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Divorced Catholics and the Eucharist
Catholic Exchange ^ | January 3, 2012 | Cathy Caridi, J.C.L.

Posted on 01/04/2012 3:55:50 PM PST by NYer

Q: What does canon law really say about divorced people receiving Holy Communion? –Sean

A: The issue of who may, and who may not, receive the Eucharist lawfully is a canonical question with deep theological roots. Consequently, the Church has spoken on this matter not merely in the Code of Canon Law, but also in the Catechism and in other theological contexts. As always, canon law follows theology, and the two are consistent, for they can never contradict each other.

The code states that Catholics are not to be allowed to receive Holy Communion if they are under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, or obstinately persist in manifest grave sin (c. 915 [1]). Canon 916 [1] notes that as a rule, anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass (in the case of a priest) or receive the Eucharist without previously having been to sacramental confession. This is entirely in keeping with the Catechism’s teaching that “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion” (1385 [2]).

It is important to note that at issue here is not only a Catholic’s own personal, internal spiritual state, which might very well be known to him alone; but also his external, visible status in the Church, that may be known by other members of the faithful as well. The Church is therefore concerned simultaneously with three different, although interrelated issues: (a) an individual Catholic’s personal spiritual wellbeing; (b) the need to maintain reverence toward the Most Holy Eucharist; and (c) the need to avoid public scandal.

With regard to divorced Catholics, let’s try as best we can to examine these issues separately, beginning with a divorced person’s spiritual state. Theologically, we Catholics know that we should not receive the Eucharist when we are in a state of grave sin. Does the fact that a Catholic is divorced, in and of itself, constitute a mortal sin?

The answer, of course, is no. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does, it is true, give us a general theological norm about divorce in general, noting rightly that “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law…. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign” (2384 [3]). Yet while the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is, by its very nature, intended to last until death, it acknowledges that being divorced is not necessarily sinful. If, for example, one spouse is divorced by the other, it is obviously possible for a Catholic to find himself divorced entirely against his will! The Catechism makes a very clear and necessary distinction:

It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage (2386 [3]).

Therefore one can and certainly does encounter sincerely devout, practicing Catholics who happen to be divorced. Such persons are hardly excluded from the sacraments simply because their spouses chose to divorce them.

There are other situations in which a Catholic spouse might very well find that divorce is, unfortunately, the best way to resolve a difficult situation. To cite the Catechism again, “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” (2383 [3]). In circumstances involving abuse and violence, for example, the Church certainly understands that a divorce may be legally necessary. A battered wife, or a spouse seeking to protect children from an abusive situation by taking the means required under civil law to keep the abuser away, can hardly be considered morally culpable for obtaining a divorce for reasons of physical safety. Similarly, a divorce may be civilly necessary if one spouse is bankrupting the family with compulsive gambling. In such a case a Catholic might need to obtain a divorce in order to safeguard the financial wellbeing of the rest of the family.

So we can see that it is entirely possible for a good Catholic to be divorced! Since this is the case, why is it that we hear the Church teaching that divorced Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist?

The fact is, the Church does not teach that Catholics are forbidden to receive Holy Communion if they are divorced. Rather, it teaches that a Catholic who has been divorced and remarried, without having first obtained an annulment of the first marriage, is not permitted to receive the Eucharist.

For those of us who believe what the Catholic Church teaches about the sacraments, the logic of this position is actually quite straightforward. A Christian marriage lasts until the death of one of the spouses—unless a Catholic marriage tribunal has ruled that the marriage was null from the beginning (see the July 26, 2007 column [4], among many others, for further discussion of Catholic marriage annulments). If a Catholic obtains a civil divorce, but does not have a declaration from the Church that his marriage was null, he is still married in the eyes of the Church—even if civil law asserts that his marriage has ended. A person in this situation cannot remarry in the Catholic Church; he is impeded from doing so because he is already married to someone else (c. 1085 [5]).

Consequently, if a Catholic does remarry under these circumstances, he necessarily does so outside the Catholic Church, either in a non-Catholic religious ceremony, or in a civil proceeding (before a justice of the peace, for example). The Catholic Church naturally does not accept that this second marriage is valid! Instead, the Catechism teaches that the remarried Catholic is living in a state of sin with the new spouse:

Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ—“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”—the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. (1650 [6]).

In other words, society reasonably presumes that a husband and wife are engaging in sexual relations. Consequently, the Church regards the relationship between a Catholic and a second spouse as adulterous, if the first spouse is still living. And since adultery constitutes a grave moral evil, a Catholic who is living in this situation is not permitted to receive the Eucharist. To quote the Catechism yet again, “The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion” (2390 [3]).

If a divorced and remarried Catholic wishes to receive Holy Communion, what can he do? Catholic sacramental theology is unequivocal on this point, and so it doesn’t give him a lot of options. This is where the reverence due to the Most Blessed Sacrament fits directly into the picture. In order to safeguard the dignity of the sacrament, the Church will never, ever condone the reception of the Eucharist by a Catholic who persists in an adulterous union. Therefore, if a divorced and remarried Catholic wishes to receive the Eucharist, he must first repent of his adultery, and receive sacramental absolution. But in order to be truly sorry for his sins, a Catholic must have the resolution to avoid them in future. Thus the adultery has to end—it’s as simple as that.

This is why paragraph 1650 of the Catechism [6], noted above, concludes as follows: “Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.” A remarried Catholic must resolve that he will no longer engage in sexual relations with his second spouse—ever. This means that he must either separate from the second spouse altogether; or they must henceforth live together as brother and sister, rather than as husband and wife.

The number of married couples who would willingly agree to the latter arrangement, in order to receive the Eucharist, is presumably slim—and yet it is a fact that they do indeed exist. There definitely are Catholics among us who remarried outside the Church, but subsequently wished to rectify their situation for spiritual reasons. They have made a good confession, firmly resolving to sin no more. With their spouses in agreement with their decision, these remarried Catholics are still living with their second spouses, but in total continence. (In many cases, the presence of minor children in the house has led the couple to decide to continue living together, for the good of the children.) Catholics like these are, spiritually speaking, once again entitled to receive the Eucharist.

The relative rarity of this situation, however, leads us to yet another issue: the possibility of public scandal. If the Catholic faithful see a divorced and remarried Catholic receiving Holy Communion, what will they think? Will they immediately assume that the Catholic has agreed with his second spouse to abstain permanently from all sexual relations? Or will they instead be more likely to conclude that the remarried Catholic is living in sin with his second spouse, and nevertheless is being permitted to receive Holy Communion?

Canon 915, already cited above, notes that a Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist if he persists in manifest grave sin. The point is, if the Catholic faithful see that a priest gives the Eucharist to someone whom they know is living in a gravely sinful manner, they might naturally—and wrongly—conclude that such a sinful lifestyle must be morally acceptable. In such a situation, the need to avoid public scandal is crucial!

There is tremendous need for tact and diplomacy in situations like these, on the part of both the remarried Catholic and his pastor. It might, depending on the circumstances, be preferable for these Catholics to refrain from receiving Holy Communion at large Masses, where their action can easily be seen and totally misunderstood by others in the congregation. An understanding parish priest can make an effort to ensure that these parishioners can receive the Eucharist in a more discreet way.

In other cases, some remarried Catholics have been known to speak rather openly about their now-continent relationship with their second spouses. This certainly should clarify their fellow parishioners’ potential confusion; but such public frankness about this very private matter is understandably not something which all remarried Catholics are obliged to embrace! We Catholics have no right to know the internal spiritual status of our fellow Catholics—but at the same time we should not be given reason to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the sacraments are being abused, by our fellow parishioners and with the apparent consent of the parish priest.

We can see that the Catholic Church tries her best to balance multiple concerns simultaneously. The right of Catholics to receive the sacraments must be assessed in light of the very real need for reverence toward the Most Blessed Sacrament. The need to uphold publicly the dignity of Christian marriage, and the Church’s consequent opposition to divorce in principle, must be weighed against the legitimate spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful, who may very well be divorced—and even remarried!—and yet entitled to receive the Eucharist.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Moral Issues; Worship
KEYWORDS: catholic; divorce; divorceeucharist; kennedyfuneral

Cathy Caridi, J.C.L. is a licensed canonist who practices law and teaches in the Washington, D.C. area.

1 posted on 01/04/2012 3:55:59 PM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 01/04/2012 3:56:44 PM PST by NYer ("Be kind to every person you meet. For every person is fighting a great battle." St. Ephraim)
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To: NYer; verga; thesaleboat; Sick of Lefties; Chainmail; StrongandPround; lilyramone; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.


3 posted on 01/04/2012 4:18:19 PM PST by narses
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To: NYer

There is no automatic sin in divorce, NONE at all.
Those who think otherwise are probably committing a sin, themselves, however.


4 posted on 01/04/2012 4:18:45 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Kansas58

Really???? Didn’t Jesus say “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder”?


5 posted on 01/04/2012 4:24:04 PM PST by Ann Archy ( ABORTION...the HUMAN Sacrifice to the god of Convenience.)
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To: NYer
Another point:

http://www.amazon.com/Open-Arms-Catholics-Remarriage/dp/089243810X

The Church has never retracted the teachings in this book. The “internal forum” or conscience of those who are involved is very important. The Priest only OBSERVES the Sacrament, it is, in fact PERFORMED by the bride and groom.

More to the point: Those involved have the greatest insight on if, in fact, the “marriage” was valid or not.

A formal Annulment process can cause great harm, in situations were abuse, alcoholism or drug abuse, or mental illness is involved.

Hossie teaches that it is possible to remarry, if, in fact, you truly believe the original wedding produced an invalid marriage.

Hossie has never been contradicted by the Church.

6 posted on 01/04/2012 4:26:19 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Ann Archy

And who are YOU to say that GOD joined anyone?

Liars, the mentally ill, con artists and others have to be excluded from any such “contract” -— or at least their victims MUST be excluded from any obligations.


7 posted on 01/04/2012 4:29:00 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Kansas58
Those who think otherwise are probably committing a sin, themselves, however.

Couldn't those who think otherwise simply be honestly wrong, but with good intentions?

Ne zot, it sure is obvious when someone's personal buttons are pushed ...

8 posted on 01/04/2012 4:43:32 PM PST by Tax-chick (Whatever happens, I'll get through it. Or die trying.)
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To: NYer

**Therefore one can and certainly does encounter sincerely devout, practicing Catholics who happen to be divorced. Such persons are hardly excluded from the sacraments simply because their spouses chose to divorce them.**

The Answer!

Unles a divorced Catholic remarries, he or she can still receive the Sacraments, including the Eucharist.


9 posted on 01/04/2012 4:45:53 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Kansas58

What Censor issued the Nihil Obstat and what Bishop issued the Imprimatur for Hosie’s book?


10 posted on 01/04/2012 4:48:49 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: Kansas58

Frank Sinatra and Ted Kennedy both got annulments. The Catholic Church makes a joke of itself with the way they dole out annulments.


11 posted on 01/04/2012 4:53:12 PM PST by CaptainK (...please make it stop. Shake a can of pennies at it.)
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To: CaptainK

It’s not a joke. After over 10 years of marriage my son in law told my daughter that he never wanted to be married and never wanted to have children.

Two weeks later he moved in with a man.

Now is that a joke? I think not. It is a simple annulment called a lack of form.

Before you speak in such a way, perahps you should learn what the Catholic Church teaches here.


12 posted on 01/04/2012 4:57:35 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Kansas58

YOU are certifiable, lady.


13 posted on 01/04/2012 4:58:04 PM PST by Ann Archy ( ABORTION...the HUMAN Sacrifice to the god of Convenience.)
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To: Salvation
First of all I'm Catholic. And for every annulment that is valid and warranted like your son's there are joke annulments like the ones given to Sinatra and Kennedy.

Why did they give one to Sinatra? He left his first wife for another woman. His first wife didn't want him to leave her. She was a good wife and mother. She had no substance abuse problems.

He got one because he knew how to pull some strings so his third wife got the church wedding she wanted. Which is shameful on the part of the Church.

14 posted on 01/04/2012 5:20:21 PM PST by CaptainK (...please make it stop. Shake a can of pennies at it.)
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To: CaptainK

I can assure you from my own personal experience the Catholic Church does NOT “dole out annulments” for regular folks. Took me 2 years, many sleepless nights, lots of praying & for me, a crazy amount of patience to endure the process. It was fair, slow & deliberate. It was NOT pleasant & deadly serious. I would not have had it any other way, to be honest.

In the end, I was granted a decree of nullity for my 1st marriage. My 2nd (and final) wife & had our civil marriage con-validated as soon as we could & by the Grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ we were able to receive Him in the Eucharist.


15 posted on 01/04/2012 5:31:03 PM PST by TheStickman
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To: CaptainK

I can assure you from my own personal experience the Catholic Church does NOT “dole out annulments” for regular folks. Took me 2 years, many sleepless nights, lots of praying & for me, a crazy amount of patience to endure the process. It was fair, slow & deliberate. It was NOT pleasant & deadly serious. I would not have had it any other way, to be honest.

In the end, I was granted a decree of nullity for my 1st marriage. My 2nd (and final) wife & had our civil marriage con-validated as soon as we could & by the Grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ we were able to receive Him in the Eucharist.


16 posted on 01/04/2012 5:31:08 PM PST by TheStickman
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To: NYer

Holy Communion is freely available to divorced Catholics.


17 posted on 01/04/2012 5:44:34 PM PST by DManA
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To: TheStickman

It doesn’t matter to me if they make it hard for the regular folks and easy for the rich and famous. If they make it easy for the rich and famous it makes an annulment a joke. When a church allows Kennedy and Sinatra to take communion it’s a joke. There is no difference to me between Sinatra’s annulment and my girlfriends’ divorce.


18 posted on 01/04/2012 5:51:01 PM PST by CaptainK (...please make it stop. Shake a can of pennies at it.)
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To: CaptainK

Sounds to me like you have an issue with specific Bishops and specific tribunals yet choose to lambaste the entire Church. That’s akin to blaming all of the Apostles for the actions of one Judas Iscariot.


19 posted on 01/04/2012 6:08:44 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: NYer

Thank you for posting this!


20 posted on 01/04/2012 6:47:12 PM PST by FamiliarFace
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To: DManA
"Holy Communion is freely available to divorced Catholics."

...provided they are not in a sexual relationship with anyone. Any celibate divorced Catholic is free to receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

21 posted on 01/04/2012 6:47:50 PM PST by redhead ("Inner peace, inner peace...." Master Shi Fu)
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To: A.A. Cunningham
Look it up yourself, know it all.
It is in the front cover, but I loaned my copy out-—
22 posted on 01/04/2012 7:29:20 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: A.A. Cunningham
Look it up yourself, know it all.
It is in the front cover, but I loaned my copy out-—
23 posted on 01/04/2012 7:29:31 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Ann Archy

I am 100% honest and correct on this issue.

I am also a GUY!


24 posted on 01/04/2012 7:31:46 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Tax-chick

False Witness against Thy Neighbor is a sin.


25 posted on 01/04/2012 7:34:57 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: redhead

The Lord’s Table is open to all. Even sinners.


26 posted on 01/04/2012 7:49:26 PM PST by DManA
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To: TheStickman

Thaks for your testimony here. I don’t think some people understand the workings of a marriage tribunal.....certifiable slow.


27 posted on 01/04/2012 8:12:27 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Kansas58
Poster wrote that there is no automatic sin in divorce. Canon lawyer wrote, “The fact is, the Church does not teach that Catholics are forbidden to receive Holy Communion if they are divorced. Rather, it teaches that a Catholic who has been divorced and remarried, without having first obtained an annulment of the first marriage, is not permitted to receive the Eucharist.”

Both of these statement are very incomplete, just as it is scandalously incomplete to say there is no sin in killing someone. Scandal leads people to sin. In the U.S., most divorces are issued for no-fault reasons where one simply chooses to renege on marital obligations. Those who force no-fault on their spouse are in grave sin and cannot receive Holy Communion unless they repent and have a firm resolve to stop the sin (i.e. reconcile and restore intact home).

However, in the minor number of cases where there is a morally licit reason for separation of spouses, the spouse who is innocent must (according to canon law) have the bishop's permission before seeking civil divorce or separation (canon 1692, 1151-1155).

So, for those who are divorced, about half are in grave manifest objective sin. No-fault abandoners and abusers should not be given Communion, until after they stop the grave sinning.

28 posted on 01/05/2012 8:29:34 AM PST by Bai Mac. (NCR cut author's story to remove Bai Macfarlane, Mary's Advocates perspective)
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To: Bai Mac.

There are exceptions to every rule, including what you just posted.
I suggest you read “With open Arms” since the formal approval of a Bishop is not always required.
Also, if the marriage is invalid it is invalid from the start.
The church does not MAKE it invalid, The Church only recognizes it was and is invalid through formal annulment.
Your legal position is contradictory and not logical. If there was and is no union there is no sin.
What do you think happens when unbalanced or abusive people are questioned by Church authorities?
MORE ABUSE!
More turmoil, more sin.
There are many cases where requesting formal recognition of invalid unions is not smart or moral.


29 posted on 01/05/2012 8:56:51 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: CaptainK

“The Catholic Church makes a joke of itself with the way they dole out annulments.”

As I understand it “immaturity” is the catch-all for annulment-seekers with enough money; can’t say I have any firsthand knowledge of it, though.


30 posted on 01/05/2012 9:01:47 PM PST by kearnyirish2
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To: Kansas58

Hey Kansas58, hope you are well.

I want to be sure I am understanding you correctly. Our Catechism plainly calls divorce a “grave offense” (2384) and an “offense against the dignity of marriage.” It even gives it a bolded heading along with another “offense against the dignity of marriage”, namely, Adultery.

Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society (2385).

Nobody on here is saying that civil divorce is ALWAYS gravely sinful. Upon seeking permission from the local ordinary (bishop) AND when there are NO other alternatives (for example, legal separation) civil divorce could be morally licit.. in certain exceptional situations. BaiMac explains this well.

But are you saying that divorce is NEVER a grave offense? Or are you saying that even when it is a “grave offense” it is the one “grave offense” that we can commit and still receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ... as if we are in full communion with Him and His Church?

What are some other sins that our Catechism calls “grave offenses” that do not keep us from worthily receiving Holy Communion?

Bryan

LOVE SO AMAZING


31 posted on 01/05/2012 9:53:37 PM PST by Francis Christine George
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To: Francis Christine George
I am saying that we are ALL SINNERS, and that divorce is not an automatic sin.
I am also saying that we are all sinners.
Divorce, even if done for sinful reasons (not always the case at all) is not a permanent or unforgivable sin. Sin can be forgiven.
I am also saying that formal permission of the Bishop is desirable, but all the Bishop does, in Annulment cases, is agree that the union was not valid.
The Bishop does not MAKE the union invalid, the Bishop simply recognizes that fact.
Many Catholics are no better, today, that the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.
Rules and Regs Catholics forget that there are almost ALWAYS exceptions and that there is always forgiveness, for every sin except deliberate blasphemy, as I understand it.

Again, annulment is NOT “Catholic Divorce” -— Annulment simply recognizes that a marital union was not valid, from the start.

If those involved already KNOW this for a fact, in their heart and soul, and if they have valid reasons of safety, health and even that concern of “avoiding scandal” -— then the formal annulment process is not a good idea.

I am right on this subject.

Again, I suggest that you read Hossie’s book.

32 posted on 01/06/2012 9:26:33 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: Francis Christine George

The “internal forum” is mentioned in this ministry to divorced Catholics.

It is OBVIOUSLY still accepted by the Church:

http://www.nacsdc.org/


33 posted on 01/06/2012 9:59:57 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: Francis Christine George
Internal Forum Solution.

There is a pastoral solution that is compassionate, reasonable, and theologically sound. It's called the “internal forum solution.” Never heard of it? We're not surprised. It has been one of the better-kept secrets in the Catholic Church. Parish priests use it all the time, in a confidential setting, including, sometimes, the confessional. That's why it's called “the internal forum.” (The external forum is the annulment process we've just described.)

The internal forum is something private, something we work out in prayer and reflection on the state of our own consciences. Sometimes, in order to do that, we may need to seek the help of a priest, in or out of the sacrament of reconciliation. Sometimes, we may seek the advice of a therapist, or another Catholic couple, or members of our own families.

Father Barry says that the internal forum solution comes under canon law. He paraphrases Canon 1116 in the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

. . .[I]f a person has a right to get married before God but cannot get access to proper authority within one month, they can use any authority, even just two witnesses. This is sometimes called “the desert island” canon. It is often used when two Roman Catholics find themselves in an area without priests because of political persecution or remoteness. Some canon lawyers also apply this canon to the case where a couple live next door to the rectory and has a right to get married before God but the priest refuses to care for them. (New Hope for Divorced Catholics, p. 81)
Father Barry thinks that such a marriage can be considered within the Church. He is only one of many pastoral-minded priests and bishops in the land who hold this view. They also cite the moral principle of epikeia, a kind of common-sense virtue which tells us when the law applies and when it doesn't. American Catholics are, by and large, unfamiliar with this concept. We are accustomed to seeing everything spelled out for us. Epikeia says we shouldn't expect to see everything spelled out. Epikeia is the Church's official way of saying, “This is the law; now use your common sense.”
Those who read the Catholic press in this country surely know there's a split between priests and bishops who follow the letter of the law and those who sometimes opt for common sense instead. Some do not know that there have been many behind-the-scenes clashes on the internal forum question among our priests and bishops, with the follow-the-law clergy on one side and the common-sense clergy on the other. We can, however, cite some of the recent, open clashes.

Items:

In June 1972, Bishop Robert Tracy of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, encouraged couples in his diocese to come back to the sacraments if they were convinced that they were truly married and that their prior marriages were either not valid or simply dead — even without a decision from Tracy's marriage tribunal. We understand that at that time other bishops around the country (in Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Oregon, to name two) were also admitting couples to a full Eucharistic life who were exercising the internal forum solution suggested by Bishop Tracy.

That was too much for Cardinal John J. Krol of Philadelphia, then president of the U.S. bishops. He announced that a study on this question was under way by the newly-formed National Conference of Catholic Bishops and by the Holy See. He referred to a letter from Rome saying that, until the matter was decided in Rome, “dioceses are not to introduce procedures that are contrary to current discipline.” In September 1972, the NCCB’s administrative board sent the results of its study on the question to Rome.

On April 11, 1973, Cardinal Franjo Seper, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome, wrote back to the president of the NCCB. He spoke about the danger of any new moves (he did not mention Bishop Tracy by name) that would undermine Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. In other words, he said Rome did not approve of any changes in “the external forum.” But then he went on to urge that pastors bring divorced and re-married Catholics back to the sacraments by “applying the approved practice of the Church in the internal forum.” What did Cardinal Seper mean by this “approved practice?” He may have been thinking of what came to be Canon 1116. Or he may have simply been aware that moral theologians had been advocating the internal forum solution for centuries, according to the principle of epikeia.

The leadership of this country's National Conference of Catholic Bishops wanted something clearer. What did Cardinal Seper mean by “the approved practice of the Church?” On March 21, 1975, Archbishop Jerome Hamer, OP, secretary of the CDF, delivered this response to Cardinal Krol’s successor in that elective office, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: “ . . . [T]his phrase must be understood in the context of traditional moral theology. These couples may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.”

In other words, following their own informed consciences, according to Archbishop Hamer, those in second marriages could return to full Eucharist life. (He didn't say, and couldn't have meant, “only those who are living as brother-and-sister may go to communion.” If a couple wasn't having sex, why would anyone think it scandalous that they were going to Communion?) But, said Hamer, these couples in irregular marriages should not trouble the consciences of others by making a big show of it. To receive the Eucharist, they might well have to associate themselves with another parish .
But there was a faction among the U.S. bishops that tried to get Vatican approval of even more explicit guidelines. In 1977, an NCCB committee wrote up some uniform procedures regarding the internal forum, proposing that all such matters be approved by the bishop or his delegate, who would have to arrive at a moral certitude that the couples in question were really challenging the validity of their first marriages before they could be admitted to the sacraments. The Vatican balked at that, pointing out that marriage tribunals were already providing this moral certitude “in the external forum.” Asking a bishop to approve particular applications of the internal forum was really an attempt to make the internal forum into some kind of external forum. In attempting to keep the two forums separate, the Vatican was giving U.S. Catholics more freedom than the NCCB committee was willing to grant.

We of ARCC applaud this Vatican move to preserve the internal forum. We could have been content to see Catholics follow “the long approved practice of the Church in the internal forum,” as cited by Cardinal Seper and Archbishop Hamer in their responses for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). But we have problems with the added admonition that couples who use the internal forum solution should receive the sacraments in churches where they are not known, “so that they will not create any scandal.” We argue with that strategy. What would create the scandal? The spectacle of seeing an apparently-happily-married couple going to Communion? Or the notion that those who see them going to Communion would conclude that the Church has changed its teaching on permanence and fidelity in marriage?

In their “Notes on Moral Theology 1995, Pastoral Care of the Divorced and Remarried,” Father Kenneth R. Himes and Father James A. Coriden deny the implication: “Even many Catholics who have undergone the torment of divorce do not want the Church to change its teaching on permanence and fidelity in marriage. What they seek is understanding and support for themselves and others when their lived reality falls short of the beauty and truth of the teaching.” They add: In the CDF response... no evidence is cited to gauge the risk of scandal that will result from permitting the remarried to receive the Eucharist. Therefore, it is at least equally plausible that an “across-the-board denial of the sacraments to divorced people who have remarried gives scandal by weakening the witness of the Church to the compassion and forgiveness of Christ” (Himes and Coriden, p 118, quoting the moral theologian Kevin Kelly, in “Divorce and Remarriage in the Church,” The Tablet 248 (1994) p. 1374).

Furthermore, we suspect it is psychologically damaging for the couple in question, acting in good conscience, to receive the Eucharist surreptitiously. The Eucharist is part of a celebration of the community. The couple needs the acceptance and approval of the community, that is, of the people of God. If the couple does not experience that approval — a testament to an expanding faith in God's all-embracing love, a faith that looks to the power of God to recreate everyone — then the couple may have a hard time remaining faithful to each other, and to the Church.

The late Msgr. Stephen Kelleher, once the head of the marriage tribunal for the Archdiocese of New York, seemed to agree with this position when he wrote about the internal forum. (He called it the Welcome Home solution.)

It is my conviction that once a marriage becomes irrevocably intolerable and existentially dead, each party to the marriage, regardless of his religion, has a clear right to divorce, to marry a second time and to be accepted in the religious community of his choice. For the Catholic, this means principally that he will be fully welcomed at the Eucharistic celebration, that he may receive Holy Communion on an equal basis with other Catholics.... The Welcome Home solution is the only human and Christian solution for our time in history. (”Divorce and Remarriage for Catholics,” p. 190)
The point is that there has been some liberalizing movement within the Church — with many theologians and canon lawyers urging a more realistic, more pastoral approach on the marriage-and-remarriage issue, while those of a more legal bent (not always the pope and his advisers in Rome!) hold fast to an “ancient” teaching, a decree of the Council of Florence in 1439. The approved authorities, as they used to say in textbooks on moral theology, are divided.

http://astro.temple.edu/~arcc/marriage.htm

34 posted on 01/06/2012 10:31:41 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: Kansas58

Hello Kansas58,
Thanks for responding but I’m still confused by what you are saying. Yes, we are all sinners. Of course this doesn’t mean that we can persist in grave sin and be on the narrow path headed to the narrow gate.

We can talk annulments next, but I’m trying to first understand your position on divorce and the Eucharist… and this relates more directly to the topic of Mrs. Caridi’s comments.

Are you saying that divorce is NEVER the “grave offense” that our Catechism calls it?

If we agree that the Catechism is holding up the Truth and that divorce is a “grave offense” (except… again… for those who are abandoned and also those certain exceptional instances when a civil divorce would not be sinful).

Let’s look at the times when divorce is a “grave offense.” Is it somehow a “grave offense” that I can commit and still receive the Eucharist worthily?

If so, what are other “grave offenses” that also fit into this category?

Of course divorce is not the “unforgivable sin” but is it somehow a grave sin that I can repent of without any purpose to right the wrong? For example, can I simply abandon my wife and children because I am not in love with my wife. Then, go to the priest and confess the sin and be freed to receive the Eucharist again even though I have no purpose to amend my life and right the wrong of abandoning my wife and children?

We can get into the “internal forum” and “annulment” discussion next, just want to be sure I understand what you are saying is the “truth” regarding the reception of the Eucharist following a divorce. Thanks for your patience Kansas.

Bryan
LOVE SO AMAZING


35 posted on 01/06/2012 8:41:05 PM PST by Francis Christine George
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To: Francis Christine George

You seem obsessed with legalisms and judgment -— which is not ours to make.
I suggest you read all of my posts on this thread, and read the links as well.
Divorce is not always a sin, and formal annulment in the “public forum” is NOT required before remarriage if the “private forum” is used.
Also, it IS sinful for others to judge those who have remarried.
You do not know and have no need to know any details.
According to CHURCH teaching, NEITHER DOES THE CHURCH!


36 posted on 01/06/2012 9:01:58 PM PST by Kansas58
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To: Kansas58

Good morning Kansas58,

“You seem obsessed with legalisms and judgment”

Do you see how you are making a judgment here?

We are to judge others (just realize that we too will be judged and we should first remove the plank from our own eyes). Our Blessed Lord instructs us to judge...

John 7:24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

Also, Matthew 18
15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

How can you determine if a brother sins without making a judgment?

Please, Kansas58, I pray that you see my “obsession” is with the salvation of souls.

As long as people are running around teaching that EVERY civilly divorced person may partake of Holy Communion unless they are remarried without their annulment then people will continue to believe that divorce itself is not the grave sin our Catechism calls it (yes, again, there are those who are civilly divorced who had the civil divorce forced upon them... they are not sinning because they continue to understand that the civil divorce did not separate what God joined and they are continuing to remain faithful to their vows. Also, there are those exceptional situations when it is morally okay to civilly divorce your spouse.)

If we fail to see divorce as a “grave offense” then we may fail to see the need to repent of the divorce. If we fail to see the need to repent of the divorce then we will die in our grave sin. If we die in our grave sin, we will not join our Lord forever in the Heavenly Wedding Feast.

This is truly about the salvation of souls... that is my passion... or “obsession.”

As for the “internal forum solution.” Is this also available to the homosexual men who are “married?” Can they say, “I know that the Church says that it is gravely sinful but there are exceptions to everything and we know our own hearts and we know that we are married and that God is okay with our marriage.”

If not, why are there no “exceptions” in this case? Why doesn’t the homosexual’s “internal forum solution” solve their problem of desiring that a sinful relationship magically become blessed by God?

Can you find any teachings from our Magesterium over the nearly 2,000 years of its existence on the “internal forum solution” in relationship to divorce and remarriage? This should be important to the faithful Catholic.

Bryan

LOVE SO AMAZING


37 posted on 01/07/2012 5:59:50 AM PST by Francis Christine George
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To: Francis Christine George

Previously posted.
You just don’t like the answer.

You are not “saving souls” but instead, trying to exclude people. Your logic is flawed, your theology is not accurate, and your example is ridiculous.

The Church does NOT nullify marriages, the Church can, formally, RECOGNIZE that a wedding produced an invalid marriage.

Through the Internal Forum, we are allowed to do that, ourselves, if necessary, without a formal or annulment or External Forum.

That IS Church Teaching.

Teaching that you seem to reject.


38 posted on 01/07/2012 6:34:57 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: Francis Christine George
If the wedding did not produce a sacramental marriage union there can be NO sin in civil divorce.

Simple logic

39 posted on 01/07/2012 7:11:31 AM PST by Kansas58
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To: Kansas58

Hello Kansas58, hope you are well.

“If the wedding did not produce a sacramental marriage union there can be NO sin in civil divorce.
Simple logic.”

I don’t want to complicate this by bringing in the “Natural Law” so if you change the word “sacramental” to “valid” then I don’t see anybody arguing with your point there.

A good example would be what St. Augustine called an “adulterous remarriage.” Say Arnie and Maria are validly married. If 15 years down the road Arnie civilly divorces Maria and marries Pamela then Arnie is in what St. Augustine called an “adulterous remarriage.” It would not be sinful for Arnie to civilly divorce from that “marriage”... because it is not a true marriage.

I think I have piled too many questions into one message and I therefore do not catch your answers and I get side tracked. Would you please answer for me the following two questions? I truly am seeking to understand how you are looking at this.

Is divorce NEVER a “grave offense?”

Assuming that it sometimes is a “grave offense” then... in those times that it is a “grave offense”... can we commit that grave offense and still worthily receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist?

Bryan

LOVE SO AMAZING


40 posted on 01/07/2012 12:06:47 PM PST by Francis Christine George
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To: Kansas58

“The Church does NOT nullify marriages”

Yes, I hope I haven’t given the impression that the Church does nullify marriages. It has the authority to declare that a valid marriage did not take place... but before discussing annulments or internal forum I would like to understand your thinking on the two questions in my last post first. Thanks Kansas58.

Bryan

LOVE SO AMAZING


41 posted on 01/07/2012 12:06:58 PM PST by Francis Christine George
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