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'A Second Guilt'

I hope that Jim Pauwels, Carlo Lancellotti, and others who have questions or objections after reading the short sample of our Cardinal Kasper interview below will read the whole interview here. And if they still have questions after that, they may want to look at Cardinal Kasper's speech before the consistory in February, which is now available in English translation here.

Kasper is clearly talking about cases where an annulment is either impossible or inappropriate. He is talking about people who have repented for the failure of their sacramental marriage (if they were responsible for its failure), cannot be reconciled to their spouse, and now, years later, are in a civil marriage with another partner. For them to quit this partnership could do tremendous damage—to their new partner and to their children if they have any. This is what the cardinal means when he says that a person in this situation could not walk away from this partnership without incurring new guilt. Some will say that's not a problem as long as the remarried person and his or her partner are willing to live "as brother and sister." But, as the cardinal recognizes, unless both partners are willing to do this, the decision by one of them to do so is likely to destroy the relationship. It would also require a kind of moral heroism that the church has been very hesitant to demand in most areas of life.

Imagine a woman with small children who was married in the church and has been abandoned by her husband. She did not want a divorce; she does not want an annulment. She doesn't believe that her marriage was invalid just because her husband failed to keep his vows. She spends months, maybe years waiting and praying for reconciliation with her spouse, who does not want reconciliation and has perhaps already started a new family with someone else. Finding it very difficult to support her children alone, and knowing that they would be better off with a father figure in the home, she meets a man who is decent and faithful and wants to help her raise her family. He is not a Catholic. Eventually they marry. Years later the woman starts going back to church. She attends Mass every week; she enrolls her children in CCD and makes sure they are confirmed. She participates in the life of the parish and wants to be able to receive communion again.

What can she do? Some would say that, given her circumstances, her only option requires moral heroism. She must refuse to have sex with her new partner, whatever the consequences for her him or her children. Some will say that if he really loves her, he will accept this decision and remain faithful to her and their children, even though he himself isn't Catholic and cannot fathom the burden she has been asked to take up. Some will say that if he doesn't accept this decision, then she is better off without him, whatever the practical difficulties involved, however much heartbreak, resentment, and loneliness this causes.

Others, including the cardinal, have pointed out that the ancient church had other ways of dealing with such situations and that the Eastern Orthodox still do. Those ways do not require the dissolution of the first marriage, but they do require that we let go of a kind of perfectionism that ends up alienating many people who are eager to receive the sacraments. As Kasper points out, Pope Benedict has already suggested that someone in the situation I've just described, having confessed her sins and done penance for them, can have spiritual communion with Christ. But the same sin that is considered so grave that it prevents somone from receiving communion would premumably also prevent full spiritual communion with Christ. To say otherwise is to drive a wedge between Christ and his church. The church's power to loose and to bind is a power Christ gave it, and no servant is better than its Master.

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Mr. Boudway - thanks for this.  Here is a comment I just posted on your original post:

JP - M. Boudway has just posted another context to Kaspar's remarks about annulments.

But here are some other remarks: 

http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/cardinal-kaspers-interview

 

Along with Mr. Gibson's point; here are some highlights:

"One of the least remarked aspects of the whole discussion about divorce and remarriage is that before the 1917 Code of Canon Law was adopted for the universal Church, in this country and most others, the parish priest dealt with the issue. To be sure, there were far fewer cases of divorce back then, although spousal abandonment in immigrant communities was not unknown. It was a canonical procedure, to be sure, but undoubtedly a pastor dealing with people he knew brought that pastoral element to the situation in a way that a canonist on a tribunal dealing with a stack of papers cannot. And, to be sure, very few of those pastors had extensive training in canon law. But, for all that surety, I suspect the system was better at avoiding what Kasper here calls "jurisscience" and exercising, instead, jurisprudence."

(rather than suggesting that the current US methods can be a model for the world?)

"....but Trent. We who still live in what can appropriately be called the "post-conciliar period" need to ever be reminded that there were councils before Vatican II and, in many ways, the reticence of earlier councils on certain issues, their "very cautious" approach to certain theological issues, is a thing to be admired. I was discussing this whole divorced and remarriage issue and the different way the Orthodox handle it with a very conservative priest friend. And he told me something interesting. "If I ask an Orthodox theologian," he said, "if I am a validly ordained priest, the theologian will reply only that I am not a priest of the Orthodox Church. When pressed, the Orthodox theologian will refuse to answer my question about the validity of my orders. They do not believe it is right to put excessive limits and proscriptions on the action of God's grace." This was a key insight. There is much, very much, to admire about our Western penchant for legal thinking, but it can sometimes lead us to ask questions that it is not the Church's business to ask, still less to answer."

Love his reference to the sacrament of matrimony and how Trent was influenced and impacted by a local, significant political reality - the islands of Venice.  Does put this whole discussion about indsolubility into a new context and light?

This discussion on divorce and remarriage will continue, and it is just so damned healthy to see the discussion being held in the open, with cardinals unafraid to contradict each other. It thrills me to see two nonordained journalists having a deep and penetrating conversation with a Vatican cardinal. And, the fact that, under Francis' leadership, this issue will be less about internal Vatican workings and more about following synodal processes, this is something that opens up a truly new chapter in the life of the postconciliar period. These are exciting times and the deepest level of excitement comes from the sense that the Spirit is moving. 

 

 

 

"But the same sin that is considered so grave that it prevents somone from receiving communion would premumably also prevent full spiritual communion with Christ"

 

"Presumably" is doing an awful lot of work in this sentence! In fact, that's not true at all.

 

I am a sinner. Many times on Sunday I have to admit that my sins are serious enough that I should not approach the sacrament without going to confession. I do not go but I ask the Lord to keep me with him in spiritual communion. Then I go to confession, and I go back to communion. But then I sin again. That's the Christian life for most people, divorced or not. If you are remarried, unfortunately, you have put yourself in a situation where not to sin is humanly almost impossible, that's it. Jesus loves you all the same.

 

If I claimed that I do not sin , and that after getting absolution my next sin is not a sin, I would an hypocrite. That's what is being encouraged: hypocrisy, not mercy.

 

Mr. Lancellotti - understand your personal perspective but your approach and feelings do not and should not dictate the pastoral practice of the church.  Your personal approach may be commendable but it is only one way of understanding the theology, scripture, and tradition of the church.

In fact, many would disagree with your interpretation of what the eucharist is and what and why we need to partake of the body and blood of Christ...it is not a *means test* - as Francis has said well, the eucharist and the church are more like a hospital for sinners and we need to participate and receive the body/blood of Christ because it heals, supports, and builds up the body of Christ.

Your judgmental comments about remarried are unfortuante - they are your comments only and ignore the reality of the pastoral situation; the reality of the world (which VII called us to work with (not ignore or judge or deny and withdraw).  You make the sacrament of marriage as if it is the cornerstone and central part of our faith - it is not.   You have denigrated and lowered the conversation by your own ideological comments - that has nothing to do with our call to mercy, justice, or being a sacramental church.

Bill:

"Your judgmental comments about remarried are unfortuante"

 

What judgmental comments? That having sex with somebody one is not married to is a sin? You find that judgmental? Really?

 

Obviously there is plenty of space for pastoral judgment in these matters. But to state that, as a general rule, "whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" is not judgemental It is te Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19 verse 9.

Actually Bill's comment about "judgementalism" reminds me of a major cultural characteristic of countries heavily influenced by Protestantism like the US. This Calvinist idea that being a "sinner" is some kind of condemnation.

Realistically, being a sinner is very normal. And shedding light on our situation of weakness and on our need for God's grace is salutary, not "judgmental." This is why the obsession to "change the rules" so that "we are no longer in sin" is the very opposite of a pastoral approach. A pastoral approach judges individual cases and applies rules humanly, it does not try to pretend we are all just doing fine. I am not. We are not. People who were in a perfectly valid marriage and remarry have a problem in their spiritual life, no matter how many absolutions and even communions they get. Telling them they have no problem means lying to them and does them no good.

As Augustine said, all of Catholic moral theology can be summarized as

"Know right from wrong, do what you can, pray for what you cannot"

The three are inseparable.

Yikes, when my name appears in a post, usually it means I have done something even wronger than usual :-)

Matthew, thanks for the gentle prompting to read the entire interview.  I've now skimmed through it and will return to it later.  I do note that he concedes that there are a multiplicity of issues to work through.

I expect that it's clear from my comments that (a) I don't disagree that this is a large pastoral problem that needs to be addressed, and (b) my view is that the best path forward is to reform the institution of annulments.  I do understand that many folks hope that a way can be found to just bypass or retire the annulment process entirely, particularly as this seems to be what has happened in many/most of the other Christian denominations.  I don't think that's a possibility.

As to how the annulment process can be reformed: I expect there are many, many possibilities.  One possibility, which I've put forth a couple of times now (believe me, in all modesty and humility!) is that the rest of the world become aligned to what is viewed in the US as "best practices".  My understanding is that a substantially higher percentage of annulment requests are granted in the US than is the case elsewhere, and that one reason for this is that US tribunals take a more expansive view of circumstances that could impede the couple's consent than is the case elsewhere.  I'm persuaded by US canonists who sincerely believe that this US approach is both realistic and holy, and indeed merciful.

I'd characterize that proposal as a modest flavor of reform, although I daresay it wouldn't be viewed as modest across the church.  I expect it would represent a tremendous improvement in other places, but naturally it doesn't change any possibilities for Americans who are divorced and civilly remarried.  But my pastoral observation is that many such Americans don't  avail themselves of the existing annulment process; many of these folks might be able to obtain a decree of nullity for the previous marriage if they did so.  And further reforms (making it less expensive, less time-consuming, less burdensome) might incentivize more people to at least try the annulment route.

More radical reforms of the annulment process certainly are possible.  I see that Bill d has now quoted a couple of times a passage from a Michael Sean Winters post, suggesting that a parish pastor somehow be empowered to exercise judgment and issue something that would be the legal and theological equivalent of a decree of nullity (at least I think that is the inference).  My humility and modesty is such that I haven't ventured to comment here in the past with such a suggestion, but I admit that the thought has crossed my mind before.  To draw a parallel: when preparing a couple for marriage, I am supposed to ascertain that there are no impediments. To that end, I go over a questionairre with each of the prospective spouses.  I also have another questionnaire which needs to be filled out in my presence by witnesses; these are a sort of deposition.  It's a bit of a paperwork rigmarole, but we get through it pretty expeditiously (it usually takes two meetings, max), and there are rarely any issues.  And compared to what happens in an annulment procedure, it's practically nothing.  It seems to me that, conceptually anyway, a pastor (or even a deacon) could do something comparable: walk trhough some questions with the petitioner, and then exercise some judgment.  Easy peasy.  Maybe, anyway.

 

Thanks, JP - not sure I am suggesting any practical process - merely citing the history and our tradition which most probably are completely unaware of.

Jim P.:

 

not only I agree with you, I expect that is what will probably happen at the synod (a combination of better marriage preparation and some simplification of the annulment process).

To be honest, I also suspect that the problem will largely solve itself in the next couple of decades as Church marriages become fewer and fewer, as is happening all over Europe. Speaking of historical contingencies, there as been a roughly 50 year window in which there was a large number of people who felt culturally compelled to marry in Church but really did not know what they were doing. In the future, things will probably be very different.

 

 

I dont think difficult or exceptional hypothetical cases provide a useful way to think about a general problem.  Individual circumstances matter too much.  And presumably, that is what the annulment process is designed to deal with.

On the chance tha tthe dicsunnion begun on an earlier post is not being continued here I will post here the comment I posted there for C. Lancellotti:

You have grounded your objections to modification of the Church's pastoral practice regarding divorce and remarriage on Jesus' absolute prohibiiton against divorce.  You neglect, however, the wider evidence in the New Testament which did not treat of his teaching as absolute, as it allowed for exceptions, as in the case of the Pauline provilege and the exceptive clauses in the synoptics.  I recommend that you read Fitzmyer, S.J., Joseph A. "The Matthean Dovorce Texts and ssome New Palestinian Evidence." Theological Studies (37) 1976, 197-226.  

Salient for the discussion here:

"If Matthew under inspiration could have been moved to add an exceptive phrase to the saying of Jesus on divorce that he found in an absolute form either in his Marcan source or in "Q," or if Paul likewise under inspiration could introduce into his writing an exception on his own authority, then why cannot the Spirit-guided institutional Church of a later generation make a similar exception in view of problems confronting Christian married life in its day or so-called broken marriages (not really envisaged in the NT) -- as it has done in some situations.  The question here is whether one looks solely at the absoilute prohibition, traceable to Jesus, or at the "process of understanding and adaptation" which is in the NT itself and "with which the modern Church can identify only by entering into the process and furthering it" (224-25).

Mr. Lancolletti - sorry, don't buy your comment.  Your starting point is actually Calvinistic and Pelagian.  Your total focus - to paraphrase:

"Realistically, being a sinner is very normal. And shedding light on our situation of weakness and on our need for God's grace is salutary, not "judgmental." This is why the obsession to "change the rules" so that "we are no longer in sin" is the very opposite of a pastoral approach. A pastoral approach judges individual cases and applies rules humanly, it does not try to pretend we are all just doing fine. People who were in a perfectly valid marriage and remarry have a problem in their spiritual life, no matter how many absolutions and even communions they get. Telling them they have no problem means lying to them and does them no good.

As Augustine said, all of Catholic moral theology can be summarized as

"Know right from wrong, do what you can, pray for what you cannot"

Let's start with the *reality* that this issue is both complex and nuanced (not as black and white as you want to make it).

Second, you quote Augustine...fine, but he isn't the absolute be all theologically.  As Cardinal Kaspar and others have tried to show, the tradition and practice of our church (east and west) is much more nuanced.  In fact, we have many Fathers and Mothers of the Church who disagree with Augustine or express the reality of God's grace in the world from a different perspective.  You have basically taken a Baltimore Catechism approach which is based upon *atonement theology*.  Atonement theology is found in statements such as - e.g. start with sinner, focus on our situation of weakness, etc.

And yet, this conflicts with the reality that God created the world *good* and that human beings are made in the image of God.  This type of approach sees the sacrifice of Jesus as some sort of ancient sacrifice to the gods routine.  Catholic theology rejects this.  This type of *catholic guilt* needs to be corrected or, at least, be more balanced.

Catholic practice believes that God's mercy can forgive sin - so, why does that mean that a remarriage requires a certain type of lifestyle, etc.  Doesn't this say that the sin is not forgiven?  Do you realize that your comments sound like *you know what God does and does not do - you know what is acceptable and what isn't*....this is totally opposite the gospel parables, the stories of Jesus, the absolute offer of mercy without explanation; without any human amount of restitution, control, or effort.

Here is an interesting link:  http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/are-we-saved-jesus-death-cross

Kay points that coorespond to what Kaspar says in the interview:

"To obsess over his sacrifice, suffering and death, I think, is to distort the essential message -- that we are God's beloved,:  (sorry, but your statement about remarriage/sin is an obsessin that rejects and controls what God may or may not give.  Who are you to decide that with your man made rules?  As Kaspar states - we need to go back to the scriptures - to the gospel message.

"..... prefer to think we are saved by Jesus, by the coming of the Second Person of the Trinity into our world to announce God's love and forgiveness. We are saved by his birth, by what he did and said in his public life, and yes, by his passion, death and resurrection. It's all of one piece: the Son of God in our midst. But I do not see much about this approach in the liturgy or in ordinary homilies."

Nor do I see much of this in your comments about the sacrament of marriage and remarriage.You comment about *changing the rules* - well, isn't this exactly what Jesus did?  You sound more like a Pharisee responding to a parable of Jesus. (thus, my comment about an ideology).  You say that this this isn't pastoral - but the opposite.  Really?  Think you miss the point of the parables....the parables do not judge, they invite, call forth, and give mercy.  This doesn't mean that there are no rules (your argument knee jerks to the other extreme).  When you deal with human beings and their choices, remarriage may have actually been a very honest, just, and responsible decision that cooperated with the grace of God. And a pastor would respond lovingly and would balance between judgment and mercy - but, a pastor would not apply a black and white answer (which is what you do despite your attempt to explain this away)  Who are you to judge?

" I do understand that many folks hope that a way can be found to just bypass or retire the annulment process entirely,"

Jim P. --

I agree.  And the reason some people are very, very much against annulments is because they view annulments as a kind of fake divorce used so that the Church won't have to admit it was wrong about no divorces.  Other people (strangely, to my mind) don't want to admit that they made a mistake in the first place and entered into an invalid marriage.  Oddly, it is sometimes the *parents* of the spouses, not the spouses, who most object to annulment.  In any event, the Church needs to make it very clear just what an annulment is and what it isn't.

About your pre-marriage process.  It sounds as if it could help avoid a lot of heart-ache in the future.  But if it's really effective and half of the current matrimonies aren't matrimony in the first place, then half of the couples asking to marry in the Church will have to be told they can't or else they'll have to change their view of what matrimony is before making their vows.  The only real solution, I think, for the vast majority of cases is that the catechsis be more effective.

I also truly believe that if the Church banned the super-elaborate weddings performances so many put on these days that not nearly as many people would be asking to marry literally "in the Church".  Two attendants each, no wedding dress trains, short wedding veils, two bouquets of flowers on the altar  might do a lot for the institutioon of Holy Matrimony. 

 

So here's a solution: don't bother getting married until you are really, really sure, maybe when you are 35 or 40, that way, when you do get married everyone will be so grateful that you are no  longer living in sin they will totally forget that you didn't get married earlier.  It will be kisses, rainbows, lollipops and sunshine all the way.  Whereas, remarriage after divorce is a life long stain that allows people like Carlo to mock you forever as being an adulterer.

I am pretty sure that's the message millenials have digested.  Divorce and remarriage are the last generation's problem.  The current generation isn't bothering with marriage at all.  I wonder when the Church will turn its attention in their direction. 

The hypothetical given is such an outlier that it's hard to take it seriously.  I do know people in that kind of situation, but the wife is rarely like Griselda, waiting and praying for her good for nothing spouse to have a change of heart and come back.

 

 

Sometimes, I feel like requiring anyone demanding others live a celibate life live an actually celibate life themselves. Otherwise, they are laying heavy burdens upon others while enjoying the fruits of a system that works well for themselves.

Matthew's hypothetical is heart-wrenching, but I've also heard similar tales. Such matters are better left to one's local pastor and spiritual director and shouldn't be dependent on bloated cadres of canon lawyers.

Three additional observations:

- It is not good to legislate based on extraordinary situations.

- Rome really, *really* has very little confidence in its pastors to make good judgments. Otherwise why reserve the law to ecclesial courts and to Rome? How do pastors feel about being sidelined while they watch people flounder?

- Despite Paul's admonishment about receiving unworthily, Christian practice hasn't always withheld the sacraments from sinners, even public ones. When is sacramental grace more needed than human law?

This bodes well, it seems to me, for an eventual acceptance of same-sex marriage by the Church, although almost certainly not as a sacrament administered by the Church. So perhaps I should say this bodes well for the acceptance by the Church of couples in same-sex civil marriages. If the Church can bring itself to accept civil marriages that unite couples in "adultery," then eventually it could accept civil marriages that unite same-sex partners. Of course, it may take hundreds of years. 

For well over a thousand years Christians were married the same way non-Christians in the same locations were married (by the state or whatever body held jurisdiction over marriage). I am pretty sure it wasn't until the Council of Trent that getting "married in the Church" (i.e., having a marriage ceremony presided over by a priest) was required. And I don't believe much emphasis was put on the "indissolubility of marriage" until the Church decided it was in control of all marriages. Still, having been educated in Catholic school in the 1950s and early 1960s, I would have to say that Cardinal Kasper is proposing a drastic change and giving the kind of rationale for it that could be used to change almost any Church practice while claiming he is being consistent with what the Church has always taught. 

Bill:

 

I see little connection between what I wrote and your response, so I am somewhat at a loss.

Certainly atonement theology has nothing to do with this questions. Sin, i.e. the inability to love adequately, and the continuous need for God's forgiveness are very basic human experiences.

As for "the sacrament of remarriage" (your words), I never heard of it before.

But if it's really effective and half of the current matrimonies aren't matrimony in the first place, then half of the couples asking to marry in the Church will have to be told they can't or else they'll have to change their view of what matrimony is before making their vows.  The only real solution, I think, for the vast majority of cases is that the catechsis be more effective.

Hi, Ann - just speaking from my own experience (which, I should stress, is pretty limited): with one possible exception, I think every couple I've worked with for a wedding understood what they were getting themselves into, and sincerely meant every word of their consent on their wedding day.  I've never had a couple younger than their middle '20's; people get married a good deal older these days than was the case in my parents' day.  They're mature adults with some life experience.  Yet some of my couples have subsequently had marriages end.  

The church really does try - insists - that the marriage prep unearth any issues beforehand that would indicate that the marriage won't succeed.  One outcome of the emphasis on preparation and examination before the marriage is that a lot of couples say, "No thanks" to getting married in the Catholic church.  It takes months to get to the wedding day in a Catholic church.  And there are a lot of quicker (and, frankly, cheaper) ways to get married.  And all of the cultural barriers to getting married outside the church came crashing down a long time ago.

As for catechesis - I agree; but see my comment in the previous paragraph.  At this point, I think it's fair to say, not only about weddings and marriage but for adult catechesis in general, that the supply  of catechesis offered by the church greatly exceeds the demand of the membership.

 

I also suspect that the problem will largely solve itself in the next couple of decades as Church marriages become fewer and fewer

Carlo: it seems to me the church can at least stem the tide on this trend by teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament.  In our marriages, we encounter God.  There are blessings available in the church's way of doing this that may not be available elsewhere.  

 

 

Alan Mitchell:

"The question here is whether one looks solely at the absoilute prohibition, traceable to Jesus, or at the "process of understanding and adaptation" which is in the NT itself and "with which the modern Church can identify only by entering into the process and furthering it""

 

Bah, asking the question to such degree of abstraction is not especially helpful. One can just answer, as generally, that "understanding and adaptation" should never void the deeper intention of the original prohibition.

I would add that already interpreting Jesus's teaching as a prohibition is very reductive and moralistic. Before "prohibiting" anything, Jesus recognized a salvific act of God ("what God united..."). What you call a "prohibition" is actually a "protection" of a divine gift which we want to squander.

Jim P.

 

"Carlo: it seems to me the church can at least stem the tide on this trend by teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament."

 

Of course! I would really hope so...

Keith Ward wrotes a bit about what Jesus may have meant by what he said about divorce ....

http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/theres-nowt-so-queer-as-fol...

"[...] First, Jesus' moral teaching in general seems to be stated in very exaggerated terms that cannot be taken literally, but that point to the ideal moral attitudes that should govern human life (we might think of Jesus' statement that a camel cannot go through a needle's eye as such a case, pointing out the difficulty, but not the absolute impossibility, of combining great wealth and Christian discipleship). So if we try to take one consistent way of interpreting Jesus' moral teachings, it has to be a non-literal way, but a way which does not in any way undermine the importance of absolute moral commitment. The commitment will be, however, not to external acts but to inner attitudes. Such attitudes will normally issue in external acts of a specific sort. Life-long commitment will normally issue in no divorce. But in hard cases, the required attitudes of true care for another and respect for their wishes can remain, or even be strengthened, by making an exception to the normal rules.

Second, Torah permitted divorce, as did all the Rabbis of Jesus' day. The disciples may have been shocked at the severity of Jesus' teaching, but it was shock enough to them that he made divorce extremely difficult, when they were obviously expecting him to have a more liberal attitude (that itself is perhaps a clue to the general nature of Jesus' moral teaching. He was generally liberal or humane in his interpretations of Torah, arguing for healing and for picking ears of what on the Sabbath - both allowed by liberal interpretations of Torah, but contested by very conservative readings). And according to Matthew, Jesus did not mean actually to contradict Torah in his teaching.

Third, the literal interpretation of the divorce aphorism in the Sermon on the Mount would be uncharitable to innocently divorced women, and I cannot accept that Jesus' teaching was ever uncharitable. True love of neighbour will sometimes involve marrying, and taking care of, women who have been left alone through no fault of their own, or by a tragic breakdown of marriage. And it will sometimes involve letting a wife of husband go, when they do not wish to continue a relationship further. These are hard cases, and it would be a mistake to build a set of moral laws on hard cases. It is better to do as I, at least, believe Jesus did, and that is to set out the moral ideals that should govern human life, and leave hard cases to careful and particular consideration in often unforeseen situations. The underlying principle that I would find in the sermon with regard to sexual morality is that life-long commitments of loyalty and trust, for better or for worse, are of great value, and should never be intentionally undermined (5, 31 - 32). In addition, it is wrong to make such relationships merely instrumental to gaining momentary pleasure, so that personal gratification is regarded as more important than a fully personal relationship of shared concern and experience (5, 27 - 30). Both these principles are fully consistent with love of neighbour, and they spell out what such love implies. In the form in which I have described them, they do not mention sex or gender at all. They are about friendship in general. And that, in my view, is how they should be taken ....."

. . . . teaching/reminding its members that marriage, among all the other things it is, is also a sacrament.

In reading the history of marriage in the Church, I found it interesting how long it took for marriage to be recognized as a sacrament. I don't really think the groundwork was there until sacramental theology developed in about the 13th century. And believing that marriage was an "outward sign instituted by Christ" requires practing a half hour a day, like the Queen in Through the Looking Glass. 

There are many seeming paradoxes in Scripture.  Such as the passage cited by Carlo and others re: the indissolubility of marriage, and the account of the woman at the well.  We are told that this woman had been married 5 times, and was apparently just cohabiting with #6.  Pretty messy, even by today's standards.  The gospel conspicuously doesn't say that Jesus told her "Go figure out who you're really married to, get your ducks in a row, then we'll talk about this living water." He met her where she was.  Do these two messages contradict each other? I don't believe so. If Jesus had met the woman before the whole train wreck started, I'm sure he would have advised her to choose a different path. But He realized that the past is over, and can't be changed.  There is a saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  I imagine the rest of her life was much different than the first part.  People fear that the Church is like a house of cards; if anything shifts, the whole thing will come tumbling down.  But it is rather built of living stones.  As someone mentioned,  the Orthodox churches have a somewhat different approach to divorce and remarriage. They still teach the indissolubility of marriage, the same as the Catholic church does. But they have a different way of dealing with failures pastorally.

 

Carlo Lancllotti

Bah, asking the question to such degree of abstraction is not especially helpful. One can just answer, as generally, that "understanding and adaptation" should never void the deeper intention of the original prohibition.

 

Why Bah? We have a saying of Jesus that appears to be an absolute prohibition against divorce, and we have two concrete adaptations from NT authors writing after Jesus's time, which make the absolute prohibition conditional.  Is that not a real change?  Whether these void Jesus' orginal intention cannot be known because we have only the saying and we lnow nothing of his intention.  What you state as the original intention of Jesus is only what you would like it to be, not necessarily what it actually was.  Besides where does the idea that any later undersanding and adaptation cannot void an original intention come from? I suggest you read the entire Fitzmyer article to get an appreciation of the process of adaptation as he laid it out before you come up with an arbitrary rule of understanding and adaptation that fits your preference.

Katherine - (tongue in cheek); you must have missed the part the gospel writer left out about the woman at the well - it had to do with her failed annulment processes.   It made the story too long and didn't fit the gospel structure.  Oh well!

I don't think that judging whether or not OTHERS are eligible to present themselves for Holy Communion is really consistent withthe gospel.  We're enouraged not to judge others.  The onus is really on the communicant themseleves to judge whether or not they are fit to receive, as St Paul said.  If the communicant does not think they are in a state of mortal sin, then it really isn't anyone else's perogative to judge them unfit.

The gold standard here is Christ's attitude to Judas, when he knew Judas had already betrayed him.  But still Jesus admits Judas to the last supper, greets him as friend at Gethsemane, and, according to many patristic fathers, gave Judas Holy Communion.

Sometimes it seems to be so hard for us to really grasp just how merciful and forgiving Christ really is and how he loves his enemies so dearly that he gives them his body and blood.

Lets have more of Christ and less of narrow judgemental lagalism.

God Bless

Speaking of the woman at the well, the Japanese bishops meantioned her and how Jesus responded to her (saying nothing negative about her marital status) in their family synod survey ...

"In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it," they state. "Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary." ...

http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/japanese-bishops-vatican-mindset-do...

Alan Mitchell:

 

"Whether these void Jesus' orginal intention cannot be known because we have only the saying and we lnow nothing of his intention."

I disagree. What we say reveals what we intend.

If the saying does not reveal an intention (or, if you prefer a "value"), then the saying is pretty much useless, and basically we can do it whatever we want (which is more or less what you and Fitzmeyer are advocating anyway).

Chris SUllivan:

 

"If the communicant does not think they are in a state of mortal sin, then it really isn't anyone else's perogative to judge them unfit."

 

That's for sure, but it is a false dicothomy. I can only determine whether I am in a state of mortal (or venial) sin if I have a formed conscience, and conscience is formed in a relationship (with God and with the Church, including its aspect as teacher).

Carlo Lancellotti

Your responses to what I have written do not engage the issues seriously.  You simply dismiss what you do not agree with.   You have not read what Fitzmyer wrote and yet you characterize his considered opinion on thss matter as simply "doing what he wants to do."  By the same token, that charge can be turned on you.  So continue to think what you want to think regardless of the evidence that challenges your view.

Crystal,

The sad thing is that cohabitation outside of marriage is one of the few things that will cause the Church to exclude you from its missionary and charitable activities.

Thank you, everyone, for a thoughtful and spirited discussion.

I take Barbara's point about the distance between much of this discussion and the real calculations and choices of many young adults today, including many Catholics. With her usual wit, she suggests that my hypothetical case is too uncommon to worry about. Maybe it is uncommon, though I suspect it's more common than many now suppose. It's easier for us to assume that, when other people's marriages end, it's because both spouses wanted it to end; or to assume that if it has failed, both spouses are equally guilty for the failure. I think there is a lot of unnoticed abandonment in our society—unnoticed, that is, by all except the persons directly involved and those very close to them. And much of the abandonment that is noticed goes unmentioned.

In any case, Kasper acknowedged that the kind of reform he sketched at his speech before the consistory might not affect many people. It would not solve all the many problems that afflict the sacrament of matrimony today. That doesn't make it unimportant. One of the problems with the status quo is that it fails to distinguish between those who desert their spouses and those who are deserted; both are likely to find themselves in the same predicament with respect to canon law, but the two moral situations are radically different, and this needs to be reflected in pastoral practice if not also in the official rules governing who gets to receive communion. This is what justice requires. The German bishops recently suggested that the church's commitment to fidelity ought to be expressed in special efforts to reach out to those who have been abandoned. This is what mercy requires.

Finally, Jim Pauwels argues that most of these problems could be solved by improving and expanding the annulment process. I'm not so sure. I think the annulment process, at least in the United States (which has 6 percent of the world's Catholics and 60 percent of its annulments) may be encouraging an attitude that undermines the church's moral teachings and defies common sense. I think it encourages people to assume that if a marriage fails, it must be because there was something gravely wrong with it from the moment it began—something so wrong that the marriage did not even exist, as everyone believed it did until one or both spouses decided they wanted to end it.

This is make-believe—and a basic misunderstanding about what promise-making and promise-keeping involve. No matter how good their pre-Cana program, no matter how many compatibility tests they take, no one arrives at marriage totally prepared for what their vows will require. To be totall prepared in that way, one would need not just maturity but omniscience. So, if perfect understanding of what one's vows will turn out to require were a condition of making a good vow, then no one could ever make one. Likewise, if every speck of ambivalence can be treated in retrospect as a disqualifying reservation, then there would be very few valid marriages. People turn out to be more wounded than they know, and, of course, people change. Neither of those facts excuse the breaking of a promise, and neither should they lead us to believe that a promise never counted to begin with.

But the divorced and remarried Catholic has made new promises, which he or she cannot break without doing great damage. That fact needs to be taken into account, not only by parish priests but also by the cardinals who will meet in Rome this fall.

 

Alan:

"You simply dismiss what you do not agree with."

If you say so.

The piece by Fitzmayer you posted was perfectly clear, though, and so were your hermeneutical assumptions: that we cannot know Jesus's intentions. Essentially you are submitting theology to scriptural exegesis, understood positivistically. If you are unwilling to question this assumption, we really have nothing to talk about, whether I read the rest of Fitzmayer's article or not!

 

The meeting of Jesus with the woman at the well speaks volumes. Augustine et alii and Carlo would flagellate her.  Jesus made her an apostle.

Matthwe:

"But the divorced and remarried Catholic has made new promises, which he or she cannot break without doing great damage."

In this discussion, breaking promises is not a big problem. If I break a promise and repent, I get my absolution, try to do amends as well as I can, and go on with my life. The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not. If it was, I have a serious problem. If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier. Pastorally, this can be handled in various way. But just to say that there is no problem, and that I should just get communion as if there were no problem, does me no good. It actually papers over a real difficulty. That's why really the only way out is if there is a convincing case that the original marriage was null. We can try and do a better job at determining that. But just to try and say that we can get absolution and then live more uxorio as if we were married again is the pastoral equivalent of medical malpractice. It does not do anybody any good.

Cardinal Kasper would profit from reading Brideshead Revisited.

Bill:

"Augustine et alii and Carlo would flagellate her."

That's an insult. I would welcome an apology.

The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not.

No, Carlo, that isn't the big question—at least not for Cardinal Kasper. He does not question the indissolubility of sacramental marriage. He questions your inference about what the continuing reality of that marriage means for the woman in my example. You think she has put herself "in a situation where not to sin is humanly almost impossible, that's it." So, she has made her bed, so to speak, and now she must lie in it. You will not shed a tear over her inability to receive communion without breaking up the home she has now.

No one is papering over any difficulties. Some, including Kasper, are suggesting that current canon law may not be adequate to important difficulties that many Catholics face today. Do you regard the Eastern Orthodox approach to this problem as a brazen denial of Christ's teaching? As Kasper points out, the Orthodox do not deny the indissolubility of matrimony. But neither do they allow the best to be the enemy of the good; they understand that the best is sometimes no longer an option. 

Matthew:

"You will not shed a tear over her inability to receive communion without breaking up the home she has now."

I do not see why you (too) feel the need to question my sympathy for her situation. It is precisely because I care that I think Cardinal Kasper's response does not ultimately help her at all.

Receiving communion is not an end in itself. Communion is given us for our sanctification. If her situation (living with a man who is not her husband) is objectively an obstacle to the fulfillment of her vocation, that's not going to change one iota. Sacraments are effective but they are not "magic."

Your constant meme:  "In this discussion, breaking promises is not a big problem. If I break a promise and repent, I get my absolution, try to do amends as well as I can, and go on with my life. The big question is whether the first marriage was real or not, if it was something God did or not. If it was, I have a serious problem. If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier."

Sorry, again, you ignore reality and you make assumptions that you can not know.  For example, many marriages end because one spouse leaves, abandons the other spouse, was incapable of living a lifelong commitment - and you then require the other spouse to just *exist* - that's not life; it isn't repentance or sorrow....it is a narrow, legalistic approach to life.  The remaining spouse has not failed morally - so, why should that spouse not be able to move on with their lives (including remarriage) and that this does not banish them from participating in the eucharist fully.  For many of these spouses, the end of the first marriage is tragic, creates significant inner turmoil, etc. and tthe decision to move on - which may eventually result in another marriage - is not necessarily an easy decision and it make evolve over years. 

Yet - you say:  "If I remarry I am objectively living in contradiction with God's plan for my life as manifested by the sacrament I received earlier."   How do you know this?  Appears that you are playing God.  How do you know that it is God's plan for my life?  You appear to need nice, neat categories that can tell you whether you are right, correct, etc.?   Fact - our faith journey just doesn't fit those nice, neat categories (and it didn't for more than a thousand years of church history).  How do you know that a remarriage is a *contradiction with God's plan for life*?  So, a person makes a covenant - does this *mark* them for life?  Sounds like the *ontological change* argument in terms of the sacrament of orders which is one theological explanation but doesn't really capture what ministry/orders is about in terms of lifelong service.  Think Kaspar is trying to recapture the poetry and language and images of the gospel....rather than the late legal developments of the church.

The sacrament of marriage is a *covenant* between two people witnessed and recognized by the church.  Why assume that covenants require *perfection* - yes, we understand that the covenant is forever but we also understand that the human journey is filled with failure.  Your stance is that this one covenant marks you for life and does not allow any other type of decision, change, etc.  Yet, catholicism & the gospel message is built upon the concept of *metanoia* - which is an internal re-ordering and change.  The Christian life is a journey filled with mystery and faith....mystery and faith by their essence means that we believe without black and white proof.  Yet, your stance on marriage is black and white, it demands perfection, it ignores human failure and the need for metanoia.  Often, a remarriage is an excellent example of metanoia.  (again, don't think you can move forward by only using extremes e.g. multiple marriages, folks who care less, etc.  Kaspar is looking at the serious, committed catholic who has faced the end of a first marriage. He is suggesting ways to handle remarriage without ignoring the first marriage or saying it wasn't real.  Have many friends and family in remarriages - in almost every case, their remarriage is strong, committed, and loving....and, at the same time, they continue to deal with the history and spouse/children/families from their first marriage - it just doesn't disappear)  Why should this forbid them from participating in the eucharist....it is hypocritical and is a legal solution that ignores the reality that we share a journey of love and that our faith is a mystery.

Receiving communion is not an end in itself. Communion is given us for our sanctification. If her situation (living with a man who is not her husband) is objectively an obstacle to the fulfillment of her vocation, that's not going to change one iota.

Agreed. Only for you, Carlo, this does not seem to be an "if," and I wonder why. You appear to be unduly certain that God wants her to leave her current partner, no matther what effect this has on him, her, or their children. 

Bill:

"Your stance is that this one covenant marks you for life"

If it is a sacrament, i.e. an act of God, how could it be otherwise? That's where our positions are irreconcilable, I think. Your notion of "covenant" is not sacramental.

Matthew:

"unduly certain that God wants her to leave the man who is not her husband"

I never said that, especially if there is any reason to think that her first marriage may have been null, which nowadays is probably very often the case.

But if the first marriage was a real sacramental marriage, and she feels she has to keep living with the new man, I think it is best for her (let me stress: for her) to refrain from receiving communion as the Church commands, and just entrust herself to God's mercy.

I will stress again the difference betwen a Puritan and a Catholic understanding of morality: what matters is to know what is right, do what we can and if we cannot entrust ourselves to God. Pretending everything is all right does not do anybody any good, even if you get communion.

Priesthood is also a sacrament which marks one for life.  However a priest can be laicized and released from his vow of celibacy and be allowed to marry in the Church. Just wondering why there couldn't be a parellel "releasing from vows" of someone whose marriage failed, particularly if they were the wronged party?

I think it is best for her (let me stress: for her) to refrain from receiving communion as the Church commands, and just entrust herself to God's mercy.

You write as if God's mercy and the church's sacraments ran on separate tracks. They don't.

[W]hat matters is to know what is right, do what we can and if we cannot entrust ourselves to God.

The right thing for us to do in any circumstance is never more than what we can do.

Pretending everything is all right does not do anybody any good, even if you get communion.

But who's pretending everything's all right? If everything has to be all right before one can receive communion, no one should receive it. If anyone's the puritan in this discussion, it's you.

 

"Why assume that covenants require *perfection* - yes, we understand that the covenant is forever"

Bill deH. --

No, the covenant is until the death of a spouse.  Not so long ago Cdl. Dolan was talking the same way.  Where is this coming from?
 

Matthew:

"The right thing for us to do in any circumstance is never more than what we can do."

There is a theoretical "can" and what we are really able to do, and there is a big gap between the two.

"But who's pretending everything's all right? If everything has to be all right before one can receive communion, no one ever should."

You know as well as I do that in this context "being all right" means having confessed and repented, which implies at least a tentative committment to try and sin no more.

"Just wondering why there couldn't be a parellel "releasing from vows""

Katherine --

You might be on to something there.  What does Jesus say about matrimony? "What God has joined together let no man put assunder". It seems to me that the sentence is a general *command* for people not to wreck marriages, it is not a general *statement* that "No marriages can be ended".  Even in civil law the commands (laws) are expressed in general terms, but the law also recognizes that sometimes higher laws require that there be some exceptions to the lower law.  For instance, if a civil law might command "Do not trespass on another's property", but if there is a fire it is permitted for someone to trespass in process of saving someone from the burning house.

Jesus also says, "Whatever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound also in Heaven, and what you shall lose on Earth shall be losed also in Heaven".   Given the statement/promise that He is *delegating* authority, it seems to me that it could be interpreted to apply to the delegation of the authority of the Church to uncouple spouses who are found to be in moral dilemmas or intolerable circumstances.  In other words, Jesus might have intended that the promise about binding and losing would apply to marriages/matrimony.  

No, such uncoupling would not be an annulment -- an annulment is a statement that, contrary to popular belief and even contrary to the belief of one or both of the spouses -- there was no marriage in the first place.

By the way, such statement/promises are what the contemporary philosophers of language call  "performative utterances".  They both say something and do something, and they're particularly important in law.  In the binding-losing perf. utterance Jesus has made the statement that something will happen *and* He has given His promise that it will be so. 

Katherine --

In saying what I just did,  I didn't mean to minimize the great necessity for wisdom and a sense of justice that will be required if the Church were to make such judgments losing some bonds.  Many new questions will undoubtedly arise if the laws are losened, and there will be the possibility of injustice in other ways if the laws aren't wise and fair.  No matter how you look at it, the problems are humongous.

But neither is that to say that theology is irrelevant.  Theology is no more irrelevant when dealing with moral judgments than math is irrelevent when building bridges and skyscrapers.  Both are the application of *real general knowledge* to specific cases.  It really drives me up the wall when some people try to claim that mercy knows no theology.  "Mercy" acting out of ignorance can do much harm.

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