…But Should They Live Together?

The two upcoming synods of bishops on “The Pastoral Care of the Family in the Context of the New Evangelization” needs to discuss many serious topics other than communion for the divorced and remarried.  I hope they revisit the standard recommendation that couples in invalid second “marriages” should “live as brother and sister.”

This is bad advice.  Remarriage is too great a catastrophe for so simplistic a solution.

A brother and sister have not come together because of romantic attraction, and they don’t have a history of having sex together.  Or rather, if they did have a history of having sex together, I hope no one would recommend that they continue to live together without supervision.

The pastoral tradition of the Church has, in fact, dealt with an analog to this question over many centuries.  Especially in rural places, priests have often, since the early Middle Ages, proposed having a live-in housekeeper, just for practicalities.  The bishops have always condemned this practice.  Why?  Because unless they really are brother and sister, there is nothing “practical” about an unmarried man and woman living together.

Indeed, it is one of the many ways we are fearfully and wonderfully made that when a man and woman live together as if husband and wife, their emotions almost automatically spring up to support that relationship, first with romantic attraction, then with sexual attraction.  Spending inordinate amounts of time in intimate situations with someone who is not your spouse is a guaranteed way to move in a spousal direction.  If you cannot marry them, it is a guaranteed way to get yourselves in big trouble.  This, in fact, is precisely how most adultery begins.

Although it may be true that a man and a woman theoretically could live under the same roof “as brother and sister,” healthy human nature, because it is ordered toward marriage, makes this a really impractical idea.

But if we consider more deeply the practical aspects of this arrangement, we may find that it’s even more problematic than it first appears.

Couples without children are not the difficult issue.  The proposal is that man and woman need to stay together, even though they are not married, for the good of their children.

But why is it good for children to have their parents stay together?  Yes, it’s true that it’s good to have a male and a female role model.  But they only can serve those role-model roles when they can express their masculinity and femininity in a healthy marital relationship.  Sexual dysfunction is not good for kids.  Neither is inordinate sexual tension.  What would it feel like to grow up in a home where your parents had to constantly, for decades, fight against their affection for one another?  Just as in a real marriage sexual affection helps parents be good role models, so in a false marriage thwarted attraction prevents it.

A second reason marriage is important for children is because the non-sexual personal intimacy between the parents helps them to work together and think together about their children’s upbringing.  But where there is not a healthy friendship, this cannot happen.  They cannot work together as parents.  They might even work together better at a distance.

A third reason, indeed, is the modeling of friendship itself.  Children learn to be adults by seeing how healthy adults interact.  Marriage needs to be the greatest friendship—“wing to wing, oar to oar,” as Robert Frost put it—because children need to witness what real friendship looks like.  Sexual intimacy can serve to support such friendships—what other two friends could survive so much time together, without a little help from their hormones?  But so too, when hormones work against the relationship, the children suffer.

A fourth reason marriage is good for children is because of its witness of fidelity and permanence.  This is the great tragedy of the situations we are considering.  Parents must be faithful to their children, and so in some way they must be faithful to the other parent of the children.  But the deeper tragedy of the marriage is that, by definition, it can never be a relationship of fidelity and permanence, because it is built on infidelity to the permanence of the first marriage.

Painful though it be, horribly painful, the children learn more about the fidelity of their parents’ love by seeing them stay faithful to their true marriage than by seeing them stay faithful only to the pragmatic arrangement of a second pseudo-marriage.  One signifies staying true to family no matter what.  The other signifies doing whatever works at the time.  This is not a good way to raise children.  Indeed, that is why marriage is important in the first place: because children need better than pragmatic arrangements.  They need fidelity.

Sex does not define marriage.  There are marriages without sex and plenty of sex without marriage.  Marriage creates the context for sex only because marriage itself is something else.  Thus, telling a couple not to have sex does not get to the heart of the problem.  The heart of the problem is that they aren’t married.  No amount of make-believe can fix the problems of children whose parents are not married.

A Real Solution for Children of Second “Marriages”
A real solution to the pastoral care of the children of second “marriages” must begin and end with the recognition that this is a calamity.  Band-aids will not fix it.  Millions of children in the modern world are being raised by parents who have not pledged themselves to be faithful to the life-long friendship that children so desperately need.

The advice to “live as brother and sister” comes dangerously close to washing our hands of this problem.  It is not a pastoral response.

A pastoral response might be built on the analogy of extended family.  Both research and the personal experience of countless children of unwed parents shows that the key to health for children of unwed parents is the fidelity of the broader family, especially grandparents.  Through their extended family, children can still witness healthy gender relationships, healthy life-long friendships, and true fidelity.

Perhaps the Church needs to think seriously—much more seriously than heretofore—about how we can provide that extended family where it is lacking.  Divorce is enough of a disaster for our civilization that we need a massive pastoral response from the Church.

Perhaps it could take the form of godparents: Christian families making life-long commitments to help these children and their parents navigate the devastation our culture of marital infidelity has brought on them.

Perhaps it could take the form of new religious orders, and new commitment from old religious orders, to reach out to people in these situations.

Perhaps it could take the form of serious parish-level commitments, to welcome the broken family into a bigger community of families.

Perhaps it could take the form of diocesan commitments to support group living arrangements.

In any case, no solution can be found until we recognize the severity of the problem.  For these children, the problem is not that their parents are having sex.  The problem is that they aren’t married.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “Henry VIII’s First Interview with Anne Boleyn” painted by Daniel Maclise in 1835.

Eric Johnston


Eric Johnston is a father of five who teaches theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University. His principal work is on Thomas Aquinas's theology of marriage, as well as related topics in social thought and the theology of nature and grace. He blogs on spiritual theology at professorjohnston.com.

  • Great insight @Eric Johnston!

    I think of Our LORD and ‘… if you right hand should cause you to sin …’

    cf. CCC 2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law.” [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.” The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.

    • Sophia Bakker

      What about marital relations arranged between those whose desire and calling was only spiritual union in marriage to begin with? Think of The Holy Family. They were not the only couple who answered this calling faithfully. Could these invalidly married couples be also called to such a lofty vocation? There is in this Holy Family a perfect example. St. Joseph was only human and dare I say had feelings for the Blessed Mother, but put her and Jesus first in his life. Love means putting all needs of those you love first. One would never act on a temptation that harmed your beloved. In the end I trust our Holy Father. If half of Catholic marriages are by the Churches decision found invalid I will align myself and reach out to help all of those couples to aid them in gaining validity in their second civil marriage. If those couples are called to something harder, I will help them in that. I think we need to reach out in love to couples struggling in a second marriage, yet trust the Churches decision. What is bound by Her is bound in heaven.

      • Aloha @Sophia Bakker, if that be one’s calling from God, then by God’s grace let them live it!
        What profiteth them that they live ‘happy’ for 10/20/30/50 … years in a second ‘marriage’ contrary to God’s law should they in the end be forever lost (not counting the lasting carnage they wrought on the members of the first and valid marriage)?

        • Sophia Bakker

          I think we can see why this has been declared the time of Divine Mercy….there is so much wreckage from all of our sin in this age. I

          • Shannon Marie Federoff

            At the VERY least, it is a call for us to strengthen marriage preparation in the Church so more of this nonsense can be avoided.

            We may not have good answers for those already in such a situation (and I am VERY uncomfortable telling a mother or father to leave their children… just as I am saddened that someone would call those children “bastards”) but what can we do to help couples understand what a Catholic marriage is THE FIRST TIME they go to the altar?

            • Sophia Bakker

              I so agree! I feel that there are two sides to a coin, those in the invalid marriages and how to help them and how to address forming those who are about to marry. All of us who ponder and debate this should be praying for the Holy Spirit to guide the Bishops and the Holy Father. That is where we should put our energy. Personally, I think this is all rooted in a society that has accepted contraception. How many people take communion who do this and reject God’s creative role in the family….when we leave God out of our marriage by doing this, we abandon the grace He provides to form and give us strength to create our domestic church in His image. I really think it is that simple. Let’s hear that from the pulpit and in our discourse. It was all predicted by great topologists how this basic deadly sin would crumble society…beginning with rejecting God from marital union.

              • Sophia Bakker

                whoops! I meant theologists

              • Shannon Marie Federoff

                Contraception. Its the root of all of this. But with over 90% of Catholics not accepting the Church’s teaching on this, how do we reach them? The siren song of secularism is strong, and Catholics think they can compromise (be cafeteria Catholics) and still love God and their spouse. (sigh) no easy answers here.

              • “All of us who ponder and debate this should be praying for the Holy Spirit to guide the Bishops and the Holy Father”
                Guide them to what? To Cardinal Kasper’s proposal?

                • Sophia Bakker

                  Do you not see the Holy Father as infallible on such official decisions? You and I are not leading the Church….just having healthy dialogue. Let us not fall out of obedience thinking we are wiser than those chosen by God to lead the Church

                  • Please let me pose it this way to you: is Cardinal Kasper’s proposal acceptable to you personally, and in your opinion, is it in line with Jesus’ words and the Church’s tradition (e.g. the utterances of other Popes whom you must also consider, in accordance with your statement, ‘infallible on such official decisions’)?

          • Till ‘Dies Irae’ and our own departure from this valley of tears, it is always a time of Mercy …
            The ‘mercy’ proposed by Card. Kasper and the like is opposed to God, the LORD, and His Church, who are always ready to forgive and welcome the repentant sinner till the last moment of his/her life.

      • guest

        It will always be difficult to impossible to convince couples in second marriages that their second marriage is invalid. Since there is usually an ender and an endee of a marriage, the endee, who did not want the divorce in the first place, has a good counter argument and feels he/she is a victim of circumstances beyond his/her control. Therefore, communion should be permitted, such a person might say. I think the matter should be left up to the individual in his /her relationship with God. Also, I agree that telling them to live as brother and sister is bad advice because sexual intimacy is an important part of the reason they decided to remarry, thus making the second marriage valid in their eyes.

        • Stephanie

          The divorce was not their fault, but nobody forced them to remarry so that part is not beyond their control. Logic fail.

  • elbo43

    I think the couple themselves have to decide what to do, they are the ones who have to live the situation and they are the ones God has given the children to. The children are the couple’s responsibility. Anything else is interference, even if well-meaning. The Church proposes it doesn’t impose. And there are circumstances about a first marriage that only the people involved know. Sometimes it isn’t possible to prove evidence of a former invalid marriage, for various reasons. I like Pope John Paul’s counsel to couples in this situation in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. It is the most compassionate and practical.

    • Interested

      But, it is not simply a subjective matter but an objective matter as well.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        That does not remove the distinction between fact and proof. Thus we read in the Roman law “non ius deficit, sed probation ( D. 26.2.30) – Not the right, but the proof is lacking.

        Now,, proof is always subjective, for it is the effect of evidence on the mind of the judge

        • Interested

          How is that relevant? People cannot make themselves a court above the Church.

      • elbo43

        If you follow the counsel of Pope John Paul then I don’t think that is a subjective thing. There are people who according to Church teaching have invalid first marriages, but the proof is lacking for one reason or another. Fortunately today’s tribunals are more understanding of that. Sometimes too in the past the interviewing was not done well. A lot depended on the individual interviewer that you got at the Tribunal. Some were not too friendly and didn’t make any effort to get to the truth. Not my experience but that of a relative. I know that tribunals are criticized today for being too lenient, but for many people it’s still a stressful experience. What I object to is people making judgments about others without having the facts, and in my experience that has happened frequently in the past.

        • Interested

          JP II did not endorse the internal forum as a way to get around the objective nature of the problem.

          The internal forum cannot contradict the external forum. Recourse to the internal forum means abstaining from sex if one is not married.

          • elbo43

            I never said he did, but he leaves the decision as to what to do up to the person. He says that if a couple decide to stay together for the rearing of the children, yes they cannot receive communion, but he doesn’t leave them without any hope. Read section 84 of his Apostolic Exhortation of the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. In part: “Pastors must know that for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that a previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.” He goes on to say that as validly baptized Catholics they must continue to share in the Church’s life: “Listen to the Word of God, attend Mass, persevere in prayer, contribute to works of charity, and community efforts in favor of justice, bring up their children in the Christian faith, cultivate the spirit and practice of penance, and implore day by day God’s grace…..” ….”With firm confidence she (the Church) believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.” In other words he treats people as adults responsible for their own decisions, and doesn’t write them off from God’s grace. This Apostolic Exhortation was written after a Synod on the Family in 1980, which he says was in continuity with previous Synods. I imagine the Synod this fall will refer to this Exhortation of Pope John Paul and build on that, not go against it.

    • Stephanie

      We need to teach people that they should not even start dating until the annulment is granted. A lot of problems could be avoided simply by following this teaching.

      • elbo43

        Or better yet prepare people better for marriage, then divorce and annulments wouldn’t happen so often.

  • Vinny

    “I hope they revisit the standard recommendation that couples in invalid second “marriages” should “live as brother and sister.”

    What happened to avoiding the near (or very, very near) occasion of sin?

  • Flannery64

    I’m afraid this is just an example of the kind of high-sounding moral oblivion that merely compounds the problem. No one claims abstinence in the home is some ideal solution for remarried Catholics. Unfortunately, it just happens to be the best anyone can come up with in certain situations. The author might be surprised to find just how relatively “normal“ such a lifestyle has become among some Catholic parents struggling to live by the moral demands of their Church.

    • CRS

      Have you tried living in such a way? It is torture. Take it from me: it is as if we are in perpetual Limbo, a hell of sorts, as we either have to walk a fine line or choose between the “marriage” or the Church and the Sacraments. It is no picnic, and I wish there was a much better solution. If this is the “best” anyone can come up with, then we have a real problem on our hands. The saddest part? We walked right into this ourselves!

      • slainte

        Perhaps consider applying for an annulment to determine whether your first marriage was valid.

        • CRS

          It’s my husband’s first marriage and he did send the application but it took a couple of years before he got around to it precisely because he can’t stand the “brother/sister” situation for the reasons chief in the article. Don’t ask.

          • slainte

            Good luck to you both. He is doing the right thing; and so are you by living the Faith.

    • CRS

      In case it wasn’t obvious, it isn’t “normal,” even though it may be common. It’s a bad path to walk. I do not recommend it to anyone. Don’t do it!

    • tj.nelson

      “I’m afraid this is just an example of the kind of high-sounding moral oblivion that merely compounds the problem.”

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • Eric Johnston

      So sorry to hear I came across that way.

      One of my central points is that we need to help these people. It seems to me “moral oblivion” to lay heavy burdens on people and then do nothing to help. That’s what the last section of my article is about.

  • “Indeed, it is one of the many ways we are fearfully and wonderfully made that when a man and woman live together as if husband and wife, their emotions almost automatically spring up to support that relationship, first with romantic attraction, then with sexual attraction.”

    It occurs to me that far too often in modern America, the order of that is reversed, and the romance comes after the sexual attraction.

  • Pamela

    During a discussion about the synod on the family questionnaire, our pastor used the “living like brother and sister” approach to sanction openly homosexual partnerships in our parish, i.e., we mustn’t assume they are sinning because “they could be living as brothers or sisters.”

    • Interested

      Yes, well living as brother and sister would mean not portraying themselves as a “couple”. Regardless of their sexual behavior the appearance may be scandalous and cause concern.

      If we all become intentionally numb to obvious behavior I cannot see that as Christ-like but a form of learned ignorance that is hardly holy.

      • Pamela

        Amen to that. But it’s no longer “if” we become intentionally numb … most of us already have, based on my observations.

    • Stephanie

      Homosexuals are an interesting case. Because there is nothing wrong with two unrelated men (friends) living together in itself. It is not a cause of scandal for most people. The problem is the romantic/sexual part of the relationship.

  • robert chacon

    The whole mess of divorce and remarriage comes about by those who fail to take the faith seriously at that important time in their lives. Those who have no concern one way or the other are not really going to be impacted by whatever the Synod decides. However those who perhaps fell away from the faith when they divorced and remarried but now want to participate in the life of the Church should be treated with great love and concern, while maintaining the integrity of what Christ taught. But it simply points with the need to remain faithful at all times, to keep Christ in the center of our lives constantly. There are painful consequences of our sinfulness! I admire and love those struggling to live out holy lives given their current painful situation. Nevertheless, there are consequences of sin we must live with even after repentance and absolution. The issue of divorce is just one such reminder of that. It is an opportunity to remember to always run the race, and never stop until we are called home and God calls us His good and faithful servant!

    • Eric Johnston


      My concern is with people who want to convert to Catholicism but face this horrible problem. I know a few of them: invalid second marriages with children. What do we tell them?

      I fear we are giving them really impractical advice. And advice that doesn’t really make sense: we say (as the Gospel compels us to say) that your marriage is invalid — but we expect you to act like you’re married, but not have sex.

      I think we need to tell them that we will help them raise their children.

      • CadaveraVeroInnumero

        The greater culture does not support any of this. The proposal that culture would consider an insult and a judgment. It is a lot to ask of parents and families to be that slap in the face and that judgment against the world.

        Yet, in the end, that is exactly what the Christian life is. But can the present state of the Church support such heroic living? It seems, the Church “culture” is not *large* enough to substitute for general culture’s refusal to do so. That is, unless the Church culture becomes truly counter-cultural (separatist). That, the bishops will never allow. From the current controversies, that is not what the upcoming Synod on the Family is about.

        As with the “New Homophile” debate on these pages I anticipate little change; that is, true conversion.

        The Catholic culture – as it is today – is so enthralled with the concept of *mercy* that it expects that to be the controlling (determining) factor in this discussion. *Mercy* – as it has been communicated to that Catholic who gets constantly pulled by the media – will not countenance any decision but its (tyrannical) application.

        To the average Catholic, *mercy* must be slathered like thick rancid butter on its ethical toast. That is his anticipation of the Synod. It is certainly the hope of the “New Homophile” Catholics – even though they know that their issue will not be the Synod’s focus. It is the sure application (buttering) of *mercy* that is expected,

        The dark cloud of “who am I to judge” thunders on.

        • Stephanie

          It is not “merciful” to tell people things that will ultimately lead their souls to hell. Condoning sin will make people think it’s not a sin and place their souls in grave danger.

      • slainte

        “…What do we tell them?…”
        We tell them the Truth mercifully. It is God’s unchangeable law, not ours.

        • James

          God’s unchanging law is the words of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage. (Matthew 19)(1 Corinthians 7:8-16)

          But there are exceptions in scripture:

          1. Unless the marriage was unlawful/invalid (Matthew 19:9)
          2. If a believer was married to an unbeliever and the unbeliever leaves, then the believer is free to remarry. (1 Corinthians 7:15)

          Annulment tribunals, Canon Law, etc. are how the Church determines whether these exceptions apply. The annulment process is not “God’s unchangeable law”, but a very changeable Church procedure. Many of these first marriages are not valid at all or involved a true “unbeliever”, but the Church process to determine this is slow, awkward, and bureaucratic. This is where reform is needed.

      • James

        If the first marriage was not to a baptized Christian, then the Pauline Privilege applies (see 1 Corinthians 7) and the marriage can be dissolved. Scripture understands the folly and futility of trying to bind a believer to a non-believer who leaves them.

        The problem is that often these marriages involve “nominal Christians” who have baptism, but not belief. Or it may involve non-Catholic Christians who may have very different ideas about the permanence and nature of marriage.

        The solution, IMHO, is to expand the Pauline Privilege to cover these cases.

      • robert chacon

        I guess my immediate response is that if there is true conversion, they will find a way with Gods help to live out a true Christian life and not simply follow the example of the culture. The Church doesnt tell them they should continue to live together and not have sex. That is just a possible option although not a very good one. The temptation is just too great, and I agree not very practical. However, there is a need to continue to have a presence together for younger children. But if its Gods will, he make the impractical possible. I am just tired of always bowing to the culture for the most “practical”. “Practical” is destroying the Christian civilization! We accept practical instead of expecting the heroic! Yes, we should help those divorced and “remarried” raise their children. But, their children still need involved, present, loving parents. The broader Church family cannot fill those shoes. What about thinking about the children first. How about keeping the home for the children and making the parents go sleep somewhere else each night after the kids are baths are done and the reading time is over? How about the parents go to bed at their parents, or siblings, or friends house? We could help, as you suggest, by providing an extra room for them and expecting them to sleep at our house each night. How many Catholics would keep our brothers and sisters accountable in this manner or something similar. I think this is how we can help also. Im not suggesting this is the answer, but there are as many solutions as there are divorces. Its time we start looking for them and expecting the heroic instead of the “practical”.

    • Stephanie

      Well, like everyone else they have a choice: follow God’s law or their own desires. The souls in hell actually prefer it there, as they cannot bear the beatific vision so hell is actually less painful for them than heaven would be.

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  • Eric Johnston

    Put it this way. In the other, otherwise excellent article on this topic today on Crisis, Jared Staub says, “abstinence from intercourse, because the couple is not validly married. The spouses are indeed called to heroism, because they are called to be saints! ”

    Wait a minute. Did you catch that? “the couple is not validly married. The spouses . . . .” No. The problem my article tries to point out is that they are not spouses. I feel this problem acutely; I see why they want to stay together. The problem is, they aren’t married. It’s not that they just shouldn’t have sex. They aren’t married. It doesn’t help to pretend that they are.

    • tj.nelson

      The Church recognizes civil marriage – otherwise the children would be bastards. The Church acknowledges that the couple is in a civil marriage but not a sacramental marriage.

      • Nicholas Escalona

        Anyone baptized cannot contract a non-sacramental marriage at all, much less one that somehow coexists with a sacramental marriage. Children born of such spurious unions are bastards.

        • tj.nelson


        • slainte

          Children are the innocent victims of their parents’ wrongful acts; they should not be blamed or stigmatized. They are God’s blessings.

          • Nicholas Escalona

            What does that have to do with my comment?

            • slainte

              Children are not bastards…ever.

              • Nicholas Escalona

                If they’re born out of wedlock, of course they are. That’s the (rough) definition of illegitimacy. What do you think canons 1137-1140 are talking about?

            • entonces_99

              As one who am myself the child of an invalid marriage between a cradle Catholic and a divorcee, let me point out that the word “bastard” need not be one that blames or stigmatizes anyone. Basically, it is simply the word for a person born out of wedlock. Yes, people have used it as an insult, and, through the euphemistic treadmill, we substitute other words, but there is nothing inherently insulting about the word “bastard” itself. (Full disclosure: I am not the biological child of the couple I know as my parents, but was adopted. Considering the circumstances under which most people are put up for adoption, it’s a good bet that I am biologically a bastard. But, interestingly enough, I am not one in the eyes of the Church, because Canons 110 and 1137 create the legal fiction that I am legitimate. (No, that doesn’t make me legitimate in fact, any more than the dog in Abraham Lincoln’s hypothetical has five legs if Congress passes a law defining “leg” to include tails.))

      • slainte

        You resist the demands of Truth in favor of a permissive and subjective cultural ethos…and such is the sin of Pride.

  • JP

    I wonder in a few years some future Cardinal will advocate communion for couples living together but not married? These couples will ask if adulterers can receive communion why can’t we?

    • Stephanie

      At least the unmarried can easily solve their problem by simply getting married. Adulterers/remarried cannot do this because they already have a spouse.

  • BrianKillian

    Are you really arguing that children born from divorced and remarried couples are better off if their parents split up?

    • slainte

      Are you using children to justify bigamy and polygamy?

    • Stephanie

      The divorced and remarried are living in an adulterous state. A man has impregnated his mistress and now lives with her and their children. No, it’s not good for kids to grow up in that environment.

  • Donna

    I am living as a sister with my husband of 30 years and we choose to so that we can receive the greatest gift God has given us the Eucharist! If you think it can’t be done your wrong.

    • God bless you, your husband, and your family for your wonderful testimony!

    • mitch64

      Good for you, but no offense but don’t most people married for 30+ years live that way? Its not hard the older we get. Not so easy in your 20s, 30s and 40s.

      • Stephanie

        Sex drive doesn’t necessarily decline with age. That is a myth and if you ask anyone who’s been around elderly married couples in senior homes they will tell you that.

    • Stephanie

      It can be done but it’s a near occasion of sin. I’ve heard of homosexual men living together as brothers, as a support system to help each other because they’re going through the same thing, but it is still a temptation. The flesh is weak so it’s not advisable. Our Lady said at Fatima that more souls go to hell over sins of the flesh than any other sin. I would not advise being around temptation. It’s not worth going to hell just because two people didn’t feel like moving into separate homes. Just a word of caution.

  • just sayin’

    My guess is that children of such parents (parents who are happily civilly married, living together in love and happily raising their children) who decide to split up their happy family for the sake of religion are not likely to embrace that religion.
    Talk about cognitive dissonance! “We split up and ruined your close-knit, happy family life out of love of God” is not likely to inspire a whole lot of love of that same God in the children.
    There are no easy answers, and the Church knows it. The children do matter, though, and splitting up happy families for the sake of a religion runs a high risk of turning children born of those happy unions permanently away from Catholicisim.

    • JP

      It’s not for the sake of “religion”. But, it is for the sake of your soul. And you’re not turning away from Catholicism, but from God.

      • just sayin’

        I find the thought of caring more about my own soul than those of my children rather abhorrent, quite frankly. I am with Brian Killian, extremely grateful that the church herself does not suggest that breaking up happy families with young children is a requirement but instead offers living together as brother and sister as a viable option that cares for everyone involved (including their souls–turning children away from Catholicism by breaking up happy families to follow a rule is not required).

        • Stephanie

          How would it be bad for the souls of the children for the unmarried parents not to live together? Sometimes it is better for parents to separate: if they’re not really married, if one parent is abusive or has an addiction problem, etc. How is it a good example for the kids for the parents to live together outside of marriage? It isn’t…

    • Stephanie

      It’s not a “happy family” because there is no family. There is no marriage. Just a man, his mistress, and their child(ren). That is the point of this article…

      Our Lady at Fatima said that more souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than any other sin. It is not advisable to encourage couples to continue pretending to be married or to have them live as brother and sister in a near occasion of sin.

  • BrianKillian

    I can’t believe the premise of this article.

    It’s the hallmark of rigorism to ask people to do things beyond what the Church asks of them. The Church asks these couples to live as brother and sister and not to separate because the Church recognizes that there is a debt of justice to their natural born children. And it would be a sin against those children to separate.

    The scourge of divorce is a terrible thing, so let’s subject more children to it because “they’re not really married”?

    The awful conclusions of this article come from prioritizing a couples’ technical marital status over their status as natural parents. Yes, couples who aren’t married shouldn’t live together, but parents of children *should* live together. And most of what the author claims is a benefit of marriage is actually just as much a benefit of the natural relationship of child and parent.

    The reality is that divorced and remarried couples have real conjugal relationships and have real families, and they are real parents, despite the irregular marital situation.

    And they creates a real sticky situation, because they now have real obligations to each other and to their children.

    Thank God that the Church in her wisdom understands just how complicated it is and doesn’t go too far in its demands for people in these situations. Because the Pharisees and the rigorists among us only like things to be black and white.

    • Stephanie

      No, they should not live together. Just because the secular law allows people to have as many spouses as they want through divorce and remarriage doesn’t make those “marriages” valid.

      What has happened is a man has knocked up his mistress and lives with her and their children. His real wife/her real husband lives elsewhere.

      Yes, the do have obligations to their children. Of course they do. But they are not obligated to each other because they’re not married.

      If you really think that any two people who have children together should live together, then we’re going to get some strange situations. Arnold Schwarzenegger, his wife, his mistress, and all of their kids (his wife’s legitimate children and his mistress’s illegitimate son) would all be bound to live together under the same roof according to this logic.

      • James

        So what if the “real wife” isn’t Catholic, moved on, remarried, and has children with someone else herself? What if they had no children together? What purpose would living apart serve?

        Often these first marriages ARE invalid, and the only obstacle is getting the Church to determine this. Church bureaucracy is the problem, not the words of Christ. Thus the need for reform.

        You seem to think God is arbitrary and legalistic. But, fortunately, the Church does not.

  • adevar@hotmail.com

    A young boy asked me why his parents do not sleep in the same bed, nor take shower together ? Telling him that this is what the priest imposed on them, made the child cry. He said that he will never marry. The boy was 8 year old….. Then the boy took the courage to ask the priest why his parents do not love each other.
    The priest avoided the answer.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      If this story is make-believe (as I think it is) it is a pretty silly effort. If by some remote chance it is true, you are having inappropriate conversations with 8-year-old boys. Either way, please stop.

    • Stephanie

      The priest did not “impose” this on them. They did this to themselves by entering into an invalid marriage. I feel sorry for their son.

  • Thomas

    What is good for the parents, must also be good for their child. If living together is a sin, it can’t be good for their child.

  • I think this is a situation where individual cases need to be examined with prudence (the cardinal virtue not some modernist version). I doubt living as brother & sister is to be absolutely condemned or to be the fix-all for every person in a 2nd marriage who decides they now want to be a faithful Catholic.
    Your point is valid but I think overstated.

  • Aaron Taylor

    Divorce and remarriage is of course wrong from the Church’s point-of-view, but splitting up families and depriving children of either a mother or father just adds another wrong. The reality is that children are normally psychologically healthier in an intact household, even if its dysfunctional. The argument that it would be better for the children not to have both a father and a mother if there is “tension” in the household and the marital relationship is not “healthy” is an argument that is constantly put forward by home-wreckers and divorce-peddlers. Shameful to see it being put forward in Crisis Magazine.