Cardinal O’Malley: The Church Won’t Change Its Teaching on Marriage

Cardinal O’Malley, who is a member of the Papal G8 that Pope Francis appointed to consider reforms in the Church, says that the Catholic Church is not going to change its 2,000-year-old teachings on marriage.

The Church will not change her teaching on the dissolubility of marriage, he said in an interview with Joan Frawley Desmond of the National Catholic Register. 

He goes on to say that there may be a simplification of the annulment process, which he says “would be a wonderful first step for addressing a crucial pastoral problem for the Church.”


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  • Theodore Seeber

    The sad part is, it probably won’t matter. Europe and America are too far gone for what the Church teaches to matter.

    • hamiltonr

      That will change Ted. It may take a time, but it will change. Just be faithful and watch.

      • Theodore Seeber

        It will, because the European/American way is the Way of Death, predicted by the Didache nearly 2000 years ago. We aren’t the first empire to fall to it, and we won’t be the last.

        There are other countries in Africa and Latin America that still cling to The Way of Life instead. When we’re all gone, they’ll repopulate.

  • oregon nurse

    These hints and teasers about divorce and remarriage ahead of the meetings on the family are getting tiresome. We’re being told that marriage teaching won’t change but that annulments may be made less problematic. Sounds to me like a semantic smokescreen in which the doctrinal teaching is retained but gets supplanted by new pastoral practicalities surrounding annulments.

    What I want to know is whether the Eucharist is healing food for sinners or a prize for the holy. I think that’s the real question that needs to be addressed and the annulment question will take care of itself. Why are women who’ve had an abortion readmitted to the sacrament following confession but not a remarried Catholic who regrets past marriage failures. The woman is not required to undo her abortion to be forgiven but the re-marriage has to be undone, either through annulment of the first or abandonment of the subsequent, even though great harm might result from either. What are we afraid of – that more people will get divorced and remarried if we make forgiveness and readmission to the Eucharist too easy?

    • AnneG

      Nurse, I understand what you said about the healing remedy of the sacraments and I certainly agree. The official response is that you have to be repentant to have a valid confession and you can’t be if you are living a second marriage. I think a lot of people don’t understand the whole process, nor the proscriptions, though. I know a lot of Catholics who think they are excommunicated because of their divorce even though not remarried. I also know a lot of people who were in what appear to be invalid marriages but it takes years to receive notice from the Tribunal. Especially difficult, though, are Protestants who desperately want to come into the Church, but have to go through even more hoops. I hope the last two cases, especially, are made easier. Neither of those cases change the indissolubility of marriage, though.
      One thing I hope will change is that before a Catholic seeks divorce, they should be required to go to the Tribunal. Engaging in a series of serious counseling. I think a lot of divorces could be avoided.

      • oregon nurse

        “The official response is that you have to be repentant to have a valid
        confession and you can’t be if you are living a second marriage.”

        Thank you for your reply and I do understand the above. But, being in a subsequent marriage, imo, does not preclude being fully repentant. We can be sincerely repentant about many things we’ve done that can never be undone or when undoing them may create great(er) harm.

    • FW Ken

      ON -

      An abortion and remarriage after divorce are not parallel. Once done, an abortion is done, and repentance is possible for those involved. Committing a sin, and living in sin are different matters. A more pertinent comparison would be an abortionist who goes to confession without intent to stop doing abortions. So a remarried Catholic is possibly living in adultery and the tribunal process is intended to clarify whether the first marriage was valid or not, allowing the couple to make decisions about their lives and relationships with Christ. FWIW, I know people who found the process healing.

      There are a variety of administrative adjustments that would help. What if the declaration of nullity were issued before the divorce? If the couple had been living without the graces of matrimony, it might explain a lot of their problems. Might they gain healing, if not of their marriage, then perhaps of their relationship? Would this be helpful to any children involved?

      A sticking point seems to be those hard cases that lack witnessses or documentation to show nullity of the first marriage, or a pose who refuses to cooperate. My idea is that the bishop should have broad authority to grant a declaration of nullity on his own discernment, when the tribunal cannot make a finding. I’m supposing that he would take time to get to know the couple and offer pastoral care personally. This happens to a certain degree, but I think it should be an option out in the open.

      St. Paul tells us of folks taking the Eucharist while continuing in sin, growing sick, and even dying. He is healing for repentant sinners and a cure for that principle of sin that most of us struggle against our whole lives (and on into purgatory). It is not a prize for virtue, but supposed a task sorrow for sin and genuine intent to avoid sin and the near occasion of sin. I have to repent my sins; what is different about other sins, like adultery?

      Anyway, that’s how I see it.

  • pesq87

    This is good news. Why ever should Church teaching on marriage change?