Divorced Catholics and the sacramentsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
Hi everybody- Yesterday at mass the priest gave a wonderful homily on divorce, and about the way the divorce is misperceived by the vast majority of catholics. His point was that those who divorce and do not remarry are not only allowed but positively encouraged to receive ALL the sacraments, including communion. This priest is only 26 years old. (isn't THAT amazing?) but already he has run into catholics who have for years and years seperated themselves from the church needlessly, and much to their own heartbreak. It doesn't have to be so.
Now I know that there might be all sorts of objections about non-remarried catholics who nonetheless have relationships with those of the opposite sex, and possibly physical relationships. So they feel they are unable (because of this sin) to avail themselves of confession and the Eucharist. This is just ignorance on the part of individuals, they simply DO NOT KNOW the church's stand on this. There are some GRAVE sins that automatically excommunicate a person, but this is not one of them. The church ALWAYS encourages sinners (me and everybody else) to avail themselves of the great gifts God has given us in the sacraments. Why would this sin be any worse than any I might commit? I understand the impulse to lead a non-hypocritical life, but honestly, this is not correct thinking on this matter..
This topic has been bothering me so much lately, because I just can't bear to think of these already heartbroken people feeling rejected by the church. It's just terrible. Life is terrible enough, we don't need this too.
I blame (if blame is the right word) priests for not making this issue clearer to the people. They have ten minutes a week to instruct the faithful, and so often simply waste those precious minutes. Thank God for priests like this young man. Thank God. Just 26 years old and he's willing to talk about this painful and distressing thing, and manages to do it with such wisdom and compassion. MAN. God bless him. God bless you all too.
-- Jane Ulrich (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 09, 2000
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CONCERNING THE RECEPTION OF HOLY COMMUNION BY THE DIVORCED AND REMARRIED MEMBERS OF THE FAITHFUL
1. The International Year of the Family is a particularly important occasion to discover anew the many signs of the Church's love and concern for the family(1) and, at the same time, to present once more the priceless riches of Christian marriage, which is the basis of the family.
2. In this context the difficulties and sufferings of those faithful in irregular marriage situations merit special attention(2). Pastors are called to help them experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church, receiving them with love, exhorting them to trust in God's mercy and suggesting, with prudence and respect, concrete ways of conversion and sharing in the life of the community of the Church(3).
3. Aware however that authentic understanding and genuine mercy are never separated from the truth(4), pastors have the duty to remind these faithful of the Church's doctrine concerning the celebration of the sacraments, in particular, the reception of the Holy Communion. In recent years, in various regions, different pastoral solutions in this area have been suggested according to which, to be sure, a general admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion would not be possible, but the divorced and remarried members of the faithfus could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorised according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflexion and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.
In some places, it has also been proposed that in order objectively to examine their actual situation, the divorced and remarried would have to consult a prudent and expert priest. This priest, however, would have to respect tueir eventual decision to approach Holy Communion, without this implying an official authorisation.
In these and similar cases it would be a matter of a tolerant and benevolent pastoral solution in order to do justice to the different situations of the divorced and remarried.
4. Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline. It falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei.
With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ(5), the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists(6).
This norm is not at all a punishment or a discrimination against the divorced and remarried, but rather expresses an objective situation that of itself renders impossible the reception of Holy Communion: "They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and his Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage"(7).
The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only "to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they 'take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'"(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal.
5. The doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter, are amply presented in the post-conciliar period in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The Exhortation, among other things, reminds pastors that out of luve for the truth they are obliged to discern carefully the different situations and exhorts them to encourage the participation of the divorced and remarried in the various events in the life of the Church. At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, "founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion"(9). The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.
6. Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons(10) as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church's teaching(11). Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine.
This does not mean that the Church does not take to heart the situation of these faithful, who moreover are not excluded from ecclesial communion. She is concerned to accompany them pastorally and invite them to share in the life of the Church in the measure that is compatible with the dispositions of divine law, from which the Church has no power to dispense(12). On the other hand, it is necessary to instruct these faithful so that they do not think their participation in the life of the Church is reduced exclusively to the question of the reception of the Eucharist. The faithful are to be helped to deepen their understanding of the value of sharing in the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass, of spiritual commu nion(13), of prayer, of meditation on the Word of God, and of works of charity and justice(14).
7. The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one's own convictions(15), to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissable(16). Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.
8. It is certainly true that a judgment about one's own dispositions for the reception of Holy Communion must be made by a properly formed moral conscience. But it is equally true that the consent that is the foundation of marriage is not simply a private decision since it creates a specifically ecclesial and social situation for the spouses, both individually and as a couple. Thus the judgment of conscience of one's own marital situation does not regard only the immediate relationship between man and God, as if one could prescind from the Church's mediation, that also includes canonical laws binding in conscience. Not to recognise this essential aspect would mean in fact to deny that marriage is a reality of the Church, that is to say, a sacrament.
9. In inviting pastors to distinguish carefully the various situations of the divorced and remarried, the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio recalls the case of those who are subjectively certain in conscience that their previous marriage, irreparably broken, had never been valid(17). It must be discerned with certainty by means of the external forum established by the Church whether there is objectively such a nullity of marriage. The discipline of the Church, while it confirms the exclusive competence of ecclesiastical tribunals with respect to the examination of the validity of the marriage of Catholics, also offers new ways to demonstrate the nullity of a previous marriage, in order to exclude as far as possible every divergence between the truth verifiable in the judicial process and the objective truth known by a correct conscience (18).
Adherence to the Church's judgment and observance of the existing discipline concerning the obligation of canonical form necessary for the validity of the marriage of Catholics are what truly contribute to the spiritual welfare of the faithful concerned. The Church is in fact the Body of Christ and to live in ecclesial communion is to live in the Body of Christ and to nourish oneself with the Body of Christ. With the reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist, communion with Christ the Head can never be separated from communion with his members, that is, with his Church. For this reason, the sacrament of our union with Christ is also the sacrament of the unity of the Church. Receiving Eucharistic Communion contrary to ecclesial communion is therefore in itself a contradiction. Sacramental communion with Christ includes and presupposes the observance, even if at times difficult, of the order of ecclesial communion, and it cannot be right and fruitful if a member of the faithful, wishing to approach Christ directly, does not respect this order.
10. In keeping with what has been said above, the desire expressed by the Synod of Bishops, adopted by the Holy Father John Paul II as his own and put into practice with dedication and with praiseworthy initiatives by bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful is yet to be fully realized, namely, with solicitous charity to do everything that can be done to strengthen in the love of Christ and the Church those faithful in irregular marriage situations. Only thus will it be possible for them fully to receive the message of Christian marriage and endure in faith the distress of their situation. In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator. It will be necessary for pastors and the community of the faithful to suffer and to love in solidarity with the persons concerned so that they may recognise in their burden the sweet yoke and the light burden of Jesus(19). Their burden is not sweet and light in the sense of being small or insignificant, but becomes light because the Lord - and with him the whole Church - shares it. It is the task of pastoral action, which has to be carried out with total dedication, to offer this help, founded in truth and in love together.
United with you in dedication to the collegial task of making the truth of Jesus Christ shine in the life and activity of the Church, I remain Yours devotedly in the Lord
Joseph Card. Ratzinger Prefect
+ Alberto Bovone Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Numidia Secretary
During an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II gave his approval to this letter, drawn up in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.
Given at Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 14 September 1994, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
(1) Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Families (2 February 1994), n. 3.
(2) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981) nn. 79-84: AAS 74 (1982) 180-186.
(3) Cf. ibid., n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 185; Letter to Families, n. 5; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1651.
(4) Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanf Vitf, n. 29: AAS 60 (1968) 501; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pfnitentia, n. 34: AAS 77 (1985) 272, Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, n. 95: AAS 85 (1993) 1208.
(5) Mk 10:11-12: "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
(6) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1650; cf. also n. 1640 and the Council of Trent, sess. XXIV: DS 1797-1812.
(7) Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 185-186.
(8) Ibid., n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 186; cf. John Paul II, Homily on the Occasion of the Closure of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, n. 7: AAS 72 (1980) 1082.
(9) Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 185.
(10) Cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29.
(11) Cf. Code of Canon Law, 978 '2.
(12) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1640.
(13) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Questions concerning the Minister of the Eucharist, III/4: AAS 75 (1983) 1007; St Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection 35,1; St Alphonsus de' Liguori, Visite al SS. Sacramento e a Maria Santissima.
(14) Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 185.
(15) Cf. Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, n. 55: AAS 85 (1993) 1178.
(16) Cf. Code of Canon Law, 1085 ' 2.
(17) Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 84: AAS 74 (1982) 185.
(18) Cf. Code of Canon Law 1536 ' 2 and 1679 and Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches 1217 ' 2 and 1365 concerning the probative force of the depositions of the parties in such processes.
(19) Cf. Matt 11:30.
-- Enrique Ortiz (email@example.com), October 09, 2000.
Thank you Enrique for this very clear outline of the situation of divorced and remarried catholics in the church. I am wondering if you know where something similar might be found which addresses the issue of divorced Catholics who have NOT remarried. This is the issue I am mostly concerned with (in this post anyway) because it appears that there is such a widespread misunderstanding about divorce without remarriage and the reception of the sacraments. Can you help with this too?? I'd really appreciate it.
-- Jane Ulrich (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 09, 2000.
You are SOOOO right! Many times, I have seen Q&A items on the Internet or in Catholic magazines/newspapers, in which the same thing comes out -- that divorced men and women, not remarried, have been avoiding the Sacraments for many years, either because they think that they have been excommunicated (and cannot rejoin the Church) or because, while they know that they are Church members, they think that they are not even allowed to confess their sins, much less receive Communion. And now, not only have I read about these things, but I have had the tremendous joy recently to inform such a person myself that a return to Reconciliation and Communion can and should be done as soon as possible, provided the person is living a celibate life.
You are right. It would be good for every parish priest, perhaps once a year, to make a clarifying statement about this. Perhaps each bishop should send a letter to his priests requiring them, on a Sunday when the Gospel reading pertains to marriage, to talk about various common situations that ordinary folks face -- including the one you have raised today.
Here is what I think is the source of confusion or actions taken or avoided by mistake:
-- Prior to Vatican II (1962 - 1965), divorce was quite rare in the U.S. and almost unheard of among Catholics. Part of the rarity was due to the courts' being less willing to grant divorces without serious grounds [no such thing as "no-fault" or "irreconcilable-differences" divorces]. But why was it particularly uncommon among Catholics?
---- a. The Church does not recognize civil divorce as having any effect on a sacramental marriage. Divorce was tremendously discouraged, because it could give the impression that marriage was humanly "dissoluble," and because of what could follow (especially infidelity and harm to the children). Separation was also discouraged, but permitted for good reasons. Even today, the Church is mainly negative about divorce, as can be seen in these paragraphs from the Catechism: "2383. The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense. 2384. [Otherwise, d]ivorce 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. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign."
---- b. According to what I have read (but have been unable to verify), the old Code of Canon Law (which was in effect from 1917 to 1983) imposed a ban on reception of the Sacraments to all divorced people, even if they were not remarried. [I am not sure if this was a full excommunication or only something called an "interdict."]
And so, many people who were divorced before the new (1983) Code of Canon Law was promulgated have (through lack of awareness) continued to abstain from the Sacraments -- even though the new Law has ceased to impose an excommunication or interdict on divorced, celibate people. Many of these people have not been reading Catholic newspapers/periodicals since 1983 (wherein they might have found out the facts), and their pastors have not raised the subject at Mass, so they have not found out that they can return to the Sacraments.
Even some celibate people who have been divorced AFTER 1983 have wrongly avoided the Sacraments, perhaps (1) because they had heard about the old ban (prior to 1983) but not the change in the Law, or (2) because they thought that the unchangeable ban pertaining to divorced and "remarried" couples pertained to them also. These unfortunate situations could easily be remedied, as you have stated, by better communications.
Now, perhaps I am just misunderstanding the words you used, Jane, but I think that I see one area of possible disagreement between us. You wrote:
"Now I know that there might be all sorts of objections about non-remarried catholics who nonetheless have relationships with those of the opposite sex, and possibly physical relationships. So they feel they are unable (because of this sin) to avail themselves of confession and the Eucharist. This is just ignorance on the part of individuals, they simply DO NOT KNOW the church's stand on this. There are some GRAVE sins that automatically excommunicate a person, but this is not one of them. The church ALWAYS encourages sinners (me and everybody else) to avail themselves of the great gifts God has given us in the sacraments. Why would this sin be any worse than any I might commit? I understand the impulse to lead a non-hypocritical life, but honestly, this is not correct thinking on this matter."
I agree with you completely, Jane, if you are speaking about folks who make a sincere effort to remain celibate, but slip into mortal sins of adultery on rare occasions, due to weakness. They most certainly need to have frequent recourse to the Sacraments, which can strengthen them to overcome temptations. Here we are talking about folks who, in making their confessions, genuinely have what the Church calls a "firm purpose of amendment" -- a desire and intention never to commit adultery again -- making a resolution to avoid the "near occasions of sin."
However, certain divorced and "non-remarried" persons cannot receive the Sacraments -- namely, those who lack a firm purpose of amendment, instead planning to commit adultery again and refusing to resolve to avoid the near occasions of sin. These folks are not capable of receiving the Sacrament of Penance validly. Despite making a "confession" and hearing words of absolution, they have not actually had their sins absolved, so they are not permitted to receive Communion.
But I don't want to be misunderstood. A person of the first group -- who has a firm purpose of amendment and promises to avoid the near occasions of sin -- can nevertheless realistically admit that -- contrary to his/her current state of will -- he/she may fall into the sin of adultery again.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), October 14, 2000.
Hi John, Glad to see you back, I've missed you. Can always count on you to give a thorough explaination of things. Hope you had a nice time.
I agree with everything you say. I just worry that even bringing up the idea of "lacking a firm purpose of amendment" will discourage already heartily discouraged Catholics from going back to the sacraments. I mean think of it, they've been away for so long, already judge themselves unworthy , are probably angry about the Church's perceived stand on this (I mean we ARE all human, we get angry about things that hurt, even if it isn't rationally warrented).
I guess I am unwilling even to bring that up because no one can know whether a person has a firm purpose of amendment except that person, the priest, and God. And sometimes (in reality) only God. Let me get personal here: I could pretty go to confession every week and go through the same list of sins that I've been confessing all along. Few minor (or even major) additions, but usually the same old things. It can get pretty depressing, if I think about it too much. Does this mean I shouldn't go, since obviously I lack a firm purpose of amendment? Sure looks that way. You could probably talk me into that too. WOuldn't be hard at all. And you might even be right.
But I hope I keep going anyway. I hope I don't think about this too much or I might stop.
That's all I mean. Still, everything you say is absolutely right. I just probably wouldn't say everything all at once. But that's a judgement call, and a personality difference, that's all.
Yes I really wish priests would talk about these things more often. It would be so helpful.
-- Jane Ulrich (Janeulrich80@hotmail.com), October 14, 2000.
It's nice to be back, Jane. Thanks for the welcome.
I can "meet you halfway" in the area in which we seem to disagree. As a layman speaking to someone who had not been to confession for a long time, I hope that I would not bring up the subject of "firm purpose of amendment." That is something that I would leave to the Holy Spirit and the priest. In the confessional, a penitent is supposed to express contrition (sorrow for sin) and his/her intention not to sin again (purpose of amendment). If these are not revealed voluntarily, the priest is required to evoke them by counselling the penitent. If the priest, with the help of the Holy Spirit, cannot evoke contrition and firm purpose of amendment, he must withhold absolution [... whose sins you shall retain, they are retained]. You are right. We should not interfere with the sacred encounter of reconciliation by potentially frightening or confusing someone beforehand.
But, Jane, you really surprised me by stating the following: "I could go to confession every week and go through the same list of sins that I've been confessing all along. ... Does this mean I shouldn't go, since obviously I lack a firm purpose of amendment?"
Oh, no! Though I cannot infallibly read your heart, there is no doubt in my mind that you do have a firm purpose of amendment! As with other things we have discussed here, this "purpose" is not in the emotions and not in a sense of certainty -- but in the will. In my last post, I defined "firm purpose of amendment" as a desire and intention not to commit the confessed sins again. I feel certain that you wish to avoid your sins.
And I made it a point, in my last post, to add a final paragraph, so that no one should be discouraged or misunderstand me:
"A person ... who has a firm purpose of amendment and promises to avoid the near occasions of sin can nevertheless realistically admit that -- contrary to his/her current state of will -- he/she may fall into the [confessed sin] again." In other words, if one foresees the possibility of future failure (based on one's repeated past failures), that does not keep him from firmly setting his will to please God today.
Just a word on why the presence of contrition and a firm purpose of amendment must be clear to the priest in Reconciliation, at least when a mortal sin has been confessed. If a person is not sorry for having sinned and/or if he plans to mortally sin again -- i.e., he cannot make an act of the will to avoid the confessed sin -- then his "confessed" sin is not forgiven. At least as important as this is the fact that, if he receives Holy Communion, he commits the very worst and most dangerous kind of mortal sin -- a sacrilege, the direct profanation of the Lord's Body and Blood, something against which St. Paul explicitly warned us. And so, the priest must protect both the Blessed Sacrament and the soul of the penitent by making sure that contrition and firm purpose of amendment are present.
There is a tough situation, all too common nowadays, that illustrates this. Suppose a never-married man (or a divorced-and-not-remarried man) has confessed to fornication/adultery and reveals that he has been "shacking up" with someone. The act of will that shows a firm purpose of amendment is his promise made to God, during the Sacrament, that the partners will now separate without having intercourse again. If the man will not make this act of will, the "confessed" sin becomes merely an "admitted" sin that is not forgiven. The Blessed Sacrament is protected, and the man should better see how seriously wrong he has been. We have to hope and pray that he will change his mind after considering how much he is hurting himself and God.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 14, 2000.
As usual you think the best of me (ie that I DO have a firm purpose of amendment) . It is sweet of you. But how do you know? Certainly I don't.
Anyway regardless of what we are talking about I love you anyway. Life can be very confusing, ourselves most of all. Fortunately we don't have to worry about this (ultimately). It's enough thst we love one another.
-- Jane Ulrich (Janeulrich@hotmail.com), October 15, 2000.
Thank you for expressing your love to me. When you do that, I don't just read it, I feel it. I return the embrace from my heart.
I'm still going to pursue you with just one more message! You wrote, "Certainly I don't" know if I "have a firm purpose of amendment."
You can know quite well enough. Here is a way...
Before entering the confessional, it's good to make an "examination of conscience." Then, knowing what you will confess, you can privately express sentiments similar to these:
"Heavenly Father, I am very sorry for having hurt you and my brothers and sisters since my last confession. I wish I had not committed these sins, and I wish never to commit them again. But I am weak and cannot even begin to keep this resolution without your grace. Without you, I can do nothing. With you, all things are possible. When I can, I will try to keep myself away from situations that would bring upon me new temptations to sin in these ways. Thank you for forgiving me, even though I have committed these same sins many times before. Though I do not wish to commit them again, I know that I may slip and fall. But, it that happens, I will not despair, for you will lift me up again. I will trust you to be merciful to me until the day I die."
God bless you.
John [a big-time "repeat offender!"]
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), October 17, 2000.
Oops! I forgot to conclude by saying that this little private prayer, said before entering the confessional, expresses contrition, a firm purpose of amendment, childlike trust, and a resolution to avoid the "near occasions" of sin.
-- J. F. Gecik (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 17, 2000.
I have committed adultery in the past, after my civil divorce. I don't know whether I will again or not. One thing that I do know is that if I were to meet someone who became very special to me, I wouldn't get married again until we had lived together for a while. It might seem that by doing this I would reject the Church's teachings, but my first experience at marriage was such that I would want to be very sure that I would enter in a marriage that would last. I might never meet that special man, but I have not given up hope. Since I live a celibate now but, if by the grace of God, I should meet that special man, what does it mean for me now?
-- Claire Reni de Cotret (email@example.com), October 18, 2000.
Jane, May I chime in here? I like Johns prayer. That's the way I pray when I need help with something I can't seem to stop doing. I had a problem with FEAR.I'd say that I trust God with my life , so I don't need to worry "He is in control".But then I'd start worrying all over again.So ,finally, I confessed that I just couldn't stop myself, and I asked God to stop worrying for me. I turned my will in this matter over to Him. And believe it or not, I don't worry about anything.Take it one day at a time. He is in control.Thank You Lord! Love, Susan
-- Susan Shepherd-Magistro (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 19, 2000.
Claire, I have some unsolicited advice on the subject of living in a sexual relationship outside the boundries of Marriage.Coming from one who has been there/done that. I would like to have your permission before I butt in here. Love,
-- Susan Shepherd-Magistro (email@example.com), October 20, 2000.
You certainly have my permission to butt in.
-- Claire Reni de Cotret (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 21, 2000.
Thank you for being so patient with me. I apologize for failing to reply to your message of the 18th until now. I wanted to reply on other occasions, but never seemed to have enough free minutes to devote to the thought and writing that are necessary, because your message is a very sensitive one that deserves careful consideration.
I want to repeat your message now, so that it is very nearby for easy reference.
"Dear John: I have committed adultery in the past, after my civil divorce. I don't know whether I will again or not. One thing that I do know is that if I were to meet someone who became very special to me, I wouldn't get married again until we had lived together for a while. It might seem that by doing this I would reject the Church's teachings, but my first experience at marriage was such that I would want to be very sure that I would enter in a marriage that would last. I might never meet that special man, but I have not given up hope. Since I live a celibate now but, if by the grace of God, I should meet that special man, what does it mean for me now? Love, Claire"
My first reaction was one of great compassion, realizing that you have suffered through a trauma (your "first experience at marriage"). And then I immediately had an understanding of why you have pictured premarital cohabitation as what you would do in the future with "someone who became very special to" you. Your thinking about the future is an understandable, "human" thing -- revealing that you would want to protect yourself from pain resembling that of the past, if a certain situation should arise.
I can tell, though, that a sort of "conflict" is tearing at you inside. On the one hand, you want to protect yourself by doing something that you fear "would reject the Church's teachings," while on the other hand, you want to be a good Catholic and you want to avoid hurting God by sin.
You were very brave to admit to adultery. I'm sure that you know that it is not simply against "the Church's teachings," but against the Sixth Commandment, which was given by God's direct revelation to Moses. Is it a serious commandment that must be obeyed (or must be confessed, if broken)? Yes, it is. In the time of Jesus, it was punishable by stoning among the Jews. Jesus showed Christians how serious a sin adultery is when he spoke to the rich young man, telling him that it was something that must be avoided in order to be saved. St. Paul reinforced this when he wrote about unrepentant people: "Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God [1 Cor 6:9-10]."
I think that the very best advice I can give to you is that you should put, as far from your mind as possible, any thoughts about what you may do when faced with certain circumstances. Don't let any imaginings that you may someday do wrong start weighing you down now. "The past is dead, the future not yet born." As Jesus said, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day [Mat 6:34]."
All that matters now is that you and I get into, and stay in, a state of grace, availing ourselves of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion often, so that we will be ready in case we are "called home" on any given day. Claire, I can promise you, without fear of being mistaken, that, if you continue to partake of the Sacraments, continue to stay supported by us here (or by other orthodox Catholics -- e.g., in your parish), and if you daily nourish your soul by spiritual reading (especially the Bible and new Catechism) ... I say, if you do these things, you will not even seriously consider committing adultery if you should happen to fall in love again. You see, true love means "to will the good of the other" (and of oneself). So, if one knows that adultery hurts God, hurts one's own soul, and hurts the soul of the beloved, one who is truly in love will shun adultery.
Ah, but then, someone may ask, how can Claire "be very sure that [she] would enter into a marriage that would last" (to use your words)?
The realistic, honest answer is that it is impossible to be "sure," but there are ways of improving one's chances. There are two parts to this:
-- 1. From things I have read time and time again for the last fifteen years, I know that a person can greatly enhance (not decrease) his/her chance of misery, heartbreak, and eventual divorce by "cohabiting" before marriage! I know that this may seem counter-intuitive to you, but study after sociological study has shown this to be true. I have seen figures ranging from a 45% to a 100% greater chance of divorce for cohabiting couples -- not to mention the fact that 40% of cohabitors break up even before they can be married. I have some good resources (Internet sites with tons of information and advice on this) to share with you, if you'd like to read about it more deeply. Just let me know.
-- 2. For a Catholic like yourself to have for a sense of security about a potential spouse, here are some of the most important "ingredients" (and I'm sure that Jane can add others): let him be an orthodox, pro-life Catholic; let him be chaste, not interested in premarital sex; let him be masculine; let him want to go to Church with you, both for Confession and Mass; let him be a good provider, not a lazy bum; let him not be addicted to anything (be it alcohol, drugs, television, his job, etc.); let him love children, even if you are unable to have any; let him love the poor and not make money a God; let him be romantic and tender. You are worth having someone who meets all these qualifications. Please try not to settle for less. Why? Even with such a seemingly ideal man as I have described, there will be suffering. Obviously, the less ideal the man, the greater the suffering will be and the greater the chance that you will part ways one day. [I know that some will say that I am not being realistic, but I feel that I must be so exacting in choosing a spouse for you, since you have already suffered so much.]
Well, I have gone on too long, I think. Forgive me if I have shocked you!
Perhaps we will talk about this some more. I look forward to hearing from you.
In Christian love,
-- J. F. Gecik (email@example.com), October 21, 2000.
You have not shocked me. In fact you have been very tactful and a good friend. You have given me a lot of food for thought.
-- Claire Reni de Cotret (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 22, 2000.
VEry slowly the axis of power base of the church is being returned to the laity - due to the now available various media we are able to decern much that has been hidden through fear and ignoarance - the curch is attempting to remain in the dastardly medeival mode that no longer applies -
-- email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 30, 2000.
I am a re-married Catholic and find myself outside of the church because of the conditions that the church has set for me to return. Let me first say that I believe that annulment in my situation, as set forth by the church would not have been acceptable, I have two wonderful children from my first marriage, and for the church tote
-- Anthony Silva (email@example.com), November 26, 2002.
Hello, Anthony S.
You spoke of "conditions that the church has set for me to return."
But it is not "the [Catholic] Church" that has "set conditions."
Rather it was Jesus who set them: "What God has joined together, let not man divide" and "[Luke 16:18] Every man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."
Your post got cut off, but I think that you were going to mention your children -- and that you feared that the Church would declare them illegitimate (because you were perhaps not validly married). Don't worry about that. But the Church and the state will consider your children 100% legitimate.
God bless you.
-- J. F. Gecik (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 29, 2002.