Skip to comments.Pope Francis says half of marriages today are invalid. He's wrong.
Posted on 05/22/2014 7:38:39 AM PDT by BlatherNaut
T o much fanfare in the press, Pope Francis has started a "dialogue" about the Catholic Church's marriage practices. The part that has received the most attention is whether civilly divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be admitted to Holy Communion, without having to abandon their second marriage, which the church recognizes as continuing adultery. This issue will be addressed by the bishops of the Catholic Church at a "Synod on the Family" over this year and next.
Unfortunately, the pope's favorite theologian and the pope himself have initiated this discussion in a befogging cloud of pessimism. The pope is said to have speculated that 50 percent of Catholic marriages are invalid, which is to say they were somehow deficient in form (how the sacrament was conducted) or in intent (the couple didn't intend to marry as the church teaches) and thus are eligible for annulments. Such a dire assessment reeks of high-handed clericalism. Worse, it amounts to the pope doubting not just the sincerity of many Catholics, but the grace of God himself.
First, some background. On the one side there is the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog, Cardinal Muller, the German prelate leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who fired a pre-emptive shot last year. The words of Christ forbid remarriage, and the theology of the church proclaims that the marital union reflects the faithfulness of Christ to the church. As Muller put it, "Faithfulness to marital consent is a prophetic sign of the salvation that God bestows upon the world."
On the other side, the pope has raised the profile of another German theologian, Cardinal Walter Kasper, who for 30 years has been tub-thumping for marriage reform, saying it is a kind of mercy. He holds that while civil remarriages cannot be recognized by the church, asking the civilly remarried to abandon their second marriage or be excluded from communion is untenable. During a media blitz earlier this month, Kasper revealed to Commonweal magazine the pope's eye-popping assessment that half of Catholic marriages are likely invalid.
But when Cardinal Kasper was confronted with the arguments of his opponents namely that others in a state of mortal sin are required to confess their sins and make some kind of change to remedy their state of life he balked at the suggestion that the civilly remarried should be required to live according to the church's teaching, that is, with sexual fidelity to the first, valid marriage. "To live together as brother and sister?" he asked. "Of course I have high respect for those who are doing this. But it's a heroic act, and heroism is not for the average Christian."
This is exactly where the game is given away. In the cardinal's theology, there are "average Christians" who cannot be expected to live up to the Christian ideal of marriage, even though it was their vocation. The pope's own reported view that 50 percent of marriages may be invalid is another sign that clerics at the highest level of the church regard the vocation of family as simply beyond the reach of many of the church's members. Kasper continued, "Many canon lawyers tell me that today in our pluralistic situation we cannot presuppose that couples really assent to what the church requires. Often it is also ignorance."
In other words, Christians are too confused and ignorant to know what a marriage is. They do not understand or take seriously the vows they make. Poor things. This dire reading of the signs of the times allows the "solution" that reformers like Kasper have been demanding, a de facto abandonment of the church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. And it justifies this change or at least, smooths its reception by too eagerly embracing a conservative premise: The culture of marriage has gone to the dogs.
Even contemplating this reform indicates how far we are moving away from a Catholic Church that used to bestride the world with confidence, recognizing and affirming the goodness of marriage, even marriages made outside itself. Instead we are being confined in a more crabbed and doubting institution, one that dismisses many of the extant marriages within the church as no more sure than a coin flip.
Perhaps the cardinal should speak more plainly. He is not defending the dignity of "average Christians"; he's condemning many of his co-religionists to a life as semi-Christians. His idea of mercy is to tell believers that, in view of the way things are pluralism and all that there's no need for them to live as Christians have lived before them. Come to Communion, but leave Christian heroism to the experts.
My prediction is that the synod will issue a document strenuously claiming to affirm the indissolubility of marriage, while instituting a practice that contradicts it. The remarried will be encouraged to examine their consciences and consult with pastors in the hope of having Communion. The practical effect will be a new perceived "right" for the divorced to approach the altar, and much acrimony for any pastor who objects in any case, not only from his parishioners, but from his bishop as well.
In the context of adjudicating annulments, Polish Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz said that any view that dismisses so many unions as invalid reflects an "anthropological pessimism" that would hold that "it's almost impossible to get married, in view of the current cultural situation." If the pope's view is that 50 percent of Catholic marriages are invalid, it is not just an insult to our natural human ability to marry, but also an insult to St. Paul, who said that the moral law is written on men's hearts. And it's an insult to God's grace to imagine that our own age is somehow different, that we cannot depend on God's help to live out the vocations He gives us.
If marriage is, as Cardinal Muller holds, a reflection of God's faithfulness to those He loves, then the obverse holds as well. As such, Cardinal Kasper's belief amounts to nothing less than a slur on God's fidelity. If Christians can't expect God to help them live the married life, if they cannot expect him to be faithful to His promises, why the fuss if we are not faithful to our own?
“If marriage is, as Cardinal Muller holds, a reflection of God’s faithfulness to those He loves, then the obverse holds as well. As such, Cardinal Kasper’s belief amounts to nothing less than a slur on God’s fidelity. If Christians can’t expect God to help them live the married life, if they cannot expect him to be faithful to His promises, why the fuss if we are not faithful to our own?”
This last paragraph is total B.S.
“I am beginning to think that Francis is to the Catholic Church as Ubama is to the United States.”
On some issues I would agree. However on this one, I think the 50% number thrown about in very conservative. It’s probably much higher.
Mennonites and Amish hold to the same premise.
If you are divorced, you cannot remarry. If you do, their point of view is that you are in a state of perpetual adultury as long as you remain remarried while any prior spouse is still living.
I agree as well. That is actually the Christian position.
The Messianic Prophet John lost his head over it.
The Church has been requiring many weeks of Pre Cana instruction of engaged couples for at least four decades now.
If half of all resulting marriages are invalid, somebody is screwing-up BIGTIME there.
Unfortunately, the author engages in a logical fallacy, post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
While Cardinal Kasper makes the statement about heroic virtue, the statement isn’t equivalent with the Pope’s statement.
When one looks at how many Americans are civilly married, it is likely that half have no serious commitment to “... death do us part,” nor to procreation. In those cases, and ONLY from a religious point of view, can those marriages be considered invalid.
I don’t agree with Cardinal Kasper. However, I do agree that marriage and Holy Matrimony haven’t been taken seriously. I also agree, that is likely there are an enormous amount of marriages that are/were “defective,” by religious standards. However, I don’t really know what to do about it.
I absolutely agree.
I gotta tell ya, not a big fan of this pope.
“However, I dont really know what to do about it.”
IMHO, you do your best to do what you believe is right, and put your faith in God’s wisdom and mercy. No one on the planet can read the mind of God, and we are every one of us fallible. Marriages fail. It’s a fact, and a sad one at that. My parents, on the other hand, stayed together and nearly destroyed each other over a lifetime - and the profound pathology led to child abuse. What can you say?
So one should stay in a union where violence, domination, intimidation, covert hostility and complete lack of communication are daily grinds?
if so, it’s appalling that shooting the offender for the sake of peace is unlawful.
Many people fall into the snare of sin and temptation. Many fall prey to their own emotions rather than the spiritual guidance of a Holy G_d. Spiritual blindness if you will.
People will make poor choices throughout life. G_d calls them back time and again. As for catholic dogma, it seems that the only un-forgiven sin is divorce/remarriage.
Even priest that betray the trust of an innocent can be restored to the sacrament, but unfortunately not the once young couple that grew apart, not those who were not truly compatible, or those who fell to weakness and committed sin against their partner are ever forgiven and restored according to church teaching. Very unfortunate.
G_d is so much bigger than all this. His grace extends to those who have messed up. It's all about being sin focused or grace focused.
“I absolutely agree.”
I went through this instruction 46 years ago, and it amounted to nothing except a social gathering with the girls showing off their diamonds.
(still married BTW)
“if so, its appalling that shooting the offender for the sake of peace is unlawful.”
If you shot her/him you wouldn’t be banned from Communion...
There are too many good 2nd marriages around to say they're all wrong.
Pope Francis: Let's deal with the absurd and proclaim "there is no such thing as gay marriage".
“The words of Christ forbid remarriage” That is incorrect. If your spouse dies you are free to remarry another believer.
Then again, I’m not Catholic.
I hold nothing against the church though.
Each doctrine has it’s own uniqueness but, were I ever to marry and have children, I have always thought it prudent to send my children to Catholic schooling.
A timely donation to their church allowed everyone to....overlook....their past marriage histories.
Yes, I went through it with multiple other couples. They asked questions meant to lead to consideration about ‘issues’ that might pop up in a marriage. I remember them asking the general question: ‘True or False: Marry me, marry my family’. One guy answered: “That's right. You marry me, you marry my mamma”. Don't know how that one worked out, but if the right questions are asked, these things can have practical significance.
Great post, and I agree entirely.
A husband or wife may have, not just the right, but the moral responsibility to separate from their spouse, esp.in cases of abuse. Even if the separation is accompanied by a civil divorce, no moral fault is incurred.
That is, unless a second marriage is attempted. Then --- as Jesus Christ Himself said (three times, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke)--- the second union be adultery as long as the original spouse is still living.
Good catch. Speculation is NOT fact!
There are MANY marriages that are illegitimate in the ‘Christian’ world today. No doubt about it.
“There are too many good 2nd marriages around to say they’re all wrong.”
That all depends on your definition of “good”. God made it pretty clear they don’t fit His definition.
My son’s marriage ended in divorce after 4 months when his “wife” had an affair, dumped his stuff on the curb, changed the locks and moved her boyfriend in all before any divorce was final. I was troubled by this and spent some time discussing the situation with an old priest who was a close friend and formerly served on the diocese marriage tribunal. His advice was that an annulment in such an extreme case would likely be readily granted almost by filling out the paperwork.
I know in both Mathew’s and Mark’s Gospels the question of divorce/remariage is covered, but Luke’s?
You're right if you mean second marriages where the first on was brought to a close by death. You're right if you say 2nd marriages in which the first one was no-marriage, invalid.
But you can't be right if you mean a second marriage where the first marriage vows were valid, and the valid spouse is still living. This is said to be, ongoing adultery, something God hates (Malachi 2:16) and your argument here is not with Canon Law, but with Matt. 19:38; Mark 10:29; Luke 16:1 --- which is to say, with Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Typo. I mean Luke 16:18.
Luke 16:18 Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Thank-you for the Luke posting.
Surely this implies w/ conjugal relations, or the intent to do so, which isn't always the case (i.e. Josephite marriage). Some here argue that a Josephite marriage has to be approved in advance but I believe God's mercy is bigger than that. I married a divorced woman.
For some reason, reminds me of the humorous St. Augustine quote: "Make me chaste and continent, but not yet."
That's why "adultery" wouldn't be applicable if the man and woman were living as brother and sister. I had never heard that a "Jospehite" marriage has to be approved in advance, but there's a lot of stuff I don't know ---I'm no canon lawyer.
The answer to this I believe, is to get rid of the tribunals and the Church annulments. They have been corrupt every since they were established.
The Church should leave it up to the conscious of the individual as to whether the original marriage was valid or not. It is, after all, the two people involved who really know the answer to the validity anyway.
Yes they could lie about it but they would be lying to themselves, and that’s hard to do... You could I suppose lie in the confessional as well, but you’d only be hurting youself in doing so.
Note the source, which the author links: "Merciful God, Merciful Church An Interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper"
"Kasper: Thats a real problem. Ive spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid. "
Kasper is quoting the Pope. If one were to apply the reasonable man test, this reference does not qualify as "wrongful speculation", "unjust" or a "falsehood". The fact is that his close associate, Cdl. Kasper, (whom he has publicly complemented for his "serene theology" in regard to this issue) is claiming to quote Francis. The Pope has a massive PR machine at his disposal, and it is well within his power to clarify or correct any misrepresentations made in his name. Yet he has not seen fit to do so. Therefore it is unreasonable to make the charge that the reference is speculative or dismiss it as false.
I must say that I am not liking Pope Francis. Granted, I was spoiled by having Saint John Paul II, one of the greatest freedom fighters ever, followed by a no nonsense Pope Benedict but Francis has me scratching my head.
Next I would like a clarification from Card. Kasper on why he thinks it was his role, and not Pope Francis' role, to air this shocking speculation to the public; and why the Church (everywhere? In all Dioceses? On all continents?) has been blessing invalid sacraments for the majority of its faithful? And for how long: since 1983? Since 1965? Since 1054?)
Officiating at or participating in pseudo-sacraments (such as with women simulating a pseudo-Liturgy) incurs automatic excommunication. Am I to think that a fair percentage of priests and bishops are going to be deprived of their faculties for blessing pseudo-marriages? Or, alternatively, for catechetical and pastoral malpractice?
Really, this is all too much.
But seriously, that ain't happenin'. Let's just deal a sickening blow to the soul of all marriages, so that the majority of marriages are presumed invalid rather than valid. That'll shore up marital stability for sure.
So one would be stuck living their lives as Paul.
That’s bad? Living like a saint?
Me likey weemens.
I’m a sinner.
Dr. Edward Peters wrote a good article on that fact (that 6% of the world’s Catholics get 60% of the world’s annulments) some years ago. He mentioned, among other things, that Americans have telephones that work, and automobiles, and can drive to the chancery over roads that don’t have IED’s planted in them, etc.
If you consider intent alone, 50% doesn't sound unreasonable.
For a marriage to be valid, both the husband and wife must intend:
1) a lifetime commitment to each other --at a minimum, never to remarry.
2) openess to children. At a minimum, they must be open to the possibility of children at some time during their marriage.
How many nominal Catholics say to themselves at the time of their wedding, "if this doesn't work out, I can always get a divorce."
How many nominal Catholics never intend to have children?
Then add in all of the nominal Catholics who marry outside of the faith who could easily fall into these two categories.
In an abusive relationship, the Church permits civil divorce, but not remarriage, assuming that the original marriage was valid. A civil divorce is considered separation.
Additionally, an abusive personality could be indicative of a psychological condition that could make a marriage invalid. But that's just an educated guess.
Her post-marital actions indicated a mindset that almost certainly existed prior to the wedding, i.e., that she did not intend a lifetime commitment.
The idea of null marriages seems very reasonable to me. I don't know why so many people have such difficulty with it.
Your experience with the human race is different from mine.
Well, that would be an out.
pay the local bishop to declare them insane.
I’ll bet I can prove it too.
Surely there are some abuses. Who knows to what degree? But abuse doesn’t obviate the principle anymore than corrupt judges obviate the necessity of a criminal justice system.