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A Response to Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage & Defection

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RUFUS:

I am (was??) a Catholic. I am now divorced and in a second relationship. I have no idea what God has in store for me, whether I am going to roast in Hell or simmer in Purgatory; but I am done with the double standards and hypocrisy of the Catholic church.  I still love God and believe in Jesus but I think it is ridiculous to attend church and not have communion; either you are or are not in good grace… there is no middle ground… Hell or Heaven.

FATHER JOE:

It seems the issue is more than a disagreement about the perpetuity of marriage as a sacrament; you quarrel about basic Catholic soteriology. Like many Protestants you would reject the notion of Purgatory and yet this teaching is reflective of divine mercy and the tradition of praying for the dead that we inherited from the Jews of Christ’s time. We must be perfected by grace if we are to enter fully into the kingdom and the heavenly presence of God. Protestants get around this conundrum by positing a juridical imputation over any kind of actual transformation into the likeness of Christ. Thus, people might remain sinful worms but as long as they have faith they can enter heaven because Christ conceals them from divine justice. Catholics believe that all will be unveiled. Unless there is a true conversion and perfection, we could not bear to stand in the divine presence. A process of purgation heals the soul that belongs to God so that it might be purged of the last remnants of selfishness and venial sin. Saints already perfected would indeed rush into heaven. Those who die in mortal sin would be cast into hell. The damned are damned because they place their own will above that of God and his commands. Such souls might say they love God and believe in Jesus, but they fashion for themselves a counterfeit Christ that cannot save them. Hypocrisy is immediately implied with sinfulness from believers; but the Church, while composed of sinners, is holy because Christ is holy. Our Lord called sinners to himself and so the Church must do the same, even if it sometimes compromises her witness. You should have remained with the Church. One more sinful hypocrite would have made little difference— and you had everything to gain from abiding in the house established by Jesus Christ.

As for participation at Mass, this is a fulfillment of the command to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Every Mass is a re-presentation of the oblation of Christ on the Cross, albeit in an unbloody manner. Here too your faith was evidently defective. The reception of Holy Communion is a great gift and the ideal, but you closed that door because of a weakness of the flesh and a heart that loved, not too much, but too little. The prohibition about divorce and remarriage is clearly taught by our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew. Only since the reformation and particularly in the modern era has this teaching been called into question by dissenters. Short of an annulment, the Church’s hands are tied. Jesus is unapologetic, we are talking here about adultery, no matter how one might “feel” about it.

Matthew 5: 31-32

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Matthew 19: 3-12

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

If an annulment can ascertain that a union is “unlawful,” then one might be free to enter into a true marriage. But if the marriage is real then it endures until the death of a spouse.

RUFUS: 

The bottom line is this, if you are Catholic and marry and the marriage, for whatever reason, your fault or not, ends in divorce then if you start another relationship (because God gave us the power of love and the will to use this most beautiful gift), whether a marriage or not, the Catholic church teaches you will go to hell unless you sincerely repent, i.e.. end the relationship and live the rest of your life alone.

FATHER JOE:

Do you think people only hate themselves into hell? I perceive plenty of hate in your words, but you fail to note that love can be disordered or distorted. We can love the wrong things. Ultimately, we are to love God above all else and that means following his commandments. If you love yourself or even another person in a way that is not in sync with divine love, then you manufacture a type of idolatry. True husbands and wives are to see Christ in the beloved. That makes the defection from a marriage into an abandonment of Christ who is signified in the sacramental covenant and union. Note that here you only think about yourself. If you trusted Christ’s words (not just the Church’s rules), then you would have been wary of risking the soul of the person with whom you committed adultery. If you really loved her than you should sooner die than do anything that would place at risk her share in eternal life. Resentful for yourself, you enter into a tirade against the Church. I suppose this is an attempt at self-justification. Instead of facing or even struggling with your guilt, you castigate the Church. Mass attendance would have exposed you to God’s grace, even if you were not fully receptive toward it. Did you attempt an annulment? Or did you just run away? If you go to hell, and we leave that judgment to God, it will be because of your closed disposition to his grace and gift of mercy— not because you fled a Church that was both faithful to God’s law and desiring to show you compassion. The way you talk about “repentance,” you make it sound like a dirty word. The problem here is yours.

RUFUS:

Thinking you can get away with this until you are on a your deathbed and repent at the last minute doesn’t count as such repentance is insincere, as if planned.

FATHER JOE:

No one is saying that you had only the deathbed for which to look forward. That is you speaking. Such cynicism is poison to the hope that should be the life’s blood of every believer. No one would urge you to wait until close proximity to death to repent. However, neither should you malign the sincerity of such conversions at the end of mortal life. Not only do you blaspheme against divine mercy; such an attitude would negate the value of contrition, perfect and imperfect, as displayed by the good thief on the Cross who steals heaven. Ideally we should be sorry because we love God.  Nevertheless, God’s forgiveness will even reach out to us if our faith be largely grounded on the fear of losing heaven and suffering the pains of hell.

RUFUS:

Of course, you could die in a road accident, in which case, you have no time to repent and are going to go straight to hell. So the choice for a divorced Catholic who cannot get an anulment is bleak; spend the rest of your life alone or accept that you are going to hell anyway, so you might as well eat, drink, be merry, whore to your heart’s content, and break just about every commandment in the book. This is ridiculous.

FATHER JOE:

Sin is sin. A mountain climber might miss a footing or a ledge by an inch or by a yard, it is all the same. He would be just as dead. You cannot make one sin an excuse for others. I bet no priest ever told you that you were going to hell. It may be that God faced you with this prospect in your life and you refused to acknowledge your fault. Your problem is not so much with the Church and her catechism but with God and his living Word. I cannot say if you would have gotten an annulment, but if you walked with the Lord then you would never really be alone. Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? I freely embraced a celibate life. There were wonderful girls I knew in my youth who would have made incredible wives and mothers; but I dedicated my life to Jesus and his Church. The trouble with you is that you did not trust and love God enough. Now all you can share with others is venom or poison.

RUFUS:

There is nothing in the bible that unambiguously states this and the outmoded catechism needs to be thrown out and rewritten. This, and good marketing is the only way the catholic church will save itself from the extinction it is suffering.

FATHER JOE:

Does it make you feel better to attack the Church? God’s laws and truths are timeless but you would have us subscribe to the fads and fashions of a fallen world that parades its broken promises. Christ keeps his promise to us. We must keep our promises to him and to each other. Faithfulness still matters. I would call you back to fidelity and the safe harbor of faith. You need not join the world’s chorus in forsaking the Church and Christ. Yes, the Church is increasingly a sign of contradiction. Yes, religious liberty is threatened and faith is attacked. But believers have everything to gain in being fools for Christ. The folly of the world leads only to death and despair. Have faith— have courage— embrace sacrificial love— and come home.

4 Responses

  1. I got married to a woman I knew through my first wife (whom I didn’t marry in the Catholic Church). When I and my first wife were separated, I got married to that women knowing fully well that she got married in Catholic Church before, although she divorced her first husband….for more than two years now. I and the woman are not living together due to her aggressive nature. Is our marriage valid or invalid according to Catholic Church teachings?

    FATHER JOE: I take it that neither marriage was before a Catholic minister or in any of the Orthodox churches. Are you a Catholic? If so, then the Church would not recognize either marriage. Was your first wife Catholic? Again, if so then your first marriage would be invalid, too. If you and your first wife were not Catholics, then the first marriage would still bind you. As for the second marriage, since she was formerly married in the Catholic Church, she was not free to marry you. Thus, unless there was an annulment or other factors about which I do not know, that marriage had no standing in the Church, either.

  2. Isn’t Rufus’ argument typical of us sinners when we defy Church teaching, then find that we are left with the consequences and no other option but to throw ourselves at Christ’s mercy (through the same church whose teaching we convinced ourselves was flawed). Man up Rufus and pray for the humility to look beyond your own will, now before you convince yourself that hell won’t be that bad.
    A lesson here for all of us.

  3. RUFUS:
    Of course, you could die in a road accident, in which case, you have no time to repent and are going to go straight to hell. So the choice for a divorced Catholic who cannot get an anulment is bleak; spend the rest of your life alone or accept that you are going to hell anyway,
    ————————
    What a strange point of view, and so insistent on the looming if not ineluctable threat of hell. Surely there are not many folks in Hell solely for the sin of not getting a marriage annulled, Rufus. Stop the drama.

    “Heaven sends no one to hell, children. Souls go there from their actions in life, of their own free will.” – The Virgin of Fatima, 1917.

    A village girl named Amelie had died the year before, age 20. “Is she in heaven, senhora?”, Lucia asked the Virgin.

    The Virgin replied: “No, she will be in purgatory until the end of the world.” So yes, there are consequences, but the “we’re all going to Hell!” malarkey is not heard in any Catholic quarters, you’ll be happy to learn, Rufus.

    Furthermore, “Hard-heartedness and Indifference are grave sins, children. Souls have been lost to hell from them.” – The Virgin of Medjugorje, 1981 – today.

    And who is more “indifferent” than a latter-day American hedonist? I was not surprised that the 20% of Nones who got so much media attention about 3 years ago have now metastasized into 30% of Americans. The media and Liberal savants in local state & federal government will not rest until Christianity — not the white-shoe Protestantism that requires sooo little of anyone — has been neutered.

    But it’s well-known that the RCC never has said who may be in Hell, and who not, whether it’s Caligula, or Hitler. It has no way of knowing short of direct revelation. Rufus throws the term around much too breezily, and should acquaint himself with Sister Faustina and the Divine Mercy, for starters.

    As for dying suddenly with no chance of repentance, read “My Descent Into Death” by atheist teacher Howard Storm (1983), rescued by Jesus from the underworld; he become a prominent Lutheran pastor in Ohio. Similar glimpses of the underworld (and of Heaven) by those who died suddenly with much sin on their souls are in “I Survived… Beyond and Back,” online at Bio.com, and formerly a TV series.

    As St. Joan of Arc learned, “fear of the fire” did not justify her recantation of Heaven’s help to her English captors in return for a life sentence. “God wants you to know that you have placed your soul in mortal peril,” St. Catherine told Joan the Maid in her cell that night. “It’s better to endure 20 minutes in the flames than to risk eternity in the flames.” In the morning Joan retracted her false confession, and went to the stake 24 hours later.

    Imagine how many times each of us has risked such a fate for cheap thrills and narcissism, with nary a thought of repentance.

    Back to Fatima: “She turned her palms toward the ground in front of us and a light came from each hand. The ground rolled back to reveal huge fires in which souls were hopping on the ground on all fours, like insects, and transparent, with flames inside of them… there were so many people falling into the flames it looked like thick clumps of snow falling from a tree branch…” — Lucia dos Santos, age 10

  4. Slavery was acceptable during biblical times.
    Christ never said one word against slavery.
    How many people born today would like to be slaves?

    FATHER JOE:

    I am not sure what point you mean to make. St. Paul made it clear that the baptismal faith given by Christ made us all brothers and sisters and one in the Lord… male and female, Jew or Gentile, and Free or Slave.

    The ancient world kept slaves. These rules here were to make the masters of men accountable. While we disagree about such bondage, we can appreciate the yearning for justice. There is still slavery in certain parts of the world. The seed of freedom planted in the New Covenant would take a while to germinate and grow. Christians were urged to treat slaves as brothers and sisters in Christ. Later slavery was tolerated until that time that debts were paid off or savages were civilized and given the true faith. Popes condemned slavery in the 1600’s and yet it would remain an institution in the United States until 1865. Dissent is not something new, as today the full humanity of the unborn is compromised. It became ever clearer that in Christ all are given grace and regarded the same— Jew or Gentile, free or slave, man or woman— all possess a precious dignity. Freedom is our birthright as children of God and everyone has natural rights. Here is one of the clearest instances of the organic development of doctrine.

    https://bloggerpriest.com/2013/10/01/popes-opposed-slavery-against-dissenters/

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