Musings and Concerns on the Synod

100914We are seeing in Rome a rather unusual unfolding of the Synod, wherein cardinals and bishops with very different points of view are airing those differences quite publicly. Even prior to the Synod there was the publication of various competing books.

To be fair to the bishops and cardinals, it would seem that Pope Francis himself has largely encouraged this. It is more typical at synods for the sparring and debates to take place more privately, and press conferences usually just issue summaries of things discussed. Time will tell of the wisdom (or lack thereof) of such public airings, but if the permission for frank discussion may extend to a lowly parish priest, I will say that it concerns me greatly. It is never pretty to see how the sausage is made and some who are less familiar with the internal debates may well be discouraged, while others will be inappropriately heartened. Again, though, to be fair, vigorous debates in Church Synods and Councils extend all the way back to the first one described in Acts 15.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, what I think about the matter of Holy Communion to those in invalid matrimonial states and other irregular situations is no secret. I simply cannot see how it is possible for us to extend Holy Communion to Catholics living in invalid marriages unless they are willing to live as brother and sister. Rather than restate all the reasons, I’ll just refer you to  earlier posts I wrote: HERE and HERE.

And while the pastoral solution of living as brother and sister may not seem a “pastoral” or reasonable solution to many, it does remain a solution if Holy Communion is sought. Of course it is not a perfect solution. There is still the possibility of scandal, since not everyone will know or understand that an individual who is coming forward is not sexually intimate with his or her current “spouse” from a second union. But if celibacy is generally known as a possibility, others could presume good will and a large degree of scandal could be avoided.

I was speaking of this matter recently on the phone with someone (not a parishioner) and she scoffed at the notion of asking celibacy of people in these situations. She shifted the terms and asked me somewhat rhetorically,

How can you go on denying something as important as Holy Communion to people just because they are in what you consider a bad marriage?

I told her that I would answer her question if she would answer mine:

How is it that many have come to regard having sexual intimacy as more important or necessary than receiving Holy Communion?

I went on to add:

While Holy Communion is important (and I surely think that it is), I wonder why the people you describe as seeing it as so important wouldn’t choose to live celibately in order to be able to receive our Lord. You suggest I’m being cruel by denying it, but it isn’t really I who is making the choice here. The choice is really theirs. I am not the master of the Eucharist; I am His servant. Given Jesus’ description of second marriages as adulterous (Matt 19), and Paul’s clear warning against receiving Communion in an ongoing state of serious sin (1 Cor 11), it doesn’t seem that I have any choice. The choice is and remains theirs: either to so value Holy Communion and intimacy with the Lord that they are willing to forego sexual intimacy, or to seek solutions in the annulment process, or to continue refraining from Holy Communion.

Though I was being accused of somehow denying Holy Communion, I am not really doing any such thing. I celebrate Holy Communion every day for God’s faithful who are not impeded to receive. If they are somehow impeded, I will do what I can to help them overcome this impediment. If at the end of the process there can be no way to address the impediments, then the choice returns to them: live celibately and receive Communion, or choose not to and refrain from Communion. I am not denying anyone Communion; some choose to exclude themselves.

I realize that some people are in difficult and complex situations, but I cannot simply overrule the Lord or what He said to St. Paul. At the end of the day there is a choice for those who desperately seek Communion but are in second unions. That choice is celibacy. I realize that this is difficult and some conclude that this would be unjust to the second “spouse.” But it is ultimately their choice, not mine. I am respectful of the fact that some do not think they can reasonably choose to live celibately in their second union. However, it is not fair to say that just because other avenues have been exhausted, those in these situations have absolutely no choice. They do. It is difficult, but it is their choice to make.

It is sad that the Synod on the family has seemingly become a synod on divorce. I do hope and pray that some discussion is being had about the grace of living according to the Lord’s plan for matrimony and family. Surely the agenda will expand!

111 Replies to “Musings and Concerns on the Synod”

  1. I totally agree with you on this Msgr. Pope. I certainly hope that this Synod does too!

    I do have to mention that there are Many Active Catholic members of R.C. parishes that are married more than once, without annulments, who do receive Holy Communion. I figure they either do not Know Church dogma on this, or they don’t care, and feel they are in the right. With poor catechesis since Vatican II, and little teaching from the ambo, I feel many may be unaware of the sinful status they are in.

    I do think Religious Ed has been improving some in the last few years. Probably a result of Pope Benedict’s wishes.

  2. I didn’t follow many past synods, except for the last one on the New Evangelization and the one on the Word of God, and for those I was very excited and encouraged at what I was hearing. I was also heartened by the papal exhortations I read after some prior synods where this question of remarried people and Communion was considered and debated and thought about again and again and again (e.g. Familiaris Consortio and Sacramentum Caritatis).

    And I was excited leading up to this synod, hoping that the bishops would provide some muscular defense of and insightful explanation of Church teachings on marriage and family.

    But I can tell you that after several days of discussion, I am not cheering, I am not heartened. And this not from reading some distorted reports from the mainstream media, but from the Vatican’s own press office. Yes, over and over we are hearing “Church teaching of course will not and cannot be changed,” and then over and over we hear a “but.” There are far too many “buts” coming out of this process. The impression being left is one of promising to give lip service to Church teaching and then a bunch of winks and nods as something inconsistent with Church teaching is done, all in the name of being “pastoral.”

    All too much it sounds like a return to the disasterous bad old days of the 1970s. This comment left at National Catholic Register sounds about right —
    “’He [Cardinal Nichols] said, so far, there has been a ‘lovely spirit, a sense of fun and a lightness of atmosphere’ in the synod, which enables participants to ‘speak much more from pastoral experience than academic study,’ adding, ‘There is a real sense of open sharing and walking together.’ This truly strikes a chord within me. It brings me back to 1969 when we no longer concerned ourselves with the Catechism but rather began drawing pictures about Jesus and our Faith…not First Grade but 7th Grade…while we listened to sing-songy music that we would later begin to sing at Holy Mass with guitars.”
    Have we learned nothing from the out with the old, in with the new, post-Vatican II period???

    Meanwhile, communion for the remarried is about number 362 and annulments on demand is about number 398 on the list of most pressing challenges facing familites today. What about the much larger and much more destructive issue of divorce in the first place? Of broken homes, of children of divorce? Of half of kids today being born outside of marriage, raised purposely by single parents? What about the increasing numbers of people who want to marry, but end up at age 60 still not married? What about the social destruction of marriage and family, turning the idea of marriage into a complete farce, a “mere piece of paper”? What about spouses who are already at risk of being blind-sided by a no-fault divorce on demand in our marriage of convenience society, now finding that their and everyone’s marriage is at risk of an ad hoc annulment to anyone who asks because now “regularization” is the greatest priority so as to be “pastoral” to people who get a new spouse? What about the abysmal state of pre-marriage preparation by parishes that creates the conditions that lead to spouses later claiming that they didn’t really know what they were doing? What about we finally — FINALLY AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS — get around to bothering to explain and promote the teachings of Humanae Vitae on human love in marriage???

    I’m sorry, none of what I’m reading of this synod is giving me any confidence. There are COUNTLESS numbers of people in the Church who are starving for a strong and bold promotion of Church teaching. And what we are hearing about is half wish-wash mush and half proposals for de facto repudiation of that teaching while claiming to uphold it. Instead of strengthening marriage and family, what I’m hearing is weakening them further. Its the 1970s all over again. Maybe the bishops think that somebody is cheered by what they are doing and that they will get a bunch of thank yous, but a great many more are shaking their heads and are dismayed by it all.

    It’s sad. It’s very sad. I really don’t like having these thoughts.

    1. “Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church. And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Take heart, Matt. No one can know if the Church will enter a period of widespread error, but error will not prevail and God’s Truth will triumph. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reign at this Synod.

      1. That’s the point John — I shouldn’t have to “take heart” and hope and pray. I should be cheering as I have with past synods. The fact that I am not says something. It’s not enough to simply not worry, it’s not enough to simply “trust.” The good should be overwhelmingly obvious to everyone. But it is not. That’s the problem.

  3. I’m celibate for 3 yrs. now after a 2nd divorce, and just coming back to the church. Let me tell you, celibacy is a gift from God. I am so happy this way. I would like to humbly recommend a book by the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, “The Courage to be Chaste.”

    1. Jennifer, it is good to hear you are so happy in celibacy. You are so correct, celibacy is a gift from God. A gift which truly frees us from a very powerful influence residing in our biological human nature.

      So many marriages end with some form of infidelity going on. Celibacy reduces the source of some deeply tied emotional turmoil couples go through. The truth of the beneficial effects of celibacy on those facing or going through a separation in marriage is lost on many today.

      Celibacy also reduces much of the power that the “other woman/man” hold in destroying a marriage. Sadly, I think the power to overcome this power of the other woman/man resides more in women than men. It “shouldn’t” be this way, but history seems to demonstrate otherwise.

      Thank you for affirming the power of celibacy for non-religious.

  4. People don’t want to make a choice because they don’t want to take responsibility for their decision and action in case they make a wrong choice. So they are pressuring the Church to take responsibility for their wrong choice. Poor liberal cardinals bishops and priests. Poor too is the pope.

    1. Veritas. Prayers are needed for those priests who follow that path. Their souls carry a great burden. I wonder how many would hold the same position if they knew their soul would be subject to the suffering required of those they led astray?

  5. Great article Fr. Pope! I agree with you all the way. For those who push that divorced and remarried outside the Church people should receive Holy Communion when Christ said if a man divorce his wife and marry another each party commits adultery. The Great Apostle Paul said do not receive Holy Communion if you are not worthy to receive it, if you are in the state of mortal sin. What keeps me hopeful regarding the synod is the past. There is was a time,in the forth century when eighty percent of more of the bishops in the world were Arians. Yet God truth prevailed, many bishops were deposed or left the Catholic Church’s Communion. But from this first Great Ecumenical Council came the Credo.

  6. For couples who could not receive an annulment, admit the divorced couple to Holy Communion on the grounds that they will remain celibate; if they fall, let them go to the Sacrament of Confession before receiving Holy Communion again. I think that it is that simple except that the couple would need a period of time to adjust (coordinated with their pastor) before taking on this huge life-style change.

    1. However, I’m not sure that many who enter into second marriages without concern for Church teachign do so for reasons unrelated to mutual sexual attraction. It could very well be that sexual attraction was a primary draw for a couple. It could therefore be impossible for the couple (of their own power) to achieve celibacy.

      1. I can think of other reasons, such as loneliness, and a need to belong somewhere, to someone.

        I am divorced, and not by choice. Husband left many years ago. I have been living chastely, since I do not have an annulment, because I want to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. However, it does get lonesome.

  7. CREATE A NEW FORM FOR SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION – FOR MARRIAGES: The Church needs to take more pastoral responsibility for Catholic marriages and add a new form to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to HEAL AND STRENGTHEN the marriage bond along the way – and early on. Create the “Sacrament of Reconciliation for Marriages” with matter being sins against the marriage bond and contrition, and the form, in addition to absolution of the couple’s sins, a restatement and recommitment to matrimonial vows with the blessing of the priest. The Church needs this Sacrament of healing which directs the couple to constantly consider the state of their vows in light of the will of God for their mutual success and salvation and the success of their children.

    1. Tailler: I’m not sure if your post is ironic on not?
      The Church cannot just “create” a new sacrament. It’s not how the Church works. There are 7 sacraments, no more and no less. It is impossible for the Church to create a sacrament that is not based on scripture and handed down to it through tradition.

      1. Not a new sacrament. Sacraments have form and matter; I’m saying to create a form, within the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is unique and helpful to the marriage bond.

    2. “CREATE A NEW FORM FOR SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION – FOR MARRIAGES: The Church needs to take more pastoral responsibility…”

      Christ let those who rejected His Word walk away from Him. The wealthy man who would not give up his worldly goods and those who could not accept the words “until you eat of the Son of Man” walked away.

      Was Christ not being pastoral by letting them reject Him and walk away?

      Is being “pastoral” not following Christ’s example and making up a new path?

      The “problem” people have with the Church is not the absence of sacramentary reconciliation. The problem they have is they do not accept that they must “go and sin no more”.


      1. Not really. The problem for some couples is that their pastors don’t engage them with the invitation to receive the Grace of Christ. They are allowed to float aimlessly without any religious pressure whatsoever. They are left completely to their own devices.

        1. I’d say the problem has little to nothing to do with a particular pastors engagement, and everything to do with the failure of the Bishops to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the faithful are formed properly.

          Just as true Charity is impossible without God as its object, it is impossible to be pastoral when only those easily acceptable teachings are taught and form the faithful.

          1. Indeed, the responsibility is shared between the Bishops, pastors, and lay faithful. But the Bishops really need to hand down a strong, structured process for engaging children early on about marriage – they need to be formed. Also, there needs to be a way to heal marriages along the way via the Sacraments and restatement/blessings of vows (if that makes sense).

  8. What is missing in this commentary is the recognition of the “elephant in the room”. For those who actually read the book, “The Rhine Flows into the Tyber”, written by an eyewitness who chronicled the long drawn out process of Vatican II, there exists a dangerous undercurrent flowing through his synod. It has to do w/the alien cult of Freemasonry. Many previous popes, i.e. Pope Pius X, knew about this and wrote many times of the great dangers inherent in Modernism, which Freemasonry promotes among other doctrines. Without getting into detail here, I would suggest that readers of this blog get a copy of The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, which is the “bible” so to speak of Freemasonry and its mission in terms of the destruction of the Catholic Church and the creation of a one world religion.

    1. You are correct regarding Freemasonry’s ideological underpinnings being antithetical to the Church. However to attack Freemasonry would be a no different error than fighting “terrorism” and ignoring the principles of Islam which give them life.

      Freemasonry is merely a codified manifestation of Humanism. The ideological errors of Humanism must be destroyed as a accepted valid set of beliefs and principles. Once done, Freemasonry will quickly become irrelevant because it stands on the same sand.

  9. Obedience to God and to the teachings of the Church is essential. This requires the gift of humility. It seems like some are seeking “work arounds” to the “rules”. How are “work arounds” even possible without compromising what has been revealed in scripture? Some refer to the “rules” as unreasonable. In the end, all of us need to decide what is most important to us. It should, however, always be about receiving the Eucharist worthily.

  10. Pardon my naivete, but doesn’t the Church offer Marriage Encounter, Retrouvaille and as a last resort, the annulment process to help married couples? Also, how many couples begin their marriages by praying together to stay together?

    1. Marriage Encounter is for healthy marriages that are looking for a little boast, and once the annulment process begins it is already too late, and the outcome for that is uncertain. Really Retrouvaille is the only option available for assisting couples whose marriage is in crisis. And Retrouvaille is only offered in a few places, a few times of year and is thus not accessible to many. There is no guaranteed place in the Church where couples can turn when their marriage is in crisis, and as I put in my comment, this is something that sorely needs to be addressed.

      1. The other issue is that often, one partner has already “checked out”. Commitment to the marriage was not present early on in the marriage, and that partner therefore feels little pressure to keep the promise they made. If the remaining spouse does not initially bring the troubled marriage before The Lord, it stands little chance of weathering the storm.

        Faith in The Lord is the surest way to save troubled marriages, and only one spouse need call Him for help. Sadly too many left behind spouses do not believe they can go it “alone” and lose out. They need a strong Church to help them see that Jesus is always right there with them.

  11. I would really like to see some emphasis in the Synod on strategies for avoiding divorce in the first place. For me, this is the best possible outcome for everyone. Currently there are couples in parishes who volunteer to help with pre-marriage preparation. However if your marriage gets in trouble, the church doesn’t seem to have too many resources to help. Instead, one must often turn to secular counselors with questionable backgrounds which are often quite expensive. Finding a good counselor can be a daunting task indeed. I’d like to see more parishes have volunteer couples who were willing to work with other couples who are struggling in their marriages. Also priests and deacons I think should receive more training for counseling struggling couples and should be prepared to assist with this also. I realize that priests and deacons are already overworked and there aren’t enough of them, but helping parishioners avoid divorce and the very difficult moral situations that it causes is something of paramount importance.

    1. In response to the other Paul above, I would point out that the church does have a wonderful ministry to couples in troubled marriages, called Retrouvaille. I can attest first-hand that this is a very helpful ministry, that really can strengthen troubled marriages. In my experience, Retrouvaille is widespread, and is often promoted in parishes. However, I agree that we could and should do even more to support people in troubled marriages. Perhaps if Retrouvaille is not already promoted in your parish, you could ask your pastor about having information about it listed in the bulletin each week? Or if Retrouvaille is not available in your area, maybe you could look into starting up a local program?

  12. We can have all the synods we want, we still have no authority to change Gods eternal word

  13. Thank you Rev.Msgr , for taking up courageously , a hot topic ; tried to read up more on the issues at hand
    and good to know that our Fathers in The Church , Holy Father on down, care deeply about the problemes in married lives ( and those who seem to think otherwise ,probably not able to recognise same, in the depth of their own pain and frustration .)

    It is very likely that the issues around domination / submisson hava a lot to do with problems , even . in couples who intend to live in Christian marriages .

    How profound and ‘revolutionary ‘ our Lord’s words and example , on the topic – ‘ a man should leave his mother and father and be united to his wife ‘ as though an almost impossible sounding invitation , to leave behind issues stemming from inadequate parenting / generational ‘curse ‘ of pride and such , with the related envy / control , contempt issues or user attitudes in efforts to gain esteem , in the sight of siblings, if not parents , if the former have taken the place of parents at the emotional level and St.John Paul 11 calling such user attitudes as ‘prostituting ‘ of relationships !

    ‘Submit to each other , as unto The Lord ‘ , is the verse in the Apostolic letters that start the theme of guidance for married couples .and we see in later verses too, those very critical words – as unto The Lord , which ought to make one wonder why ..and the answer might be from the (merciful ) example of the one who was the first chosen leader for The Church , Peter ( so that those who come under similar circumstances ought not to feel too disheartened !)

    Seems within no time of being affirmed of his blessings of being revealed of heavenly truth by The Father , Peter is addressed as ‘satan ‘ by The Lord !

    Would that be not an indication that there can be occasions when even otherwise well meaning persons can be under such powers and not under The Lord and thus , the one who owes submission has the delicate , ongoing, prayerful responsibilty from love , to discern the occasions that need submission and occasions that need deliverance and forgiveness and prayers for more wisdom for both !

    Such an understanding that the marriage covenant is with The Lord and the spouse in Him , not under the enemy , could make it easier for both sides to deal with the fallen tendencies of domination / rebellion , in a less threatening, more merciful manner ,dealing with the fallen side , as a sort of ‘foreskin ‘ that need to be cast off , through forgiveness ,in a circumcision of the heart and move on without deep grudges .

    Read somewhere how Cardinal Ratzinger had written how those couples who are divorced and remarried and now live good lives can be considered as being in a valid marriage ; while one would not wish all the pain and ugliness of divorce , esp. for the children , on no one , what can make it very difficult to determine , AFIK, is who have valid marraiges – the same Lord has told us that one who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery and in one sense , it is likley that the numbers of those who enter truly valid marriages , is fewer than we realise !

    Yet , true , the Sacramental aspect of marraige ought to be taught and understood better , that one’s oath is to The Lord and His Church ( glad to read how you have changed the wording to ‘ Sacrament of Holy Matrimony ‘ ) giving both spouses hope and trust that with The Lord, a little goodwill can go a long way and until Mother Church goes through the painful process of being tended onto the next hilltop, by The Spirit , those who wait to receive communion can always be so, in spiritual communion !

  14. When I go to mass, it seems that all people are entitled to receive Holy Communion and don’t seem to understand that we must be in a state of grace. How come so many people receiving communion and so little going to confession. The priest receives confenssions 30 minutes before beginning of mass but only two or three persons present themselves. There is not enough being said about the necessity of confessing of one’s sins and repenting before receiving communion. Yes there needs to be more teaching on Church dogma’s which are based on Christ’s teaching who said “your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more”.
    I’m a bit worried about this Synod, I hope that it won’t force the Church to “adapt” worldly views bit by bit. Lets pray the Holy Spirit and Archangel Michael to guide and protect the Church.

  15. Father, thank you for this post! I have been very disheartened and discouraged by some of the things I have heard that bishops have said, both at the synod and leading up to the synod. I have even found some of Pope Francis’s statements a bit troubling.

    I can certainly understand the desire of bishops and priests to be merciful toward people, and not to place hevay burdens on people. You gave some great examples in one of your older posts, of the types of irregular marital situations you have seen as a pastor, where you have rightly recommended that people seek annulments for marital unions from their past. However, I am concerned that some bishops seem to want to set aside doctrine and Jesus’s own words about marriage, in order to be merciful.

    Some have suggested that only a change in discipline is being discussed, not a doctrinal change. But if Pope Francis and the bishops do change the discipline on reception of communion by Catholics who are remarried without an annulment, doesn’t this imply one of the following:

    (1) Unfaithfulness to one’s true spouse can be absolved, even if the penitent plans to continue the current sexual relationship, or
    (2) Someone in an objective state of grave sin does not commit further sin by receiving the Eucharist, or
    (3) Marriage is not really indissoluble.

    It seems to me that the discipline cannnot change without implying one of these three things, any of which, I think, would be a major doctrinal change.

    Furthermore, I don’t really understand why this is such a big issue to those who wish to change the practice. I have lived in several different places, and I have attended quite a few different Catholic parishes. I have never, in any parish I have attended, seen a priest or other Eucharistic minister acting as the Eucharistic police, and turning people away from receiving communion. If a person who was divorced and remarried (without annulment) wanted so badly to receive communion, what, other than their own conscience, is truly stopping them from doing so? In many parish situations, the pastor probably does not even know the past marital history of many parishioners, and certainly not the past marital history of visitors to the parish.

    Note, I am certainly not recommending that people should receive communion when they are not properly disposed. I’m just saying that to listen to Cardinal Kasper, one might get the impression that people are literally being turned away from receiving communion. But in my experience, most bishops and priests leave reception of communion up to the individual’s conscience. So it’s not as if most divorced-and-remarried people are truly being denied communion in the sense that seems to be implied — at least I don’t think that this is happening on a large scale.

    1. Of course, Kasper’s proposal makes no logical sense, as you point out. It can’t be reconciled with doctrine. The only way to get there is to either change the doctrine (which can’t happen) or ignore the doctrine in praxis (which appears to be what is about to be sanctioned). Kasper must know this, but doesn’t seem to care. To insist on logic is to be a Pharisaical “rigorist”, don’t you know? My guess is he would say “Of course you are logically correct, but God’s mercy trumps everything.”

    2. “But in my experience, most bishops and priests leave reception of communion up to the individual’s conscience. So it’s not as if… this is happening on a large scale.”

      You are 100% correct. That is how any objective observer can know the real goal of those seeking reform is not Charity but rather affirmation of the world of man.

      It is merely another step along the path foretold in Genesis – man desired the fruit of the tree of “knowledge of good and evil” so he could be a god.

  16. From today’s second reading of the Divine Office: From the first instruction by St. Vincent of Lerins, priest:

    “But it must truly be development of the faith, NOT ALTERATION OF THE FAITH. Development means that
    each thing expands to be itself, WHILE ALTERATION MEANS THAT A THING IS CHANGED FROM ONE

    Then the Responsory from Deuteronomy: 4: 1,2; John 6:63:

    “Do not add to what I command you, nor subtract from it.”

  17. Cardinal Tettamanzi and Cardinal Coccopalmerio have just made statements about this issue. They have proposed solutions that are far more “pastoral” than either annulment or celibacy. I think the statement of these cardinals and others should most likely not have been broadcast to the world. It is confusing. If several cardinals are saying certain actions always prohibited are possibly licit it makes the sheep wonder. I believe once you have cardinals at the highest level publically proposing easier solutions why would the people in the pews not feel those proposals are moral and acceptable? Certainly cardinals are not going to propose inherently immoral actions? Why would the average Catholic not feel they have already been given a way out as they read that Cardinal So and So thinks it’s OK and just act right now, in their own lives, on that information?

  18. Thanks Msgr. Pope

    I couldn’t agree with your defense of traditional Church teaching more. I am a deacon candidate and have also just completed marriage advocate training. I just don’t see how we can get around what Jesus actually said about marriage and divorce. I don’t understand why anyone in the Church should be trying to obscure that teaching. Like the oath that a doctor takes, we should first do no harm. If the Church weakens on this teaching would it mean that couples just living together and forgoing marriage are no longer in a state of sin? If not, how do we split the difference? I know this is an emotional issue but we are not doing people any favors when we move away from teaching the truth that has been handed down to us.


  19. Father,my question is…does Pope Francis believe in any Universal truths? The topics that are being debated and poured over have been written about extensively by some of the greatest intellects the world has seen, including St Thomas Aquinas. The world hasn’t changed.

    1. I think it best to refrain from speculations on the Pontiff. He is staying largely silent in this synod, and while I have expressed my own concerns about the manner in which this synod is being conducted, we cannot speculate from the pope’s silence to his thoughts.

      1. Now that is the best comment made yet today. All of us should be praying rather than speculating.

      2. The Holy Father has not been silent. And many things he has said would seem to be applicable here. And, actions speak louder (or as loud) as words. Yes, he has said that the doctrine can’t change. But then he says and does other things.
        1. He pulled Kasper out of ecclesiastical obscurity to address the consistory. It was no secret what his views were and that he was effectively marginalized under Popes St. JPII and Benedict because of them.
        2. He praised Kasper’s proposal specifically, and he praised Kasper’s theology generally.
        3. He remained silent while Kasper made his world tour promoting his proposal.
        4. He has spoken very severely about priests who supposedly “block access” to the Sacraments.
        5. He has stated his view that the Eucharist is “medicine for the sick” not a reward for the perfect.
        6. He has stated that the individual conscience is supreme and that the Church must stop trying to “control” peoples’ faith.
        7. He told a group of over 100 bishops just a couple of weeks ago: I beg you to resist the temptation to try to change people” and admonished them to accept God’s people “as they are.”
        We cannot know the Holy Father’s thoughts. We cannot know what he will ultimately do. But, the signs are pretty obvious at this point. In my view he has a radically different vision of the Church from that of St. JPII and Pope Benedict. To me, it is far more than just a difference in “style.”

      3. “Pope Francis and the Sound of Silence” by Christopher Ferrara is a must-read article for all catholics!! He concludes this article by stating: “We CAN read Francis through his silence. And the sound of his silence is like thunder in the Church.” It is published in the September 30th, 2014 print edition of the Remnant Newspaper and can be read right away by signing up for the E-Edition of their newspaper.

  20. The President of the Pontifical Council of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Fisichella, has stated that remarried divorcees that are active in the community should be able to teach in Catholic schools. I am wondering how this would affect not just the remarried divorcees but more importantly the children in the school setting. This is quite confusing.

  21. Christians through out the world are being persecuted, beheaded, and crushed the Pope and Bishops are babbling about trying to deconstruct the teachings of Jesus.

    Talk about fiddling while the world burns………………..

    1. OK, perhaps a bit strong. Let all watch the tone. However, I get your point, it is sad how lesser issues often eclipse greater ones, and in this particular case how what is dysfunctional has taken up so much oxygen. I pray that the real goal is how to strengthen marriage, not further accommodate cultural dysfunctionality. That said, the topic is a legitimate one for the bishops to discuss, even as we are doing here and I hope no one will say that you and I are currently playing a violin, or even a viola.

  22. No, the world HAS changed; it’s the doctrines of the Church that haven’t and will never change. Before entering into his mission, Jesus went out into the desert for forty days to pray and to fast. During that time he was severely tested by Satan in three areas: The world, the flesh and the devil. You will recall that Satan told him that he (Satan) would give him the “world”, meaning Jesus would be the absolute ruler of the world and all its possessions, if he would bow down and worship at the feet of Satan. Our Lord’s response was that his Kingdom was not of this world (as he spoke the same to Pilate) but that he came to do the will of his Father. So why are we Catholics being repeatedly being told by this clergy that we must conform to the world? Doesn’t anyone see what’s really happening here?

  23. I am getting some comments in that reference the Remarks of my Archbishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl. For the record let me state that I wrote this post before having read any remarks by him. I was informed of his remarks only late last night, after this blog had posted.

    Therefore, my remarks should not be interpreted as a direct refutation of Cardinal Wuerl’s remarks, which I still have not read or considered fully. Since I am in the direct chain of command with him I hope you will understand that I will not be directly commenting on what he has said.

    The Cardinal has always been very generous in hosting this blog, and accepting that a wide range of views can be expressed here, as long as they do not lack charity, misrepresent the faith in some official way, or harm the reputation of others.

    Please understand however if I cannot publish remarks that seek to distance me from my own Ordinary. The point of this blog post is the Synod itself and the debate, which is wide-ranging and involves many individuals and players including the main-stream media which too easily manipulates us.

    Be careful, pray and see what the end shall be.

    1. The end has not yet come. The next Synod is due in October 2015 where things will truly be considered, put down in writing, and then presented to the Holy Father. After that, the Holy Father will reflect on what the Synod Fathers have discussed/suggested and make his decisions. I will give our Holy Father the benefit of doubt now and for as long as he reigns since I trust him to be a man of faith and love for both Christ Jesus and the Church.

      From the many comments here, most which, in my opinion, are negative and without hope, No one seems to be reminding us all to pray, to hope and to trust.

      1. This is a good reminder, I am not aware that anything is being decided at all in these sessions and much prayer and recollection of the Holy Spirit’s on-going presence must be recalled.

        1. And we also must recollect Jesus’ promise that the Church will never be irrevocably damaged but will prevail in the end. Thank you JustMe and Msgr. Pope for reminding us all of these truths.

  24. Msgr, thank you for your blog. I read it and your sermons every day.

    My fear over the Synod is not that our Shepherds are going to change doctrine, but that they are going to covertly render doctrine and Magisterial Truth itself irrelevant.

    This is done every time they conflate doctrine and praxis with legalism and hatred of the poor. They do this when they laugh and scoff at those who insist on repentance and spiritual martyrdom (take up your cross daily), as a condition of salvation from our sins.

    Sarcasm is how they will overthrow doctrine and Tradition. This is the modus operandi of the Modernist. Covertly, they are sapping the walls and when they fall we will all be surprised that it happened.

    At the end of the Synod, doctrine will remain untouched, but I predict the Church as a whole, from the top down, will just no longer care. That is the ground on which the Church is being attacked.

    Thank you again, Msgr, for all you do.

  25. To answer your question, why do some find sex more important than Communion, I’d suggest that many aren’t clamoring for Communion b.c they so adamantly believe in the Real Presence & in the great spiritual good to be gained from receiving the Body of Christ, but rather they see Communion as a perfunctory action – something a Catholic just does at Mass and they don’t like feeling excluded. With the changes in the reception of Communion (where now basically everyone at a Mass goes up, row by row) it is the social rejection that they feel more than the desire to receive Christ that, IMHO, lies underneath the desire of many remarried Catholic to receive. They feel rejected, not b.c they can’t receive Christ, but b.c they are publicly singled out and excluded from what they see as a normal part of the Mass – everyone receiving.

    If I’m right, then we can easily understand why sexual relations are more important than receiving Communion. If Communion is just another thing we all do at Mass, then why would you “live as brother and sister” to do it? That would seem unreasonable and unjust to most people. For people with this mistaken view, it makes more sense to demand the Church become more “accepting” (or more “tolerant” but not “accepting” to use Card. Kasper’s distinction) of their behavior and remove the public censure.

    Honestly, Msgr., do you think this would be such an issue if everyone received less frequently like once was the norm? If many people (for various reasons, including not fasting) stayed in the pew?

    With belief in the Real Presence at an all time low, I can’t really bring myself to believe the divorced and remarried happen to make up the most fervent part of the Church – hungering desperately for Christ’s Body and Blood, yet willing to completely ignore with absolute indifference His teaching on remarriage.

    1. “I’d suggest that many aren’t clamoring for Communion b.c they so adamantly believe in the Real Presence & in the great spiritual good to be gained from receiving the Body of Christ, but rather they see Communion as a perfunctory action ”

      As one who went to Mass for approximately a decade without going up to offer myself to received Communion, I can tell you I believe you are very correct – but only half-so. The other half I believe being simply that most do not believe their sins are grave or that sin itself is grave.

      These attitudes did not simply happen. During this past year, I went up to the presiding priest after Mass to point out a drop of Christ’s Blood had fallen to the floor and made a gesture to indicate its size and that it was a visible presence. The priest’s response. Oh that’s no big deal, they’ll mop it up tomorrow.

      Msgr. Pope and others are very correct – much prayer is needed, much.

  26. Msgr Pope, much thanks always for your words of wisdom and truth in guiding us in our faith and life journey. I believe our focus should be on the Holy Eucharist/Holy Communion. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ and professing our beliefs in One God and in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, we have lost or diminished the true meaning and value of the Holy Eucharist/Holy Communion. We are all sinners and our sins is not just ours alone. Whether single, married, divorced, re-married, gay, etc., our sins affect all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. To be right and just in the eyes of our God, we are all called to repentance, to be accountable for our sinful ways and with God’s grace to sin no more. We must be willing to be transformed by that grace of “I absolved you…” and part of that grace is to live in communion within the community of the Mystical Body of Christ.

    You are right that many of us continue to choose the ways in our lives. And yes, we must be accountable to our choices. God gives himself freely to us through the Sacrament of Holy Communion because he desires to be one with us in all things. But many miss this concept. Holy Communion has become a right rather than a blessed privilege. To receive and accept our Lord in Holy Communion, we open ourselves to Him totally and completely. We say yes to Him to transform us to be more like Him in every way. By not living as God desires, it is us who have disconnected with Him.

    Let us all remember the true meaning and value of the Holy Eucharist/Holy Communion. If its truly what we believe and accept it to be, then we will be motivated and inspired to live our lives accordingly.

  27. In a way, I am glad all this is happening because even though Francis has caused so much confusion since his election, it is beginning to become clearer than any “benefit of the doubt’ good will would refrain from articulating, that this absolute disaster is precisely what Popes of a 100 or years ago warned of and what many people who were skeptical of Vatican II were correct about. We are in the hands of men who are very far from God, the true God. I have taken to praying the Psalms. I do not know if this is ‘the end’ but I do know that regardless of the struggle, the Psalms are the refuge of those trying to follow the Lord.

    I am grateful for the clarity that Providence is providing by allowing this charade to play out. I will never again think twice about the ‘Francis Effect’. I know what the real ‘effect’ is.

  28. You make everything seem black or white when there are many shades of grey involved. I suspect this is why Pope Francis called for the Synod – to try to get away from all or nothing and find some areas where more mercy can be shown.

    I again fail to understand why if a Catholic gets married outside the church and then this marriage fails, he or she is permitted to marry in the Church because his first marriage was not valid. However, if a Lutheran gets married to a Baptist and then has a divorce, that Lutheran needs an annulment before being allowed to marry a Catholic in a Catholic Church. This happened to my cousin and it took 4 years for his wife to be granted an annulment. Well, they married in a Lutheran Church and this caused a number of problems with my relatives. When the annulment finally came, the wife was so angry that she did not agree to get remarried in the Catholic Church. So my cousin (never married before) was considered to be living in sin, etc. Surely this area can be looked into.

    1. Well of course your concerns are understood and we have discussed them here before. Catholic Marriage Law is rather technical and poorly understood. The whole annulment scene is bewildering and troubling even to priests. We have a lot of soul searching to do in that department. However this Synod was supposed to be on the Family, and (at least the public discussions) have all been about communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. It would be a valid thing for the Synod to suggest a more careful look at the annulment procedures, preferably by a subset of the Synod or in a future setting. But what is happening is that are many who are publicly speaking in a manner that seems to question Jesus’ teaching on marriage as being indissoluble and that a second “marriage” amounts to on-going adultery. However we seek to examen a previous union to see if it was valid, (i.e. to issue a decree of nullity) we cannot, to my mind set aside what Jesus says, that unless there was something illicit or invalid about the first marriage, the second “union” is not a valid marriage and sexual intimacy there involves adultery.I don’t know how much clearer Jesus could be. I would thus remand your concerns to a group that considers how and in what manner on annulment process can be streamlined and our teaching be made clearer.

      By the way, a word to all: I would appreciate if comments were not addressed to me personally. This comment begins “You” I don’t think the author’s comment is fair, I don’t think everything is black and white. I could go on to defend myself but the point here is me, it is the issue. If you don’t like what “I” say make your point, but avoid personal attributions (which sidetracks the issue). This comment could better have begun, “I don’t think the issues here are so black and white…”

      Sorry to pick on you Richard, many do this. But my point is for us all. I would rather stay back from most the discussion in the combox and let you all speak to the issues, I have already had my say. But when I, or my pastoral judgement/sensitivities is questioned, then I have a choice either to press delete or to allow the comment and then have to be drawn in.

      What I am asking is that those who object would strive to object to the issue(s) not to the man, me, who is really not the point here.

      1. The same courtesy should be granted to our Holy Father and to all the Bishops as well.

    2. +“This happened to my cousin and it took 4 years for his wife to be granted an annulment. Well, they married in a Lutheran Church and this caused a number of problems with my relatives. When the annulment finally came, the wife was so angry that she did not agree to get remarried in the Catholic Church. So my cousin (never married before) was considered to be living in sin, etc. Surely this area can be looked into.”

      Actually legitimate reasons for a Canonical process known as RADICAL SANATION of a marriage can include a situation when ONE party in the marriage will not cooperate in having the marriage convalidated through a Catholic convalidation of the marriage ceremony so our Holy Mother Church has already had to face what appears to be a similar situation such as you describe though each individual situation must be thoroughly investigated on its own merits

      Below is a portion of an article re a Catholic process called RADICAL SANATION by Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong who until not too long back worked for Marcus Grodi the host of the EWTN Journey Home TV show as the senior apologist for Marcus’ Coming Home Network and which article deals specifically with such a situation (seemingly) as you describe If you read down into the body of the below article it charitably deals with the problem of one spouse being unwilling to become involved in a “Catholic“ marriage convalidation ceremony when the other spouse truly desires same (if you click onto the provided link you can access the inner links in the article to other sites)


      Note that the article [link below] mentions “a dispensation for a marriage ceremony outside the Church”. I don’t know how often this occurs or what is involved (see, e.g., CCC, #1633-1637). It also talks about getting a radical sanation even WITHOUT knowledge of one of the parties:

      If your spouse would have an extremely bad reaction to the sanation procedure, then, for the sake of domestic peace, he [she] would NOT need to be told about it: “A sanation can be granted validly even when ONE or BOTH of the parties are unaware of it, but it is NOT to be granted except for serious reason” (CIC 1164). The extreme reaction of your spouse could count as the serious reason needed for this.

      This (if possible to obtain) is probably the best course for a Catholic married to a person who is quite opposed to Catholicism. Another EWTN page explains the difference between a convalidation and radical sanation (the latter makes the original vows retroactively valid and the former is a new set of valid vows). It also mentions ONE partner being able to do this:

      Reasons for a radical sanation include a situation when one party will not cooperate in having the marriage convalidated through a ceremony.

      Apparently some priests have told couples they need not worry about such details of marriage convalidation. Another EWTN page (Fr. Mark J. Gantley) decisively answers this:

      If a Catholic is married outside the Catholic Church, then the marriage MUST be CONVALIDATED. This is true whether the marriage involved a Catholic and a non-Catholic or two Catholics.

      The necessity of “ecclesiastical form” is discussed in CCC #1630-1631. This is my understanding of Church teaching. I’m not infallible, of course, but I have backed myself up with official Catholic sources, solid apologetics material, and priests from reputable and orthodox websites (I humbly submit that some priests who have been giving out goofy, erroneous information concerning these matters might do well to do the same, since this is a very serious matter).

      For even more detail, one can consult the Code of Canon Law, that discusses marriage in its entires: #1055-1140. Here are a few of these:

      Can. 1108 §1 Only those marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who, in the presence of two witnesses, assists, in accordance however with the rules set out in the following canons, and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in canon 144, 1112 §1, 1116 and 1127 §2*3.

      Can. 1117 The form prescribed above is to be observed if at least one of the parties contracting marriage was baptized in the catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1127 §2.

      Can. 1118 §1 A marriage between Catholics, or between a catholic party and a baptized non-Catholic, is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local Ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory.

      §2 The local Ordinary can allow a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.

      §3 A marriage between a catholic party and an unapprised party may be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.

      – Posted by Dave Armstrong”

      Internet Link:…ation-and.html

      God bless

      all for Jesus+

      1. +Oops! Just a minor correction in the second paragraph above I called Radical Sanation a Canonical process and realized just a bit too late (after rereading the post online) that I have no researched basis for assuming this specific term is ever mentioned in Canon Law so I’d better limit the process to being called a Catholic process which it is legitimately

        Sorry about that

        all for Jesus+

  29. My spirit is so crushed by much of the discussion going on around the Synod. What of those of us who have picked up our cross and labored mightily under it’s weight, getting up after every fall for the sake of our difficult marriages? Are we now to think that the Church will tell us it was all a waste? We should have just bailed out after all? Found a new situation? An easier time? Will the unfaithful spouse now see this as a reason to quit??

    What of those of us who really BELIEVE that marriage is forever? Will we now be told that “irregular situations” are “almost as good” or perhaps, “okay enough”? If so, well, then, who is the world will bother suffering through the oftentimes gut wrenching and heart breaking situations that occur in a “traditional marriage” (you know, that situation that used to be referred to as just plain old “Sacrament of Marriage” or “Holy Matrimony”.) When the mushy-gushy romance has long ago grown cold, who will bother to seek peace through the love in suffering?

    I wonder: will Catholics who have really suffered together in their marriage come and share their stories with the Synod?

    How many are looking for an easy way? I worry about those who may wish to increase sales of Church product, by coming up with better offer, a solution to man’s problem of wishing to be his own god. Sausage-making, indeed. It is better to just eat it after it has already been cooked.

    On the other hand…perhaps we should all calm down a bit, yes? And have true faith in Christ’s church? If I am allowed to wildly speculate on the possible driver behind the Holy Father’s wishes for a moment: could it not be that he simply hopes to model the compassion Jesus repeated showed by welcoming sinners? Could it be that he wants to change the tone, but not change the Truth (which cannot be changed anyway)?

    I don’t know. Either way, could we go wrong here to fast and pick up our Rosary? Could we go wrong here to prepare ourselves for our own personal judgement?

  30. Why is Eucharistic “sacrilege” never mentioned as a factor in all this dialogue over marriage indisolubility vs compassion? If practice diverges from doctrine, where does this kind of doublespeak end?

    The Church fathers might simply admit that marriage preparation has been not so good, for 50 years, but that a further threshold leap in accommodation with the surrounding culture is simply not possible. A great opportunity for this synod, now, to speak clearly in season and out of season (and possibly to encourage greater interest in an expeditious and yet valid annulment process, which probably needs fixing–it has been reported that 85 percent of divorced couples do not even go there). Charity in the truth, not doublespeak.

  31. Our Lady of Fatima appeared to three ignorant Portugese shepherd children w/a very direct message: That by 1960 the sitting pope would be compelled, along w/all the bishops, to consecrate RUSSIA, not the world, to her Immaculate Heart. To date this has not been done. Pope John 23rd was pope at the time and his refusal was based on his geopolitical opinion that Krushchev was very powerful and had to be dealt with and that this “request” by the Virgin was “not of his time”. Hence, he did not do as she commanded and neither has any other pope since. Sr. Lucy, the surviving seer, was kept under lock and key by the Vatican for many years and was permitted selected visitors only. She spoke about “diabolical disorientation” and other calamities that the Church and the world would suffer if Russia was not consecrated. We are now living out the consequences of that denial. There are many Church approved prophecies that speak of untold suffering in light of a great apostasy, “starting at the top”, meaning the clergy. Changing the liturgy, the sacraments, the consecration, Church doctrine, etc. would seem to be ill-advised at this point.

    1. +This is clearly a bit of a . . . “side road” . . . re the subject of Monsignor’s blog entry today . . . but re discerning the rather . . . considerably important . . . real truth . . . that dissolves the above accusations into nothingness . . . below are excerpts from the letters of the. . . cherished . . . holy little . . . CLOISTERED . . . discalced . . . Carmelite nun . . . the Fatima visionary . . . Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart . . . (better known as the visionary Sister Lúcia of the Fatima apparitions) . . . in which she confirmed that . . . “YES” . . . the consecration of Russia . . . HAS BEEN FULFILLED . . . Below is a time-line link from the EWTN website re the consecration process . . . August 29, 1989, Sr. Lucia AFFIRMED in correspondence that the consecration “HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED” and that “GOD WILL KEEP HIS WORD.”

      The word of our Wonderful Lord’s and His Holy Mother Mary’s little . . . visionary/seer . . . . Sr. Lucia . . . is . . . waaaaaaaaay . . . more than good enough for me . . . enuf said . . .

      Internet Link:

      “Letter 1: To Sr. Mary of Bethlehem
      J.+ M. Pax Christi
      Dear Sister Mary of Bethlehem:
      Received your letter and, although I have very little time at my disposal I will answer your question which is: Is the Consecration of the world, according to the request of Our Lady, made?


      Sr. Lucia

      [COMMENTARY: THOSE WHO SAY SR. LUCIA MENTIONS ONLY THE “WORLD” ABOVE BUT NOT “RUSSIA” and was therefore not writing of the Collegial Consecration requested by heaven are not being realistic. They should refer to all the articles in the special issue on the Collegial Consecration in the Fátima Family Apostolate’s “Fátima Family Messenger” (Oct.-Nov.-Dec. 1989). Fr. Messias Coelho, theologian and editor of the Portuguese journal “Mesagem de Fátima,” answered the objection effectively from the philosophical and theological aspect. Sister Lucia, out of respect for the Pope, spoke of it the way our Holy Father did, using the word “world, ” which included Russia. IN THE LETTER THE POPE SENT TO THE WORLD’S BISHOPS, THE HOLY FATHER CLARIFIED THAT IT WAS TO RENEW BOTH THE CONSECRATION OF THE WORLD (1942) AND RUSSIA (1952). THIS TIME HE DID SO IN UNION WITH THE BISHOPS.]”
      Letter 2: To Fr. Robert Fox TRANSLATION:
      “J.+ M.
      The Peace of Christ
      Rev. Father Robert J. Fox
      I come to answer your question, “If the consecration made by Pope John Paul II on March 25, 1984 in union with all the bishops of the world, accomplished the conditions for the consecration of Russia according to the request of Our Lady in Tuy on June 13 of 1929?” Yes, it was accomplished, and since then I have said that it was made.
      And I say that no other person responds for me, it is I who receive and open all letters and respond to them.
      Coimbra, 3 July 1990
      Sister Lucia”
      Internet Link:

      In dedication to the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart +

      . . . all for Jesus+

  32. We are in a very sad and dangerous place with what is happening at the synod. I am shocked at the reports of what is being said and how it is being received (and reportedly applauded) by the bishops in attendance. One of the things that convinced me of the Truth of the Catholic Church was the idea that it cannot and won’t abandon Christs teaching. Well, I guess we are about to find out if that’s true. The idea that we keep the doctrine but ignore it in practice won’t work for me. I can’t believe the Church is even having a “serious” discussion of these issues.

  33. To me the whole problem in Mother Church today corresponds to the framing of the issues of the Synod. Our shepherds want to “walk” with troubled souls to meet Jesus in the Sacrament of the Eucharist for comfort affirmation and healing But nowhere that I’ve read, and I follow this closely, do our shepherds frame the issue around the OTHER sacrament in which we directly meet Jesus, Reconcilliation. All discussion is around whether to allow any and all to meet Jesus at the Cross and receive His Body, Blood Soul and Divinity without due regard to the condition of their soul and disposition.

    I can tell you from personal experience, that it is NOT mercy to offer salvation cheaply.

    In my extensive travels I notice that most parishes offer Confession at MOST once a week and for usually 30 minutes on that day. NOT ENOUGH!

    Instead of debating whether to admit un-reconciled sinners to the Eucharist, how about instead changing what we do at the Parish level, follow the example of St. John Vianey, and make RECONCILLIATION with Jesus the center of Parish life, and union with Jesus through the Eucharist its first fruit?

    1. “In my extensive travels I notice that most parishes offer Confession at MOST once a week and for usually 30 minutes on that day. NOT ENOUGH!”

      Spot on.

      If actions speak louder than words, how can priests expect sin to be considered grave by those in the Church if they do not consider sin important enough to sit every day for 30 minutes in the Confessional waiting for sinners?

      I think a priest sitting alone in a Confessional for 30 minutes praying would have a far greater effect than everything else they do for souls – save offering Mass and Last Rights.

      And yes I am aware before going into the Confessional a priest must spend time in preparation.

    2. I agree that Reconciliation is the key for married couples. Even a new form for the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is geared toward mending/strengthening the marriage bond would be very good – something to provide for young married couples to keep them focused and on the “straight and narrow.”

  34. I’m not very worried until the results are out. What matters really is what comes out of the Synod. Ultimately that’s what a Synod is supposed to achieve – to clear the murkiness around. Humanae Vitae did exactly that. But the success also depends on the ground work that goes into Synod. If this is done without any home work or clearly laid out guidelines for participants, it would only add to murkiness. Holy Spirit is not auto-guaranteed simply because it’s Catholic Church’s synod. Only if we do our work and cooperate to discern the Will of God, fruitful results can come.

    The challenge is this: This is a very broad topic. In the West, secular institutions are redefining marriage. For the Bishops in Orient, poverty, domestic violence, evil of alcoholism, children’s education would be the main pastoral concerns. Being a universal synod, there are several, several pastoral issues to discuss about, that without good groundwork, the Synod runs the risk of being a wasteful effort.

    The outcome of this Synod would be the first actual test of Pope Francis papacy, and I expect the wisdom of Holy Spirit would ultimately prevail.

  35. As far as the Holy Communion is concerned, commoners tend to think they are denied some sort of a right. This is where the message of mercy must be prioritized over the canon code. Church wants everyone – even murderers and rapists – to sit with Jesus, Mary and all saints, in Heaven. The doors are open for all to receive Jesus. Repent your sins, forgive, heal the wounds, and receive Jesus for his abundant mercy.

    “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

  36. “How is it that many have come to regard having sexual intimacy as more important or necessary than receiving Holy Communion?” – “I am not denying anyone Communion; some choose to exclude themselves.” – “… some do not think they can reasonably choose to live celibately in their second union”

    Spot on, on all counts.

    Two things lost or ignored among many of the religious are these two facts of Faith.

    First: those who walked away thinking Christ’s words “until you eat of the Body of the Son of Man” were crazy, Christ let them walk away. He did not call out to them with any form of “wait, you misunderstood me” or “wait, you don’t really need to believe that part, just stay and listen to the stuff I say you have ears-to-hear and do not think crazy”.

    Second: the Apostles clearly took to heart Christ’s “shake the dust” teaching when obeying His command to spread His Word.

    Since Vatican II there has been a spiritual and intellectual delusion that the sound of “gentleness”, “kindness”, and “love” when speaking to those who reject His Word will end up leading them back to His Church. Eliminating harsh, fire and brimstone tones invoking feelings of condemnation is of course wrong and contrary to what Christ commanded and did. But to think replacing the fire and brimstone with loving-language which speaks only the truths their ears can hear will bring people back to accepting the teachings of Christ and His Church is a delusion.

    It is a delusion the Catholic Church in America is seeing proven by the fact half of those who identify as Catholic do not attend Mass regularly and more than half believe a person should not be denied the choice to kill the most innocent human life out of self-interest.

    It is as you say Msgr., their choice.

    A Christian of strong Faith will do as Christ did – he will let those who reject His Law and teachings walk away.

    A Christian of strong Faith will accept the fact God clearly has other plans and paths for those people, and for themselves.

    It is not by mistake those who are now arguing how the Church must begin change its message to those who are walking away from Christ support their position with the same rationalization Humanist employ and not follow the actions Christ gave us to follow.

    We will soon see if Pope Francis is of a strong Faith like Christ and the Apostles, or if his faith has become weak through maturation of the intellectual infections of Humanism and Liberation Theology which were pervasive in the Jesuits and region of the world where he his faith was formed.


  37. It is important to keep in mind that the strengths and weaknesses of the family within the New Evangelization is the actual focus of the Synod. It is not, as so many keep saying, about ‘changing the teaching of the Church’ in this case on the indissolubility of marriage or of the meaning of conjugal charity being both unitive and creative [Humanae Vitae]. It is also important to keep in mind that Pope Francis will be elevating Servant of God, Pope Paul VI to the illustrious rank of the Blesseds of the Church at the end of this Synod. While recognizing a person’s sanctity, the Church also discerns a certain meaning when it elevates a person to a blessed or full canonization. In this case it is, accompanying the canonizations of Sts Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, confirming the ministry and direction in which he led the Church as well as confirming his prophetic teaching of Humanae Vitae. All of these need to be kept in mind.

    Some Catholics seem to be under the illusion that the Church is built only on “Primacy” (of the Pope and therefore of ‘only’ papal teaching) and not on the “Collegial/Synodal” as well. The Catholic Church is built on Peter and the Apostles; the Church is built on the Pope and all the bishops in union with him. The apostolic college does not exist without Peter: cum Petro etc sub Petro. However Jesus Christ did not leave the Church with only Peter [Petrine dimension of the Church], but with Mary [Marian dimension of the Church], with Paul, John, the Beloved Disciple, James, bishop of Jerusalem, even John the Baptist-all being as well as symbolizing certain fundamental aspects of the Catholic Church. We need to hear from all the various elements of the Church not in a ‘democratic way’ but because the Lord Jesus Christ constituted His Church and built it on a Constellation surrounding Christ, the Sun of Justice.

    What we are witnessing is not the shaking of the Church’s foundations but these various dimensions of the Church coming together, participating in this Synod. This is ‘be-ing Church’. Our Catholic tradition tells us this. If the Council of Nicaea could allow Arius to speak, he who actually denied the divinity of Jesus Christ [although he was indeed punched in the face by the bishop of Myra, bishop (saint) Nicholas (Santa Claus!) when Arius denied the divinity of Christ] -and the Church not only survived but outlived Arius’ heresy-then nothing we hear at the Synod could possibly be so shocking etc

    It is important to sit back and listen, take it all in. Not everything being said is “gospel” or ‘infallible teaching’ but we will indeed hear in the midst of all the dialogue ‘the Gospel of Jesus Christ’ and ‘infallible teaching of the Church’. The truth by its own power and those who witness to it and live it, will prevail

  38. I am greatly saddened that this pope is encouraging this”National Enquirerer” like debate. I am also saddened that faithful shepherds like Cardinal Burke who has done so much for the priesthood and vocations to the Church is being treated like the enemy for being Catholic. Many people who have not liked the Church in the past keep telling me how much they like this pope, but I don’t see them coming into the Church, and it makes me look wrong for teaching the Church’s teachings. I don’t know about pope Frances or Cardinal Kasper, but all I can say to them is what I say to fallen away Catholics (which I formerly was due to bad shepherds), and protestants, “I gotta go with Jesus on this”. Also I ask everyone to pray for Cardinal Burke and all the other REAL Catholic priests, because they are the ones who are being attacked, not the secularized priests like Cardinal Kasper.

  39. As I was reading your conversation with a non parishioner; it is clear to me the lack of Faith of this poor soul.. .I was married outside the Church for tewnty seven years; my ex, was previously married in the Catholic Church, I knew my marriage was not valid in the eyes of God, but I did it any way, my “Faith” was, kind of (Paralized); for many years did not attend Mass, I knew I was living in sin…One day our Lord allowed me to understand the grave sin I was commiting against His precepts… To make a long story short, I chose God instead of my ex, could not be his wife any more, told him so; did not want to hurt his feeelings; I divorced him; it have been nineteen years from my divorce… For me to be able to receive our Lord, it’s of great impotance! We should die to our self, and allowe our Lord to live in us, every moment that we have left in this Earth!!!
    In JMJ, Gladys

  40. Monsignor,

    As ever, thank you for your thoughtful and positive blog posts.

    Your questions about the prudence of Cardinals publicly airing differences are well put. I would add that aside from any damage to charity resulting form the actual words of bishops to each other… the greater challenge comes when media outlets and bloggers of various stripes add their own spin… making it that much harder for seemingly opposed bishops (e.g. Burke and Kasper) to exercise charity with and for each other. Aquinas teaches that we should never hinder the ability of another to exercise charity… how much more so within the episcopate.

    As to communion for those in irregular relationships – of course you’re right in the points you make. I would add two thoughts of my own:

    First – that the whole Church might benefit from what I call a slightly more “Italian” approach to the pastoral implications of the issue… that is to say: debate ideals and understand that lived experience may not always measure up to them… and understand that QUIETLY. It seems our American mindset demands we make a federal and precedent-setting case out of every relationship every reception of holy communion, in short – every everything. Even our most faithful brothers and sisters in Europe seem to have an easier time looking at the imperfections of this earth and shrugging their shoulders without it destroying their faith in the ideal. Perhaps this is an instance of legal culture influencing pastoral approaches… the continental Roman system vs. our English common law system??

    Second – I perceive part of our communal angst over “To receive or not to receive that is the question.” as a mis-framing of the whole mass. The real question we should ask as we approach the altar each week is, “To sacrifice or not to sacrifices that is the question.” At a recent meeting of a parish committee, someone said to the assembled volunteers / ministers, “As we all know the most important thing about coming to mass is receiving communion; that’s the point of it.” I recoiled slightly. It’s true that for those who receive Communion there can be no greater privilege on this earth, but to consider communion without any reference to the offering of one’s life in union with Christ on the altar is to [what’s the right word…] ??impoverish?? our whole understanding of communion. I’d never propose returning to the pre-Pius X age of only receiving once or twice a year, but even St. Pius’ encouragements of frequent Communion would always have been made in a context of sacrifice. And isn’t THAT precisely what we’re trying to hand on to the faithful…? To say, “You ARE capable of this… Your ARE more than the sum of your appetites… You ARE a divinely touched creature capable of self-denial and self-gift. Such an elevated self-conceit could help, I think, lift our people from the spiritual doldrums in which they find themselves. …because even one who is not in perfect Communion (and thus ought not receive holy communion) is still capable of a degree of self-offering… and on the great day when that total offering touches the sphere of his/her relationships… so much the better. All that said, I think our entire approach to the mass (at least as I see it de facto, on the ground) needs to be adjusted before the faithful are able to receive such teaching. For 1900 years people offered their sacrifices at mass without receiving holy communion every time. Each was part of the Church’s family each had a personal relationship with Christ… and none of the literature I’ve read indicates any of them felt “left out”… maybe there’s more to the Mass than we usually think.

    1. I think you are right about both points. As a pastor, I am aware, and surely every parent is aware too that just because people struggle to live to the norm or ideal doesn’t mean surrender the ideal but quietly help them get there in stages. Compassion is a virtue best exercised in more personal and individual ways since it is a virtue that needs to be carefully crafted for each case as a medicine. Proper dosages will differ etc. A quiet pastoral care is called for which is not to be confused with the properly rejected “internal forum solution.” Proper care leads a person to live the ideal and norms, it does not set them aside. But in this country especially we seem to want a make a federal case for every possible thing, and every group wants legal recognition. A lot of bad laws and policies emerge when we try to legislate and codify every thing.

      Likewise for Communion. We have lost balance tipping too steeply toward frequent communion and too far from worthy reception. We must recapture the balance and assert that Mass is still essential and valuable even if person is not able to approach the altar for communion for either temporary or semi-permanent reasons.

  41. A public airing of the division within the episcopate may show the public that the Church takes these questions serious and does not just mindlessly mouth platitudes. However, there is a very negative side to all this, and it was first witnessed with the Second Vatican Council. The media presented the discussions and decisions within the Council in the same manner they handled political issues: the ‘liberals’ vs the ‘conservatives’, backroom negotiations, lobbying for allies, compromises in the final draft, etc. This likely shocked and confusion many Catholics who never really considered how Council’s work. It made them think – and the media and later dissidents encouraged this view – that conciliar documents, and Church teaching and practice that flowed from them, were merely the machinations of men. It all came down to whether the ‘conservatives’ got the upper hand or the ‘liberals.’ As for the Holy Spirit, well, He was invoked as being on the side of the winners.

  42. A statement above said something to the effect of “don’t these people know they are living in sin?”. Well, suppose they don’t? Cardinal Burke has pointed out that the most serious problem facing the Church is the collapse of catechesis. If a couple hasn’t been taught that their irregular marriage situation constitutes “living in sin”, then they aren’t actually sinning when they approach for communion, are they?

    1. I’m no expert, but even with the weaker catechism taught, it’s still been taught that adultery, active homosexuality, etc.. are sins, and that divorce is not recognized. Catholics are aware of that.

  43. If the consecration has occurred, as most of you choose to believe, then why have we been going deeper and deeper into a great abyss of darkness and why has nothing changed? I suggest you read Antonio Socci’s book on the subject. It’s scholarly, well researched and documented. You will be astonished by its conclusion.

  44. Hello

    I am a divorced Catholic and I have received a decree of nullity. I am living a chaste life and discerning my vocation. I do facilitate a Journey of Hope program at my Parish..check regarding this amazing healing ministry. I have two prayers that people never get to this ministry and that their marriages are saved and flourish by the Grace of our Lord. Second that those who find them in a divorced state seek healing emotionally, socially and spiritually before they enter a second marriage. Sadly this is not often the case and I feel we need to work at preventing this. I see so much misinformation about annulment from all sides including the faithful and Priests.
    If we are calling people into this confusing and PAINFUL process we need to walk with them

    I am no expert in doctrine but working on it I have a simple question. This all comes to 2 Scripture verses-Matthew 19 and 1Cor11. But what about all the Scripture verses about repentance and forgiveness!!??!?!? If a person finds themselves in this situation and truly repents their sins is it not forgiven of the Father?? It is of course. “Heavenly Father I come to you seeking forgiveness for the failure of my first marriage…..” It is forgiven!! We have a merciful GOD and we must be a merciful Church!! Of course this has to be true authentic act of

    Thank you for this type of forum.

    GOD bless

    Please remember I am a faithful Catholic who ministers to the divorced. I am not an expert in doctrine as said previously. But anything I have read during this Synod has not been able to fully answer my question above.

    1. If the first “marriage” was never truly valid, if it was a nullity from the beginning, then there is nothing to forgive. There is nothing wrong, nothing sinful in separating in such a situation. If anyone should be asking for forgiveness it is the people at the parish who allowed the wedding to go on. But if there was no marriage, then there was no sin.

      If there is forgiveness needed, if there is a sin concerning the first union, if it was wrong to break that union, then that is itself evidence that it was a valid marriage! And still is a valid marriage. And thus, it wasn’t null and void from the beginning. Hence, no annulment. (Unless of course the whole process is a sham, a wink and nod, outcome determinative farce where the game is fixed, the dice are loaded, the cards are marked, and the judgment is made up before the parties ever enter the room.)

      See, that’s what’s coming out of all this talk to make the annulment process easier — a complete loss of credibility and trust in the system, such that we are entering into a phase where no marriage is safe from ad hoc nullification. A spouse can never be 100 percent sure that the other spouse isn’t going to be able to simply leave because they know that they can just go down to the tribunal and “get” one of those annulments that folks are so eager to hand out.

    2. Hello Lori,

      You wrote:

      “I am no expert in doctrine but working on it I have a simple question. This all comes to 2 Scripture verses-Matthew 19 and 1Cor11. But what about all the Scripture verses about repentance and forgiveness!!??!?!? If a person finds themselves in this situation and truly repents their sins is it not forgiven of the Father?? It is of course. “Heavenly Father I come to you seeking forgiveness for the failure of my first marriage…..” It is forgiven!! We have a merciful GOD and we must be a merciful Church!! Of course this has to be true authentic act of

      A person who truly repents of their sins must have a firm intention to stop the sins of which they have repented.

      And it is not the sin of the break-up of the first marriage that is the issue here. In fact, in some cases, a person may have little or no culpability in a divorce — for example, if his or her spouse had an affair and then left the marriage.

      Rather, it is the ongoing sin of adultery in the new civil marriage that causes the stumbling block for reception of communion, because one cannot truly repent of this sin if one has no intention of stopping the sin. (And of course we all tend to fall back into the same sins, despite our best intentions. But we must at least have the intention to try, with the help of God’s grace, to stop the sin, even if we know that in our weakness we are likely to fall again sooner or later.)

  45. Thank you Msgr Pope, for articulating the truth so much more eloquently and concisely than I. God bless you!

  46. I let my family members know that they must be in the state of grace to receive Holy Communion. If they purposefully missed Mass, avoided confession, or commit mortal sins—they were told that to receive communion would be a
    sacrilege. That was what I was taught and therefore passed it along to family..
    My point is that if the church should have been doing this for the past forty years. However it seems the thought of sin has been tossed out the window, and every one thinks they are owed the Blessed Sacrament.
    I worked with a young woman who I knew was living with her boyfriend, and never went to Mass. However when she went to Mass with her parents–she told me she went to Communion. I told her that she was compounding her mortal sins with sacrilege. She said she knew it and shrugged it off. Very sad.

    1. Yes, why should the young lady do otherwise, U.S. Bishops have been doing the same for 40 yrs…

      Today however the situation has become far more grave with Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge”.

      Here is why.

      The Pope’s predicate of “if they accept the Lord and have goodwill” made without an objective explanation of what acceptance and goodwill mean ends up becoming a statement of implicit reduction of sin to a relativistic, self-centered, personal choice and meaning to those who do not understand Catholic teaching.

      Pope Francis’ great failure, which I think is really founded upon a profoundly deep intellectual arrogance, is his ignoring of what Christ and the Apostles did – know their audience and speak to their audience recognizing the level of formation and understanding of existing Jewish teachings and law.

      I was fortunate enough to go to a Jesuit university. Most people seem to see a humble pope; I think because of Pope Francis’ countenance. I see a pope of great sensitivity for the poor, but of great intellectual arrogance and inability, much like a professor, to understand the mindset of the spiritual “middle-class”.

      For me it is not what liberal-modernist Bishops say, it is what is not said by the vast majority of Bishops and the Pope.

      Which I think is to your point.


  47. What is surprising to me is the amount of attention that the Synod (and most people’s minds) is supposedly giving to divorced and remarried only. What about the grave issue of contraception? According to the statistics, a very large % of Catholics use contraception. Again with this issue, sex is deemed more important than worthily receiving Holy Communion. Even if the Synod were to heretically set aside Jesus’ (and the Church’s) teachings on divorce, remarriage and adultery, a vast majority of those able to remarry are probably contracepting. They would still be in a position of not supposed to be receiving Communion but doing it anyway.

    1. Yes. And if Pope Francis is so much about positive things, where are is the focus on family prayer and attendance at Mass?

      Roughly 70% of Catholics do not attend Mass regularly.

      The Pope and the Synod seem to be acting more like parents who hear their children complaining about the difficulties arising in their social life and seek to calm their children by giving great weight to the complaints yet ignore the source of the problem – the ignorance and selfish choices of the children…

  48. +The LORD has abundantly blest our little immediate family in Him with several great kids and from the vantage point of being a parent I have the greatest compassion for our Holy Father Pope Francis to whom our Heavenly Father so VERY recently has entrusted so many of the various governing-sons/priests of our Holy Mother Church TO NEWLY FATHER each of whom is at a different level and phase in their “spiritual age” and spiritual growth and development stages as children and priests of our Wonderful GOD and whose souls progress along the road of salvation in our LORD and as GOD’S servants is a matter of great concern and importance

    Re the Synod being discussed any parent worth their salt knows that in order to responsibly love and care for their children and in order to reasonably teach and “LISTEN” to each one in turn and watch and listen as they interact and at times argue and at possible times should they “fight” with one another in order to truly understand WHO they are as individuals in relation to loving GOD and their neighbor and what they are actually thinking and what they are actually involved in However just because a parent is charitably “LISTENING” to the “kids” shouldn’t open up an UNTIMELY door for UNJUST CRITICISM while the parent is SIMPLY listening and learning about his “kids”

    Remember JESUS the Blessed Christ of GOD our Saviour and LORD had the traitor Judas Iscariot (who ultimately betrayed our Saviour to His terrible death as our Crucified LORD on the cross) as one of his welcomed chosen disciples for whom He cared and taught rightly re the Holy Ways of His and our Father in Heaven for a considerable portion of time

    All in due season and in due time a year or so from now perhaps we will be able to see the true FINAL fruits of this Synod and will be able to discern in reality if the fruit is healthy and good before the LORD . . according to HIS and HIS divinely inspired Church’s Holy Magisterial standards or (may GOD forbid) if not

    Meanwhile PERHAPS ? we should prayerfully give the Vicar of Christ our Holy Father Pope Francis and his “kids/priests” who are attendees at the Synod some slack and some time as they get better acquainted with one another

    During morning prayers the following little portion of Sacred Scripture kept coming to mind which seems to COUNTER what (at least to my mind) seems to be a rather serious over-emphasis on the single issue of remarriage of divorced persons which issue our Holy Mother Church has clearly and mercifully already addressed in her holy doctrines and Canon Law

    “RELIGION clean and undefiled before GOD and the Father, IS THIS: to VISIT the FATHERLESS and WIDOWS in their tribulation: and to keep one’ s self UNSPOTTED from this world.” – James 1:27

    all for Jesus+

  49. Praying for the Synod . . .

    – John Cardinal O’Connor

    “LORD Jesus, we your people pray to You for our priests. You have given them to us for OUR needs. We pray for them in THEIR needs.

    We know that You have made them priests in the likeness of your own priesthood. You have consecrated them, set them aside, annointed them, filled them with the Holy Spirit, appointed them to teach, to preach, to minister, to console, to forgive, and to feed us with Your Body and Blood.

    Yet we know, too, that they are one with us and share our human weaknesses. We know too that they are tempted to sin and discouragement as are we, needing to be ministered to, as do we, to be consoled and forgiven, as do we. Indeed, we thank You for choosing them from among us, so that they understand us as we understand them, suffer with us and rejoice with us, worry with us and trust with us, share our beings, our lives, our faith.

    We ask that You give them this day the gift You gave Your chosen ones on the way to Emmaus: Your presence in their hearts, Your holiness in their souls, Your joy in their spirits. And let them see You face to face in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread.

    We pray to You, O LORD, through Mary the Mother of all priests, for Your priests and for ours. Amen.”

    . . . all for Jesus+

  50. If true “…The papal appointees to the drafting group are: … Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.” (per

    Maybe the good Cardinal will peruse some of the things written on Msgr. Pope’s blog and commentary…

  51. At our son’s wedding my wife, unrepentantly adulterous in public for a quarter of a century and publicly, always refusing to even consider, much less attempt, any sort of reconciliation, was given communion at the Cathedral.

    In tears I walked out of the cathedral and ceased attending Mass from then on. I had rarely received communion because of my fierce opposition to the practices of the Catholic Church regarding marriage.

    I have no home in the Catholic Church any longer. I cannot and will not live with a Church which will not forcefully, via formal excommunications if more gentle pastoral means fail, address such behaviors as in our case.

    Go ahead and welcome people who destroy marriages, their spouses and their children and who REFUSE to look upon what they have done and to work to undo it, as humanly possible. I would rather spend etetnity separated from God, if this is what God truly wants.

    I wish He would make it so clear that it could not be denied.

    I have wasted my life being faithful! I want to punch God in the face. If He really loves me He would understand!

    1. I feel for you but remember even priests are human and therefore they can fall into sin. Don’t leave Jesus because of people like Judas. (Judas was the apostle who delivered Jesus Christ to death). There are Catholic priests who agree with you and would not give communion to your adulterous wife. All priests aren’t bad just because some are.

    2. I sympathize with you Karl. I have seen also what you describe. I will go even further.

      The Church seems remiss in the pastoral care of and mercy for those left behind by a former putative spouse, seeking to re-marry after an annulment.

      The Church community celebrates such a second marriage as though an annulment is all that is necessary for such a marriage. It seems that an annulment alone relieves them of any responsibility toward the first spouse and their children.

      Often, the spouse and children from the first marriage have lived through step and half siblings, step parents and a second class existence. They live in economic deprivation, broken visitations, and are shuffled back and forth between homes. In the multiple divorces and re-marriages I have seen, a second marriage always results in a negatively affected home. And the biggest victims are the children.

      I will give one example. I knew a couple, both of whom had lost their spouse, and both of whom had children from that deceased spouse. They fell in love a chose to get married at a Mass attended by literally a Chuch full of well wishers. In my skepticism, I worried about the children, but in hope thought that if ever a second marriage would succeed for both the couple and the kids, it would be this one.

      A couple of years later, the wife told me that they were having trouble with the husband’s daughter. She had been crying and was reluctant to tell they why, but after long encouragement broke down and admitted why. She said that she felt such love and affection for her step mother that she felt guilty. Her loyalty was to her mother and the emotional ups and downs were more than she could handle. Eventually, more problems developed with the children in that blended family and the couple divorced, leaving further traumatized children.

      I never hear anyone in the Church talk about 1 Corinthians 7, Verse 38-39, where St. Paul says widows (and perhaps widowers) may re-marry, but better they not and he thinks he has the Spirit in so saying.

      Perhaps, that re-marriage allowed is for the hardness of our self centered hearts. Perhaps, love for our children would encourage us to remain unmarried for their sake, making a deceased spouse alive in the children’s souls or working with a divorced ex-spouse if that is the case, keeping their other parent alive in their souls.

      Maybe annulments should not be made easier to get, Perhaps, parents, even in invalid marriages should be pastorally helped to cooperate for the sake of the kids, Perhaps re- marriage is not the vocation of most of those previously married with children. Perhaps, with pastoral help, they could come to that conclusion also.

      I am musing and have not absolute position on this, but sure know annulments and second marriages do not fix the problems caused by divorce. Don’t think making annulments easier helps.

      I would be happy to hear from others about these thoughts.

  52. My thought is a universal problem with Jesuits. That is sin of pride. This may be connected to knowledge and wisdom gained. What Papa Francis portrays is lack of prudence in matters of speaking to reporters and governing synods. May be this is problem with the pride noticed with many in the order.

  53. Thank you, Monsignor – many priests share your concern – as do many faithful lay people, perhaps Pope Francis might take to hearts the words St. Paul used about scandalizing his brethren of weaker faith.

  54. I don’t think certain Bishops understand Doctrine and Development very well. I hope they read their brieviary on Friday! Here’s what it said:

    From the first instruction by Saint Vincent of Lerins, priest
    (Cap 23: PL 50, 667-668)

    The development of doctrine

    Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale.

    Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the faith, not alteration of the faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another.

    The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries, but only along its own line of development, that is, with the same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.

    The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person.

    The tiny members of unweaned children and the grown members of young men are still the same members. Men have the same number of limbs as children. Whatever develops at a later age was already present in seminal form; there is nothing new in old age that was not already latent in childhood.

    There is no doubt, then, that the legitimate and correct rule of development, the established and wonderful order of growth, is this: in older people the fullness of years always brings to completion those members and forms that the wisdom of the Creator fashioned beforehand in their earlier years.

    If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled. In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age.

    In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of truth but the intrusive growth of error.

    On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when, in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase it may flourish and be tended in our day also.

  55. This whole situation reminds me of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, the opium addict, who, because of his addiction, could not receive Holy Communion for 30 some years – yet remained faithful to the last, refusing to apostasize, and died a martyr. It seems so much of St. Mark Tianxiang’s story could be applied to this marriage debate today. I heard that St. Mark prayed every day for his salvation. Is not Our Lord’s mercy so good that even though St. Mark could never kick his habit, Our Lord granted him the grace of martyrdom? Does not our Lord hear the cry of the poor? It strikes me that we need more encouragement and teaching on how to “be poor” (more so spiritually) and to pray for our own salvation. It seems the former is necessary for the latter, for if we thought we were all doing so great as to be entitled to certain relationships, to relational behavior, and even entitled to Holy Communion…why would we bother to pray for our salvation? Dear Karl (who commented above) and those in difficult marital situations, I will pray for St. Mark Tianxaing’s intercession for you. “Lord, save me!” – St. Peter

  56. See the video at “The reception of Communion is not a doctrine or position, it’s a pastoral application of the doctrine of the Church.” That contradicts the infallible Bible and revealed Truth: “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:27-29).”

  57. I look to the Bishop’s Synod to provide a profound teaching about family and marriage. We live in a society today where marriage and family is nearly passé. Few of my younger coworkers marry, most refer to there boy or girl friend they live with. Some of these couples have children. Most of my nieces and nephews live with a boy or girl friend. Many of the grandchildren in our family were born out of wedlock, few married young couples here. In my travels I encounter the same thing.

    As important as Communion is for all of us, I would have to consider the Synod a failure if that is their sole focus. For the sake of the world, the Church needs to teach strongly about family and marriage or risk doing more damage than good. Should Communion be granted under some context to those in civil remarriage, the secularist will be given the opportunity to declare all marriage, divorce and remarriage as OK and fully acceptable. Additionally, the Church will be seen as eventually coming around to the secular perspective, abdicating any authority to teach on faith and morals. The Synod is a great opportunity to teach, but the stakes are very high. Please pray strongly for our Bishops.

    1. Sorry Mark K. — from what I’m reading about the Synod’s mid-term report, rather than “teach strongly about family and marriage,” it sounds like they are saying we need to water down those teachings so that they are more palatable to people. We need to go slow, be “gradual” in Church teachings. Although the house is burning down, we need to recognize the positive aspects — a burning house provides light and warmth after all — and apply the principle of gradualism, just a little water at a time to put out the fire.

      Following such an approach, maybe in 20-30 years we can get that strong defense of Church teaching. People will be more ready for it after we have said in the interim that things contrary to Church teaching are good enough. After all, we’ve used that approach for nearly 50 years with Humanae Vitae and see how ready people are for it!!

      Meanwhile, we ought apply the approach to things like assisted suicide. Appreciate the positive aspects of a young woman who nationally publicizes her intention to kill herself. And be gradual in applying Church teachings on human life. Then, after she’s been 30 years in the grave she might be ready for those teachings.

  58. I know a man who attended mass faithfully for over 30 years after leaving his first marriage. I don’t know the circumstances of the first marriage. Although an annulment was attempted, there was no cooperation from his spouse and so there wasn’t sufficient evidence for an annulment. In the interim, he married civilly and had 5 children, bringing them all up in the Faith, always attending mass but never receiving communion.

    Finally, some years ago, I believe that he and his present ‘wife’ discussed the matter with a priest, and, after agreeing to live as brother-sister, they were absolved. They have taken communion ever since.

    Draw your own conclusions about how this story relates to the synod. I honestly don’t know how it should relate to it. It seems to be relevant to me though.

  59. I am posting this for serious consideration and for the confusion which is everywhere, as can be seen by the replies to this post, Monsignor Pope.

    Please publish it and please reply to it.

    I was instructed by a very knowledgeable catholic layman that the application of living as “brother and sister” was not available to the spouse who abandoned their marriage, but only to the abandoned spouse. This was further predicated, in my instruction, upon the fact that the innocent spouse who, coming to terms with the “reality” of their own adultery, since their abandonment did not give them “valid reason” to enter another relationship when their own marriage persisted, clearly attempted to seek reconciliation with their spouse/abandoner, but were refused. Thus, they were existing in a real marriage and in a objectively gravely sinful relationship, simultaneously.

    It was in this limited circumstance that I was told the abandoned spouse, having faced their own grave marital violation, squarely and objectively, and determined to honor their sacrament, and having been clearly rebuffed when seeking reconciliation with their spouse/abandoner, could live chastely, as “brother and sister”, when their are minor children born of their adultery and it is impossible or gravely harmful to civilly divorce and completely separate from the parent of these minor children. The accommodation is solely for the sake of the minor children.

    But, I was also told that this does not just entail abstaining from sex. It means to behave as if one was living with one’s flesh and blood sister/brother and working together, solely, for the good of the children of their adultery, not sharing the eomtional attachments which lead to and supported the adultery, and that it was understood/a given that should circumstances change wherein the sacramental marriage could be attempted to be restored, if the spouse who previously abandoned the marriage and rebuffed any reconciliation attempts(previously) had a real change of heart(substantiable and public), the living as “brother and sister”, must be abandoned for the reconciliation of the sacramental marriage.

    There were more details but this was the gist of how it was explained to me.

    I was told it was not available to the abandoning spouse, period. I was also told that “impossible or gravely harmful”, were literally meant, not subjected or opened to any rationalization and/or merely difficult circumstances. I was further told that the existence of minor children from the sacramental marriage prevented such an arrangement because there was always literal scandal to them.
    Could you please further explain this “brother and sister” stuff?


    Where are the theological treatises where this “accommodation” is systematically examined, thoroughly, so that the “uneducated” can try to make sense of what, my, very personal intimate experience indicates is, in very practical terms, nearly impossible to justify(objectively and honestly) and even less possible than nearly impossible, to actually live out, when all the real damage being done is so very crystal clear.

    Please, do not ignore this Father. If you cannot answer this authoritatively and clearly, please find someone who can…and I do not mean one of your blog readers, unless they are credentialed with long practical and theoretical experience in the field and with at least a PhD level education at the best Catholic Universities and are willing to cite their credentials, their long experiences(with specific, name redacted, cases) and can also demonstrate numerous examples of marriages, actually, reconciled due to their work.

    It is really time for the rubber to meet the road on this issue and very related issues.

    I am very serious and I am not trying to be a problem.


    1. Karl,

      I am not the person you are looking for to answer any of your questions. Your post occasions a thought or two though.

      You discuss the limited circumstance of an ‘abandoned’ spouse. If you have ever been around when a breakup between two parents, married or not, occurs, you will probably understand that the question of who has abandoned whom may be a very controverted one. In such matters, there are two sides [at least] to every tale.

      One or the other, or both, of the parents not infrequently goes on to another relationship and more children. This may or may not involve marriage, whether civil or in context of the Church.

      Thus, the preconditions of a brother-sister dispensation may be difficult to establish. In the meantime, life goes on.

      I think the main responses to these situations are driven by the stronger of our own predilections. These predilections are, broadly speaking: 1 to care about the particular persons involved in these situations; or 2 to care about communicating the truth of the Catholic religion in regard to marriage. These predilections, I think, are also the primary predilections behind the creation of the 2 ‘camps’ at the synod.

      Not saying who is right or wrong here. I really don’t know. There’s probably some right in both sides. Usually there is. I trust in God that the synod and our holy father will chart the proper course for the Church.

      1. Our oldest daughter knows the story and most of the rest have put the story together having lived through the adultery, everyday of their young lives.

        When the Church studies nullity cases it is rare that it is unclear to them who did what, when, why and how. If this is NOT the case, then reaching moral certainty about circumstances sometimes decades ago in favor of nullity is very likely a sham.(not shame).

        In our case from the start it was clear to everyone near to us, exactly, what was happening. The problem is attempting to heal is extremely rarely what the interest is in these circumstances. The far easier way is nullity. It is THAT orientation which is a fatal malignancy to wounded marriages. It drives the nullity process, not the reconciliation process.

        I have said this in public for decades.

        The two camps could not be more opposed to each other. Both are idealogically driven. Only one serves God, regardless of what anyone thinks. A refusal to hold abandoning spouses to a full accounting, with formal excommunication when pastoral means have failed is an abandonment of the reality of indissolubility. The evidence needed sits in tribunal offices. But, it takes too much effort to heal a marriage. The “better investment”, to the Kasper camp, is to support adultery….as often as necessary.

        The moral, pastoral and dogmatic bankrupcy of the Kasper camp is beyond clear. It stinks to the heavens. It feeds on brokenness, when it should be working to heal that brokenness. If this synod is anything like what Vatican II was like in the trenches, the Catholic Church is in extremely deep trouble.

        Cardinal Burke’s interviews are very clear and very Catholic. It boggles my mind how anyone could not agree with him, overwhelmingly, and I am not really a big fan of his.


        1. Karl,

          I cannot speak to your experience, having none similar to compare it to. It seems that in your case, justice was not done. I have no knowledge as to whether your case is common. But I truly wonder if it is often the case that, as you said, ‘the evidence needed sits in tribunal offices.’ If that is true, then it seems to me there must be something seriously wrong in the Church. But I wonder if you are not embittered because of your own experience, and are therefore making a generalization that is not true? I do not know. In any case, God bless you and all of us. We need it….! And thank you. I expect your words will come to mind again as the synod progresses, and will help me to think about it.

  60. One thing is for sure……every time I sin now I don’t worry to much about it. The pope and Bishops say I’m fine where I’m at.

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