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Teachings About Divorce

This is a reflection upon a two page document sent to me from Bai Macfarlane entitled INCONSISTENT INFORMATION ABOUT DIVORCE, VARIETY OF TEACHINGS:

Father Christopher J. Rossman

Divorce in itself is not a grave (mortal) sin, however. Jesus says, “… whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” – Matthew 19:9. It’s not the divorce that is a grave sin rather someone engaging in another relationship after the civil divorce. … If one civilly divorces and remains unmarried and chaste no grave sin is committed and the person is not prevented from receiving the sacraments.

I suspect that what Father Rossman means is that while we are dealing with grave matter, the subjective element depends upon a number of factors. While it might be misunderstood and painful to hear, divorce as such is a sin. Yes, I know there are some who would argue otherwise, including clergy; but we cannot allow pastoral considerations and human sentiment to cloud the truth about the matter. I would take exception to redirecting the focus from divorce to adultery; while the offenses are often related (as in the Gospel of Matthew), they are also substantially different. It is not enough to say that as long as the divorced person does not have sexual relations with a person other than the spouse, that the divorce is an insignificant or neutral matter. Pastors may make an accommodation for divorced people to receive the sacraments; but to be quite frank, they often do not even ask the priest if it is okay. It is possible that some divorced people need both Confession and efforts at restitution before the regularization of their status in the Church. Often the fault for the failure of marriages rests with both parties; but it can also be the case that one is innocent of wrongdoing. A person who loves his or her spouse and is faithful to marital obligations would certainly not be culpable of sin if there should be spousal abandonment. The person who selfishly walks away from marriage is guilty of sin and I would argue that the gravity is probably mortal. Those persons who through temptation and/or bad counsel lead others to divorce would also acquire guilt. What makes separation and divorce so very problematic is that spouses have a pledged duty to fulfill the obligations of procreation and fidelity. Spouses have a right to the emotional, physical and spiritual satisfactions of marital love. Those who use sex as a weapon of manipulation in marriages are sinning in a way akin to divorce. Divorce here is understood as more than a legal status; but as the separation of spouses and as their estrangement from the supports proper to this state. A person might divorce his or her spouse and remain both chaste and celibate; however, a sin is committed because the spouse still has needs and a right to a shared life and sexual intimacy. The sin of divorce is precisely this depravation. Arising from this, our Lord intimates about how a man who divorces his wife can be guilty for his own and for the spouse’s adultery, both in actuality and potentially.

There are cases where marriages are defective and for that reason we have an annulment process. But I would urge couples not to date or to pursue romantic entangles until or unless they are free to do so. It may be that some divorced people can never remarry because the first bond is genuine. Are there reasons why a divorce should be pursued? The various grounds for annulments represent a partial list. It might also be the case that a spouse is abusive, violent and dangerous. I knew a case where a woman had to separate from her spouse because he was a bad drunk. He regularly beat her and threatened to kill her and the children. She wanted to preserve the marriage but the value of life and the safety of her children came first. She did not remarry.

Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Atlanta

Please remember that a divorce alone would not affect, or hinder in any way, your participation in the Catholic Church. A divorced Catholic is free to receive the sacraments. … However, if you are divorced and remarried without a Decree of Invalidity (and your former spouse is still living) a problem does arise.

Here too the issue of divorce seems confused with adultery, however, I suspect it is simply the bottom line  regarding the law of the Church. Legal norms in the Church have always tended to be minimalistic.  A divorced spouse may be the innocent party or he or she might be the source or agent of the breakup. Beyond civil divorce there are some who remain together but live as if they are divorced. These spouses tolerate living together but are both emotionally and physically living distinct lives remote from each other. This is wrong for many of the same reasons why separation and civil divorce are offensive.  Those working in a tribunal would hope that people from failed marriages would first seek out their priestly confessors. Before calling it quits, couples should do all they can to work out their problems and, if possible, save their marriages. They should also invoke divine grace and assistance.  Attempting (another) marriage without ecclesial approbation is a decisive civil act that places one in conflict with Church teaching and discipline.  Here is an explicit and verifiable act with a written record to which the sanctions of Church law quickly respond.  However, this does not mean that the couple’s faith and discipleship was not already in trouble.  Spouses are supposed to be the first of helpmates in supporting each other in becoming saints.  If a marriage falls apart, it is obvious that this goal and preoccupation for mutual holiness has also collapsed. 

In the Know with Fr. Joe. (America’s Catholic Television Network)

If you are divorced and not remarried, you can receive communion.

This says what the others said, and it is frequently the practice. But just as many priests lament that so many come up for communion without recourse to the sacrament of penance, similarly divorced believers should change their lives and seek out a priest prior to receiving communion.

North American Conference of Separated and Divorced

There are no laws preventing a divorced Catholic who has not remarried from active participation within a parish. This includes receiving Eucharist and Reconciliation, or participating as a Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Parish Council member, etc. You do not need absolution prior to fully participating.

Reception of communion is not just a legal issue but a spiritual one. Is the person properly disposed for the sacrament? If not, then he or she desperately needs to seek out the counsel, and if possible, the absolution of a priest.  

As an aside, the new guidelines reserve the title Lector to those men formally installed and the term Eucharistic Minister to bishops, priests and deacons. Other ordinary ministers would be installed Acolytes. Those who read at Mass are now called Readers.  The laity who assist with communion are called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  No other terms are currently permitted.

Catholic Answers. Jim Blackburn , Staff Apologist

However, in other cases [for the one in grave fault who destroyed marriage], —as with all serious sin—a divorced person should go to confession immediately, prior to receiving Communion.

Yes, this is exactly the case.

EWTN – Pennsylvania Bishop Pastoral Letter. July 29, 1994

Therefore, it is helpful to keep in mind several distinctions among divorced persons whose previous marriage(s) have not been declared sacramentally invalid by the lawful authority of the church. Such distinctions include first of all those who have not remarried, as well as those who have remarried and seek to live in complete continence. These persons are eligible to receive the Eucharist according to the regular norms of the church.

It might seem that the minimalism of law or norms in this instance is based more upon what one does not do than on what one actually does. Instead of placing a lot of moral weight on divorce, it shifts to the avoidance of adultery.  The issue of spousal support and intimacy is not addressed, just the fact that there is no sexual activity. I have to admit that, while the canonists may be correct, such understandings leave me very uncomfortable. The statement here says that remarried couples who “seek to live in complete continence” are eligible to receive the Eucharist. Okay, norms are fulfilled, but serious questions remain. Human laws, even in the Church, may not always satisfy all the prescriptions of divine law. This allowance is probably in reference to those brother-sister internal forum situations known privately to the pastor. I can certainly understand how an older couple might be given such an allowance given mistakes that were made and the approaching proximity of their departure from this veil of tears. But, it could be sorely abused as well. The potential exists for egregious scandal.  We only have a couple’s word that they are not sexually involved. Further, what about all the other satisfactions of married love: a shared life, kisses and small embraces, holding hands, bodies resting next to each other on a couch, intimate words and romantic encounters. Continence might not be breeched and yet all these sweet elements still properly belong to someone else, a true spouse forgotten or ignored. I have encountered men who have wept daily at the loss of knowing that the love of their lives is now in another man’s arms. The Church should not forget these poor souls and the lonely pain they feel.

Diocese of Bismark, ND

Can a divorced Catholic receive the sacraments? Yes. There is nothing in the Church’s law that prevents a divorced Catholic from receiving the Eucharist and other sacraments of the Church. A divorced person is fully and completely a member of the Church.

This explanation is much like the ones that have come before. Tribunals are only concerned about the canonical norms. However, in practice many questions must be asked. There is much public debate today about the scandal of sin or complicity in regards to the reception of communion. The American Life League regularly petitions the bishops to tell pro-abortion Catholic politicians not to receive the Eucharist. Similarly, like all believers, divorced Catholics must seriously examine their conscience before partaking of the bread of life. Are they living chastely? If not remarried, are they cohabitating? That is sin or at least the occasion of sin. As far as I know, no one denies that divorced persons are still members of the Church. That does not mean that our relationship with Christ and his Church is everything it should be. Our Lord identifies himself with the beloved in marriage. Marriage is a sacrament which points to Christ’s covenant with his Church. Jesus keeps his promises and will never divorce himself from the Church. Divorce is a fractured sign of this mystery. How can it not touch our relationship with the Church? If Christ will never abandon us then should we not also keep our promises, even when it takes us to the Cross?

EWTN, Colin B. Donovan, STL

By itself civil divorce is not an obstacle to Communion. As a civil action all it does is settle the civil legal effects of marriage (distribution of property, custody of children etc.). … those who are actually responsible for the breakup of the marriage and the failure to be reconciled when possible are indeed guilty of sin and have an obligation to repent and confess their sin before receiving Communion, as would any grave sinner.

Yes, this is precisely the true Catholic answer to the question!

Diocese of Lacross, WI.

Divorce does not mean one can no longer receive Holy Communion. A Catholic is barred from receiving Communion only if he or she goes on to remarry after a divorce, while their previous spouse is still living, and no annulment has been granted in regards to a prior marriage.

This is consistent with the other answers given. However, a number of things are presumed: that there is no attempted marriage and/or ongoing cohabitation and adultery. It is peculiar that no one talks about the wrong of neglecting marital duties. Refusing the sexual advances and the various acts of marital support and intimacy are also sinful. Might such neglect constitute serious sin and inhibit one from receiving communion?

Diocese of Charleston

A divorced Catholic who is neither remarried nor cohabiting is free to receive the sacraments and to be involved in life of the parish. In many cases such individuals can help their fellow parishioners who may be going through or have gone through the pain of marital separation or divorce.

I suspect this response is alluding to organizations of Separated and Divorced Catholics. It is true that they can help people through their pain. However, I often worry that they can inadvertently create other problems. People in these situations are very vulnerable. Acts of kindness can lead to special friendships and intimacy. My suggestion would be that such support should be limited to people of the same sex to avoid the possibility of romantic entanglements. I would also resist efforts to automatically minimize the value and authenticity of failed marriages. Some situations cannot be fixed. This is the hard truth we need to face.

Diocese of Arlington. Catholic Herald. Fr. William P. Saunders

Another question arises concerning the status of a divorced person in the Church. Since divorce involves a civil decree by the state and is not recognized by the Church, a divorced person remains in good standing and may receive the sacraments. However, if a divorced person remarries without a Declaration of Nullity, then strictly speaking, an act of adultery is committed: since the first marriage still is presumed valid, remarriage without an annulment places the person in a state of mortal sin and prevents him from receiving Holy Communion. Therefore, the Church encourages a divorced person who may think he may one day remarry to see his parish priest and pursue the annulment process.

Yes, admittedly this is the practice in the United States. Are we too quick to encourage the annulment process? Tribunals will not even begin the investigation until a divorce decree is acquired. Many couples do not seek marriage counseling or some time has elapsed when they finally contact a priest. Often one spouse wants to salvage a marriage and the other does not. Many annulments are pursued after people have become entangled in new romantic relationships. In other words, many if not most annulments are responses, not to divorce, but to what are externally regarded as adulterous situations. Due to weakness and passion, there is often already a second marriage although conducted civilly or in another religious denomination. I heard a priest once joke that we have to teach our people that Catholic divorce is not annulment but murder. The bond is “unto death do we part.” The six month preparation period is precisely to stress the permanence of the bond. However, even at the initial stage, many couples are already brushing aside Catholic teaching by living together and having sexual relations. It is my contention that the disregard for virginity prior to marriage is a poison leading to infidelity and divorce later on. Annulments cannot be assured. I have had a few denied. There were no grounds. It is quite rare that these adulterous couples would then separate or not seek marriage outside the Church. Tell them to separate and they look at you with shock and bewilderment. All the Church is doing is trying to keep them to their word. They promised fidelity to a spouse and before Almighty God. Promises are meant to be kept.

Archbishop of Cagyan de Oro City, Philppines

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Cagyan de Oro City has strongly criticized a proposed bill that would legalize divorce in the Philippines and said that the move would destroy the moral fiber of Philippine society. “Legalizing something that is immoral will not make it right, but will instead make it worse,” said Archbishop Ledesma.

Similar arguments were made in Ireland. But secularism seems to be winning. Here we do see a “disconnect” from the practice in other nations. Tribunals in the West require a divorce before permitting annulment applications. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the Church is arguing against legalized divorce. This is the traditional stance and it best reflects Catholic teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. Divorce is not regarded as an option. For better or worse, marriage is for keeps!

Archbishop of Malta and Bishop of Gozo

[From the Archbishop of Malta] As there are those who promote divorce in a pluralistic society, the Church’s mission is to promote the stability of marriage, insisting on the moment of consent as the focal point of one’s commitment. In divorce there is a shift from this focal point towards each moment which is presented as giving the spouse a potential right to consider his/her consent and commitment thus ending one’s marriage.

The philosophical interpretation of the archbishop is on the mark. Sacraments represent special moments where promises or vows can be renewed but not denounced. A person is baptized and becomes a child of God and member of the Church. A man is ordained and he is forever configured to Christ the high priest. A couple is married and the two become one flesh. There is a new and enduring reality. Christianity believes that there are particular moments when we take a stand and define ourselves. Secular society today runs away from perpetual commitments and consistency. No lines are drawn and change is embraced where people are constantly redefining themselves and their lives. These views are incompatible. One promotes order or structure and obedience; the latter brings about chaos and confusion. Christians are people of the promise in a world of broken promises.

Prefect of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Roman Curia, Francis Cardinal Arinze

Divorce tears marriage apart. It desolates both husband and wife. It leaves the children not only in tears but also in misery. We do not deny that there can be serious disagreement between husband and wife, but divorce is not the solution. When husband and wife have a disagreement, they should reflect, pray, sit together and discuss. Accept fault where you are wrong, ask for pardon, or consult a priest or other spiritual adviser, but do not divorce.

Cardinal Arinze, as always, is quite right. The problem that pastors face is that the couples we marry, and the many that get divorced, are only superficially Christian. Large numbers are ignorant of their faith and those who are informed lack a basic conviction to live out their Christianity. If there is rebellion and sin at the beginning of a bond, why should we think it would not show its face when the marriage falls apart? They do not see what is wrong with fornication and later explain away culpability for adultery and divorce. We hear things like this: “Our love died. We grew apart. We married too young. God would not want us to stay in a loveless marriage. I have fallen in love with someone else. It was good while it lasted. It is time to move on. We only stayed together for the children. We are not the same people anymore.” None of these reasons is sufficient for divorce. How many have the mentality that divorce should not even be placed upon the table as an option? Unfortunately, very few think this way. Often it is as if they speak an entirely different language from the priest.

[CCC 2385]

Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

[CCC 2384]

Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death.

The universal catechism also condemns divorce. It is wrong in itself and it acts as a poison to marriage and the family throughout society. The bond of marriage is a facet of the natural law. Men and women were created to enter into a lifelong union. Unlawful marriages by people who are not free violate both natural law and divine positive law. Civil law once reinforced this basic truth, but not so any longer. Indeed, no-fault divorce and attempts to redefine marriage for same-sex couples shows how the corruption is escalating.

6 Responses

  1. Whether divorce is a sin I don’t know. But wasen’t it Jesus who said, “What God has joined let no man put asunder. Divorce why is a terrible thing to happen to a family. it is very important for both husband and wife to stay together. Both before God promise to be faithful to each other till death do us part. Divorce is a lost of honor. You make a promise to stay together for life. Divorce says that your promise dosn’t mean a thing. remember this A Promise made is a debt unpaid.

  2. Okay, I think I see the reason for confusion. Neither the counsel or teachings of individual priests nor the mechanizations of particular marriage tribunals necessary epitomize Church doctrine on divorce and the recourse to annulment. The Holy See has been very concerned that most annulments after divorce occur in the United States. Is it because the system is a well-greased machine with plenty of canonists or have we taken short-cuts: elevating the meaning of marriage in theory but devaluing it in practice? There may be heretical things being said and done but I would hesitate to use the word “apostasy.” I reserve that term to those who have abandoned true religion and who spurn the God of Christianity. I have often preached that there are some people, even Catholics, who tend to live their lives as if there is no God. A failure to give God his due can certainly lead to a type of apostasy and atheism.

    I listen to all sorts of stories. Note that I wrote in the post, “I have encountered men who have wept daily at the loss of knowing that the love of their lives is now in another man’s arms. The Church should not forget these poor souls and the lonely pain they feel.” There is no callousness on my part to such pain. I am on the record as in opposition to no-fault divorce. My post is somewhat critical of those who dismiss the sinful designation of divorce, despite the fact there is a moral duty for spouses to share a common life and the gifts and satisfactions of the married state. If a spouse is cheating, then yes, a marriage is in trouble. However, adultery is not grounds for annulment.

    You write that no priests preach hell anymore. Well, I do and I know others who do so as well. You make a list. I am not afraid to speak publicly to the list: abortion is murder; artificial birth-control attacks the primary ends of marriage; adulterers will have no part in the kingdom of God; divorce is a grave matter, etc. Mortal sin destroys the life of grace in the soul. All these themes are still preached by the Church, although I will admit, some individual clergymen might be overly passive in their regard.

    Annulments are statements that a true marriage did not exist from the very beginning. The defect can stem from either of the parties or both. I am increasingly shocked by the immaturity and ignorance of the faith exhibited by those seeking marriage today. Large numbers of couples are already cohabitating and sexually active when they request a church wedding. I often have reservations about these bonds even though I am duty bound to respect their wishes and to prepare them the best I am able. Honestly, I see the seeds for divorce in many of the couples who come to my door. I have turned down the more egregious, particularly when there is refusal to make the basic pledge for required dispensations. There have been a few cases where the couples themselves came to see that they were not ready for Christian marriage. Others get married and I place notations of concern in their marriage records. You ask some very important questions. Do diocesan websites overly promote annulments? Where are the same efforts for marriage counseling and the healing of marriages? I would hope that churchmen would do some serious soul-searching about this.

    I believe that God hates divorce. As with cohabitation and illegitimate babies, I suspect that part of the problem is the loss of any sense of shame. Certainly, we want to help people who have made mistakes, but we are wrong to dismiss the guilt associated with sin. People feel guilty because they are guilty. Such guilt brings about sorrow for sin and the desire for repentance and forgiveness.

    I applaud your practice as a weekly penitent. We should all be so knowledgeable about our faith and concerned about the challenges to our holy religion and the values of the Gospel. God bless and keep you!

  3. Fr. Joe,

    I don’t know if you are aware of how few priests do anything to help restore a marriage. You need to listen to the stories of spouses abandoned and divorced against their will. The response from priests is sickening and what I am referring to when I say “apostate.” These priests can only be in apostasy to be encouraging second marriages and helping–joyfully–those spouses who want to run away with their new love interest. They sound as if they are true enemies of the faith. I know and love and will defend the Roman Catholic Church until death, but what about these priests? It is not one or two of them. It seems that every abandoned spouse has dealt with a priest who encourages annulment rather than reconciliation, and most do so immediately. They do all they can to help the abandoner get his or her annulment. Most marriages that ‘end’ in divorce did not fail. The truth is that one spouse alone who started cheating left the marriage for the other love interest.

    Now, you might say if one spouse was cheating, the marriage was in trouble anyway. But that is not always the case. Some people are tempted to unfaithfulness. That is a sin, a weakness, but not an excuse. And with the help we are supposed to expect from our Church, our priests, maybe many of these runaway spouses can be encouraged to return to their home and family.

    And the bottom line is this: No priest speaks of hell anymore. I haven’t heard a homily on hell, sin, abortion, birth control, infidelity, mortal sin vs venial sin, divorce, etc. for decades. Most homilies are empty, feel-good, fluff. Everyone has to leave mass feeling so good and happy because God loves them and we are all going to heaven. If people are not warned anymore about the loss of their souls and what kinds of sin cause this loss, then why would anyone worry or care? Why would they question their own lifestyles and the choices they make?

    Enough with annulments!! Except for those few that are necessary and just. We never even heard the word before Vatican II. Now most Catholics see it as an ‘out’ or a ‘right’ as a way to get married again. Many feel they are entitled to one or that it is nothing more than filling out a form as though one was applying for a passport. You can go to most diocesan websites and see that annulment is promoted and many times strongly encouraged with almost a guarantee of getting one. Where are the same efforts to restore marriages? Where are the warnings of going to hell? The faithful didn’t cause this. The liberals and progressives in the Church have done this. Priests who are faithful to the Pope and the Magisterium are not ones to encourage divorce and annulment.

    Would you say that these changes, the lack of teaching, admonishing the sinner, and the loosey-goosey attitudes towards the sacrament of marriage and its indissolubility are pleasing to the Holy Spirit? Can Jesus really be pleased with the extremely high numbers of divorce and annulments for the past 30+ years?

    I am a weekly penitent, Father, with a sensitive well-formed conscience. I am fiercely loyal to the Pope and the Magesterium and defend the Church with every part of my being, but I will not defend apostasy, I will not defend the liberal and false teachings of so many priests especially as they destroy the understanding of marriage.

    D

  4. Be gentle with the hardness of heart comments, Father. Be grateful for not having to cope with unjust divorce and its consequences.

    The hardness of heart in most people I have known, who usually suffer from it temporarily are aware of it and struggle mightily with it, is one that is reactive and not proactive.

    Mine comes and goes.

    I wonder if you comprehend, not condescendingly but matter of factly, that your attention to detail in these issues, which I do not think is sufficiently comprehensive, dwarfs the practices and beliefs (as best I can tell from outward behaviors and interpolation) of the OVERWHELMING majority of all priests and catholics in pastoral ministries? And the consequences of this reality? And the consequences of its denial, which also is mostly universal?

    I really did not want to comment further……

    FATHER JOE:

    It is true that I do not know the personal pain that many feel, but I have tried to help many couples hurt by a myriad of challenges and assaults upon marriage and family. I make no attempt to be comprehensive and there is much I cannot say because of the confidences a priest keeps. Further, I am a poor theologian and not a canonist. I merely speak to some of the difficulties I see and the ways we try to approach the question of divorce in the Church.

  5. I respectfully disagree but will leave it at that.

  6. In reference to my comments on Rossman…

    What are “efforts at restitution other than reconciliation?” Are you saying, Father, that as the abandoner pays up, straightens out the financial mess the divorce caused, he just has to confess once and he is in God’s good grace? He can just confess the ongoing sin of forced divorce against his spouse with no intention of reconciling, and is off the hook?

    FATHER JOE: No, and if you read closely what I wrote, Deborah, you would know this is not what I said. In any case, even the victim of a divorce needs the grace of the sacraments, including the sacrament of reconciliation. If divorce is due to spousal abandonment, and such is not always strictly the case, then we must work and pray for a change of mind and heart in the prodigal. I would recommend doing everything possible to restore or to save a marriage. But sometimes it is hard to forgive and a spouse refuses to cooperate. People also frequently disrespect the role of priests, reject his counsel and turn away from God. I can tell people to fix their marriages but sometimes they do not listen.

    What about the firm purpose of amendment to stop a particular grave sin in order to be absolved? No, this is not Catholic teaching. And any priest who absolves this sin without first questioning and trying to restore the marriage I would say earns his own condemnation!

    FATHER JOE:

    There was nothing in what I said which repudiated the elements of sacramental confession. Your response to me is a bit presumptuous and judgmental. A divorced person should not be content with being divorced. You are speaking to someone who was sympathetic to the old Irish law which made divorce illegal and rare. Having said this, the sacrament of penance is not like other forms of counseling. Priests are not allowed to take notes or even to make appointments in the confessional. The penitent meets the confessor alone, not with an accompanying spouse, estranged or not. Often all that the priest knows is what he or she tells him. If the person is sorry for sins committed and is trying to repair the damage, the priest must meet the penitent where he or she is. No one can travel back into time and undo the damage and erase the memories of betrayal. Hopefully, we can move forward by God’s grace.

    Some would argue that divorce is no sin and thus there is no need for the sacrament of penance. I would disagree, arguing the the sacrament is needed both for forgiveness and healing. I wrote, “It is possible that some divorced people need both Confession and efforts at restitution before the regularization of their status in the Church.” Dependent upon what part the person played in the breakup, the counsel, penance, and restitution would vary. This is routine pastoral practice. If there be a case of obstinance in sin and/or adultery, absolution must be withheld. Cohabitation with someone other than the spouse is very problematical, not only because of adultery but because of the occasion of sin. Restitution involves resolving to do whatever is possible to rectify the situation. The ideal would be the restoration of the marriage. However, sometimes the partner refuses to cooperate or to seek marriage counseling. Obviously, there would be continuing moral obligations for any children in the marriage. Sometimes we cannot fully give back what was taken away. This is part of the terrible tragedy. Various scenerios are realized when people are welcomed to resume the sacramental life: marriages might be salvaged, annulments and covalidations are sometimes acquired, or celibate love is pursued. Depending upon guilt, restitution might also include special penance or mortification. In days gone by, some people even entered convents or monasteries to do perpetual sacrifice as amends for their part in broken families.

    In reference to my comments on Blackburn…

    This is EXACTLY the problem!!!! And it is a false teaching!!!!! See response above.

    FATHER JOE: Sorry, there is nothing false about this teaching or the efficacy of the sacraments. Christ has given priests the power to forgive sins. That is the long and short of it.

    In reference to my comments on Donovan…

    Again, it is a false teaching!!!!! And this is what we are getting from our priests who are seem overwhelmed with confusion and spreading the same on this issue. Can you back up your three similar answers to divorce and confession with Church documents, letters from the Fathers of the Church? You can’t! Enough!! Signed, one who is tired of the apostate Church.

    FATHER JOE: The falsity is yours. Further, your condemnation of the true Church as the “apostate” Church is a matter of mortal sin. Please be careful not to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which protects the Catholic Church age after age. However, just as with other sinners, you can go to a priest and be forgiven… if you are contrite and have a firm purpose of amendment. Beware of a hardness of heart. It also afflicts many who violate the marriage bed. Too many ridicule the priests and walk away from God’s mercy. It is true that priests sometimes fail to find the right words. The law of the Church is too soft for some and too severe for others. But we try to do what is right. I am well aware of Church documents, the Church fathers and so much more… I always try to teach and preach with the mind of Christ and his Church. I will pray for you.

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