Divorce and Remarriage: What are we fighting about?

The responses which were collected in preparation for the coming Synod on the Family have led to more discussion concerning the question of how to respond to the pastoral reality of divorce and remarriage. It is not a small matter. Not only are the numbers of persons affected significant, but the question also seems to be, as the report of the German bishops phrased it, that people see the situation as one in which the Church is failing to show mercy. Many divorced persons see their prior marriage as having failed, rather than never having been a marriage, so seeking a decree of nullity seems to them to be dishonest. We have a clash, not so much over whether marriage ought to be lifelong, but what to do when it fails. We have a clash of interpretations, both stemming from strongly held beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, what is truthful and what is dishonest.

No one on any side really wants to be merciless, as far as I can tell. But the crux of the issue is often presented as “the Church is upholding the meaning of marriage itself as a lifelong, indissoluble union, according to the word and command of Jesus.” The arrangement of Catholic marriage polity, and specifically the practice of recognizing the possibility of a licit remarriage only if a decree of nullity of the prior bond is obtained, seems to be driven by the conviction that in order to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus we must hold that divorce is impossible. This past Sunday’s gospel reading brought the challenging words of Jesus before us again.

When we are evaluating the pros and cons of various proposals, however, it important to realize that it’s not actually as simple as all that.

To get a fuller picture, it is necessary to consider the history of the sacrament of marriage. The contrast between patristic and scholastic understandings with respect to the indissolubility of marriage is noteworthy. It was usefully pinpointed by Joseph Martos in his book on the history of the sacraments as follows:

Following the lead of Augustine, the scholastics argued that this metaphysical bond [of matrimony] was unbreakable since it was a sign of the equally unbreakable union between Christ and the church. It was not, as in the early church, that marriage as a sacred reality should not be dissolved; now it was argued that the marriage bond as a sacred reality could not be dissolved. According to the church fathers the dissolution of marriage was possible but not permissible; according to the schoolmen it was not permissible because it was not possible. Thus the absolute prohibition against divorce arose in the twelfth century both as a canonical regulation supported by a sacramental theory, and as a theological doctrine buttressed by ecclesiastical law. The two came hand in hand.

(Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church, revised edition, Ligouri/Triumph, 2001, p. 377)

Not permissible or not possible? These are two different things. If we regard divorce as impermissible (as we do a host of other deeds) and someone does it anyway, perhaps with irreparable consequences, the possibility remains open to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance and be reconciled. If not possible, then the system of annulments is the way to respond because if it was ever a marriage, it is still binding: the definition determines this outcome.

The sacramental-legal synthesis which we have inherited from the Middle Ages is venerable, but is itself the result of development. Should it be considered simply the self-evident consequence of obedience to the command of Jesus? Or can this synthesis be revisited when pressing pastoral realities demand it–without putting the teaching of Jesus into the shade? Is an increase in annulments the only way forward for those who wish to readmit divorced and remarried Catholics to the sacraments, or are there other ways forward that have their own integrity?

I believe that most Catholics do NOT want marriage to be defined as a contract to be entered into and left at will. The sacramentality and permanence of marriage is important to them, as is fidelity to the teaching of Jesus. If that’s the case, then what are we really disagreeing about? I suspect it’s this synthesis of law and sacramental theology. It’s important that we distinguish, lest the false dichotomy of “mercy” vs. “faithfulness” close off a discussion that is timely and necessary.

 

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139 comments

  1. Excellent comments, Rita. Let me add an insight. The leaders of the church have demonstrated a great reluctance to admit mistakes in judgment. They seem to fear that admission of error in one area will undermine the authority of the magisterium. So, if we admit to pastoral rigidity which has brought great pain to divorced/remarried Catholics, and have been mistaken about insisting on refusing them communion, then maybe it is also not true that “Jesus is Lord” or, worse, that the Pope and Bishops don’t have the authority to tell us what we must believe or do in order to enter the kingdom of God.
    What puzzles me is that for at least the last 45 years or more, countless divorced/remarried Catholics who don’t believe in the annulment process have been reconciled to sacramental life by compassionate priests who heard their confessions and gave them absolution. This is not a new development. What is a new development is that apparently some bishops (and Pope Francis) don’t want to look the other way anymore and are looking for an “official” solution (one approved by “the officials”).
    Here’s some great material on “pastoral solutions” by Fr. Tom Richstatter: http://www.tomrichstatter.org/gmarriage/g66goodc.htm

  2. The sacramental-legal synthesis which we have inherited from the Middle Ages is venerable, but is itself the result of development

    When and where did the Orthodox get their different practice? How do they understand it? I always begin with the assumption that if something arose in the West maybe the West is wrong or has adopted a policy that might have made sense at one time, e.g. celibacy.

    This past Sunday’s gospel reading brought the challenging words of Jesus before us again.

    What impressed me about the gospel was the long list of challenges, about plucking our eyes out, and not taking oaths, etc. – the only thing in that list that church authorities are enforcing are the divorce ideas.

    It is interesting that Cardinal Kaspar, who is now the Pope’s theologian, is going to initiate the discussion of this with the cardinals later this week. Will he articulate the ecumenical aspect of this with the Orthodox?

    1. Jack Rakosky : I always begin with the assumption that if something arose in the West maybe the West is wrong.

      That is a strange starting assumption, even if one were Orthdox. First 1000 years undivided church and all that.

      That said, many Western Catholic discussions would benefit would ensuring the practice and views of the Eastern Catholics & Orthodox are considered from the start, though without assuming their superitory.

      1. @Scott Smith – comment #5:

        Well the New Testament was written in Greek and early Christians used the Greek Old Testament rather than the Hebrew. When I study Scripture I always use the Greek texts since I assume that was the thought world of early Christians which has also continued in the Byzantine tradition.

        Of course I also consult what the Vulgate said since that text and only that text was largely used in the West. The West rarely dealt with the Greek or Hebrew. So I am predisposed that the Latin West might have gotten some very different ideas from the Greek East from using the Latin language and the Vulgate.

      2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #7:

        Thank you for expanding – The point about language is interesting.

        I have actually seen the greek / latin language difference used to reach the opposite conclusion.

        If memory serves, it might have been in Eamon Duffy’s History of the Popes. I believe it was suggested Rome’s early reputation for orthodoxy might have resulted from the relative lack of theological sophistication provided by latin compared to greek, which resulted in fewer theological flights of fancy which could be deemed to be heretical.

        Just goes to show history is complex I suppose!

      3. @Scott Smith – comment #7:
        It’s a nonsense to claim that heresy is more likely to occur in a Greek context, linguistically speaking, than it is in a Latin one. Ironically, one of the reputed reasons for committing the oral gospel into written form was to avoid heretical versions of Jesus’ words and deeds being composed and propagated.

        Secondly, your comment doesn’t address Jack’s point about the differences between the Greek NT and the Vulgate. If the Vulgate mistranslates the Greek at any point, then those relying on the Latin will be beginning from a position of error in the first place.

      4. @Gerard Flynn – comment #56:

        The claim was made by a scholar in church history, and did not start with me. Accordingly I am going to need more than assertion from you before I reject the claim. Why in your view is it nonsense?

        In terms of the Vulgate, I did not dispute Jack on this point, as I think there is some force in that argument (particularly given the reputed poor nature of the pre-Vulgate Latin translations). I just don’t think it is determinative. For example, even if we take St Augustine and his reputation for bad Greek, he still had some Greek and did consider the Greek wording of scripture.

        Further while it not a historical argument, just as I accept Vatican II, I also accept Trent’s endorsement of the Vulgate translation.

        Another perspective which I also think is important corrective is the attitudes of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers.

        Take for example the Quartodeciman Controversy. At Nicaea, the Roman usage was preferred, despite it appearing that both competing traditions were Apostolic as far as anyone could tell (though the Council appears to have done so as gently as possible).

  3. Great post. I have a few questions …

    – what did Jesus intend when he said what he said? Keith Ward has thoughts on that … http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/theres-nowt-so-queer-as-folk-gender-and-sexuality

    – – why is marriage a sacrament? It isn’t for all other denominations (like Lutherans).

    – what investment does the church have in saying marriage cannot be dissolved? The annulment process seems like a way for the church to have its cake and eat it too.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #6:

      Crystal,

      If you are interested, the quick traditional answers to your would be something like:

      1. Jesus intended to say what the tradition of the church has understood him to have said (i.e. no remarriage). As the church determined the canon of scripture, and not the other way around, scripture must be interpreted together with (and not independent of) tradition (Sola scriptura lutherans would of course would not agree with this).

      2. Because the church believes, reading scripture together with tradition (refer above), that Jesus raised marriage (a preexisting institution) to the dignity of a sacrament.

      3. Because the church believes it is a direct teaching of Jesus (refer above), and therefore it can not just ignore it.

      In terms of annulments, I kinda agree with you, it does come off as legalistic work around given my other answers. Someone else will have to defend that.

      1. @Scott Smith – comment #8:
        See John McGucken ( Orthodox priest), on St Gregory Nazianzus- replying to an Eastern emperor’s request for reconciling the eastern and western civil law at the time. Why did the eastern law continue to allow divorce?

        Seems Gregory interpreted Jesus as the *merciful* lawgiver, and so did not want to use the “command” to keep sinners out.

        Gregory didn’t seem to think the “bond” was some rarefied thing which was indissoluble.

        PS to many comments on (western) Catholic developement>
        ONe person’s developement (i.e the certainty that the west gets it right) is another person’s deviation from the Fathers.

        Ya’ know: Could be!

        Mark MIller

    2. @crystal watson – comment #5:
      Crystal, I won’t attempt to say what Jesus intended, but I can contribute a few facts in response to your second question.

      I presume you mean why was marriage defined and remains defined as a sacrament in the Catholic Church. St. Augustine was the first to call marriage a “sacramentum,” which is the Latin translation of Paul’s “mysterion” in the passage which uses the analogy of marriage to describe the relationship of Christ with his Church. The formal definition of and enumeration of the sacraments as seven dates from the medieval period, however. The Sentences of Peter Lombard included marriage among the 7. During the Reformation, Luther rejected all those sacraments which could not be said to be established by the command of Christ himself according to the scriptures. The so-called “Dominical” sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist fit the criteria of being directly commanded by the words of Jesus in Scripture, but the other five did not, therefore they were no longer considered sacraments. (I believe the preferred term was “ordinances”, but someone who knows more about Lutheran theology may correct me.) They kept rites (in some cases revising them) but changed the theology.

      As to your third question, I think it is a mistake to regard this teaching as a cynically calculated attempt to secure some other end. I must say that many people sincerely believe this for religious reasons. It is true that at certain times in history this teaching was exploited economically as rulers would pay dearly to have an unhappy marriage annulled. But I would also add that the prohibition of divorce has, on balance, probably been protective of women, as a curb on men’s use of power in male-dominated societies to cast off wives who have become inconvenient or in order to take on a younger wife. The Church’s investment in lifelong marriage is related to stability in family life & society and protecting the weak.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #9:

      Unfortunately, Sandro Magister seems to have misunderstood the Council of Nicaea’s reference to “second marriages” as relating to where both spouses remain alive, whereas the general scholarship appears to indicate it relates to digamy (i.e. remarriage after the death of a spouse – I did mention this in a previous comment upthread which seems to have disappeared).

      However his discussion of how the church has struggled to deal with various difficult circumstances appears useful.

  4. Thanks, Scott and Rita.

    I do think it was Jesus’ intent to protect women from being abandoned, given the place they had in his society. But given how society has changed, especially for women, the belief that one cannot divorce a spouse, even if he’s a wife-beater, is an example of how the injunction can actually harm women now.

    I suppose I am cynical 😉 It would be easier not to be if the church offered annulments for free or for a small donation, like $50. When I looked into getting one myself, I was aghast at the $1000+ cost.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #12:

      Crystal,

      If the teaching forced women to remain in abusive relationships, I think it would have to change, because as you say that is clearly not Jesus intention.

      That said, my understanding is a woman (or man) in an abusive relationship would not sin in leaving (i.e. separating and/or getting a civil divorce). Indeed, if others such as children were involved, we might say an obligation to leave would arise. The issue only arises if one wishes to marry again.

      In terms of costs, once again, I agree what ever solution we end up with it needs to be cheaper and quicker (free if possible).

    2. @crystal watson – comment #12:
      Crystal
      In dioceses where I served costs were lower and waived for those who didn’t have the funds. The quickest annulment I ever received was in 4 months for a woman who paid $0. ( She worked part time for the church as a cleaning woman and lived in public housing) In most dioceses in addition to fees received the dioceses subsidize the costs of running the tribunal.

      Nonetheless I’d like to see us move to the Orthodox solution or something similar.

      Perhaps we need to see life long marriage as something everyone should strive for, yet console, support, and encourage those who were not able to go the distance.

  5. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” That is what Our Lord said. The German bishops, by contrast, want, in essence, to legitimize divorce.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #13:
      Tom, I’m sorry, but this is simple-minded in the extreme. Try, please, to grasp the complexity of the situation, and to see that simplistic answers are not adequate or helpful. Many people see the granting of annulments, including the easier granting of annulments in the name of mercy, as a form of hypocrisy because there is some dishonesty in claiming that there was no first marriage and that we’re somehow upholding the absolute teaching that re-marriage is not possible by our legal loophole. The current rate of granting annulments (about half in the US), and the comparatively high numbers of annulments compared to 50 years ago, suggests that the Church already has changed a great deal and is doing something we never did or would have done 50 years ago.
      I mention these complicating factors – there are more – to suggest that this is not a black and white issue with a simple solution. One quotation cannot settle this. How we interpret Our Lord’s words is the question – and about that it seems to me that people of good will might differ.
      None of this is to say that you can’t hold your conviction – as can everyone else. But to think your position simply equals the will of God, and to misrepresent the positions of others (eg German bishops) hampers rather than helps the situation. We’re in enough mess already, please don’t make it worse.
      awr

    2. @Tom Piatak – comment #13:
      Hello Tom. In James 2:10 if you break one commandment you break them all. So when you swear, lie or commit any other sin you are guilty of breaking them all including adultery.
      Only through Jesus Christ do we receive forgiveness and it is in that forgiveness and mercy that we are saved and not how successfully we obey each and every law because when we have broken even the smallest one we have broken them all.
      IMHO we can keep both faithfulness and mercy. Of course the church needs to set the bar high for remarriage (divorce is not the problem, it’s remarriage). Remarriage after divorce can be forgiven pastorally through the sacrament of reconciliation without loopholes (ie annulments). If the church can forgive murder in the confessional then it can forgive remarriage after divorce in the same way.

      1. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #18:

        Dale,

        The difficulty is the relavant sin is not the act of “remarriage”, but the continued existance of the new “marriage” (i.e. the sin is ongoing).

        For example, if a second marriage also ended, the Church has no issue with providing forgiveness via the sacrament of reconciliation.

        Now, there might be ways around this, but it needs a different answer to the one provided for murder, lying etc.

      2. @Scott Smith – comment #21:
        Hello Scott, the problem however is that all sin is ongoing, isn’t it? Though Christ commanded “sin no more” how many of us have not sinned anymore? Answer= 0. One can also look at a remarriage another way. The solitary act of remarrying can be considered the cause of the sinful “new marriage” and until that act of remarriage is forgiven then the couple, under our present understanding, can be considered to be living in sin. Annulments in my opinion are a loophole around the rules and make a mockery of things. Rather, forgiving the act and rehabilitating the remarriage and blessing it can make the remarriage “valid”. “All things are possible with God”!
        It’s time to face the problem head on, forgive the act of remarriage, reconcile them and move on assuming they want to remain active in the Church.

      3. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #26:

        Well no, not all sin is ongoing. Asserting something does not make it true.

        Look, this problem can not be solved with a handwave, or it would already have been fixed. A real and mature engagement with the issues is requried.

      4. @Scott Smith – comment #27:
        Two positions can be interpreted as a hand wave, or even as a get-lost:

        1. Be free to marry and end marriage as often as possible.
        2. Marry once and for life and you’re stuck with it.

        Clearly, Orthodox Christians have struggled with this issue and have come up with an orthodox solution without great numbers of canon lawyers devoting time to cases with people they don’t even know.

        The case of John 4 is illustrative.

        And a question: is the Eucharist a reward for good behavior, thus turning the self-styled orthodox rigorists into pelagians? Or does the Eucharist have any value at all as an instrument of God’s grace, healing, and renewal? Are we prepared to trust more in God’s ways of mercy than in human-made structures of law and governance?

      5. @Todd Flowerday – comment #41:
        Hi Todd, could either you, Rita or someone else elaborate on the Orthodox solution?
        It seems that the Orthodox emphasize God’s “mysteries” rather than emphasizing strict legalities which sometimes makes more sense to me.
        Sometimes leaving it up to God to decide especially when there appears to be a conflict between mercy and faithfulness seems to be the correct way to proceed.

        Take for example Jesus’ admonition to the rich lawyer: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom. The disciples exclaimed how then can anybody be saved? To which Jesus replied with humans it is not possible but with God all things are possible. We are all “rich” in some way and continue to live this way even though Jesus stated that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for us to be saved. We continue in our “richness” just as those who have been remarried continue in their marital relationship and know that even though Jesus admonished us it is still possible to enter the kingdom because He said all things are possible with God. It’s a mystery.
        I hope that Francis will come up with a pastoral, forgiving and welcoming solution ( God may allow it because of our stubbornness!).

      6. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #26:

        The problem is that all sin is ongoing isn’t it? […] how many of us have not sinned anymore Answer=0

        But there is the rub — for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be valid, one must confess, have contrition for that sin (at least imperfect contrition), and must intend to not commit the sin again.

        This is where the sin of adultery in remarriage comes in. When a couple lives together as a married couple, the assumption is that they are having normal marital relations, and thus committing the sin of adultery. Thus, if the person confessing has no intention of leaving his/her spouse from the remarriage then there is little reason to believe that there is intention to stop committing the sin. (Of course, there is also the “internal forum” solution, <b.but even that presumes that the couple is living "as brother and sister.")

        In my opinion, annulments, when done with care, provide a useful tool for discerning whether a marriage actually existed, and are thus a form of great mercy. It is the “hand-waving” solution of stating a second marriage is valid when both spouses from a previous marriage live that is an attempt to end-run the rules and make a mockery of things.

      7. @Matthew Morelli – comment #29:
        Sorry Matt, don’t agree at all. You didn’t read my entire comment. If a person repents of sin of remarriage then in a pastoral sense that second marriage can be rehabilitated and the couple can again rejoin the community. No one is handwaving anything here.
        Finally, boiler plate responses without pastoral care to rehabilitate leaves one cold and without the light of Christ. I believe all things are possible with God. We know from scripture that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom. Now, I don’t know anyone here with the exception of religious who have given everything away. So the rest of us continue to be “rich” even though we know it is easier for a camel to pass through… Despite this admonition from Christ we all hope to be saved even though we are all rich in one way or another and continue in that lifestyle. Why do we continue in this way? Because Christ said all things are possible with God.

      8. @Dale R. Rodrigue – comment #39:

        The problems with a second marriage are twofold: 1) the taking on of an illicit union while a prior one exists and 2) the ongoing and repeated sins of adultery that come along with the normal conjugal life that one would expect in such a union.

        While one could repent of the sin of remarriage that does not address the issue of the “situation of public and permanent adultery” (CCC 2384).

        The only way that the second (civil) marriage can be truly “rehabilitated” is by demonstrating that the prior bond of the first either no longer exists (by the death of the other spouse) or never existed to begin with (and this is determined by a tribunal process and not by the confessor nor the couple).

        Even a “pastoral solution” necessitates that the couple 1) cease normal conjugal life and live “as brother and sister” and that 2) their return to Sacramental life be done in such a way as to not create scandal.

        Re: Boiler-plate responses and pastoral care — remember that “pastoral care” must contain both truth and charity. To say that sin is not sin and that anything that one desires can be made possible is neither true nor charitable.

      9. @Matthew Morelli – comment #40:

        You state: “Even a “pastoral solution” necessitates that the couple 1) cease normal conjugal life and live “as brother and sister” and that 2) their return to Sacramental life be done in such a way as to not create scandal.”

        Good Lord, where is the “charity” in that?

        You also state: “To say that sin is not sin and that anything that one desires can be made possible is neither true nor charitable”
        Can you point out where I said sin is not sin? Or “anything that one desires can be made possible”?

        With all due respect you sound young and rigid. Maybe give you a few years to talk to suffering remarried Catholics and maybe you will see it differently. Your blanket statement that anything that one desires…. desires? desires? It’s more than desires, believe me.
        This betrays the fact that you haven’t dealt with these suffering individuals. You know not the suffering these people go through.
        You can do better than that Matt.

  6. To broaden the discussion, no one (that I remember) has yet to raise the so-called “Pauline” and “Petrine” privileges based on 1 Cor 7:10-15 in which “valid” marriages (though from a traditional point of view, “non-sacramental”) are “dissolved” (rather than “annulled”) in favor of the faith. One could raise the issue of how many couples really enter into a “sacramental” marriage even if they were both baptized (the default assumption). If someone has never practiced his/her faith, it may be hard to argue that he/she can enter a “sacramental” marriage.

    It may have been mentioned (but I may have forgotten) that the ancient Byzantine rituals provide for a separate rite for a second marriage (without the “crowning”), which (I think) would be used even if the couple would be “free” to marry from a Roman point of view.

    1. @Dennis Smolarski SJ – comment #17:

      There is clearly space for a partial legal solution to the problem. For example, for reasons which made sense at the time, we assume marriages outside a Catholic Church are valid (when between two unbaptized persons) and invalid (when between baptized persons).

      Now, given the reality that many people do not in fact have the same beliefs about marriage as does the Catholic Church, from a legal stand point introducing a rebuttable presumption against validity may make more sense.

  7. Scott,

    Only recently the CDF’s Muller gave talk on marriage for Vatican Radio, saying that if one was a victim of domestic violence, the church kindly allowed that person to move out of the home, but that they still must remain married …
    “Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence. In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together. It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.”
    http://www.news.va/en/news/archbishop-muller-care-of-remarried-divorcees-must

    1. @crystal watson – comment #19:
      Crystal, and also Martin @ #23, I have been thinking about this as well–protecting women in vulnerable positions. It seems that at a minimum a provision could be made for the situation of violence within marriage.

      Take a look at the both sacraments of vocation side-by-side–and help me by poking holes in my thinking. I can’t reconcile it:

      Am I correct in thinking: A man who is laicized due to committing abuse, after being validly ordained a priest, can even celebrate the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance in emergency situations. He could be married. None of this raises the question “was there a sacramental ordination?”; it was his actions following his valid ordination that caused “dismissal from the clerical state”–but because of the ontological nature of orders he cannot lose certain faculties.

      A woman (or man) is in a marriage which becomes abusive over time. If the tribunal determines the marriage was indeed sacramental, s/he may not get the annulment and must forever live with the psychological, emotional, and spiritual consequences of someone else’s actions. S/he can never marry again in the Church, is denied all the sacraments–because of someone else’s actions.

      What am I missing here? Unless I am mistaken in this logic, to me it seems a tragic and even abusive injustice, even if this case would only be hypothetical: that a former priest who commits abuse in the context of a valid sacrament can be married with a clean ecclesiastical state AND RETAIN the ontological character of orders, but that a formerly married person who was abused may in some cases never be able to move forward.

      I know that the Church doesn’t simply say, “This sacrament confers ontological change and that one doesn’t,” but if our sacramental understandings are founded on the basis of both the words of Jesus and theological development over time, where do we go now with our present ability to see additional aspects of the matter?

  8. Add to the frought nature of the subject the fact that, through a history of anti-jewish attitudes we lost comprehension of the Jewish context in which Jesus’ words are uttered. The Jewish tradition must be factored into our appreciation of tradition otherwise we float free (as so often has happened) from the foundations of our faith. Returning to the sources must include Jewish traditions, which are, I suspect, more at work in the East.

    The Jewish tradition allows only a man to initiate divorce. It is one-sided and in some of the traditions may be initiated for any cause. The compensation is that a woman is then given in the “get”, or letter of divorce, an autonomy to direct her life which equivalent to the autonomy granted a male. It is the lack of checks and balances which irk Jesus. Only the Gospel of Mark renders judgement on a woman who initiates divorce (socially impossible in the Jewish context, on behest of a woman the Beth Din can attempt to convince the man to initiate the divorce, so it remains largely one-sided). If we are being literal only remarried men come under the judgement of the majority of texts.

    In the East the bishop is the mitigating factor. The judgement regarding the marriage is not left to the man only but is balanced by the ministry of mercy of the bishop. The bishop represents the divine authority that can dissolve what ‘a man’ (the reading in Mark) cannot.

    Fundamentally Jesus appears to want to protect women in a most vulnerable position, has the development of Doctrine in the West been true to that guidance?

  9. Fr. Ruff:

    I make no apologies for being “simple-minded in the extreme.” I believe what the New Testament says and what the Church teaches, that a sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved. We already know what will happen if that teaching is changed: the number of divorces will increase, just as the number of divorces increased once divorce laws were “liberalized.” And we now know how harmful divorce is, especially to children. So, if the German bishops get their way, we will have more divorces, more broken homes, and more damaged children.

    There are several other things I find odd about this debate. There is much criticism of the annulment process, but no criticism of civil divorce courts, except for the Church’s unwillingness to defer to their judgment. I thought that the Catholic view was that the Church defined marriage, not the State.

    I also think it odd that lifelong marriage is now being presented as some ethereal ideal, beyond the capacity of most people. In fact, for most of the Christian era, the vast majority of people entered into marriages that lasted until one spouse died. Indeed, within living memory such was still the case for Catholics. There is no reason that we cannot return to this situation, at least for Catholics.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #25:
      “I believe what the New Testament says and what the Church teaches, that a sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved.”

      No, that’s not what the Church teaches.

      It teaches that NO marriage can be dissolved. That is the reason why a divorced Jew or atheist or Presbyterian must also get an annulment in an ecclesiastical court (if they wish to enter into marriage with a Catholic). Those prior marriages were not and are not sacramental. Nevertheless, according to the Church any valid marriage remains binding.

      This goes to the basic point of my post, the theological-legal position that divorce is not just impermissible but impossible.

      This applies also to Scott’s comment @ #20 — It is incorrect to state that marriages between baptized non-Catholics are invalid. A non-Catholic Christian too must obtain an annulment in a Catholic ecclesiastical court if they are divorced and remarried to a Catholic.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #31:

        Rita,

        Thank you for the correction – You are of course correct. I was thinking about legal form etc for Catholics and manged to confuse myself. Apologies.

  10. A sacrament remains so long as its sign remains. Consecrated wine that has been left to turn to vinegar is no longer the Blood since the sign of the sacrament (wine) is no longer there.
    What is the sign of the sacrament of marriage? Can it ‘disappear’?

  11. NCR posted a link to the Japanese bishops’ response to the Vatican survey. It provides a fascinating insight (new to me) of the challenges faces in Japan, and I presume other like countries.

    http://www.cbcj.catholic.jp/jpn/doc/pontifical/synodus/synodus14th/res_eng_sp3.pdf

    From their document…

    “The pastoral practice of the Church must begin from the premise that cohabitation and civil marriage outside the church have become the norm. The Church must be a place where such couples can find a welcome that will enable them to think more deeply about such issues.”

    and it concludes with…

    “Even while keeping in mind the various problems that face family life today, it is important to remember and emphasize the strengths of the traditional Japanese family. Without any need of encouragement, invitation or cajoling, Japanese still take part in funerals or weddings as a normal requirement. Such is the power of tradition that cannot be ignored. The Church must make use of this. The Church often falls short in this, presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness. As Hebrews 13:2 teaches us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The Church must be a refuge for those worn by the journey of life, and ceremonial occasions are places where they can experience that refuge.”

    But the whole document is a fascinating (to me) non-Western view of this and related issues.

    1. @Steve Kusterer – comment #30:
      Steve, thank you for this reference. I learned a lot by reading it.

      Some of this is really mind-blowing. I was struck by this paragraph in particular:

      “7. In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it. Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary.”

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #33:
        Rita – have been reflecting on your initial post. Here are some other thoughts:
        – rather than a pre-VII stance that equates all seven sacraments as on the same level…..
        – let’s use VII images: Jesus is the sacrament of the Trinity; Church is the sacrament of Jesus; eucharist is the first sacrament of the church:
        – if we accept that paradigm, then the eucharist is the structure, theology, and form for all other sacraments. This means:
        – the reason we have this sacrament starts with baptism
        – marriage as a sacrament is a VERB not a NOUN (wonder if this impacts the legal category that some seem to start with)
        – it isn’t just the couple; as a sacrament it is the community also – a sign of unity
        – it is the body of Christ that is in action in this sacrament – thus, as we know from life, the body is not perfect and its mission is one of forgiveness, mercy, outreach, mission (not some perfection requirement)
        – sacrament of reconciliation
        H/T T Richstatter – “And at the heart of each and every eucharistic prayer in the institution narrative we hear Christ’s command to “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.” These are only a few of many references to the forgiveness of sins at eucharist. And indeed, when sin is seen as a rupture in our love relation with God, the way a rupture is restored is by Communion (union+with). This is another implication of the conclusion mentioned previously: the principle petition at every eucharist is for unity.
        Again, sharing that structure/theology – isn’t a marriage a covenant; convenant’s are broken; the response is forgiveness (or in the case of divorce – restoration via communion?)

      2. @Bill deHaas – comment #36:
        Bill, I haven’t had a chance yet to thank you for these thoughts, which expand upon the idea of developing our understanding of the sacrament of Marriage based upon the foundational nature of Eucharist and Baptism.

        One of the things they point to is another disjuncture between the thinking of the Middle Ages and sacramental theology today. The idea of communion is much more prominent today, and we have a much lower position allotted to taking oaths than was the case in ages previous. Popularly we talk about “marriage vows” but in the ritual itself it is called “consent.”

        One has to wonder about what a marriage signifies about communion if the spouses cannot live together without one of them abusing or threatening the other — yet we claim (and put our legal framework behind the presumption) that this marriage, if validly confected, is a sign of the communion between Christ and his Church. I would have to reflect on this further, but this seems rather to emphasize the inviolability of one’s oath or promise once it has been given. As Jim McKay pointed out, especially when a second marriage does show forth the truth of matrimony, we are in the position of insisting that it is adulterous and should be abandoned. That creates a cognitive dissonance that is hard to overcome.

        Without commenting on each of your observations, let me simply say that there are implications for sacramental theology whichever way this situation is resolved.

  12. Unfortunately when it comes to divorce, the children are often the last to be considered. Sometimes parties consider the children’s interest but rarely if ever their views. But the children must make sense of life including the divorce and they do not automatically adopt the views of parents or other significant adults.

    Although religious values and practices are meant to help children sometimes they don’t and therefore the children reject them. One example from research interviews: a Mormon woman did not divorce because a marriage sealed in the Temple is eternal. All the children faulted her for not divorcing and all left the Mormon faith.

    But conservative rigidity is not the only problem, so is liberal flexibility. Many people believe and practice amicable divorce, thinking it is the best way for them and the children. However from the children’s perspective it often leaves the child without an explanation for the divorce. The consequence of this an unwillingness for themselves to enter into marriage. Since their parents were unable to avoid divorce, maybe the same thing will happened to them. On the other hand, if children see obvious reasons for divorce from the hostility of their parents to one another, they sometimes identify the problems, resolve not to be like their parents, and enter into successful marriages.

    Bottom lines:

    1.Every marriage and divorce is unique, and no one knows in advance what the children will make of it. So pastoral treatment of every marriage and divorce should be unique with a great deal of listening to the children.

    2. Increasingly in civil court we are seeing the appearance of a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the child. Perhaps we need a similar person, preferably one with parental experience and much experience with dealing with children, to represent the interests of children in pastoral and ecclesiastical court processes.

  13. Tom Piatak : “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

    Perhaps this needs to be paired with Jesus’ other statements on adultery, eg:

    Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.”

    The Church needs to find a way to express this to the remarried if they are to echo the words of Jesus. If sinners do not condemn you, neither can the church.

    The statement on divorce does not identify the remarriage as adultery. It may be that the first marriage, or the divorce, is the adulterous act. The 2nd marriage may be the true marriage which no one should impede.

    We, as the Church, need to be in the business of supporting people who love one another, not condemning them. It cannot be a simple progression from “this is adultery” to “we condemn you.”

    Just some half-thought ideas that I hope address the questions Rita raised about permission and possibility.

  14. If I may introduce a different angle – reputedly, before civil divorce was legal in Italy, it wasn’t unknown for a man to have both a wife and mistress. Everyone knew of such arrangements and looked the other way. ( I have no idea if the men involved attempted to take communion let alone whether they were denied the sacrament as public sinners.) I would say that such a custom allowed some Church members to pride themselves that marriage was kept as a sacred institution. It allowed the men to have their cake and eat it, too. The people who suffered were the women, whether it was the abandoned wives or the mistresses. Imagine if the tables were turned, and wives publicly took lovers! Ironically, by following the letter of the law (no divorce), the Church has often broken the spirit of the law (that married women should be protected from unfaithful husbands.)

  15. Tough issues… I agree with those who suggest that the church should uphold the pristine, prelapsarian reality of “they are no more twain, but one flesh,” (a deep spiritual mystery which the church rightfully wishes to continue to hallow) -as the only standard. No running away from that, huh? The fact that the Lord regarded divorce as a mere accommodation “because of the hardness of [our] hearts” is another deep spiritual matter that deserves ongoing attention.

    On the other hand, compassion and mercy for the divorced and remarried are also crucial. Why not readmit these to sacramental life along the lines suggested by Fr. Feehily in post #1? -while officially and compassionately declining to recognize second marriages as “valid”, which the church can’t do anyway? A tacit approval of ongoing fornication? Not if pastoral counseling (via confession and catechesis) emphasizes the importance of ceasing normal conjugal life and committing to absolute celibacy in the relationship. With mercy there is always the risk of antinomianism…

    Another issue the church should always have on a front burner is actually the main issue: that human sexuality itself is disordered…and that sacramental marriage doesn’t necessarily provide a corrective to this…

    1. @Mark Emery – comment #44:
      Really – you say: “Another issue the church should always have on a front burner is actually the main issue: that human sexuality itself is disordered”

      Could have sworn that the church has always said that creation was GOOD (that includes human sexuality). Where did you come up with this one? Human sexuality is part of creation – it is behaviors that determine morality.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #48:

        Well, it can be inferred from Mt 19:3-9 (pp Mk 10.2-12), which I alluded to before. In a nutshell: the Lord clarifies the issue for us by reminding us that the prelapsarian state (“they twain shall be one flesh…let not man put asunder”, etc.) is the divinely ordained state of human sexual union. It’s a reality from which humans ineluctably stray or ‘fall away’ in this dispensation: whether by the physical act of fornication, or in the inner world of thought, emotion and appetitive desire, it makes no difference (Mt. 5.27-28).

        A disordered sexuality is one of the consequences of the postlapsarian depravity of the human will, the “hardness of heart” for which, as the Lord indicates, the Law provides a legal loophole which to some extent looses humankind from what it perceives to be the ‘constraints’ imposed by the divine ordinance. This is the accommodation of divorce and remarriage, a legal fiction or rule designed to circumvent the requirements of a higher reality. This accommodation was loosed or opened because disordered human sexuality –just one facet of the multifaceted postlapsarian depravity of the human will -is so urgent, persistent, and clamorous for expression. “But from the beginning it was not so…” That’s what the Lord is talking about.

        Of course, there are other ways to fetch the truth of disordered human sexuality from experience, but this one came to mind since it was at hand from my first post.

      2. @Mark Emery – comment #68:
        Well, let’s just leave it at the fact that your exegesis leaves much to be desired and the theological and moral conclusions remind me of a basic fundamentalism.

        Hate to resort to Wiki but this subject is complex and huge:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_teachings_on_sexual_morality

        Key: “The Catholic Church teaches that human life and human sexuality are inseparable. Because Catholics believe God created human beings in his own image and likeness and that he found everything he created to be “very good,” the Catholic Church teaches that human body and sex must likewise be good. The Church considers the expression of love between husband and wife to be an elevated form of human activity, joining as it does, husband and wife in complete mutual self-giving, and opening their relationship to new life. “The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, ‘noble and worthy.’” (sorry – no legal loophole here??)

        Your catholic anthropology needs some updating. You appear to read Genesis as if it is *literal fact* e.g. postlapsarian (really?)

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #72:

        Bill, no, I’m not a fundamentalist, far from it; and it’s unfortunate that you’ve introduced this ad hominem into what might be a substantive discussion. I use the terms pre/post-lapsarian because they are useful theological conventions, not because I think they have historical -or indeed any temporal -significance. The same goes for my use of “dispensation”.

        I don’t doubt that my exegesis leaves much to be desired. It’s simply my attempt to come to terms unflinchingly with what I understand to be some of the deep spiritual truths of Scripture. It would have been interesting to have read a well-considered exegesis from another point of view rather than to follow a link to Wikipedia, but…

  16. Part of the problem with translating the Eastern approach to matrimony is the difference in sacramental theology: in the West, the co-ministers of Matrimony are the couple (hence the need to explore subjective factors on their part in considering validity – the Western church otherwise strains to avoid too much subjective consideration, as an inheritance from the reaction to Donatism) while in the East, the minister is the cleric – so the church has some powers of economy in making determinations about validity.

  17. Concerning Orthodox views on divorce and marriage I found this. Apparently when Pope Francis mentioned the Orthodox solution he possibly had this in mind?
    ORTHODOX VIEW:
    The Orthodox Church permits its faithful to divorce because it maintains that marriages can and do die. In these cases, the Orthodox Church acknowledges this tragic reality and argues that the worst of two evils is that the couple remain in a destructive relationship that can have a deleterious effect on all family members’ religious, spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
    Also:
    From an Orthodox perspective, divorce and remarriage belong to human weakness and failure. The Orthodox Church allows remarriage out of mercy and for the salvation of its faithful whose first marriage has died. Alexander Schmemann – a prominent Orthodox theologian – speaks of the “condescending” of the Church “to the unfathomable tragedies of human existence” when speaking about remarriage and divorce.
    Interesting and quite pastoral too!

    ***From the mouth of Francis himself:

    “The Orthodox have a different practice,” he told reporters July 28 during his flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro. The Orthodox “follow the theology of ‘oikonomia’ (economy or stewardship), as they call it, and give a second possibility; “” they permit” a second marriage”.

    Wow.

  18. As if Francis had nothing else to do this week

    Nineteen prison inmates from Pisa and Pianosa, Italy, were received by Pope Francis on Wednesday morning, 19 February, in the Casa Santa Marta before the General Audience.

    The Pope prayed with them and for them, and he blessed them before the image of the Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, which is particularly dear to him, explaining to them the root of his devotion. Then, one by one, he greeted them and listened to their stories

    http://www.news.va/en/news/the-pope-welcomes-prison-inmates

  19. crystal watson : This is can work out in bizarre ways in real life … http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5107086.stm It’s not surprising that only a small fraction of divorced Catholics ever even applies for an annulment (15%).

    Some blame the annulment process, which is, admittedly, longer and more complex than it needs to be.

    But given that 15% is not all that far off the actual Mass attendance rate (which is surely inflated a little by the surveys out there), I think what we’re really seeing is, mainly, unchurched Catholics acting like unchurched Catholics.

    It would be interesting to see how many weekly or more Mass attendees don’t bother with the annulment. Which prescinds from how many might feel alienated by the Church’s teaching on this; the truth is, too many parishes and dioceses simply don’t have a lot of ministries for the divorced.

  20. Karl Liam Saur : Part of the problem with translating the Eastern approach to matrimony is the difference in sacramental theology: in the West, the co-ministers of Matrimony are the couple (hence the need to explore subjective factors on their part in considering validity – the Western church otherwise strains to avoid too much subjective consideration, as an inheritance from the reaction to Donatism) while in the East, the minister is the cleric – so the church has some powers of economy in making determinations about validity.

    While it’s less clear how much of a role Donatism played in the Latin Church’s doctrine on this, what you say is on point here.

    It’s important to note that the Eastern Orthodox have no process of annulment. Different principles are at work there. It’s also true, however, that subsequent marriages are considered penitential in nature (several of the joyful ceremonies are replaced with penitential prayers, etc.), and that might not make such a model very attractive to many western couples. The catch-phrase is that the Church “blesses the first marriage, performs the second, tolerates the third, and forbids the fourth.”

  21. Matthew Morelli is mistaken that a pastoral solution requires the couple to live as brother and sister. Rather it is another way to acknowledge that the prior union was so seriously flawed that it was unable to reflect the mystery of Christ’s love for the church. The priest is able to affirm this conclusion because he has listened with compassion to the story of the individual and has observed that the person’s practice of the faith is a fruitful one. I believe that Jesus was stating an ideal for disciples seeking to live in the kingdom of God. It is a plain fact that not every marriage is joined by God. That joining cannot simply be effected by saying the right words. There are willful unions entered into for selfish reasons. There are couples who marry because they have become addicted to the carnal aspect of their union. Some couples are even addicted to each other and are not free to give themselves to each other. There are lots of reason for church officials to imitate their master by not condemning and by keeping the image of Samaritan woman uppermost in their minds.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #55:

      People believe all sorts of ideals that lead them into thinking that is not in line with the mind of the Church.

      You are correct to say that “joining cannot simply be effected by saying the right words”, but the priest utterly lacks the authority to make such a judgment. That is exactly what the annulment process is for — to make the judgment whether the marriage existed or not.

      You are incorrect to suggest (at least I assume you suggest it because you say I am “wrong”) that somehow a subjective judgment of a “fruitful practice” of the faith allows a priest to say that flagrantly continuing the sin of adultery is somehow not a sin. Nor can I understand how that subjective judgment can be “compassionate” as it depends on assisting the faithful in improperly forming their consciences.

      1. @Matthew Morelli – comment #56:
        The idea that divorced people are still married somehow is just silly. I suppose you could call beefeaters murderers–it depends on one’s worldview.

        If the Church were to get sensible about its approach to divorce, matters such as the finality of a marriage would be taken care of long in advance of a second marriage. The healing would take place, and family situations would not be hidden.

        Many Catholics, especially the self-styled orthodox, complain that people are insufficiently prepared for marriage. It could be that many divorced persons are unprepared for life post-marriage. There should be healing and a sense of finality for all divorced Catholics. Not just the ones still attached enough to us to want a second church wedding.

        The Church would be far better off training fewer canon lawyers and more pastoral listeners. And I mean people who will give neither a hand wave nor a middle finger to people in breaking or broken marriages.

        And obviously, we need to be compassionate to the hundreds of American canon lawyers who might, in a few years, find their ministries adjusting and redirected elsewhere.

      2. @Todd Flowerday – comment #58:

        If the Church were to get sensible about its approach to divorce, matters such as the finality of a marriage would be taken care of long in advance of a second marriage. The healing would take place, and family situations would not be hidden.

        But this is exactly the problem: your so-called “sensible” approach to divorce depends on a presupposition that valid marriages can end! That is not what the Church believes… it isn’t the Faith that we have received. It isn’t the description of marriage that we have received through Vatican II and to the present day.

        From Gaudium et Spes 48: The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. […] As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.

        Irrevocable consent. Total fidelity. Unbreakable oneness. Sounds a lot like “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mark 10:9). Hardly something that one can dismiss as being “silly”.

        Now, I understand that in practice, some Catholics DO separate and DO civilly divorce — the outward aspects of marriage end to the point where the couple no longer consider themselves married. I also understand that our pastoral practice to the divorced ranges from generally lousy to downright bad. That healing does need to take place, especially for a spouse who was at no fault for the divorce that happened. However, if we are going to put in the effort to have a robust and fruitful ministry to the divorced, it needs to be rooted in truth — nobody is served or healed by perpetuating further injuries on the injured by lying to them about what the Church teaches.

      3. @Matthew Morelli – comment #59:
        “But this is exactly the problem: your so-called “sensible” approach to divorce depends on a presupposition that valid marriages can end! That is not what the Church believes… it isn’t the Faith that we have received. It isn’t the description of marriage that we have received through Vatican II and to the present day.”

        Matthew, you have completely missed the point of the post. Did you even read the post?

        Your sweeping claim that this is the only way the church has ever viewed the question (“the Faith we have received” is that which comes from the Apostles) is simply not supported by the facts.

        You seem unable to even consider that the description of marriage which you “have received” underwent development, or that the early Church and the Patristic church did not see it the way you are describing it. The sacrament of matrimony underwent more changes, in certain ways, than any of the other sacraments, and it’s just fundamentalism to deny it.

        I am not dumping on the medieval period or on the edifice that has followed from acceptance of what the schoolmen taught. As I said, the synthesis reached in the twelfth century is venerable. The question is, can it be revisited today in light of pressing pastoral needs. This is, by the way, the very question that the Synod on the Family (one of the questions) is going to face.

        From your comment, however, it seems you not only think one way, but have reified and deified this into eternal “fact” which cannot be questioned! The logic of your position is that almost everyone who lived before the twelfth century was deluded or a heretic.

        I suggest that your comment displays an idolatrous way of thinking. Argue for your position, by all means, but if you make the very point of contention the axiom with which you begin, you have not made an argument at all.

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #60:

        The question is, can it be revisited today in light of pressing pastoral needs. This is, by the way, the very question that the Synod on the Family (one of the questions) is going to face.

        Can it be revisited? Certainly. Can we go back? I say no.

        The sacrament of matrimony underwent more changes, in certain ways, than any of the other sacraments, and it’s just fundamentalism to deny it.

        I don’t deny the changes… if anything, it is the changes that give further clarity to the place where we are now (and the relative lack of clarity in the time of the Fathers).

        Your sweeping claim that this is the only way the church has ever viewed the question […] The logic of your position is that almost everyone who lived before the twelfth century was deluded or a heretic.

        I made no such “sweeping claim” that the Church always saw it that way; only that the truth of it was always there. When theology develops, we move from lesser clarity (and more questions that are up for open debate) to fewer. We saw this with other areas of theology as well. For example, positions that were up for discussion on Trinitarian theology in the second century were no longer debatable by the sixth — they had been settled, and what was defined as true was just as true in the second century as the sixth. We can’t judge the theologian in the second century for dogmatic definitions that had not been made yet; likewise, I can’t judge anyone before the twelfth century for theological developments that happened during the time of the Scholastics.

        But this also means that we cannot simply take the position of a few of the Fathers as our own — because theology has developed and been defined authoritatively since then. We could suggest that disciplinary aspects of marriage could change, such as the form of marriage(it has and could again), but now that we as a Church have pinned down the nature of the marriage bond (a covenant, established between a man and a woman, for life, ordered to the good of spouses and the procreation/education of children, indissoluble, and that all this is based on the natural law — see CCC 1601, 1614) we aren’t going to backtrack.

        To get to the point:
        What should we be debating?: How to deal with the fact of civil divorce; ministry to those who have been divorced (a good point brought up by Todd); how to minister to those who have been divorced and remarried and now want to participate in the Sacramental life; the effectiveness of the current process of tribunals and annulments.
        What should we not be debating?: The nature, purpose, or properties of marriage, which the Church has defined over the course of centuries.

      5. @Matthew Morelli – comment #63:
        Matthew,

        You have presented a nineteenth century view of Church history and the development of doctrine, i.e., the Catholic Church is always on a triumphant march toward greater clarity of the truth we knew all along.

        Alas, your comments fall perfectly into the first stage of the Catholic Church getting to the point of historical consciousness. This stage was to accept the fact of change, but only on the condition that every development represents progress and the competent authorities are never wrong. That was the nineteenth century view which bled over into the early twentieth.

        Nobody believes this anymore. Nobody. Or at least nobody who has grappled with the real dimensions of the problem (there are always some people who will deny the existence of problems which it vexes them to face). I’m sorry to inform you that we are in a new stage of intellectual history in the Catholic Church with respect to historical consciousness. Those who engage in the real study of history, rather than the science of apologetics, recognize that history is not unidirectional. It contains false starts, wrong turn, ups and downs. We have to take it as it is.

        Actually, I am not sorry to inform you of this, because I think you will be better off if you recognize and come to terms with this shift. This does not mean, as you will probably assume, that we are without an anchor. The role of the magisterium is as important as ever, but it does not rest on the false historical narrative that you are proposing here.

        You are still not arguing the question, you see, but rather screening out the question. The matter has been defined forever, according to your schema, so you are refusing to discuss it. I don’t think we will get any further with this, so I would ask you to drop it. You’ve already made the same points several times.

      6. @Rita Ferrone – comment #82:

        You are still not arguing the question, you see, but rather screening out the question. The matter has been defined forever, according to your schema, so you are refusing to discuss it. I don’t think we will get any further with this, so I would ask you to drop it. You’ve already made the same points several times.

        Having read (and re-read) both the post and the thread, I *thought* I was arguing something relevant to the question. Clearly I’ve missed the point — but since you posted the thread, you have to be the one to clarify and bring us (me?) back, and not the other way around.

        And so I ask you… What is it exactly that we are trying to discuss?

      7. @Matthew Morelli – comment #89:
        OK, Matthew. Fair enough.

        It’s late though, and I have blogged enough for one day. Got to get some sleep. I will answer this question tomorrow. Stay tuned!

        Scott @ #93, ditto. All real questions cheerfully accepted. Tomorrow. Thanks for your patience! 🙂

      8. @Rita Ferrone – comment #1:

        Rita,

        Thank you. Obviously I’m not coming at this from the same place as many here theologically-speaking. Sometimes it means we aren’t going to agree on what is possible, and sometimes it means we are just plain speaking past one another — I think that’s what’s happening here.

        At the end of the day, even when we disagree and we speak words that are difficult and let our passion get the best of us (and I certainly include myself in this), I do believe we are all working from the position of basic good-will and trying to seek what is best for the Church.

      9. @Matthew Morelli – comment #100:
        Good morning, everybody!

        Matthew, that was a really fair and decent note to end on last night. I agree and I thank you for it.

        Now, to your question.

        The issue that is on the table here is whether or not the crux of the disagreement is about the legal-sacramental synthesis of the twelfth century. If it is, (A) what do we think about the merits of that synthesis? (B) Might there be alternatives that meet the “fidelity to Jesus” test as well or better, and which respond to the challenges of people who find the current way of thinking about divorce and remarriage “lacking” in various ways, and if so what are they?

        You (and some others on the thread) have been saying in various ways that the this synthesis is true because it is magisterial teaching. That’s an argument from authority, and arguments from authority are generally the weakest argument. Today, people need reasons. Persuasion is more important than laying down the law. You can see that the Church has laid down the law, and it hasn’t worked. People do not accept laws they don’t believe to be just, unless they are forced to do so. Currently the Church has no way to compel people to do what it says, as it did when temporal power was given to it in Christendom, and rulers upheld its commands with the force of civil law. Therefore the Church today must, to some degree, rely on persuasion. Furthermore, if we cannot persuade our own people that what the Church wants us to do is right and consistent with its fundamental principles, it seems to me we are courting disaster.

        The premise that this is magisterial teaching is already granted. We all know that. The secondary claim seems to be that if it is magisterial teaching there should be no further question except how do we adapt to it. But there is further question, and not just by people who reject the Church and its authority. Those are the parameters of this discussion. (more in a second box)

      10. @Rita Ferrone – comment #82:

        Rita,

        Real question – Where and when did the magisterium accept this new theory of the development of doctrine? How does it relate to the creeping infallibility the magisterium has been accused of in recent history?

        Or is it just a view which you happen to agree with, which we are free to accept or dismiss on its merits?

      11. @Scott Smith – comment #93:
        Scott,

        What I was talking about is the sea change in how we look at historical processes generally, not a specific magisterial statement defining the development of doctrine–although it does have an impact on the development of doctrine. Arguably the biggest shift in intellectual architecture that happened at Vatican II was the shift by which the Church, finally, after much resistance, officially began to come to terms with historical consciousness.

        The evidence of this is in ressourcement. The Vatican II documents frequently draw their inspiration from earlier historical epochs rather than tracing in mathematical precision, the progress from one stage to the next of a triumphant march from less to more clarity. This fact substantiates the claim that the Church was integrating historical consciousness into its official pronouncements. But there are other indications as well. The acceptance of modern critical scholarship in the study of the Bible, under Pius XII, is part of coming to terms with historical consciousness as well. “Ad fontes!” “Return to the sources!” is another indication of this shift. The Liturgical Movement, the Ecumenical Movement, the possibility of looking to the era of “undivided Christianity” or of reevaluating the arguments of the Reformation in a new context, is part of the same thing. This was going on throughout the twentieth century in Catholic theology.

        In every one of these cases, the magisterium had spoken already. But knowledge of history made possible fresh answers to old questions.

        That said, of course you’re free to disagree with me — if you don’t mind being wrong! 🙂

      12. @Rita Ferrone – comment #8:

        Rita,

        Thank you for your expanded comments – Most helpful.

        Our most fundamental disagreement would be I think on the argument from authority, which rests ultimately perhaps on different theories of the nature of the Church.

        In any case, putting aside the theoretical objections which I grant you are likely already across and which are too large to properly address here in any case, from a practical perspective abandoning authority will lead to a failure of evangelisation and a fragmentation of the Church IMO (such as it has with our separated brethren).

        In my experience, it is impossible to reargue from first principles for every belief, without ending up with a level of diversity as we find with our separated brethren. Every person becomes their own Pope, and thus their own Church.

        Indeed this is why a number of serious and thoughtful protestants, whom I personally respect, have not been able to find their way to the Catholic Church. There is always at least one teaching which they can not, from first principles, personally accept.

        Better to preach the gospel, then the Church, and the rest follows.

        (More to follow in a second comment).

      13. @Scott Smith – comment #19:

        Rita,

        In terms of “historical consciousness”, from your expanded comments, I think you are coming at the problem from the wrong frame / perspective.

        It would be better placed on the context of reformable and irreformable teachings. In this context the classic John Henry Newman Development of Doctrine idea holds up perfectly fine with respect to modern historical scholarship.

        Irreformable teachings develop onwards through time in a “whig history” manner, and reformable teachings can, well, be reformed.

        The question the becomes is the teaching on marriage reformable or not? I do not have an immediate answer to that, beyond that the burden of proof would be on the one arguing it is reformable. Perhaps an idea for a future thread?

        P.S – No need to respond further on this thread, as it has gone on long enough.

        Thank you again though for your efforts in responding to my question – It has been most interesting and enjoyable.

      14. @Scott Smith – comment #20:
        And yet, aren’t we talking about pastoral practice, rather than theology? Nobody I know among the bishops and clergy suggest we accept divorce as part of a free-for-all. We’re talking about allowing remarried Catholics the grace of the Eucharist.

      15. @Todd Flowerday – comment #21:

        Todd,

        I think we having been talking about both here, and as I understand Rita, she is very much talking about the potential to change underlying teaching.

        Further, as I mentioned to you up thread, under the current teaching I don’t think access to the Eucharist will necessarily provide grace to the remarried.

        However, I agree the bishops and the Pope are talking about pastoral practice, rather than theology. I also agree that is a good thing, and an example we should follow, as it seems to me likely to be a more productive path.

      16. @Scott Smith – comment #22:

        Having just read Cardinal Kasper reported comments, just let me backtrack a little.

        While at second hand it is a little difficult to follow the Cardinal’s logic, his end result appears to me it might work. That is, there is an inconsistence and unfairness in how we treat the remarried, compared to say a man with a secret mistress (though both are engaged in ongoing adultery – The only difference is one has a paper trail).

        So lets treat them both the same – Let the individual person decide if they should receive communion, and if they do so to their own judgement despite the warnings of the Church, so be it.

      17. @Scott Smith – comment #22:
        Well, I’ve been talking about the Eucharist as nourishment and healing. And the truth is that neither you nor I are the final arbiters of grace for our sisters and brothers. That will happen by God’s initiative.

        I’ve also cited the Orthodox solution, which I notice many self-styled orthodox Catholics avoid discussing.

        And to Tom’s point, perhaps we should ask why divorce and remarriage is so different from murder. A murderer, after all, cannot resuscitate the dead. The deed is done and it is a permanent reality. I don wonder if there’s not a strain of inappropriate vengeance in play, the desire to punish others. In spiritual things, that is the purview of the Judge. That power has not been given to Peter.

        And clearly, laws and punishments against murderers does not cease the practice, does it? Church law is not intended to be a perfect solution for any sin. After a sin has been committed, the main thing we are called to exercise is mercy. Imitating the Lord is the best thing we can do.

        To foresee if all hell breaks loose on the moral front as a result of mercy, who can guarantee that? And why do those afraid of that have so little faith, hope, and love?

      18. @Todd Flowerday – comment #26:
        Todd 1+++ Exactly what I’ve been saying but you said it better. I think that Francis will give lots of consideration to the Orthodox solution. If he does there will be lots of howling but drowned out by tremendous joy from reconciled Catholics! There is more joy in Heaven over one lost sinner repenting than 99 righteous ones.
        Furthermore, the law of Moses demanded that the adulteress be killed. Jesus said no, you are forgiven and gave her back her life despite what the law demanded. I think the Orthodox solution will do the same to remarried Catholics.

      19. @Rita Ferrone – comment #60:
        Long but excellent overview of the thology of marriage by Lisa Cahill Sowell, Boston College:

        http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pdf/64/64.1/64.1.5.pdf

        Two highlights given threads:
        – Edward Schillebeeckx has stated the matter, “the reciprocal
        yes of an interpersonal relationship is not a single event that takes place at
        a privileged moment,” but “continues to evolve throughout the life of the
        couple.” Kevin Kelly shares this conclusion and specifically links it to a
        “personalist” interpretation of “the committed life-giving love of a couple
        for each other.” “When they marry, a couple do not suddenly find themselves tied by an indissoluble bond which has an existence independent of them. The indissolubility of their marriage is a task to be undertaken.” If a marriage completely breaks down, there is nothing left to which the term “indissolubility” can be applied, since marriage is an interpersonal reality and cannot exist as an ontological or theological abstraction.
        Michael Lawler, director of the Center of Marriage and Family at
        Creighton University, has proposed that Catholic marriage theory is on the
        road from a premodern view of marriage as a “physical-act-focused procreative institution,” through Pius XI’s transitional “procreative-union
        model” (Casti connubii, 1930), and on to an ultimate “model of interpersonal union.”

        – annulments from Joseph Martos:
        Catholic Divorce, Annulments, and Deception,” in Catholic Divorce: The Deception of Annulments, ed. Pierre Hegy and Joseph Martos, (New
        York: Continuum, 2000). Hegy claims that annulments have increased over a hundredfold since 1968, from 368 to about 40,000, and says that about 80 to 90 percent of petitions are granted

        – R. Gaillardetz, pages102 and 103 – interesting perspective

      20. @Matthew Morelli – comment #58:
        Of course valid marriages can end. One spouse can die and the widowed partner remarries.

        I’m not suggesting that valid marriages between living spouses are not binding. My question is this: why is the Eucharist withheld from sinners who may well need it?

      21. @Scott Smith – comment #77:
        And yet, this has not been the constant practice of Roman Catholicism. I believe it might have been St Benedict who counseled that in some instances where it might be seemly for a brother to separate from the community, it might well be that the sinner needs the comfort of the sacraments instead of exile from them.

        Who is better placed to judge this? A sensitive pastor or spiritual director? Or a canon lawyer in a far off office? I’m not convinced that the Eucharist is honored by offering it as a reward for good behavior.

        Regardless of the outcome of the cardinals’ get-together in Rome, I feel heartened that we will be getting more listeners, more merciful priests and bishops. This pastoral challenge will work itself out more and more where it needs to be worked. Not as a side battle in the culturewar.

      22. @Todd Flowerday – comment #86:

        The matter of who judges factual matters is an open one, and moving for examples decisions on annulments down to local pastors might be an improvement. Indeed, discussions of such practical matters are likely to be more fruitful, than trying to overturn established teachings.

        However, I still think you are mischaracterizing why the Church (ideally at least) withholds the Eucharist. It is not trying to punish bad behaviour, it is just trying the provide the right medicine, so it does not make matters worse. Just as cancer treatments are beneficial for those with cancer, but very bad for those without.

      23. @Scott Smith – comment #92:
        Scott, I know why the Church withholds the Eucharist. I have a theology degree, and I worked with people seeking annulments as an advocate for a few years. Many divorced and remarried Catholics do not have that understanding. They see Rome, their bishop, his chancery, and canon lawyers with the appearance to some, of a “scam.” Is that a healthy state of affairs? I also know the Orthodox practice, and the Roman view of their sacraments of Eucharist and Marriage are wholly acceptable. Maybe we should just tell our remarried sisters and brothers to jump ship for the Bosphorus and be done with them. The elder siblings can rejoin the party and be troubled no more by the prodigals in full communion elsewhere.

      24. @Todd Flowerday – comment #100:
        Todd+1
        Todd, there’s a lot of “legalistic” stuff that has been posted. Some have suggested that remarried Catholics stop having relations and remain celibate as brother or sister, a very legalistic approach. However, maybe remarried Catholics can take another legal pathway. They can shoot and kill their spouse, go to confession then be welcomed back into the church and receive communion almost immediately! All perfectly legal in the eyes of some canon lawyers. The system is surely screwed up.

      25. @Dale Rodrigue – comment #4:

        Actually, your hypothetical situation would introduce the impediment of crimen to the possibility of marriage for the now-freed-from-previous-marriage-bond spouse. Such an impediment prevents him/her from contracting a valid marriage (with the person for whose benefit the murder was committed) without a dispensation from the Holy See.

        In turn, without the dispensation, this situation would lead the couple to be in a perpetual state of fornication should they choose to remain together and the guilty spouse not be caught, even if the guilty spouse were to confess the grave sin of intentional murder. (Not that any of this could be taken lightly from a moral or common-sense perspective.)

        In short, if you must mock canon law… at least know it well enough to mock it correctly.

      26. @Matthew Morelli – comment #98:
        Matt stated:
        “In short, if you must mock canon law… at least know it well enough to mock it correctly.”
        Thanks for the snarky canon law comment, not. It’s exactly what I would have expected to come from you.

        BTW, you didn’t even read my post correctly for heavens sake Matt. Go back and read it again. I could make a snarky comment about it but I won’t.

      27. @Dale R. Rodrigue – comment #17:

        I think we would both do better to drop the whole matter — neither my cut at your comment, nor your comment cutting at canon lawyers are helpful or beneficial to anyone.

      28. @Matthew Morelli – comment #58:

        When I read almost-cdl. Muller’s paper on marriage, I wondered about something you have now brought. If we accept that marriages are unbreakable, how do we identify them? Can’t some 2nd relationships be the unbreakable one? If God has joined together a couple, isn’t it sacrilege for us to say “because this came second, it is not God acting”? (Not even touching those who label these relationships as sinful!)

        If we are real guardians of the bonds God has created, how can we pull apart the couple in the lasting, vital relationship?

      29. @Jim McKay – comment #69:

        If we accept that marriages are unbreakable, how do we identify them? Can’t some 2nd relationships be the unbreakable one? If God has joined together a couple, isn’t it sacrilege for us to say “because this came second, it is not God acting”? (Not even touching those who label these relationships as sinful!)

        This is what the annulment process does in instances where there have been multiple previous marriages involving one of the spouses.

        The first marriage is the one that is the putative marriage — the tribunal examines it to determine whether it was valid or not. As long as the first marriage is presumed valid, the second is presumed invalid (as the spouse involved in the first marriage was not free to marry in the second marriage).

        IF the first marriage is declared invalid, THEN the second marriage could be valid (the party who may not have been free to marry due to the first bond ACTUALLY WAS free to marry).

        It is important to understand that it is not subjective factors that determine whether or not the second (or third, etc.) marriage is actually the valid one (e.g. “but the first one didn’t feel like it was a real marriage”), but rather it is objective factors that allow this determination to be made.

        As far as sacrilege… perhaps we could say it would be sacrilege for anyone to categorically deny the possibility of ANY second marriage or the possibility of a valid second marriage after a first putative marriage was declared invalid. However, most of those defending a more conservative viewpoint on this issue are not claiming either of these — instead, they are saying that before we PRESUME that a second marriage is valid (or could be validated), we should PROVE that the first one was invalid.

      30. @Matthew Morelli – comment #71:

        I think you lay out the problem quite clearly. Is marriage an example of God’s creativity? Or is it something we can judge “objectively” based on our presumptions about similar situations? I know which I would choose, based on a life of overturned assumptions that have led me closer to God. Others seem to have had a different experience.

        Every person’s vision is limited. It troubles me to think that someone thinks they can pass judgment “objectively” in a way that isolates someone from Communion with God. People quote “let not man put asunder” but not “it is not good for man to be alone.” How can it be good to impose solitude on individuals? This is not freely accepted celibacy, or the embrace of religious life, but an unwanted isolation based on a tribunal’s judgment. This just does not seem like God’s choice to me, but a human distortion.

        But as I said, I have been wrong about other assumptions in my life. I could be wrong here.

  22. I am sorry if this comes across as insufficiently merciful. Mercy must be in the context of what is possible.

    A fundamental issue with doing away with the church’s teaching regarding the indissolubility of marriage and replacing it with something more transitory is the contract-making – the sacred vows that the spouses take before God and the gathered community.

    The German bishops and a number of folks here have tried to frame a marriage that has ended in divorce as a “marriage that failed”. Without disagreeing that surely this is so in a sense, nevertheless the covenant itself doesn’t contemplate failure as an option. The contract doesn’t release the parties if one fails to meet her/his contractual obligations during the life of the agreement, and its only termination clause is the death of one of the parties.

    In such a situation, the only other “out” is to demonstrate to the competent authority that there was something about the entering into the agreement itself that was defective.

    What we may have is a tremendous pastoral problem, and one not unique to the sacrament of marriage: whether some people really mean what they say when they stand at the head of the aisle and make those promises to one another that are to last “all the days of my life.” They come into marriage having, buried somewhere in the back of their minds, a conviction that marriage is something that can be entered into and exited from at will.

    Surely our sacramental and liturgical life is premised on words having meaning? That we mean what we say?

    Many thanks to Bill deHaas at #2 above for the link to the HuffPost article on Francis’ speech to the Roman Rota. It makes it pretty clear that what we might realistically expect is a more merciful regime of annulments. In other words, the rest of the world may be brought into line with what currently happens in the US. And perhaps annulments can be much quicker and far cheaper.

  23. #3. “What puzzles me is that for at least the last 45 years or more, countless divorced/remarried Catholics who don’t believe in the annulment process have been reconciled to sacramental life by compassionate priests who heard their confessions and gave them absolution.”

    This really makes me angry.

  24. Jim Pauwels is correct.

    A related point is this: changing or watering down what the Church teaches will legitimize divorce and increase the number of divorces, just as the “liberalizing” of divorce laws legitimized divorce and greatly increased the number of divorces. Indeed, it was those liberalized laws that created the current problem.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #63:
      Perhaps. It might also mean a swelling in the ranks of the active faithful.

      It might also be suggested that withholding the Eucharist as punishment is an infantile approach to the sacraments.

      For many elderly siblings, the problem is not the second marriage, but the inclusion of the wayward into the celebration of the family.

    2. @Tom Piatak – comment #64:
      Tom you state: “liberalizing” of divorce laws legitimized divorce and greatly increased the number of divorces”

      So… the availability of confession and frequent absolutions greatly increases sinfulness because confession is easily available?
      With due respect I don’t agree.

  25. Todd Flowerday : @Matthew Morelli – comment #58: Of course valid marriages can end. One spouse can die and the widowed partner remarries. I’m not suggesting that valid marriages between living spouses are not binding. My question is this: why is the Eucharist withheld from sinners who may well need it?

    My guess is that those who decide these things have a view of marriage that is too focussed on sex. Those in second marriages presumably continue to make love, so they are in a continuous state of mortal sin. So not good enough for the eucharist, I’m afraid.
    However those of us who are married know that the physical side is only one element in an incredibly rich and humanising relationship. The shame is that the (somewhat prurient) emphasis on the sexual habits of the remarried has somehow come to eradicate every other aspect of their lives.

    1. @Alan Johnson – comment #67:
      Mortal sin has to satisfy certain conditions. I’m not convinced that sexual acts in second marriages satisfy these. A remarried Catholic may well have an experience of a first marriage as an unbearable trial: addiction, unfaithfulness, or cruelty on the part of the ex-spouse. If such a person were to find a certain grace and peace in a second marriage, I’m not sure sexual acts would be mortally sinful if the person believed they were the injured party in the first marriage.

      Now, that’s not how canon lawyers would see it, of course. But canon law is not the final arbiter of sinfulness.

  26. God himself said nothing about marriage – I mean, Adam and Eve didn’t have a marriage ceremony. Jesus said what he did about divorce probably to help protect women from abandonment, but he made no critical remarks to the woman at the well who had been married multiple times and was then living with a man not her husband.

    That the the celibate men of the medieval church and of V2 took this evidence and created an ironclad pronouncement doesn’t really mean a whole lot in the face of the actual lived lives of married people.

    Keeping divorced people from communion is like blackmail – a way to try to force people to toe some line that was never even imposed by Jesus at the last supper (even Judas was allowed to partake).

    1. @crystal watson – comment #76:
      Agreed Crystal.
      Also interesting is that the first mention of divorce in the New Testament is by Paul decades before the gospels were written. Paul states that his directives are from “the Lord and I” meaning he got them from Christ. Guess what? His statements are about exceptions to divorce not related to “adultery”.
      What to make of the gospel’s account of divorce and remarriage?
      Some the of statements occur in the Sermon that includes lots of “moral ideals” but NOT laws ie turn the other cheek, give your coat if you have two, be perfect as the Father is perfect, gouge your eye out etc. These are all moral ideals that we should strive for but not laws, no sin if you don’t give your extra coat away, no sin if you don’t turn the other cheek or gouge your eye out and the biggest semantic hyperbole (common in Jesus’ time) be perfect like the Father….impossible!
      As such the healthy way to do this IMHO is to state that we believe in the indissolubility of marriage, nobody here is stating otherwise and we should always strive for the moral ideal but marriages and relationships do die. That is a fact of life and how do we deal with that? Similar if one of the spouses dies. I believe IMHO that there have always been exceptions, after all Paul listed some not dealing with adultery decades before the gospels were written. The Eastern Orthodox state that they believe in indissolubility of marriage but are realistic and have dealt with the matter in a pastoral/scriptural way.
      Interestingly, there is a Greek word for adultery but that is NOT the word used in the gospels but that’s another story.

  27. “Not permissible or not possible? These are two different things. If we regard divorce as impermissible (as we do a host of other deeds) and someone does it anyway, perhaps with irreparable consequences, the possibility remains open to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance and be reconciled. If not possible, then the system of annulments is the way to respond because if it was ever a marriage, it is still binding: the definition determines this outcome.”

    …Back briefly to the opening post…In light of the dominical teachings I’ve referenced in my previous posts (and supporting arguments also could be marshaled) the Church should acknowledge that divorce is [practically, mundanely] possible and permissible, but with the clear understanding (imparted compassionately via catechesis, counseling in the sacrament of reconciliation, etc.) that it is [divinely, ontologically] impossible. This is the closest we can come in our limited understanding of profound divine mysteries. It opens the doors of mercy while preserving righteousness as far as we are able to understand these mysteries.

  28. To get back to Rita’s question, we are fighting over the boundary between mercy and fear. The people talking the loudest are not the divorced and remarried, it seems. It is those on the front porch refusing the Father’s call to mercy.

  29. I don’t know if there are many divorced people commenting here, but I thought I’d try to show what it can be like. When I got married I wasn’t a Christian, neither was the other person – no church wedding. After about a year of a pretty bad marriage, I discovered the other person had a girl friend and a baby on the way. I actually wanted to stay married but he filed for divorce. When I became a Catholic, the leaders of my RCIA class constantly bugged me about getting an annulment. I eventually visited the marriage tribunal website and was shocked at the byzantine complexity of the procedure as well as the price – to be honest, the first thought that popped into my head was “what a scam.” But still, I worried for a long time that I was somehow eternally chained to the ex, based on what Jesus said. It took a lot of prayer to come to the conclusion that things were ok.

    1. @crystal watson – comment #90:

      Thanks for telling us about your situation,

      I think it is very difficult for many life- long Catholics, especially older ones, who have understood the rules to put themselves in the position of a non-Christian coming from a non-Christian marriage. It is like you are suddenly accountable in the future for a past life before becoming a Christian. It seems to me that baptism should mean you get a chance to start over and not have to remedy your past life even if that were possible which often it is not. It seems that a decree of nullity of divorced marriages should be a part of the RCIA done without fees or much elaborate process.

      I agree with the “what a scam.” The reality is historically the clergy have a long history of all kinds of corruption (and power and money were at the heart of many) which is why councils and reform movements have flourished throughout the centuries, and why we had the Reformation.

      The problem is not throwing the baby out with the bath water when we try to reform our theory and practices. In this case where the Orthodox have a different practice, it seems to me that practice has to be considered seriously. I fear that easier annulments will just be a way not to own up to the fact that our clergy have made some serious theological and pastoral mistakes.

      Since Jesus clearly disagreed with the religious leaders of his day; I am very sure he disagrees with many of them today.

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #95:
        Agree with Jack, Crystal. My cousin, the closest thing I have to a brother, is divorced but refuses to consider an annulment – this has gone on now for 30+ years. He is a farmer in a small catholic community and this distances him from both his local community and local church. Have tried repeatedly for him to reconsider but he sees annulment as saying that his child from that marriage is not then whole and complete. All in all, it is a sad situation.

  30. Re: “What a scam”

    It’s not a scam. There are quite a few people who give a lot of honorable (and thankless!) service to the church – meaning us – by providing the system of annulments, whose purpose is mercy and compassion. It really is an outrageous insult to them and their service to characterize their work as a scam, and them as scam artists.

    If people think it is a scam, surely it is our simple duty to help them to understand that it is not a scam, and to explain the reasons why. Agreeing with them that it is a scam does nothing except unjustly undercut the credibility of the church and the sacrament.

    1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #99:
      JP – have friends who work and have worked for decades in the local diocesan court – they have handled hundreds of annulments. You might be surprised by what they would say about this – they have serious concerns about the current system and hope that Francis will change and address the current annulment situation.

  31. It is my understanding that some people think that the phrase “until death do us part” (which has its roots in the pre-Reformation English Sarum rite) can be interpreted as meaning that the marriage itself can die, and when it does the former spouses may marry again.

    Does anyone know if there is any Scriptural support for this interpretation? It doesn’t seem consistent with the notion that marriage also “marks” the soul indelibly, but, then even if it does, the Church has always allowed people to marry after the death of a spouse, and theoretically their souls are indelibly marked.

    I find this all so confusing that I hope that somewhere in the complexity of it all a solution can be found for the problem of divorce and remarriage.

  32. To continue…

    Granted that you incline to the view that the current synthesis is the optimal one, here’s how you argue for it. Explain why Jesus was making a metaphysical claim rather than a moral one. (The “bond” is a metaphysical concept.) Explain why the moral argument against divorce won’t hold up without positing a metaphysical bond. Explain why canonical processes are essential and indeed preferable to pastoral-sacramental processes in resolving exceptional cases. Explain how the splendor of the Church’s witness on this point is winning souls to Christ. Argue in favor of the spiritual benefits to the divorced and remarried of teaching and reinforcing the idea (by their exclusion from Communion) that their current marriage is adulterous, and indeed they are living in perpetual adultery. Explain how young people, children of divorce, who are now cohabiting and hesitate to marry because they fear they cannot succeed in it, are helped by the Church holding an absolute and high position that will only increase their fears of failure.

    Or, if none of this seems to really be persuasive, argue for the slippery slope — once we grant that divorce is possible, no one will pay attention to any prohibition against it on the moral plane. Argue that at this time in history, chaos is ensuing in family life and the only curb is the ecclesiastical legal system.

    You see what I mean. The position I sketched in the post (against this synthesis, but also against divorce on the basis of the NT) is possibly one that very few people would assent to. Perhaps many people DO feel divorce is a good thing and ought to be considered an acceptable way to solve problems. If so, we haven’t heard from them. But that would be another argument that someone could raise (probably not you).

    Of course, maybe this thread has gone on long enough and this is all grist for the mill some other day! 😉 Peace —

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #7:

      We probably need a new thread. Once we go beyond the first one hundred comments the discussion becomes difficult to follow. I am disappointed that they are not releasing Kasper’s talk to the cardinals. The summary given by the Press Office seems to put the whole question in a larger context which is probably what we need at the present point.

      While cardinals like politicians sometimes need to have privacy to avoid grand standing,(“Everybody will have a chance to yell about something,” one cardinal quipped after the first day’s sessions). ultimately the development of new pastoral practices has to begin at the grassroots not in synods.

      1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #11:
        Thanks, Jack. We probably do need a new thread; as the story develops, others will no doubt wish to post.

        Because this morning I responded to a couple of comments from yesterday, I want to keep this thread open to give Matthew or Scott (or others who were following that conversation) a chance to reply.

  33. Francis in his opening remarks to the consistory said We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. In this morning’s homily we find out more of what he means by casuistry.

    “Also, we often make the mistake of saying: ‘But I have a lot of faith’, [and] ‘I believe everything, everything …’- and maybe this person who says [something like this] leads a lukewarm life, a weak [life]. His faith is as a theory, though it is not alive in his life. The Apostle James, when he speaks of faith, speaks precisely of doctrine, of that, which is what is the content of the faith. Nevertheless, one might learn all the commandments , all the prophecies , all the truths of faith, though if these are not put into practice, put to work, they are useless. We can recite the Creed theoretically, even without faith, and there are many people who do so – even the demons! The demons know very well what is said in the Creed and know that it is the Truth.”

    The Holy Father went on to say that, in the Gospel, there are two telltale signs of those, who, “know what is to be believed, but do not have faith.” The first sign is a tendency to “casuistry”, represented by those who asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes, or which of the seven brothers of the husband would have to marry the widowed woman. The second sign is a commitment to “ideology”:

    “Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these even in Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist, the ideologues of faith, of whatsoever [ideological] stamp they might have been. At that time there were the Gnostics, but there will [always] be many – and thus, those who fall into casuistry or those who fall into ideology are Christians who know the doctrine, but without faith, like demons. The difference is that the demons tremble, these Christians, no: they live peacefully.”

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #9:

      Rather than talking about change of doctrine in a historical context, Francis seems to prefer talking about change in how to talk about the whole Gospel within the context of bringing joy and mercy into community building both in the church and society.

      Deepening the theology of the family and discerning pastoral practices should be seen in the context of the four principles given in The Gospel of Joy for building community:

      1. TIME IS GREATER THAN SPACE: Time governs spaces, illumines them, and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. (What a forward looking way of dealing with development of doctrine!)

      2. UNITY PREVAILS OVER CONFLICT: Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. But there is also a third way, but this can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity.(What a great ideal for bloggers!)

      3. REALITIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN IDEAS. There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric. (Another great ideal for blogging, we have too many ideas here not enough of the realities of data, not just numbers but extensive real life descriptions of what is going on.)

      4. THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE PART. An innate tension also exists between globalization and localization. We need to pay attention to the global so as to avoid narrowness and banality. Yet we also need to look to the local, which keeps our feet on the ground.

  34. What Rita says about arguments from authority is generally true, but there is another aspect here today. The bishops are the authority, and the authentic interpreters of the tradition, so an argument from authority has a different status for them. One can say “I understand the authority better than you do” to the bishops, but it’s not going to do you much good. SSPX has been trying this for 30+ years.

    To help the bishops, as Francis has suggested, the dialogue has to use the other types of arguments Rita described. What is true and good in this position, or that? I doubt that the bishops will confront the issue of scholasticism head on, but I’m sure they will be considering it as an element of the discussion.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #13:

      The bishops are the authority, and the authentic interpreters of the tradition, so an argument from authority has a different status for them.

      This is true — but even they are not free to simply contradict what has been defined authoritatively. I think this is where Abp. Muller’s letter is very helpful; it names some boundaries that have already been set.

      For one example: Might the Cardinals now (and the Bishops at the Synod later) desire to see a wider use of the conscience-driven “pastoral solution”? Then they need to address the reasons mentioned when such a solution was utterly rejected by the CDF in 1994.

      As to the “sacramental-legal synthesis”, since it is the position that has been THE position of the Church for at least 800 years (and already had a proponent in Augustine 1500 years ago), it is not simply one position among many. It does have a privileged place above the others. “Other types of arguments” that strengthen and clarify the sacramental-legal synthesis will probably be easier to promote (and ultimately to see in teaching documents). Those that would wish to upset the current synthesis and replace it with some other understanding and/or praxis (e.g. the Orthodox understanding which permits “second marriage” of the divorced) would need to provide compelling arguments beyond utility or popular acceptance in order to see it through to modifying doctrine or praxis.

      @Rita Ferrone — comment #12:

      Your suggestions for starting points to discuss this further are all worthy ones, and I may pursue one or two of the threads there, but I, like Jack, would like to see that discussion in the context that Cardinal Kasper has put it in — especially since he has been one of the primary voices criticizing Abp. Muller’s recent letter. I will be happy to move along to another thread if you start one.

    2. @Jim McKay – comment #13:
      Borrowed this from another *boiling issue* but it speaks to this post – from a former Jesuit provincial:

      We must imagine the scene: the church, still subject to occasional bouts of persecution and yet growing feverishly among both Jews and Gentiles alike, faces a great conflict: How are Gentiles to be admitted into the community? Must they first become Jews, i.e., accept the Mosaic law and the signs of the covenant through circumcision? Or can they adapt the path of Jesus within their own cultural framework? (Acts 15)

      To us, from the distance of 2,000 years, the answer may seem self-evident; yet, for many in that first community around Jerusalem, to release Gentiles from the strictures of the ancient covenant was to surrender to the culture of the day, to abandon the practice of faith in which Jesus himself was known to engage. It seemed, to these Jewish-Christians, that the church was being asked to surrender to the desires of the world, to become “politically correct,” all for the sake of not offending its new converts. On the other hand, there stood in their midst those who worked among the Gentiles or who had gone to them, and testified to the power of the Spirit within them. Peter, Paul and Barnabas spoke forcefully for a new vision and a new understanding of the faith.
      What is most amazing about this moment in the church is how the community comes to decide, together, what is to be done. There is debate and disruption, but it is not seen as division; rather, it is the way the Holy Spirit is working within the community. Further, this debate is grounded on human experience, and not on tradition or on the power of office. Rather than beginning with Scripture—the Torah or the Prophets—the community begins with the experience of the faithful: the testimony of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, none of whom claim special authority in the face of the communal discernment, the Gentiles touched and filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Only then does James, in response, note that “the words of the prophets agree with this” (rather than “this agrees with the prophets”). The understanding of God and the meaning of the tradition comes not from a measured and disengaged reflection by those in authority, but in the noisy, messy and (some might say) undignified uproar of the community of faith. Here is diversity without division, complexity without separation, debate and dissent without the need for punishment or condemnation. In listening for the living Spirit of Christ Jesus, the church begins by listening to the sinners but all of whom, instead, simply testify to the way in which they have seen and seekers who are his body in the world.

  35. Mr. Flowerday,

    The Orthodox practice allows divorce. (In fact, it allows two divorces and two remarriages). Our Lord prohibited divorce. That is why the Orthodox practice doesn’t work. Our Lord also said that marrying after divorce was adultery. That is why going to confession cannot solve the problem, because the sin is ongoing.

    None of this is very hard to understand. Catholics understood this, and lived by it, for centuries. Everyone knew that the Catholic Church taught that a marriage could not be dissolved, and people knew that marriage was for life. And, amazingly enough, the overwhelming majority of couples in fact wed for life.

    Now, divorce is widespread. Divorce is not widespread because marriage is harder than it used to be. Divorce rates skyrocketed after changes to divorce law made divorce easier. As a result of these changes in law, many people no longer believe marriage is for life. They believe that they should be able to end a marriage and that, if they do so, they should be free to remarry. In other words, difficulties that would not have destroyed a marriage when people believed marriage was for life now do.

    Changing the Church’s doctrine, or even its practice, in the face of this mentality would be disastrous. It would solidify that mentality and encourage more divorce. We know this, because that is what happened when civil divorce laws were changed. And we now know how damaging divorce is for children, even adult children.

    We also know that changing Church doctrine will increase divorce because Catholics still have a lower divorce rate than other groups. Belonging to the only church that doesn’t allow divorce discourages divorce:
    http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2013/09/divorce-still-less-likely-among.html
    If Church teaching in this area is watered down, we can certainly expect the Catholic dovorce rate to catch up to the general divorce rate, and then remain at that same high rate for the foreseeable future.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #27:
      I’m not Orthodox, but perhaps you are and can speak more directly to the issue of the practice working or not. Rome accepts the practice as sacramentally valid.

      I also don’t buy your theory that the main or only reason divorce rates are higher are because of an easier legal divorce. Women have a lot more options today. Keep in mind that marriages, on average, last much longer than they did more than, say, ninety years ago.

      Perhaps divorce was less of an issue in previous centuries because one’s spouse might die in war, or because of disease or childbirth before things became intolerable. The Church still attempts to administer marriages lasting an average of fourteen years in the same way they did when the average marriage lasted seven (just two centuries ago, and that, without divorce).

      Not only do I want to see some serious elbow grease put into this issue by the bishops and curia, but I’m also more than willing to put my effort where my mouth is. My wife and I have weathered many things in 18 years of marriage that have driven many couples apart: the inability to have biological children, debilitating illness, relocations because of job or medical reasons, adoption, and such. I’d like to think my wife and I have an encouraging word to add to marriage preparation or to retrouvaille or ME about the sacramentality of marriage. Quite frankly, the canonists make me yawn. They don’t have the bead and they don’t have the tools, no matter how much they yap about healing and all.

      The elder sibling approach to remarriage and communion is most unimpressive to me by its lack of mercy, it’s lack of listening, and its refusal to confront the very real changes brought into Christian marriage by the culture, modern medicine, and the numerous other temptations and obstacles.

      I will be clear: JP2 and B16 bishops struck me as a deeply incurious bunch, applying the whip hand rather than getting off their lacy a**es and listening to married couples tell them a thing or two.

      When they want to get serious about “saving” that first marriage between a man and a woman, they can let me know. And the other millions of fruitful couples. All I’ve seen is them d***ing around in matters about which they seem very ignorant and unschooled.

  36. I’d also like to say a word on behalf a group of people who are generally forgotten in this conversation, those Catholics who are divorced and who do not remarry out of fidelity to what the Church teaches. As Blessed John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church.”

    If the doctrine or practice is changed, the message to such people will be that their fidelity was unnecessary at best or foolish at worst.

    I will leave my last word to a fictional example of such a person. I have always found these words to be profound, one of many profound passages in one of the greatest novels of the last century: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4xdBVGhGE8

  37. Thank you all for an enlightening discussion.

    To me the strongest argument that can be made about the possibility of divorce and remarriage is this: if marriage is really indissoluble, then it follows that when a spouse dies the the couple must remain married, thus making remarriage impossible. But Church tradition emphatically allows such remarriage, hence the premise “marriage is dissoluble” must be false. (There is also clearly no possibility of poligamy.)

    So what about annulment or dissolution? It seems to me that those are or would be two different processes. But that is matter for another thread.

    Another issue is that the Church teaches that one must follow one’s own conscience even against Church decisions (though that doesn’t make the Church decision a wrong one). If a (former) spouse clearly thinks that he/she is no long married or never really was, then that person can *choose in good conscience* to receive Communion. Even the process of the “internal forum” (which I was never taught about in school!) recognizes that sometimes it has to be one’s own conscience that determines whether or not to receive Communion. But that matter too is one for another thread, being terribly complex also.

    1. @Ann Olivier – comment #29:
      if marriage is really indissoluble, then it follows that when a spouse dies the the couple must remain married, thus making remarriage impossible. But Church tradition emphatically allows such remarriage, hence the premise “marriage is dissoluble” must be false.

      Except that marriage is defined by the Church as a life-long bond. Death necessarily brings the bond to its natural close.

  38. Mr. Flowerday,

    I am not Eastern Ortodox. This is what Cardinal Muller said about the Orthodox practice, just a few months ago: “In many regions, greater compromises emerged later, particularly as a result of the increasing interdependence of Church and State. In the East this development continued to evolve, and especially after the separation from the See of Peter, it moved towards an increasingly liberal praxis. In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character. This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage. But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated.”

    All of Cardinal Muller’s excellent essay is available on the Vatican website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/muller/rc_con_cfaith_20131023_divorziati-risposati-sacramenti_en.html

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #31:
      I have scanned his essay, though I have not read it in detail.

      It could be my frustration and anger at the lack of support I perceive from the institution on most any level for marriage, whole or broken. But I’m less interested in Cardinal Müller’s response, perhaps less than I should be. My sense is that the theologians have held court for too long, and thanks in part to their intransigence, we have landed in a nearly impossible situation.

      It’s time for listening to couples, both those in whole marriages and in broken ones. It’s time for mercy and understanding. And it’s time for celibates to be schooled in marriage by listening to us. The Church’s theology of the sacrament of marriage is as underdeveloped as its canons dwarf the number given to Anointing of the Sick.

      And of course, you are avoiding my issue. I have no problem with the indissolubility of marriage. My problem is the barring of remarried couples routinely from the sacraments.

      Cardinal Müller is a devoted and honorable man, and competent in his field, I am sure. But the head of the CDF does not have the final answer, no matter how nice his words look on the same speckled brown background I see behind Sacrosanctum Concilium.

      No single theologian possesses the competence, I am sure, to make this decision on her or his own.

    2. @Tom Piatak – comment #31:
      The roots of Orthodox practice are in Gregory Nazianzus, in the fifth Century, not after the schism between East and West.

      The question was asked in terms of the “compromise” in eastern civil law, on contrast to the newly “Christianized” western law.
      But the Patriarch wrote in favor of allowing divorce, considering that Jesus the lawgiver is a merciful lawgiver, and so did not intend to keep people from the Table.

      Arguable, but a choice for noble and faithful reasons, not compromise with secular law. But a realistic compromise with imperfect humans.

      If the really holy divorced persons forego any new marriage., it is a witness, a martyrdom, and commendable, But it is to be imposed on those who are just not that advanced, yet are real believers and faithful christians?

      And who can erally judge the state of the soul of a person who foregos a remarriage, and one who does not?

      Mark Miller

      1. @Mark Miller – comment #34:

        Thanks for giving an answer to the question I asked way back in the third comment, about when and how did the Orthodox practice originate! Anything before the Great Schism has to be taken very seriously by the West.

        The idea that Jesus was a merciful lawgiver seems much more of a Gospel witness than our Western attempt to construct a fundamentalist absolute about this which applies not only to Christians but also non-Christian marriages. I have been especially inclined toward this opinion since last week’s Gospel when it was apparent that Jesus listed this among a great number of other ideals such as not swearing oaths, none of which we have turned into fundamentalist principles.

        How much of the 12th Century Western opinion was influenced by the increasing move toward a celibate diocesan clergy?

  39. “If Church teaching in this area is watered down, we can certainly expect the Catholic dovorce rate to catch up to the general divorce rate, and then remain at that same high rate for the foreseeable future.”

    This statement of Tom’s bothered me. And when I picked up my wife a few minutes ago, I realized why: it might illustrate no faith in the sacramental grace of Marriage in the Church. And maybe our “theologians” are likewise infected with such skepticism.

  40. I thought Muller’s talk on marriage was actually pretty bad. He stated that love isn’t a feeling, that it is better for the children of bad marriages if their parents stay together, that the victims of domestic violence shouldn’t be allowed to divorce, that people can’t trust their consciences, and that God can’t show mercy but must punish instead. Cardinal Marx didn’t like it either … http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/divorzio-divorce-chiesa-iglesia-church-29587/

  41. Orthodox Perspective on Divorce and Remarriage

    From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Website:

    Additionally, the following three historical factors have probably had the greatest impact on the Orthodox Church’s perspective of divorce and remarriage:

    1. The close relationship between the church and state which existed in Byzantium had a profound impact on the formulation of marital practice and the possibility of remarriage in the Eastern Church. This is particularly the case with regard to the legislative contributions of the Emperor Justinian’s codex of law issued in 535 A.D. Justinian’s marriage legislation affirmed that marriage was dissoluble for a number of specific reasons I will not detail here.

    2. Despite Justinian’s codex, the present discipline of the Orthodox Church with regard to divorce and remarriage actually dates back to the Council of Constantinople held in 920 A.D. This council recognized, without canonical punishment, remarriage and divorce.

    3. Further, since the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. the specific reasons given by the Council of Constantinople in 920 A.D. were expanded further.

    This seems to me to imply that while the majority of developments were before our definitive split with the East; some developments might have occurred later.

    The following is a very interesting discussion of the differences between East and West from the perspective of an Orthodox Bishop (given at the Catholic University of Leuven in 2005). Many of our commenters might benefit from reading it. It seems to me to provide a number of helpful ways to rethink our own approach without necessarily taking over the Orthodox approach in toto.

    http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/athenagoras_remarriage.htm

    Again from my perspective any attempt to articulate “Tradition” without taking into account the approach of the East before the schism is inadequate and defective.

  42. Cardinal Kaspar’s Gospel of the Family is now available both as Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon. (H/T Rocco)

    http://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Family-Cardinal-Walter-Kasper-ebook/dp/B00J4VP0U6/ref=tmm_kin_title_0/189-0176623-1402151

    I found it an easy and enjoyable read.

    Our topic is not “The Church’s Teaching concerning the Family.” The topic is “The Gospel of the Family.”

    Like The Joy of the Gospel this is based primarily on language of Scripture not the philosophical-theological language of church teaching, e.g. natural law. As Bryan Hehir recently pointed out with regard to social teaching, biblical language has the advantage of inspiring us while the philosophical-theological language has the advantage of precision.

    I hope that Rita will give us a post on this document as a follow up to this post. I would suggest one of the those “featured” posts that would be up for a while and would give people time to read the document (since it is cheap and easily available). I would also suggest that people comment only if they have read the document so we don’t go off on tangents.

    The Family and its Synod are very important for both the Church and the World. We need OPEN discussion of these issues by everyone.

    I found much to admire in this biblical approach. However occasionally it strayed, e.g.

    As an image of God, both— man and woman— have the same dignity. There is no place for the discrimination of women. But man and woman are not simply identical. Their equality in dignity, as well as their difference, is grounded in creation. Both equality and difference are given to them neither by themselves nor by someone else. One does not become a man or a woman by means of the socialization process of the prevailing culture, as some forms of feminism claim.

    Ultimately both our social teaching and our family teaching have to be in touch with all the research on persons, family and society as well as the experiences of people or we will not be creditable

    Men and women are biologically not the same. However they are not that different either. We know that in many characteristics men and women different but in the vast majority of cases the mean is only slightly different and that there are many men and women at the extremes of the distribution. Indeed all human characteristics have variation, and chromosomal identity is not a huge contributor to that variation (how could it be or we would be two subspecies on the road to extinction).

    We also know that men and women are socialized differently and that this varies from culture to culture.

    Finally as Kaspar himself says Jesus did not talk about “isms” neither should we!!! Clerics talking about feminism suffer instant problems of creditability at least for me.

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