Skip to comments.Bishops OK marriage pastoral with many changes, some opposition (names provided)
Posted on 11/19/2009 6:01:16 AM PST by NYer
BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Despite the concern voiced by some bishops about the document's pastoral tone and content, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a pastoral letter on marriage Nov. 17.
Nearly 100 changes in two rounds of amendments preceded the 180-45 vote in favor of "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan" during the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Two-thirds of the USCCB membership, or 175 votes, was required for passage. There were three abstentions.
An effort by retired Archbishop Francis T. Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska, to remand the document to the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth for rewriting failed 56-169, with three abstentions.
Archbishop Hurley said he had "nothing to offer in terms of changing a line here and there" but wanted to see the pastoral letter expanded in some areas, switched around in sections and rewritten to incorporate parts of "Caritas in Veritate" ("Charity in Truth"), Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical.
But Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chairman of the subcommittee that drafted the letter on marriage, strongly opposed the move, calling the document "worthy of giving us direction for the next three years."
A key change made in the letter during the amendment process was the rewriting of language describing both cohabitation and contraception as "intrinsically evil."
Instead, it calls contraceptive practices "objectively wrong" and "essentially opposed to God's plan for marriage and proper human development."
The document encourages the use of natural family planning, which the bishops say promotes "an attitude of respect and wonder ... and fosters the true intimacy that only such respect can bring."
In place of a section that said living together without marriage "is intrinsically evil and thus always diminishes the capacity for love," the amended document quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying, "Cohabitation 'involves the serious sin of fornication. It does not conform to God's plan for marriage and is always wrong and objectively sinful.'"
The pastoral letter also names divorce and same-sex unions as two other "fundamental challenges to the nature and purpose of marriage."
The bishops say divorce conflicts with "God's plan for marriage," but the bishops added that in some cases, "divorce may be the only solution to a morally unacceptable situation," such as when the safety of a spouse or children is at risk."
They also encourage those who have divorced and remarried civilly to "participate in parish life and attend the Sunday Eucharist, even though they cannot ordinarily receive holy Communion."
To couples facing "modern stresses upon marriage," such as "the conflict between work and home, economic hardships and social expectations," the bishops urge them to "turn to the Lord for help" and to utilize church programs and ministries "that can help save marriages, even those in serious difficulty."
The moves to legally recognize same-sex unions pose "a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve," the bishops say.
"Such recognition affects all people, married and nonmarried: not only at the fundamental levels of the good of the spouses, the good of children, the intrinsic dignity of every human person and the common good, but also at the levels of education, cultural imagination and influence, and religious freedom," they add.
To oppose the legal recognition of same-sex unions is not discriminatory nor a matter of fairness, the bishops say.
"To promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman is itself a matter of justice," the document says. "In fact, it would be a grave injustice if the state ignored the unique and proper place of husbands and wives, the place of mothers and fathers and the rights of children, who deserve from society clear guidance as they grow to sexual maturity."
"The vision of married life and love that we have presented in this pastoral letter is meant to be a foundation and reference point for the many works of evangelization, catechesis, pastoral care, education and advocacy carried on in our dioceses, parishes, schools, agencies, movements and programs," says the document's closing section, called a "commitment to ministry."
The bishops said they addressed the letter "first and foremost to the Catholic faithful in the United States" but also offered it to others "in the hope of inspiring them to embrace this teaching."
The letter is another component in the bishops' National Pastoral Initiative for Marriage, which began in November 2004.
Nitty gritty ping!
1) Homosexuality had nothing to do with the fact that the overwhelming percentage of priestly sex abuse victims were post-pubescent boys. These abusers I guess were equal opportunity abusers and would have been willing to abuse girls as equally as boys and it was just a target of opportunity thing doncha know.
CCHD is just fine and any grumblings and facts otherwise are just "outrageous claims." Rest assured CCHD gives no money to groups involved in the Culture of Death or other things at odd with the truth of Church teaching. I feel so much better now and so relieved I can finally support CCHD. Hey just because the problematic groups they did finally drop was due to outside pressure and reports from an outside group means nothing. Just because they did nothing to investigate the groups they contributed to and had for years given money to groups that supported abortion, contraception, homosexual marriage is no big deal and again if you hear otherwise it is an "outrageous claim."
It is I guess an outrageous claim that CCHD still gives money to groups not sympathetic to Church teaching like L.A. Community Action Network, Women's Community Revitalization Project, San Francisco Organizing Project, Preble Street, Faith in Community, People Organized for Westside Renewal, Coalition L.A., Justice Overcoming Boundaries in San Diego County, Nuestra Casa, San Francisco Organizing Project, Time for Change Foundation (a.k.a. All of Us or None). Just drop your money in the basket this weekend for CCHD, because there is no problem - just move along.
Remember a couple of years ago it was shown Catholic Charities was giving money to one group that was promoting and distributing contraception and the official replay was pretty much denial.
When the South American bishop's complained to the Canadian bishops conference to stop giving money to groups in South America that supported the Culture of Death we got a reply from an angry Canadian bishop complaining about bloggers.
Nice to know there is a siege mentality within bishop's conferences and Catholic organizations that can't even manage a sly wink and say "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" Aren't you confident that every thing is being done to prevent future problems?
Overall, not bad. I’m with them on cohabitation, gay marriage, etc. Not so much on non-abortive contraception.
I was not aware of this ...
>> They also encourage those who have divorced and remarried civilly to “participate in parish life and attend the Sunday Eucharist, even though they cannot ordinarily receive holy Communion.”
The divorced and remarried cannot take communion? How perfect does one need to be to qualify for communion?
I agree that CCHD is not to be trusted and that the bureaucrats in the USCCB are wrongheaded. But that has nothing to do with this thread. From these excerpts, the pastoral letter on marriage sounds like it’s pretty hard-hitting. The change from intrinsically evil to objectively sinful and naming the sin in cohabitation outside marriage as fornication is pretty tough stuff in today’s environment.
Why not praise the bishops for doing something right instead of hammering away at CCHD? There’s plenty of other opportunity for the latter—start a new thread for that.
Or show where the marriage pastoral letter is flawed.
Excellent! Social justice for children who deserve a two (opposite-sex) parent home!
Marriage is between one man and one woman. The vow spoken says "for better or worse, richer or poorer, until death do us part". A civil divorce does not abrogate that vow.
Communion of Divorced and Remarried
Divorce. By itself civil divorce is not an obstacle to Communion. As a civil action all it does is settle the civil legal effects of marriage (distribution of property, custody of children etc.). However, understood as a moral action, the willful breakup of a marriage or abandonment of one's spouse is indeed seriously wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, following on Scripture, that God hates such divorce.
2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law. Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death."
2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.
2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:
People who have “remarried” after a civil divorce (assuming the marriage was valid) are objectively living in a state of mortal sin if the couple is engaging in marital relations. And they cannot be absolved of that sin if they intend to keep on doing it. So they cannot receive Communion.
Divorce itself is not the problem but “remarriage” after divorce is. Either they need to pursue an annulment of the original “marriage” or abstain from marital relations. In such a case they would be free to receive Communion.
Or, don’t get “remarried” after a divorce. A lot of evidence suggests it’s worse for the children than raising them as a single parent.
Or, better yet, don’t divorce. Judith Wallerstein, to her surprise, discovered that even in marriages that are under a lot of strain, it’s better for the children not to divorce (physical abuse excepted). She set out 30 years ago to track children of divorce, assuming that children adapt pretty well, bounce back. She discovered to her shock that the opposite is true.
A lot of people should not be receiving Communion because they are living in states of mortal sin for a host of things other than “remarried” after divorce. Pointing out that people in these irregular “marriages” can be active in the parish and attend Mass without receiving Communion is not so outlandish as it seems.
But no one is required to receive Communion. We are obligated to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation.
That people aren’t aware of this shows how seriously degraded Catholic education has become over the past decades. Be grateful that the bishops are pointing it out now, decades late but better than nothing.
No one is perfect; therefore, no one "needs" to be perfect. But one must not be conscious of unrepented and/or unconfessed grave sin, in order to receive Communion. There's nothing new in this. The divorced and remarried (those whose first marriage has never been declared null) may not receive Communion because they are, normally, committing adultery on a regular basis.
No one can "take" Holy Communion. It is received. This is an important distinction. Words mean things.
>> That people arent aware of this shows how seriously degraded Catholic education has become over the past decades. Be grateful that the bishops are pointing it out now, decades late but better than nothing.
I am a Baptist — so don’t take my ignorance of the intricacies of Catholicism as a reflection on Catholic education.
It just struck me as odd that a church would turn away a sinner, or that there is a level of holiness that must be attained before communion. True, they are unworthy of communion with Christ. But, neither are we. If we turn away or disinclude the sinners — even just the mortal sinners — we’re missing a huge demographic in their utmost time of need. We practice open communion at our Church — anyone that has accepted Christ’s salvation is welcome to partake.
It seems to me that Christ Himself would be more than willing to commune with mortal sinners. In fact, He did (and still does) ... often. I don’t believe that Christ would turn away a remarried individual.
“The divorced and remarried cannot take communion? How perfect does one need to be to qualify for communion?”
One has to not be mired in mortal sin and completely unrepentant. When someone remarries after civil divorce then he or she is engaging in adultery. Remember, according to the Church (and Christ) that person already has a spouse. If someone is living a life of sin - openly no less - are they properly disposed toward receiving the Eucharist? No.
Fair enough, I suppose — though I am sure I’ve heard it expressed previously as “taking” communion. I never claimed linguistic perfection, however ... so, I can be taught.
This was a major message given in the required class, "Protecting Gods Children" here in the Pittsburgh Diocese. One which I challenged and found that the presenters knew nothing about. Fortunately one of them found the relevant information in the documents given to them. It is still true (as it was decades ago) that sexual pursuit of teen boys is the norm for homosexuals.
Yes, he does. He calls us to repentance and conversion.
Yes, I'm including myself in the category of grave sinners.
That's not a cheap rhetorical device or false humility, either. It's literal truth of all of us, not just eg. folks living in an adulterous simulation of a marriage. On my own, I am unworthy to receive Holy Communion. Only through the Grace of God ... repentance, confession, forgiveness, conversion ... can I be made (note use of passive voice) worthy.
Trouble is, some folks seem to publicly and obstinately refuse God's Grace The Church cannot simply turn a blind eye to it, lest the Church give scandal.
Sorry, I assumed you were Catholic. If you are Baptist, it’s understandable that you didn’t know. But sadly some Cathlics don’t know this either.
You mistake “communion” and forgiveness. Jesus Christ is more than willing to encounter sinners and invite them to repent. Those who repent He always forgives.
Communion is a Real Deal. Through communion we become heirs and coheirs with Christ (Paul in Romans), adopted sons of God (John ch. 1). It refers to a marriage-like union with Christ (Eph. 5). The New Testament again and again says that in order to be united to Christ in his mysterious Body, the Church, we must have been washed of our sins by the blood of Christ.
Being in a state of (mortal) sin alienates, estranges from Christ. The alienation must first be overcome before union can take place, just as a husband and wife who have alienated each other need to first address the alienation before they can once more be fully united with each other.
Christ himself makes possible the overcoming of alienation caused by sin. He forgives our sins and died on the Cross to make this possible. But we have to repent. He can’t take away our sins against our will. We have to want to stop sinning, have to show that we want to convert, turn around our lives.
And there’s the rub. People who have “remarried” while their divorced spouse is still living are still married to the original spouse, even if separated and civilly divorced. They need to own up to that.
The problem is that, having entered into a civil relationship with a new “spouse,” they can’t just walk away from that person and any children that are involved.
But what they can do is abstain from marital relations. Or, if the original marriage relationship was never truly established because they did not knowingly promise irrevocable marriage (which can happen in a culture that assumes, well, I’ll promise marriage now but if it “doesn’t work out,” I can get out via divorce), then it’s possible that no marriage originally existed and the present marriae is the first true marriage. In that case, they could have marital relations and also receive Communion. But whether the first relationship was a valid marriage has to be pursued properly, through hearing witnesses and evidence in a Church court.
So, there are solutions to the “can’t receive Communion” but they are not easy or quick fixes. People should think seriously about seeing divorce as a way out.
And yes, Jesus loves sinners. But He’s Absolutely Holy and he can’t have communion with unrepentant sinners. He doesn’t shun them, he moves among them, but Communion is not just walking among or being polite to or caring about.
Communion, according to St. Paul, is very much like the union of a man and woman in marriage. It’s a deep and intimate total union between Christ and the repentant sinner. Sin destroys that Communion and only after the sin has been dealt with can the Communion be restored.
It would be interesting to hear the reactions of the bishops' own nieces and nephews.
It's called the "Episcopal" model.
Google "train wreck" and it will pop right up.
Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 10 verses 2-12
2 The Pharisees approached and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?" They were testing him.
3 He said to them in reply, "What did Moses command you?"
4 They replied, "Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her."
5 But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.
6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.
7 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife),
8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."
10 In the house the disciples again questioned him about this.
11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her;
12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."
1 Corinthians, Chapter 11: verses 27-29
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.
28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.
29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.
I did not dispute that the non-dissolvability of marriage. Nor did I dispute that communion is for only those that have accepted Grace.
My contention was that it is possible to have accepted the grace of Christ and be divorced/remarried. Take, for instance — a man who divorces his wife, remarries, and then finds Salvation. He is forgiven for all previous transgressions (known and unknown) — including the adultery under the premise that the previous marriage was never dissolved.
The doctrine of Grace would seem to me to indicate a fresh start in this scenario (with the new marriage). Previous sins are washed away by the grace of Christ. He should therefore be able to participate in communion (in my opinion). This does not seem to contradict scripture.
Paul discusses this in his First Letter to the Corinthians, verses 10-15:
"10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): a wife should not separate from her husband
11 --and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband--and a husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her;
13 and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband.
14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy.
15 If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace."
The right to divorce the non-Christian spouse is thus called the "Pauline privilege."
One needs to be in a state of grace to receive Communion. It's not so much that those who are divorced and remarried are worse sinners than other people. Many times, of course, they might be committing far fewer sins than many others in the Communion line. The problem is that they cannot truly repent and confess their cohabitation while they are still married to their second (or beyond) spouse. Their sin is ongoing, in other words.
Unlike most other sins, where a person can repent and simply put the sins behind them with God's grace, the remarried, as long as they remain remarried, cannot "put the sin behind them." That is what keeps them from receiving the Eucharist. You may be interested to know that people who are divorced and living chastely without attempted remarriage are perfectly free to approach for the Eucharist, provided they are otherwise in a state of grace, of course.
If a person who has remarried wants to return to the Sacraments, he or she must first repudiate the remarriage. This, of course, is exceedingly difficult, on a number of levels. No one would argue otherwise, and the Church and its members certainly should pray for and lift up such souls. All the same, the Church cannot water-down the doctrines it considers to be Christ-breathed for the sake of any human convenience, sentimentality or wordly "mercy" as they are commonly understood. My heart certainly goes out to people caught up in this sort of jam, but, in the end, they are where they are due to their own choices. Many other people should absent themselves from Communion too, until such time as they sincerely repent and seek to avoid their sins in the future. Until they do, they are equally caught in a jam of their own making. But it is certainly easier to give-up theft or drug use or talebearing or whatever else, than it is to go through the social wringer - not to mention the emotional wringer! - of having to repudiate a second marriage often undertaken in good faith and in ignorance of the true nature of things.
We are all sinners, but some sins are easier to put behind us than others, or, at least, aren't anywhere near as publicly known as these second marriage situations. Neighbors know a lot, and the scandal they take - a sin in itself, if used to smear the couple in any way - seeing a remarried couple receiving Communion is probably less than even seeing a known former prostitute or drug pusher going up the line. If they repented, they are done with their sin. Until the divorced and remarried couple ceases to live together, anyone familiar with their circumstances knows that they cannot have truly repented of the remarriage. Therefore, they should not be receiving Communion. It is outwardly an act of manifest, ongoing hypocrisy, a source of potential scandal among the other faithful (leading them to the sin of taking scandal even while it is itself a sin of giving scandal), and, under the circumstances, is hardly condusive to good spiritual health.
It sure can be hard living a Christian witness in a modern world which calculates so much societal practice to be directed against the will of Christ, isn't it? It's a shame how this sort of unfortunate business has become so prominent a problem in our own day. The only true solutions available are not easy or especially palatable, but we are still called to "go through the narrow gate."
oops! Paragraph 4: “...probably less than even seeing...” should be “...probably greater than...”