Pope says most married people aren’t really married

Roman Catholicism famously doesn’t believe in divorce.  But it does believe in annulments, a procedure which determines that for one reason or another–immaturity, not knowing what they are getting into, etc.–a valid marriage never took place.

The implication is that many couples who had a church wedding and a marriage license, who have had children together, and who have lived their whole lives together are not really married.  I suppose this comes out if the couple wants to break up the marriage and, if they are Catholic, receive an annulment, but even if they stay together, they can never really know if they are married.

I would say that, from a Lutheran perspective,  this is another example of Roman Catholicism’s being not nearly sacramental enough.  Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but the objective sacrament doesn’t make the marriage, just the subjective experience of long ago when they first became married.  Similarly, Catholics can’t really know if they have been saved, even though they have been baptized, received Holy Communion, etc.

This is also an example of legalism in religion, in which laws that are too difficult to fulfill are, in practice, weakened by creating technicalities and loopholes that make it easier to accomplish while defeating the whole purpose of the original law.  (If you don’t believe in divorce because marriage is a sacrament and thus permanent, don’t have annulments either!  These are just divorces by another name, even though they “save the appearances” of permanent marriage by declaring that a marriage never happened, though at the expense of your whole sacramental theology.)

Anyway, the Pope last week said that, because of the lack of commitment, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”  His handlers later edited the original transcript to change “the great majority” to “some,” but still. . . .If so many people who have gotten married are really just living together, committing fornication and their children illegitimate (to use other Catholic categories), then the line between wedlock and cohabitation is fatally blurred.  If marriage, however, is a VOCATION, a calling from God, it’s a different story. [Read more…]

How mothers battle totalitarianism

“Motherhood is the first and last line of defense against totalitarianism.”  So says Stella Morabito in The Federalist, where she takes up the question of why tyrants always try to undermine the family and explains how mothers are a bulwark for liberty. [Read more…]

Motherhood as a sacred vocation

For a good Mother’s Day meditation, read R. J. Grunewald’s piece from last year, “The Vocation of Motherhood,”  quoted after the jump.  I say that not because he quotes me but because motherhood really is a sacred calling.

God really does work through mothers to create new immortal souls and to care for, nurture, and shape them.  Mothers love and serve their neighbors–their children–in a way that is especially important and holy.  This is true even when mothers have to bear the cross in their vocation–the difficulties, the exhaustion, the frustrations, and the heartbreak that also characterize motherhood.   [Read more…]

Selling brides in China

Under China’s one-child policy, girl babies were routinely aborted so that the parents’ one child would be a son.  As a result, there are far more men than women in China.  This “woman shortage” means that many men can’t find anyone to marry.  So human traffickers are kidnapping women, particularly in Viet Nam, and selling them as brides in China.  This is becoming a big business, as CNN reports, after the jump.

[Read more…]

“My identity is founded in who I am in Christ”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England, recently learned that his father was not really his father, that he was the product of an affair between his mother and Winston Churchill’s private secretary.  What’s notable, though, says Eric Metaxis in a Breakpoint commentary, is how Welby took this potentially traumatic news.

[Read more…]

The separation of doctrine from practice

After much study and debate among the bishops, Pope Francis has issued a letter on the family entitled Amoris Laetitia (the joy of love).  In wrestling with how to minister to gays, the problems of modern families in a time of sexual revolution, and  whether or not to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion, the Pope is characteristically unclear.

He upholds traditional morality, pro-life ethics, and historical Catholic teaching on the family, and yet he speaks much about “individual conscience” (which is usually problematic in Catholic theology) and pastoral discretion.  As usual, his pronouncement is controversial and is being taken differently by all sides.  (See this and this.)

The best thing I’ve read on the document is from Ross Douthat, who says that Catholics have been upholding doctrine (pleasing the conservatives) while allowing great flexibility in actual practice (pleasing the liberals).  He says that what is new in Amoris Laetitia is that the Pope is giving official sanction to that separation of doctrine and practice.

I would add that this is not just a Catholic phenomenon.  We certainly see this in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod when it comes to official insistence on, for example, closed communion, even as many congregations ignore that teaching in practice without any official consequences.  (Can you think of other examples in non-Catholic churches?)

Is this a necessary accommodation in a fallen, complicated world?  Or is it evidence that churches don’t really believe their own teachings? [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X