Divorced and Remarried are Called to Heroism…

The universal call to holiness is considered by many to be the most important development of the Second Vatican Council. The main location of this call is the fifth chapter of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things (§40).

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul (§42).

Those familiar with the spiritual life know that holiness is not easy. It requires a death to oneself, which Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange describes in his The Three Ages of the Interior Life. It entails going through the purification of the senses and the soul, in order to reach the perfection of charity in union with God.

However, I have also heard some claim that the universal call to holiness means that holiness is now accessible to all without the arduous path of growth in the spiritual life. I would describe this as a dumbing down of the interior life. We see it most often in the confessional: “you shouldn’t feel bad for this sin,” “this is not really sinful,” “you don’t really need to do what the Church commands,” etc. I have heard all too often of confessors condoning masturbation, contraception, rejecting guilt, and denying the need for regular prayer and penance. This is a grave disservice to the soul, to say the least. Everyone is called to be a saint, which means that everyone must deny oneself, take up the cross, and radically follow Christ.

The same selfless transformation is necessary for a successful marriage. To be a good spouse, one must die to oneself to serve the other and the family. To be the spouse that God wants you to be, you need to be a saint! This is imaged perfectly by the crowns of martyrdom used in the Eastern wedding rite. We also see it very clearly expressed in the fifth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

Paul begins by setting the bar pretty high: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints” (1-3). We must imitate God, the sacrifice of Christ, and not even speak of impurity, let alone live a life marked by it. This is what is at stake: “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (6). More positively we see the true ideal of marriage: “As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,that he might sanctify her” (24-25).

In Paul’s letter we see the call to holiness applied to marriage. It entails death to self in a sacrificial offering to another, which is nothing short of heroic.

However, in a recent interview, Walter Cardinal Kasper, provides a startling alternative vision. Christians are not called to heroism! Spouses are not called to heroism!

Kasper states:

To live together as brother and sister? Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian. That could also create new tensions. Adultery is not only wrong sexual behavior. It’s to leave a familiaris consortio, a communion, and to establish a new one.

But I would say that people must do what is possible in their situation. We cannot as human beings always do the ideal, the best. We must do the best possible in a given situation. A position between rigorism and laxism—laxism is not possible, of course, because it would be against the call to holiness of Jesus. But also rigorism is not the tradition of the church.

There are many issues here, including the redefining of adultery along narrow lines and the inclusion of following the Church’s teaching on refraining from extra-marital intercourse as rigorism. What may be most troubling is the rejection of what is clearly the answer to the problem of divorce and remarriage: abstinence from intercourse, because the couple is not validly married. The spouses are indeed called to heroism, because they are called to be saints! They can receive communion, when they accept the cross, deny themselves, and follow Christ.

And for a more authoritative response, Carl Olson has provided a wonderful counterpoint to Kasper’s remarks from St. John Paul II:

Indeed, faced with the many difficulties which fidelity to the moral order can demand, even in the most ordinary circumstances, the Christian is called, with the grace of God invoked in prayer, to a sometimes heroic commitment (Veritatis Splendor, §93).

Kasper has also been criticized by Edward Peters for his additional comment “I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.” There may be at least some truth to this statement, no matter what the actual percentage is. The question before us, concerning divorce and remarriage, therefore, is not simply the question of communion, but a vocational crisis!

Once again the issue comes down to whether we accept the challenge to die to ourselves or remain unchallenged. Br. Justin Hannegan has written a wonderful article for Crisis, which focuses on the lack of religious vocations because of the sentiment that “God awakens our vocations primarily through our desires.”

Here is how he relates to this point to marriage:

Everyone, however, has an innate desire to get married.  Religious life is a renunciation, but marriage is a positive good.  So, if we ask people to decide between religious life and marriage on the basis of their desires, they are going to choose marriage every time.  And that’s what’s happening.  Vocations directors tell their advisees to prayerfully search their desires in order to find their vocation.  The advisees search, and what do they find?  An aversion to religious life and a desire for marriage. So they choose marriage. Meanwhile, religious orders shrink and die.

I do not disagree with Br. Hannegan in the least, and, yet, what do we make of the lack of robust vocations to the married life? What do we make of the high annulment rate and the Pope’s comments on the number of invalid marriages? Could not the same principle of following one’s own desires be causing this similar crisis? Do we have a misunderstanding of marriage, rooted in the ever growing problem of cultural narcissism?

It is true that there is a natural desire for marriage, but we also have a natural desire for God. This natural desire for marriage does not translate into a happy marriage any more than that natural desire in itself leads us to sanctity. Like the straight and narrow way to Paradise, true marriage requires a denial of self, a sacrifice, which must be understood in imitation of Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. It cannot simply be seen as following one’s desires. To put it differently, a successful and holy marriage requires heroism.

All marriage requires suffering and sacrifice, not just couples who are divorced and remarried. All marriage must be a death to oneself. This does not mean that marriage is simply a gloomy path of suffering (although it may be for some), but rather that marriage must be a joyful cross, by which the spouses sacrifice themselves for one another and lovingly assist each another on the path to Heaven. It is a hard path, one that requires much patience, generosity and endurance.

Unfortunately, I think we see marriage far too often in terms of personal self-fulfillment. Isn’t this even part of the logic of gay marriage? People need to be a marital relationship or a sexual relationship to be fulfilled. If we simply accept an adulterous relationship as normative (in divorce and remarriage), aren’t we caving in to a position that would quickly recognize these other unions as valid? Other couples in a non-marital committed relationship will also seek the standing that Kasper wants to provide, instead of accepting the Church’s teaching on abstinence. The problem is a misunderstanding of self-fulfillment. It does not come from following our passions, but by ordering them in virtue.

Kasper recognizes this in the published form of his controversial lecture to the Consistory of Cardinals, The Gospel of the Family: “The love between man and woman does not simply revolve around itself; it transcends and objectifies itself in children, who proceed from their love” (ch. 1). And further: “Their love is not a form of sentimentality revolving around itself.” Here he seems to recognize what is at stake—marriage as a sacrifice to move beyond oneself. Kasper also rightly recognizes that “We are in this crisis. The gospel of marriage and the family is no longer intelligible to many. For many it does not appear to be a livable option in their situation (ch. 3). Returning to Kasper’s interview, he proposes a solution:  “Therefore you have to emphasize and to strengthen prematrimonial catechesis.” We fundamentally need to reeducate Catholics and society on the nature of marriage!

If we are going to follow Kasper on these points he gets right, we need to recognize that we cannot simply give in to our secular culture’s acceptance of non-marital relationships. If we accept the average or ordinary situation of people today we will be giving into secularism and at best mediocrity. Rather, we need to challenge people all the more to take a stand, to live differently, to follow Christ boldly in the modern world. This will entail accepting suffering and sacrifices. Following Christ radically and even heroically is the only way to respond to the universal call to holiness!

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “Le divorce de L’Impératrice Joséphine 15 Décembre 1809” painted by Henri-Frederic Schopin in 1843.

R. Jared Staudt


R. Jared Staudt works in the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries of the Archdiocese of Denver. He earned his BA and MA in Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and his PhD in Systematic Theology from Ave Maria University in Florida. Staudt served previously as a director of religious education in two parishes, taught at the Augustine Institute and the University of Mary, and served as co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera. He and his wife Anne have six children and he is a Benedictine oblate.

  • Eph 5:25 ‘ Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy.’
    Is 63:2-3 ‘ – Why are your garments red, your clothes as if you had trodden the winepress?
    ‘ – I have trodden the winepress alone. Of the men of my people not one was with me.’
    From human perspective, he/she says cheats, and I am outta here … then you think of Jesus, God, in him all the delight of the Father and lacking nothing, lays down his life for us on the cross.
    Then not matter how much and how long our sufferings, they turn out to be ‘a paltry brief spell’ in comparison. (cf. 2 M 6:25).
    Meditation on the Passion of Our Lord will not only get us through, but also make saints of us and very likely our family including the spouse through whom we may have suffered much.

  • lifeknight

    Well reasoned article. Thank you for a clear and documented perspective. Pray that the Pope will consider the monumental decisions made by poorly catechized Catholics. Unfortunately, even those who know the Faith can make huge vocational mistakes. The annulment process should be rigorous but still available to those who have good evidence of a poor decision making process or other impediment to the vocation of marriage.

    I have recently discussed with a TLM priest, the “living together” arrangement prior to marriage that many, MANY Catholic couples enact. He gave me the “living like siblings” baloney because they fret over finances. Lame excuses for a scandalous situation. The moral here is to choose your priest wisely in marriage prep. If you’re in love the passions take over when in private–as they should in marriage.

    There is a lot of work for this Pope to accomplish. I hope he can establish some serious guidelines for the rest of the Church to follow……..

  • ForChristAlone

    I have come to the conclusion that, if you scratch beneath the surface of those clerics who give people a pass on sin and laxity in moral behavior, you will discover a cleric who himself is conflicted about his own moral life in one respect or another. They are simply providing themselves with convenient rationalizations for their own moral turpitude. Lowering the moral bar is not working for anyone.

    • me, myself & I r all here

      dear sir/madam, walk a mile in our shoes before you start ‘scratching’ under my skin…..

      • Interested

        You know the old saying all heresy begins below the belt? There always seems to be someone yearning for a change in the moral law as pertains to sexuality. Few call for change to the hypostatic union or racism or arson.

        For some reason the idea of orgasm is a must have for our culture. It is seen as a right that trumps all others. It is our real god.

        • fredx2

          Well, we’ve been conditioning the kids to be that way now for decades. What does the average 6 year old see when they watch TV? They see unmarried people having sex at the drop of a hat. Virtually every sitcom has a nonstop sexual component to it. They get the impression that you have sex with someone that you barely know. They learn these lessons on a very deep level. They see these messages day in , day out, in virtually every sit com and movie they see. By the time they are 18, they have undergone a rigid indoctrination – promiscuity is not only not a bad thing, it is perceived as being the norm in society, no matter what their parents tell them. What do the schools tell these same kids? That you better be using contraception. What did our former President tell them? That having affairs etc is defensible and something that a President can get away with.
          We don’t realize how deeply indoctrinated they have been.

          • Intersetd

            Very true. We have trained people to think their treasure is with orgasm. Anything seen as a conflict with that is termed legalism. You are dubbed a Pharisee or hater. The shallow minded and facile now teach our children.

      • How do you know that dear sir/madam hasn’t trod the required distance in the specified footwear?

    • Hombre111

      Who me?

      • That’s between you and your father confessor.

        I do sometimes wonder if the priests who are the most liberal- follow the liberal laity in that rejection of the sacrament of reconciliation. It would explain a lot to me if it were so; a man unfamiliar with his own penance is going to be rotten at handing out penance to others.

        • MarkRutledge

          Good observation, Mr. Seeber. Though the sample size is admittedly small, I’ve found that more “liberal” parishes have noticeably less scheduled hours for confession, or offer only the dreaded “by appointment.”

        • hombre111

          The hombre you are speaking to is some mysterious person who has suddenly started using my name. The true hombre is now speaking. At this time in my life, I have become famous among my fellow priests for his joyful participation in the sacrament of Reconciliation. I love the sacramental experience, which brings me to the heart of a person’s encounter with God at a tender moment. In the parish where I serve, the lines at confession are long; I hear confessions for about an hour and half to two hours, depending on whether or not I am the one saying the 5:00 p.m. Mass.
          When someone confesses masturbation or contraception, I do not tell them to take it lightly. I remind them that they are trying to live their life as a son or daughter of God. But I think the category of mortal sin is not the most adequate way to look at this part of the human struggle, especially with young boys, who suddenly stop going to confession and communion and begin to move away from the Church, because of this problem. I do not say, “This is not a mortal sin.” I do say, God understands how hard it is for you to learn to be an adult in this part of your life. Please, be aware that the Lord never stops loving you. Don’t think of yourself as dirt. As a loving son of God, keep coming to confession and communion.”

          • ” Because of the suddenly modern temptation to pornography, I ask them to say a prayer whenever they sit down at their computer.”

            Excellent advice. And also the point is good that even most mortal sin, isn’t the unforgivable sin.

          • Hombre111

            I am not mysterious. I am you. You are me. We know each other well.

            • hombre111

              This could get to be fun.

              • Hombre111

                Oh no, not at all.

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            Very well stated.

          • thebigdog

            Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 5/25/2006:

            “Masturbation is always objectively a mortal sin. This means that a person who knows that it is gravely sinful and has sufficient freedom has committed a mortal sin. The person unaware of the gravity does not commit a mortal sin, and the person whose freedom to decide in sexual matters is compromised may or may not have committed a mortal sin, depending on the extent of their freedom. Thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states regarding this sin, ”

            2252 … To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral
            action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral

            “Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are ever entitled to sin because of our personal history, but if we are trying to avoid sin by prayer and effort
            (Confession, avoiding the occasion of sin) and yet fall nonetheless, then the guilt may be lessened or even removed entirely, based on the factors the Catechism mentions which affect our freedom of will. I would note that spouses have a GRAVE duty to intimacy with each other so that neither falls into such sins, or commits adultery. They are responsible before God for this, since marriage is a sexual, not a platonic, relationship. Only by mutual consent should they abstain, and one may only refuse for a serious reason, such as drunkenness, abuse, or sickness.”

            • hombre111

              So, the Catechism explains the compassion that causes me to treat youths very gently. They are caught up in something they control with great difficulty. Their freedom is limited, their anxiety is high. Boys have committed suicide over their sense of guilt and self-contempt. As a teacher, I notice that young boys stopped going to Communion, when they should be receiving the sacrament during their struggle.

              • thebigdog

                And when the anxiety is caused by some form of abuse and results in sexual confusion, I trust you guide them according to the eternal teaching of the Church — that homosexuality is objectively disordered and intrinsically immoral.

                • hombre111

                  Good question, but hard to discern this in the few moments I have in confession. But homosexuality? I am not talking about homosexuality. I am talking about boys who auto-arouse, and this is probably about 99% of males under twenty

                  • thebigdog

                    No offense, but it wasn’t a question. Here is a question though, have you ever encouraged a young man to pursue the homosexual lifestyle?

                    • hombre111


                    • thebigdog

                      Good, and thank you for responding.

          • Nesbyth

            This is a huge problem with young men (and young women too).
            The sudden eruption of the sexual urge in early teenage life plays havoc with the religious life of most young people and more especially when marriage isn’t possible till much older, when pornography is widely available and when sex-education encourages experimentation as a “norm”.

            In the pre-Vatican II days, one had to have fasted for THREE hours before receiving Holy Communion which gave a good let-out to those in Mortal sin or who felt unworthy. Lots of people did not receive because of the 3 hour rule and it didn’t seem odd if one stayed in one’s pew. I did on several occasions.

            Since Vatican II everyone scrambles up to the “queue” and if you stay in your place it is so obvious you must be a “sinner” so therefore the teenagers either stay away or join the queue to avoid any awkward questions.

            Bring back the THREE HOUR fasting rule!!

            • hombre111

              Or, choose to look at it from a perspective that might be more adequate at this time in a young person’s life: God knows you are struggling. Keep on giving your life to God. Go to Communion and confession. I say this because of Jesus’ admonition about giving others burdens too big to carry.

              • Nesbyth

                Yes of course that is the best advice, but the young are still embarrassed about their sexual urges or whatever one calls it and unless very dedicated to their faith they give up.
                My father used to say to me that “sins of the flesh are not as bad as sins of the spirit, so keep going to Mass. But don’t let sins of the flesh lead to sins of the spirit.”
                It was good advice and I did not give up, but if I’d been told I was falling far from the Church’s standard on some occasions I would have probably walked away.
                I also had the 3 hour fasting rule to “hide behind”!

                • hombre111

                  Thanks. You express perfectly what I came to understand, and so I try to respond with great understanding and compassion.

              • Zuzana

                I am the mother of six grown children and now have six grandchildren, three of whom have graduated from high school. It is rather naive to think that today’s young people (except for the small percentage who have been homeschooled or raised in tight knit, loving families) really struggle with their sexual urges while reflecting on what the Church teaches as to their ‘call to holiness’. I strongly defend the celibate priesthood…and I know that countless Protestant ministers have failed to comprehend the spiritually indifferent attitude of their own children. This is why there is a crisis in vocations. Priests, parents and professional youth workers need to get ‘reality checks’ by seeking out the truth about what could be called the American teenage cult (that persists into the ‘twenty something’ years). The masses of young people today are turned on to everything but the teachings of the Church on morality. In fact, 70 plus percent of young people don’t believe in organized religion. They have been captured by the media and also the values clarification public education agenda, to think that everything is okay, except the Church. I am sorry to sound so negative… but it is the truth.

                • hombre111

                  I sympathize with your frustration. But there is a stubbornly dynamic process involved that cannot be solved with true teaching and sweet reason. First of all, most of us are broken and wounded by the time we are teenagers, filled with anger, suspicion, fears, and a tend toward selfishness. The shorthand for this is “the wounds of original sin,” which has a social component: The sinful world within which we live, and from which we cannot escape.

                  Whether we admit it our not, our freedom is deeply compromised. Christ, of course, is our freedom from sin and its consequences, but that involves conversion. I would submit that the majority of American Catholics are just beginning the conversion process, in which one accepts Jesus as redeemer, source of life and freedom, who has called us to follow him. This involves a conscious decision. One chooses to be a disciple, and begins to accept the life and values we find in Jesus. One takes an honest look at his life and repents. One begins to lead a life of faith and all that that means in a practical way.

                  It is a mistake to assume that, just because a youth has been baptized and lives in a Catholic family, and receives a Catholic education, he will live his faith with fervor. This is one of the things Pope John Paul meant when he talked about the need for a new evangelization. Anybody involved with youth knows that this is no easy task. Studies have shown that Protestant youth are more committed to their faith than Catholic youth. We are not yet on the path to success. The same thing is true with Catholic adults, who have many other priorities. Their lack of faith commitment is proven every Sunday, when Catholics give less than half to their Church than Protestants give to their church.

      • hombre111

        Heh, heh, heh. Somebody just posted in my name! Not sure how you did this, but shame on you. I was going to pass on this discussion, but I guess I better step in.
        Now only days away from my fiftieth year as a priest, I have had plenty of time to be both good and bad. I started out with the spirituality of perfection, grimly clinging to the good. Looking back, I would call this the spirituality of a dry drunk. By failing to accept my woundedness and weakness, I finally found myself in a state of total despair, because, to paraphrase St. Paul, I did what I did not want to do, and eventually could not recognize the man I had slowly become.

        Time to discover a new spirituality. The spirituality of compassion, beginning with myself, living a day at a time, relying on the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist in a new way. One of the most important things I ever did was give myself permission to leave the priesthood. I do not have to stay here, I said to myself, if this mess is what priesthood means. I suddenly began to live within a new freedom, and discovered priesthood in a new way. This happened during a thirty day annotated Ignatian retreat, guided by one of the most famous Jesuit spiritual directors in the world. I emerged from that retreat a new man. The suffocating chrysalis of all those moral certitudes broke away, and I was set free.

        Only those who have made an Ignatian retreat will understand what I mean. You don’t make this kind of retreat cooking up all kinds of wise insights. You try to understand what God is saying to you. That is the role of the director: to help you listen. I heard God tell me to be the kind of priest I have become.

        And so this long article strikes me as something written by a Pharisee. You remember the Pharisees? I learned in a class that they were self-appointed heroes. Legend says that they vowed to never look at a woman with lust. And so they kept their eyes fastened on the ground. One of them even ran into a wall.

        • “And so this long article strikes me as something written by a Pharisee. You remember the Pharisees? I learned in a class that they were self-appointed heroes. Legend says that they vowed to never look at a woman with lust. And so they kept their eyes fastened on the ground. One of them even ran into a wall.”

          Sounds like a myth written by the winners to me.
          Kind of like how all those Carthaginians are baby eating monsters.

          • msmischief

            No, no, no, baby-burning monsters.

            Kinda explains all those little urns with the little burnt bones, to be sure.

            • Given the rate of still births and children who died of natural causes in the first year in those days, not necessarily. Could be equally explained by a use of cremation for children who had already died.

              • Tony

                No, it was true. They did make children “pass through the fire to Moloch.” I believe we’ve found the baby necropolis outside of Carthage …

          • me

            God willed that Rome would win Carthage… Never forget that later on Rome would be the cradle of Christianity…

            • The point wasn’t who was destined to win. The point is that human winners *always* paint the losers in the worst possible light.

        • Interested

          Sounds like laxism to me. Following God’s will is true freedom. The Pharisees had the authority but did not believe what hey taught and were hypocrites.

          When the young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life the first thing Jesus said was keep my commandments. The man said he did and Jesus look on him and loved him. That is not being a Pharisee or a legalist but being faithful to our lord which is love.

          The legalists are the libs who look for loophole after loophole and explain away the moral law.

        • BillinJax

          Wonderful witness to the Holy Spirit I would say. For many of us the first step to the holiness St. Paul calls us to begins at the very bottom of doubt and despair when we come to realize it is there that our God’s voice can be heard in its clearest tones of compassion and forgiveness and we surrender to him exhausted of all pretense of worthiness. I have been there and done that and it can and does change your life. A portion of a note of mine on Forgiveness the defining trait of Christianity ended with this message.

          I’d like to add also that if we are
          to imitate our creator by also kindly forgiving one another there is an obvious
          requirement here to be willing to forgive ourselves. We acknowledge no one is
          without sin and that God is forever ready to welcome us back to communion with
          Him. The sacrament of Penance is always open to us but unless we truly believe
          we can and will be forgiven in the first place there would be no use in seeking
          it. Carrying the burden of sin on ones shoulder over time can erode or dissolve
          our faith in the redeeming nature of our Father’s love. Don’t let that happen.
          Trust in his deep love, surrender to it and go joyfully to him in repentance.
          Give him an opportunity to release his divine mercy. Surrender; empty your
          burden to him that he might fill you with the bountiful graces stored up just
          for you in His Divine Love.

        • ForChristAlone

          I hope you celebrate a most joyful golden jubilee. If you let us know the day, many of us will hold you in prayer then.

    • Ralph Warth

      Why doesn’t the pope correct the woman in Argentina who said the pope told her by telephone that it is okay for her to receive Holy Communion even though she is married to a divorced man?

      • Art Deco

        A great many of us would like an answer to that question.

  • Interested

    Excellent piece. Excellent reasoning.

  • Vinnie

    “We must do the best possible in a given situation.” Salve for the conscience – rationalization!

  • Paul

    If marriage in the traditional sense of the Church is seen as a form of self sacrifice , can this be taken to the point that a spouse must not leave or divorce her husband when he is violent towards her and ultimately endangers her life ? And can this kind of unholy unification be dissolved and the victims be remarried – as a sacrament to God – after annulment ?
    Moreover, marriage is designed to bring forth new life (although not in all cases) which denotes a certain amount of self-sacrifice, however it must be stressed that this can only be achieved if marriage is bound in love for each other or for the family. But when there is no longer any love in one’s marriage but only hate, envy & violence should couples still stay married ?

    • Interested

      I think you are confusing a few issues. The Church says civil divorce is not always a moral offense. As you state no one is bound to endure violence. But, is a sacrament dissolved because one spouse turns violent? What is the standard?

      I am afraid we all seem to only value the subjective nature of the moral law while ignoring the objective nature of it.

      • JP

        Spousal abuse at times has been over used as an excuse. Physical abuse is one thing; however, if one of the spouses becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, the Church may not necessarily grant an annulment. This may seem unfair; but the one spouse who suffers from alcoholism or drug abuse is not different from a spouse who becomes psychotic. The Church may advise the suffering spouse to leave; but, he or she must remain chaste.

        • Interested

          Oh, I understand. I was trying to point out the illogic of claiming hardship in some way nullifies a sacrament.

    • By far the more courageous path is to look upon spousal abuse as a disease- get the abused spouse (not always a woman) to safety and the abuser to treatment.

      Perhaps then the marriage can be saved.

      • TheAbaum

        Haven’t you heard? Everything is a disease, that conveniently imbues you with the the petty martyrdom of victimhood and also exculpates you from guilt.

        • “Have you ever met a bully that responded to “treatment”? ”

          Yes, I have, actually. Of course the first step is getting the person to realize that there is a problem.

          • TheAbaum

            The best way to impart that realization, is quite frankly to have the bully meet another bully or to organize the victims into resistance.

            Bullies are showing the first signs of Libido Dominandi, which is a spiritual illness, not a mental health issue to be managed with “insight-oriented” therapy.

            • “The best way to impart that realization, is quite frankly to have the bully meet another bully or to organize the victims into resistance.”

              There is a third way- involuntary committal to a mental institution.

              “Bullies are showing the first signs of Libido Dominandi, which is a spiritual illness, not a mental health issue to be managed with “insight-oriented” therapy.”

              Libido Dominandi? The lust for governmental power?

              It is possible to have Libido Dominandi without sociopathy; in fact, it’s quite common to do so, from whence we get the idea of the common good.

              I’d be far more concerned with the lack of *conscience* in bullies, and sociopathy is most certainly a mental health issue.

              • TheAbaum

                Libido Dominandi? The lust for governmental power?

                That’s not the definition.

                • http://www.jimtonkowich.com/libidodominandi.php

                  Which is why I asked. You seem to be using a different definition than I am aware of.

                  • TheAbaum

                    See this in the link you provided:

                    Augustine, it “is itself ruled by the lust of rule.”2

                    Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods. Random House (1950)

                    Book I.Preface, page 3.

                    • Ok, in what way is the “lust of rule” different than “lust for governmental power”?

                      And better yet, what does the lust for rule have to do with conscience-free schoolyard bullies?

                      I’m not understanding something you are saying.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Government is the most obvious apparatus for rule, but their are other avenues to domination.

                      There are bullies in schoolyards, boardrooms, clubhouses, athletic venues and marriages.

                    • Yes, there are bullies in those other situations, but I would not at all say that their motivation is Libido Dominandi, the lust for rule.

                      In those other situations, quite often the motivation behind the bully is simple paranoia.

                    • TheAbaum

                      but I would not at all say that their motivation is Libido Dominandi, the lust for rule.

                      You would be missing something then.

                    • I’m saying that your basic schoolyard bullying is simply not based in a lust for domination, but rather in a fear of ostracization.

                      The Mafia and many capitalist businesses are just another form of government. But they aren’t the same as the average schoolyard bully.

                    • msmischief

                      That is wishful thinking. Bullies are generally the more popular kid.

                    • And are thus scared of losing that popularity.

                    • msmischief

                      Do you really think that private citizens can not rule other people?

                    • Not at all. I think schoolyard bullies *specifically* are not acting out of a desire to rule anybody at all. I think they are acting out of FEAR.

                      And also, I don’t think that those who suffer from Libido Dominandi are necessarily bullies or even doing it to harm others. In fact, most of them are serving to help others.

    • A few years ago, I recall a small atheist movement to encourage people to renounce their baptism. The problem is is that one can renounce to the moon, but it will never make one unbaptized. So it is with marriage. Unless the marriage was invalid from the start, no amount of bad behavior on the part of either spouse can make a valid marriage invalid.

      • Interested

        That is not what people want to hear.

      • And it is this way because God never gave up on us: ‘They shall be my people and I will be their God’.

    • msmischief

      A woman who leaves her husband must either remain alone or be reconciled to her husband. That’s from the Bible. If the later is infeasible, she must resort to the first.

  • profling

    The reason for the press’s excessive concern about the sexual sins of Catholics is, I think, a constant, pervasive Manicheism, a heresy that never seems to go away.

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  • adevar@hotmail.com

    Did anyone try to sleep in the same bed with your spouse and abstain from sex for years and years?

    • JP

      I read on occasion that some married couples dedicate their sexual drive to Christ and live as brother and sister. But, unless the couple is elderly or cannot produce children I think this behavior represents a misunderstanding of marriage. As one priest preached years ago, the Marriage Act is an act of consecrating marriage. It is a gift from God, and mirrors the love Christ has for the Church. And as the fruits of Christ’s love is the Eucharist, the fruits of the married couples marriage is children. As far as I know this understanding of our sexual nature within marriage was taught by Saint John Paul II.

      Of course, there are very legitimate reasons for healthy young couples to abstain. Health of one or both spouses is the most obvious. But, for young married healthy couples to abstain as a form of “holiness” or purification, or penance shows a complete misunderstanding of marriage.

    • msmischief

      Separate beds, if not separate bedrooms, would help work about that problem.

      I still remember the novel where a man heard news that a cousin of his was alive after all, and came home to find his wife had moved into the spare room. Only later did we learn that she had sagely done this on the news and so the discovery that she was not, after all, a widow when they had married.

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  • BrianKillian

    The Church had this discussion already – the debate about whether marriage was formally determined by vows or by consummation. It was settled in favor of vows, and the importance of consummation was expressed by making it the cause of the marriage’s inseparability. Not even the pope could dissolve a marriage that was consummated. They are both, however, related to each other in important ways.

    This article seems to take the position that it’s consummation – or sex in general – that makes marriage.

    Also, while I agree with the inseparability of the unitive and the procreative, there is a great ambiguity in these kinds of discussions.

    The procreative nature of sex can refer to the consequences of any particular sexual act – whether or not it in fact results in procreation.

    But it can also refer to the teleology of sex – that sex has an orientation in a distinct direction, and that it doesn’t always arrive at that destination, but nonetheless it is ordered to it.

    I think the Church is using ‘procreative’ in the second sense, not the first sense. The unitive depends on the procreative ordering of sex, not on its actually achieving it in any given act.

    This implies that the crucial moral distinction cannot exclude the intention of the agents, and not just focus on the physical fertility of the act.

    But to speak of essences like this is clearly metaphysical and is flatly denied by many people today.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour


      You are right that consensus or agreement and not consummation makes marriage. This was the rule of the Roman law and the Church has always adopted it.

      “Nuptias non concubitus, sed consensus facit” [It is not sleeping together, but agreement that makes marriage. [Dig. 50.17.30 Ulpianus 36 ad sab]

      The key text is 1 Corinthians 7:4: “the wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.” That is the effect of matrimonial consent and it is that which constitutes marriage. To insist that consummation makes marriage is to confuse the perfection of a legal act and the fulfilment of obligations which that act creates. Compare a grant of land: the grant confers ownership; being clad with possession is a mere consequence of that and ownership is complete without it.

    • BrianKillian

      Oops, I commented on the wrong article – meant to post this on the Purpose of Sex in Marriage article.

  • dougpruner

    Or, if Catholic scripture is allowed…
    “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times some will desert the faith and pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines that come from devils, seduced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are branded as though with a red-hot iron: they forbid marriage …” 1 Tim 4, NJB
    And Our Lord said that adultery can, if the innocent party choose, end the marriage bond. That opens the possibility of remarriage for that party.

    No brother-sister stuff, just celibacy or marriage, as instituted by God at Gen 2, ibid.: ” Then, Yahweh God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And, while he was asleep, he took one of his ribs and closed the flesh up again forthwith. Yahweh God fashioned the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man.”

    • “And Our Lord said that adultery can, if the innocent party choose, end the marriage bond. That opens the possibility of remarriage for that party.”
      Not Catholic.

      • dougpruner

        “Not Catholic.”
        Well… If I agree with you, will you get angry?
        I began, “if Catholic scripture is allowed…”
        To save time in your response, I’ve heard already that ‘We Catholics gave you the Bible!’ In that case, let’s use it, shall we?

        • The interpretation is not the Catholic interpretation and no, I won’t get angry but hope that ‘your agreement’ is in line with what I meant.
          cf. Mk 6:18 ‘It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife’.
          God the author of marriage from the very beginning, and by his laws, determines which marriages are valid and which are not.

          • dougpruner

            “The interpretation is not the Catholic interpretation” Of course not. I should have quoted instead of giving my interpretation.
            “And Our Lord said that adultery can end the marriage bond” Here’s the chain of evidence I use:
            Lev 20:10 “The man who commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife will be put to death, he and the woman.” The original standard, from the Originator of marriage. And of course death frees the living from the marriage bond—except per the Johnny-come-lately Magisterium. (I invite you to check the timing in the Catholic Encyclopedia at newadvent.org.)
            Jer 3:8, 9; 5:10 and many others show God’s reason for ‘putting away’ physical Israel—spiritual adultery with other gods. Jesus was saddened by this: Mt 23:38. Did that leave God bride-less? No.
            Gal 6:15,16 teaches, “It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters; but what matters is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this as their rule and to the Israel of God.” A new, spiritual Israel, not under Law. And this change is prophesied at De 18:15 and Jer 31:31 ff., “‘Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel (and the House of Judah), but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares.” So, not under Law, including Leviticus, except…
            “Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife—I am not speaking of an illicit marriage—and marries another, is guilty of adultery.” Mt 19:9, and several other places…”
            Per Jesus and scripture, free to remarry. There is much more, but I don’t want to suck up all of Crisis’ server space. 🙂

            • You lost me …

              • dougpruner

                I wrote, “I’ve heard already that ‘We Catholics gave you the Bible!'”, but I don’t believe it.
                “Is there any benefit, then, in being a Jew? Is there any advantage in being circumcised? A great deal, in every way. First of all, it was to the Jews that the message of God was entrusted.” Romans 3:1,2, NJB.
                “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” 2 Sam 23:1,2, ibid.
                So, not “the [latecoming] Church’s interpretation” but understanding through reading and meditating.
                Again, 1 Tim 4 explains much to me about Magisterium.
                Mt 19:9 covers the OP adequately. Have you looked into the Catholic Encyclopedia yet? The Church’s views of remarriage have changed often, and without apparent logic, since the beginning. Paul says, “A wife is tied as long as her husband is alive. But if the husband dies,
                she is free to marry anybody she likes, only it must be in the Lord.” At one or another times that would have been anathema.

                • Thanks @dougpruner I will look into this: “Have you looked into the Catholic Encyclopedia yet?”

  • Ralph Warth

    Why does not Pope Francis correct the story about woman in Argentina who said the pope told her it was okay for her to receive holy communion even though she is married to a divorced man?

    • @Laura • a month ago | Long Dissidence Phone Calls | CMR: “We know the official statement acknowledges that something occured from which one could infer there would be consequences for Church teaching. And, um, please don’t make that inference.”

  • BrianKillian

    “But I would say that people must do what is possible in their situation. We cannot as human beings always do the ideal, the best. We must do the best possible in a given situation. A position between rigorism and laxism—laxism is not possible, of course, because it would be against the call to holiness of Jesus. But also rigorism is not the tradition of the church.”

    So how is this different from the ‘gradualism’ that Pope John Paul II mentioned in at least one of his encyclicals?

    How else is a person supposed to proceed except by doing what is possible in their situation?

    • slainte

      “…We cannot as human beings always do the ideal, the best…”
      Why not?…many times all it takes is Humility and an intentional subrogation of our will to God’s Will.
      Christ’s life was Sacrifice; as Catholics, ours should be as well.
      The crucifix hanging over the altar in Church makes real what is expected of us in this world. We must die to self.

      • What sanctity is: living the virtues heroically.

  • TheAbaum

    Walter Kasper’s desire: turn the Church militant into the Church mediocre.

  • Pnkn Moonshine

    It’s Jesus who said ” “Be
    you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Long before Vatican II !

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  • Karl

    Thank you for denigrating my faithfulness as an abandoned spouse!

    You turn my stomach, Staudt.

    If your mother raised a man, you would resign your position. My guess is your mother raised a loser! Or you have made that choice as an adult!

  • Agnes

    “But it’s a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian. ”

    Contrary to most of the views so far, I don’t read this statement as “the average Christian is not called to heroism”. I think it’s merely a statement of fact. The average Christian is not heroic. At least those in more affluent countries. Or am I speaking only for myself here? I think (hope) Kaspar is saying that the average Christian is not heroic enough to live up to the required standard, so we have to work with people where they’re at and from there with compassion, patience and truth bring them up to heroism.