Skip to comments.ASK FATHER: Marriage problem, bad confession experience train wreck
Posted on 04/29/2014 2:33:52 AM PDT by NYer
From a reader…
Dear Fr. Z,
I came upon your blog after a very disappointing encounter at church today and in a way, I was looking for some kind of comfort. Please bear with me as I attempt to express both thoughts and feelings.
I have not gone to confession in a long time, so long that I don’t even remember the last time I went. I have lost my way and today’s homily and the celebration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy made me realize that it was time for me to go to confession.
After gathering my courage, I waited in line for over 2 hours in the heat of the noonday sun only to be refused confession by the priest. Frustration. Disappointment. Anger. So many emotions and questions as to why the priest could be so cold even after I said that I have lost my way and that I want to reunite myself with Christ.
After I told him of my intentions, he asked if I was married (yes), if it was at a church (no), if my husband was catholic (no, which is why we were married by a pastor and not in a Roman Catholic church). After hearing my responses he said I was in grave, mortal sin since I wasn’t married in a church and refused to hear my confession but instead offered to pray for me.
It is hard for me to believe that our God would turn someone in my predicament away. I have heard and read the gospels and Jesus never turned anyone away. Does this mean I can never receive the Sacrament of Penance and shouldn’t bother taking communion until I force the man I love to convert to my religion and get married in a Roman Catholic Church? It sounds so contrived!
If the answer is yes then it’s probably time for me to seek a different religion, one that will accept me and my husband with open arms and show me the loving grace and forgiveness of our Father.
My husband has been going to church with me since we married in 2009 and as I walked away in near tears explaining to him what happened, he commented “and you wonder why a lot of Roman Catholics are leaving the church” and I walked in silence, I couldn’t even defend my own religion.
Im hurting Father Z, I want to repair my relationship with God through confession but what am I to do? Should I try a different parish? I feel more lost than when I started.
Please help me Father Z, Im hurting and so desperately want to reunite myself with our God :’(
In John 6, Jesus presents His followers with a difficult teaching: we must eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood in order to be saved. Many of his disciples, hearing this, said, This saying is hard, and who can hear it? They left Him.
I am sorry you had a bad experience, especially this past Sunday when the Church, according to the ordinary calendar, celebrated God’s mercy. It sounds as if the priest was less than helpful. As I remind people in my Tips for making a good confession, priests also have bad days. On a day when they are hearing many confessions, after having said a couple Masses, priests can get tired.
That said, while Father’s tone was unhelpful, what he said essentially is true. Someone who is living in an objective state that cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching cannot receive the sacrament of reconciliation until and unless their objective state changes. Essentially, Father was giving you the truth. What is more pastoral than that? He could have stated it much better, however.
It would not have been helpful to you in any way had Father given you absolution and said, Go in peace. You would still be in that objective state of sin.
As the disciples learned, sometimes Jesus and His Church’s teachings are hard. The solution isnt to soften them. The solution is not to look for someone who twists Jesus teachings to suit our opinions. The solution is to change our lives to fit Christs and the Church’s guidance. That includes his tough words on the Eucharist, on marriage, on relationships, on suffering….
What Father probably should have, first, acknowledged that your return to the confessional was through a prompting of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is at work in your soul in ways that you might not be fully aware. It is good that you returned to confession. It took courage and strength to respond to what the Holy Spirit was asking, namely, to examine your life thoroughly and then lay out your sins before the priest and seek forgiveness. Father should have told you that, because of your marriage situation, you cant receive absolution today, but that hed be willing to meet with you later in the week (or, if he was a visiting priest, encouraged you to set up an appointment with the pastor) to look for a solution to your situation.
There may be a couple possible solutions, that would be best discussed face to face. Your husband would not need to convert to Catholicism in order to have your marriage celebrated in the Church, a dispensation or permission could be sought (and these are usually granted).
You are disappointed now. Do not be discouraged. The Holy Spirit who led you to the confessional in the first place does not give us discouragement. That’s what the Enemy prompts. God wants to right your relationship with the Church and with Himself. Anything that seems like an easy solution to a difficult situation probably wont resolve anything.
Were you to, as you say, go elsewhere and find a different religion, knowing that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, what would you have solved? You would only be compounding your problems and endangering your soul. Should we seek out a religion that fits our lives, or should we instead seek out the religion that is true and change our lives to fit the truth?
After Christ’s gave his “hard teaching” in John 6, many disciples left Him. He asked those who remained, Will you also go away? St. Peter responded, Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. Embrace the truth, even when the truth hurts. The hurt is momentary and, in the long run, good for you. If the priest you encountered in the confessional was not helpful, seek another one who will help you to rectify your marriage situation and lead you back to regular reception of the Sacraments.
Before launching any attack on the Sacrament of Penance, please watch the following video that details the SCRIPTURAL basis of this sacrament. Thank you!
[Jesus] said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.
This is one of only two times in Scripture where we are told that God breathed on man, the other being in Genesis 2:7, when he gave man a living soul. It emphasizes how important the establishment of the sacrament of penance was.
She must have found an unusual priest. In my experience, they are more likely to tell you that there is no sin, or something like that.
A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
“...as I walked away in near tears explaining to him what happened, he commented and you wonder why a lot of Roman Catholics are leaving the church...”
The context of the priest’s comment would seem to warrant the opposite reply:
Before all the tolerance for wayward behavior ushered in with Vatican II the Catholic attendance was huge! Following Vatican II people have left in droves because the Mass began to look less and less like a Catholic exclusive sacrificial offering with the unique substantial presence of Christ and the clarity of right and wrong. Now it is nearly comparable to protestant services as there is today far less reverence and specificity in the rubrics of the Mass.
Gone are the educator and nursing and praying groups of religious sisters and brothers. Gone are the filled pews. Gone are the numerous priests and parishes of the 30s 40s and 50s and 60s. And the departures weren’t due to increased strictness!
In contast to what the priest was saying, people were previously attracted to the challenge which calls them miraculously beyond their human limitations.
Just the opposite, Father!!!
A broken and contrite heart He will not reject. It is Christ who makes us righteous and not our ‘good works’. Jesus first forgave the women accused as adulterous and then said go and sin no more. Repentance and then good works will follow so the priest had it backwards in my opinion—a little like the Pharisees of Jesus day but not as vicious.
The priest at our church always calls for repentance each sunday mass.
I think you read that wrong. That quote (”and you wonder why a lot of Roman Catholics are leaving the church) is from her husband not the priest who refused to hear her Confession.
I did a bit of a double take myself, I too initially thought her priest said that too.
The key word in Jesus statement is ‘The Holy Spirit’ who discerns truth from false.
The question is if the couple were not married in the catholic church (or any church) but are faithfully married is that a sin against God or just against church doctrine?
I don’t entirely understand FR. Z’s logic here myself. I was not aware that if one is married to a non-Catholic, and the marriage wasn’t celebrated, or concelebrated in a Catholic Church, one was living in a state of sin.
I was under the impression that such a marriage, while not sacramental, is still considered valid. Thus, while the Catholic spouse does not enjoy the Sacramental benefit of such a marriage, it’s still a marriage so to be living in such a state even as husband and wife is not a sin.
At least this was my understanding before reading this. I may do some more research on this, it doesn’t seem right to me that such a marriage isn’t recognized in some way by the Church. It is considered valid after all.
“It is Christ who makes us righteous and not our ‘good works’”
What does that have to do with this? No one said our good works make us righteous.
Jesus forgave the woman accused as adulterous and said go and sin no more. This woman was saying - I expect to keep on sinning, in response to the “go and sin no” more requirement this priets requested; in other words the priest in effect said, “please regulate your marriage to the proper sacramental status”. What then if the adulterous woman had responded to Jesus that she did not intend to change anything about her behavior? Jesus forgives her - if she changes.
Also please explain scripture: John 20:21-23. If it wasn’t necessary - why would Jesus specifically give the power to forgive sins to His earliest Bishops; the apostles? Jesus had concrete reasons for each and every one of His statements and actions; no instructions of Jesus are to be ignored.
“..doesn’t seem right to me that such a marriage isn’t recognized...”
I wondered too, however, I am giving the priest the benefit of the doubt that something about her marriage that she shared with the priest made it irregular; I am sure there are such circumstances.
back in the day when I married my Catholic spouse, to receive the required counseling of the priest on the marriage (which was NOT in a RC church and not attended by a priest) we had to agree that any kids would be raised Catholic- believe I even signed something to that effect
I don’t think my spouse has even been informed he should not take confession or communion because he is living in sin
Baptism in any Christian church is recognized by the Catholic church, and is also a sacrament
So I think “the church” is a bit contradictory on how it handled/s this marriage issue and this couple, and the woman’s husband’s remarks were right on
That is my understanding as well,. I don't have my book of Canon Law in front of me, so I will check it when I get home.
Good point, we don’t know her entire situation.
I may though still research the issue, as described. Again, it doesn’t seem right to me that Church teaching states a Catholic married to a non Catholic is living in sin with that person unless they get their marriage “blessed” by the Church. Yes, they aren’t receiving the Sacramental benefit of the marriage, but are they in a state of mortal sin?
The obvious question in my mind is, what about 2 Protestants who are married. Or 2 Jewish people. Are they living in sin, even though they are married?
Awesome, thanks. I look forward to your reply.
Having said that, if neither partner has a living ex-spouse, there are at least two ways to fix this woman's problem. Neither one requires her husband's conversion; one doesn't even require his cooperation.
I think it is called, when a Catholic marries outside of the Church, “defect of canonical form”, which is an automatic annullment granted.
So this means such people are indeed living in a state of sin, right?
What about two non-Catholics who are married?
Is this a case of “to whom much is given, much is required”?
The “canonical form” requirement only applies when a Catholic is involved. Two validly-baptized non-Catholics have a valid, sacramental marriage as long as they exchanged marital consent in some recognizable way.
It is considered valid. How do I know? A friend of mine married a man in a Christian ceremony (not Catholic). He ran off some years later. She was Catholic and met another Catholic. She had to go through an annulment for husband number 1 to marry husband number 2. Thus, if the Catholic Church sees a marriage as sacred when performed in a Christian church.. they see the marriage as sacred.
That’s my understanding as well.
The church is always going to err on the side of caution & require an annulment procedure if there was a prior marriage. But I can just about guarantee that your friend’s prior marriage was found invalid very quickly on “defect of canonical form” grounds, meaning that the invalidity of the marriage was clear as soon as the facts were set forth.
The really cool thing about the Catholic Church is that it is not contradictory. You just need to read up more on it or talk with someone who REALLy knows what it teaches, not the brother-in-law of a friend and from husbands who report to the media what the Pope said to his wife over the phone!!!
As Father Z tells it...seek the true teaching and come to understand it. It’s just like the whole birth control issue - people just don’t take the time to understand the true teaching and so they live lesser lives and miss out.
This was my thinking as well. My husband is not Catholic and we were not married in a Catholic Church, but I have presented myself for the Sacrament of Confession and never been turned away. And our priest knows of our marriage.
§2. Whenever a marriage is contracted according to the norm of ⇒ can. 1116, a priest or deacon, if he was present at the celebration, or otherwise the witnesses in solidum with the contracting parties are bound to inform as soon as possible the pastor or local ordinary about the marriage entered into.
§3. For a marriage contracted with a dispensation from canonical form, the local ordinary who granted the dispensation is to take care that the dispensation and celebration are inscribed in the marriage registers of both the curia and the proper parish of the Catholic party whose pastor conducted the investigation about the free status. The Catholic spouse is bound to notify as soon as possible the same ordinary and pastor about the marriage celebrated and also to indicate the place of the celebration and the public form observed.
Can. 1122 §1. The contracted marriage is to be noted also in the baptismal registers in which the baptism of the spouses has been recorded.
§2. If a spouse did not contract marriage in the parish in which the person was baptized, the pastor of the place of the celebration is to send notice of the marriage which has been entered into as soon as possible to the pastor of the place of the conferral of baptism.
Can. 1123 Whenever a marriage is either convalidated in the external forum, declared null, or legitimately dissolved other than by death, the pastor of the place of the celebration of the marriage must be informed so that a notation is properly made in the marriage and baptismal registers.
Can. 1124 Without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:
1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.
Can. 1126 It is for the conference of bishops to establish the method in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, must be made and to define the manner in which they are to be established in the external forum and the non-Catholic party informed about them.
Can. 1127 §1. The prescripts of ⇒ can. 1108 are to be observed for the form to be used in a mixed marriage.
Nevertheless, if a Catholic party contracts marriage with a non-Catholic party of an Eastern rite, the canonical form of the celebration must be observed for liceity only; for validity, however, the presence of a sacred minister is required and the other requirements of law are to be observed.
§2. If grave diYculties hinder the observance of canonical form, the local ordinary of the Catholic party has the right of dispensing from the form in individual cases, after having consulted the ordinary of the place in which the marriage is celebrated and with some public form of celebration for validity. It is for the conference of bishops to establish norms by which the aforementioned dispensation is to be granted in a uniform manner.
§3. It is forbidden to have another religious celebration of the same marriage to give or renew matrimonial consent before or after the canonical celebration according to the norm of §1. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the Catholic who is assisting and a non-Catholic minister together, using their own rites, ask for the consent of the parties.
Can. 1128 Local ordinaries and other pastors of souls are to take care that the Catholic spouse and the children born of a mixed marriage do not lack the spiritual help to fulfill their obligations and are to help spouses foster the unity of conjugal and family life.
Can. 1129 The prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1127 and ⇒ 1128 must be applied also to marriages which the impediment of disparity of cult mentioned in ⇒ can. 1086, §1 impedes.
From Fr. Z's comments and reading her story, it sounds like she did not have the dispensation from form. If my reading is correct than the priest was spot on.
I do reserve the right to be completely wrong and will continue to study this further.
It was... adultery, abuse and finally the abandonment. She is very happy now.
Not necessarily true. The baptism must be Trinitarian.
For the sacrament to be valid, three things have to be present: the correct form, the correct matter, and the correct intention. With baptism, the correct intention is to do what the Church does, the correct matter is water, and the correct form is the baptizing "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).
Jehovahs Witnesses sometimes use no formula at all in their baptisms, and an even larger group, the "Jesus Only" Pentecostals, baptize "in the name of Jesus." As a result, the baptisms of these groups are invalid; thus, they are not Christian, but pseudo-Christian. Both groups also reject the Trinity. Jehovahs Witnesses claim that Jesus is not God, a heresy known as Arianism (after its fourth-century founder), and the "Jesus Only" Pentecostals claim that there is only a single person, Jesus, in the Godhead, a heresy known as Sabellianism
The woman wasnt married in a church. If a Catholic enters marriage outside of the Catholic Church without the necessary dispensation, then the marriage is considered invalid and is not recognized by the Church. Moreover, this action places the person in a state of mortal sin. For instance, if a Catholic marrying either another Catholic or anyone else just decides to be married in some other Church or by a Justice of the Peace, that marriage is invalid. While such a marriage may have legal standing in the eyes of the state, it has no legitimate standing in the eyes of the Church. Ref
Forgot to include you in this ping.
Forgot to include you in this ping.
You’re right, I did miss that detail. I apologize.
The point remains (though it should be directed to the husband. I apologize, Father!)
However, one of the 6 precepts of the church (prior to Vatican II revisions I suppose) states:
6. To never violate the laws concerning the Sacrament of Matrimony.
And that includes a prohibition against marrying a non-Catholic. (See http://www.shrineofsaintjude.net/homemx.html)
My bulljive meter is clicking big time at this woman’s account, starting with her having to stand in line for 2 hours in the sun. Was this some sort of fresh air church?
That’s interesting. Do any of you (also pinged) know if that portion of the Canon was changed at or as a result of Vatican II, and, if so, what was the rationale (if any)?
Thank you all (and any I missed) for your previous replies they were helpful.
Key word — Holy Spirit.
The woman needs to sit down with a priest and find out what she needs to do to have her marriage con-validated in the Church.
I’m not an expert, but the answer may be an annulment or something much simpler. As Father Z said — there is a solution.
God bless her for listening to the Holy Spirit and attempting to go seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As Father Z tells it...seek the true teaching and come to understand it. Its just like the whole birth control issue - people just dont take the time to understand the true teaching and so they live lesser lives and miss out.
You are right regarding Baptism. In addition, there are other denominations that sometimes use other than the Trinitarian formula. In the South here, there are often Church of Christ preachers who do not use the Trinitarian form, stating,for example, I baptize you in the “Spirit of truth”...or the “God of the Resurrection” or in the “name of the Redeemer.” This can also happen with other denominations as well.
Looks like all non-Catholics who are not married by the Catholic church are living in a state of mortal sin after all.
Or even baptized Catholics who were married to someone not Catholic by someone not Catholic.
So the priest retained her sin, even though she wanted to confess?
And we’re assured here that no Catholic priest would ever do that.
The hypocrisy abounds.
Catholicism, the religion of control, not forgiveness and mercy after all.
Annulment = church sanctioned divorce.
It probably took place in a Church outside of this country, whee there was a long line that went to the outside of the Church...because it took place on Divine Mercy Sunday and there was most likely a crowd of people there that day.
I doubt if it was outside of the USA, as she sounds too much like many whining American women that we have these days.
Actually, there are many American women who do not spend their time whining these days. They pray and offer up their difficulties to the Lord, Jesus....for the salvation of souls.
See post 19 for the truth.
An annulment merely states that the marriage was not a valid one.
They are still married and the children are still their children.
Let’s hope so.
A Catholic friend of mine married a divorced Jewish man. Her priest told her that every time she had sex with her husband, she was committing adultery. She went from priest to priest, trying to find one who would tell her that her situation was okay. Last I heard, she and her husband were divorced.
A difficult situation for your Catholic friend. If she is divorced to the Jewish once divorced man and she wants to marry a Roman Catholic she will need an annulment of the marriage with the Jewish man. An annulment of a marriage the RC church never recognized in the first place.
The sad thing is how she went priest-shopping, trying to find one who would tell her she was in good standing with the church without changing anything. I tried to tell her that even if she found a priest who would tell her that, he’d be lying to her. The Catholic church’s rules are what they are. She either needed to stop sleeping with her husband, get him to convert to Catholicism, or whatever would make it right...or find another religion that didn’t think she was an adulteress. I still remember the agony she went through. I’ve lost touch with her except for exchanging Christmas cards, but I imagine this issue probably contributed to her divorce.
Thank you for intentionally making an ignorant statement.