful world and, consistent with his own experience with his beloved bride Israel, the marriage contract, like all other contracts with a sinful human party involved, must sometimes be terminated for cause.

    Marriage is an incredibly important institution — perhaps the most important earthly institution — and it is undoubtedly being routinely undermined in our culture. Yet, as with all other great causes that require the best of mankind, intellectually unsound arguments will ultimately lack power and unsound doctrines will not be honored by God. Even worse, they are likely to push many of God’s children away from the church.

  • Grace Peace

    There is another possibility and that is to properly define marriage. In the Roman Catholic Church, marriage is nothing but a contract with no escape clause. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, marriage is a union, which can die. Marriage, we know, is not an eternal reality; there is no marriage in heaven. Why then do we think it is a life long contract? Surely it is intended by vow to last for life, but the reality is sometimes it doesn’t. Marriage is a union, not a contract. Once we realize marriage is a thing that can be destroyed, we can recognize that a marriage has been destroyed. I can make a contract that I will not blow up your house–and violate the contract–and blow your house up. Your house is blown up whether or not you had a contract. Should I then accuse you of vandalism when you bring in the demolition equiptment to clear the lot and re-build? Of course not, the house is already destroyed. But you propose to accuse a person of adultery after their first marriage has been destroyed. Really?

  • Grace Peace

    Marriage Savers teaches a 6 week 97% divorce free marriage preparation program. If we aren’t using it as faith communities, maybe we ought to consider ourselves to be the ones in grave sin and the divorcees the victims of our apathy.

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