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Cardinal Müller Gives Needed Clarification

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This was probably the most important interview that Arroyo ever presented on World Over. CARDINAL MÜLLER says that the “moral” is the “pastoral”… there can be no conflict… no polygamy… no sacramental spouse and another civil law spouse… the Holy Father’s document must be interpreted within the Catholic tradition. Anything else is heresy! He spells out that any accommodation that would permit the restoration of the sacramental life (without an annulment) would be a “brother” to “sister” relationship. He also said that women deacons are impossible. The biblical title was not a reference to Holy Orders. The ongoing commission is being misinterpreted. Nevertheless, he did say that we may find new non-sacramental charges for women.

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Reflecting on a Papal Homily

I wanted to give some extended thoughts about the papal homily on Friday.  The Gospel reading was from Mark 10:1-12:

“Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them. The Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He said to them in reply, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They replied, ‘Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.’ But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 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.’ In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’”

The Holy Father stressed in his homily that Jesus “doesn’t respond as to whether it’s licit or not; he doesn’t enter into casuistic logic.”  We are told that the question was a trap.  It had previously circulated what Jesus would say.  At the Sermon on the Mount where he gave us the Beatitudes, he had already stated:  “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 5:31-32).  The rejection of the authority of Moses might be interpreted as opposition to God.  Our Lord avoids the trap of this charge (their “casuistic logic”?) by placing the question in the context of creation and not the Mosaic Law.  Divine authority has precedence over that of Moses, who makes a human decision to allow a writ because of their hardness of hearts.  Our Lord, as he so often does, re-frames the question, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” Much more fundamentally, he answers that marriage is the enduring reality or truth and that there is no such thing as divorce.  That is why he can so immediately associate divorce with adultery.

Is this faithful to the text?  It seems clear here and even more so in the Gospel of Matthew that while Jesus does not fall for the tricky question, he does render a response that goes beyond the given parameters— beyond Mosaic or Church laws— adding his voice to natural law.

When I reflected on the Scripture text, I had to wonder if Moses did what many of the bishops and theologians are trying to do today— to sidestep a teaching that seems too difficult and arduous for many to follow.  I do not believe that the various requests for clarification from the Holy See are attempts to trick Pope Francis.  The requests are coming from his friends who likewise love him, the Church and Christ.  The question was “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”  Jesus’ response was clear.  He cannot abandon her because there is NO such thing as divorce!  When his apostles ask about it, Jesus is blunt— the human construct of divorce leads to adultery.  Note that our Lord does not shy away from using the word, “adultery,” a biblical term that certain churchmen are insisting we avoid so as not to hurt feelings; thus we now speak of couples in “irregular unions.”  I hate to say this but the casuistry seems to be on the other side.

The new question can be framed very simply.  “Can and should couples who are cohabiting and/or living in adulterous situations be invited to receive Holy Communion and be given absolution in the sacrament of Penance?”  There are only a few responses that respect the constant truth and teachings of the Church:

(1)  If the care of children or the needs of the partner demand that the couple remain together, and if there would not be dire scandal, an internal forum solution might be permitted where the couple live as brother and sister.

(2)  While it might seem severe or heartless, given the gravity of adultery, the Church could rightly insist that the couple separate.

(3)  The members of the irregular union might seek an annulment of the prior bond; if granted, the union could be regularized with a convalidation.

(4)  If an annulment is not possible and the couple cannot separate, they would be urged to attend Mass but not invited to take Holy Communion.  If the prior spouse should die then the marriage could be convalidated.  If the irregular partner should die, the remaining member could be absolved in Penance and again take Holy Communion.

The option being argued the Malta bishops and by Cardinal Coccopalmerio is not one that reflects the perennial teaching of the faith, or more recently that of Pope John Paul II.  The Cardinal directly teaches that if the adulterous and/or cohabitating couple means well, then they could be invited to take Holy Communion.  While this might appease the subjective and make people happy at the moment; objectively it would constitute the sin of sacrilege as the couple in mortal sin are not disposed to the graces of the sacrament.  There must be contrition and amendment of life.  Both here are compromised.  While adultery might still be regarded as sin, such a change in discipline would wrongly indicate that it was no longer regarded as serious or even mortal.  Given the growing dissent, we need Pope Francis to give a magisterial answer to the confusion that emerged from his exhortation.  That answer should also reflect continuity in discipline and teaching.  Indeed, all he has to do is assert that Cardinal Müller has spoken for the Holy See.  The good Cardinal recently asserted that those in irregular unions who want to receive the sacraments must practice “perfect continence.”  He further stated:

“For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.”

Adultery is serious, not simply because of infidelity between spouses; it spiritually ranks up there with idolatry.  Christ identifies himself with the beloved.  Betrayal of a spouse is betrayal of Christ.

Is It Only a Matter of Legal Casuistry?

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Pope Francis: In God there is both justice and mercy

The Pope in his homily of February 24, 2017 said that we should not become obsessed with the “fine points of legal interpretation.”  What were these objectionable fine points?  When I asked a local churchman whom I admire, I was lectured on how canon law was only about a hundred years old and not integral to the lasting faith of the Church.  But I never mentioned canon law.  I just wanted reaffirmation about basic right and wrong.  The Catholic definition of faith was always in terms of charity and obedience.  Thus the laws of God will always be crucial to our overall discipleship.  Jesus might have said, “Woe to lawyers,” but his ire was the gravity given human laws above divine laws and placing unwieldy burdens upon people who were struggling to be faithful.  It was not a renunciation of the Decalogue or Christ’s two-fold commandment or his singular treatment of the divorce question.  It is true that Jesus sometimes seemed to raise the bar but always with the assurance that his grace would lighten the load, even as we took up our crosses to follow him.

Perplexed by the Pope

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Pope’s Morning Homily: “Is Justice or Mercy More Important to God? They Are One Thing …”

Today the Holy Father preached on Mark 10:1-12. Many of us had hoped the homily would give clarification to questions about Amoris Laetitia. The Pope was both technical and obscure (difficult to decipher.)

He said that the path of Christ was integration of mercy and justice, not legal reasoning. What did this mean? Here are some quotes:

  • “When temptation touches the heart, this path of exiting from casuistry to truth and mercy isn’t easy, it needs the grace of God so we can go forward in that direction.”
  • “A casuistic mentality would ask, ‘What’s more important to God, justice or mercy?’ That’s a sick way of thinking. There aren’t two things, only one. For God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”
  • “The Lord helps us understand this path, which isn’t easy, but it will make us happy, and will make lots of people happy.”

He connects justice and mercy and yet they are distinct concepts. Christ will bring both judgment and salvation. There will be the separation of the lambs and the goats.

What exactly is this path he is talking about? Is it life in general? Is it accompanying couples in irregular unions? More than whether it is easy, is it a valid path? Why will we all be happy about it? Our Lord talks about the path to life and the road to perdition. The Church has always taught that we need to be cognizant about our footsteps or direction, following Christ on the so-called “road less traveled.”

Finding Hope & Not Despair in the Synod

I am troubled that otherwise orthodox Catholic critics are suggesting that the Synod on the Family in Rome will signal a fall into apostasy.  While there may be a number of wrong-thinking priests and bishops, I have confidence that nothing of the Church’s doctrinal integrity will be sacrificed to pastoral expediency.

While the deposit of faith is both fixed and develops, there can be no revocation of objective truths.  Those couples living in second marriages or irregular unions cannot be uncritically invited to receive Holy Communion.  They may come up without our invitation; but we cannot encourage people to commit either mortal sin or sacrilege against the Eucharist.  No degree of penance would suffice unless there is genuine repentance and a firm amendment of life.  Any projected change in discipline or a so-called pastoral provision cannot justify regularizing church life for recalcitrant adulterers.

Despite the derision by angry critics that many priests are spineless wimps, most men in ministry are dedicated and courageous in their service.  Priests who seem to turn a blind eye to scandalous behavior are often in the dark or uncertain about the marital status of others.  The opposite may also be true.  Their apparent passivity may consist of knowing too many facts about which they are duty bound to keep within professional secrecy and/or the seal of Confession.  A priest may do nothing by word or gesture or intimation based upon what he learns in the sacrament of Penance.  This is the case even when absolution is withheld.  Such a predicament does not prevent others from condemning faithful priests who are already suffering when they must treat adulterers, active homosexuals and child-murderers as if they are Catholics in perfectly good standing.

Of course, it is no wonder that many of the laity might expect churchmen to invite blasphemy against the Eucharist when ministers are generally forbidden by their bishops to refuse the sacrament to others for fear of negative publicity or scandal.  We have witnessed for many years the tension of various pro-life groups with certain U.S. Bishops demanding that they turn away from the altar pro-abortion politicians and others who enable the murder of the unborn.  This conflict has yet to be resolved and continues to alienate those who should be on the same side and working together.  In any case, there is a vast difference between a general passivity and a universal invitation.

The Holy See and the Church are servants of the Word, not its master.  The words of St. Paul about fornicators, homosexuals and adulterers cannot be stripped from Scripture or from the constant tradition of the Church.  Similarly, the notion of the “closed-table” finds it roots in St. Paul and the censures of the early Church:  “And therefore, if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be held to account for the Lord’s body and blood. A man must examine himself first, and then eat of that bread and drink of that cup; he is eating and drinking damnation to himself if he eats and drinks unworthily, not recognizing the Lord’s body for what it is” (1 Cor. 11:27-29).  While there are different theologies in the Church, they must speak to the same doctrinal truths.  Disciplines and pastoral practices are not geared to circumvent doctrine but to help express and realize them.

What can we expect from the Synod on the Family in Rome?  Compromise would precipitate acceleration in the breakdown of marriages.  I foresee a reaffirmation of the timeless faith with suggestions to redouble our efforts to welcome and bring healing into the lives of our people.  Let us trust our bishops.  Let us work with our people and not against them.  Let us put aside the silly sensationalism in the news and give the living Church the opportunity to teach and minister as she should.  There will be discussion and debate in Rome.  But we have confidence in the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium.  The process can be messy but so is life.  The truth will prevail.

Synod of the Family: Revisionist Proposals, part 1

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Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna echoes a few points that will no doubt be discussed at the upcoming Synod on the Family.  (No disrespect is intended to this brilliant man who was the secretary that helped assemble the universal catechism.)  Here is one of the controversial points:

A civil marriage is better than cohabitation because it signifies “a formal public commitment.”

I am not sure about this statement.  Both, in my estimation, are bad.  Might we say that one is worse than the other?  And which is worse?  Cohabitation might leave emotional strings, but after a breakup there would be no civil or ecclesial ties to unravel.  The good cardinal seems to think that people are thrown together chiefly because of financial worries; I suspect he is too quick to dismiss the carnal elements and the attitude that “living together” constitutes either a trial marriage or a viable alternative.  He asserts that civil marriages are better, but for the Catholic, what is it really?  Sure, the state would recognize the bond.  Two Protestants or non-believers married in such a way would be truly married, even if only in terms of a natural bond.  However, the Catholic has turned his back on marriage as a sacrament of the Church.  Indeed, in this age of same-sex marriages, we would not even define marriage as does our secular culture.  The bond is not recognized by the Church and thus has no standing before almighty God.  If the marriage fails, a quick declaration of nullity because of lack of canonical form proves this point.  The bond is not worth the paper it is written upon.  Their sexual congress still constitutes fornication and if there were a prior bond, adultery.  How is this good or better?  Will the Church now seek a demarcation within mortal sin?  If the soul is darkened or dead, the persons are no longer disposed to saving grace.  The role of the Church is not simply to help people feel happy or whole but to give them true mercy and joy in the Spirit.  Our mission is to save souls, not to pamper people who have turned their backs on the Church, her sacraments and basic values.  It may be too harshly said, but where Catholics are involved, civil marriages are to cohabitation what Nevada houses of ill repute are to prostitution.  It might give the profession a certain public recognition and standing, but it is no less damning.

Here is another point listed by the cardinal:

“Instead of talking about everything that is missing, we can draw close to this reality, noting what is positive in this love that is establishing itself.”

The good cardinal applies this, not only to cohabitation and civil unions, but also to second unions and same-sex unions.  I will neglect the last possibility in this reflection because I think there is sufficient cause already to reject the assertion for heterosexuals.  That which is missing is paramount and ignoring or excusing its absence leads to a false analysis of the problem.  The fact remains that sexual activity outside of marriage is immoral and sinful.  Marriage is an institution to foster both spousal fidelity and the propagation of the species.  If you are not married, then you have no right to these goods, even if they are feigned.  What do I mean by feigned?  Pretending to be husband and wife does not make one husband and wife.  Similarly, even in marriages, the marital act is what it is.  If distorted by violence or lust, it becomes a parody.  If couples are made sterile through contraception then the basic meaning of the marital act is short-changed and it no longer signifies the bond or renews the marital covenant.  Let me attempt a silly analogy.  A cowboy facing bandits will be thankful for his gun.  However, he will be intensely disappointed when the fighting starts to find that he has no bullets.  Again, that which is missing can be crucial to any scenario.

This notion of finding the positive in sin or wrongful relationships can lead to a distortion in values.  We can say that such tolerance will not affect doctrine, but this has not yet been proven.  Usually the praxis or discipline is imposed to insure a doctrinal teaching.  Certainly I can appreciate compassion and mercy.  We might also admit that certain relationships will take time to correct and heal.  But the problem that many refuse to acknowledge is that there are some relationships and actions that can never be made right.  If a person is married in truth, a second union is adultery— yes, no matter how satisfying and loving is the irregular union.  Living together and sharing sexual congress outside of marriage is not only wrong, it is the cooperation in another’s sin or a spiritual exploitation.  Many couples acknowledge that they cohabitate because this makes sexual activity more convenient.  Is this the positive element we are seeking?  No!  Civil unions provide little extra in terms of foundational substance, especially when there is “no fault” divorce and half of such unions fail.  Couples might say they grew apart, but increasingly the unstated cause of marital breakup is adultery.  Would not kindness to adulterers be demeaning to spouses who struggle to maintain fidelity?

If we look hard enough, we might imagine something positive in the most tragic of situations.  Indeed, I was asked one time about this in regard to hell.  My response was that it was unlikely the devils would find fulfillment in simply torturing damned souls for all eternity.  I suspect that if there be one positive element it might be the intellectual life.  The demons have incredible intellects, albeit without divine illumination.  As creatures without bodies there would be nothing that corporeal pleasure could offer them.  They would probably seek an escape into their minds.  Of course, no matter how high calipered the debates, hell would still be hell.

The love of fornicators and adulterers might be very tender and gentle.  It might be incredibly affirming and life-giving.  The problem is both what is missing and what is supplied instead.  The sacrament is absent and that which should sanctify them brings scandal and grievous sin.  Their union is built upon a foundation of broken promises and a basic deception.  They give what belongs to another.  They give what they have no right to give.  Like a thief, they steal what does not belong to them.

This proposition collapses entirely with a proper definition of love.  Love is ever so much more than feelings.  Love is sacrificial.  Love is a promise kept.  Love is consecrated by God and such lasts a lifetime.

Increasing numbers cohabitate because of financial insecurity.  The bishops should ask, “Are we here to deplore this phenomenon instead of asking ourselves what has changed?”

It is true that there are financial issues that drive couples to live together, although formerly men and women took housemates of the same gender to share a home. Are they less likely to do so today because others will suppose they are gay when they are really straight? I think too great an emphasis is placed on economics as an excuse or rationale for what is happening. In truth, I think there has been an erosion of the meaning and importance of marriage. Many times I have heard young people, particularly those estranged from the Church, say that marriage is “just a slip of paper.” Boys and girls living together do so largely for what the good cardinal might demote as mere fringe benefits. It makes sexual intimacy easier. When young people start spending time with each other their friends will invariably ask, “When are you going to move in together?” A situation that was once judged as scandalous is now judged as routine or expected.

The good cardinal poses “either-or” questions when there should be a two-fold focus.  We are talking about more than living together or cohabitation, but rather about variations of sexual concubinage. The bishops by necessity should “deplore this phenomenon.” Nothing should deflect their disdain. Too often I hear the complaint that we should not shame the girl or couple, especially if they should conceive an illegitimate child. While the Church is pro-life and the baby is innocent; the parents are not. They should be ashamed of themselves, and this goes back to their living arrangements. These are situations where the rights of children are not properly served and there is a heightened likelihood of abortion. The Church’s moral outrage immediately focuses upon what has changed— a lack of shame and a diminution in the meaning of marriage. Of course, then the Church is attacked as intolerant and mean-spirited. We hear echoed a rhetorical question that emanates from those who have no respect for the Church or her authority, “Who are you to judge?” This repudiation of ecclesial moral assessment is then backed up with a listing of all the latest scandals in the Church, particularly regarding pedophilia and pederasty. By comparison, the Church is imaged as the biggest sinner and a hypocrite as well. Critics say we are looking for splinters while we have planks jabbed in our eyes. Unfortunately, objective truth and genuine moral scrutiny is the victim of this back-and-forth. Right and wrong remain what they are even if the one who cites the misdeed is the greatest reprobate on the planet.

Are we really being helpful?  “There is a risk of easily pointing a finger at hedonism and individualism, when it takes much more effort to observe the realities carefully.”

It may be that the good cardinal is critical of the bishops and the Church for making abstract moral judgments without a regard for how the practical situations of people make difficult any fidelity to the divine moral law.  However, the place for pastoral accommodation is in the Confessional, not in general statements of faith.  There has to be a universal standard.  The Church teaches us what ought to be.  The priest in the trenches deals in a proximate way with what is and the effects of original sin.  Saint John Paul II understood this.  He was concise and clear about questions in the moral order.  His theology of the body was the mastery of his genius.  And yet, this same Pope urged priests to show gentleness and compassion to penitents who struggled with the sin of artificial contraception and the manner of their sexual intimacy.  He urged ministers to take people where they found them.  Jesus ministered similarly.  He brought healing and forgiveness to others but nothing of the Decalogue lost its compelling power.  Indeed, some commands became more intense.  The mere hatred of another makes one guilty of violating, “thou shalt not kill.”  The woman caught in adultery is guilty but he saves her from stoning and opts himself not to condemn her.  Rather he forgives her with a warning to avoid this sin in the future.  The writ of divorce is dismissed and those who do so are charged with adultery.  This sounds harsh but it protected the rights of women who were often abandoned and left destitute.

Each case may have complications that surface.  But one would have to be blind not to see how our society is saturated by hedonism.  The natural desire for happiness and the avoidance of pain is amplified to the level where the pursuit of pleasure becomes everything.  While much of the planet suffers squalor and poverty, Western society is enraptured by self-indulgence.  Alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, pornography, and lurid entertainments saturate our environment.  Keeping the proper custody of the eyes becomes virtually impossible.  Everyone from the elderly to the small child is touched by it.

A stark individualism is often praised in American circles and yet while we delight in freedom, often this can come at the price of another’s rights and the cohesion of duty or obligation for family, for community, and for church.  The slogan for the mentality, at least when it becomes terminal, is the cry, “No one can tell me what to do!”

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.