Some Good Common Sense on Marriage, Sexuality, and the Family

051514The need to pray for the upcoming Synod on Marriage and Family could not be greater. Sadly, so much oxygen has been spent on discussions about divorce, remarriage, and Holy Communion that little attention has been directed to defining functional marriage and upholding it for the Christian faithful. Granted we must deal with the wounded, but if all our time and energy is spent on pathology and none on good spiritual health, we lose our way and forget what a good and healthy family is.

Some good and thoughtful articles have recently been published on Crisis Magazine Online. And while to some extent they still address the pathology of modern marriage and family issues, they do a pretty good job of pointing the way back to a proper vision of Holy Matrimony. Here are a few excerpts from an article by Jared Staudt along with my commentary.  Excerpts from the article are in  bold italic and my comments are in plain red text. The full article is available here: A call to Heroism .

Unfortunately, I think we see marriage far too often in terms of personal self-fulfillment. Isn’t this even part of the logic of gay marriage? People need to be a marital relationship or a sexual relationship to be fulfilled.

This is well said and we have made similar comments on this blog before. Too many people today see marriage primarily in terms of what is best for the adults involved rather than the children or the common good. Too many think marriage is about two adults being happy. And as for children, they are basically a way of “accessorizing” your marriage. They are an “add-on” if this serves the pleasure and happiness of the adults in the marriage. Otherwise, they contracept,  or more horrifyingly, abort. Of course if marriage is just about two adults being happy, then enter the “gay” community who are more than willing to ask the question, “Then what about us?” 

And then of course if sex is “necessary” for fulfillment and we accept that premise at the cultural level, then “how dare” the Church limit what anyone “needs” to be happy and fulfilled? Everyone has a “right” to be happy, and thus the Church and those who seek to limit sexual expression in any way are guilty of infringing on the right of others to be happy and fulfilled.

Now never mind that many who have all the sex they want are still unhappy and unfulfilled; never mind that the whole premise of the argument is a lie, or at best a severe half-truth—never mind all that. Our culture has bought the lie and bitterly lashes out at any who seek to call it to responsibility and to frame sexual fulfillment within marriage and make it about having children. Never mind all that. No matter how high the body count goes through abortion and children raised in incomplete (even bizarre) settings, no matter how high the STD rate goes, the world will never consider its approach unwise or in any way problematic. No, it is we, the people who seek to “limit sexual expression” and thus to limit “happiness” who are wrong and even “immoral” based on the premise that marriage and sexual expression are essential for happiness and fulfillment.

If we simply accept an adulterous relationship as normative (in divorce and remarriage), aren’t we caving in to a position that would quickly recognize these other unions [i.e. homosexual, cohabiting, polygamous etc.] as valid? Other couples in a non-marital committed relationship will also seek the standing that [Cardinal] Kasper wants to provide, instead of accepting the Church’s teaching on abstinence. The problem is a misunderstanding of self-fulfillment. It does not come from following our passions, but by ordering them in virtue.” Exactly. For all the indulgence of passion in these modern times, our happiness is not greater—it is lessened. We do no one any favors by caving in to modern illusions. The Church needs to be “the adult in the room” and continue to point to the source of true fulfillment—the truth.

The article then goes on to describe a couple of areas that Cardinal Kasper gets right. 

Kasper recognizes this in the published form of his controversial lecture to the Consistory of Cardinals, The Gospel of the Family: “The love between man and woman does not simply revolve around itself; it transcends and objectifies itself in children, who proceed from their love” (ch. 1) [Amen! Marriage is about children, not just the happiness of adults]. And further: “Their love is not a form of sentimentality revolving around itself.” I Couldn’t have said it better. True love and happiness are outward in their focus, not inward, selfish, and egotistical. One could only wish that the good Cardinal would stay on these points.

Here he seems to recognize what is at stake—marriage as a sacrifice to move beyond oneself. Kasper also rightly recognizes that “We are in this crisis. The gospel of marriage and the family is no longer intelligible to many. [All the more reason we must keep teaching untiringly on this matter!] For many it does not appear to be a livable option in their situation (ch. 3). [All the more reason for us and the Synod to hold up examples of couples who DO find and live this ideal. And there are many!] Returning to Kasper’s interview, he proposes a solution:  “Therefore you have to emphasize and to strengthen prematrimonial catechesis.” We fundamentally need to reeducate Catholics and society on the nature of marriage!

Well OK, but that is not going to be enough. We have been trying that for years to little effect. We have to do that, yes, but even more. We have to teach not only couples preparing for marriage, but all couples, all Catholics, and the whole culture. It is a massive undertaking, but so was going unto all the nations and baptizing them as Jesus commanded. We have to widen the focus to everyone. The family (not the individual) is the basic unit of society. Every family must be reached with the undiluted truth and glorious vision of God’s plans for marriage and family. It may seem overwhelming, but with the Lord we can and will do it.

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

Keep praying that the Synod on the family will not miss an opportunity to speak the truth in love to a world so increasingly lost and confused on marriage, sexuality, and the family. Pray that we will be a light in darkness and will not make foolish compromises that diminish that light.

Here’s a marriage motet that Palestrina wrote for his own Wedding. The text is from the Song of Songs and says, “Surge, amica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni” (Arise my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one and come):

52 Replies to “Some Good Common Sense on Marriage, Sexuality, and the Family”

  1. Correct you are, Msgr.

    My fear is that by the very fact they called the Synod on the family means that some are already planning a change to Church teachings. From experience we have learned that a word inserted here or there in their summary documents somehow opens the door to broad interpretations away from the original intent of the Synod. It may not be evident to us at first, but over time it could morph into something substantially different.

    A better solution may be, as you describe, simply to define, teach and support the current teachings on the family. You have been clear on your blog articles as to exactly what that is. I loved your reference previously about how precise Jesus was on this subject. How do we improve on that? So, it may be a simple matter of the Church creating a marketing plan to reaffirm and teach this truth to all (as is). I hope they see that.

    I am praying hard that we get through this pure.

    1. St Thomas More could be an appropriate patron saint for this Synod. He laid down his life to uphold the Church’s teaching on divorce and remarriage when King Henry VIII refused to abide by it, and the latter set up his own church in which divorce and remarriage is OK.

      The way to salvation proposed by Our Lord, if one wants to be His disciple, is to deny oneself, to take up one’s cross, and follow Him.

      Our Lord compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure buried in a field, or a priceless pearl: one sells all one has (gives everything up) to acquire it.

      Our Lord also said that His yoke is easy and his burden light: he pours out His grace to help us.

      It is possible for someone in a continuous adulterous relationship to give it up. Just as it is possible for someone who embarks upon the Priesthood or Religious Life to commit to celibacy and chastity. We are not mere creatures of instinct. We are capable of acts of will. It involves a choice between continuous adulterous sex with the risk of damnation and eternal salvation. No one imposes which way to choose. We have free will. So which will it be?

    1. But what about single parents who fornicated, had children, and have never married? Is that heroic? Are they not admitted to the Sacraments? Which is better – trying marriage for the sake of the children and failing and losing access to the Sacraments or refusing marriage in order to retain the Sacraments? Or is there something I do not understand? So, is it more just to admit the single parent to the Sacraments or the divorced parent who tried and failed? Isn’t the single parent just as guilty as the one who married and failed?

      1. It’s not about past sins, forgiveness is always available. It’s about ongoing sin. The person who commits fornication can, through reconciliation, be restored to full communion so long as they abandon the sin of fornication. But the according to Christ’s (and Church) teaching, the person who was VALIDLY married, divorces AND remarries is living continuously in a state of adultery because they are actually still married to the first person, not the second. So every time they engage in the marital act, it is objectively sinful. Going to confession would solve nothing because In order to receive forgiveness, you must intend to not commit the sin any longer, so true reconciliation is not possible so long as they remain in that situation. The only solution is to live as brother and sister. This is tough to ask I suppose, but not when compared to the glory of being in full communion with Christ.

        1. Thanks John. I knew that. It’s logical. It would have been wrong for the Lord to make a commandment against single parent families (born of fornication) because to do so would have brought irrevocable harm to the children of single families.

  2. Marriage goes back to Adam and Eve and a humanity that was not under the “law” because they were directly IN the favor of the Creator and He walked among them. They were One flesh even Eve being formed from the very being of Adam and not from the earth. This is the intention of God. As with everything, sin has corrupted the intentions of God for humanity, for His children that He Loves. The Holiness God desires was in His first intentions and that is the model we emulate, we desire also. All else is for the “hardness of their hearts” and we shun that, we rebel against sin and a hard heart. The innocence, the tenderness of Love and unity are clear in this passage below. There were no mental or emotional manipulations, no beatings, no conflicts, no violence, no selfishness, no traitors… there were no hard hearts. There was only the beauty of God’s desire that man and woman be One in the Love of God, God the Creator Who walked among them. This should be our desire for marriage, for the Oneness of humanity with God. Yes, “Arise my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one and come.”

    Genesis 2:21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; 22 and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

    “This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

    24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

  3. Perhaps the catechesis of “everyone” on marriage need not be a dauntingly “massive undertaking.” A few well-chosen and oft-repeated words at all the Masses (a “Mass indertaking”?) would be a good start. What do we mean when we say that marriage, too, is a vocation? Why not a well-done and mercifully concise pamplet for the lobby book rack, rather than another round of enormous and equally unread letterhead publications promulgated at the chandeliered annual meetings of national bishop’s conferences. I’ll bet Pope Francis could give us one or two illuminating and game-changing expressions for the ages, that the popular press might even broadcast for us. That the shepherds should have “the smell of the sheep,” for example, will always be with us.

  4. Great read. And loved the Palestrina piece. Really looking forward to Pope Francis in Philadelphia!

  5. Here’s a pretty far-fetched theory. I was thinking about it the other day… Concerning, all this talk the Pope has been stirring up around what to do with divorce and remarriage, and the upcoming synod and everything else.

    I wonder if it is possible that the intent is not nearly as much to address dealing with secular western ideas, but really a step toward answering the differences between these practices in the RC Church and the Orthodox Church. Maybe the long play of all this is to reunite the Churches. And we’ve been misreading the whole thing…

    Yeah yeah, probably not. But it’s a thought

  6. Where is the like button? Holy moly, fantastic article Msgr!

    The problem with happiness in our modern times goes back several generations. Thanks to “psychologists” and child rearing “experts” advising parents on how to “make” their children happy, we have reaped not only co-dependent parenting relationships, but unrealistic expectations of happiness . We now have several generations who believe happiness must be taken from another. Parents of these generations suffered from anxieties that caused strife in the family and often led to breakdowns within the family unit.

    That desire to “make” another happy is also a lie. We can and should share our gifts with others. Whether they draw happiness from that depends entirely on them. Imposing (for lack of a better word) happiness on someone who is in a state of sadness or anxiety is self fulfilling, whilst creating a mask for the other person – that person is left to avoid dealing with valid emotions, and coping skills are forever affected. We also need to learn how to let people feel bad when they need to feel bad and not try to fix it.

    Teaching couples the true meaning of happiness and how it is achieved should be an integral part of the premarital preparation period. If a couple could learn how to love (and not just how to feel love), their marital union would be stronger, and from it a stronger family would emerge.

    The best way to learn about love is to study the Gospels and the Bible in general. Perhaps a meaningful catechetical lesson (aka the Hosea article from this week) could be incorporated into the pre-wedding counseling.

    This will take time, but we didn’t get here all at once. We need to turn the lights on within ourselves, so others can be drawn to us. We need to fix ourselves.

  7. My concern is the synod will take place and the U.S. Bishops will return with their own interpretation as with Vatican II. We must pray and educate as never before.

  8. The complaint of those in adulterous or other sinful (sic) relationships is that they “feel excluded” by the Church. They want to be “included” with those whom the Church allows to receive Holy (sic) Communion, without changing themselves. At root is a fundamental lack of appreciation of the meaning and majesty of the Real Presence which should be reasserted tirelessly. The Church’s goal, and that of her Head, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is not to establish a happy meal sharing club on earth where we can all kid ourselves that we are doing just fine, but to lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of His mercy. Denial of the Sacraments, received with a right disposition, is a great grace to the soul to whom they are denied. Such denial tells us straight that we must shape up now, before it is too late. While the person repents and converts, with the support and guidance of the Church, he/she can still enjoy intimacy with God without partaking of Holy Communion, which he/she would otherwise sacrilegiously defile: consider Moses who was denied entry into the Promised Land in his lifetime for killing an Egyptian, but who nonetheless lived humbly and obediently in God’s presence, growing in holiness, and gained eternal life. Temporal exclusion, leading to eternal inclusion.

    1. Gerhard,

      How is it possible that a mere mortal could “sacrilegiously defile” Holy Communion? What makes you think we have such power over God?

      Thanks for your reply.


      1. Sacrilege is a real thing. From the CCC:

        2120 Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us.

  9. With half of all marriages, including Catholic marriages, ending in divorce, there are many questions, and probably even more blame to go around. So the question of what to do with divorced and remarried Catholics is an important one. If we believe that God is truly merciful, would God’s justice banish those Catholics from the sacraments? I am not a Bible scholar by any means, but did Jesus not say that the only unforgiveable sin was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

    One can murder their spouse, repent and be forgiven. And allowed to remarry. Why is a harsher penalty spiritually for those who do not sever a marital union by murder?

    Then I read Matthew 19:9 and 5:32, where even Jesus seems to say divorce is OK if the bssis was adultery or immorality. In this day and age, I’d suspect many if not most divorces involve adultery as a basis.

    I may not be remembering accurately, but did Jesus not say he allowed divorce before due to the hardened hearts of the Jews? Were those hearts of old harder than they are today?

    I don’t presume to have the answers to any of those questions, but I struggle with believing that God would so harden His heart so as to turn from those who erred at some point in their lives and damn even those repentant souls.

    I am aware that those who believe thier unions were corrupt may seek annulment, and maybe that is the answer. But looking at the number of annulments granted today versus 40 years ago, it seems that the majority seeking one get one. My perception just seeing the numbers. But if that is true, how can we automatically ban our brothers and sisters from sacraments if we are takling process rather than substance?

    Again, I am no Bible scholar and do not pretend to be anything other than a sinner struggling to stay on the narrow path. But in that personal struggle, I cannot turn my back on those who fall along the way. Yes divorce and remarriage involves sin, but how can it be unforgiveable when we read that the only unforgiveable sin us blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I could not in good conscience claim that my sins are lesser than divorce and remarriage. To me, that would be a form of pride in thinking I was somehow more worthy than another in God’s eyes. I cannot cast a stone against our divorced and remarried brethren.

    God Bless all.

    1. The catholic position would not interpret porneia to mean adultery but only incestuous marriages within the bounds of bloodlines wherein marriage was forbidden. Your difficulty in imagining many things while understandable cannot form the basis of theological truth which accepts that God’s ways and thinking are not ours. These words are from the very mouth of Jesus and not to be taken lightly but somehow reimagining a “Jesus” who really doesn’t care about all these technicalities and was basically an affirmer. The views of Jesus on marriage shocked even the most rigorous religionists of his day. However we resolve your concerns, they cannot be resolved simply by saying that we cannot imagine Jesus would do something. The biblical reality is that Jesus demanded many things that seem impossible: love of enemies, forgiveness of those who have harmed us, sexual purity forbidding even lustful thoughts, etc. It is not about casting stones at others, but taking Jesus at his word and presuming he was not just setting forth impossible standards.

      Finally, we ought not use pathology (e.g. 50% of marriages fail) as the basis for our theology. Jesus is the basis and by his grace he seems to insist on some pretty tough stances, but stances that are available to us through grace.

      1. Jim M’s concerns reflect the perceptions of millions of Roman Catholics, who were not taught properly, or reminded of the correct position with a clear explanation in the pulpit. Pope Francis’s desire that sermons should be short and not boring is a good starting point. Hopefully he will go further and remind Bishops and Priests that the homily at Sunday Mass is a fantastic opportunity to raise the knowledge and understanding of the people of God of Christ’s teachings, which simply does not happen so very often. It was not Jesus who permitted divorce and remarriage. Jesus recorded that it was Moses who allowed this, due the hardness of heart of the Isrealites, but that it was not thus in the beginning: He knew, because He was there, and He made us. Sinners are not banished from the Sacraments. The mark of Baptism and Confirmation is indelible and the graces, unless repudiated, remain. Absolution in Confession cannot be automatic. It must require a firm purpose of amendment. To take Holy Communion, when one is gravely unholy, and not in communion with the Church (Triumphant in Heaven, Suffering in Purgatory and Militant here on earth) and when one does not “discern the Body of Christ” brings condemnation upon the recipient, as St Paul teaches, and the Church, with its mission to bring as many people as possible to Heaven cannot in good conscience allow people to risk such condemnation. Denial of Holy Communion is for that person’s own, eternal good.

        1. I was not trying to use pathology as a reason for change, but as a reason to look beyond the sinner. We all know morality is in serious decline. When the rest of the world goes mad, that is not reason to lose your senses. Whwt I am advocating us an honest examination into all variables. If half of marriages end in divorce, are thosecpeople entering into a union with the proper frame of mind? Are they fullly aware of the nature of the commitment? Can or should the Church do more?

          Something I do hear often from lapsed Catholics is the lack of any credibility of the Church. You have no idea how much the sexual abuse scandal and ensuing cover up destryoed credibility. Why trust a Shepard that abused the flock? Nor how many good Catholics turned away. Satan’s work for sure. And Pope Francis is working hard to reestablish credibility.

          One if the questions becomes whether we circle wagons and be satisfied with salvation for the few, or whether we save as many as we can.

          I understand doctrine and tradition. That some things can change and others cannot. But to reach the lost, we cannot default to a “because I said do” position when there is so much confusion in this world. If the Gospel drives doctrine, then we need to address it all. Add no words and leave none out. So with that in mind, while I was properly chastised for wondering, no one addressed why Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 are treated like apocryphal works rather than the Word. Were those words not from the very mouth of Jesus?

          As for those who woukd address me in the third person castigating me as an ignorant Catholic who was not properly taught, you might wants to read what I wrote. They are questions I hear all the time that are generally answered with some default that’s the way it is answer. The flock has been scattered due in lsrge part to the actions or inactions if the Church. You are not going to bring people back with non answers or by treating them as blasphemers of the Holy Spirit.

          If the Church stands on its position on divorce and remarriage, what path can we show people to bring them back in full harmony with the Church? Is there a way other than charging someone $1000 to process an annulment? That is another thing I hear often- why does a person have to pay (which in many cases brings comparisons to buying indulgences) for salvation? If you can’t afford it, you don’t have to pay. But your parish does. A woman beaten to within an inch of her life constantly during a marriage is further beaten down by the Church when she finally escapes the marriage? A man whose wife leaves and marries the man she was cheating with is in spiritual limbo because he is divorced?

          As Pope Francis warned, we cannot become like the Pharisees. That is the same thing Jesus taught. We may need to get off our high horses. The battle against evil is hand to hand combat. That cannot be waged from ivory towers. Nor can sinners be converted from the pulpit. That is also something Jesus taught by example. He came for sinners, not the just. You don’t save a drowning man by pushing him away from your life boat.

          We cannot leave our brothers and sisters abandoned to salvation. I pray the Holy Spirit enlightens the synod with a solution.

          1. I agree, I can’t see how Jesus would say ( to the Gentiles ) come with me, sit at my table. Rapest and murderers are also welcome. Gods table is open to anyone who repents and sins no more. Except those married more than once. Tough luck for you, you must divorce ( your loving spouse for years ) or live only as brother and sister. But wait, here’s a lot of paper work for you, go fill it out, maybe I’ll reconsider, hope your ex spouse doesn’t come back and beat you to death after he gets the letter.

          2. Repent and sin no more is pretty difficult in a state of on-going adultery, which is how Jesus describes. it. Now all your histrionics and hyperbole aside, pick up the phone and call your parish priest and see if something cannot be done. For heaven’s sake Phil the situation is NOT as extreme as you describe and you ought to know that. Call your priest and get things started.

            And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— 2 Cor 6:1

          3. Re St Matthew 19:9: – this is the footnote appearing in the Knox version, which also references St Matthew 5:32:

            “[2] vv. 1-9: Mk. 10.1; cf. Mt. 5.32; Lk. 16.18; I Cor. 7.10. v. 9: The apparent exception made here in connexion with unfaithfulness, not recognized in Mark or Luke, or by St Paul, has been variously explained. It is to be observed in any case that our Lord is speaking of the man who puts away his innocent wife in order to marry another (this is often the force of the Hebrew ‘and’). He considers the case of the guilty husband with the innocent wife, and that of the innocent husband with the guilty wife; not that of the man who has a guilty wife and himself wants a change of partners. Thus it would be unsafe to infer that the husband has a right to re-marry.”

          4. Although the unfortunate person who finds him/herself in an adulterous “remarriage”, but who desires to partake fully in the life of the Church, including reception of Holy Communion, has a painful choice to make, we should not lose sight of the fact that we do not need a novel solution. Our Lord Himself offered the solution, when He said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” We should also recall that whilst He expressly said that He did not condemn the person caught in adultery, He immediately went on to say “go and sin no more.” You can’t get clearer than that.

  10. All of these matters were settled thousands of years ago. They were settled in the Ten Commandments and in all the Church’s teaching for two thousand years. I agree with you that there is something amiss here. There is no reason whatsoever in having a Synod unless some believe God’s Word can be altered to mean something other than what it means. This will create a Crisis of Faith and many will be very angry that God is being undermined to accomodate the sinful.

  11. ‘one anonymous says’, following on from your comment could it be that God’s Original Plan for families would have been based on the Holy Family with virgin-spouses and incarnated children – in other words – every human being was meant to be directly fathered by God where there would have been love, justice and peace everywhere and forever and everlasting praise and worship of God? And then, in His Mercy, God adapted His Plan after the Original Sin of our directly-created parents to allow marriage as we now know it (and are struggling to keep it that way) with one-man-one-woman-joined-in-flesh and co-operating with God in order to obey His Command to ‘go forth and multiply’? When God commanded Adam and Eve to ‘go forth and multiply’ can we tell from Holy Scripture that He was only talking about increasing the numbers of human beings on the planet – could He not have been talking about lives replete with loving, creative acts done in, and co-operating with, His Will? Does this train of thought bear any significance on the material to be discussed at the upcoming synods? Many questions, no answers I’m afraid – and suggestions?

  12. Love objectifies itself in children. Yes, this is true when we understand “love” to mean “obedience to God’s Will.” With that, I must also say that the following is true: “Love objectifies itself in the marital conjugal act when it is open to life.” This is true because it is up to God as to whether the couple are fertile or not – only He can create the human soul and posit that soul in the woman’s womb. If He does not, there will be no children. Yet, marital love remains and is objectified even if the couple is not able to conceive, so long as the couple is being obedient to God in their actions.

  13. I am amazed at how well the Church treats women who have children out of wedlock – admitting them to the Sacraments yet not admitting divorced and remarried couples who, while not attempting an annulment (Church Law) are nevertheless seeing fit to marry before having children – for the sake of the children.

    I am not saying that the Church is wrong in helping mothers and fathers who, in their fornication, conceive children out of wedlock. I am saying that there appears to be a huge break in logic here – that mothers and fathers who are not wedded have full access to the Sacraments, but the divorced and remarried do not. And these mothers and fathers either 1) continue to fornicate and ask forgiveness as many other Catholics do or 2) they have married yet have an un-Sacramented pending marriage which began with the conception of children out of wedlock.

    So, all of this attention on the divorced and re-married (which Moses allowed) but its okay to fornicate and raise children out of wedlock?

  14. Excerpt from “Annulments and the Catholic Church: Straight Answers to Tough Questions” by Edward Peters, J.D., J.C.D., with Foreword by Archbishop John J. Myers, D.D., J.C.D. (Westchester, PA: Ascension Press, 2004), pg 14:

    “Question 10: Is it true that one cannot receive an annulment if the marriage produced children?”
    [Answer] “No, it is not. The presence of children is not proof or even evidence that a marriage was valid, and the absence of children is not proof or evidence that it was invalid.”

    The support for having children out of wedlock seems to be sealed with the annulment which can leave one parent with children, the other without his/her children, and children who are no longer from a valid marriage? I mean, people can enter into many invalid marriages, all of which can produce children and then be annulled because they were obviously invalid, right? Maybe not many, but even once – which ends in the blessing of having children but no marriage. This seems to elevate the act of conceiving children outside of wedlock because doing so gets around the commandment which forbids adultery (which requires a marriage). No marriage = no adultery. So, have many children outside of marriage (perhaps by multiple conjugal parings): okay to receive the Sacraments – especially to seek forgiveness for fornication which will be given if contrition is there. Get married and divorced, not okay to receive the Sacraments, even if contrition is there? Why shouldn’t the unwedded fornicator have to go through the Tribunal as well? Where’s the justice?

    Has the Church been sending the signal that Christ welcomes single-parent families to the Sacraments? And if true, should couples just forgo the process of Sacramental marriage in order to avoid the sin of adultery?

  15. Bottom line: Marriage is a sacred covenant. The Church must train the flock to understand what it means to enter into a covenant so that when two consider marriage, they will be considering the covenant above all other things – and then all else should stem from that covenant. I don’t think the training is there today…

  16. Recently it was reported that the Pope believes that something like 40-50 % of Catholic marriages are not valid (albeit second hand in a private conversation). I’d say that’s a low ball. Invalid marriages should be annulled, the parties be catechized and subsequent marriages be sacramentalized or not. It’s the choice of the participants. Given the Churches entire teaching on sexuality and marriage, I’m not sure that divorce and remarriage would be the only impediment to full communion. Valid marriages are what they are. It must be very difficult to be a priest. I don’t envy them.

    The point is that so many are able to claim truthfully that they ‘didn’t know’. These folks need to know the way back to the sacraments and then decide one way or the other.

    The only culpability the Church has here is the failure to teach. Once that is done, it’s not up to Her.

    1. I agree that the Church has not done a good or convincing job with catechizing the flock on the Sacrament of Matrimony; there is much room for improvement here. However, Satan has been working hard against the Church to destroy the Church – we have been seeing the negative impacts – destructive waves of that work in recent decades. When the waves pass – and they are passing – the Church will stand again and the Hierarchy and the Faithful will become stronger. But what is the Church’s new “rehabilitation program” to get back on Her feet and heal? It is important for Her to stand up, walk, exercise and rejuvenate from Her wounds.

  17. What you said, Monsignor, about the inability to recognize the repercussions of sexual sin is something that has always mystified me as a medical professional. The epidemic of STDs, abortion, infertility, cancer etc etc… and exposing the horrifying pictures of aborted babies. It is such a prime example of spiritual blindness. Logic and reason are simply eclipsed. Even obvious scientific proof that certain behaviors are extremely destructive just does not seem to matter. In the medical profession, it is no longer appropriate to suggest avoiding promiscuous behavior even when they know this makes you sick and could even kill you because that would imply judgement on a person’s behavior. Every other possible solution to the negative consequences of promiscuity will be acceptable except the obvious… the proper context of sexual expression within a committed marriage between one man and one woman. Not only will this NOT be promoted…there is hostility toward the promotion of this choice. There is, as well, a growing preference for childlessness! I am sure that is what Christ was referring to on the way to Calvary…”Do not weep for me because the day is coming when they will say, blessed are the barren” …unthinkable at that time! Even parents who have attempted to shield their children from the perversity of the culture with a solid formation in the Church are suffering the loss of their children to the powerful onslaught of false sexual ideology in its many forms. I am one of those parents. It can lead to serious despair if not for a strong faith that God is still in control and knows how to heal our culture. Thanks for the great article!

    1. Wow, this is exactly how I feel. Thanks for this input, Lorrain as I could not have said it better myself. Another thing that mystifies me is how things which were considered grotesque and disgusting before are now considered natural and okay!! Sometimes I feel quite sad that my children have to grow up in a world such as this where logic and common sense, even the denial of our senses on what we find disgusting from nature are tampered in today´s day and age.

      1. That’s exactly why we’re homeschooling our children.

        As far as catechesis goes, homeschooling is (in my opinion) light years ahead of organized Catholic education in that regard. I don’t fault those catechists; but they are fighting with both arms pinned behind their backs (the system in which they work and the secularism in which our world is drowning).

        But the future of organized education, or not (in my opinion), is a topic for another day…

  18. The simple solution to all problems surrounding Marriage is to, as you suggest Fr. Pope, teach the timeless truth about what Jesus transformed the natural institution of marriage into and then INSIST that those who are not serious about it not marry in the Church.

    For too long the Church has played with Marriage, and in truth all the Sacrament’s, giving them to those who are not real Catholics in any sense of the word and then squirming and struggling when they abuse the Sacraments. Sacraments are for Catholics, and there are distinct marks that make one a Catholic, if those things can’t be said about you–something as simple as the priest knows who you are and sees you weekly–then the Sacrament’s aren’t for you. It makes future annulments so much easier when you don’t coerce people into marriage by trying to force a square block into a round hole.

    1. When you stop messing around with the Sacraments, giving them to those who are not Catholic, you free up a lot of time to preach and teach the Gospel to those non-Catholics where they actual are in the world, as opposed to inside the Church where they spiritually are not.

  19. Hello and God Bless! Say, is there some new and influential Theologian I haven’t come across teaching this error about Moses’ denial into rest? I have to ask because I’ve seen this a few times. As the Apostle reminds us (cf. Heb 3) the whole generation who rebelled was denied. As for Moses specifically; “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron: Because you did not have confidence in me, to acknowledge my holiness before the Israelites, therefore you shall not lead this assembly into the land I have given them.” (Nm20:12) and “because both of you broke faith with me among the Israelites at the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin: you did not manifest my holiness among the Israelites. You may indeed see the land from a distance, but you shall not enter that land which I am giving to the Israelites.” (Dt. 32:51,52)
    As for the Synod I trust the Holy Spirit. I remember the Holy Father speaking about many being denied Baptism. My prayer is that this injustice be given priority and rectified. We pray “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” not in vain, the demands of Christ must be fulfilled! I keep thinking of the eunuch’ request of St. Philip; “what’s to prevent my being Baptized?”.

  20. Seems to me there are a lot of people in high places that would like to see sodomy, adultery, child killing, contraception and sterilizations not only become acceptable but considered holy even by God. There is no need for a synod. The Church settled these matters thousands of years ago. Actually they have been settled since the time of the Ten Commandments. “Two become one” No one can seperate what God has made One. What a rediculous idea from enemies of the Church. Did our Saints and martyrs die for nothing? Did St. Thomas Moore die in vein? You are kidding yourselves if you believe he did. These Adulterous arrangements are just Mortal Sins. The sinners must repent, confess, and sin no more or risk eternal damnation.

  21. The wounded are the ones you’re here for, Father! Would you exclude from the Kingdom the lame, the weak, the blind, the sick?

    1. Not sure I understand your point. Not sure who I am excluding and certainly don’t think I have the power to exclude anyone from the Kingdom. That belongs to Jesus who will say to some, “Depart from me” Perhaps having any parameters at all is what bothers you? Anyway, to be sure, it is Jesus himself who teaches that to divorce and remarry is to be in a state of on-going adultery. From the rhetorical (and seemingly nasty) tone of your last sentence, it sounds like you want to exclude me from the Kingdom. But again in all this I am only guessing as to a reply since your comment lack specifics and context. As for me, I can only preach the actual Gospel, not the wishful Gospel.

  22. I heard it said years ago by someone in the NFP/marriage preparation arena, that until we hear bishops and priests regularly preach about marriage in a compassionate and knowledgeable manner from the pulpit, those of us in marriage catechesis are only treading water.The vast majority of priests do not preach about in these areas for their own reasons. As a priest told me, quite candidly, once, “the hypocrisy makes you angry and the anger makes you hypocritical”. The laity take as their authority the clergy, and their school is the homily. Until we break out of stand-still of silence, it will continue to be a tragic situation.

  23. wow, write about marriage and the combox fills up!!!

    sound advice is given above regarding catechetics in general:
    “perhaps the catechesis of “everyone” on marriage need not be a dauntingly ‘massive undertaking.’ A few well-chosen and oft-repeated words at all the Masses would be a good start. What do we mean when we say that marriage, too, is a vocation? Why not a well-done and mercifully concise pamphlet for the lobby book rack, rather than another round of enormous and equally unread letterhead publications promulgated at the chandeliered annual meetings of national bishop’s conferences.”

    being a catechist for 30 years, I can tell you that people only remember simple phrases, slogans, and proverbs as summaries of what to believe. Yes, deep theology should be behind it, but one does not think of those tomes when confronted by temptation. In the tempting moment, ‘thou shalt not commit adultery” works far better. ‘Marriage is for the good of the spouses and the raising up of children in the Lord” should cover the waterfront on this topic. Lead with that every time, then let exposition for application follow.

    To evangelize and re-evangelize, simple, clear speech – and therefore rememberable – is needed.

    I don’t want to sound like a crank, but this is why the contents of the Baltimore catechism are far better remembered than the CCC we have today (which I read assiduously).

  24. Father respectfully, I see a little hiccup your rhetoric of in Jared’s logic in regards to the grammar of acting persons (either the moralizer or the de-moralised):
    Re:“We fundamentally need to reeducate Catholics and society on the nature of marriage! Well OK, but that is not going to be enough. We have been trying that for years to little effect. We have to do that, yes, but even more. We have to teach not only couples preparing for marriage, but all couples, all Catholics, and the whole culture. It is a massive undertaking, but so was going unto all the nations and baptizing them as Jesus commanded. We have to widen the focus to everyone. “
    how do you propose (ie not impose) mass indoctrination without encountering any suffering, “pathology” as you call it at the outside of your opinion piece? “Granted we must deal with the wounded, but if all our time and energy is spent on pathology and none on good spiritual health, we lose our way and forget what a good and healthy family is.”?
    It is not we who teach it is the Holy Spirit communing in our hearts that does the “act”ing, even or most especially in the life-giving conjugal act, purified perfectly as a spiritual conjugio by consecrated virgins Spouses of Christ in the 3-step Carmelite prayer life (firstly detachment-purgation of self, secondly illumination by the Divine Light and thirdly but most rarely union with the Blessed Trinity) as practised by Mother Theresa and all her saintly Theresian-spiritual grandmothers!

    I firmly believe that faithful work-in-the-Lord’s-vineyard deep in the culture such as the peer-to-peer ministry for troubled marriages Retrouvaille (without which I doubt we would have made it to our tenth anniversary, we now approach our twentieth) and prayerful companion works such as German Fr Willi Hoffmuller’s little book on marriage prep meme’s “Of Wine in the Jars” that suggests well-treasured cultural memes as ‘mental’ wedding favors to foster ongoing purification of memory (the great Wojtylian synthesis of modern Catholic marital pastoral care with centuries of traditional natural law philosophy and spirituality) to solicit the uncompromised identity of evangelical witness our society is so badly in need of. Written in German and translated into English, this simpe little book has provided us with many a reflection for monthly CORE meetings (healing in marriage is ever-ongoing, peer encouragement is priceless, much as the Benedictine twelve-step program in humility you have writtten on previously). Do not dismiss “pathology” as the path to healing. Indeed, is it not the Rx of the Divine Physician’s diagnosis for our time?

  25. If the problem is catechesis, why not just expand pre-Cana to last a year or two longer? (Perhaps there could be an opt out for those who pass a test). This would have the salutary effect of ensuring commitment between the prospective spouses (since they have shown dedication by sticking through it) and allow the priest and Church personnel to really get to know the prospective spouses.

    Of course, it would probably also increase the odds of Catholics marrying outside the church, but at least if those unions broke down they could easily get annulled due to lack of form.

    1. Some thoughts here worth pondering. Most conclude that a year of more would, as you say just drive people off to other alternatives. But it is an iterating dichotomy to observed that religious and priests go through four or five hers of formation before vows and or ordination.

  26. Wow, this is a hot topic. Please allow me to add my two cents. As a child of divorce (three to be exact) I feel I have some very valid points to make about all this. First off, our marriages are not about us or our happiness, or personal fulfillment. When it is, people like me grow up, screwed up and it hurts beyond compare and causes children like me to have a long road to go in order to overcome many problems and become a productive and contributing member of society. Many end up drug addicted and doing crime. Second, why is the ONLY loving, caring, compassionate response to divorcees re-admittance to the sacrament of communion without the repentance and sacrifice. Thanks by the way for pointing out the loop-hole of single parents (also a most horrid thing anyone can do to a child.) Hopefully the Church finds a way at the Synod to compassionately reach out to people and bring them back to a proper understanding of what love and marriage really is without watering down the truth. They’ll never truly be happy otherwise. Love is sacrifice. And joy and the infilling of grace are not something that we can grasp at. You can’t just take communion and expect to get the graces. It doesn’t work that way. (a side note, our Church is not a country club. We can’t look at this in terms of who’s in and who’s out.) Joy and grace can only be obtained through self sacrifice (which is painful love.) That’s the road to heaven. That’s what makes Heaven, Heaven. And this is where true happiness comes from. My personal experience, I have been married for almost 25 years now and it has not been easy at all. I have experienced several of the “deal breakers” that lots of people get divorced for. But I don’t regret sticking with it for one minute. The joy that comes from giving this kind of self sacrificing love is infinite compared to the self-serving seeking of personal fulfillment and happiness.

    1. Within the past year, our local paper ran a series of articles about the epidemic increase in the use of heroin, especially by teens and young adults from middle-class and affluent suburban communities.

      As part of the series, one article profiled a dozen or so teens/young adults who had OD’d on heroin. Each one contained a picture, and a bio about what a wonderful person he/she was, and how the drug use was seemingly unexplainable for someone “with such bright prospects”.

      Stunning, although not to Jennifer, was how whenever parents or backgrounds were mentioned, every time the parents were divorced or separated. Ever since then, I’ve noticed repeatedly– repeatedly– when articles or news stories or television profiles or documentaries discuss an individual who struggles with drug use, so very often it crops up that the person suffered through a broken home life, or was raised by a single mother.

      Now, don’t get me wrong– many people who struggle with drugs came from a two-parent, stayed-together family. And many people who suffered through separation, divorce, or single-parent childhood have never used drugs, let alone struggled with addiction.

      But, anecdotally, pay attention to those stories…and be amazed at how often– repeatedly– when a family-background angle is revealed, the person being profiled was a child of lost matrimony.

      Divorce or separation or single-parenthood…”it’s better for the children this way”. We deceive ourselves.

      God has clearly instructed us in what’s “better for the children”. And I pray the Church doesn’t turn her back on it.

  27. There is no unfairness in allowing single parents who’ve confessed and been absolved back to the reception of the Eucharist.. as long as they are not continuing to fornicate. The same is true for the divorced and remarried. If they confess their sin of adultery and don’t continue in that sin, they may receive the Eucharist. The fact is, many previous marriages break up due to sexual sin and ultimately lack of conjugal relations between the married couple. It’s not surprising that many who’ve remarried find abstinence from relations with their new cohabitant to be untenable, a fate worse than death … plus also a little niggling fear underneath it all that the other party will not stay in the relationship without the sexual aspect.

  28. What about the Catholics who decide to live apart? I know of a couple who are living apart one lives in fornication the other lives a virtuous and repectful life? Can anyone in this arrangement receive the Eucharist?


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