A Rival Good to God’s: On Cardinal Kasper’s Divorce Proposal

Divorce and remarriage looms large in one of the greatest Catholic novels of the last century.  The narrator of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder, is in love with Julia Flyte, and the two plan to cement their happiness by marrying once their respective divorces are finalized.  Julia begins to have doubts when her brother Bridey refers to her and Charles “living in sin,” and she admits to Charles the accuracy of Bridey’s phrase:  “‘Living in sin’; not just doing wrong, as I did when  I went to America; doing wrong, knowing it is wrong, stopping doing it, forgetting.  That’s not what they mean.  That’s not Bridey’s pennyworth.  He means just what it says in black and white.”

Julia overcomes these doubts, but calls off the marriage after she witnesses her father, long estranged from the Church, accept absolution on his deathbed.  When Charles asks what she will do, Julia replies:

Just go on—alone.  How can I tell what I shall do?  You know the whole of me.  You know I’m not one for a life of mourning.  I’ve always been bad.  Probably I shall be bad again, punished again.  But the worse I am, the more I need God.  I can’t shut myself off from his mercy.  That is what it would mean; starting a life with you, without him.  One can only hope to see one step ahead.  But I saw today that there was one thing unforgivable—like things in the schoolroom, so bad they were unpunishable, that only mummy could deal with—the bad thing I was on the point of doing, that I’m not quite bad enough to do; to set up a rival good to God’s.   Why should I be allowed to understand that, and not you, Charles?  It may be because of mummy, nanny, Cordelia, Sebastian—perhaps Bridey and Mrs. Muspratt—keeping my name in their prayers; or it may be a private bargain between me and God, that if I give up this one thing I want so much, however  bad I am, he won’t quite despair of me in the end.

Julia Flyte is, of course, a fictional character.  But her attitude is thoroughly Christian.  As St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio:  “The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments.”

The message being sent to the real life Julia Flytes by Cardinal Kasper’s proposal to admit remarried divorcees to Holy Communion without an annulment of their prior marriage is precisely the opposite.  Rather than being praised as exemplars of “fidelity and Christian consistency,” divorced people who make the often great effort to live by Church teaching are being told that their sacrifice was needless.   They should have done what they wanted and ignored what the Church taught.  English priest Fr. Ray Blake recently highlighted a poignant example of this on his blog, where he recounted the case of “a man … who for over two decades has been living heroically in a ‘brother/sister’ relationship with an equally heroic woman whose first marriage broke down after ten years…. The man having read the text of the Cardinal’s speech asked, ‘Father, have we wasted the last 22 years?’ He said that he now felt his faith was undermined, that the struggle he and his ‘wife’ had engaged in was by the Cardinal’s teaching meaningless and vainglorious…. There are many men and women in this situation, the sacrifices they have made have been truly heroic, for me they are signs of grace and often heroic virtue, now it seems that they might well have wasted their lives, this is another of the signs that is being given.”

In Waugh’s novel, Julia Flyte is able to resist the temptation to set up a “rival good to God’s” because she knows that Christ will give her the grace she needs, a grace given in abundance through the Blessed Sacrament.  She may not have the support of Charles Ryder, but she does have the support of Christ.  This attitude demonstrates a clear belief in the power of the sacraments.  Cardinal Kasper’s proposal undermines that belief, since it suggests that the sacramental love of Christ is no substitute for the human love of a divorced spouse.

Of course there are hard cases.  There have always been hard cases. But in the many centuries when the Gospel informed the law, divorce was impossible in the West, or nearly so.  The result was not widespread misery, but durable marriages that produced children who themselves entered into durable marriages.  Lifelong marriage is not some ethereal ideal; it was the lived reality of the great majority of people in the West for most of history.  The prevalence of divorce in today’s West is not the result of marriage becoming harder, but the result of divorce being made far easier.  In the past, when people encountered problems in their marriages, they knew they had to find a way to work through them.  Now, they think they can do what they want instead.   Cardinal Kasper’s proposal seems to put an imprimatur on this way of thinking.  It essentially accepts a Western world with 40 percent or so of marriages ending in divorce as a reality that cannot be changed, even though the Christians who emerged from the catacombs managed to change a Roman world where divorce was free and easy into a Christian world where marriages were expected to be permanent and generally were.

As many have pointed out, Cardinal Kasper’s proposal simply ignores the central theological problem that has prevented the Church from allowing remarriage after divorce for centuries.  After all, it was Jesus Christ, not some unfeeling Vatican bureaucrat, who said, “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”  And it was St. Paul, not some rigid Scholastic theologian lost in his abstractions, who taught, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.”   What Kasper proposes is letting divorced and remarried people receive Communion by expressing contrition for the failure of their first marriage.  Kasper says nothing about expressing contrition for the second marriage, which Jesus taught was adulterous.  If the only sin were divorce, the Church never would have barred remarried divorcees from Communion, because past sins can be forgiven in the confessional.  It is ongoing sin, what Julia Flyte termed “living in sin,” that cannot be forgiven.

In addition to begging the question, Kasper’s proposal threatens to undermine the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, as pointed out by Cardinal Caffara of Bologna:

If the Church admits [them] to the Eucharist, she must anyway grant a judgment of legitimacy to the second union. That is logical. But now—as I asked—what to make of the first matrimony? The second, it is said, cannot be a true second matrimony, considering that bigamy goes against the word of the Lord. What about the first one? Is it dissolved? But the Popes have always taught that the power of the Pope does not reach that point: the Pope has no power over a marriage that is ratum et consummatum. The proposed solution leads us to think that the first matrimony remains, but that there is also a second kind of cohabitation that the Church legitimizes. It is, therefore, an extramarital exercise of human sexuality that the Church legitimizes. But with this, the foundational pillar of the Church’s doctrine on sexuality is negated. At this point, one could ask: so why are not free [extramarital or premarital] unions approved? And why not relations between homosexuals?

The acceptance of divorce and remarriage in Eastern Orthodoxy that Cardinal Kasper appeals to is not grounded in the Gospel or in the Fathers, but in the continuing influence of Roman law.  As patristics scholar John Rist noted in a widely quoted article, “with Justinian an encroaching Caesaropapism engenders in the East a contorting of earlier evidence in favour of a more relaxed approach.”  Indeed, the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America notes that The close relationship between the church and state which existed in Byzantium had a profound impact on the formulation of marital practice and the possibility of remarriage in the Eastern Church. This is particularly the case with regard to the legislative contributions of the Emperor Justinian’s codex of law issued in 535 A.D. Justinian’s marriage legislation affirmed that marriage was dissoluble for a number of specific reasons.”

Cardinal Kasper’s proposal does more than denigrate the sacrifices of those who have struggled to remain faithful to Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the impossibility of remarriage after divorce.  By signaling the Church’s acceptance of divorce, Kasper’s proposal would create more divorces, just as liberal “reforms” of civil divorce laws created more divorces.  We now know how damaging divorce is for children, even adult children.  We also know that changing Church practice would increase divorce because, as the invaluable 1964 blog affiliated with the Center for Advanced Research in the Apostolate noted in September 2013, American Catholics still have a lower divorce rate than other groups. Belonging to the only Church that does not allow divorce still discourages divorce, despite the paucity of sermons on the indissolubility of marriage in recent decades.  If Church teaching in this area were watered down, we could certainly expect the Catholic divorce rate to catch up to the general divorce rate, and then remain at that same high rate for the foreseeable future, with all the disastrous consequences this implies for the children whose parents divorce and for society as a whole.

There are many ironies at work here.  The impetus for Cardinal Kasper’s proposal comes largely from the Church in Germany, which is far readier to admit to Communion remarried divorcees than German Catholics who refuse to pay the Church tax that keeps the German Church rich and gives it an influence out of proportion to its size.  Given the Church’s understandable solicitude for the poor, it is striking that the greatest support for the Church’s teaching on marriage comes from poor countries and the greatest clamor for change is found in rich ones.  And a proposal put forth to help the Church catch up to the modern world will likely result in greater indifference to what the Church teaches.  After all, if remarried divorcees were right to ignore the words of Jesus and St. Paul and of innumerable Popes, many will wonder why anyone should listen to the Church instead of his own will, especially in those areas where what the Church is proposing seems less grounded in scripture and tradition than is the Church’s teaching on marriage.

A respectable argument can be made that the corrupting influence of the modern world has so degraded the popular understanding of marriage that there are more marriages that may properly be annulled today than in the past.  But if this is indeed the case, what is needed is a clear and unambiguous reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on marriage, so that the divorce revolution can be resisted and eventually undone.   What is not needed is succumbing to the perennial temptation of choosing a rival good to God’s.

Tom Piatak


Tom Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He earned his JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

  • Den

    Appealing to justice (I.e., others have sacrificed) is a weak argument. It ignores the concept of mercy. The debate should be had on the relevant theological points.

    • FernieV

      I agree. Justice is not the virtue that prevents the Church from accepting to Holy Communion Catholics who live in a state of sin (adultery). We just need to have Faith in Christ and obey what he says, although, undoubtedly, it may not be easy. But then, His grace will always be sufficient. The only possible repentance is to stop having sex with one who is not your spouse before God.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Mercy is not a lottery prize. It is for the penitent — the one who is sorry, will do penance, and endeavors to amend one’s life — to stop the sin. Christ said “go and sin no more”, not “OK, I showed you mercy, now go back to your sin.” And in this case this, we are talking about legitimizing the same sin and temptation whose fruits can be seen in the act of abortion. Thankfully, it is an academic discussion that in the best case for the dissident Germans will turn into some kind of schism, or outright rebellion against Christianity like Protestantism (sin boldly — good works avail nothing).

    • fredx2

      I agree. Although it is worth pointing out that those who have lived for years as brother and sister will be treated unjustly if things change, that by itself is not an argument against change. Then again, if things in this area change, some will jump to the conclusion that “The church just changed something, so you can’t trust her anymore.” That impression would pose a problem

      • Peregrinus

        It would, in this case, be more than an impression: it would be a reality. The Church would have changed its teaching.

  • vito

    if they permit divorce, will there be amnesty for souls doing time for that in hell?

  • Mark Millward

    Den…as Tom Piatak is at pains to explain, the requirement for mercy would also apply to those who have remained faithful to the Church’s teaching and have refrained from entering relationships after their marriage has broken down. Since they have seen fit to follow the teaching it would be un-merciful to suggest that their sacrifice had been in vain. There are no easy answers, only the narrow path to the narrow gate, lined with self sacrifice but with the warm glow of our Saviour’s Love beckoning us onwards and providing for the mysteries of personal redemption that surely come from faithful journeying toward him. Best, Mark Millward

  • JP

    If the Church allows this, it will do irrevocable harm. The floodgates will open for more reforms. And don’t think for a minute that half of the pressure to reform will come from the homosexual lobby within the RCC.

    • TheAbaum

      “The floodgates will open for more reforms. ”

      Not reforms, but deforms.

      • MarcAlcan


    • Ruth Rocker

      What makes you think the homomafia will stop at half the pressure? They are rabid to make black into white and their degenerate lifestyle the norm that it would definitely be jubilee celebration time for them if the Church takes this terrible step.

      Dear Lord, please show your priests on Earth the error of their ways in considering this disastrous move. Let the Holy Spirit come upon them and teach them in right ways for His name’s sake. Amen.

  • Vinnie

    Wow! What a segue to Anthony Esolen’s essay today on the discipline of virtue and the softness of a the rich. I think Pope Francis and his focus on God’s mercy is just what is needed in the Church today but, in a way, he’s like Barack Obama has been to the U.S. Progressives have come out of the woodwork everywhere to inflict their evil inspired agenda on us. We find ourselves in a whirlpool – a flushing toilet.

  • FrankW

    I don’t understand why Cardinal Kasper seems to have ignored the annulment process and its value.

    If a marriage can be properly evaluated as having been null and void according to the laws of the Church, why should Catholics in this difficult situation not be encouraged to pursue an annulment? I have a family member who has been through this process, and the result was a spiritual growth that brought this person closer to the Church, along with a better understand of the sacrament of marriage, and a successful, happy, and sacramentally valid marriage.

    Our Church must stand for truth on this issue, as unpopular as modern society sees it. It is not nice to tell someone “you can’t receive communion because you are living in a manner which separates you from the Catholic Church”.

    The truth is not always nice to hear, but It is not the duty of the Catholic Church to conform to the whim of society. Our Church does not need to appease the modern culture in a desire to be accepted by members of that culture. The Catholic Church is called to stand for what is true, even if that means standing alone.

    • James1

      “If a marriage can be properly evaluated as having been null and void according to the laws of the Church, why should Catholics in this difficult situation not be encouraged to pursue an annulment?

      I would think that puts the cart before the horse: It is the annulment process, itself, that determines the validity of the marriage, so how would one know beforehand to pursue the annulment process?

      • FrankW

        Pursuing an annulment is no guarantee of an annulment. The family member I mentioned was encouraged to seek an annulment by the parish pastor, and did so. The process went forward, and it was determined that this person’s first marriage could be considered null and void. No promises or guarantees were made beforehand about receiving an annulment, nor should there ever be any such promises made.

        • James1

          I’m not sure I implied an annulment was guaranteed…

          My point – perhaps worded poorly – was how could someone properly evaluate that a marriage was null and void prior to the annulment process. If one already knew the marriage was not, in fact, a marriage, why bother with the tribunal?

      • TheAbaum

        The annulment process does not determine the validity of a marriage. It examines claims that there were impediments to a valid marriage.

        The presumption is that two individuals exchanging vows do so validly.

        • Aliquantillus

          Do you realize that an annulment is an official declaration by the Church that there never was a marriage? This means that the partners really lived in cohabitation and thus in a constant state of mortal sin — albeit unknowingly, which counts as a softening circumstance — and that the children born out of this cohabitation are in any case illegitimate. They are bastards.

          Annulment doesn’t mean that a real marriage is nullified, for such a thing is exactly that which can never happen according to Catholic understanding. Annulment means that there never was a marriage. It is the official, formal declaration of this state of affairs. An annulment therefore doesn’t annul or destroy something real. It only annuls or destroys an incorrect opinion, namely the opinion that the two persons were married.

          • Claire

            Children born of a marriage that was later found invalid by the Catholic Church are not illegitimate. A marriage license is issued by a governmental agency not the Church, thus the couple was legally married and the children of that marriage are not illegitimate.

            • Aliquantillus

              What a nonsense. State laws have nothing to do with this. A marriage can be annulled according to Church law and at the same time be valid according to the State law. But according to Church law the children of an annulled marriage were born out of wedlock and thus they are illegitimate and bastards.

              • Claire

                Please cite your source.

          • TheAbaum

            “This means that the partners really lived in cohabitation and thus in a constant state of mortal sin — albeit unknowingly, which counts as a softening circumstance ”

            Three elements are required for mortal sin.

            1) Grave matter
            2.) Adequate time to reflect
            3.) Full consent of the will

            Lack of knowledge is not a “softening” circumstance, it is exculpatory.

            Time for some remedial training for you.

          • wineinthewater

            Cannon Law disagrees with you:

            “Children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate” (CIC 1137).

            “An invalid marriage is called putative if it has been celebrated in good faith by at least one of the parties, until both parties become certain of its nullity” (CIC 1061 §3).

            The only way that the children of an annulled marriage would be illegitimate is if both parties celebrated the marriage in bad faith. I suppose that’s possible, but doubt it is anything resembling the norm.

            And as TheAbaum, noted, you can’t unknowingly commit a mortal sin. Knowing is a requisite component.

        • James1

          As in my reply to FrankW, I admit my wording might have been poor.

          The point was how FrankW’s wording implied that one already knew the marriage to be null – without the benefit of the process – to then pursue the process.

          It just seemed to presume too much.

      • Fred

        James- I have the gone through the annulment process and was rejected because my two growth children are the only living witnesses besides my ex-wife (she was never consulted by the Diocese. I was not a Catholic when I first was married, have now completed my RCIA and attend Mass several times a week, but in a position not to fully participate until the first wife dies or my second one does.

        • Lordknows

          You are not alone, of course. I know more people in your situation than the light hearted as so many here claim…
          I have brought many to the faith and have seen many forced out by dysfunctional spouses, requiring a divorce and now partially rejected by the church they love. It is very sad for a woman to go through an process of reliving her experience of hell with a dysfunctional gay husband….if the marriage was not sincere was it a true Catholic marriage or a crime, hurting the innocent. Church needs to bring those (open arms) back in Christ love within his church. Most say they never left in heart , but broken in mind. How can we reject those suffering, there is no “better good”, there are individual needing the church. Those that don’t merit, who cares, there not real Catholics anyway, it’s there destiny…

    • Aliquantillus

      The Annulment Process should not be used to solve “difficult situations”. It was never meant for that. Such a device only leads to the flood of phony annulments we already have nowadays, when Church lawyers inform us that, ultimately, there isn’t a marriage they cannot get annulled if they get “hell bent” on it. The end result will be that ‘annulment’ will become the Catholic name for ‘divorce’.

      It is a wicked thing to try to get an annulment after many years of marriage, and to do so to solve situations which were caused by acts of the partners while presumably correctly married is sign of moral corruption.

      • FrankW

        No doubt that the Church has a responsibility to manage this process according to the teachings of the Catholic faith and Code of Canon Law.

        However, the Catholic Church in its wisdom has made this available for a reason. The process should be made available to all who seek it, with the understanding that applying for an annulment does not mean the Church will grant one.

        What the past several decades do show is the importance of proper premarital formation on the part of the Catholic Church, and the need for improvements in this area. Couples should understand that when they approach the Catholic Church requesting the Sacrament of marriage, they are expected to abide by Church teachings on marriage if they truly want the marriage to be until “death us do part”.

        • tamsin

          Jesus replied, “Moses The Catholic Church in its wisdom has permitted you to divorce your wives annul your marriages because your hearts were hard premarital formation was insufficient. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

      • TheAbaum

        “It is a wicked thing to try to get an annulment after many years of marriage”

        It is a wicked thing to seek an annulment after many years of marriage WITHOUT JUST CAUSE.

        Let’s take hypotheticals: Man and woman marry at age 25. At age 35, they have no children.

        Situation 1. As the result of a nagging conscience by a woman’s sister, who sees her “brother-in-law” as a good uncle who is improperly being denied paternity, she makes him aware of an email/letter/conversation between the “wife” and said sister before they took vows . The woman reveals to her sister that she had no interest in children, because she thinks even minimal maternity leave will impair her high-powered career ambitions and will contracept until he accepts the situation.

        Situation 2. Woman discovers man was surgically sterilized prior to marriage and he never disclosed that fact to her and callously said with every negative pregnancy test, we’ll keep trying. It is only through some accidental disclosure that she learns of the vasectomy.

        I submit to you that in these admittedly contrived situations, it would be wicked to continue to live with these liars by omission.

        • Nestorian

          Come on, Mr. Abaum – will you really have us believe that the vast majority of annulments in recent decades have not involved the manifest absence of “Just Cause?”
          The whole thing is a dishonest farce. Kaspar is not willing or able to “call a spade a spade” in this regard, but at least he recognizes the tragic ramifications of Catholic doctrine and practice for what they are.

          • TheAbaum

            I don’t care what you think, as an avowed enemy of the Church.

            • Nestorian

              You should be concerned with whether my claims are factual or not.
              Are they? Is it not true that a huge amount of annulments are factually and morally indefensible?

              • TheAbaum

                The first question in considering testimony is the credibility of the witness. No credibility, no consideration.

                • Objectivetruth

                  Agreed……who wakes up in the morning and says to themselves, “I think I’ll follow a heretic.”

          • Asmondius

            ‘the tragic ramifications of Catholic doctrine and practice’

            Salvation and eternal grace – how horrible.

          • Objectivetruth

            And you, as an anti Catholic heretical troll, are a fraud.

        • Aliquantillus

          The classic annulment procedure has nothing to do with the plans of Card. Kasper. You said: “I don’t understand why Cardinal Kasper seems to have ignored the annulment process and its value. If a marriage can be properly evaluated as having been null and void according to the laws of the Church, why should Catholics in this difficult situation not be encouraged to pursue an annulment?” The answer is simply that such a classic annulment is far too restricted in its application. It can do nothing for the cases Card. Kasper has in mind. There are two ways out of this: Either (1) Card. Kasper’s plans to permit a second marriage after a temporary penitence without annulment or (2) more lenient annulment procedures.

          Both ships sail in the same direction. At present, annulments are already granted on psychological grounds such as inability/immaturity to take full responsiblity for the married life and that kind of nonsense. But even such a phony annulment is still a highly technical-legal procedure. That is not what Kasper wants. He wants an easy pastoral solution, which in the end means that the parochial priest can permit a person to live in adultery and still receive the sacraments. He wants a solution which the local pastor allows to say: “Well, ‘theoretically’ you are still married to A, but since you’re in a love relationship with B for some years now, you’re ‘practically’ living a marriage life with B. So the Church and I will not bother you any longer with this ‘theoretical’ former marriage”.

          That’s what Kasper wants and he cannot use the annulment procedure for that, not even if its criteria should become more lenient than they already have become by all the psychological rubbish that has been introduced. He wants a procedure which is not a legal or juridical one, and which has the advantage of leaving Church doctrine intact on a purely theoretical level and yet practically can do everything that is desired by the modern circumstances. In one sentence, he wants divorce without calling it divorce, and an easy divorce to that.

      • wineinthewater

        I think reforms to the annulment process should proceed hand in hand with much greater support in the Church for struggling marriages. We do not do nearly enough to prevent these marriages from failing in the first place. I think all diocese should employ marriage counselors offered at no or low cost to the faithful. We should also have much better marriage prep. The marriage prep assembly-line that I went through was utterly inadequate. Formation for marriage requires one-on-one time. I wouldn’t mind adopting the sponsor model for marriage: an engaged couple is partnered with a successfully married couple from the parish for the duration of their marriage prep.

        • Marc L

          “I wouldn’t mind adopting the sponsor model for marriage: an engaged couple is partnered with a successfully married couple from the parish for the duration of their marriage prep.”
          That’s a pretty fantastic idea; fantastic enough that (no offense) I can’t believe you’re the first to have it, and my wife and I would totally do this. Do you know of any apostolate that helps implement that on a parish-level? I’ll take a look myself.

          • wineinthewater

            No offense taken, I’ve long since resigned myself to the realization that pretty much only my bad ideas are original. 😉

            I’ve seen the model used as part of diaconate formation, but I’ve never heard of it as part of marriage prep.

      • standtall909

        But, I do believe Pope Francis himself meant that (reexamining the annulment process) when he said that he thought there were at least 50% of marriages today that are invalid. I think we are in for a rocky ride.

        Sorry, put this in the wrong place…..actually this is in answer to FrankW.

    • Cincinnatus1775

      Right on, FrankW! See my post.

    • John Hobson

      The “value” of the annulment process? Obviously, FrankW has never had anything to do with it. Annulments are a crapshoot, with the odds on the house’s side.

      Let me make an historical aside, and tell you of two essentially contemporary annulment fights, those of Henry VIII of England, and his sister Margaret.

      Henry and Margaret’s father, Henry VII, arranged a marriage between his eldest son, Arthur, and Catherine of Aragon. A few months after the wedding, Arthur died. The king wanted both to maintain the political alliance with Spain and to keep the dowry Catherine brought (over a million in today’s currency, which would have had to be repaid out of the Privy Purse). So he decided to marry his second son, Henry, to Catherine.

      There was a problem: Under Church marriage law, one cannot marry one’s deceased spouse’s sibling. However, this could be managed with a dispensation. So King Henry went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Warham, to get a dispensation. Archbishop Warham was then in a political fight with the King and refused to grant the dispensation; but Henry twisted his arm, and Warham gave in. Henry then applied to the Vatican for approval — Pope Julius II rubber stamped the dispensation and the fullness of time Henry and Catherine were married.

      Twenty-some years later, it was obvious that Catherine, now in menopause, was not going to give Henry the son he so desperately craved. The incest that Henry was committing was preying on his mind — that he had fallen in love with the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn was, of course, quite irrelevant.

      Recall that Henry VII had pressured Archbishop Warham to get the dispensation for his son’s betrothal to Catherine. Church marriage law says that if any party to the marriage is acting under duress, the marriage is void. So Henry VIII requested an annulment on the grounds that the dispensation was improperly given.

      However, Catherine did not want her marriage annulled. She claimed that she loved Henry; a dubious claim at best, since Henry did not treat her well. It is far more likely that Catherine did not want her daughter Mary to lose her place as Henry’s only legitimate child. After all, should Henry remarry and have a son, this son would take precedence over Mary as Henry’s heir. (One of the great “what if”s of English history is “what if Mary had been a boy?”)

      So, Catherine counter-attacked on two fronts: One based in Church marriage law, and the other purely political. Catherine claimed that she and Arthur had never consummated their marriage. Thus, the dispensation was irrelevant, and her marriage to Henry was, in fact, her first marriage.

      Now, this claim should have gone nowhere. First, Church marriage law makes the presumption that a married couple will have intercourse unless it can be proven otherwise. Second, the burden of proof would have been on Catherine, and the operative word there is “proof”. I’m sure that 16th century divorce lawyers and judges knew just as well as their 21st century counterparts that all parties in a divorce probably lie. Catherine’s unsupported word should not have sufficed, and at the time she made this claim, she was not a virgo intacta. Thus, she had no support whatsoever for her claim. Since Church marriage law also states that dubious claims about the validity of the marriage are to be dismissed in favor of the validity of the marriage, she had no case.

      However, her other point of attack depended on her nephew Charles — King of Spain, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Naples — to oppose the annulment. Charles disliked Henry both personally and politically, since Charles and Henry had entered an alliance against France which Henry broke at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, so Charles felt that Henry had betrayed him and was happy to oblige his aunt. It should be mentioned that in 1527, Naples and the Papal States had a war, which the Pope lost. Some of Charles’ troops sacked Rome. Pope Clement did not want a rerun of that war, so he pretended to take Catherine’s claim of non-consummation seriously. There were Papal Delegates, special commissions of enquiry and so on. Basically, Clement was stalling.

      Finally, when Henry discovered that is mistress Anne Boleyn was pregnant, he forced Clement’s hand. He pushed through some laws in Parliament, one saying that marriage questions could be settled locally, another saying that all English clergy owed their first allegiance to the crown and a third saying that the Peter’s Pence collection and the Annates (essentially a tax on Church properties that also went to the Vatican) should go to the Exchequer instead of to Rome. Clement was Not Amused, and decreed against Henry’s annulment.

      Thus, the actual reason for Clement’s action was politics and money.

      Now, on to Margaret. Henry VII got her married to King James IV of Scotland. For some reason, James invaded England in 1513, and was met by English troops at the Battle of Flodden. Flodden was an overwhelming victory for the English, and James was killed in the battle. His body was seen by quite a few people, both English and Scots, who knew him at least by sight; he was buried on the battlefield.

      James’ son became king as James V, but since he was only two, a council of regency was set up. Margaret was one of the regents, and another was Archibald Douglas, the Earl of Angus. In order to solidify his political position, Angus persuaded Margaret to marry him.

      Well, it was not a happy marriage. To give just one example, in 1520, Angus attempted to enter Edinburgh at the head of some troops, and was taken under fire by artillery and infantry under the personal command of his wife.

      In 1527, Margaret seized on an unfounded rumor that James IV had not died at Flodden, but had regained consciousness, dug himself out of his grave, and recovered from his wounds. However, James had not returned to Scotland, but rather made a secret pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Nevertheless, James was supposed to return to Scotland at any moment. This rumor, of course, is just as credible as the one that Elvis Presley is still alive.

      Margaret sent in a petition to Pope Clement for an annulment of her marriage on the grounds that her first husband was actually not dead. Cardinal Beaton, the Archbishop of St Andrews, who loathed Angus as much as Margaret did, supported the petition. Angus, who also wanted out of the marriage, raised no objection — indeed, he suggested that a better ground for the annulment might be that he had been betrothed as a young man.

      In any case, Margaret got her annulment, realized that her first husband was dead, and so promptly married someone else.

      So, Henry VIII was denied an annulment even though he had solid grounds, and Margaret was granted one on flimsy grounds. It was all political in both cases.

    • jacobhalo

      “but it’s no the duty of the Catholic Church to conform to the whim of society.” Yes, you are correct, but the goal of Vatican II was to bring the church into the modern world. What a disaster!!!

      • MarcAlcan

        Wrong. The goal of Vatican II was to Christfy the world. That is the whole point of Vatican II -how to make the Church more effective at proclaiming the Gospel so that the world may be converted to Christ. Not the other way around.

  • Den

    Further to my earlier post, I was silent as to what the correct theological answer might be. I do not know. However, referencing money and the “opening the flood gates” are further distractions from trying to promote God’s mercy while not compromising doctrine.

  • Mike Sinclair

    Tom, you nailed this one. In Chesterton’s words: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (or in this case – abandoned).

    • bosco49

      I should only like to point out that on 14 September 1994 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF issued a letter to all of the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the Faithful within which letter Cardinal Ratzinger stated:

      “The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only “to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'”(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.”

      • jenny

        How do you do this if it is only one bed for the man and woman?
        Mental distress and grave consequences rise from abstaining from sex while seeing the spouse naked in the bed.
        People have body also,, and imposing no-sex while sharing one bed creates damaging effects in the LONG-RUN. Anyone tried? It is easy for B16 to give advise as long as he never tried. It is not about temptation, it is about human normality…..

        • bosco49

          God will not deny a superabundance of His Grace and Mercy to those who seek It.
          Your remarks in respect of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are at best crass, but then again I’m sure you know it.

        • TheAbaum

          Lithium might help.

      • jenny

        Did B16 tried NOT to salivate while seeing a nice slice of cake? … see Pavlov reflex….

      • Art Deco

        That’s the real pastoral solution. I do not think the modernists chuffering about ‘mature faith’ and such have that in mind.

  • jcbathtub

    I think Christ is right on this one.

  • ForChristAlone

    I cast my vote with that of Jesus Christ on this matter.

  • fredx2

    The real question is whether many modern marriages are marriages at all in the Catholic sense. I have a feeling too many get married now with the idea that they will remain married only so long as it is advantageous. There is little if any intent to do the “til death do us part” thing.
    If these marriages are not real marriages, then anulments should be given without a lot of hesitation,after the true nature of marriage is made clear to those seeking an anulment.

    • Ford Oxaal

      The Church can never play games here, and all this discussion is strictly academic. What we need to do is get back to the clear teaching of “no sex before marriage or you are on the way to hell”, and “once you are married, you are done — that’s it”. That should be the starting point. “Still want to get an annulment? You are kidding right?” should be the starting attitude. Not “let’s go get an annulment”.

      • Nestorian

        You say “the Church can never play games here,” yet the whole annulment machine is manifestly a game. It’s a shell-game: “Now you see the marriage – and now you don’t!” Yet we all know that in the vast majority of cases the pretext for declaring the non-existence of the prior marriage is transparently fraudulent.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Ha ha — right, but I meant can’t play games with the indissolubility of the bond. The Church could never say divorce is OK. The Church could never say fornication is OK. The question comes down to can the Church say receiving Holy Communion in a state of likely mortal sin is now OK. If some public figure in a scandalous situation with a live in “partner” gets communion from the Bishop, why can’t anybody get communion while waiting for a “pretty sure thing” annulment? I am instinctively against this — but there are some truly bizarre cases in marriage….

    • As a result of a lack of Faith. I believe Pope emeritus Benedict XVI was proposing that this be another reason to consider the validity of a marriage.

  • Cincinnatus1775

    Excellent piece, thank you. Your theological arguments are spot on, and the Church needs elaborate no further in support of its position. As a practical matter, In any age — but especially this one — the Church can not afford to bend in the least. As you put it, “many will wonder why anyone should listen to the Church instead of his own will,” and the floodgates will open.

    As a convert who came home many years after a divorce and remarriage, I understood, but objected to the requirement to go through the annulment process. My wife objected that my divorce should keep her from receiving the sacrament. Our two older children wondered by their parents couldn’t receive the sacrament with them. We bit the bullet because the Catholic Church has the Truth. The annulment process was lengthy (15 months), painful, and moderately expensive. However, the experience helped make me a better husband, father and Catholic Christian, and while I won’t say I’m “happy” I went through it, I am grateful.

    So, the process should not be ignored or watered down as Cardinal Kasper has proposed, but steps considered to make it more efficient (i.e. more Tribunal resources where necessary to reduce the docket) However, I think a certain amount of time — probably about a year — is necessary for a full examination of conscience and character and amendment of ways that should accompany the annulment. I know that in my case a quick paper drill would not have led to the spiritual renewal I needed.

    More important perhaps than improving efficiency, steps should be taken to better educate people how the process works and how best to participate in it. I had the benefit of the advice of a canon lawyer and a well resourced Tribunal. Neither seem to be the case for many people.

    • Mahalo @Cincinnatus1775 for your testimony and God bless you and your family for that.
      The woman who the Pope recently called, a disturbing event on so many levels, for 19 years or so, she and her husband (especially) did not attempt the process on the books so that she/they could return to the sacraments?

  • Valentin

    So why is this even an issue? I had no idea that any Cardinal could stoop to such a level where taxes are enough for him to take away from the faith and cause problems in peoples marriages. Great article.

  • Don Campbell

    How is it not obvious to everyone that changing Church’s teaching on this point would expose the Church as always having been a fraud? That is, as not being infallible with respect to its teaching authority on faith and morals after all! At that point, why would anyone remain a Catholic since the Church is exposed for never having been what she claimed to be? How do certain cardinals and bishops not see that this is what is at stake?
    Unfortunately, Pope Francis is feeding the beast by giving Kasper the platform and with what appears to be a well-timed phone call to Argentina. Kasper claims to have the Pope’s sympathy on this issue, and it is hard to believe otherwise considering Pope Francis’ repeated castigation of those priests who dare to withhold the sacraments. He has clearly stated, repeatedly, that he sees the Eucharist as medicine for the sick rather than as a reward for the holy. This is true, of course, in the sense that we are all sick and and in need of God’s mercy. But it is also true that, based on the teaching of St. Paul cited in the article above, the Church has for time immemorial taught that people in a state of mortal sin must refrain from taking Communion until they have confessed and been absolved. And, of course, they cannot be absolved unless they truthfully express contrition and firm purpose of amendment. The proposal here is to dispense with that. Instead, people would confess their past sin but all involved would be in agreement that they have no intention of amending their conduct but plan to go right on committing adultery.
    What we have here is a proposal to throw the timeless and supposedly un-changeable doctrine of the Churc away in order to accomodate the desire of post-modern people for explicit, or at least tacit, approval of their rejection of the words of Jesus, St. Paul and over two thousand years of Catholic witnesses.

    • tamsin

      Per Cardinal Caffara’s point,

      “with this [change in teaching], the foundational pillar of the Church’s doctrine on sexuality is negated.”

      We say the Catholic Church is a big tent. Her strength is in her ability to contain variations. (Sometimes she seems like a big circus tent.) But to change the teaching on marriage is to remove the stone on which the center post, the pillar, rests, that keeps the canvas aloft. The stone is Joseph’s faithfulness to Mary’s faithfulness to Jesus. Take away this stone and the tent collapses; no one is sheltered.

    • HigherCalling

      It’s odd that those we look to to defend the true and unchanging teachings of the Church can’t see this for what it is: wickedness knocking at the door of the Church. It’s the next step in the culmination of a long moral and intellectual corruption that the foe now expects easier entry into the Church. They surely ought to know that the enemy at the door, in the disguise of compassion and tolerance, offers no terms of compromise, only complete destruction. And they are selling him the pass.

      • “It’s odd that those we look to to defend the true and unchanging teachings of the Church can’t see this for what it is: wickedness knocking at the door of the Church”
        Oh they know what they are doing! You’d better believe it!

    • Orland Chund

      And the march of Protestantism continues. Kasper is but of a piece with Bergoglio, agents of Martin Luther, working to destroy the Ancient Roman Catholic Church forever.
      Explain: How can a Cardinal call for adopting the Protestant view of marriage and keep his position?
      Bergoglio forbids the celebration of the EF for a wayward congregation in Texas, and admits, he is no fan of the Tridentine Mass. He thinks it belongs in a museum.
      We are in trouble, the same troubles which bedeviled the Church in the middle ages. The hierarchy is totally corrupted, pope to priest.
      The next few centuries are going to be very, very bad……

  • TheAbaum

    I really despise cowardice.

  • Thomas

    Where do people get the notion that religion is no different than politics?

    “What are you going to do for me?”

    “We are going to bring about change.”

    “This is not fair.”

    I am divorced. When it happened, the last thing I wanted to do was to start over with someone else. Why? I could only think of my three small children: they needed my time, my love, and frankly, my money. To begin anew would most likely mean finding a divorcee with children of her own; to re-marry would mean an uncomfortable blending of families.

    Jesus said, “Any divorced man who marries again commits adultery.” While a sexual prohibition may have been on Jesus’ mind, I presumed that he was also telling me to do double duty as a father and to care for those that I brought into the world. The wisdom of Jesus’ words is more important than giving me what I may think I “want.”

    In divorce, kids suffer. When we bang our fists and say “I want,” we don’t think about that.

  • LWL


    As a Catholic who abstained from receiving the Eucharist for many years because of an unannulled marriage, I offered this sacrifice to Our Lord as a public display of fidelity. Although this was often awkward and humiliating — I knew that somehow His abundant grace and mercy would find their way to me.

    I was never angry with the Church. It was my failing – my sin, not the Church’s. The annulment process proved to be full of grace at every corner. Since January of this year I have had the privilege (not the “right”) of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. I still cry now when I receive Him.

    • Nestorian

      Sir, are you really convinced that your marriage was never real from the start – that it was in fact non-existent, even though it may have illusorily appeared to exist to you for quite a number of years?
      I do not know the particulars of your case, but in many if not most cases, such claims stretch credulity to the point of risibility.
      Also, if you were merely divorced but not remarried, the discipline/sacrifice you offered was not necessary. It is remarriage after divorce that makes for all the problems, not divorce itself.

    • MarcAlcan

      Wow! that is all I can say. Wow and Praise to the Lord for the grace that He has given you.

  • TheAbaum

    “indeed, the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America notes that “The close relationship between the church and state which existed in Byzantium had a profound impact on the formulation of marital practice and the possibility of remarriage in the Eastern Church.”

    The impetus for Cardinal Kasper’s proposal comes largely from the Church in Germany, which is far readier to admit to Communion remarried divorcees than German Catholics who refuse to pay the Church tax that keeps the German Church rich and gives it an influence out of proportion to its size.

    Two more indictments of the god state. Walter Kasper winner of the first annual Judas Iscariot award.

    • Interesting insight on state influence. Thank you!

      • TheAbaum

        One that needs constant or consistent exposition on here.

        • Change state to world and if Vatican II was about ‘opening the Church to the world’ or ‘modernizing the Church’, the how mistaken the Council Fathers were when there were these lessons from the Eastern Church.

          • TheAbaum

            On here, there’s an occasional chorus from people who believe that the Church and state were once fused, and want to do it again.

            The state is just the business end of the world.

            • When to me the words of the LORD and scripture are clear:
              The hostile world
              Jn 15:19-19 ‘ If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world therefore the world hates you.’
              This is another reason I feel something is terrible amiss with the papacy of Pope Francis or its direction.
              Rm 12:2 ‘Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you,’

  • Pingback: From Anti-Catholic Atheist to Church-Loving Convert - BigPulpit.com()

  • publiusnj

    Don Campbell rightly points out that if the Church changes its teaching on Divorce-Remarriage it would be subjecting itself to the inevitable attack that it has always been a fraud. That would be the worst form of scandal. I choose to believe that the Church is guided by God and, therefore, will not cross this Rubicon. Christ’s teaching , of course, is the central wisdom on Remarriage-Divorce. When a consensual marriage is entered into and consummated, the two become one flesh. Once one flesh, no one can rend them “asunder.” Not even they themselves. A husband is therefore not free to disregard the troth he has pledged to his wife because he has joined her and become one flesh.

    Remarriage after Divorce Adultery is qualitatively different from most other sins. The difference between sexual intercourse committed with a purported second spouse outside the first marriage while the first spouse lives and almost any other kind of sin is this: the absolution given in the Confessional is limited to prior confessed acts of sexual intercourse and doesn’t result in forgiveness of future acts of sexual intercourse that might follow if the penitent is unwilling to give up the second “marriage.”

    The Catholic position on Remarriage after Divorce Adultery is, in fact, one of the chief glories of Christ’s Holy Church. It was when the pagan Romans ran the show; it was when the Byzantine Emperors twisted the arms of the Orthodox hierarch, but not the Papacy; and it is now that Western politicians have seen liberalized divorce as a give away that they could trade for enough votes to stay in power. “Until death us do part” is the only way two people can become one flesh.

  • Lordknows

    So many here share the same thoughts, almost as if to keep the faith theirs and theirs alone. So often we see the walls go up by those righteous ones.
    Divorce is a painful experience for one or more parties, it is not an experience taken lightly or ever forgotten. As the church and congregation turn it’s back on these hurting people through a rejection of the Eucharist or confrontation by a Tribunal, it is a cruel, inexcusable means to hurt, not help those suffering. To stand behind this process is a great way to further destroy those suffering in their time of need. We need to save souls. The church has lost so many from the lack of understanding the victim. Our Lord knows the truth as does the victim. We need to reach out, not shut out. Who can do that better then their local Priest. Take down that wall!

    • publiusnj

      Divorce is not at times taken lightly? Bosh. That is no more true than saying “marriage is never taken lightly.” See the silliness of such an assertion when you think about it for even a second?

      • Lordknows

        A true Catholic marriage ending in divorce leaves collateral damage. The woman married for twenty years finding herself abandoned by a new found gay husband, the woman guilty of child abuse and the husband now raising the children alone suffering…the senior couple going through RCIA only to find they can’t marry because their 1970s marriage was to painful to revisit….to require the those that lived a Catholic life which was loss do to their spouse is a form of abuse in itself. I am happy for those that don’t understand, the suffering I have see is very painful. We need to help those suffering not hurt them. The system is failing them. Those that do take it lightly doesn’t matter because they were never real Catholics! It is here that we see…

        • publiusnj

          So the solution is more divorce? Hardly. If you permit something, you are going to get more of it and the collateral damage that comes from it isn’t going to stop because the Pope would now effectively tell the wife:” what your husband did in leaving you is not okay but we’re going to permit it and you can do the same thing. Pledge him your troth? How archaic a concept.”

          Lord knows, you may not have the foresight to see that that is the way to make everyone more narcissistic, selfish and unloving, any more than Moses did. However, the REAL Living Lord of the Universe did and we ought to follow His approach. As Brother isaiah recorded: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

          Jesus said: no Remarriage after Divorce and that is “good enough for me” as the old hymn notes.

  • clintoncps

    Great article! Thank you, Tom. God bless you.

  • Nestorian

    Here is the problem: The principle and practice of annulment is fundamentally dishonest. It is a way of deceptively calling what was a real marriage a non-marriage, thus enabling what is functionally identical to divorce and remarriage in a Catholic context.
    The only honest remedy is for the Catholic Church to admit to the falsehood and dishonesty of its current doctrine and practice, and to adopt the current practice of the Eastern Orthodox – which also happens to be the practice of the early Church: Admit that sin can kill a real marriage, and permit second marriages after divorce (or even third ones – though that has been the canonical limit in Eastern Orthodoxy since the 4th century or so).

    • publiusnj

      Please. The Eastern Orthodox have been “fundamentally dishonest’ since they fell under the sway of the Byzantine emperors; that is why they went along with divorce-remarriage as the author points out.

      They got even more dishonest when their patriarch’s capital (Constantinople) was taken over by a pagan Sultan. At that point, they allowed the sultan to start picking their patriarchs, the first of whom broke off the Orthodox Church’s 13 year old reunion with the Catholic Church because that is what the Sultan wanted. [And don’t start with “St. Mark of Ephesus;” he opposed the Reunion because he was the only member of the EO Delegation to the Reunion Council who opposed the reunion. Of course, he was already a minion of the Ottoman Sultan at the time].

      Even the Orthodox admit that that period of rule by the Grand Turk (known as the Turkokratia) was a disgraceful episode. The EOs have often succumbed to Caesaro-Papism as the coziness of Joe Stalin with the Russian Church during the “Great Patriotic War”( WWII) shows.

      • Nestorian

        As a Nestorian, I agree with you that Eastern Orthodox
        subservience to the state has been problematic.
        However, that is irrelevant to their position on marriage: Canons limiting the number of marriages to three (with two divorces in between) date back to the 4th century. This
        makes clear that the East Roman practice of permitting remarriage following divorce antedates this time, and was taken for granted. It is thus not “caesaropapist” in origin.
        If anything, the canonical LIMITS may be “caesaropapist” in origin, as the earliest important event conceivably associable with “caesaropapism” is the Council of Nicea in
        325 ad – i.e., at the early part of the era from which the aforementioned canons originate.

        • publiusnj

          So, the EOs and Nestorian come down on the Pharisees’ side instead of Christ’s. As I have said, the Catholic position on Remarriage after Divorce is one of the chief glories of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church.

        • TheAbaum

          As a Nestorian, you need to read the masthead.

      • Nestorian

        Also, Publius, how do you answer the charge that Catholic annulment is fundamentally dishonest in doctrine and practice?

        • Guest

          The charge is false. There may be abuses in the system but the underlying theology is sound.

          • Nestorian

            How can it be sound if it is so easily and rampantly abused?

            • Guest

              The doctrine against murder is sound yet it is routinely violated.

        • publiusnj

          It is not. Are some of the litigants at times less than honest? I don’t know, but it would not surprise me; lying is not unheard of in litigations. Indeed, that is why the civil law has criminal provisions against perjury. A judicial process to assess allegations that there had been no sufficient consent is not inherently dishonest, though.

          Nestorian’s suggestion that we should ignore Christ’s own words on the sinfulness of Remarriage after Divorce is, in all events, as unacceptable as his namesake’s views 1550 years or so ago.

      • Guest

        The Orthodox position seems totally contrived.

        • Nestorian

          I highly doubt that you even know what the Orthodox position is, or how far back into antiquity it extends. It certainly extends further back into antiquity than the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century, as the author asserts. Church canons LIMITING divorce and remarriage to a maximum of three marriages date back as early as the 4th century.
          Basically, the Orthodox do not view marriage as a contract, as the Latins do. Their alternative ontology of marriage allows them to affirm the tragic yet obvious reality that marriage bond can be extinguished by sin. Details may be found in John Meyendorff’s book “Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective.”
          Before hastily concluding that the Orthodox position is contrived, sources such as these should be carefully digested.

          • Guest

            Yea, as you portray a heretic I would expect you to defend the Indefensible.

    • TheAbaum


      • Nestorian

        No, what? If I am wrong, then state or argue why.

        • TheAbaum


        • Objectivetruth

          Double No.

    • Guest

      Divorced and “remarried” three times is not consistent with the Gospel.

      • Nestorian

        In Matthew, Jesus twice makes exceptions for “porneia” (and, a fortiori, for anything more severe than “porneia”). Additionally, both the Petrine and Pauline privileges involve exceptions. So the general principle that there are exceptions to the prohibition against divorce and remarriage is well-grounded in the New Testament.

        • Guest

          That was about invalid marriages.

          • And the privileges in favor of the faith with examples in the Old Testament.

    • Fargo106

      You say, “The principle and practice of annulment is fundamentally dishonest. It is a way of deceptively calling what was a real marriage a non-marriage…”
      That’s a big blanket statement. Can you back that up? Show me how it is fundamentally dishonest? Give me an example. I can’t see how documenting and confirming that circumstances existed (e.g. coercion, deception) prior to the exchange of vows that prevented one of the participants from commiting sincerely and with genuine understanding of the situation is in anyway dishonest.
      Secondly, you use the term “a real marriage”. By what definition? Yours? The government’s? Hugh Heffner’s? How do we know real, or in other words, what is true? For me and for many through the centuries, that has been the role of the church. Looking around at the ga-zillion interpretations of the Bible floating around and the rampant divorce/hook-up culture of today, I’d say in comparison the church has done a pretty good job of letting the faithful know what is true, whatis real… I’ll stick with them.

      • Nestorian

        Read Sheila Rauch Kennedy’s book. I forget the title, but you can easily find it on google/amazon. She was married to one of the Kennedy clan for many years, multiple children, etc. The book is all about how her ex-husband, the Archdioceses of Boston, etc., refused to acknowledge her insistence that her marriage had been REAL, nothwithstanding the annulment process successfully sought by her ex-husband.
        And that is merely a well-publicized example.

        • Glister0427

          I could be mistaken (somebody, please correct!), but I believe the Boston AD eventually reversed its annulment judgment in the Rauch/Kennedy case.

      • Objectivetruth

        Nestorian’s an anti Catholic troll. Don’t feed him.

  • Nestorian

    “The man having read the text of the Cardinal’s speech asked, ‘Father, have we wasted the last 22 years?’ He said that he now felt his faith was undermined, that the struggle he and his ‘wife’ had engaged in was by the Cardinal’s teaching meaningless and vainglorious…. ”
    Yes, that is exactly right. This man and woman have been profoundly duped for 22 years by the fundamental dishonesty of Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and annulment.
    The very use of the phrase “annulment of one’s prior marriage” by the author underscores the dishonesty. How can one reasonably even speak of a “prior marriage” if it didn’t really exist to begin with? Yet, the annulment process claims that said marriage was non-existent.
    Annulment is a pathetic farce, with enormously tragic ramifications for many such as the above-referenced man and woman.

  • “The Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi has said that Kasper’s thinking is in tune with the pope’s.” | A Revolution on Marriage – in Rome? (http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2014/a-revolution-on-marriage-in-rome.html)

    Hell is on the loose.

    • Marcelus

      Wait until October comes and stop imagining things please! !

      • And what is it that I have imagined or predicted?

    • Art Deco

      Aye. I am aware of one Catholic blogger who has plans to decamp to Orthodoxy if Cdl. Kaspar has his way, and another who is considering it. In their view, the claim of indefectability would be invalidated by such a measure. I cannot say I am not sympathetic.

      This Pope is Trouble, whatever happens going forward.

      • Mahalo @Art Deco
        “This Pope is Trouble, whatever happens going forward.”
        This is plain (to me).
        He is still Pope though, and while I may not follow a hireling, he is assured of my prayers and my respect for him and his office. I approach from ‘what would I do if I had a jerk for a father’? The LORD’s 4th commandment is still binding on me.

      • Dave

        I understand the trouble, but what would be the point of jumping ship for Orthodoxy? They did the same thing as Kasper wants to do, long ago. I would view it as a grave pastoral error…the actual teaching of the Church cannot be changed, but can there be gravely wrong pastoral practices approved without the Church’s indefectability being destroyed? It is probably possible. These are the days when Satan will do his utmost to destroy the Church. Will he succeed? No, but perhaps it will look as if he has succeeded, just as in the case of Christ Himself.

  • guest

    If divorced Catholics will be able to recieve Holy Communion, hence legitimizing divorce and remarriage, it will put all of our marriages at risk, causing huge damage to the sanctity and stability of Holy Matrimony. I pray these ideas vanish quickly. Come, Holy Spirit!

    • John Byde

      And how can they then fight logically against “homosexual marriage” and other monstrosities?

      • HigherCalling

        Right. Same goes for contracepting couples. They have no moral foundation from which to criticize homosexual behavior or same-sex “marriage.” Nor do they have a moral foundation from which to criticize abortion, since the two are organically linked. Intellectual consistency is a rare thing in an age of moral adolescence.

      • There are some prelates already advocating for this.

  • Quite right! St. Thomas More & St. John Fisher, pray for us!

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Francis the confuser just doesn’t care when the Catholic faith is thrown about by liberal theologians. The people deserve better.

    • How the titles have quickly changed: from ‘the Great’ to ‘the Confuser’ …

  • BillinJax

    My guess is that the Cardinal is a card carrying Democrat.

  • Paul

    We are a Catholic family, my older sister was married to an atheist who was an abuser and left her battered and bruised whenever he didn’t have it his way. She was working to feed both him (who was continuously unemployed) and his retired mother (already on a French pension.) For years she suffered physical abuse by a sadistic monster and it took tremendous courage from her part to get divorced yet she – like some other catholics who are in similar situation – finds herself in a postion of being punished for something that is not of her doing ? Surely, when a spouse’s life is in danger there is a case for the marriage to be annulled and, moreover, should Communion be denied to her if she chooses to remarry ?

    • Hilary White, Rome Correspondent | LifeSiteNews.com, has a very good counsel: that these serious matters are not to be resolved in the combox. Noting that, I would like to offer the following:

      CCC Divorce
      2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.
      (If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.)

      (Petrine Privilege) Can. 1142 For a just cause, the Roman Pontiff can dissolve a non-consummated marriage between baptized persons or between a baptized party and a non-baptized party at the request of both parties or of one of them, even if the other party is unwilling

    • bonaventure

      When a person’s marriage is annulled, there are no impediments to (1) take communion, nor (2) to marry.

      If fact, it is incorrect to say “re-marry” after an annulment. Because an annulment signifies that there never was any marriage in the first place.

      If your sister was abused and worked to sustain a lazy atheist and his lazy mother who already had a pension from a foreign country, there is likelihood she was cheated into “marrying” (i.e., she was lied to), and she can have an annulment.

    • JP

      Why blame Christ and the Church? If a young boy goes into a life of crime (because of influences outside of his control and intellect), and he murders an innocent victim later in life. Is it not right that he confess his sins and repent before taking Communion? Do we make special dispensations for him because of his situation?

      The woman did enter into the marriage freely, did she not? A marriage tribunal could come to the conclusion that she never rightly entered into the Sacrament in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better for her to go that route instead of forcing the Church to change its teachings?

    • ForChristAlone

      No, she should separate (divorce if legally necessary) from her husband who remains her true husband nonetheless. Christ gave himself up unto death even for those who murdered him. He did not walk away from them and say, “I’m finished with them; this marriage is over.” And, yes, you sister should not try to remarry because she is already married . Does this mean that she must sacrifice her life and not find another to love? Yes. That’s what the word sacrifice means. If however, she lied at the altar and never intended to be faithful to the marriage come hell or hot water, then there never was a marriage because she deceived her spouse right from the get go.

  • bonaventure

    Kasper is one of the most liberal theologians that the Church has, unfortunately, kept in her fold. Kasper deserves the Hans Kung treatment combined with the Jacques Gaillot treatment.

    Although couched in heavy duty German theological vocabulary, Kasper in his book “Jesus the Christ,” denies the Resurrection. He argues that the Resurrection happens only in the Kerygma.

    • The difference between St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.

      • bonaventure

        Not really.

        Disclaimer: I have IMMENSE respect and love for St. John Paul II. Yet what I write below is highly critical of his decisions in regards to Walter Kasper.

        Remember that St. John Paul is the one who (1) appointed him as bishop and (2) made him a cardinal. Additionally, St. John Paul II made him the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. That was the worst possible choice, since his liberalism is what many other Christians (especially the Orthodox) saw first when meeting with him.

        I know an Orthodox man very close to the Catholic Church (could have become a Catholic in the blink of an eye, had the Church been… well, the Church). But he refused to consider Catholicism precisely for the Kasper-like liberalism that, unfortunately, St. John Paul (willingly or not) pushed with the appointment of such men to such high position.

        Sorry if this bursts anyone’s bubble in regards to St. John Paul II, an otherwise holy and saintly man. And indeed a Saint. But no one ever said that Saints make no mistakes.

        • Thank you @bonaventure (you make some very good posts) for the education and clarification. How this (or any other appointment) was done will be even more instructive e.g, whether St. Pope John Paul II relied on recommendations from those who were supposed to do their job well, or whether he failed in his own scrutiny before making the appointment.
          The difference between the Popes: Pope Francis promotes Card. Kasper and has him pushing the Pope’s own questionable (mild wording) agenda.


    If we give communion to them, therefore UK King Henry VIII will be a >> SAINT !!

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  • John Hobson

    Denying the Eucharist to those who may be in most need of it is unchristian. The Eucharist is not, as Mr Piatak apparently thinks, a reward for being good, rather, it is our spiritual food. Mr Piatak and the other self-righteous people here who sneer at the divorced and remarried, would starve them.

    To take another analogy, if Mr Piatak were a shepherd, and one of his sheep were to stray, he would say “to hell with it, I’m not going to do anything.”

    I would point out that the overly restrictive rules on divorce and remarriage were set up by a group consisting solely of unmarried men. “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4) Or how about the Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath?

    • TheAbaum

      One cannot consume without harm food one is unready, unable or unfit to consume.

      “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.”

      Go argue with St. Paul.

      “I would point out that the overly restrictive rules on divorce and remarriage were set up by a group consisting solely of unmarried men.”

      You mean Jesus Christ?

      • Objectivetruth

        Great point, Abaum. When people attack the Church that they dont understand a marital issue because it’s run by single, celibate men, well….the Church was started by a single, celibate man.

    • Guest

      I would ask how does one claim faithfulness while breaking a commandment and claiming one is justified in breaking it? Is that not insane?

      Where does one derive such authority and demand one has such a right?

    • Strife

      “The Eucharist is not, as Mr Piatak apparently thinks, a reward for being good, rather, it is our spiritual food.”

      Nor is it a reward for the selfish. It is The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. And it should only be received in surrender, humility, and profound contriteness and trans-formative gratitude. We do not merit it. And we DO NOT DESERVE IT. And it does NOT come without sacrifice and a determined commitment of self-denial on our part.

      But tell me – should there be no restrictions on the consumption of the Holy Eucharist? Are St Paul’s words now irrelevant and false? Do people’s precious feelings matter more than the Sanctity of Christ? What do you know that Paul didn’t?

      • Objectivetruth

        When you receive the Eucharist and respond “Amen”, you are saying yes to two things:

        That it truly is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.

        That you accept and agree with all the Church teaches on faith and morals.

        So the divorced and remarried Catholic (and therefore, rejected Church teaching) that is receiving Communion is saying “no” and therefore not in communion with the Church.

    • publiusnj

      Hobson’s choice–apparently–is that we go along with a change in the Catholic position on Divorce-Remarriage or be accused of being “self-righteous people here who sneer at the divorced and remarried….” This is pure trolling. Where has anyone “sneered” at the divorced and remarried? How, indeed, does one “sneer” in writing?

      Another inappropriate comment by Hobson is his claim that Catholic “rules on divorce and remarriage were set up by a group consisting solely of unmarried men.” WRONG. The rule was set up by the Living Lord of the Universe, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

      Hobson’s quote of Christ’s famous statement that the Sabbath was made for man, not vice-versa, falls quite flat when it is realized that it was the very same speaker, Jesus Christ, Who enunciated the Catholic Rule on Divorce, and that Christ set up His rule in direct contravention of the rule enunciated by the author of Leviticus. Jesus realized that it was indeed the “more liberal” Mosaic rule on Remarriage after Divorce that stemmed from “hardness of hearts.”

      What could be more heartless than allowing a man to “pledge his troth” to his wife for life and then be able to walk away with nothing more than a one-sided pronunciamento–called a “get”–the operative terms of which are: ” now I do release, discharge, and divorce you on your own, so that you are permitted and have authority over yourself to go and marry any man you desire. No person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man. This shall be for you from me a bill of dismissal, a letter of release, and a document of absolution, in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.” Talk about male dominance!

    • JP

      We take the Eucharist as it was some kind of entitlement. We are not entitled to it. Even Saint Theresa of Avila was refused the Eucharist for a long period of time in order to ensure her humility. A Century ago it wasn’t unusual for the Confessor to refuse to grant absolution until he was satisfied that the penitent truly repented and understood the importance of the Eucharist.

      You also are forgetful of the Saint Paul’s admonition about taking the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ unworthily. The Sinner brings double the condemnation upon his soul. Christ also warned his Apostles about leading “his children” astray. It would be better to tie a millstone around your neck and drop into the deepest ocean.

      People like you are playing not only with fire, but you’re leading Sinners astray.

  • Donna Procher

    A brilliant essay. Thank you. Yes, it is my belief that the “respectable argument” suggested in the last paragraph is very true. Too many Catholics have not been properly catechized and evangelized in the last five decades, and they have entered the sacrament of matrimony with poorly-formed consciences. They may not have the mind of the Church when they profess their marital vows, and so when there is breakdown, there could be wide potential for valid annulments. This is a real issue. In response to this lack of Catholic formation, extensive pre-marital courses have been set up in dioceses during the last decade, but, sadly, many attendees are already deeply entrenched in the world, see no wrong in living together before marriage, and only jump through the hoops of these courses so they can satisfy a family desire to be married in the local parish.

    As Mr. Piatuk suggests, the solution is “a clear and unambiguous reaffirmation of the Church’s teaching on marriage.” This could come as proper formation coupled with a clear document which lists the teachings of the Church on matrimony, and the bride and groom would need to sign off on each teaching.

    Of course, the continuing problem is five decades of those poorly-formed Catholics who married in the Church with lack of intent, had marriage breakdown, and who may need proper annulments.

  • Strife

    What this all comes down to is simply this: People, in their modern self-serving “enlightenment” have convinced themselves that the only unforgivable sin is the sin of personal offense to their own precious feelings. They believe in a caricature of a tolerant and appeasing Christ that became Flesh and Dwelt among us only to preserve our self-inflated sense of worth and happiness. But this fallacy of the Son of Man – never existed. The Living Christ of the Gospels commanded dying to ourselves, picking up our crosses, and following Him. Any man that would try to save his life – will lose it. But any man who loses his life for Christ’s sake – will save it.

    There is do contradiction of dichotomy between the Letter of the Law and the Spirit of the Law. Both are dictates of God’s Merciful Love designed to save us from ourselves, to save us from our selfish desires and inflated sense of worth and reward. We are called to humble ourselves in obedience to The Law so that the Law can form us in humility to God’s will. But theses days, we would rather choose a Beautiful Easy Lie over the Hard Demanding Truth. Because we choose self always, first and foremost. We’ve become spoiled petulant children who only want what we want. Because we think that we know what’s best for us – even better than God knows. And what’s best for us must never cause any pain or suffering. Because our cross should really feel like a comfortable self-assuring cushion. Apparently Christ didn’t really mean what He Commanded:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:17-20

  • hombre111

    While I am skeptical when a celibate tries to tell the married about their sacrament, the best discussion comes from Fr. Don Gelpi, S.J., in the second volume of his “Committed Worship.” He notes that the canon lawyers in the 12th. century derived their interpretation of a valid marriage from two pagan sources: Roman civil law, which saw marriage as a contract and not a covenant, and Germanic tribal customs, which emphasized sexual consummation. Therefore, the expression taught in the seminaries: “Ratum et consumatum.” A marriage contract accompanied by sexual union becomes a sacrament that cannot be broken. This was accompanied by some kind of metaphysical reality that exists forever.

    Basing his chapters on considerable historical research, Gelpi notes that the first Christians regarded marriage as morally, but not metaphysically indestructible. While the first Christians treated those who had divorced and remarried as adulterers, they did not seem to deny that the first marriage was over and a second marriage had begun. Eventually, the adultery was treated in the sacrament of confession, and life went on. It was only when the medieval canyon lawyers conceived of marriage as creating some kind of metaphysical reality, that a marriage could be broken only by death.

    Gelpi sees some flaws. First, the woeful reduction of marriage to a contract. Vatican II called this canonical definition of a marriage as theologically inadequate; it redefined marriage as an interpersonal, covenant commitment. Second, the canonical definition of a marriage is pitifully inadequate. Ratum et consumatum. Something with awesome metaphysical weight automatic somehow happens when two baptized Christians who have made their contract to have sex, have sex. But that cannot be the full sacramental reality. Surely, marriage becomes a sacrament when the couple covenants to a Christlike love for each other, and accepts their call in the Spirit to blend their lives in the name of the Triune God. Third, Eph. 5:21-23 does not say that the union between Christ and his church creates an unbreakable union between husband and wife. It simply holds up the love uniting Christ and his Church as a moral ideal.

    Gelpi also counts a couple of logical fallacies. First, it argues a priori that indestructibility belongs to the very nature of marriage. But this was only a legal fiat. It qualifies only as a fallible hypothesis, not as the validated conclusion it claims to be. If we look at the concrete behavior of Christians, we see that, as mere humans, they have the moral ability to destroy their marriage. It happens all the time, and the Eastern churches were wise enough to acknowledge this. Secondly, the appeal to Eph. 5:21-23 tries to derive a factual conclusion from an ethical premise. But only an ethical conclusion can flow from an ethical premise. Christian spouses who fail to love each other as Christ loves the Church sin. But this does not mean the existence of some kind of metaphysical reality at the heart of a marriage. Marriage is rooted in a covenant. God’s covenant with us cannot be broken, but Christians manage to withdraw their commitment to Christ in faith. We are talking about moral freedom, not about some unbreachable metaphysical necessity.

    So, Cardinal Kasper endangers marriage as we have come to understand it? Good!

    • Leslie Fain

      That is not accurate. If you read what the early Church Fathers (and I mean St. Augustine and those prior to him), they state that you cannot remarry after divorce. In fact, I remember St. Augustine said the “innocent” party could not remarry, either. I am from a Protestant background, and had to research that because the church I came from allowed divorce due to adultery. According to what the early Church Fathers wrote, my old Protestant church, one of the more conservative ones with regard to teaching on divorce and re-marriage, was wrong.

      • Mahalo @Leslie Fain for the example of doing what others don’t when they should: research.
        What has worked for me is approaching this from God and his people and Christ and his Church, a mystical marriage.
        God remained faithful when we were not. He stuck with us (could have gone off to create other beings who could be faithful in our place). If the almighty did it (really costing him), well … I am reduced to silence.

      • Objectivetruth

        Excellent. Good research, Leslie.

      • hombre111

        Fathers E. Schilebeckx, O.P., and Theodore Mackin, S.J., both authors of massive research on divorce and marriage in the Church, would disagree. You might also read Eric Fuchs, a Protestant, in his “Sexual Desire and Love.”

      • ForChristAlone

        You must realize that hombre is still smarting at having been “forced” to be celibate in order to be a priest (leaving aside the fact that no one forces anyone to be a priest). As a result, he does all he possibly can to militate against Church teachings on marriage. It’s all part of his psyche. The man is smart and well-read, no doubt about it. Obedience to Church teaching, however, is not about being smart and well-read – just obedient.

    • JP

      From what I understand, the Church’s understanding of marriage didn’t come about in the 12th Century, but the 2nd – 4th Centuries. It was at this point that the split formed between the Eastern and Western Churches concerning marriage and divorce. And yes, the Western Churches took a more radical approach than those in the East concerning divorce and re-marriage. At some point, even widows in some areas were not granted the right to re-marry. For the first 3 centuries the way Church handled marriage evolved. By the end of the 4th Century, both the East and West cemented their own ideas concerning marriage and divorce.

      I think theologians would be mistaken not to take into account the social history of the Church. The decaying Roman Empire, was at its peak a very gay and bi-sexual friendly culture. This is especially true of the upper class and Patricians. Many areas of the Empire openly practiced homosexuality, bigamy, as well as house concubines. With many in the upper class living near Rome, sodomy was considered superior to intercourse. It was not at all unusual for male Patrician to bear children with his wife as well as with his slave women. Matricide and Infanticide were practiced through out the Empire and in many of its provinces. The Empire was a male dominated culture in more ways than one. And along its periphery, pagan cultures, while not homosexual were anything but magnanimous. It was from this human capital, this homosexual and bisexual culture that would grow the Church. A change in heart as transmitted by the Church and the Gospels launched a radical change in Roman Culture. At the heart of this change was a strict teaching on sexuality and the family. Not only was homosexuality stamped out, but a radical change was created between the spouses. Unfortunately, the Empire dissolved into chaos and the Church was forced to begin anew. A period of societal anarchy led to the rise of rival clans who lived off the rump of the Empire. It was the Christianizing of these rival Lords (Goths, Franks, Saxons, Lombards, etc…) that would cement the Church. But even Charlemagne himself wasn’t perfect. He brought with him a concubine.

      The Discipline of the Church in the past was severe. Most if not most Catholics look at the current discipline of divorce and remarriage outside of the Church as severe. Yet, it was this severity that led to rise of the Church and the West. The Church did a grave disservice to future Catholics and their families by radically departing from established Church disciplines. The protection of women and their children was one of the greatest acts of the Church during the Middle Ages. And this protection came about through its severe teachings on sexual morality.

      • hombre111

        The Church’s understanding of marriage in the 12th. century was quite different from her attitude toward marriage in the first centuries. There is a lot of research to prove this, as Gelpi did, above. The Western churches did not take a more radical approach. They took a more legalistic approach, based on pagan Roman Law, which changed the idea of covenant to that of legal contract.

    • Objectivetruth

      Leslie Fain is correct, hombre, see below from Augustine’s treatise on “Marriage and Concupiscence”:


      It is certainly not fecundity only, the fruit of which consists of offspring, nor chastity only, whose bond is fidelity, but also a certain sacramental bond in marriage which is recommended to believers in wedlock. Accordingly it is en-joined by the apostle: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church.” Of this bond the substance undoubtedly is this, that the man and the woman who are joined together in matrimony should remain inseparable as long as they live; and that it should be unlawful for one consort to be parted from the other, except for the cause of fornication. For this is preserved in the case of Christ and the Church; so that, as a living one with a living one, there is no divorce, no separation for ever. And so complete is the observance of this bond in the city of our God, in His holy mountain – that is to say, in the Church of Christ – by all married believers, who are undoubtedly members of Christ, that, although women marry, and men take wives, for the purpose of procreating children, it is never permitted one to put away even an unfruitful wife for the sake of having another to bear children. And whosoever does this is held to be guilty of adultery by the law of the gospel”

      • hombre111

        Gelpi made reference to that mysterious something that Augustine was talking about. What was it? The medieval canonists settled on this notion of a metaphysical reality that is somehow created when the husband and wife fulfill their contract and have sex. With all due respect to Augustine, he did not exactly have an inspired view of marriage. Or, for that matter, for the woman with whom he had sex and who bore him a son.

        • Objectivetruth

          C’mon hombre…..don’t take potshots at a saint and Doctor of the Church. Just have the humility to admit you’re wrong.

      • Guest

        You should only quote lefty dissenters that use antiquarianism and revisionist history as their metric. That way you can conclude the Church is wrong on pretty everything. Get it?

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  • hombre111

    As usual, I form my conclusions on the basis of pastoral experience. Picture this: John and Joan marry in the Church. After some time, John begins to beat Joan. Finally, her very life in danger, she files for divorce. She meets Jim, who treats her lovingly. They marry outside the Church. He continues to treat her with love and respect. They truly do become one in spirit. Finally she comes to the priest. The priest asks her about her first marriage. Was there a contract? Did they consummate the marriage? He tells her that her brutal first marriage was a sacrament symbolizing the unbreakable bond between God and his Church. Because it was such a symbol, it cannot be broken without a process that proves they were never really sacramentally married in the first place. Her second, loving marriage is a state of sin. The annulment process lasting at least a year could resolve the situation, so she can marry in the Church. I listen from the doorway, and say, huh?
    Or picture this. Jean meets Larry, who is a baptized Protestant. They fall in love and want to marry. Larry has attended RCIA, and wants to become a Catholic. But Larry was married before, by a judge, to another baptized Protestant. Jean and Larry go to the priest. He informs them that Larry and his first wife are still in a sacramental marriage, because they were baptized. Larry was a lukewarm Protestant, at best, and his wife was about the same. They never heard of the word sacrament. As Protestants, they even reject the idea. But they are still bound by a mysterious metaphysical bond. Only an annulment can set Jim free, if he is willing to go through a difficult process guaranteed to last at least a year. I listen from the doorway, and say, whew.

    • publiusnj

      Let’s instead make up a different hypothetical where the sympathies are on the side of the person who intends to honor his commitments! Say two people get married and both later become attracted to other people. One of the two decides that he is not going to succumb to the attraction because marriages are for life, and a promise is a promise. The other decides she will succumb because she’s heard some priest or deacon will give her permission to remarry and not worry about what Christ had to say about Remarriage after Divorce. Should her decision to dishonor both her husband and the marriage vow be allowed to trump her husband’s Christian decision to obey Christ? “I listen from the doorway and say “whew” or was it “huh?””

      Anyone can make up any story they want. The fact is that a marriage is a marriage. Sure: can a bunch of politicians make up rules where they absolve people of their obligations? Of course, politicians do whatever they want when it suits their electoral plans. Priests/deacons are not supposed to become politicians, though.

      • hombre111

        The way you tell the story, they couldn’t get an annulment, because they started out with sincere intentions. But, suppose Jane divorces Joe and remarries and Joe is left holding the bag. He goes to the priest. They file the marriage case. The case is decided against him. Joe can’t marry in the Church. But he falls in love and marries before the judge and the two are faithful to each other for forty years. They have a magnificent family that attends church on a regular basis. In all that time, he can’t go to Communion. He is living in a state of sin.

        • publiusnj

          As I said, anyone can make up any story they want. And hombre makes up one after another. Hypothetical persiflage “signifying nothing.”

          • ForChristAlone

            It’s called the “Church of Fr. Hombre111” or “Make It Up As You Go” Church. Soon the Church will be rid of the 60’s crowd.

    • JERD2

      “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” – Jesus the Christ.

      “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams

      Anyone can dream up any story they want, but Jesus said what he said. It is a fact.

      The solution to the problem of abusive relationships in some marriages is not for the church to weaken all marriages by inventing Catholic divorce. The solution is to strengthen all marriages. If divorce is inevitable, cannot the former spouse live a holy and meaningful life as a single person?

      • Bob

        A lot of times the core of abusive relationships is drug or alcohol abuse. Take that element out, many times the abuse ends. Then there’s the grace of forgiveness, with some marriages coming out stronger than before.

  • Thom

    This sounds eerily like Vatican 2. Even if Pope Francis and the cardinals devise a theologically sound, respectful, holy process by which divorced and remarried Catholics can be received in church and have their marriages recognized, is there any doubt that there will be widespread abuses and misinterpretations? That the divide between traditional and progressive Catholics regarding marriage will become a gulf?

    If the cArdinal’s proposal is enacted people will look back at 2014 as the year Catholic marriage died in the west, like 1965 is the year Catholic mass attendance died in the west.

    On a positive note pope Francis will probably become canonized!

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  • Rosemary58

    This is all true; however, there is the big elephant in the room called “longevity”. In the old days, referred to in this article, marriages may have been durable but they were also comparatively short, as were lifespans.

    Today, an average person may live the equivalent of two or three lifetimes. When life was short, it was precious; now, it’s almost taken for granted in developed and even partly-developed economies that a long life means personal fulfillment is the goal, not merely surviving.

    I don’t have an answer but this “elephant” needs to be addressed because it affects the durability of marriage.

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  • BillinJax

    Just thinking….The sin of adultery is alluded to or mentioned in so many of the comments here and I was just wondering, is it as forgivable as say… murder? Easy now, we have fields of dead soldiers all over the world who were murdered. Thank God, our Lord will be THE final judge of every soul and our “opinions” will have little to do with His decisions or effect the depth of His mercy.

    • Interested

      What is your point?

  • OmegaPaladin

    As a protestant, it’s somewhat amusing to consider people who want to force the Catholic Church to follow protestant practices of divorce. If you disagree with the Catholic position, it’s not like there are not numerous other churches that acknowledge Jesus as Lord where divorce is not a concern.

    • mollysdad

      Other churches there may be, but if they differ from the Catholic Church in what concerns the bond of marriage, they deviate from biblical truth.

  • Parishioner

    Lord, deliver us your servants from wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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  • Rene

    Excellent article. The Catholic Church cannot change its teachings on marriage and the requirement that one be in the state of grace to receive the Eucharist, otherwise it would cease to be the Church that Christ founded. As the article makes clear, these teachings and requirements are found in the New Testament.

  • Joseph

    We see all around us emotionalism triumphing over intellectualism. In matrimony, the couple does not promise always to have feelings of love for each other. They promise to be husband and wife to each other–an intellectual commitment. Feeling sorry for someone in a difficult situation is charitable. Changing the definition of matrimony is not. “I will be your spouse as long as we love each other (i.e. feelings of love)” puts a condition upon the marital relationship that negates fidelity. God loves us unconditionally. He asks us in our various legitimate love relationships to be appropriate and faithful.
    Modern society says, “If it feels good, it’s OK.” God says, “Be faithful.” Answer for yourself which brings fulfillment, integrity, and joy.

  • netandyawho

    Cardinal Kasper appears to be a cafeteria Catholic. The pick and chose kind. He needs to study the 10 Commandments and the Gospels.
    He also needs to retire and repent of his scandal.

  • Alejandro Mayer

    I think Cardinal Kasper is playing with fire. He should not pressure the church with the pagan world initiatives or at least uninformed Catholics, of which I doubt if they much value the sacrament of the Eucharist. On the other hand, confused and runs a ridiculous situation practicing Catholics

  • Jdonnell

    To argue that to change the view about divorced Catholics and the reception of the Eucharist would be to betray all those who have abided by the old view fails as an argument. One might as well argue that to change one’s mind about the invasion of Iraq and decide that it was a wrong thing to support would be to betray all those who fought in it. But, if the war was based on thinking that was too narrow (e.g. Saddam Hussein was a butcher), then a change of view is in order. The consequences, while not the sole determinant of a principle, also need to be taken into consideration. Those who suffered in “brother and sister” remarriage offer an example of consequences; it’s a nutty and harmful sort of relationship for a married couple, pace the Maritains.

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  • Sandra Belek

    Hello I’m Belek Sandra if
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    him, i saw Dr. Oraede website and I visited it, I saw different types of things
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    his email, he advised me on what to do, which i did, I did all because of my
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  • Louise

    “A respectable argument can be made that the corrupting influence of the modern world has so degraded the popular understanding of marriage that there are more marriages that may properly be annulled today than in the past.” — not actually that respectable. Just more nonsense from American Catholics. Apart from that, the article was good.

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