Waiting: A Concept Applied to the Divorced and Remarried

The concept of waiting is central to Christianity, but only a few have devoted much thought to it, most notably the French philosopher Simone Weil. In the famous Gospel parable, the servants are judged on whether or not they have waited through the night for the arrival of their Master. It shouldn’t be so very difficult to keep watch when our salvation is at stake. We stay up for much less. No Herculean task is demanded, but simply being ready when the Lord comes. Yet, we often fail to stay awake. Those found asleep when the Master arrives are severely punished and cast out into eternal darkness.

Yet we tend to think of waiting as a painful loss of time, to be avoided if possible. Royalty is therefore never made to wait; King Louis XIV famously complained, “j’ai failli attendre” (I almost waited). But we often have no choice in the matter and have to hold out agonizingly for many things in life: finding a spouse, hoping a family member will get in touch again, being in anguish about a child’s well-being, waiting for another’s character flaws as well as one’s own to be remedied. Many are often tortured by the thought that there is little they can do other than—wait. Since much of our life has to do with waiting, it is important we get it right. In the spiritual life, this is an even greater imperative. Christ says we should knock until the door is opened, importune him like the widow who wakes up the judge in the middle of the night. Persistence is required, especially regarding God, and giving up is tragic, especially when it is justified in the name of good intentions. And we know where a road paved with good intentions leads us.

Yet we often do not know the right way to wait. We chomp at the bit, or worse, give up. With great longing we think ahead to the time when x, y and z will take place. Yet by impatiently thinking ahead of when our life will finally start, we let time slip by. By imagining a blissful future, we avoid making decisions in the here and now, and hence fail to live at all. We wake up one day to the realization that we have wasted our life, because we have paradoxically failed to wait. We must wait in the present, however painful it is.

Waiting is fruitful. It is essential for a good life. It is key to salvation. Since we live in a fallen world where God is a Deus absconditus, we have to make do with the fact that fulfillment is not ours in this life and that God often seems absent. The temptation is great to run away from this bitter truth and create a fictional universe around ourselves, only to face reality when it hits us hard enough. The bourgeois mentality cannot stand the painful longing felt by those who seek God, and wants a complete life instead. It fails to recognize that only a life that embraces imperfections as crosses that have to be born (when they cannot be changed), is a life worth living. Instead of allowing man to live in the present with an eye toward the beyond, the bourgeois worldview closes off the beyond in order to establish heaven on earth. It refuses to wait for the good things; it will not sell everything in order to buy pearl of great price. Instead, it prefers to build a hut on a barren desert, pretending it is a castle in a lush forest. It has traded its birthright for a mess of pottage.

Waiting Applied to the Divorced and Remarried
These reflections on waiting have practical application for all those who live in a state of serious sin, most notably divorced and remarried couples. We can apply this concept of waiting to their situation and offer pastoral care to them without passing judgment on individuals. Similar to the bourgeois mentality, the person living in sin has decided to build her own temporal paradise. She has put her own happiness or that of other people ahead of the teachings of Christ; seeking the happiness of others might seem noble, but it is due, at the very least, to a misapprehension about what constitutes the ultimate good of another. To resist the temptation to remarry or cohabitate would mean living with the pain of solitude, and of renouncing the promise of happiness with someone other than our spouse. It would mean embracing the dark night of suffering into which this situation can throw us, waiting for the light of dawn to break.

All great suffering throws us into darkness, often conveying the wrong impression that God has abandoned us. Christ experienced this abandonment himself, so we know that it comes with intense anguish. Had Christ taken the easy route, he would have gotten off the cross as the jeerers suggested, shaken the dust off his feet and left us to our misery. We know how strongly he rebuked Peter when the latter suggested Jesus need not suffer: “Get behind me, Satan.” Christ had to drink the bitter cup to the end in order to experience the resurrection, as did the women under the cross and so do we. Mary is the perfect image of those waiting, holding out with her son as the unthinkable is happening, as God himself is being crucified. She could have revolted in what seemed nonsensical and gratuitous suffering, asked him to use his power to put a stop to it, but she didn’t.

She is therefore the model and succor for those in a state of grave sin and those accompanying them. It would be a false mercy indeed to tell the divorced and remarried that their situation is not serious. It would be the same lie as that tendered by the bourgeois worldview (the solution offered by Cardinal Kasper et al., by the way, expresses a very bourgeois mentality). It would be like telling the prodigal son that the husks he ate were nourishing and good, making him thereby forget the remaining memories of his father’s house and sever him from the last hope of return.

The father, as we know, looks out for the prodigal son, sees him coming from a distance and slaughters the fatted calf. Had the prodigal son’s brother cared for him, he might have done the same, perhaps meeting him half way, assuring him of his and his father’s warm welcome. The Holy Father speaks much of the necessity of accompanying those living in grave sin (see number 46 & 51 of the Synod’s final version of its Relatio document). This entails giving them much more than merely sound doctrine (which should not remain unspoken merely because it is inconvenient), but waiting for them and showing them that we have not given up hope on them, though they may have. By our charity and example, we can remind them that their Heavenly Father is waiting, that he has not forgotten them and that his mercy is infinite (as Pope Francis keeps saying, we should not proselytize, but be a witness). This is a painful journey for both, especially to figure out humanly speaking how to extricate oneself from these tight-knit bonds of a second union. But only if the journey is begun, can it eventually reach its final destination. If we tell them they may happily settle into their sin, then we are ringing a spiritual death knell for them.

Only when Christ’s love becomes sufficiently palpable to them will they find the strength to sever these ties. But this takes patience. The word patience comes from the Latin word “pati” meaning “to suffer.” This means staying with them while the painful leaven of divine mercy works its way through their hearts. It means sharing in their suffering without which this journey cannot be undertaken. For waiting implies suffering. It is the water necessary for the sapling of love to grow. To wait means making oneself vulnerable, but it is the only way that love can grow. One either waits for the other to grow on his own terms or one nips all change in the bud.

Waiting for God is not like waiting for Godot in Beckett’s famous play. The absurd worldview claiming it is hopeless to wait for a non-existent god fails to recognize that God has been waiting for us all along; that he is like a beggar knocking at our door, asking to be let in. It overlooks the unfathomable humility of God who, as C. S. Lewis put it about his own conversion, is willing to take back a prodigal son who is dragging his feet.

What seems to us like waiting is in reality our first response to infinite Love who has waited for and on us for a long time. If it seems like we are suspended in utter darkness with no sign of dawn, then this is because we first need to learn the language of love, which speaks too softly for us to hear at first. Only if we have waited long enough will we recognize its voice, and understand that we are no longer servants, but friends and brothers of Christ. We will realize then that we have not waited in vain.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “The Wise Virgins” was painted by James Tissot between 1886 and 1894.

Marie Meaney


Marie Meaney received her doctorate and an M. Phil. in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford. She is the author of Simone Weil’s Apologetic Use of Literature: Her Christological Interpretations of Classic Greek Texts (Oxford University Press, 2007). Her booklet Embracing the Cross of Infertility (HLI) has also appeared in Spanish, German, Hungarian and Croatian. Before the birth of her daughter, she was a teaching fellow at Villanova University.

  • FernieV

    Great article! The author says “as Pope Francis keeps saying, we should not proselytize, but be a witness”. If I explained to my Catholic divorced and remarried friend, with all charity and understanding, in a friendly conversation, the situation in which he/she is, I am not proselitizing; I am simply fulfilling the elementary duty of charity demanded by my friendship. I will explain the issue with the new ideas I have learnt in this article. I believe that keeping silent would not be enough, especially with close friends.

  • The situation with divorced and remarried Christians is very serious, but at least the Catholic church recognises this. When I saw the simple Biblical teaching I knew I had to do something, and that was long before becoming Catholic. And, in God’s providence, it prepared the way for me to enter the Church.



    “While I admit it is no small sacrifice, to give up what is perhaps earth’s greatest pleasure to receive heaven’s greatest delight is not an act of heroism, it is simple self interest and common sense.”

  • JP

    “Only when Christ’s love becomes sufficiently palpable to them will they
    find the strength to sever these ties. But this takes patience. The word
    patience comes from the Latin word “pati” meaning “to suffer.” ”

    Great essay. Crisis seems to have an abundance of great writers and Catholic thinkers

    • St JD George

      Truer words were never spoken. For me especially.

  • publiusnj

    As I contemplate this issue of remarried divorced persons communicating despite the fact that they have no firm resolve to sin no more, I think about other adulterers who at least are trying to make their first marriages work in all other respects while being unable to commit to ending an affair with someone other than their spouse “on the side.” How are they any the less entitled to the Church’s “Mercy” than the person who goes out, divorces, remarries and has no firm purpose of ending the adultery with his/her second spouse?

    And if these still-married adulterers are no less entitled to mercy, what about the women who use abortion as birth control because after they get pregnant they cannot trust their spouses and are not prepared to commit to having a child until the other spouse acts more like a soon-to-be father?

    Or how about a thief who wants Communion but is unwilling to give up on thieving until he gets a job paying a lot more than he is currently earning because he needs to support a family (his first, btw)?

    Or the murderer who wants to receive Communion but is unwilling to commit to never murdering again because why should every body elso be able to receive Communion when they have no firm purpose of amendment either?

    It may sound like I am a bit tongue in cheek about this (I am not), but I am trying to point out just how far out Kasper is on the slippery slope of moral relativiism.

    • The belief that the state has the power to separate what God has joined (and thereby remove culpability for adultery) is a petty form of statist idolatry, a common affliction among us moderns who laugh when we hear of (or see the depiction thereof when DeMille’s epic masterpiece is broadcast) the fleeing Israelites persuading Aaaron to use his knowledge of the temple arts to fashion a golden calf.

    • Dana R Casey

      Wow, I read this bit of nasty completely judgmental crap from you publiusnj and wondered why I tried to reason in previously in an honest discussion with you at all. I will not make that mistake again. You are not a Christian at all. Oh, and I know that you will once again accuse me of an ad hominem attack, but perhaps that is the argument of someone who had no argument at all. Are you sure that you are not a closet leftist liberal?

      • publiusnj

        And now you have descended to foul-mouthed emotionalism as well as ad hominem attack. Not good.

  • Felix Martin

    This article on waiting opened with very good philosophical idea , but I could not fully comprehend its application to divorced and married couple. While I do understand the commandment of Lord Jesus Christ against divorce , and marrying the divorcee is also adultery . Lord Jesus was very particular about women empowerment that was prevalent in that period . My request is don’t view and consider divorced and remarried couples as great sinners . They are also sinners according to our Lord Jesus Christ , and others also fallen short of perfection according to Paul. Therefore, don’t ridicule the divorced and remarried couples as great sinners . Lord’s hands are open why can’t the church. I am not divorced or remarried person. The topic is not approached in proper perspective is my opinion.

    • publiusnj

      If you were trying to make a cogent point, I missed it.

      In all events, it is not an issue of the gravity of the sin but of the need for a firm purpose of amendment (“go and sin no more….”) The difference between the traditional treatment of divorced/remarried persons (DRPs) and other sinners is that the DRPs are usually NOT committing to ending the adulterous second relationship. Unless/until they do so commit, they cannot be forgiven.

      The good news, though, is that ANYONE can commit any sin–even those most would consider even graver, such as a mother killing the child in her womb or any other murderer–and be forgiven for it, if they confess their sin and “firmly resolve with the help of God’s grace to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin.” Thus, DRPs already qualify for forgiveness so long as they too have that firm purpose of amendment. The issue is when the adulterous DRP wants to remain in his/her adultery but still go to Communion.

      • GG

        True, and I would add one of the problems is language. We keep talking about “remarriage” when it is not marriage but adultery.

        If we keep that in mind it informs our conscience that we are talking about sin, not a mere legalistic issue.

        • publiusnj

          I agree with you that the second relationship always constitutes adultery while the first spouse lives whether the State grants a divorce or not. Nevertheless, the second relationship is, in the eyes of the State, a marriage. When Jesus talked about that second arrangement, He used the “M Word”: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12).

          So, my solution is to put terms like “second spouse” in quotes. Calling the situation a Divorce/Remarriage situation, though, saves a lot of circumlocution. One problem with the discussion is that people on the other side are very quick to accuse faithful Caztholics of being “hypocrites” based simply on our language. So, I try to get to the heart of the matter quickly and fight over decisionally important concepts rather than over language that can be quibbled about.

          • Governmental marital laws (even before they started handing out licenses to two individuals of the same sex; but especially so since) have been specious counterfeits of the real thing, purporting to be just and equitable, when we should all realize no amount of civil theatrics can ever repair what essentially is a shattering of something fine and delicate, like cystal.

            • publiusnj

              I don’t think we have a disagreement. And, if we had an eternal amount of time and space, we could make all kinds of valid points about the inadequacies of state regulation of marriage. If we want to focus on the proposal before the Synod, though, the best thing is to focus on that rather than the undoubted problems with State definitions of marriage.

              • Neither do I. My point was that we are dealing with people make those proposals and who implicitly treat state definition (and dissolution) as valid.

                • GG

                  And that was my point. If we keep claiming perpetual adultery is legitimate marriage to teach error.

      • Felix Martin

        Jesus came to fulfill the law , and not to abandon it . Moses allowed divorce , and Jesus considered such divorce as caused by male chauvinism. I want to emphasis that Jesus grace cannot be doubted. When adulterous woman was brought to Jesus , Jesus told whoever has not sinned can throw the first stone . Who are we to condemn any one , when the Holy God wishes to pour grace on the sinners , can we stop it . Only Christ can judge the people , and not others . No body has the right to say , “they cannot be forgiven”. We are united with God because of the righteousness of Christ , and not because of righteousness . Abraham’ faith is considered as righteousness. Let us not condemn any body . The righteous and the evil could be revealed only the Last day of Judgement. Now , only the faith saves . I am a sinner , but I believe in the grace of God . He embraces those who come to him without any discrimination. Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ who cleanse my sins everyday.

        • publiusnj

          “Male chauvinism”? Quite an anachronism. I put the term in the Bible Search Engine but it turned up no hits. I don’t know what bible you have been taught but the real one was written almost 2000 years ago or more.

          As to your observation that “Jesus told whoever has not sinned can throw the first stone,” He also conferred the power of forgiving or retaining sin on His Holy Catholic Church thusly: “”Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23). So contrary to your view, Christ’s Church can say that some sins should not be forgiven. The rule Christ’s Holy Church has set upon is the one I already explained to you in detail: forgiveness is contingent on a firm purpose of amendment (Christ Himself conditioned His forgiveness of sin on contrition (“go and sin no more….”)).

          And as for that protestant fib that we are saved by Faith Alone, you, like that fraud Luther, are ignoring the Good Book’s instruction directly to the contrary: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24). Maybe like Martin you don’t believe that James has any place in the Canon of Scripture??

          In all events, the Bible is a little more complex than you have apparently been taught. I commend it to your attention.

          • Yeah wasn’t Luther who said “sin, and sin bodly..”

        • Cindy

          Felix Martin I think perhaps you are unable to articulate the point you are attempting to make because you make misleading conclusions about the article and then build up a straw man argument. You mention the sinful woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned but you did not mention the last and very important ending to that exchange as read in Sacred Scripture. Jesus said to her “Go and sin NO MORE.” He commanded her NOT to sin again. A person who is divorced and remarried without the first marriage declared null, is going to continue engaging in sexual acts with his second civil spouse and every single one of those sexual acts is adultery (mortal sin). So these two people who are not in a sacramental marriage are DISOBEYING Jesus’ command to sin NO MORE. And on that point, Jesus stated “If you love me, obey my Father’s commandments”. So, in other words, a person who is consistently committing adultery is disobeying Jesus and not loving him. This is not any of us judging anyone, this is Jesus himself saying this.

        • JP

          Felix, not the sound crass, but I think you’ve misunderstood what Jesus said about divorce. It had nothing to do with male chauvinism. You inserted that interpretation. Christ was telling the world that after His New Covenant everything would change – especially marriage. Marriage and Christ’s Covenant are so closely intertwined that they cannot be separated. As Paul wrote later, the Church is the Bride of Christ and Christ will ALWAYS remain faithful. Marriage, therefore in the new dispensation takes on an entirely new meaning (both physically and mystically). The Marriage Act between spouses literally and spiritually binds the husband and wife together in the same way that Christ is bound to His Church. Therefore, the married couple must also be faithful to each other. There can no more be a divorce between 2 married couples than there can be a divorce between Christ and His Church. That is why in the past annulments were so difficult to obtain.

          Christ came into the world through a Woman, a virgin and submitted Himself to a Family. His first recorded miracle occurred at a Wedding Feast. Christ came to elevate Marriage. It seems we are intent are destroying it.

        • C.Caruana

          Jesus’ s merciful love is unconditional, but our reception of it is conditional on our firm commitment to repent and abandon a permanent state of sin. Anything else is slavery to the dictatorship of relativism.

        • I think Jesus thought far more deeply about marriage and humanity than to give consideration to such an intellectually shallow contruct as “male chauvinism”.

        • fredx2

          You might want to avoid changing Jesus words into your own words. He said that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. He said nothing about “male chauvinism”, so you either made that up or misinterpreted something.
          By the same token, no one “condemns” these people. They are welcome in the church. It’s just that they cannot take communion because they have chosen to engage in adultery (By Jesus definition and by Jesus words)
          No one says ” they cannot be forgiven” Of course they can. They can go to confession and be forgiven just like anyone else. However it is the nature of their relationship that they are sinning again, and again, and again, and they refuse to stop sinning. So they simply cannot go to communion until they stop sinning. Of course God embraces these people, but he also says “Go and sin no more” They, in return say “No, I am going to keep on sinning”

    • We’re all sinners, but we try not to persist in that sin or give scandal.

      It’s not that people who have contracted a civil marriage after divorce are GREAT sinners; it is that they PERSIST in that sin. “..with the help of thy grace to sin no more” ring a bell?

  • St JD George

    I know it’s a reflection of the dark mood I’m
    in today, but I read today’s liturgy and could relate it to your article today
    Marie, and it also left me with a longing. I reflected on what Father
    Norris in Mubai India on Evangeli said “We disciples must be ready and
    watchful, lest we be lulled into spiritual lethargy by the progress of life
    from one generation to the next and assume that Jesus won’t return after all.” Patience it seems is our burden,
    whether it be in trying to lead others to a relationship with Christ or in
    this case an understanding of the sacrament of marriage, or our waiting for Christ’s

  • Donald Mackowski

    Glory be! A Catholic witness at Villanova University! And a fine thoughtful deep scholar at that.

  • C.Caruana

    Beautiful meditation, not least because I share your interest in Simone Weil. For her, waiting is another way of bearing the cross, denying oneself to follow our Lord. This is why it is so sad and alarming that Kasper and all those who back him want to short circuit this salvific and penitential process of waiting at the foot of the cross in the name of a false mercy that would offer grace on the cheap.
    The podigal son only partook of the feast given for him by the ever waiting Father after he left the pig sty behind for good. When the invited guest arrived for the King’s wedding he was not allowed to partake of the feast because he profaned the King’s merciful generosity by arriving unsuitably dressed.
    Jesus perpetually waits for repentant sinners in the sacrament of communion, and it is the height of profanation to partake of his crucified love in an state of objective sin.
    Even if any bishop, cardinal or Pope were to tell me I could do this, I would not.

  • Cindy

    Marie Meaney this is an excellent article! You hit the nail on the head. I’m a divorced and remarried Catholic and my civil husband and I have agreed to live in celibacy. It is difficult, it is not easy and there is a tremendous loss experienced. The dynamic of the relationship changes and a period of confusion is inevitable. However, that is not a barrier to the divine life in Christ and his Church. The sacraments, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, adoration, Our Lady’s intercession, the intercession of the saints, prayer and the mystical body helps us carry that cross. It is contrary to charity and mercy to propose to people in our situation that living in mortal sin (ie. cut off from the divine life in Jesus Christ) while being able to attend Mass is the most we can and should aspire to. What kind of love and mercy is that? It is absolutely awful and unChristlike!

    • It’s always good to hear from those who attest to the possibility of something the chattering classes insist is impossible.

      • St JD George

        I find the chattering teeth more of a bore to watch each day that passes, and never more so (recently) than watching the spin-masters after the election including the moronic 2/3’rds comment. I never thought I’d see the day I felt like our country was led on par with a banana republic. Once trust is lost there is no basis to believe anything that comes out of their mouths. So yes, it is nice to pause and revel in personal stories about people doing “impossible” things in the name of God’s love filled with the Holy Spirit.

        • In N N Taleb’s book, “The Black Swan”, he details how stock market chatterers used the capture Of Saddam Hussein to explain both an upward and downward move in market indices-hours apart and if I recall correctly, on the same network.

          Chatters make up a lot of sh** and convince themselves it’s potent fertilizer.
          I think the next comedic spoof of the legacy media should be “The Walking Braindead”.

    • So delighted to read your post. When my civil wife and I came to understand the Biblical truth on divorce and remarriage we too went through a gut wrenching time of confusion, and we had to adjust to the sense of terrible loss. And I was not yet Catholic – that would come 6 years later – so the few with which we shared our heart had little ability to understand and support. It did not become easy when I became Catholic, but it did become easier.

      Proposing an “easier way” is an insult to the gospel and a denial of the grace and goodness of God.


      • Cindy

        How right you are Ken. Those who have Christ alive in their souls have no idea what those who have crucified Him in our souls have to live with. They only think about the emotional, mental and physical pain we’ll go through if we do not engage in sexual activity. However, ironically, they completely disregard the death of the soul. They act as though the death of the soul is “eh, no biggie”. I’m just amazed at how little faith so many in the Church have in the Holy Spirit and God’s sanctifying grace, as well as the power of the sacraments.

    • Maria

      Could you not seek declaration of nullity of previous marriage? Go to your local tribunal and ask.There is hope in every case.

      • Cindy

        I have a certificate of nullity due to lack of form for my prior ‘civil only’ marriage. My husband however had a sacramental marriage prior and of course, that’s a whole other ball game. The investigation into his sacramental marriage is on going, over a year now, maybe even two, they’re only now getting around to start interviewing witnesses. I do not know what the tribunal will find but that does not change the reality of the matter for us now. The fact is, we’re not sacramentally married to one another and to continue sexual relations would be a huge offense to God and would crucify Christ in our souls, again.

    • Jdonnell

      That is your choice; others make different choices that they find compatible with living full Christian–even Catholic–lives. Peace.

    • Jdonnell

      This is neat in the abstract but may be part of the very “fictional universe” you think that others may be living in. The reality of modern life in which women are no longer chattel or beaten (too often in past centuries with the approval of the clergy), things don’t can often can’t work as you hope. Work, education, jobs, media influence, etc. all mitigate against many marriages remaining or even achieving stability. Valid, schmalid–divorce and remarriage are often the way people can flourish as holy human beings.

  • hombre111

    Well done and well intentioned, but this is somebody from the outside telling those on the inside to admit they are craven, self-centered sinners, and to behave. From my perspective as a parish priest, such advice can be a pastoral failure. I have seen self-centered people within a self-centered context do the self-centered thing in every aspect of their life, including divorce and remarriage. I am appalled when those same people manage to get annulments. But I do not think that the divorced and remarried are automatically living in a state of sin…that is, in a state of revolt against God. Some people fit this description, but others are toppling down a spiritual and emotional landslide, reaching out for anything that will help them believe in a God of love.

    We need to re-examine the whole idea of the sacrament of marriage and the elements that make it up. Right now, the only questions I am supposed to ask before starting a formal case are about baptism, free consent, consummation, and marriage in the Church. The annulment process, thank God, now takes into consideration the question of free consent and the need for emotional maturity, but as far as I know, it asks almost nothing about spiritual maturity. This is especially ridiculous in the case a a Protestant marrying a Catholic. The marriage of the Protestant is assumed to be a sacrament, even though Protestants don’t believe marriage is a sacrament. This presumption is based on something called the “essentialist fallacy,” imagining that the marriage among the baptized becomes an unchangeable metaphysical reality as soon as two baptized persons who have married freely in front of a priest, have sex.

    The best concise study of this issue is by Donald Gelpi, in “Committed Worship,” vol. ii.

    Our author is a young person, and I hope life works out. I hope she is never blind-sided by a divorce. If she is, I hope she goes through the annulment process. I hope her future spouse is willing to accept what could be a two to three year wait. All in all, we are dealing with a painful story, and the Church has to behave with love and compassion at all levels.

    • fredx2

      It seems to me that you might not have the same conception of what a sacrament is that the church has. For example, why should the existence of sacramental grace be dependent on whether a Protestant believes in it or not? And no one said that the sacrament of marriage – the grace that flows from the sacrament – is sufficient to keep all marriages together. It is grace, not super glue. I think you are just wrong in saying that we pretend that sacramental marriages cannot collapse.

      • hombre111

        Fair observation, Fred. I have read a number of modern theologians re the subject, and this is what they seem to say: A sacrament is a symbolic ritual act of new covenant worship 1)that expresses the shared faith of the Church universal, 2) that is celebrated in God’s name by a person authorized to do so by the Christian community, 3) that derives in some way from the ministry of Jesus, 4) that gives access in faith to the Paschal Mystery because it challenges to faith in Jesus as Lord, in the Father he proclaimed, and in the Holy Breath he sends, and 5) that effects the grace it signifies to the extent that it expresses faith and deepens faith. (These are words from Gelpi, but most sacramental theologians would agree).

        I think this sense of the word sacrament makes it hard to imagine that the casual, ignorant, faithless marriages that often happen between baptized people can be called sacraments. What it points to is a need for a much better preparation for marriage, both from the point of view of catechesis, and from the view of the couple who, very seriously, make a good preparation. The priest asked to perform a marriage will have to be much stronger about the issue than he usually is. Rather than tell people they are trapped by something that almost magically happened, whether they were aware of, or consented to it or not, the priest would tell people before their marriage that their lack of faith-filled preparation did not make them worthy to receive the sacrament at all. Priests do this all the time when they exclude children and young adults from receiving Communion or Confirmation.

        • Bones

          It may lead to the situation that couples shop around for a priest more in line with their expectations.
          Some priests keep to doctrine to a greater or lesser degree. I was told by a priest that his Catholic sister was less culpable in the adulterous affair with my husband because she was not the one married as her ex-husband had twice remarried.

          • hombre111

            Or, to use a word borrowed from Pope Francis, some priests are less rigid and more merciful than others.

  • jacobhalo

    Cardinal Kasper said that no change would be made concerning the doctrine of marriage or the words of Jesus. He said, “It’s a problem to do with the application of those words.” The interviewer did not ask what those applications should be. Liberals can really dance around a issue. As the architect of Obamacare said, the people are too dumb to know. Are Catholics too dumb to know what the heretic Kasper means by application?

  • Elwin Ryan Ransom

    I have to say as a woman twice divorced and three times married (a fact, though not a fact about which I am proud) and none of my marriages taking place in the Catholic church, that I think we cannot judge that simply.

    My first two marriages were the sinful ones. In neither could the husband
    really commit to marriage; in the first, his alcoholism consumed him, but I ultimately had to decide not to let it consume me too; in the second, with whom I had two beautiful daughters, his immaturity and complete self-centeredness consumed him. I rushed into marriage with the first and found out later that he never wanted children, but that he did want to drink himself to death. I lived (yes, in sin) with the second and finding myself pregnant, married him because I wanted to do the right thing by my unborn child. I am not sorry that I made that choice as it allowed my two children to be born within a

    I feel that my first two marriages were in fact the adulterous ones. My third
    marriage to a wonderful man whom I have known most of my life was entered into
    with our hearts open to each other, our commitment absolute, and our eyes on
    God. I cannot feel in any way that my marriage to my wonderful husband is not
    blessed in heaven.

    I could have gotten annulments for both marriages as could my husband for his first
    marriage. We checked on this because we would have liked to have been married
    in our faith, but we decided that it would be the wrong message to send our
    children, annulments are a semantics game within the church (still think that), and we
    take responsibility for our choices, even our sinful ones. Besides, a wise priest once told me that not all marriages are bound in heaven.

    I place my soul in the care of Jesus who understands our human frailty, but I
    cannot see my marriage as sin. I hope that He forgives me if I am wrong, but I
    do not think he will condemn me. I am sinning no more in my understanding. No, I do not think that the church should change her teachings to fit my understanding, but that each of us in our best and truest heart must do what is right with an eye to the Church’s teaching, much prayer, and a heart open to God. Over scrupulosity is a sin too. I have given this much thought and study and this is my discernment for me. After all, I must stand before God alone for judgement.

    • St JD George

      Elwin, I’m glad you have comfort in your marriage. Though our experiences weren’t quite the same, I’ll share with you that getting an annulment was probably the last issue for me to accept. I was married before briefly in what should never have been, and now happily for almost 30 years. I too felt why do I need to have the church tell me what I already know in my heart. Now that I understand the scriptural basis for it I can tell you that putting that in the past and saying our vows to Christ in his church with our two grown sons was one of the happiest days of my (our) life. It brought a unity that I didn’t think could be any stronger. It’s almost like confession, you don’t understand the transformative and healing power until you experience it.

      • Dana R Casey

        I can imagine that what you say is true and if I thought it were that simple, I would joyfully go with it. But I wonder, are your children from your first marriage or your second? It seems that they are from the second. How do I say to my children that my marriage to their father is annulled, that in fact it is as if it never existed. Does that make them bastards? I did indeed make every effort to make the marriage to their father work out. I stayed with him through years of misery and counseling and prayer and even tried to get it back together the third time he walked out. What do I tell them? What does my husband tell his sons? I would rather face the wrath of God then tell them that the Church has annulled the marriage between their father and me.

        • St JD George

          Dana, I’ll be the first to admit I am blessed in my marriage, and I know your story is quite common as many in my RCIA group faced similar difficulties with children and former spouses. You sound as if you have the patience of a saint trying to make things work full of mercy with one was not willing. I am not in a position to give advice except maybe to discuss with a pastor you trust and feel comfortable with. God bless you.

          • Dana R Casey

            Thank you, I do pray and struggle with this. I have talked to a pastor who blesses our marriage though he cannot perform Catholic rites for us nor would we ask him, putting him in a terrible position. God knows what is in my heart and only He can ultimately judge. I have fallen short of the glory of God in many ways, my marriage being but one small one. The mercy of God is the only hope I have.

            • St JD George

              We all fall short in different ways, but we have a loving God who forgives us when we ask for it and are sorrowful. Maybe time will help heal and bring wisdom. Remember, it is God’s will that will be done, not ours, when put our faith in him and lovingly follow him.

    • publiusnj

      I have no idea whether Jesus will condemn you or not. Whether He will or not: God only knows. However, to say that your first marriage was an adulterous one is just silly. It wasn’t and couldn’t be.

      • Dana R Casey

        There is more than one way to be adulterous. Being involved in a sexual relationship with someone who has no intention to commit to that marriage, who will throw away the “marriage” the minute it becomes difficult, makes it adulterous. The sexual permissiveness brought on by the 60s and 70s made adulterers of a majority of the population. I did not take the marriage as seriously as I should have before I entered into it, though I would have stayed committed to it if my husband had tried at all, but he walked away as soon as it required anything of him. Since his commitment was never genuine and he never intended to have children with me, his intention was an adulterous one.

        • publiusnj

          You apparently want to make up new meanings for words. At least, though, make your intention, and the new meaning, clear BEFORE reinventing the term. Better yet, use terms in their ordinary meanings and make your points in ways others will be able to underrstand. Then fruitless exchanges like ours would be avoided.

          • Dana R Casey

            A thoughtful person reading the whole of the text would have gotten the subtly of the intended meaning without having it spelled out for them. Then again, a thoughtful person would have not thrown barbs and snide remarks at someone who was trying to add to a serious discussion.

            When discussing the intent of a person, seeing things in the simplest terms and definitions with no use of thoughtful examination does not shown true discernment. If a person goes to confession and says all of the words and performs all of the required acts of contrition, but does not mean it at all in their hearts or their souls, are they really penitent? If a person marries by performing all of the rites of the sacraments, but has no understanding of what the sacrament entails or knows but knows that they do not believe in the words or have no intention of following them, are they truly married in the eyes of heaven? I think not, no matter what the rules may say; therefore, their intent is an adulterous one and not an act INSIDE a sanctified marriage. It is a lie hidden from the one they have married.

            BTW: adultery means a sexual relationship OUTSIDE of a marriage. If one party had no real intent on being married, then that couple is not really married. For example, if a man marries a woman and goes to another state and marries another woman, the second woman is involved in an adulterous affair even if she knew nothing of the first marriage. She is an innocent victim, and she would in no way be held to her marriage even if she meant it in all honesty because her “husband” was not honest. He would be adulterous; she would not. Neither would she be held accountable to remain faithful to that husband. Of course the Church would recognize such a blatant violation and release her. There are however, more subtle violations then those which are covered in Church law.

            Ultimately, it is not the law but the intent in your heart that matters. The law guides us, but God holds us more responsible than just following the letter of the law else we become whited sepulchers, all clean on the outside and full of corruption within.

            • publiusnj

              You can engage in all the circumlocution you want to justify her third marriage while husbands one and two are alive. I have simply pointed out how tortured your circumlocutions are. You can then accuse me of not being than thoughtful. My thought? That is just ad hominem argument.

              • Dana R Casey

                I justify nothing, but offer thoughts that might open discussion about some of the issues many people have to face. You offer nothing, but try to justify yourself with attacks that accuse me of attacking. Hmmm. Did you have to look up circumlocution before you used it?

                • publiusnj

                  Of course not. Now for the irresistible tat: your asking suggests you might have had to look it up. BTW, you really need to stop arguing ad hominem,

                  • Dana R Casey

                    Unbelievable, you attack and then just keep pointing the finger at me and say I am attacking. You do not seem to want to discuss the issue, only to attack. The guilty are always pointing the finger at someone else. Talk about issues or don’t talk at all to me. Talk reasonably without emotional arrogance or don’t talk.

                    I opened myself up and put out discussions that others might also be struggling with. I am open to hearing other ideas. Other posters have responded to this with compassion, grace, and politeness, but sniping and side remarks are not the way to learning or growth.

                    • publiusnj

                      If you want to be treated as someone other than a troll, refrain from snarkiness like this: ”
                      Hmmm. Did you have to look up circumlocution before you used it? ” Until you do, I will give you short shrift.

    • maria

      If your previous “marriages” were not in the Catholic Church, the were not valid.Therefore in the eyes of God, you are finally sacramentally married now.

  • St JD George

    Here is a reason for hope that our US Bishops got the message and are on the right track in preparing for next year.


  • Abandoned Spouse

    So much for abandoned, faithful, spouses.

    THE reason I have left the Catholic Church.

    • slainte

      It was not Christ who betrayed you; it was your spouse.

      It is Christ, though, who will walk with you through this most unimaginable pain; and when the hurts becomes unbearable, He will carry you through it.

      Seek solace from His Church.

  • I returned to the Church after having civilly married a divorced woman. We refrained from the Eucharist for a few years, but, eventually, the yearning for communing with Our Lord was just too great. My wife, sharing the same yearning, though she wasn’t Catholic yet, agreed to pursue the annulment of her previous marriage. Our consciences dictated that we couldn’t have relations until the Church pronounced. So, while she was in RCIA and the process was ongoing, we lived as brother and sister. We couldn’t partake in Communion yet, in order to avoid scandal, but at least I regarded the months of celibacy as penance for my unfaithfulness. Her annulment was granted just a month before she was received in the Church and we got married soon after. Her First Communion was at our wedding in the Church, and mine after so many years.

  • Akira88

    This article helped me understand what a very good priest was telling me. He was clear; me? Not so much.

    Thank you.

  • Michael Whennen

    Dr Leslie McFall has written an ebook THE BIBLICAL TEACHING ON
    DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE it is available in two parts, is his research work ground
    breaking? To download please go to the Dr Leslie McFall section at http://www.WiseReaction.org

  • Gregory McKinney

    I understand and respect the position on these issues held by the Latin church. As it reflects on them over the coming months and years, I hope the RC laity also comes to understand the position of the Orthodox Catholic church (commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox) in these matters, so as not to become an insurmountable impediment to reunification. The link is to a sound explanation from a canonical Bishop of the Orthodox church: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/athenagoras_remarriage.htm