It is sadly evident that the Church is currently divided into two camps over the question of divorce and remarriage, this in the aftermath (confusion) of the recent synod in Rome and in the rampup to the synod this coming October. Please pray a lot!
If you read the blog here often, you know that I am strongly opposed to any notions that would seek to set aside what I regard as the ipsissima verba Jesu (the very words of Jesus) in this matter, words that are, to my mind, not at all unclear or in any way ambiguous. His teaching in Matt 19, Matt 5, Mark 10, and other places is that those who leave valid marriages (“what God has joined”) and enter another union are in a state of ongoing adultery. These are Jesus’ words, not mine. We must often deal, with pastoral solicitude, with many who are in this situation (sometimes before they met Christ), and we must hold them as close to the Church and Christ as possible. But cancelling Jesus’ teaching (a teaching that was objected to on the very day that He said it) is not an option.
Sadly, there are many of great influence who are advancing theories and interpretations suggesting that Jesus’ very clear and oft-repeated teaching is in fact not clear and can give way to newer interpretations that they claim are more merciful. Among these are some bishops and theologians of considerable influence. Let us consider an example.
In the latest issue of the theology quarterly “Urbaniana University Journal,” Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano says that Jesus’ words about marriage must be understood by what God says through Hosea: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Fr. Gargano is professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Urbaniana University. As such, he is a highly influential biblical scholar and patrologist. He is also a Camaldolese monk, and former prior of the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio.
So we are not dealing with an obscure article by an obscure author. And I, though out of my league as a lowly Monsignor and pastor, have unfortunately found myself opposing the views of some bishops and scholars who outrank me. Yet, emboldened by the Pope’s invitation to a vigorous discussion (an invitation about which I have reservations), I would like to present brief excerpts from Fr. Gargano’s article. It is a lengthy article and more of it can be viewed at Sandro Magister’s site. You have to be able to read Italian to read the whole thing, though.
In responding, I make it clear that I disagree with Father Gargano. I do so publicly because I consider this debate a very serious matter. Frankly, I think it is going to be necessary to develop a mechanism through which ordinary priests like me can weigh in together with our strong belief that the Church’s teaching and discipline in this matter must be upheld unchanged. Perhaps, before the synod, a statement can be developed (à la the Manhattan Declaration) that priests and bishops can officially “sign.” In the meantime, it’s just little ol’ me and a few others up against some pretty influential people on “the other side.”
As usual when I comment, I present the article by Fr. Gargano is in bold black ink and my comments in plain red text. These are excerpts; the fuller article is available here: Chiesa Espresso – Fr. Gargano Speaks
Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano writes,
What interpretation should be given to the expression of Jesus in Mt 5:17: “I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them”? How should we understand the reference to hardness of heart in Mt 19:8ab: “For the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to repudiate your wives”? What force should accompany the observation of Jesus in Mt 19:8c: “In the beginning it was not so”?
In order to attempt a step forward in the reflection on this series of questions, let us recall first of all […] what Jesus himself said in Mt 5:19: Therefore, he who transgresses even one of the least of these precepts and teaches others to do so will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven. But he who observes and teaches these commandments will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.
The first observation that asserts itself in this regard is that in Mt 5:19 Jesus is not talking about “exclusion” from the kingdom of heaven, but only about the situation of “least” or “great” in the kingdom of heaven.
I guess St. John Chrysostom never got the memo that Jesus wasn’t excluding. Chrysostom writes, But when you hear the “least in the Kingdom of Heaven,” you are to think nothing but hell and punishment. … Think of the one who calls a brother a fool. That one transgresses only one commandment, maybe even the slightest one, and falls into Hell. … Jesus means that the one who transgresses only the one of the commands will on the final day be the least, that is, cast out, and last, and will fall into Hell (Gospel of Matthew, Homily 16.4).
Cyril and Jerome have similar views.
I will concede that St. John Chrysostom is not the last or only word on this, but Fr. Gargano is stepping away from both the tradition and the rather plain meaning of this text. Jesus is not trying to find room in the Kingdom for those who would do the least. The whole thrust of the Sermon on the Mount is that we exceed the bare minimum of the written law, not fall into minimalism and mediocrity.
No commentary I have ever read considered being “least” in the Kingdom as a good or even acceptable goal. At a bare minimum, the least in the Kingdom will likely have a lot of purgatory. But the more common opinion is that Jesus uses the word “least” as a play on words: those who break the least commandment will be least in the Kingdom. But the traditional teaching is that the least are the Hell-bound (if they do not repent), as stated by Chrysostom above.
The observation has its importance because Jesus says immediately afterward and with a certain solemnity, in Mt 5:20, “I say to you in fact: if your justice does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” in this latter case explicitly excluding from the kingdom of heaven those who simply stop at the justice pursued by the Pharisees and are unable to go on to the point of discovering mercy and acting accordingly.
No, not at all. Jesus is plainly affirming the law and surely not opposing it to mercy as Fr. Gargano says. Rather, Jesus is saying that on account of grace we must do more than what the old law said or permitted. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not replace it; he is calling us to “fill it full” in terms of its most solemn principles.
If Jesus is opposing a matter of law at all in this matter, it is on account of the minimalism of some of the Scribes and Pharisees He sees them and others as setting aside or minimizing God’s vision for marriage because they have hard hearts. In no way is Jesus simply reacting to legalism. He is affirming God’s plan for marriage without exceptions—legal, social, or cultural.
Here, too, St. John Chrysostom says, Jesus does not find fault with the old Law but makes it more strict. Had the Old Law been evil Jesus would not have accentuated it. Instead he would have discarded it.
Chrysostom goes on to say regarding marriage and the following of God’s plan: After the coming of Christ we are favored with a greater strength and … are bound to strive for greater things (Gospel of Matthew Homily 16.4).
So, according to Chrysostom, Jesus is not watering down; he is building up and insisting on greater adherence to the true nature of marriage.
[…] Now, however, we must also ask ourselves which precepts Jesus is talking about and understand if this is a matter only of the observance of the written/oral Torah under the aspect of the fence of what are called the “mitzvòt”; or if the teacher of Nazareth also intends to include certain precepts understood instead as concessions, like that of making use of the permission to repudiate one’s wife, on the condition that the act of repudiation be written down as prescribed by the text of Dt 24:1.
No, actually we don’t need to do this nor should we. We ought rather listen to what Jesus is clearly saying and not engage in speculative theories about what sort of Jewish precepts He had in mind or what their sources were or weren’t. None of our speculations change what Jesus clearly says: we are not to divorce and remarry, and those who do so (where a valid marriage is concerned) commit adultery.
Jesus seems to rule out the idea that in the case of divorce one may speak of entrance into the kingdom, with the explicit reference to the text of Gen 2:24 that refers to the Law inscribed in the stars: “Let man not divide what God has joined” (Mt 19:6). But when those who are speaking with him ask, “Why, then, did Moses order the act of repudiation and to repudiate her” (Mt 19:7), Jesus, seeking the fundamental motivation of that first principle, realizes that in fact the Mosaic prescription manifested a leniency that is characteristic of God.
Why does Father say “seems”? Jesus is quite clear to describe that divorce from a valid marriage (what God has joined) followed by entering a second union is adultery. There’s no “seems” about His teaching; it is quite clear.
And as for the Mosaic practice manifesting leniency, fine. But Jesus says no more of that sort of leniency in the era of grace. As Chrysostom says above, we are bound on account of grace to strive for greater things. Having hardened hearts is not an option or excuse for divorce in the order of grace.
Finally, saying that Jesus “realizes” something seems ignoble to this reader. It suggests that Jesus is somehow struggling to find the best answer or is “thinking on His feet.” I see no evidence that Jesus, based on a dialogue with these ancient Jews, suddenly “realizes” that Moses somehow had it right after all. Rather, Jesus is acknowledging that God, for a time, was lenient in this matter, but that time has now passed.
The result: on the one hand the observation that “for the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to repudiate your wives” (Mt 19:8); on the other the absence of any decision to eliminate this Mosaic prescription, in keeping with what he solemnly declared in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not believe that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). Two attitudes that rule out the possibility of reading our pericope from a solely juridical or, even worse, compulsory perspective, as it tends to be considered in the Western Christian tradition and in that of Catholicism in particular.
But, of course, Fr. is absolutizing Jesus’ statement about not abolishing the law. Clearly Jesus did set aside some interpretive precepts (especially related to the Sabbath) and other things like Kosher laws (Mk 7:19). Father Gargano surely knows better than to absolutize like this.
Fr. also describes his opponents as reading the passage from a “solely juridical” point of view and describes our view as impossible. I expect better than this from a reputable scholar.
I am a pastor and consider the indissolubility of marriage to be an eminently pastoral and merciful framework. The person who wants to divorce and remarry is not the only one deserving of mercy, so are the discarded spouse and the children who have to grow up in a world of broken families.
The preservation of marriage and the sanctity of Holy Communion ARE pastoral and merciful teachings from Jesus and the Apostles, not just juridical “uptightness.”
In this case, in fact, we would be looking at an interpretation of the text that would dispense completely with the global context of the life and teachings of Jesus as they appear in the New Testament and from the cultural and religious context in which the teacher of Nazareth acted and taught, as emerges from the language analogous to that which is used by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, including the stereotyped phrase “but I say to you” (Mt 19:9). It also cannot be denied that it is precisely leniency, and therefore the primacy of mercy, that characterized the teaching of Jesus and distinguished it from that of all, or almost all, the teachers among his contemporaries.
Now this is a common hermeneutic of many who have wished to set aside rather clear biblical teaching about homosexuality. And now it would seem that many want to apply this to divorce and remarriage as well.
Put colloquially, the interpretation is, Jesus was merciful and lenient so we should largely downplay any passages in which he seems angry or demanding. This was not like the “Jesus I know.”
Of course such a hermeneutic must discard hundreds of verses in which Jesus demands that we take up our cross, verses that say we are not worthy to be His disciples unless we renounce all our possessions, that say we must prefer nothing and no one to Him, etc. Such a view must ignore Jesus’ consistent warnings about judgment and Hell, His reminders that we will be accountable for our neglect of the poor, our impure acts and thoughts, our calling a brother “Raqa,” and even our idle words.
While many today oppose clear moral teaching from the love and mercy of God, they set up a false dichotomy to do so. God does not command us except in love, neither does He warn us except in love. In the Church, too, well-ordered love and mercy must be rooted in truth. The greatest mercy is to keep people out of Hell and to save them from all the suffering that precedes and comes from sin. Further, there must be a balance between concern for individual needs and the common good. Every false dichotomy in these matters must be avoided. Love without truth is not love at all, neither is it mercy. Seeking to cancel clear moral mandates from Jesus by an a appeal to a “God is love” principle or a “Mercy uber alles” standard is a false dichotomy. It is not love; it is not mercy; it is not authentic to the true Jesus of Scripture, who holds all these in balance and does not pick one and throw away the other.
Please remember to pray diligently for the Church in this hour. If any age is ill-equipped to teach on marriage, family, and sexuality, it is ours. The Church cannot afford to take cues from a confused and darkened culture. Jesus must always be our light, He and none other, speaking through Scripture and Tradition. Pray!
Our Lady of Cana, pray for us!
107 Replies to “A Lowly Pastor Comments on Troubling Developments in the "Divorce Debate"”
Thank you, good Monsignor. You are correct and are leading your readers and fellow Catholics as a pastor should. Pax.
And if Jesus did not really mean what he said about marriage, then he did not really mean what he said about it being a man and a woman. Truly an age that seeks after novelty.
Thank you frCharles Pope. I am heartened and is hopeful and will pray as you prayed and prays.
It is tough to stand with Jesus, Msgr. Stay strong in your conviction.
As for me, well, I am praying hard for the Church. Maybe some fasting is in order too.
On a side note, just because Fr. Gargano has some academic credentials does not mean he is a “Doctor” of the Church. By his articulated position he seems quite vulnerable and ill equipped to be viable in the spiritual combat of the Synod. I think he has a tough fight ahead. Your position, on the other hand, is based on Truth which is always the desired and defensible high ground.
We shall see. . . .
Father, I am just a lowly lay woman with, thankfully, quite good formation and an instinct for sensing garbage! I did not need to read your words in red (although I did) to know that this professor has lost his way!
I just do not understand the high level priests, bishops, and even cardinals who cannot see the truth!
Thank you for your guidance. Without it many of us would be questioning our common sense!
Just as the changes in the annulment process has led to the flood gates of broken marriage, so to this will lead to a flood of more broken marriages because of the easy out that is being promoted. It is sad the Holy Father has already made his thoughts known as being in the pro-divorce and remarriage camp. Once he made his views known, any real discussion about this is a joke. It is a done deal that he and his group of 8 have been stacking the deck and the discussion ever since. It’s been decided since they stacked the deck to pick him as pope. They knew this from the start. It was done deal with a group of cardinals who conspired to elect him. All you have to read the last book written by the now deceased Cardinal Marini of Milan, and this is where the church is being taken. Cardinal Marini said the church was 200 years behind, and needed updated. He was for divorce and remarriage. He was also for a 3rd Vatican Council. This is now on the table. He was for a group 8 or 12 cardinals to run things. This is happening. I tell you, the is not the pontificate of the Jesuit Bergolio, but the papacy of the Jesuit Cardinal Marini. People need to wake up, read Marini and you will see where are going. And Marini was not found of Saint John Paul or Pope Benedict. This is the pontificate of “Rupture”!
Just to clarify . . . the name is Martini (but I know, those Italian names!).
And, by the way:
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us!
Saint Thomas More, pray for us!
Saint John Fischer, pray for us!
Jose, Just what I was going to write. 🙂
Let me know when Henry VIII is canonized.
Thank you Msgr . for an article of good perspective and light and truth ..
Those words explaining what is least in the kIngdom very likely need to be heard and taken in by many , since focus on the ‘me ‘ is what gets one, into that mindset , how one has to just get in somehow or other , not out of love for God .. ..
Good to point out that error , on how the author of the sited article interjects those words on The Lord , how He seemed to have ‘realized ‘ ….has to make one doubly cautious of those who hold such views !
The focus on the nature of mercy is also very good , how God’s mercy is to primarily protect us from what is evil and divergent from His nature ; He seemingly waited , in the context of His respect for human freedom and freewill, had the chosen people , to even take up herem warfare and all such , in order to bring forth a holy line and The Woman of Immaculate Conception , for The Savior to be born, mercifully protecting her from the effects of The Fall !
That attitude of equating mercy to the sin of presumption , against the Holy Spirit , closing off one’s mind and heart about the nature and seriousness of sin , making it thus difficult to repent , also has to be a major ploy of the enemy , in our times !
The Church allows annulments , may be from having weighed in seriously if there are marriages that were not ‘ what God had joined together ‘ ..if the idolatry of self, what gets known in our times as narcissism ,
had made persons so full of self love , that they are already sort of ‘married ‘ to self / or the agent behind that confusion .. glimpse of which we probably see in Adam and Eve after The Fall ..with related effects , of wanting to use , even abuse from parasitic traits instead of being able to protect and build up !
Those who are remarried , whom The Church recognizes are in invalid /adulterous marriages , get the occasion and grace , to look deeply within , even family lines, to bring to light all such areas and repent deeply , possibly for the good of all, counter the curse of any idolatry , while waiting in prayer, to see if there is more to the situation that can be recognized and dealt with , by those called to do so !
God Bless !
the teacher of nazareth,,rather then Christ our LORD, is perhaps an indication of who the priest believes Jesus to be. Marraige is a covenant till death do us part. Can one covenant be nullified,so you can receive the covenant of the last supper. I think not
Good article, monsignor.
As a general rule I think we shouldn’t trust anyone who tries to “interpret” text A by saying “let’s look over here at texts B, C and D.”
It’s the same as when people try to import “there is neither male nor female” into the women’s ordination debate.
One correction if I may, with no offense intende to your confreres, you are far cry from an ordinary pastor by any stretch of the imagination. Your humility is admirable.
Thanks, at the end of the day we all stand before God as his children, and from our perspective we all stand before him as blind beggars
And you’ll be responsible that a lot of the beggars standing there.
I desire truth, not sophistry.
Dear Monsignor Pope, Please write an article addressing those who find themselves in a marriage that has turned into living hell. One that is full of emotional, mental, financial, and even physical abuse. What does the Church say to us? Can you offer anything to help us accept this teaching and enable us to carry this cross? Thank you.
Please seek out Retrouvaille. “A lifeline for marriages” for those experiencing extreme dissatisfaction in their marriage. It was our last hope, and very thankful for it. Monsignor Pope, you are most welcome to come and partake in a Retrouvaille session.
I second that! Such an article is most needed, I think.
It is my understanding that the Church does not require someone in such a situation as you describe above to remain living with the abuser. (Research has shown that it has a serious negative impact on any children who witness woman abuse, as even witnessing a traumatic event is a trauma in itself, not to mention the message it sends on how men are to behave toward women!)
I have been estranged from my abuser husband for over 15 years, raising our children alone (ex-police, he refuses to pay the court ordered spousal and child support—yes, I have done everything I legally can regarding this, and no, the ex- not having anything to do with his abusiveness, the Blue Brotherhood actually protecting him).
Although we have been living below the poverty line all these years, it has been a blessing in disguise: my children see how materialistic their peers are/society is and don’t want to be that way; they have a sincere compassion for people, etc. By not having the distractions that money can bring, I have been able to focus on learning more about our faith, which has helped to deepen my faith and has enabled me to share it with others on a level that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. By my not having dated, let alone lived with anyone else (by the grace of God, who has kept me on His path), I have had to rely solely on Him (my relatives are not emotionally supportive, and many are anti-Catholics, my being a convert), which has drawn me closer to Him; by my example (again, solely by the grace of God) my sons do not want to date promiscuous girls and are put off by them. These are but a few examples off the top of my head.
Jesus’ way is the best way for us. Like giving a child an inoculation that hurts at the time but is very beneficial in the long run, so is the path of the Cross.
You are in my prayers.
God love you for your example of heroic virtue in the face of great suffering.
An argument on this “living hell” basis could be used by any husband whose wife has developed early Alzheimer’s disease. It becomes a test of WHO you are as a husband. Did you take those vows “… for better or worse…until death do us part”? Or did you take them “…as long as convenient”? Or “until someone with a better figure crosses my path.” ?
In “A Man for all seasons”, Thomas More tells an acquaintance “I felt as if I was holding my soul in my hands, like sand; and if I opened my fingers, my soul would fall on the ground and be lost.” (As best I can remember, a paraphrase.)
But then, I’m not in a position to judge, as my wife and I (both in our eighties) pray together regularly, and her mind is still quite sharp.
There is no comparison between intentional abuse and problems stemming from Alzheimer’s.
The church does not prohibit separation for legitimate reasons. We’re only talking about divorce AND remarriage.
Thank you, Father! You keep speaking, and we’ll keep praying!
May God continue to raise up priests who are not afraid to speak the truth in love. We in the Church need pastors and priests who can speak with supernatural wisdom, courage, charity, fidelity, and humility. Thank you, Msgr. Pope.
Msgr Pope, you are on my daily prayer list. May you, with your Guardian Angel, stand strong for the Kingdom no matter the cost, with joy and peace :0)
We’ve just passed another Christmas season during which some unfortunate children opened presents in Dad’s house, were admiring them and hoping to use them, when it was time to go to Mom’s house. Can we possibly help Fr. Gargano to imagine such disappointment?
Or there are many like my neighbors James and Anne who missed Dad altogether this year. He is several states away with his new wife, his fourth! It “seems” to Fr. Gargano that Jesus “realizes” that this may be merciful on the part of Dad? Father is welcome to come to my neighborhood and explain that mercy to James and Anne who cried over their father’s “marrying” rather than being their Dad.
And there are other families, who missed out on another holiday together who may have older children estranged from one or both parents because of divorce, aided by priests like Father Gargano who thinks so hard about ways around Jesus’ clear words, that he misses the pitch altogether.
Maybe Fr. Gargano lived that way as a child. Packing his bag every two to five days because Mom or Dad or both refused to live together for their children’s sake. Or missing out altogether on a parent’s involvement. But I’ll bet he didn’t.
When my marriage broke up, I was devastated. She took our two young children and left me. I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. My sadness was abysmal due to our divorce and annulment, but I knew I had to remain faithful. I was left with nothing. I mean to tell you I got out with little more than the clothes I was wearing. She got everything in the settlement, and I was saddled with very expensive monthly child support payments. Ten years later, I met the most beautiful, faith-filled woman. We married two years after that. What I originally thought was the worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the most fortunate event of my life. You could not have convinced me of it at the time, but I believe because I remained faithful, I sincerely believe God blessed me a hundred fold.
If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation, do what St. Padre Pio told us to do. Pray, hope and don’t worry. Trust in God, and He will bless you abundantly. I am living proof, my friend.
Clyde, you say that you found happiness, but you do not say what happened to your children, which I find very strange. Their mother should never have been allowed to break up her family.
And unfortunately you think that the declaration of nullity of your marriage was a blessing, but, again, what about your poor children? Divorce is wicked enough but to have the Church tell them that not even God defends their having been born into a proper marriage is traumatizing. The tribunal should have urged reconciliation and even convalidation if your marriage really was not valid.
Or was it another case of “lack of due discretion?” Which we all lacked so that is a slam dunk.
Sorry, Clyde, to rain on your parade, but it is about the children, not you adults. Other men remain fathers no matter what their wives do.
When they were minors, I always lived within 3 miles of them, saw them at least 2-3 times per week, moving to Indiana and back to Iowa when their mom moved. I coached my older son to two individual state high school championships in track and field here in Iowa, and offered to pay for community college for both of them. They were both home for Christmas this year, and now back at their respective colleges hitting the books.
I have, indeed, remained their father first and foremost through it all.
Been there, done that, Clyde. I guess we never stop being fathers, but at least you stayed in your kids’ lives when they were kids. That was what I tried to do. Coulda cut myself loose and did what I wanted to do. But I always let my children know I was in the same city and just down the street, no matter what. When they get to college, they’re on their own. All we can do is provide advice in terms of support.
“… out of my league as a lowly Monsignor and pastor…” no Monsignor, you are not out of your “league”.
Thank you for keeping the faith. My family will keep you in our prayers.
Years ago, an American priest was leaving this country and going to work in one of the Vatican Congregations. He asked me, being a native and ordained priest from Italy, to give a final advice before reaching Rome and the Vatican. My answer? “Father, keep your faith! Rome is spiritually dangerous. You can lose your faith and vocation.” His reaction was a good laugh. It took him three months to realize I was right. His note to me was confirming what everyone in Italy knows since they are still in the womb of their mother.
Not because they have a Laurea in Sacra Scrittura they know Scripture. The Lord Jesus said it Himself, “I give praise to you, Father… for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will (Mt 11:25ff).”
At times I fear that theologians and scripture scholars are wolves wearing sheep clothes. Che il Signore ce la mandi buona! Auguri di bene e santita’.
I have a sincere question in all the bru-ha ha goin on about marriage/Communion, etc. Now it seems to me that many of worried that the Church’s teaching/practice might change. But it seems to me that this is wasted energy. Don’t we firmly believe that the pope CANNOT (i.e., is prevented by the Holy Spirit) change a definitive teaching and conversely IF he did…wouldn’t this mean (again by the Holy Spirit) that those opposed were in correct and the true teaching is given? Am I missing something here? Thanks.
I don’t think you’re missing something. I doubt the Pope will teach formal error and think he would be prevented from teaching it. But sometimes a lot of damage can also be done in terms of the disciplines surrounding our dogma. The Church may still have a teaching intact, but not be living it in a disciplinary way etc. Thus we must all be vigilant and do our part to insist on what is right because there an be a lot of nibbling at the edges that erode the true faith. For example There are some who argue that our current discipline of granting annulments is far too open ended and vague… to some degree I agree, we need to tighten it up and clarify what is meant not make things more vague. Some others argue that giving communion or not in cases like this is a discipline, not a dogma. Others rightly (to my mind) argue that the worthy reception of Communion, while having disciplinary aspects, is fundamentally a dogma right from the Holy Spirit though St. Paul.
etc. so there are a lot of things on the table here, more than infallibility.
To separate discipline from doctrine is an Apostasy from the Faith.
Msgr. Pope, thank you for this helpful, clarifying post.
The drive to give Communion to the illicitly-married is coming from those who have long insisted that other species of manifest sin are no bar to receiving Communion. They are only being consistent.
The fundamental problem is antinomianism. It appears to be absolutely epidemic among bishops. This is clear from the fact that virtually any bishop in the West can be informed that an act is a mortal sin, and there will be NO response, UNLESS committing the mortal sin will result in a lawsuit or bad publicity. The following letter is evidence:
December 6, 2014
The Most Reverend Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago
PO Box 1979
Chicago, IL 60690-1979
I have viewed the video and read the transcript of your recent interview with Norah O’Donnell.
You declared that the reception of Communion is “a time of forgiveness of sins.” Since the specific sin at issue was the promotion of abortion, your statement implies that the reception of Communion forgives the sin of promoting abortion.
But this is impossible, since the reception of Communion forgives only venial sins.
It could not have been your intention to imply that promotion of abortion is only venially sinful.
Thus, it is your duty to make another public statement, clarifying both that: The promotion of abortion is mortally sinful; the reception of Communion does not forgive mortal sins.
Moreover, far from forgiving mortal sins, the reception of Communion in the state of mortal sin is the mortal sin of sacrilege. You did not mention this in the interview.
The other major assertion in your interview was that you reject the Church’s discipline of denying Communion to notorious grave sinners.
As Cardinal Burke established beyond a shadow of a doubt in his now-famous article on the subject, giving Communion to notorious sinners is always grave matter. It is always a source of grave scandal because it is a public sacrilegious act, and because it constitutes public approval of the notorious sin in question. http://tinyurl.com/canon915
Thus, giving Communion to a pro-abortion politician is to give public approval of his promotion of abortion, and, necessarily, abortion itself.
Canon 915 merely codifies this moral norm. The act prohibited by Canon 915 is always grave matter. You pledged to commit this act.
Having been reminded that giving Communion to persons who are obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin is itself a mortal sin, you are obliged to repudiate the pledge you made to Norah O’Donnell to commit that mortal sin.
Other bishops have made the same public pledge. And they have punished priests who refused to commit the same mortal sin.
Because no bishop has the authority to mandate that any minister of Communion commit this mortal sin–
4. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it. http://tinyurl.com/pont915
–the priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago have the right to be reassured immediately that there is no possibility that you would punish a priest for obeying Canon 915. Indeed, it is your duty to remind them of their strict, grave obligation to obey it.
I am sure I need not elaborate on the extreme urgency of correcting the situation of a Catholic bishop’s pledging in public to commit mortal sin.
Thanks Monsignor for your courage and clarity. You are one excellent priest!
Thank you, Msgr. Pope. Brilliant, as usual. Unfortunately, I fear that without some form of Divine Intervention, this thing is going to happen. The Pope’s actions make his intentions clear. Particularly, his dogged determination to keep the issue on the agenda for he October synod when it did not receive the number of votes that would traditionally have been required. When I read the comments posted above, it is a clear that we are in our own echo-chamber. I believe the vast majority of self-proclaimed Catholics are in favor of this. The vast majority of Catholics are also ignorant, uninformed, and essentially faithless. We are entering dark days. Modernism and political progressivism have infected every level of the Church.
We now have a church that is promoting French Enlightenment. We have finally caught up to the rest of the world. Nothing is written in stone. Everything is up for debate. Relativism reigns supreme, and just after Pope Benedict warned us about the Dictatorship of Relativism, we now have it, and it is being imposed from Rome!
We’d best start thinking through the implications and how we are going to deal with this once it happens. Will this demonstrate unequivocally that the Church’s claim to infallibility was a sham from the beginning? What do we do if and when the Church exposes itsef as a fraud by contravening the very words of Jesus Christ? It is a frightening prospect.
No one should be surprised at this. Jesus himself told us of the false prophets who would come (Matt 24). And St. Paul warns of the day when the majority will not tolerate sound doctrine but will look for teachers who tickle their ears (2 Tim 4:3). And then we have the Book of Revelation and the revelations of the Mystical Tradition down through the ages that speak prophetically of what the Church is going through right now. The most important of these right now is the message of Our Lady of Fatima. Jesus did promise us that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18), however, we need to discern where the true Church will be and is right now, in communion with the Truth (Luke 17:37).
Pray, hope, don’t worry . . . and remain in the Truth (John 15-17).
Maybe it is time to “forgive” Henry VIII for divorcing Catherine of Aragon a/c her inability to bear a male child who lived.
(Not a serious proposal. Sarcasm to be understood.)
Msgr Pope, the USCCB needs to take a VERY public stand in the growing no-fault divorce reform movement across the USA. The USCCB has been too silent on no-fault divorce reform, has erroneously treated civil divorce litigation resulting in a dissolution decree as an event that cannot be “undone” by vacating the court’s decision. The USCCB mandates a civil divorce judgment as the key pre-requisite for an ecclesiastical petition for annulment by one of the spouses: wrong. Couples entering marriage in the Latin and Eastern Catholic churches must hear from their pastor(s) that marriage is lifelong and permanent, and permission must be obtained from their bishop (diocese or eparchy) before separating and filing a family court action. Too many divorces under the no-fault guidelines are wrongful and unnecessary. Too many civil divorces are started because of a corrupt legal profession, causing material harm to the “respondent” spouse and children. And the community at large, as well. The spouse (and any children) who wants to remain legally married is forced into poverty, loss of property, loss of spousal protections under the law.
Why is the USCCB so silent on the issue of no-fault divorce reform? Where is their charity in seeking reform in our corrupt family court system? The USCCB in Washington DC has Catholic University’s Law School as a resource to become an active stakeholder in reform of the civil family court system. Becoming a stakeholder in preserving marriage and family through advocating no-fault divorce reform would be a public stance demonstrating Christian charity by the USCCB and they have Catholic University’s resource to assist them.
Many Catholic Charities nonprofit organizations assist in providing pro-bono legal help for immigrants – why not encourage Catholic Charities to provide pro-bono legal help for responding spouses facing a divorce petition who know the marriage is not broken? Why the hypocrisy? INS legal representation crosses the line into the civil court forum (federal), why the noticeable silence on no-fault divorce litigation? The United States has a tragic 50 percent divorce rate.
Our USCCB leadership has taken a public stance regarding abortion, immigration reform and poverty. There is no excuse for ignoring the growing no-fault divorce reform movement. Perhaps a bishop is reading your blog and its comments. Perhaps that bishop can read up on civil divorce reform from website divorcereform.us. Divorce harms everybody, all Christians and non-Christians. Wrongful divorce litigation is the socio-economic “elephant in the living room” issue that many clergy (Catholic and other faiths) are afraid to acknowledge.
An ecclesiastical decree of annulment is noted on the parties baptism certificates as a major spiritual event. Annulment has civil divorce as a pre-requisite in the United States (because of our culture and family court infrastructure); our clergy needs to remind spouses who are tempted to legally end a lawful marriage of their Christian responsibility to their spouse and encourage remaining in the marriage. Our clergy need to grow in numbers (like yourself) to discourage Catholic attorneys from promoting civil divorce as a solution for economic problems or any couple’s angst.
Respecting marriage (ecclesiastical and civil law) starts with a couple being encouraged to stay the course of daily married life. Our clergy (such as yourself) can help. But couples desperately need our bishops (via the USCCB and its media powerbase) to do its part: our bishops must support no-fault divorce reform and make it a public message.
Tomorrow, I travel to Washington, D.C. with hundreds of thousands of others to march in opposition to the killing of babies. Seems simple, right? How could anyone take the other side of that debate?
And yet many Catholics do, among them some religious and ordained. They’ll all have their language and arguments lined up, like Fr. Gargano. They’ll all have the wider world nodding thoughtfully in agreement…”see, here is a Catholic with common sense…”.
Thankfully, they are not many, but the fact that there are any at all boggles my mind– in the Church, we can’t even speak with one voice that killing babies is a sin.
The fact that marriage is only between one man and one woman? The sanctity of marriage once and for always? Forget it…when you’ve lost the war, it can be very hard to remain true-hearted for the next battle.
Saints in heaven, and especially our Blessed Mother, pray for us indeed…
Two more recent commentators on Matt 5:19 affirm your interpretation from the Patristic tradition. Aquinas and Cornelius a Lapide interpret “least” as those cast out of the kingdom of heaven and into hell.
A Lapide can be found online here in English:
Aquinas’ part is not translated into English yet online, but the Latin can be found here:
One can also compare the Patristic tradition in the Catena Aurea of Aquinas here:
Thank you for your bold witness to the truth Msgr!
You are not a lowly pastor, you have the Power to confect the Holy Eucharist!
Again, from my insight, I believe that evil spirits are influencing powerful prelates. As I’ve mentioned before this is one of the Trojan Horses. If the Church gave communion to adulterers, there is NO STOPPING the filthy FLOOD that will be coming in the Church. We must give communion to polygamous, abortion supporter politicians (well, Bishop Judases do that anyway), people who support Eugenic, new-age people, Buddhists, drive-by shooting gangsters, pimps, etc., etc., etc. There is no stopping this.
The devil is a diabolical genius…HERE IS his PLAYBOOK: If we are on the same side with Mortal Sins, then why even fight Mortal Sins? Hey, maybe they are no mortal sins!
This SHOULD NOT BE ON THE TABLE; I am greatly disappointed in this Pope.
Contradictions and constants muddle coming from him…nothing is clear.
For a list of many Bible verses on marriage and divorce, as well as many quotes from early Christians on divorce and remarriage while previous spouses live being sin, as well as essays written about the subject, please visit: http://holyrestoration.weebly.com/-divorce.html
Thank you, Msgr. Pope! We do indeed need to pray that the Holy Spirit may guide the Church in the Truth which is Jesus Christ himself.
If I can get a divorce, then so can Jesus.
Do we really want to go there?
Thank you Msgr. Pope for the excellent and much needed article. Our church must show it’s love and understanding to all. We all go to church to receive God’s graces. To deny communion to those who made to mistake is extremely cruel. I have a hard time with a church that is so strict. Were the priests who abused children thrown out? No. But yet we have some elite who think withholding communion because of a remarriage is correct. Christ did not deny the theft beside Him salvation. Please change and show Love to all that come to Him.
I think too many people consider a marriage taken place in our Catholic Church is always what God has joined together. Most marriages can be annulled because not many really knew what true love was or meant at the beginning. God is love Many other things and reasons have married couples in church with the Sacrament.
As is so often the case in seemingly unending conflict, the problem (conflict) may be misstated. So what is the actual problem? The question of whether or not we have valid marriages, unions bound by God, is at the heart of the matter.
One might ask whether or not we provide the spiritual formation that allows couples to enter into a valid marriage. If not, the problem is not divorce and remarriage, but a problem of spiritual formation.
The general consensus seems to be that we have so many invalid marriages (recognized and not recognized by the Marriage Tribunal) that a barrier to communion should not exist. Too many invalid marriages to render a barrier to communion valid. How can a couple be bound in marriage if they do not possess the wherewithal to meet that demand?
Perhaps we quarrel over symptoms, avoiding the real problems: catechism, spiritual direction, support for marriage, pastoral marriage counseling, and reconciliation counseling.
Perhaps we embarrass ourselves in this debate – by not realizing we created the conditions that gave rise to the problem. If we have been tossing non-swimmers into the sea and then bemoaning the number of drownings, we should perhaps assess our swimming instruction and the quality of our lifeguards.
First, may I say that most if not all the people who marry in the Church were not tossed into their marriages, but chose to be in them. If they are drowning, they are doing so in self pity and unforgiveness.
Yes, I wholeheartedly agree the marriage prep we undergo is lacking in quality and length. You are 100 percent correct on that front. I just disagree that these poorly prepared marriages involve unwilling participants. People must begin by taking responsibility for themselves. That too, seems to be lacking.
The whole point about a public, spoken and witnessed marriage, particularly as part of Holy Mass, at the Altar is to demonstrate the validity of the union. If so many marriages are void THEN IT IS THE PRIESTS WHO NEED TO BE TRAINED TO MARRY PEOPLE PROPERLY!!!! Either that, or too many in the Church who want annulments, and who give them, play the fiction of nullity, which is A GRAVE SIN. I am sure Pope Benedict XVI thought so too. He was very troubled about the number of annulments granted and commented on it repeatedly. He wasn’t born yesterday.
There may be a difference between an unwilling and an unprepared participant. Someone who is unprepared may very happily and willingly take part – not knowing what they are doing. Ignorance is bliss.
The question we must ask is whether or not we have prepared them to fully and consciously enter into the union. At times we may settle for external signposts – they completed this or that step – without really examining whether or not they are sufficiently formed.
One might even take the view that they cannot be sufficiently formed until they have gone through the actual practice of making a union good – in so many other areas we recognize that stumbling is part of the formation and learning process. Here we expect people to be remarkably perfect in managing something they have never done previously.
If we hold that high standard for them, we must hold an even higher standard for our catechism and formation programs. I would suggest marriage prep should require a month in a monastery in deep reflection under spiritual direction. Only then might one have a suitable candidate for marriage.
[Having been married for over thirty-six years I do not claim it is impossible to conform to the sacrament and receive awesome grace and joy in doing so. But I do not hold my success up as a model, as it derives more from the grace of the Lord than any skill I might possess – rather I offer compassion to those who face challenges.]
Also a simple parish priest, I add my voice to yours and will happily endorse any public declaration of clergy in the US that affirms our continued commitment to what Our Lord and Savior spoke from his very mouth while he was still living among us, here on earth.
Ditto from me, a mere voiceless layman.
I would agree that the Lord’s teaching on marriage (and divorce) [Matthew 19.1-12 and parallels] should be taken within a prophetic sense rather than a juridical sense, but that actually does not water down marriage but intensifies its meaning. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus was doing when responding to the legalistic/juridical question concerning divorce permitted ‘by Moses’ (in the Book of Deuteronomy). I believe it is precisely this legalistic/juridical approach that we need to get beyond. However, this does not mean watering down the teaching/word of our Greater Than Moses, Jesus Christ.
In Matthew and in all the parallel narratives, the Lord’s teaching on marriage takes place within a larger perspective of discipleship, discipleship which always (not sometimes) involves the Cross. THAT is the key to the prophetic text/teaching of the Lord. Discipleship of the Cross is the yoke and burden to which Jesus calls each and every disciple [see Matthew 11.28-30] yet it ‘easy’ because of the grace [gift of the Spirit] given to the disciple in the sacramental life of the Church. The disciple is never ‘on his or her own’. With our Triune God, we have our brothers and sisters in the faith who in their ‘being-with-us’ in the ‘community of disciples’, most especially at the Eucharist, support us with their presence, prayers and sometimes eu-logies [good words].
The prophetic, radical meaning, form and mission of marriage, rooted in Genesis is not an impossible mission-that’s part of the good news we need to share with couples preparing for and already in marriage today.
As Father has pointed out, the text from Hosea, concerning mercy and not sacrifice is a very important one, especially in Matthew’s Gospel [it is specifically mentioned twice]. Yet there is another prophetic text, no less important to keep in mind: Malachi 2.14-16 in which the LORD Himself states, “I hate divorce” The radical demands of a prophetic word is not outmatched or undone by a prophetic call to mercy. It is mercy which enables us to fulfill the radical demand just as it is mercy which will forgive us when we fail to fulfill the radical demand.
Nothing is going to happen to the Lord’s teaching n marriage. A simplification of the annulment process may well be on the horizon. Change in discipline is not at all the same as supposed change in teaching. The very fact that there is an exception clause in Matthew 19 tells us that. [Although I would stress, all change, including disciple should be done very carefully etc] It is also important to remember that in previous times there were similar general anxieties etc when a Pope made a major disciple change-just take a look at the life and ministry of Saint Callistus. Look at the ‘revolution’ brought on by Saint Gregory VII. We are just living in similar times,, as uncomfortable as that might make us feel. Marriage needs to be protected and mercy needs to be applied to those who have struggled and failed. It is not just one or the other
Saint John the Baptist and Saint John Fisher pray for us.
Well thought out and well stated. Yet the Prophetic sense, the Truth Jesus presents is that Moses allowed the people a concession, one which He now calls adultery. Yes, nothing can change in our Lord’s teaching on marriage.
All this is irrelevant.
The matter is simple. God gave a law of marriage and of its indissolubility to the human race as a whole, but He gave a law of divorce a vinculo only to Israel. Its purpose is to deal with the case of a man and a woman whom the Law of Moses forbids to one another for sexual relations, but whose marriage is judged valid.
By divine law, such a marriage must be dissolved.
Honestly I think the whole problem is how we define mercy.
Why is God merciful? To what end does His mercy flow? It is not mercy for the sake of self, that’s for sure.
God wants us to be in Heaven with Him. Do we get there by thinking only of our own happiness? Uh…
Communion is not a right and not mercy. It is the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Does He love sinners? Yes. Does He desire mercy for them? Yes. Will unrepentant sinners live with Him in Heaven? Probably not. So if we pray the Our Father “on Earth as it is in Heaven”, why then do we seek to alter our communion with Christ?
Most marital suffering, believe it or not, is due to our sins. To decide that suffering that we brought on ourselves is not tarnishing our souls, making them too fat to fit through the eye of the needle, is rubbish.
The suffering we endure is God given. It strips away our warped sense of self and aims to make us worthy of Heaven. How dare the bishops try to steal away our birthright! How dare they go easy on us in the name of mercy! To the scholar you quoted I say “whoever causes these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42)
Why is St Faustina never mentioned in this new drive for “mercy”? I venture to suggest because what Our Lord and St Faustina have to say about Divine Mercy is a little too intimately connected to Divine Justice. Please continue dear Mgr – it is enormously encouraging to see that some members of Our Lords’ Body are still healthy.
Amen to everything in this post.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites would only give up there religion for the sake sexual depravity (the golden calf and the orgy that followed) or for political gain (the two calves built and worshiped to prevent people from going to Jerusalem to worship). And yet, in Acts, thousands of Jews left their traditional religious practices to become Christians, which had a more difficult teaching with respect to sexual issues (no divorce) and less political power (the early Church was persecuted by the Jews, especially Saul). Why? This is evidence that St. Peter was speaking factually when he said, Act 2:22, “Men of Israel, listen to this. Jesus of Nazareth was a man duly accredited to you from God; such were the miracles and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves well know.”
A return to Moses’ teaching on divorce, or to claim that that is what Jesus had been teaching all along, would undercut the motive for belief that we see in the early Church
Monsignor Pope: great article again. Is the following something that can be correctly shortened and used to support the Church’s true and complete teaching?
A public call for the Pope to restate that Church Doctrine is”________” and cannot change. Revised Nov. 22
November 9, 2014
Would you support the following idea if your priest enthusiastically endorsed it from the pulpit? Should you consider passing this on to all in your various circles of influence, even if your priest has not yet so endorsed and supported the idea?
In light of the turmoil following the recent Synod in Rome and the evidence that some people are believing that Church Doctrine might be changing, I believe all believing Catholics should support the following public call, petition (or an improved version of it) for Pope Francis to publicly restate the unchangeable doctrine of Christ’s Church concerning who may receive Communion without incurring a sin. Some people may fear that this petition will work and therefore try to do all they can to delay it and thereby side with the devil who “throws himself across God’s plan” (CCC 2851). Others may fear that this idea may not succeed and then not support this project because they do not want to see it fail, in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, even though they see that it could be a good project and it might succeed. Please, choose to be one of those who see the possibility that this petition may not succeed immediately, but pray, “Lord, give me the grace to do all I can to support this good enterprise, so that, if it should not succeed immediately, it will not be held against me because I sat by the side and implicitly said, “Let someone else make an effort. I am too busy for a few clicks of the mouse and anyways, I do not want to appear like a religious fanatic.”
The devil wants people to be confused as to what the Church teaches. Therefore he does not want people to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and he does all he can to spread error through news media reports (even in “catholic” media). He wants people to believe that the teaching of the Church has changed, or soon will, and therefore they can do whatever they want because there are no absolute moral guidelines from God and the human institution of the church will soon agree with that.
What all Catholics should do (who believe the following summation), liberal and conservative, is join in a public request to Pope Francis to explicitly repeat that the doctrine is not going to change, it cannot change, and only repentant sinners, in the state of grace, having confessed all known mortal sins, who accept and believe all that the Catholic Church officially teaches with the Authority of Jesus Christ may receive Holy Communion without incurring a sin.
Would it not be a great witness if millions of lay people (including school children), priests and Bishops were to publicly call on the Pope to publicly restate, again, that constant teaching of the Church. Perhaps the Pope wants to remove the cloud of error and uncertainty that has been made worse by the news reports from the recent Synod on the family, but he needs and has a right to receive public encouragement to do so.
“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” applies here as to the responsibility of each Catholic to do what they can to spread the idea of millions of people publicly calling and encouraging the Pope to make such a statement. If millions do make this public call and the Pope delays in acting, that will be between Him and God, the laity will have done their part as long as they have been resolutely uniting their prayers with the infinite prayer of Jesus for all sinners (CCC 2741, 579) and voluntarily sacrificing as much as they can.
Should you, Will you, make a few clicks of the mouse to pass this on so others can improve and/or support it? We all have a small number of circles of influence, but these are all connected through their circles of influence to the whole world. Should we do our part, passing this on to those we can, trusting that God will take care of the rest?
It is our weakened human nature that leads each of us to overlook the “small” things we can and should do in our own circles of influence and leads us to focus on someone else’s obligation to publicly stand up for the faith. Every priest and each spouse should always be encouraging us to accept all the responsibilities of our state of life and to be open to all good enterprises (Titus 3:1) just as we should always be doing the same for them. Can any of us honestly say that we cannot, should not, pass this on to all the people in our small number of circles of influence via the internet in the possibility that through their circles of influence this can reach all people? Can any of us honestly say that we cannot, should not, talk about this with the people we see at Mass and our Priest?
I repeat: Pope Francis needs and has a right to receive public encouragement to restate, again, and again, and again, the Church’s doctrine that only repentant sinners, in the state of grace, having confessed all known mortal sins, who accept and believe all that the Catholic Church officially teaches with the Authority of Jesus Christ may receive Holy Communion without incurring a sin.
Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the following draft statement or an address to send these petitions to Pope Francis? Should every priest support it? If not, why not? :
Holy Father, Pope Francis: We are Catholics and because of the confusion sown by the enemy through “incompetent” news reporting and because of the lies and half-truths some people may be accepting because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved (2 Thes. 2:10), we urgently ask that you forcefully, yet with love and caring and gentleness, publicly repeat, again, the constant, unchangeable teaching of Holy Mother Church that only repentant sinners, in the state of grace, having confessed all known mortal sins, who accept and believe all that the Catholic Church officially teaches with the Authority of Jesus Christ may receive Holy Communion without incurring a sin.
Perhaps you might, in your Fatherly Wisdom guided by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Name of Jesus, also take the occasion to instruct people that, even though the Most Blessed Sacrament, being God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit under the appearance of bread and wine, is truly the best medicine for all the woes of this world, it is only beneficial if received with the correct Faith and under the right circumstances and if received unworthily (ie if someone implicitly thinks, “I do not care what the Catholic Church teaches about reception, I want it now even though I am living in unrepentant sin and I want them to change their thinking to my way of thinking.”), could result in them committing a mortal sin.
Thank you your Holiness
If all Catholics, laity and priests, have a responsibility to do all they can to help people to receive communion only when they meet the requirements of the Catholic Church, would passing this idea along fit the requirement of being one of those things that could, and therefore should, be done that might have many positive ramifications if, by God’s grace, it snowballed and many priests independently, or on orders from their Bishop or Pope Francis, put up similar posters as a silent effort to strengthen people to do the best thing, to make many spiritual communions and wait to receive communion until they have more than a very good “want”, to wait until they satisfy the Church’s rules for reception? Do you think God would be pleased? If not, why not?
Perhaps Pope Francis would suggest or as Supreme Pontiff publicly require all Catholic Churches to put a sign or poster, similar to the one below, in plain view in the front of Church (or on the front page of all missalettes), that simply states the same message that is in all missals (but which, possibly some do not read) informing all people concerning who may validly receive Our Lord in Holy Communion without incurring sin.
The Catholic Church’s doctrine is that only repentant sinners, in the state of grace, having confessed all known mortal sins, who are in full communion with Christ’s Holy Catholic Church and therefore accept and believe all that the Catholic Church officially teaches with the Authority of Jesus Christ may receive Holy Communion without incurring a sin, perhaps a mortal sin. All others are strongly encouraged to make a “spiritual” communion by asking Jesus Christ into their hearts more and more, every minute of every day, until you are in a position for the unmeritable privilege to receive Him, Who is true God and true Man, in Holy Communion; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Some may ask if such a sign/poster is really necessary. My response is that some of those ministers who are entrusted, by God, with the unimaginable obligation to do all they can to assist the worthy reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion may not feel comfortable taking the time, at every Mass, to audibly repeat such teaching, or maybe would see it as a distraction, and therefore they do less than they could and therefore less than they should since they do truly have an obligation to do all they can. Such a poster would reaffirm, in a non-judgemental way, the sure teaching of Christ’s Church that each person should approach the sacrament with utmost care and reverence.
As all priests have such a terrible obligation to try and ensure the reception of Our Lord in as worthy a manner as possible, so also do the laity have a similar obligation to do whatever they can to assist priests, Bishops, and even the Pope to do all they can. Therefore, I ask lay Catholics to pass this on in the hope that it can be improved and/or put into action as is. Thank you.
Jesus taught to be merciful and he wants us to be merciful regarding marriage. But the point that seems to be getting missed is that mercy is suppossed to be practiced in marriage towards your spouse. Be merciful because many times your spouse will sin and hurt you. Be merciful when your spouse disappoints. If we practiced while married patience, understanding, mercy and abandoned the “legalistic” attitude, maybe we would not need to address the problem of divorce plaguing our society.
Your previous articles on marriage, courtship and men are germane to this debate as they provide the social context through which one must tread in order to get your vital message. I strongly suggest readers to look up these other articles.
Actions have consequences. Especially for the next generation and the one after that. Something many selfishly divorced and separated couples do not fully understand. Just as in past great crises in Church history, there are a good number within the Church hierarchy who think it is acceptable to stray from apostolic tradition and the magisterium to order to conform to modern-day trends. There’s a reason the Church has stood as long as it has even in its imperfect state.
Thank you for writing this article! As Father John Hardon stated many years ago, These are the new Dark Ages!”
May The Good God Bless you abundantly, Msgr. Charles!. Your article is a perfect example why God reveals the Truth to the lowly and hides it from the influential ones. You are a Master teacher, and it’s too bad that your kind of insights are so scarce to find anywhere in the media. How is a poorly catchechised Catholic to know how to navigate through the web of revealed Truths and heresies? We really need to make learned decisions in either accepting or rejecting a teaching, but “ordinary” or lowly priests seem to be very guarded in expressing their opinions in public for fear of dividing or even losing their congregation. We need more presence in the media from people like You and Cardinal Burke. Without your knowledge and insights, we will just defend our conservatism on our gut feeling and prayers, not really knowing how to fend off any attacks from the progressives. It’s a sad and pityful realization, but as long as we have holy people like You, our ignorance of the Scripture, or Apologetics, is perhaps a little bit justified. With Love and Prayers.
The reaction from Jesus’ disciples: Matthew 19:10
[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
‘ The accuser of our brethren ‘ is the title and role given to the enemy … the undue role, that can be unwittingly given to that agent , in trying to figure out where things went wrong , with the good intent that one thus has dealt with same at the root level , that if the partner too repents well , things can be better for all .. instead , the accuser can get one, right there , by fomenting more anger and divisions !
Lot more focus on thanking and praising God , for His mercy and forgiveness , for past , present and future , in spiritual union with the other too, might be the focus that Christians are especially called to do more and same are available esp. in the Holy Mass as a foundation , to live through the day , thus , not giving room for the accuser , instead letting God be God !
True, praise and the related joy may not be a real possibility if one is in serious sin , thus there is need for repentance and righteous choices .
Would it be a possibility that , the issues around persons in public scandal receiving communion can be handled at a less confrontational manner , if churches proclaim the issues as a part of petitions –
‘for grace of repentance and fear of the Lord , that those who receive The Eucharist are in agreement with The Lord , about the sacredness of life and marriage , we pray to The Lord ,’ and same can thus help as a prolife and marriage blessing petition as well !
God bless !
Mathew 12:7 deals with the apostles breaking the sabath commandment and nas nothing to do with the divorce.
If we extend this idea of mercy superseding everything else then we can give Christianity and Catholicism in particular a final farewell. On top of everything else, we have now a pope, who makes strange comments about large families multiplying like rabbits, punching someone for insulting one’s mother etc. I wonder what else will we hear in the future? I simply wonder what BXVI is thinking when he hears all of this?
On the contrary, there is no age better equipped to defend the indissolubility of marriage than this one – for we have biology on our side!
Consider the child who is created in the union of man and woman. Truly, this is proof that what God has joined together NO man can divide – no court can pull apart the genetics of that child to separate father from mother. It’s a biological impossibility. The two people who came together to create that child will be linked together through that child for all eternity. The two truly do become one.
Our science has also proven that when man and woman have intercourse together, whether or not there are children which are produced, bond with one another on a biochemical level that cannot be undone. Traces of their DNA are found in one another for the rest of their lives.
Those who deny the reality of these biological facts do great harm to themselves, their partners, and the children who issue from the unions. Nature has no “mercy” in this matter.
Re “The first observation ……. about the situation of “least” or “great” in the kingdom of heaven.” – & – “No commentary I have ever read considered being “least” in the Kingdom as a good or even acceptable goal.”
The Fr. Gargano seriously misconstrues the plain meaning of “shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven”
The plain meaning of “called” does not require or imply the person being described as “the least” to be in heaven.
The plain meaning of “in” in this sentence means “by”, as in “by those in”.
The word are a statement of how heaven looks upon those who act in the way described by the preceding part of the sentence..
Regarding the developing of a statement that can be officially “signed” by priests and bishops, I can envision a steering committee comprised of Msgr. Pope, Fr. Silvio DeNard, Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, Fr. Mark Noonan and Fr. C. What do you say, Padres? If not you, who? If not now, when? Surely the Holy Spirit would give you all the help you need. Please?
While I agree with all of what you said, I think it really is much simpler. We need not get into what promises to be an endless debate between scripture scholars over the “meaning of Scripture”. We can not agree on the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, a document written by known authors, in our language in a world much more proximate in time. The Bible on the other hand began as an oral tradition, was written in a different language, by authors whose very identity is debated, and is from a time millennia ago and vastly different from our own. In the absence of an ultimate authority one can obviously make it mean whatever one wants, so folks like The esteemed Fr. Gargano can easily make a case not altogether different from say what Henry VIII might argue, or what in any case any Episcopalian minister believes. A simple scriptural refutation is of limited value, no matter how correct, because we have lost our debate “judge”, and as the song says “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.
What keeps us from simply being Protestants who refer to our own inner light in scriptural interpretation, or defer to the pastor of our liking, is that it used to be that we felt the Magisterium of the Church was the infallible interpreter of the meaning of scripture. I do not need to be a particularly esteemed scriptural scholar to understand what is indisputably the historical teaching of the Church in this matter. With all do respect to Fr. Gargano any one who has not been in a coma has a reasonable idea of what the teaching of the Church has been. It is obvious and beyond debate that the Church has taught for a very long time that divorce and remarriage ( assuming a valid marriage) is impossible. A nice little cartoon from the Baltimore catechism that captures this can be seen at http://catholicxray.com/catholic-memory-loss.
I do not think there is a way to simply reverse the teaching without calling into question the whole issue of the Church’s teaching authority. I can not see how one can have a teaching “develop” into its reverse. Yesterday we have a teaching that divorce and remarriage is adultery, today we have it is ok. That is not “development” of doctrine but reversal. In addition it makes a hash out of mercy for the individual who has been dumped by their spouse and whose spouse later takes up with someone else, a point you make in your piece. I think it would be nearly impossible to see the Church as “infallible” if on Monday divorce and remarriage is adultery and on Tuesday it is acceptable. Obviously a Church that can do this is not infallible, That statement is 100% certain, and I do not need to be a scripture scholar, or even a Catholic to see it, I could be a Martian anthropologist and come to the identical irrefutable conclusion.
I find it incomprehensible that otherwise rational men like Cardinal Kasper or Fr. Gargano do not see if the Church simply reverses itself It really matters little what scripture “means” since the institution that tells me what scripture “is” would be fallible. I could not care less what an erudite scripture scholars opinion of a passage of the Gospels “means” anymore than I would care what the Hindu Vedas “mean” other than as a cultural exercise, since it would be obvious no authority would exist to declare the Gospels “inspired” . Who is to say the Matthew’s Gospel is “inspired” while the Gnostic Gospels are not? We got this teaching of Jesus wrong for the last couple thousand years, who is to say what teaching of Jesus we have right? Fr.Garango would have just shown that the Church, has made a persistent error for centuries! Maybe Henry VIII is owed an apology? Do these guys understand what is at stake here?
One last point, this was the danger of the “death penalty” reversal, and this is why so many traditional Catholics were disturbed by this. ( what once was not a sin, even in fact in some cases a duty of the state to uphold justice, is now something that all good souls must oppose) While I am against the death penalty in current practice, making it sound as if it was “intrinsically” immoral, was not self evidently not consistent with the prior teaching of the Church. Once you start going down this road of reversing traditional moral teachings to cater to the Zeitgeist, well you start with the death penalty, next thing you know its divorce, what is next? I will tell you, it is the very authority and credibility of the Church and all she teaches.
God help us, I am praying against all rational hope that someone will correct this madness before we really go over the cliff.
I, too, enjoyed reading your response to this post, mdepie.
Monsignor Pope, thank you (as always) for taking an issue that has become very confusing for Catholics and defending the traditional teaching regarding divorce.
My question to you, Monsignor, is this: For all the Catholics who have been told it’s OK by their priests (an even encouraged) to divorce and remarry, do they have to worry about adultery? Or, if a priest has agreed that a marriage should be dissolved and also agrees to the new marriage, does this excuse the person from sin?
Thank you, Monsignor! Most helpful and edifying. Of course Jesus was perfectly clear that divorce was not to be permitted. His very disciples immediately said:
“His disciples say unto him: If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry.” Matthew 19:10
They certainly got the unambiguity of Our Lord’s Words on marriage.
It had to be clear – the Gospels were not aimed at only the Jews, but to pagans who knew nothing about the Jewish theology which is now cleverly being invoked by so-called scholars to persuade us that Our Lord did not in fact say what he did say: “Truth Himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true.”
By the way, Vladimir Soloviev noted in his “A Short Tale of the Antichrist” (and Pope Benedict XVI remarked on this aspect) that the devil is a good connoiseur of Sacred Scripture.
Biblical scholars come and go, but the faithful servant must worship God in Spirit AND in Truth. John 4:24
Father Gargano reminds me of something Father Guido Sarducci once said on Saturday Night Live. I believe it was quoted in the Cheesey Expresso. “To be made a saint in-a the Catholic Church, you have to have-a four miracles. That’s-a the rules, you know. It’s-a always been-a four miracles, and-a to prove it. Well, this-a Mother Seton- now they could only prove-a three miracles. But the Pope-he just waved the fourth one. He just waved it! And do you know why? It’s-a because she was American. It’s all-a politics. We got-a some Italian-a people, they got-a forty, fifty, sixty miracles to their name. They can’t-a get in just cause they say there’s too many Italian saints, and this woman comes along with-a just three miracles. I understand that-a two of them was-a card tricks.
Guido was always a bit too edgy for me, but I confess he made me laugh sometimes.
The Holy Father let slip another ploy during his latest round of ‘plane interviews. He raised the question (i.e. expressed his view) that where one or both of a couple marry without the intention to be open to life their marriage would be null, because they could not confer the sacrament on each other. How convenient, and how common! Surely the vows the couple pronounce are valid vows, but they break them? i.e. they are validly married in the sight of God but must answer to Him for their betrayal? Or is it suddenly OK so say one thing but mean another, and at the Altar before God and witnesses at that? For ordinary blokes like me it’s difficult to keep up with all the hair-splitting needed to turn our Lord’s teachings into mere theories or ideals.
Dear Father Pope, Thank you for another excellent article.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the revolution would come from the pews maybe he was referring to this moment as it seems that there is a detachment between what the people in the pews know to be the truth and from what could be repackaged and sold as the truth.
There is no shame in not receiving communion due to personal circumstances or due to a repetitive sin that needs shaking off from my own experience it tends to assist in developing a stronger faith.
Absolutely. Really good point. And it gives a foretaste of Purgatory, not being able to reach the One you love. A very strong deterrent from sinning again. The prohibition is a necessary and most merciful medicine for our souls.
The heart of the matter is the secular law does not harmonise itself with morality and has been becoming more so. Therefore Christians attitudes are formed by what is legal rather tha what is moral. All society is corrupted by laws that are immoral particularly if normal social means of upholding what is moral are labelled intolerance or discrimination. Discrimination is good thing particularly is the thing is immoral.
I remember clearly when my wife and were prepping for marriage our holy priest telling us that our marriage would not be annulible because in his opinion we fully understood the marriage covenant and the teaching of the Church. Fast forward a few years and our struggle with our special needs child was literally tearing us apart. We had moved into separate rooms in the house and the word divorce was being tossed about. The marriage felt over. But the words of wisdom from our priest and the teaching of Christ remained in us. After months of fighting we finally faced the truth that divorce wouldn’t be an option. It was off the table because of our belief in the sacrament. It was one of the only things we had in common at that point. Based solely on that, we stuck it out. Now, closing in on 20 years later, we look back on those days with the understanding that the teaching of the Church not only stood in between us and divorce, it lead us to a wonderful healing and ultimately a deep, loving relationship. It wasn’t easy. It took a long time. But now, all these later we can’t imagine what life would be like apart from each other.
Reading with concern over where things seem to be going at the moment, I have little doubt that our marriage would have ended if we had had the knowledge that remarriage and the Eucharist would still be a possibility. We must pray for families and for our Bishops in hope that confusion isn’t thrust upon the Church. I have no doubt that Christ will prevail!
Msgr Pope – thanks for your faithful words. I think any married couple who have raised children know very well how important Jesus’ words on marriage are. Most divorces are unnecessary and many people come to regret them. No fault divorce not only encourages the destruction of marriage, it has the effect of endorsing adultery. Now it seems the leadership of our church wants to follow the wayward path of Protestantism. ?emanations of the penumbra from Vatican II? If the Pope, who seems determined, effects this by some chicanery(pastoral largesse) what may we conclude about his papacy? What purpose has the Synod? They are stirring up all this trouble to what end? It seems we are living in a nightmare. It is hard to believe.
A good priest, I have known a few, is worth more than his weight in gold. I think you are there in that number.
My sentiments exactly! I live in a diocese that is allowing “internal forum” for those who have divorced, remarried, were not able to receive a decree of nullity from the marriage tribunal, but are told that if their conscience allows it (internal forum), they can receive the sacraments. I know that this is being done. I spoke with a deacon who confirmed it for me, but he was a bit surprised that I knew about it. Apparently it is being done “hush/hush,” so that only those who approach a priest are to really know that this is going on and being allowed. My point is this: How can it be both ways? It either is a sacramental marriage or it is not, and after going through the annulment process, and it being denied, how can a person turnaround and say “well, I don’t think it was sacramental (internal forum), so I’m ok to go to communion.” This is being told to Catholics who turn to their priests (pastors), who want to receive communion, but do not want to go to the bother of living apart from the person that they married, outside of the church. We are in a big mess. This is not going to go well, especially when word gets out that this is going on, and word will get out.
There’s no such thing as an internal forum solution when it comes to marriage issues. If a priest claims the capacity to do such a thing and calls it “internal forum solution” what he really means is: a “Fr Joe Solution” or and “I can replace the Tribunal solution” or an “I outrank the bishop solution.”
I thank you for speaking the truth about marriage and divorce. The discussion reminds me of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s quote:
“The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it and error is error even if everyone believes it.”
“Jesus, seeking the fundamental motivation of that first principle, realizes that in fact the Mosaic prescription manifested a leniency that is characteristic of God.”
This statement by Fr. Gargano disturbes me the most.
Jesus REALIZES something? Something about a characteristic of God?
Last time I checked my Catechism Jesus was God. Part of the holy trinity. There’s nothing for him to “realize” or “seek” or to understand about a characteristic of God. It’s HIM. When the authorities were talking to Jesus they were, in effect, talking to the guy who was talking to Moses.
I see this a lot with the “do whatever” crowd. They seem to be missing the fact that the Son and the Father are one (with the HS). Same thing with other issues. “Oh, Jesus was just working with the time he was in.” It’s GOD. He doesn’t care what time it is.
It is also entertaining to me that people favoring getting rid of the word of God about divorce also accuse the faithful of being too legalistic.
Look at how many words the good Father needs to try and back up his position. Tons of them.
The faithful need a handful of lines to back up theirs. And who’s being legalistic then?
As a mere layman I have lived in total wonderment since March 2013 at the plain foolishness being displayed by individuals who I had come to believe deserved more than a modest degree of credence. To be frank, I have been entirely scandalized, disappointed and sickened by the theological pirouettes that have returned to center stage since the end of the 1978-2005 modest restoration of common sense. How saddening to witness these men reduce themselves to the level of pandering to superiors who have covertly harbored heterodox beliefs during the previous pontificates, and patronizing to laymen in difficulty, who require authentic orthodox teaching to reorient themselves and walk with Christ with an enlightened and refreshed conscience. We are awash in a kind of pastoral malpractice that I find unimaginable, but sadly a reality. The pitiful history of sexual impropriety we have endured over the past twenty years cannot match the current theological abuse we are being forced to endure. I thank you and other pastors, men of authentic courage, who bring a wisdom grounded in prayer and study to this tragic time. God bless you.
I correct myself…the modest restoration of common sense was from 1978-2013. I remember the consolation of the election of Pope Benedict in 2005 and long to see such a graced filled moment when God wills in the future…
The article Msgr. Pope is discussing not only sows confusion among the lukewarm; it also leads faithful Catholics down the wrong path often to the point of being able uncharitable with the attitude that all annulments are a sham. I’ve read some very nasty comments over the years by so-called traditional Catholics about people who seek annulments. I understand that reaction. They see articles like Msgr. Pope quotes and it causes them distress and they lash out without love and mercy. But the painful truth for these people is that very Church they profess to follow does permit annulments and provides a mechanism for it. And yes it is administered by fallible humans as is any other effort of the Church. Yet I can’t help think of the pain of those who strive to be faithful Catholics who get thrown into the same category as the “divorce and remarriage ” crowd when they have their marriages annulled (often times after a divorce they didn’t want). Then there are those who won’t seek an annulment because they don’t want to appear as if all they’re interested in is remarriage when they truly believe in the sanctity of marriage.
I wanted to add an additional comment.
Gerhard stated above: “The Holy Father let slip another ploy during his latest round of ‘plane interviews. He raised the question (i.e. expressed his view) that where one or both of a couple marry without the intention to be open to life their marriage would be null, because they could not confer the sacrament on each other. How convenient, and how common! ”
Gerhard, it may be “convenient” and “common” but that doesn’t make it untrue. Being open to life is a element of a valid marriage.
It is my hope that we who are dismayed by the lack of commitment to marriage stop and ask ourselves if we are demonstrating by our actions the beauty of marriage and how to be married. I know too many people who are “scandalized” by the current Church and toss about accusations and judgments on people of whom they know nothing. They assume someone who is divorced didn’t try hard enough or someone who is living with their boyfriend doesn’t care. But rather than making those comments which aren’t helpful I wonder how many of these complaining people are modeling a good marriage? Are they showing people what a good Catholic marriage is? Are they setting a good example that’s inspiring? Or is the prevalent attitude that’s being shown one of painful endurance, devoid of joy? Do they talk about the beauty? Do they treat their spouses as a gift from God? We, as the laity, and the married ,especially, have to understand we have the obligation to teach others by example and word. We can’t leave it up to the “Church” and think we’re not part of the problem. Having the “right” opinion backed up with nothing other than strong emotional reactions doesn’t help. Lamenting about a problem doesn’t fix it.
I have enjoyed reading your comments. I have a couple of thoughts about what you have written. First, you are so right when you point out the necessity of being committed to our spouses and valuing our marriages. Our children, especially, form beliefs about marriage based on what they have witnessed in the marriages around them. On the other hand, many, many people find themselves in challenging marriages where they lose hope that they will ever be happy. I think this is where the Lord’s teachings are so crucial. People need to know that they WILL go through difficult times in their marriage but that they need to fight to make the marriage last.
I also read your comment about Catholics who have an uncharitable attitude towards the divorced and remarried group. I’ll be honest with you… I worry about family members who rushed into divorce and quickly remarried, all with the blessings of their priests and family members. It seems to me that no one (except me) was willing to say STOP! DON’T DO IT! I am baffled by the attitudes of others, and I do not mean to judge or seem self-righteous. I only seek to understand where Catholics stand in the matter of divorce. For most, it seems, its “what’s done is done, right?” But just because time makes us forget does not mean that the sin does not remain. But as you have written, the Church “does permit annulments and provides a mechanism for it. And yes it is administered by fallible humans as is any other effort of the Church.”
Thanks to your timely blogs Msgr. 1st time to submit a comment. Would like to recommend the responses of five Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church and four other scholars to the book “The Gospel of the Family”, published earlier this year by Walter Cardinal Kasper. (The above note taken from the introduction page of the “Remaining in the Truth of Christ – Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church”), the 9th chapter ends with the title “The Canonical Nullity of the Marriage Process as the Search for the Truth”. by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burk. Your comments in this blog are superbly echoed and reinforces by the combined authors. Readers won’t be able to put the book down until they finish reading it.
As I told my daughter just last night, 99.99% of us move others to heaven and help those in purgatory through our prayers and actions offered up to God. The other .01% moves people to heaven through their speeches and writings. Unfortunately, since the time of Christ some have moved others away from the Church with writings and actions. Even Paul at first tried to lead others away from Christ. After his conversion, he warned time and time again about those who try to teach others messages against the Church. Many bishops throughout history wrote and preached heresies. St. Nicholas had his nose broken defending the faith, when, at the Council of Nicea, he had a fist fight with Bishop Arius over the divinity of Christ.
The secular press today will take any and every word of Pope Francis out of context and use it to its advantage. This Pope, hopefully, will learn to be more careful with his speech. John Paul II had a little more experience dealing with the press since he had to carefully choose his words so that he and his flock would not be killed by the Nazis or Communists. So also with Pope Benedict XVI, who also lived through the Nazi regime and the division of Berlin, had experience of carefully choosing his words.
Unfortunately, there will always be bishops and priests who teach against the Church.
Once in a while I write something, and with the internet it is much easier to have some else read it, but I fit in with the 99.99% of the world and pray for our Church, of which Jesus said to Simon (using a literal translation of “Peter”), “You are Rock, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
We must not lose our faith and hope in this teaching of the Church and unceasingly pray for Her.
I wonder (but do not challenge) how we can reconcile our understanding of Jesus’ words, “except in the case of adultery” with the oikonomia of the Orthodox churches, which do permit divorce and remarriage (3 divorces in fact) in the case of adultery. I know their leniency goes back to a fight between emperor and patriarch, but they have allowed the practice for 1300+ years.
I’ve never seen a serious discussion of this problem (I am sure many exist), but it seems to me that this is one of the most difficult problems we have to face in terms of achieving reunion. We’ve apologized for all the wrong we’ve done them–but on this issue I think we’re on the side of the angels (and Jesus).
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