How I Changed My Mind On Communion For The Divorced And Remarried [SYNOD]

How I Changed My Mind On Communion For The Divorced And Remarried [SYNOD] July 2, 2014

The Patheos Catholic Channel is hosting a Symposium on the Family in light of the upcoming Extraordinary Synod on the Family in October and the recent release of the working document for the Synod. 

One of the big-ticket issues on the table for the upcoming Synod for the Family is the idea of allowing communion for divorced-remarried couples. Eminent Catholic theologians, including most prominently Cardinal Walter Kasper, have argued in favor of this change. And so have I. But after dialogue with others and reflection and study and prayer, I changed my mind back to the traditional position. Now I hope the synod won’t change the rules–and indeed, I tend to believe it can’t. (We’ll see!)

My thinking at the time, roughly speaking, was that because the Eucharist is a spiritual medicine, it is precisely sinners who should receive it, because they are those who need it most.

This post is about how I came to change my mind.

Scripture and Tradition

The first, and unescapable, bit, is that this is a point on which Scripture and Tradition are actually quite clear. The Gospels are quite clear that remarrying after divorce from a (valid) marriage is adulterous. And in his epistles, Paul is quite clear about the importance of “discern[ing] the body”, i.e. the Eucharist. The entire pericope from 1 Corinthians 11 is quite clear that what Paul is warning against is receiving the Eucharist “unworthily”, and specifically with regard to the state of sin. Elsewhere in the same letter, Paul calls (1 Cor 5) for the excommunication of someone living in the state of sexual sin–for “the destruction of the flesh”, i.e. as a therapy so that this person may have a wake up call and come to repent. But until such repentance is at hand, Paul writes, this person must remain excluded from table fellowship.

And we know that the Tradition of the Catholic Church has always upheld these teachings. In the early centuries of the Church, excommunication “for the destruction of the flesh” was quite common–indeed, it was not uncommon for people living in a state of sin to be physically removed from churches, and for them to have to make public penance to be readmitted to table fellowship. Onwards and until very recently, communion was only infrequently received, typically only on high holy days, precisely because of the perceived importance of receiving “worthily.” The Church has always said that communion must, at least ideally, be paired with confession and received in a state of grace. What has now come to be called “closed communion” offends our Modern, inclusive sensibilities, but it is what Scripture and the Tradition of the Church mandate.

The Eucharist as Medicine

What, then, of the Eucharist as medicine? What I’ve grown to realize is that, precisely because the Eucharist is such “powerful medicine,” in Pope Francis’s words, we should not treat it willy-nilly. Paul (him again!) describes believers as falling sick and even dying after describing the Eucharist unworthily, and there is no reason to doubt him. Taking very powerful medicine against prescription is dangerous!

Here what has helped me deal with this in my own growth.

First is the idea that the Eucharist works as a “two-shot” medicine with confession. No, and I will always emphasize it, we should not treat the Eucharist as a reward for good behavior. But nothing in the properly-understood Christian life is in the order of carrots and sticks. Everything is in the order of holiness and growth closer to God. Much in the same way that encouraging women in the priesthood to combat clericalism is a sort of reverse-clericalism, putting no standards on the reception of communion is turning it into a reward for good behavior by lowering the standards of behavior. It is, quite literally, “cheap grace.”

Second is the importance of the idea of spiritual communion. By the doctrines of the priesthood of all believers, of lay participation in the liturgy, of Eucharistic Adoration, the life of the Church recognizes that we do have access to the Body of Christ, in a different but still powerful way, even without communing under the species. Rediscovering and reemphasizing spiritual communion should be an important part of this discussion, as Pope Benedict emphasized a number of times. (Some people have turned around this argument by saying: “If the divorced-remarried can receive spiritual communion, why not actual communion?” and I can’t find another answer but: LOL)

Third is a metaphor that Saint John of the Cross uses for the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is the idea of the sun shining on a window. The sun always shines on the windows, but sometimes the window is dirty. If we want to have more light in the room, we have to clean the window. This is the powerful Catholic mystery of cooperation with grace. If we want the light, we have to clean the window. (Of course, cleaning the window is itself by the grace of the Spirit, which is why the co-working part is important–again, it is a mystery and no metaphor is perfect.) If you want to let the light in you have to clean the window.

The Call to Holiness and the problem of low expectations

This only leads up to the key thing that clicked for me, which is the centrality of the radical call to holiness which is at the heart of the Gospel and at the heart of the life of the Church at its best. The Church’s mission is to produce saints.

We have to get out of this legalism which says that Catholic life is to check all the right boxes and to abide by a series of don’ts and play the game by the rules and if you play the game right you get a reward at the end. The Catholic life–the Christian life–is, first and foremost, a radical call to holiness.

And you do not get holiness unless you expect holiness. We are called to be saints. We are called to be poor in spirit, not middle-class in spirit. The life of legalism is the life of the one who is middle-class in spirit: I’m not doing great, I’m doing ok, and sort-of cautiously playing my cards so I can get to the end of the game.

Of course, this always has to be balanced by mercy. This is the Gospel Thing and, I believe, the Catholic Thing. The message of Jesus is so confounding because he sets an impossibly high moral standard, and at the same time offers infinite forgiveness. What are we to make of that? We have to hold both ideas in tension, and I believe that (non-coincidentally) Catholic moral theology at its best does it. Jesus does not abolish the law, he fulfills the law. This means that even as there is always infinite mercy, there is also always high demands on us. The law is fulfilled in that the law is only through the Spirit, i.e. (a) being righteous under the law is about the heart as well as actions (e.g. committing adultery in your heart); (b) being righteous under the law is not about box-checking or don’ts, it is about fulfilling a positive vocation to holiness (e.g. a priest is not someone-who-doesn’t-have-sex, it’s someone who answers a particular calling and one of the implications of that calling is celibacy).

We are not called to be “good Christians”; we are called to be saints. And that means the Church must place demands on us. And for some of us, some of the time, those demands will be very hard. Christian life goes through the Cross. A Church of low expectations, a Church that says we might as well give people in (apparent) mortal sin communion because they can’t live a holy life is not the Church of Jesus Christ.

And here we get to the key point about this: the idea of repentance, or metanoia in the original Greek. Jesus demands repentance; in contemporary English, “repentance” has come to mean something like “feeling really sorry.” But the word metanoia refers to something much more profound, which is a radical change of life. If you want to follow Jesus Christ–if you want to be one with Him–, you have to undergo a radical change. What this means for each person will be different. But we must not paper over this radicality.

Jesus asks one man to give up all his money; he asks another to forego burying his father; he asks another to die. This is the Gospel. And the Church, if it is to be the Church, must ask metanoia of us. Mercy and grace are always, always there, but it is false mercy, and false grace, if it pretends that no metanoia is necessary. The Church must always accompany those who struggle with the call, and help them on the path to holiness. But the idea that union with Christ does not demand metanoia, which is what accepting communion for those who live in a state of sin is, is, I have come to believe, false.

Faith, obedience, and conscience

Thinking more deeply about these issues has been a spiritual journey for me and I want to reflect on that.

The first is the virtue of faith and obedience. I have been brought up all my life to question assumptions, and to question authority. I have an irrepressible need to quibble with everything, and to question everything, and to take things apart and see how they work and try to rebuild them better. I believe that is a very healthy impulse. But as I have grown on my spiritual journey, I have realized that this is also an impulse that needs to be checked by the virtue of humility. And in particular by the virtue of obedience. The word obedience gets a bad rap nowadays, but I think a better word for it is trust. There is a practical aspect to it: Catholicism is this very complicated beast, but you can be sure that whatever you’re thinking about, a lot of people who are a lot smarter and holier have been thinking about it better than you for longer. But it is also a spiritual thing. I often think of the Annunciation: Mary starts by questioning the angel, but then she gives her fiat, even though we can be sure not all her questions have been answered. This is very powerful: Mary is the perfect disciple; what the story of the Annunciation tells us isn’t just that it’s “okay” to ask questions, it’s that you must ask questions. Blind faith is no faith at all. But there is also no faith without the fiat, without the leap into the dark. Or think of Peter in John 6, after Jesus’ “hard teaching” on, precisely, the Eucharist: “You have the words of eternal life.” Here is someone, the text makes clear, who really doesn’t understand this teaching, and might even be repulsed by it as would most pious 1st century Jews would be, but still trusts Jesus; actually, Peter understands better than anyone; he is truly the Rock. Faith is a call to spiritual poverty, to accept to be a recipient, to accept to be like a child who trusts what her father says utterly. It is a letting go of pride, a letting go of everything that separates us from God. This probably sounds pretentious, and I want to make clear that I am absolutely not an example, but speaking for myself I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I’ve grown in piety (such as it is), I have grown in orthodoxy; in the personal experience of my inner life, the connection is clear. It is certainly no coincidence that the vowed religious, who live the distilled Christian life, take triple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Money, sex, power: here are the gods who rule the World! Destroying those idols, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is the work of our lifetime, and must be renewed every day.

With all that being said, I want to make another point, which is related to conscience. I have been describing the issue of communion for divorced-remarried in rather black-and-white, and I think this is okay because the principle is important; but the world is not black or white. One of the key planks of Catholic moral theology is that everyone has an obligation to follow their conscience. This sounds like a license to do anything, but of course it’s not. We are always eager to trick ourselves into believing that following a base instinct or an easier road is “following the conscience” but it is following a false conscience. To truly follow one’s conscience requires all the virtues, particularly charity, faith, humility, prudence. It is hard work–a lot harder than box-checking legalism.

The point about conscience is important because of those “shades of grey” situations. I want to just mention a few. One of the things I hope the Synod will address is the broken annulments process in the Church. In many dioceses, annulments have become a farce, the proverbial “Catholic divorce.” But in many other dioceses, the backlog and bureaucratic lethargy is so great that it is for all practical purposes impossible to get an annulment even if the marriage is invalid. An annulment, by definition, doesn’t make a marriage invalid, it only declares it to have been invalid. For example, if there is a situation where someone is practically unable to get an annulment but believes in conscience–again, true conscience, not self-serving conscience–their marriage to have been invalid, that person may be able to go to communion if their conscience dictates. Another example is the state of necessity. In exceptional cases, someone may be in such spiritual distress that they feel–again, in true conscience, not self-serving conscience–that they need communion. Another example would be the case of spiritual direction; a spiritual director may in conscience feel that even though someone cannot yet give a full confession, they would be helped on their journey by communion. I also think of those who convert to Catholicism as adults after having divorced and remarried, and who, in the current state, may not be able to receive communion ever. The examples matter less than the overall idea: we are not, nor should we be legalists. Canon law is necessary, but it cannot possibly cover every possible case. And we always have a duty to follow true conscience. Not the entitlement of someone who wants their state of life to be validated or who approaches the law with no humility.

But even as we stress the importance of faith, humility and obedience, we should also stress–recognizing that when these things are properly understood there is no contradiction–the importance of following one’s conscience and rejecting legalism.

Glenbeigh St. James’ Church Nave Triple Window Omnis Honor et Gloria 2012 09 09” by Andreas F. Borchert – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Edgar

    Sheer awesomeness.

  • kag1982

    The question I have is why would someone want to remain Catholic if they cannot participate in the Sacraments. Yes I heard that argument about “spiritual Communion.”. But that is open to everyone, not just Catholics. You can be a Methodist and have a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, Evangelicals stress the personal relationship with God.

    • ron a.

      In effect, that person would excommunicate himself. If you believe in THE one, holy, apostolic Church, that would not be good.

      • kag1982

        A remarried divorcee is already excommunicated from the Church. They cannot receive Communion, which means that they are excommunicated. It makes no sense for them to remain with the Catholic Church in this situation and would probably be more spiritually healthy for them to attend a Protestant church where they could be full members.

        • ron a.

          What you say makes sense if, once embarked upon, they are absolutely determined to continue along the path chosen by most who remarry. And it is, in fact, what many seemingly do. However, ecumenism aside, it just seems to me to be a very poor alternative to remaining within the Church, SEEKING ANOTHER WAY. From a Catholic Christian point of view, what you suggest is like a convenient side-step which, ultimately, allows—and somehow justifies—divorce. (Henry Vlll, not withstanding, prohibition of divorce & remarry is a Christian dictum not, simply, Catholic.)

          What we have is a Culture whose religion is determined by life-style, not a life-style determined by religion. All a matter of priorities.

          • kag1982

            What do you think that they should do? Divorce their current spouse. Doesn’t that just make the situation worse?

          • IF the ‘second marriage’ is not valid because the person is in the eyes of God and the Church still married to the first spouse, then all the person is doing is shacking up with someone else and slapping the false title ‘marriage’ on it. What matters is what GOD views as the valid marriage.

          • kag1982

            I think that a marriage of twenty years is more than just “shacking up.” And I think that God has a large capacity to forgive and allow people to get on with their lives.

          • So you know more than Sacred Scripture and the Holy Catholic Church?
            If the first marriage is the VALID true marriage than any ‘remarriage’ is pure adultery. Mortal sin sends people to Hell unless they repent. Period.

          • kag1982

            Actually, I’m not sure that your interpretation of the sacred Scripture is correct. Nor have I ever heard anyone in the Catholic hierarchy suggest that they are automatically damned to Hell even a very conservative person like Pope Benedict.

          • Really? So the Commandment that says “Thou shall not commit adultery” is what…a suggestion?
            What does Mark 10:11-12 say in YOUR bible, eh?
            In the Catholic catechism #1756, #1856, #1858, #2400 and in Jesus’ own words #2336.

          • kag1982

            Yes, I know that is what you say. I’ve never heard the hierarchy say that remarried divorcees are automatically going to Hell.

          • Just WHO do you think wrote the Catholic catechism that states anyone who dies in adultery (mortal sin) goes to Hell? Look up the catechism sections I gave you, its in plain English, just the way you like it.

          • kag1982

            Yes. But I never heard any pope including Benedict preach that.

          • So the Catholic catechism (the source of the entire Catholic faith) says its a mortal sin that will send a person to hell but because YOU personally haven’t heard all the homilies given by popes you have determined the Catholic catechism is wrong?
            You’ve just become a protestant. You have declared yourself your own pope and that you are infallible. God help you.

          • kag1982

            Same with CT Catholic Corner. You certainly seem to find yourself much holier than the Pope.

          • Can’t deal with the facts given so you attack the messenger. How original.

          • kag1982

            Well, you certainly attacked me first. The fact remains that I’ve never heard a bishop or even conservative Pope Benedict suggest that all remarried divorcees are damned to Hell. But I guess you know more than them.

          • And because YOU haven’t heard it you assume such a homily doesn’t exist??

            Read it and then go look up the consequences of “grave sin” in the catechism:

          • kag1982

            So the guy who set off the whole kerfuffle on remarried divorcees thinks that remarried divorcees are automatically damned to Hell? He certainly wasn’t thinking that when he told Sra Lisbona to receive Communion at a separate parish. Oh and he is the one who had Kasper speak at the Synod. Even if he ultimately decides against changing the rules, it is very clear that he has great empathy for people in this situation.

          • “automatically”?? People WILLINGLY sin and WILLING refuse to repent or not.

            Again, go back to what the Church OFFICIALLY teaches, not the opinions of liberals in the Church.

            2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

            If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.177

            That’s perfectly clear to me.

          • kag1982

            But is the sin of being in a second marriage the same as the sin of being a Mafia don?

          • When did this discussion become one sin verses another sin?

            To be clear, ALL MORTAL sin is in fact MORTAL. Mortal sins MUST be confessed and repented of. Period.

            If you read the catechism IT (not me) places adultery ALONG SIDE murder, blasphemy and other evils. See for yourself Catechism #1756 and #1856

            1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

            1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

            When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery…. But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial. 130

            This IS mortal sin according to the Catholic Church.

          • kag1982

            So you think that a remarried divorcee deserves the same punishment as a Mafia murderer?

          • Apparently God does, he put the 10 Commandments together didn’t He? Murder and adultery are both listed in the 10 Commandments are they not?
            And I didn’t write the catechism the Church did. All I did was quote it, if you don’t like what it says by listing adultery with murder you need to take it up with the Church, not me.
            I’m just quoting Church doctrine, I am no giving my opinions (though for the record I 100% believe what the Church teaches- including that all those who die IN MORTAL sin will got to Hell- whatever mortal sin it may be).

          • kag1982

            So you think that God doesn’t evaluate individual situations? If we are talking about divorce and remarriage, don’t the Kennedys and Newt Gingrich who have received annulments because of the adultery have to answer for more than a woman who leaves her abusive husband and remarries?

          • Those with annulments are free to marry because the first was found not to be valid. There is no sin there IF the Church gives an annulment.
            Matthew 18:18 “I tell you Truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in Heaven.”
            If the Church finds a marriage BINDING, it is valid and remains. God’s word and the Church’s teaching.
            If a person is in an abusive marriage they CAN divorce, but they CANNOT ‘remarry’ as long as the first marriage (for better or worse) is VALID. The married couple are BOUND by those vows to each other and GOD- that is why its a Sacramental marriage- GOD is part of it. It is NOT just the man and the woman, it the man, the woman AND GOD.
            People MUST go to the Church to find out if the marriage is valid or not.
            IF God and the Church see the first marriage as BINDING, then anything after that IS adultery. That’s just how it is.

          • oregon nurse

            “People MUST go to the Church to find out if the marriage is valid or not.”

            I’ll try one more time. In temporal reality and practice this is true. One should get an annulment first because one should follow Church rules and practice in obedience. However, in the non-temporal heavenly reality, the Eternal Now, where God judges souls, if a marriage was invalid it never existed and it never existed regardless of whether a tribunal did or didn’t issue a declaration. Which means YOU cannot impute any sin of ‘re’-marriage, such as adultery. YOU can’t even impute a sin of disobedience since you don’t have all the facts nor can you read another’s heart.

          • kag1982

            Here is the deal. Gingrich and the Kennedy men who break their vows by sleeping with various mistresses go through the same process that a woman whose husband treats her like a human punching bag goes through. How is that fair and how is that equitable? A woman has to face her abuser again while famous politicians get to marry their mistresses. Frankly, it is the worst of both worlds. And yep, I had a neighbor in an emotionally abusive relationship who was screwed over by the annulment process. Because her abusive marriage that involved us calling the cops because her husband was screaming outside the house was totally sacramental.

          • You don’t understand what an annulment is. Abuse is NOT a valid reason for an annulment, it is a valid reason for a divorce.
            An annulment means SOMETHING was not valid AT THE TIME YOU MADE YOUR VOWS. For example, if a woman was forced to marry someone or threaten that she had to get married- THAT would be a valid reason for a divorce.
            Or if a man married a woman not knowing she had her tubes tied so she wouldn’t have children- THAT is a valid reason for an annulment.
            What makes the marriage valid or not is what happens WHEN THE VOWS WERE SAID, NOT what happens after the wedding.
            The reasons for a divorce are VERY different than the valid reasons the Church grants an annulment.

          • kag1982

            Yes.. And somehow the rich politicians who want to marry their mistresses get annulments and abuse victims have no problems getting annulments. And why do you think that people are disgusted with the Church and the annulment process again?

          • Mortal sin is mortal sin. A person becomes an adulterer WILLINGLY, they make the CHOICE to have sex with someone that Church and God does not view as their spouse.
            We will be judged by our words and actions – good and bad. If we have mortal sin on our souls at the moment of our death we go to Hell. No one will be able to tell God “But you see God… I was a victim so it was OK…” It simply does not work that way.

          • oregon nurse

            I think you are making your point without allowing sufficiently that only God can read the heart. Yes, if one is unrepentant in their mortal sin that is damning. And yes, the bishops and priests have been given the power to bind and loosen so we must obey, in good conscience. However, I think it’s possible to believe rightly, in good conscience, that a first marriage was not valid even prior to a declaration of nullity. Especially if one has the concurrance of a priestly confessor/spiritual advisor.

            An annulment doesn’t loose a marriage bond – it’s not a divorce – and that’s important. It is simply a formal finding that the marriage never was valid in the first place. So, when a person was never validly married to begin with are they really in a state of mortal sin in the way you have been implying? They may be sinning through disobedience and they may be sinning by having a FIRST unblessed (by RCC) marriage. But to keep saying the first marriage is the ONLY VALID marriage would have to be theogically be incorrect, correct? If so, being in a FIRST marriage, though not a sacramental one, is hardly adultery.

          • We are to be obedient to the Church. If you THINK your first marriage was invalid, go to the tribunal and find out. You cannot determine that yourself, that is for the Church to decide.
            If the first marriage was determined invalid or “lack of form” then there is no issue, but you MUST wait for the Church to decide that. We cannot go out and “remarry” without the Church.

          • oregon nurse

            Just based on some of the emphases you make I still think you actually view annulment as Catholic divorce. The Church isn’t loosing what was never bound. And what was never bound before God to begin with isn’t bound until the Church looses it. You can’t commit the sin of a second marriage if you never had a first one, regardless of whether you have an annulment or not. You may be sinning, but it’s not adultery, and it’s certainly not up to you to call it a mortal sin since you would not have all the facts.

          • You’re 100% wrong. There is NO ‘Catholic divorce’. Either a marriage was valid or it wasn’t. But that is for the Church to decide, not the laity.

          • oregon nurse

            I’m not the one who was throwing terms like adultery around and calling invalid marriages the FIRST AND ONLY VALID MARRIAGE until the Church declares it null. That was YOU my friend and that’s the very definition of divorce which is why YOU got it wrong. Some of your theological discussion is off kilter.

            And you should remember that there is a difference between respecting Church rules which keep us on track and a kind of legalism which turns people into Pharisees.

          • I am quoting the CHURCH. The CHURCH (NOT the laity) determine if a marriage is valid or not. The laity doesn’t have the RIGHT according to the Church to divorce and remarry WITHOUT an annulment from the Church FIRST.
            IF the Church finds the first marriage VALID then the “remarriage” is PURE ADULTERY according to the Church. That is MORTAL sin and mortal sin means hell UNLESS it is repented of before death. That is Catholic teaching, not my opinion.

          • Pay CLOSE attention to #2384 that spells out REMARRIED couples are indeed adulterers IF the first marriage was valid.

            From the Vatican website (link below):

            IV. Offenses Against the Dignity of Marriage


            2380 Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire.170 The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely.171 The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry.172

            2381 Adultery is an injustice. He who commits adultery fails in his commitment. He does injury to the sign of the covenant which the marriage bond is, transgresses the rights of the other spouse, and undermines the institution of marriage by breaking the contract on which it is based. He compromises the good of human generation and the welfare of children who need their parents’ stable union.


            2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.173 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.174
            Between the baptized, “a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.”175

            2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.176
            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.

            2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

            If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself.177

            2385 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.


          • oregon nurse

            Again, you are trying to declare an invalid marriage to be valid until the Church declares it null. That’s no different than divorce. And it’s not what the Church believes nor what it is doing when determining validity.

            There is no adultery where there is and never was a marriage. Fornication, perhaps. I’m done dialoging with you on this.

          • No I am not. I am saying NO LAITY can declare ANY marriage “invalid”- that is a job ONLY the Catholic Church can do.
            The laity have a BAD habit of divorcing and remarrying WITHOUT the Church FIRST determining if the first marriage was valid or not. The laity cannot KNOW if the marriage is valid or not- the Church determines that, not the laity.
            IF (pay attention here) IF the Church says the FIRST marriage IS VALID, THEN the ‘remarriage’ is ADULTERY. That is Catholic teaching.

          • Therese

            all marriages are assumed to be valid untill and only untill proven in valid.
            not the other way around

          • Therese

            There are ‘sad to say” many in our hierarchy who are silent when they need to be stating the truth. they would rather say what people ‘want to hear” than say the truth.
            they will have to answer to God for their failure to properly guide those they should have led to Christ.
            not all of Jesus teachings are popular, or nice.
            there are those hard teachings..

          • kag1982

            So do you think that murder is the same as a remarried divorcee leaving her husband and getting civilly remarried? Because that is what we are talking about. A mafia don is condemned to Hell and a remarried divorcee is as well. Oh and BTW, not all remarried divorcees are created equal. (See Newt Gingrich.)

            Perhaps if the Church showed love and mercy to people in such a situation, then it could lecture on sexual morality.

          • Adultery sends people to Hell unless it is repented.
            If a person has a valid marriage to one spouse, but they ‘remarry’ someone else the first marriage is the true marriage- the 2nd is pure adultery. Adulterers go to Hell. That is what the Bible says and the Church. Period.

          • Therese

            so the second ‘marriage” is basicly adultery.

          • ron a.

            kag1982—I want to first make something clear: being within the Catholic Church 10% is better than being in any of the Protestant variations 100%. I know this sounds uncharitable to many people; but, the Truth is what it is and not of man’s making. The Protestant sects are APOSTATE, plain and simple. However—I am in NO WAY saying that there are not many, many, many Protestants who are much better people that this writer and well deserving of all God’s reward. What I am saying is it is not their Church that is the source of their graces. As an aside—personally I consider myself “all in” with the Catholic Church, yet my very favorite theologian was Lutheran.

            Of course, you ask the $64,000 question. (I’m showing my age). There are much smarter and more educated people than me trying to answer this question. And, perhaps, the Synod on the family coming in October will provide answers that will renew (not change) the Faith and bring comfort and direction to many who are struggling with this problem. As I see it, the ultimate solutions will all be individual, based on where the person is with his God and where he is with the other people in his life. I also see the solution as one which will require work, sacrifice and some pain. Otherwise, it will be an accommodation and, spiritually, meaningless.

            Sin is ultimately a condition: the separation from God. (Apostate Churches, Heretics, Adulterers, etc.) Faith is what bridges the gap between Man, his Church and his God. Often times what is finally called for is simply humble obedience—two qualities out of favor in our secular humanistic culture. The Church is filled with sinners who must strive daily to bridge this gap through the acceptance of God’s graces. We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. The mission of His Holy Catholic Church is to help each individual do just that.

            Read paragraph 1665 of the Catechism of the Church. The re-married divorcee is not an excommunicate. A person, however, who joins the Methodist Church is.

            Pardon me if I sound too “preachy”.

        • You are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. As I said above:

          Holy Communion is ONE Sacrament. People can and MUST still go to Confession for their sins. Attending Mass is a requirement of the Church, you are there WITH Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at EVERY Mass- who wants to miss out on that? All this “personal relationship with Jesus” stuff is misleading. The MOST personal relationship with Jesus ANY person can have is a Catholic who EATS the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of GOD Himself! Doesn’t get more personal than that!

          • kag1982

            Oh I agree with you about the Sacraments. That is what differentiates the Catholic Church from the Protestants. That is frankly the only reason to remain Catholic rather than attending another Christian church. What are they benefiting from attending Mass where they are second class citizens and are permanently barred from Communion? In my opinion, absolutely nothing. They would get the same spiritual benefits as an Episcopalian or a Methodist. All spiritual Communion is is a personal relationship with God. I think that you can definitely cultivate such a relationship outside the Church. You don’t really believe that Jesus is only present in the Eucharist and doesn’t present himself in the lives and worship services of other faiths? I certainly disavow that point.

            Of course, I think that you and other posters arguing so vehemently about the remarried receiving the Sacraments think that such remarried divorcees are headed straight for Hell (as well as Protestants), so I can see why you guys would hold this position. What confuses me as the mumbo jumbo from the Church hierarchy about how the Church still wants remarried divorcees to remain a full part of the Church and how it still loves them and how someone can still gain fruits from being a Catholic when they are excommunicated for remarriage? Blah.. Blah… Garbage… Exactly what spiritual benefits does the hierarchy think that people can gain from remaining Catholic if they cannot participate in the Sacraments? Either articulate the position that remarried Catholics are under the same penalties as the Mafia and going to burn in the hellfire with them, which is what the withholding of the Eucharist represents, and deal with the fact that most remarried people are going to choose to leave the Church or find a way to welcome remarried divorcees back to the Sacraments.

          • Of course unrepenting adulterers will go to Hell, that’s very clear in the bible.
            What the Church is saying is that IF the first marriage is VALID, and a person ‘remarries’ someone else they ARE committing ADULTERY against their first and ONLY valid spouse. NO adulterer can enter heaven. Adultery is a MORTAL sin, NO person in mortal sin is supposed to have Holy Communion. Period.

          • kag1982

            Yes. Neo-traditionalist Catholics have such an ugly, spiteful version of God. If your version of God existed, then no one would be going to Heaven. But thank you for admitting that you believe that God throws abuse victims into Hell along with the masterminds of the Holocaust. This isn’t what the Church teaches but clarity is always nice. I’m assuming that you also believe that all Protestants go to Hell as well.

          • You really shouldn’t ASSume things dear, you what that says about you.
            I believe EVERYONE in Heaven WILL be Catholic regardless of what they were on earth. I think Hell will contain just as many stupid Catholics as protestants. If you don’t know the Faith you are doomed in your sin and sin sends you to hell.

          • kag1982

            So you think that all non-Catholics will go to Hell? Let’s get this out in plain English.

          • I DID say it in plain English, the problem here is your comprehension abilities. Everyone in heaven WILL BE Catholic REGARDLESS of what faith they were on earth. There is only ONE TRUE FAITH and that is Catholic. EVERY single person in Heaven WILL BE Catholic. People in heaven will NOT still cling to false religions. They WILL BE Catholic- every single one of them- in Heaven. How’s that for plain English? 🙂

          • Therese

            Read the catechism. many Catholics dont know the faith.

          • Therese

            thank you for stating that clearly. its apparant that many people Dont Get this.
            The Church teaches also that all Catholic marriages are PRESUMED to be Valid. not the other way around. There are only a few rare impediments that can make a consumated marriage be ruled invalid by the tribunal that investigates it. Telling the spouse- like myself- that was abandoned by the person who commited to me for life before God- before running off with a new person after decades of marriage/ raising children- that its permissable for either of us to go find a new ‘relationship”, especially when this is done by clergy( who should know better),.
            putting the person in a second relationship in a state of Adultery. Instead the ‘pastoral” approach by liberal clergy seems to be to presume that the un-investigated marriage is invalid, and assume that an annulment will be granted.
            so why even wait to civilly divorce ones spouse, before entering into a new physical relationship with a new hottie. After all “Fr Everyone is welcome at the table ” says its ok.
            But each of us will stand alone before God on our day of judgement . This needs to be addressed at the upcoming meeting. not ever marriage is annullable, nor should it be.
            I believe our marriage to be valid. what when wrong? sin, and the choice to sin.
            saying that divorce and annulment solve the problem only sugarcoats sin.
            since my spouse ran off, I have remained chaste. celibate.
            I choose a clean heart and soul, as best as I can, and the ability to come to Holy communion and recieve full absolution in confession way above my desire to find a new person to ease my loneliness. Keeping my focus on the eternal, I know that should I reach my goal of heaven, I will never be alone, but with my Lord , the true Love., love itself.

          • Therese

            I meant to say NOT EVERY marriage is annulable, nor should it be. there ARE valid marriages. made up of flawed sinners, who sin.

          • Let me be perfectly clear, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ is ONLY found in the Eucharist at a Catholic Mass. No protestant community has that- not one.

          • kag1982

            First, it isn’t only the Catholic Mass. The Orthodox have valid Sacraments as well. And the validity of the Sacraments doesn’t really matter if you cannot participate in the Sacraments, does it? Do you really believe that God only reveals his presence in the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass and no time else?

          • Of course it matters! Jesus is ONLY present on earth Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is the Eucharist so HOW can going to a protestant community with NO Eucharist even compare to being before the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist? Just being NEAR Him is wonderful!

          • kag1982

            So you don’t believe that Protestants ever experience God. In fact, you don’t believe that people can experience God outside the Mass and Eucharistic adoration.

          • You keep ignoring the “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” part. No where else on earth is Christ found BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY than in the Eucharist. Of course people can “experience God” in OTHER ways, but NOT BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY. Clear enough yet?

          • kag1982

            Actually, remarried people cannot participate in the Eucharist; that is the whole argument. If staring at a host in silent meditation is a good spiritual practice for you, then I’m not going to disparage that. However, it isn’t of the same value as participating in the Sacramental life of the Church; it is a meditative practice. And I’m not sure why Catholic spiritual practices are any better than Protestant ones. Ergo, I’m not sure why someone permanently excommunicated from participating in the Sacraments should remain Catholic. In fact, since being Christian means being part of a community, why shouldn’t they find a community where they can be full members?

          • I know they can’t EAT the Eucharist, did you bother to READ what I said above??
            I said “you are WITH Jesus BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY” with the Eucharist. THAT matters! Standing and kneeling or sitting BEFORE THE BODY BLOOD SOUL AND DIVINITY of God is a BIG DEAL. You act like its nothing. Even if a person can’t receive Holy Communion they are REQUIRED by the Church to go to Mass- BECAUSE THEY ARE RECEIVING GRACE BY BEING IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.
            ProtestantISM is a heresy, Catholicism is the Truth. That is the difference.

          • oregon nurse

            But there is also the issue of being before the Eucharist in a state of willful and continuing mortal sin and therefore not in a state of grace. Isn’t that problematic for receiving graces from adoration? Isn’t it problematic for even being in His Presence in that way?

            I’m not saying I think these things, it just seems like it’s an obvious progression of theology from the positions you’ve stated.

          • The FIRST Precept of the Catholic Church is that ALL Catholics (regardless of their state) are required to attend Mass and Holy Days of obligation.
            There is always grace when you are standing in the presence of our Divine Lord- and hopefully that will prompt the person to repent and return to a state of grace. You do not get the full graces because of your own willful refusal to repent. God is right there waiting for you, its up to you whether or not you humble yourself to admit you are wrong and ask God’s forgiveness. There is a reason the Bible warns against the sin of pride over and over again.

          • kag1982

            Why is it any bigger a deal than being in God’s presence in a whole other host of ways? It isn’t an different from me being in God’s presence in silent meditative prayer in the middle of a garden. And I don’t think that people who cannot receive the Eucharist aren’t receiving any spiritual graces that they don’t receive from attending a Protestant church service. I believe that God is definitely present at Protestant services just like he is present at the Catholic Mass. In different ways perhaps, but I still think that he is present.

          • Are you serious? Clearly you do not understand the Eucharist. Let me try to give you an example. Is talking to a loved one on the phone the same as standing in front of them in person? THAT is the difference. That is what is meant by “Body (Christ REAL body), Blood (Christ’s REAL blood), SOUL (Christ’s real holy soul) and Divinity (the Divine God). Do you see it now?

          • kag1982

            I think that God is present in Protestant churches as well. Really present. In different ways but still present.

          • Catholics have Jesus in front of them, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.
            Protestants have Jesus on the phone. He hears them, they communicate with each other, but he is not Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity before them.
            Jesus in the Eucharist is as real and truly Jesus as the Jesus who walked with the Apostles. That is what the Church means by “Real Presence”.

          • kag1982

            In a crowded mall or area, I sometimes use my cell to call loved ones and they do the same to me. We are present in the same area and still need to speak with each other on the phone. Just being present and a distant participant doesn’t give people any additional graces. An excommunicated remarried divorcee attending the Mass has a similar experience as being in the same crowded mall with a loved one. In fact, handing them a cellphone would give them a closer relationship than they have now.

          • You see no difference in a phone call to a loved one vs being physically with them?
            So if you were told, you can NEVER again be physically with your family or friends but you can talk on the phone, you’d be happy with that?
            That is just sad.

          • kag1982

            I’d prefer to see them obviously. But not in the circumstances that you describe. What you are describing is an estranged family member catching a glimpse of a family member at a public event. In this case, I’m sure that most would prefer a phone call.

          • I am talking about being PHYSICALLY present with someone or with them from a distance non-physically.

          • kag1982

            Someone can be physically present and distant. An estranged father might sneak into see his child’s sports game. He would be present in the same room with thr child but there is no meaningful relationship.

          • If you think you can ‘sneak’ up on God in the Eucharist you are wrong. And Jesus in the Eucharist isn’t sneaking up on anyone either. Your analogy is apples to oranges. Try again.

          • kag1982

            No I am not. I don’t see it as apples and oranges. The remarried Catholic has the same relationship with Jesus during Mass as the estranged dad I discussed.

          • I know you don’t see it that way, that doesn’t mean you are correct.
            Again, Jesus isn’t sneaking around in the Eucharist, nor are people attending Mass sneaking up on Jesus in the Eucharist.

          • kag1982

            Excommunicated people attending Mass aren’t really part of the Catholic Church. They are outsiders looking in.

          • They are Catholics in need of the Sacrament of Confession.

          • kag1982

            They cannot receive Reconciliation unless they divorce their spouse.

          • If the marriage isn’t valid and it’s adultery WHY would anyone WANT to stay in such a horrible sin?
            Such person cares more about their own self gratification than they do about God- THAT is why they will be punished.

          • kag1982

            Because they have children and a life with that person and they love them?

          • They love humans above God, another sin.

          • kag1982

            Why does God not want people to have healthy families?

          • oregon nurse

            “In fact, since being Christian means being part of a community, why
            shouldn’t they find a community where they can be full members?”

            I think this is a good question and I’ve been giving it some thought. It strikes me that without the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the community membership in a protestant church isn’t going to be any more spiritually beneficial to you than the community you already have in the Catholic Church. In fact, if it leads you theologically and morally astray (like some progressive churches) it could do you great harm. Even though it hurts to be denied full participation I still think it makes sense to continue to worship as Catholic and pray for a solution.

          • kag1982

            Actually I think that community membership in the Protestant church might be more beneficial to remarried divorcees than being in the Catholic Church. I could imagine remarried divorcees being bitter about their treatment in the Church and taking it out on God. I’ve been bitter about how I was treated by the Church in the past and have taken it out on God rather than acknowledging that the Church is a human organization and while the Church hates and dismisses me (especially because I am a woman), God doesn’t feel the same way. And I don’t have the great reason to leave the Church that someone who is remarried does.

        • No, a remarried divorcee is not “excommunicated.”

          • kag1982

            How is the penalty that remarried divorcees are under any different from what Pope Francis said about the Mafia?

          • Canon 7. If anyone says that in the sacrament of penance it is not required by divine law for the remission of sins to confess each and all mortal sins which are recalled after a due and diligent examination,[79] also secret ones and those that are a violation of the two last commandments of the Decalogue,[80] as also the circumstances that change the nature of a sin, but that this confession is useful only to instruct and console the penitent and in olden times was observed only to impose a canonical satisfaction; or says that they who strive to confess all sins wish to leave nothing to the divine mercy to pardon; or finally, that it is not lawful to confess venial sins, let him be anathema (excommunicated).
            —The Ecumenical Council of Trent Session XIV

          • kag1982

            Again.. How is Pope Francis’ condemnation of the Mafia any different from the Catholic Church’s penalty against remarried divorcees? The Mafia is condemned through their sinful actions and remarried divorcees are excommunicated through their sinful actions. You said that remarried divorcees are damned to Hell along with Adolf Hitler and Mafia dons. Why the Church treats Bob Catholic the same way it does a Mafia boss is the question.

          • I never said “remarried divorcees are damned to hell along with Adolf Hitler and Mafia dons” because I don’t know if Hitler or anyone in the mafia are in Hell. I don’t know it and neither does the Church.
            What I have QUOTED is Church doctrine about adulterers.
            ANYONE- even Hitler- COULD repent before they die (and I hope they do!). The key is confessing and repenting the sin.
            If a divorced remarried person REFUSES to admit they are adulterers then they will never repent and someone with moral sin WILL GO to Hell- the key is REPENTING before they die. To repent they MUST admit their sin and be sorry about it.
            If a person remains in sin, they are CHOOSING hell over Heaven. We have free will, at the end of our lives ALL of us with either be in Heaven or Hell. What determines our eternal destination are our choices in life.
            Did we choose life with Christ or death with the devil?

          • kag1982

            Yeah. That is exactly what you said. Remarried divorcees are going to Hell.

          • My words are there for everyone to see. You put words into other peoples mouths that they never said.
            Again I tell you, read the quotes from Canon Law and the Catechism of the Church.

          • kag1982

            So you think that God gives the same punishment to an abuse victim as to a Mafia don.

          • “abuse victim”?? I thought we were discussing an adulterer who left a valid marriage to ‘remarry’ into an adulterous affair with someone else?
            Focus, the issue is remarriage NOT the reason for it. The reason doesn’t matter, that action does.

          • kag1982

            Do abuse victims not get to form better relationships and even enter into new marriages?

          • You don’t need sex “to form better relationships”. You need an annulment if you want marry someone after a first marriage – unless you are widowed.

          • kag1982

            The only meaningful relationships within the modern world are physical and involve sex. I haven’t had a meaningful relationship (other than my parents) that hasn’t involved romance/ a boyfriend since I was in high school

          • “the only meaningful relationships within the modern world are physical and involve sex”..???
            That is an unbelievably ignorant statement.
            You are saying that Jesus Christ had NO meaningful relationships because he didn’t have sex? That there is no meaning in any relationship unless you have sex with the person??
            You have many issues kag1982, many, many issues. Go talk to a GOOD priest who will guide you in the right direction before its too late and you die in mortal sin.

          • kag1982

            Yes. I don’t have any actual friends because all my friends have husbands and children, so I am basically the third wheel. And I don’t see how praying to God substitutes for meaningful relationships with other humans. And I don’t see myself in mortal sin. I think that you are especially ugly and prejudiced toward other people and perhaps should seek out a priest yourself.

          • Oh boo hoo.

          • kag1982

            This is why I want a husband myself and hope that everyone, including people who are divorced, can have meaningful spousal relationships. I’m stating the obvious. Once a person gets married and has kids, any friendships or other relationships don’t matter. It is selfish to insist that they matter. However, it is also human to desire such a meaningful relationship for oneself. Outside husband/ wife and parent/ child, people have no support system in this world to rely on. If you want to live without that support, fine but don’t demean others who desire that love and support.

          • ron a.

            kag1982—Read Dante. He had something interesting to say about this. Something about NINE circles.

          • kag1982

            Dante isn’t a Church theologian. What he says about the structure of Hell likely isn’t true. The truth is that the Catholic Church treats people who it considers to be in mortal sin the same regardless of circumstances; the same penalty is used to punish a remarried divorcee and a Mafia don. Excommunication is excommunication.

          • ron a.

            So what is the prospect of excommunication? Potential hellfire. That is the essential truth. I don’t think Dante meant himself to be taken literally. But his conception is reasonable and just. Justice seems to be the forgotten term— or, should I say: “the uncomfortable term”.

            (Not being a Church theologian is probably to his credit. Let’s face the facts—there are a lot of nutty theologians out there!)

          • kag1982

            Jane Catholic gets beat up by her husband on a regular basis. She finally leaves him and later remarries. Is Jane damned to Hell?

          • Alexander S Anderson

            Salvation is closed neither to Bob Catholic nor to the Mafia boss.

          • kag1982

            Yes. But why are Bob Catholic’s second marriage treated the same seriousness as the Mafia executing people? In the law, manslaughter isn’t treated the same as first degree murder. By contrast the Church issues blanket condemnations to both.

          • Alexander S Anderson

            From the Church’s perspective, both Mafia boss and Bob Catholic are committing actions which separate them from the grace of the sacraments. The Church’s goal is to get them back into those graces. No more, no less. It’s not about making the punishment fit the crime. That’s the job of others.

          • kag1982

            So you think that Bob Catholic’s “punishment” for marrying the wrong woman, divorcing her, and remarrying should be the same as a Mafia don who orders the killing of innocent children. What does the Church expect Bob to do? Leave his second wife? Live completely alone for the rest of his life without the support of a family? Frankly, the “punishment” that the Church inflicts on divorcees is even worse than the “punishment” it inflicts on Mafia dons because it involves isolation and the lack of support of a family. People do stupid things in the pursuit of love. They think that the wrong person is the one and marry without thinking about the implications. How being stupid in love is at the same level with systematically terrorizing and murdering people for greed?

    • Good point. That has crossed my mind as well.

      • The problem here is a mentality that says “What’s in it for me?”

        First of all, as has been said, communion isn’t the only sacrament.

        But more importantly, the Christian life is never about “What’s in it for me?” it’s “What does God want?”

        I believe that the Catholic Church is the Body of Christ and that what God wants is for everyone to be incorporated to it.

        • kag1982

          Actually, remarried divorcees are cut off from all the Sacraments. They cannot receive Reconciliation either.

        • I understand. It’s an intractable problem. The answer is certainly above my pay grade.

    • Holy Communion is ONE Sacrament. People can and MUST still go to Confession for their sins. Attending Mass is a requirement of the Church, you are there WITH Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at EVERY Mass- who wants to miss out on that? All this “personal relationship with Jesus” stuff is misleading. The MOST personal relationship with Jesus ANY person can have is a Catholic who EATS the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of GOD Himself! Doesn’t get more personal than that!

  • Before the full fire of my conversion took hold of me, it was December of 2008. At Holy Mass, just before going up to receive our Lord, just after praying, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed, I heard in my heart, very distinctly “DO NOT receive me.” So I didn’t. I cried. Tears ran down my cheeks.

    I understood that moment that I needed to take care of my sin, repent and do what is right and just. I shook at the thought of telling my, the man who I called my husband for three years. Would he understand? Would he leave me? I brought this up to my confessor who reassured me, DO NOT receive our Lord because I had been married outside of the Church, after divorcing my first husband. Thus the annulment process began and the 4 years of deep repentance, and CHASTITY (my current husband and I living as brother & sister) began.

    I was able to receive our Lord after a time of not having relations with my, the man I called my husband and grew through our Lords grace, to understand it truly IS Him in the Eucharist, after many years “thinking” maybe it was Him. In that time, I fell in love with our Lord.

    During the time I could not receive, I attended Holy Mass daily anyway, and when it came time to receive Him, it was as if I was chained to the pillar, receiving my lashes for my sin against Him. It was very painful and He shared this with me, so I would grow closer to Him.

    It’s VERY important NOT to be in a state of Mortal sin when receiving Him. Straight couples, or homosexual. We are ALL called to chastity and when we refuse to use that grace of His, we are refusing Him. When you refuse Him in “Spirit”, please don’t receive Him in the flesh.

    I am posting this for all souls today who are divorced and remarried, who are cohabiting before marriage, engaging in sexual relations before marriage and for all homosexual relations as to when NOT to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. To receive our Lord in a state of Mortal Sin is receiving death.

    Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. – Proverbs 8:34

    • Antiphon411

      Wow! A powerful testimony! How much Grace your marriage must now have!

    • Beautiful testimony. Thank you very much.

      • Glory to God. On top of this, He has chosen me to enter into the Third Order of Carmel also. I will officially be received this July 12th after being in formation. Only He could do this. I have ZERO doubt He wanted me to share our story so others could see His love for all of us.

  • Dan13

    “Some people have turned around this argument by saying: “If the divorced-remarried can receive spiritual communion, why not actual communion?” and I can’t find another answer but: LOL”

    I believe I first saw Cardinal Kasper make this argument. Essentially, one cannot receive spiritual communion unless one is reconciled with God. Thus, if one can receive spiritual communion then one can receive actual communion. Pope Benedict proposed it as a solution for those divorced and remarried who, because of certain factual characteristics, are reconciled with God.

    That’s why Cardinal Kasper advocates giving communion to divorced and remarried in limited situations based on pastoral discretion. The example he gives is of a woman who married a divorced man civilly when young, has several young children, and has returned to the church with her children. His argument is that the woman is stuck between a rock and a hard place: she cannot live as a “sister” with her husband without risking her the breakup of her marriage and the disruption it would do to her children–which would be sinful in itself, but, in the eyes of the church, she is committing adultery.

    I would prefer the Church to take this pastoral and merciful approach than the trend in the American dioceses where everyone gets an annulment (I have never heard of someone who wants an annulment not getting one). It would also be akin to the limited pastoral discretion that the Orthodox use.

    • ron a.

      “Pastoral discretion”. We have seen how that has worked with the pill and contraception! (Especially) in matters sexual, one, cannily, ‘priest shops’ until he/she finds a more “discrete” priest. Or, should I say a more “pastoral” priest.

    • kag1982

      I know people who didn’t get annulments, so it does happen. I think that if the process was more pastoral and healing and more uniform in the dioceses, then people would feel better about it… The Orthodox Church requires people to get a ecclesiastical divorce to get remarried. It is initiated at the parish level and involves significant involvement of the priest. A modified annulment process close to the parish level with more significant lay involvement, no lawyers and “trial”, and no fifty page document would probably fit what people are looking for.

      • Yeah, except that the very notion of “ecclesiastical divorce” goes against the Gospel.

        I agree the annulments process can be improved, but the kind of thing you’re talking about sounds a lot like “Catholic divorce.”

        I agree that it would “fit what people are looking for.” I’m much less sure that it would fit what God is looking for.

        • kag1982

          But we already have “Catholic divorce.” When a famous politician like Newt Gingrich can get two annulments for marriages that he broke up by cheating on his wives so the he could become Catholic, then that is Catholic divorce.

          It seems to me that this is what Kasper was getting at. The Church can just be honest and admit the obvious and design a process that heals rather than hurts (even if it wishes to call it annulments) or the Church can go back to the pre-Vatican II annulment process where there were only 200 annulments each year. I don’t think that the latter would happen because I don’t think that the Church wants a system that denies even abuse victims annulments. But I’m not sure how the current annulment system helps anyone except canon lawyers. In fact, I’m not sure why the Catholic Church even has a court system (outside a process in Rome to deal with abuser priests); it is a thing of this world, not the next. A pastoral process which involves extensive counselling and spiritual examination by a priest or married deacon or layperson who you know seems to be much better than a complex and slow court process run by people who see you as a case number, not an individual.

          • Olivia Cook

            “A pastoral process which involves extensive counselling and spiritual
            examination by a priest or married deacon or layperson who you know
            seems to be much better than a complex and slow court process run by
            people who see you as a case number, not an individual.” – this I agree with 100 percent. But that takes us back to the “internal forum” of conscience which frankly is the ultimate tribunal of the soul. And the reason that seems to be often given for this not to be a solution for this one is the risk of “scandal” – and hence the impasse. Part of the reason that the Synod is having to look at the problem again is that the internal forum solution is already being used extensively, licitly or otherwise. In the end, the only person who can make a judgement in conscience on the validity of a hellish broken marriage is the person who lived through it – I think even Pope Benedict said something similar but I can’t at present find the quote.

    • For the example you cite (and I also cite the example of people who are divorced-remarried civilly and then later join the Church) I agree there is a difficulty and I might want to see a solution. I do believe that what Kasper is talking about goes much more broadly than that.

  • oregon nurse

    The Church has a lot of work to do regarding teaching about marriage. There is a huge misunderstanding in the culture in which Catholics have been immersed for the last 50 years that makes it truly hard to understand sacramental marriage. We need to start specific education programs before kids begin dating since even dating changes when the true understanding of relationships between the sexes and marriage is known and accepted. Waiting to begin a formal process until a couple is approaching the parish priest to schedule a wedding is asking for bad outcomes since they are too committed at that point to be truly open to discernment.

    We also need to be much more careful about marrying couples of mixed religious beliefs. I honestly can see no reason to allow Catholic marriage with those who profess themselves to be agnostics and atheists, regardless of their baptismal status. How can those couples be united with Christ when one doesn’t even believe in Him? How can they resolve problems if prayer and submission to God’s will and teaching isn’t an option for one of them?

    While making marriage prep a much longer and more comprehensive program, I think the Church needs to speed up and simplify the annulment process for now, accepting the fact that many, many Catholics over the last 50 years have entered into marriage with a flawed understanding, one that is more cultural than sacramental, and the high divorce rate is evidence of that. Once we have better marriage prep and discernment in place, the annulments for those persons will naturally decrease. The Church has to accept responsibility for the part she has played in poor marriage formation and ease the burden on so many Catholics who made mistakes and want to be in full union with the Church again.

    • I made my wife go through 18 months of school between the time we were engaged and the time we were married- between RCIA and pre-marital prep.

      And I was beside her every step of the way, driving her to class.

      And she was baptised at Easter and we were married in June.

  • Liberty

    I guess I don’t see the point of mentioning cleaning the window. Perhaps I missed it but I don’t see where you actually tied it to anything other than the fact you sometimes have to clean a window after it gets dirty. Yes, that’s true. Isn’t that what Confession does? And once the window is clean again then you can see through it. How does that tie in with the rest? Wouldn’t that mean you should be able to see through the window again, have Sacraments again?

    I do understand the seriousness of divorce. I also think this is terribly hard for people whose spouses leave them, divorce them, when the left ones are faithful Catholics. Are you not holding them responsible for other people’s sins? Are they then called to be alone for the rest of their lives? (I mean, I do understand that, since the Church asks hard things of us.) Do we not all dirty up the windows of Sacraments when we sin after receiving even Baptism? How is what we do forgivable but being divorced by an unfaithful spouse and eventually remarrying?

  • I think it is the two-dose punch that is the solution.

    Not that I ever expect the divorced and re-married will come to regret adultery. But the forgiveness- the mercy- must be offered. A change in Canon Law to *require* confession times be available before Mass would be a great boon not just to the divorced and remarried, but for all of us struggling with habitual sin.

    • Antiphon411

      I vote for mandatory confession times before Mass!

    • We don’t have enough priests. Or we do the Orthodox thing where confession lasts five seconds because you just give a list of sins, the priest recites the absolution, and boom.

      • Even that would be better than receiving unworthy. For it would mean that at least you acknowledge what you did was a sin (as opposed to the current state of affairs, which claims there’s no sin in divorce or anything else).

  • Damien Schiff

    I think you overplay the importance of communion and confuse the notion of “saint.” Reception of holy communion is not necessary for salvation. Moreover, one is a “saint” in one sense so long as one gets to heaven. One is a “saint” in the temporal (so to speak) sense if one has lived the virtues heroically and is recognized as such by Holy Mother Church. I would concede that it would be very difficult for most people to become “saints” in the latter sense without holy communion, but I suspect that reception of holy communion for ordinary “saints” is probably not that important and may be in many cases presumptuous and therefore deleterious.

    • claycosse

      Holy communion not necessary for salvation? Doesn’t John 6 say just the opposite:

      “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

      We’re not talking about people who are invincibly ignorant to Christ’s teaching.

    • I really don’t see how it’s possible to “overplay the importance of communion.”

      With regard to the rest of your comment, I’m not sure I understand. The universal call to holiness and the need for sacraments–we can quibble about frequency of reception, but the principle at least–are pretty basic and important things in Catholic Tradition.

  • Stephen Skinner

    I am sorry to say but you lost me when you said “it is precisely sinners who should receive it, because they are those who need it most.” It seems like you are excluding yourself from being a sinner. My understanding is we all are sinners and we all need God. I am no fan of divorce. I recks lives and families. But it happens. To exclude divorsed people because they are “sinners” only puts them in the same catagory as every one else. They may just have failed at achieving perfection in a different way.

    • claycosse

      It’s not the divorced who are excluded–it’s those who are divorced and “remarry” and live in sin. Of course we all sin, including the great PEG, but there is a difference between sinning and unrepentently living in sin. If you can’t confess your sins with a firm purpose of amendment, then you’re living in sin. If you intend to go on living a “remarried” life (which scripture considers adultery), then you can’t possibly have a firm purpose of amendment. I desperately want all of my brothers and sisters in Christ to receive Him in holy communion, but St. Paul did warn against grave consequences for those who receive unworthily. It’s right there in scripture, and if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. This Christianity thing is all or nothing.

      • kag1982

        So do you believe that remarried divorcees are excommunicated from the Church and bound for Hell?

        • claycosse

          That’s definitely not for me to say. I don’t know what’s on their hearts, nor could I make the blanket statement without considering the circumstances of each individual case, nor is it my place to say who’s going to heaven or not even if I knew all the circumstances. I have enough trouble trying to live the Christian faith myself. But if a friend was asking me for advice, Id make the same two points i made above ( two points that are clear from scripture and 2000 years of Christian tradition): the only sin that can’t be forgiven is the unrepented one; and we’re supposed to receive the Eucharist; and we’re supposed to receive it worthily. So three points. And if you sin unrepentantly, you’re putting your soul in eternal danger and shouldn’t receive the Eucharist in that state. So four. Four points and no more.

          Apply that information how you will. Your soul is your own to do with what you please. But all those points are right there in both scripture and tradition. I didn’t make this stuff up in my moms basement. If we explain and rationalize away all sin because we want everyone to feel good and not have to make tough decisions, then those of us who know better are doubly accountable for leading the flock astray and Christianity winds up not meaning a whole lot. Sorry if this hurts people’s feelings in practice, my brother, but Christianity often does. Its about the cross, not feeling good and getting along. Peace be with you, brother (or sister).


    • I lost you at the second paragraph. Did you read the rest of the post, or did you just scroll down and comment right away?

  • claycosse

    My boy PEG just preachin it. Your discussion of obedience the directly proportional relationship of piety to orthodoxy in your own life rings true for me. I am a lowly wretch of a sinner, but as I’ve softened my heart towards the Church and grown in the faith, I’ve recognized that I don’t know it all. Now I first find out what the Church teaches in as much detail as possible before rejecting it out of hand. I have not been left unsatisfied by any of the Church’s teachings. The gates of hell will not prevail against it!

    It does sadden me deeply that we can’t more people to receive the Eucharist. It’s the best dish at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb! But just as in John 6, there will always be people who say “this teaching is too hard,” and turn away. And it was after witnessing the feeding of the 5,000 that they turned away! I do sincerely hope that all will accept the Eucharist, but if the folks who saw him feed the 5,000 weren’t satisfied, are we to expect better results from those who haven’t seen it? I do hold out hope for better, though.

  • “I have an irrepressible need to quibble with everything,”
    Is that why we’re always arguing? ;-P
    Seriously, I’ve been torn on between these two positions myself. I think you made a convincing case, though my heart wants the Church to open communion for the divorced and remarried.

  • captcrisis

    You have turned this around and around in your mind, but in truth at the typical Mass there won’t be one Catholic in 20 who would understand what you’re talking about. To most, withholding communion to those who have been through horrendous first marriages would just seem a Wrong Thing, like denying marriage to a quadriplegic.

    • What matters more, what a person thinks or what God thinks?

      • captcrisis

        What God thinks. Fortunately the average Catholic thinks that God is just and fair. So they have in the past, and do in the present, regularly reject “official” Church teachings on various topics.

        • AnneG

          God is never fair. He is just, and fortunately merciful. And it isn’t “official” with “scare quotes.” It is truth. Whether you believe it is pretty much on you and I hope you don’t have to answer to God’s Justice.

    • Sadly you are right. Which is why we need to preach the Gospel better! And I am trying, however unworthily, to do my part.

  • Finally, my head didn’t explode reading this blog. 😉 Glad you’ve had a change of mind on this issue. But remember the “medicine” is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of GOD. We should all be on our knees [that’s an entirely other topic] and humbly receiving Him after first making sure we have properly confessed all our sins. Every word and action of our life will be judged by God – our salvation depends on how we respond to Him – including in the Eucharist.

  • Johnny Vo

    I have never believed that priests have any special god given powers, probably because of so many evil priests I have known since childhood. Such men could not have this power from God. I believe that if the recipient is in a state of grace and truly believes, he or she effects the transubstantiation of the host. In this way, the unworthy may never share in true communion. I have no problem with anybody receiving the host at mass, only the saved will truly benefit. We need more real priests, who are so few, not communicants turned away in error by priests unworthy of communion themselves.

    • Wow. What you “believe” is–and I am saying this factually and not judgementally–absolutely contrary to what the Church has always believed, including very much the first Christians, and the Church throughout its history.

      With regard to evil priests, you are absolutely right that they exist. However, with a powerful understanding that all the blessings we get are by God’s generous grace and not by our own performance, we realize that priests do indeed have the powers they have, not because of their own personal piety or holiness, but undeservedly–just like any of us receive the blessings we do receive undeservedly. This is why the Church believes that sacraments work “ex opere operato”. I invite you to learn about the history of the Donatists, e.g. here:

      • Johnny Vo

        I know what the church leaders teach and have come to believe that they lie about many things. Especially sex things but many others as well.

        • I sense that there has been hurt in your life and I am sorry for it. I will pray for you and for forgiveness for the sins of the Church.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Thanks for this excellent article and for sharing how your views have evolved on this particular topic.
    One fact that that was particularly illuminating for me was when you said: “Onwards and until very recently, communion was only infrequently received, typically only on high holy days, precisely because of the perceived importance of receiving “worthily.””

  • I have not converted in my opinion yet.

    What I have discovered is when Jesus told us that we must drink his blood and eat his flesh to have his life in us, this is very true indeed, but we must always remember the purpose of the cross. He was pointing to the fact that the Old Man must kill God’s Son and his son must take the wrath of God upon his life and be raised to life, bringing the repentant sinner with him. He must be killed by us. Remember what Isaiah said, “Through his stripes we are healed.”

    You are right that the Eucharist is integrated fully with confession/penance, because our first offering to God is always our sins. When we take the Eucharist into ourselves, we experience his one-time death and resurrection, because we participate in his murder. Yes, it is a terrible act of killing God that frees us from our sin. Only the sinner can truly participate at the mass. It is a solemn experience resulting in a strangely God-glorifying joy.

    It is our sinful nature that makes the Eucharist possible. If we go to the table without sin on our shoulders we have no need for Jesus. It was Jesus who spoke tounge-in-cheek to the Pharisees and explained that it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. We are very sick, indeed.

    Why is it that it is only the sinner that can participate? Because what Jesus did on the cross is an act of transformation from death to life. He takes our sins and transforms them to righteousness. The host is consecrated so our sin may be made consecrated for his Glory. Our righteousness is not ours it his the Holy Spirit’s and has no need to be consecrated. Does God need to be consecrated? No, God is Holy. Jesus is the Holy ONE of God. But our sins do. Our sins must be transformed.

    In fact, it is the Eucharist which is the means by which God consecrates the world back to himself. So, when we block sinners from the table, we hinder his work. We must free Jesus to do our work. We must not let the Pharisee get in the way.

    • You have stated the exactly OPPOSITE of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. We are NOT to have Holy Communion in a state of sin. Confession of all MORTAL sin is required before we receive the Eucharist.

      • Exactly, confession and the Eucharist are inextricably linked as are the sacraments, the highest being the Eucharist. It’s the turning away from sin and toward God that warrants our to approach his table, not my holiness and my sinlessness.

        By excluding the sinner from the sacraments, we undermine the capacity of Jesus’ work on this earth.

        As you know, there are those who are unable to approach the Lord’s table because they are in a state of defined Mortal Sin, yet they cannot be absolved from that sin, based on the Church law. Divorsees are only one of those groups. Another group is like me. I am not allowed to approach the table, because I am unable to lie to God. I cannot say, “I will never miss a Sunday mass again.” I know in my heart that I will choose to miss a Sunday mass because of a family holiday. And so I am not able to be absolved from that sin. It’s very sad. But I go almost every week anyway, knowing that God is feeding me anyway. I miss about one or two Sundays a year.

        In fact, all are sinners who goes to confession and say, “I will sin no more” knowing that they are sinners and that they will be back in the confessional the next week are instantly in a state of sin when they say that if they know in their hearts they will commit the same sin again. Paul and John and the Apostles understood this well. They knew they were sinners. John explained, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Thankfully, the present Apostolic leader understands that he is a sinner in precisely the same way.

        We can only be holy through Jesus’ Spirit. Until our final day, we have the old man in us. The old man is dying and we die with him, but the new man who is living in Jesus is resurrected with him. Thank goodness.

        My heart aches for the divorced and remarried sinner.

        • oregon nurse

          Have you discussed this with more than one priest? It sounds like you are incapable of going to Mass when on family holiday, not that you simply choose not to. I think you may be too scupulous on this issue or have rec’d bad guidance. There are people who cannot attend Mass sometimes because of work who are excused. Sure they could choose to switch jobs or careers but that’s not usually necessary for the odd Sunday missed.

          • Yes, I’ve spoken to a priest about it. It’s a complicated issue, as you can imagine. Thank you for your kind remark.

            I only bring that particular issue up as an example because the lives of sinners are very messy. We all need Jesus so badly, and that’s the bottom line.

            There are those who come to the table and care not. They will be burned up, because the sinner in the presence of God will be burned up in the fiery furnace. But it’s the dross that is destroyed not the Gold. It’s the same for all of us. If the gold of the holy spirit is not in us, then we will certainly die. And that is what the Fathers warned us of.

        • You have that backwards! LOL
          You can not be absolved of FUTURE sins that you have not yet committed so your little story about promising God ahead of time you won’t miss Mass is nonsense
          If you can’t keep your promises to God, stop making promises to Him. Merely tell Him you will do your best daily and leave it at that.

          • It’s a big story to me and it’s not funny (“LOL” isn’t what you say with a voice of love to someone who is laying out one’s heart. Yet, I know the Internet is not that place to do that. But I reveal the depth for the sake of others in the same position.)

            I know I can’t be absolved from future sins. In confession, we promise God that we will take real steps to stop a particular sin. Many people honestly fall back into sin. But when we know we are going to willfully choose to fall back into that sin, then we are sinning yet again through the sin of deception toward God. I cannot do that.

          • Artistree

            Your reply to Dave was despicable and unchristian. You need forgiveness and hopefully you will seek it.
            If you had any understanding of the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount your attitude might show a little mercy.

        • AquinasMan

          All due respect, I think you’re being overly scrupulous. If you’re going to “choose” to miss Mass due to a family vacation, there are ways of reconciling that:

          1) Are you going on vacation in order to miss Mass? Probably not.

          2) Is your vacation beneficial to the mental health and well being of your family and marriage? (i.e., it’s not just some trip to Vegas for gambling and debauchery) Probably.

          3) Is there a Catholic parish offering Mass where you’re vacationing? Somewhere? In range of a cab ride if you’re at a resort? Likely.

          4) If there’s no Mass being celebrated where you’re vacationing, you do realize that your pastor can grant you a dispensation, do you not?

          All else fails, #4 is always available. The Church provides; God know the intent of your heart. Stop straining at the gnat.

          • I can’t go into the details online. It’s not the place. Things are more complicated than A, B, or C. You’re welcome to contact me via a different method of communication for full understanding of the issue. Most people’s lives are very messy.

        • AquinasMan

          “My heart aches for the divorced and remarried sinner.”

          We should all ache for them. It’s a terrible conundrum, but there is a solution (celibacy) and there is also a great reward for such heroic virtue (proximity to the Cross). Those who stood closest to the Cross (the Virgin Mary and John) were given to each other’s care. John was the only Apostle to die a natural death. The Blessed Mother was assumed into heaven. They suffered terribly at the foot of the cross, but they received incomparable consolation for their tribulation.

          The Church and her members have a duty toward compassion with those who are in such a tangle. But to be compassionate means, “to suffer with”, not “make it go away”. We can ease their suffering by accompanying them on that journey toward heroic virtue. In a sense, just like all evil situations, tremendous good can come forth. What greater medicine for the soul, than to realize that the highest good is not “sexual relations”, but the Eucharist. What incomparable opportunity for extraordinary sanctifying grace, than to reject the temporal nature of illicit human passion for the bottomless well of quenching water in the Eucharist? Does anyone doubt that those laboring under the self-imposed cross of divorce-and-remarriage will receive manifold graces under the easy burden of Christ?

          The key is support as a Church body. As long as there are people saying, “No, you’re getting a raw deal from the Church, you deserve ‘x'”, we’re going to continue battling the same serpent that told Eve, “No, you’re getting a raw deal from he Creator. You deserve that fruit.”

          • Tell the remarried woman who’s trying to enter the church that celibacy is her only option. Her second husband who she’s already had two children with is going to love that one.

            We deal with people where they are at in their lives.

            Yes, we must suffer, but like this past Sunday’s reading explains “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”

            The grace of God is not for the one who hasn’t made bad decisions in life. The grace of God is for the one who has made bad decisions in life.

            No we should not break what God has made and in fact, it’s impossible to break what God has put together. Remarried people are married to more than one person.

            It’s a messy, sick world. And the Blessed Sacrament is made for the sick not the healthy.

            The Sacrament is grace for the ill. The Sacrament is not a reward for the righteous.

            Jesus never said, “Here is my body poured out for you because you are holy.” It was poured out for the sinner.

      • Artistree

        CT Catholic,
        I have a question for you. When Christ fed the 5,000 with the miraculous Bread, which prefigures the Eucharist, were the 5,000 + in a state of sin or not ? When Jesus fed the 4,000 Gentiles with the Bread ( again prefiguring the Eucharist, and the fact that the Gentiles were to come to the Table with the Children of Israel), where these Gentiles, at this point, unclean and still in sin, or clean, as you claim ?

        • AquinasMan

          It was a prefigurement. It wasn’t sacramental. The Last Supper was sacramental. And if the feeding of the 5,000 WERE sacramental, it would only be efficacious to those who were pre-disposed to receive the grace offered: i.e., not in a state of sin that has separated the soul from God. The Holy Spirit is teaching us that Christ wants to bring salvation to all souls; later the actual sacramental Eucharist is reserved for His closest followers, whom He would task with bringing to the rest of the world.

    • AquinasMan

      “It is our sinful nature that makes the Eucharist possible. If we go to the table without sin on our shoulders we have no need for Jesus.”

      That’s not true. The sacrifice of the Mass is taking place in heaven right now, and well attended by the saints, I might add.

      • Remember two things: 1) There is only one sacrifice and it happened once on Calvary. We are witnessing that that one-time event at Mass. And 2) When the day final day comes and we are finally in heaven, the sacrifice will be no longer necessary. There will be no more sacrifice at the mass. We will be fully in the Wedding Banquet between Jesus and his Church.

        We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (the Saints), however they have no need of the Sacrifice. They are already fully sanctified and a part of his New body.

  • Canon Law made easy: Divorced remarried Catholics and the Eucharist –

  • Kasoy

    The physical Reception of Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin is sacrilege – a very grievous sin. If one really wants to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and is not sure if he is in the state of mortal sin or not, he can always ask God to receive Jesus (God willing) through spiritual communion – spiritually receiving the Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity). This will not only avoid scandalizing other communicants who may know you, but it will enable you to receive communion if God can see that you are in the state of grace. Otherwise, God in His infinite goodness will not allow anyone in the state of mortal sin to receive spiritually His Body sacrilegiously.

    • kag1982

      Yes, I’ve heard this many times. My argument is why did Jesus die for such awful sinners then?

      • Love.

        • kag1982

          Yes… So God loves screwed up people. I think that he has special love for those who are in screwed up relationships because of their screwed up family circumstances. Frankly, I think that he is cheering when a woman in an abusive relationship leaves her abusive husband and commits to a successful relationship.

          • Jesus died for our sins to be forgiven, if you keep in the sin you are not forgiven.
            If a first marriage is valid and divorce is necessary the couple are required to live CHASTE CELIBATE lives. As soon as you have sex with someone else you have committed adultery according to God.
            Who is in the greater sin, the abuser or the adulterer according to the scriptures?
            Divorce is allowed, ‘remarriage’ is not. This has been Catholic teaching for over 2,000 years and it will be until Christ returns.
            Just look at King Henry- he didn’t get the annulment he wanted so he made up his own religion to suit himself. Sadly, many Catholics follow Henry’s lead still today.

          • kag1982

            So what do you expect a 20-something abuse victim to do? Live 60+ years completely alone and be the person who dies and is found weeks later by the building janitor in her apartment. I’m a 30-something single woman and have a taste about how horrific it is to live alone which is I why I’m supportive of divorcees who remarry. If they rebound from their youthful mistakes and find someone who loves them, then I think that they should be with that person. I don’t think that the Church should demand that people leave without family. That really is inhumane.

          • What do *I* expect? The CHURCH expects such a person to REMAIN CHASTE AND CELIBATE so that they don’t fall into mortals in by falling into adultery.
            You keep asking the wrong questions.
            It isn’t about what ANY person ‘expects’, it is what God says through His Church that is important. The Church calls such people to live chaste and celibate lives so that they do not become adulterers. That is Church teaching, always has been. Jesus said it himself in Mark 10:11-12 – go read it.

          • kag1982

            Again… Have you ever lived alone and without family to support you? I have. That is what I am experiencing now. It is incredibly lonely and sad. I cannot imagine why the Church demands this of divorcees and provides them with no love and no support. And then people like you come by who are probably happily married with the requisite 6+ kids and snidely dismiss these people’s attempts to find happiness and declare them damned to Hell.

          • Boy you are just FULL of assumptions! Not that it is any of your business, but I am DIVORCED CHASTE AND CELIBATE for over 10 years. I follow the Church teaching in ALL areas of my life and I don’t whine about wanting to shack up with someone because I simply MUST have sex in my life or life isn’t worth living. GROW UP and stop whining as if you are the only victim in the world that things didn’t go as you planned. I have news for you, LOTS of people are victims and they deal with it within boo-hooing and whining like you are doing here.

          • kag1982

            So you are projecting on everyone else. There are lots of people who are happily remarried and should be allowed to remain happily remarried.

          • They are ‘happy’ adulterers unless they have an annulment. Lots of people LOVE being in mortal sin, they wallow in it. Their eternity will be hell for the choice they made on earth.

          • kag1982

            So you don’t think that people should have meaningful relationships with each other?

          • Michael Kocian

            Relationships without Truth of God are not meaningful. God says sex outside of a sacramental marriage is adultery. If you love God, you’ll obey. If you don’t love God, you’ll do whatever you want anyway.

          • kag1982

            I’m assuming that the remarried Catholics in these relationships consider their relationships meaningful.

          • AquinasMan

            But they’re not united in the eyes of God. How much more meaningless can it get?

          • kag1982

            And you know this for a fact? You’ve discussed this with God.

          • AquinasMan

            It came from the lips of Christ Himself.

          • kag1982

            Well, considering the Church has courts that try to decipher whether a marriage was really a marriage in God’s eyes, those words have been stretched to the limits. Perhaps God doesn’t consider Newt Gingrich’s third marriage sacramental even though the Church does and he considers some second/ third marriages without annulments sacramental. Unless you discussed each individual case with God, you don’t know what he thinks about them.

          • AquinasMan

            Can a tribunal be compromised? Yes. And those who allow for the corruption of the process will have to answer for it, don’t be mistaken. But it’s still a canonical Church body, and so, what it determines is to be accepted in humility and obedience. Even Christ had to accept the bogus outcome of His own trial, where His own Divinity was declared null by mere humans.

            The power to “decipher a marriage” comes from God. All power comes from God. What those who sit on a tribunal do with that power will determine if they have acted with justice (in a Godly manner) or injustice (like Pilate). Casualties may occur. But this is the price of sin. Like Christ, we need to pick up our Cross and carry it, even when it’s unjustly thrown on our shoulder.

            And that’s why we have an absolute responsibility, to be compassionate, like Simon the Cyrene, and assist them in carrying that cross, with every ounce we can give.

          • kag1982

            The Catholic Church shouldn’t have a court system (outside a system to deal with the abuse scandal.) A court system is something of the temporal and civil world, not of the next world. Having temporal institutions like a court system corrupts Church officials and leads to only anger, suspicion, and heartbreak among those affected. Of all the things that a court system shouldn’t be adjudicating is the sacramental nature of people’s marriages. I’m not sure how an annulment tribunal can accurately judge the intimate thoughts of someone perhaps twenty plus years earlier.

            And yes, we each have our crosses to carry in life but we also should have God’s love and help to carry that cross. Excommunicating someone from the support and love of the Church should be a serious and rare occurrence; it shouldn’t be as dismissive as your post makes it. I don’t think that anyone thinks that divorce is a good thing but I do think that remarried divorcees have the right to participate fully in the Sacraments rather than being seen as pariahs.

          • They can always join a monastery.

            But having said that- you’re right. However, I don’t see it as the Church’s fault or God’s fault that they decided on divorce.

          • kag1982

            What if they got left by their spouse? Also, people make dumb mistakes. Why should they be condemned for their life for a mistake that might amount to being young, hormonal, and stupid?

          • Most of us have had to live with our young, hormonal, and stupid mistakes. It turns us into adults to take that responsibility.

            The person abandoned by their spouse (and that is ABANDONMENT, not divorce, and personally I wish it was criminalized, because it is a criminal act) is indeed one of those corner cases.

          • kag1982

            I on the other hand am glad that I live in America and not a theocracy. And most people make stupid mistakes. People who make the stupid mistake and marry the wrong person face the consequences of those mistakes with their actual divorce. The issue is whether these people must spend the rest of their lives wearing a Scarlet D.

          • Any spouse who would trust a divorced person who requested a divorce to keep their vows later, has a misplaced trust.

            The same is true of a priest who ignores the vow of celebacy.

            Some mistakes are permanent.

          • kag1982

            People grow up and change. There is nothing to suggest that someone who was immature about marriage in their early 20s has the same view of marriage ten years later.

          • “People grow up and change. ”

            Yes they do, but in marriage, one takes a vow to love the person *even if they change*.

            “There is nothing to suggest that someone who was immature about marriage in their early 20s has the same view of marriage ten years later.”

            Yes, but that’s no reason to abandon the vow and get divorced. It is instead a challenge- a challenge to love *despite* the change.

          • MainlineP

            Just look at some good histories of the English Reformation rather than Hollywood or BBC dramas before you make incorrect statements. In your defense many RC and a whole lot of non-religious people are under the same false understanding. The truth: valid Latin masses went on as before right up to Henry’s deathbed. His funeral mass, yes Catholic mass, was no Book of Common Prayer service because Thomas Cranmer hadn’t completed it yet. Schism and/or not in union with Rome certainly, but that doesn’t mean the mass is invalid. Consider SSPX.

      • Kasoy

        Jesus instituted the sacrament of reconciliation for the cleansing of the soul. He instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to nourish our clean souls with Life-giving spiritual food.

        It’s like washing your hands before eating. OR Sick people often need to take bitter medicine and get well first before they can eat regular food again. Otherwise, sick people might just vomit the food or solid food may aggravate their condition and make them sicker.

        • kag1982

          Again, apparently being in an abusive marriage and getting slapped around and divorcing your abusive husband and remarrying makes you an awful sinner damned to Hell. What does that say about the Church?

          • Michael Kocian

            kag1982, it says you still misinterpret and assume things that have no basis in reality.

            First, the Church does not, indeed cannot damn anyone to Hell.

            Next, you would be well served (living in reality) to substitute Christ when you see Catholic Church… It’s His.

            Sacramental marriage is where the Church comes in. This is why they can have it reviewed to see if a valid marriage ever actually existed.

            Taking a vow ’till death do us part in a legitimate marriage means something.

            God takes marriage seriously, and so does His Church.

            The woman or man abused by a spouse has options. They don’t have to become remarried, and certainly not while their previous sacramental marriage still exists.

          • kag1982

            I think that God is more merciful and forgiving to remarried divorcees than His Church. I don’t think that God would damn an abuse victim who remarries to Hell but I do think that many Catholics including many priests and bishops wish to act like God and damn remarried divorcees to Hell.

            As for why divorcees remarry, I think that we are discounting the importance of family in today’s society. We live in a very individualistic society. A person’s family is the only people who people can rely on unconditionally. What does the Church expect an abuse victim to do? What support does he or she have? Not the Church definitely.. Let us laugh. The institution that argues about lady foot washing is able to provide a loving place for divorcees. LOL.

          • Zeke

            Sure they have options. They can pay for a tribunal to invent a reason why the marriage was not valid from the start. For a price, the Church will even declare the thrice-married serial adulterer Newt Gingrich to be a paragon of Catholic virtue.

  • JamesMMartin

    RCC hypocrisy: divorce and remarriage apparently has not stopped Newt Gingrich from obtaining the sacraments.

    • IRVCath

      Because presumably some defect has rendered the marriage canonically invalid, it’s suddenly hypocrisy? We all know what the Church considers a valid marriage and what the State does can be very different things.

      • kag1982

        Neat how a man who cheated on two wives was able to get annulments. I’m sure that Gingrich is enjoying being a full member of the Church while continuing to chase tail. Calista isn’t the twenty something Congressional aide any more.

        • oregon nurse

          Not to defend Gingrich, but being habitually unfaithful can be a pretty good indication that someone was incapable of making the kind of committment required of a sacramental marriage. Maybe he’s changed, has proved he has a valid understanding now, and his third is sacramental. It does seem unfair that being the worst of horndogs may actually help a person get an annulment, or three, but Jesus forgives all who repent and wipes the slate clean.
          If you think your situation wasn’t evaluated justly, find a priest to help you appeal.

          • kag1982

            I’ve never been married so this doesn’t apply to me, but that seems the point. It does seem pretty unfair that being a famous philandering politician will make it easier to get an annulment while Joe and Jane Catholic find the process cumbersome and hard. And it is my understanding that annulments appealed to Rome never overturn a decision upholding the bond at the diocese level. The only “appeal” decisions that I’ve heard of are ones upholding the bond.

        • JamesMMartin

          Any notion, kag1982, as to why the RCC cut Newtie some slack? Could it possibly be that he is conservative on all the social issues and appears to have legs as a pundit program guest and even co-host on the revived “Crossfire”?

          • kag1982

            I personally think that it was because he was a big time convert and the Catholic Church enjoys promoting big time converts. If Kim Kardashian decided to become Catholic then they’d bend over backwards to accept her into the Church. It is all about the PR and not the theology. My understanding is that Wuerl gave Gingrich personal RCIA lessons so there is no way that the annulment wasn’t going through. It would embarrass Wuerl. Pity that the same pastoral care isn’t given to average Joe amd Jane Catholic.

  • Jim Dallen

    First, I congratulate you on your comments regarding conscience at the end of your article. They’re well thought-out and expressed. They apply, I believe, to many, perhaps most, of those who are divorced and remarried and unable to meet the requirements of canon law for proving the invalidity of a previous marriage.
    Pope Francis has been quoted as having said that half of Catholic marriages are open to annulment. I suspect the percentage might be even higher in the U.S. where the ease of divorce makes the commitment the Church expects difficult and when only baptism, not active faith, is required canonically. (How can a couple celebrate and become a sacrament unless both are motivated by a living faith? And it is only a valid sacramental marriage that the Church regards as indissoluble.)
    I take issue with your interpretation of 1 Cor 11. It’s clear, in context, that the “Body” Paul speaks of discerning is the Body of the faithful, not the Eucharist; e.g., when he speaks of waiting for one another, etc. For Paul, as for Jesus, the Body gathered around the table is of greater importance than the Body on the table. That may have relevance for those who repent of the sin that may have ended their first marriage but cannot abandon the commitment they’ve made in a second.
    I’d also recommend caution about speaking too glibly about what “the Church has always taught.” Private sacramental confession did not exist for most of the first millennium. Nor did our notion of “mortal sin”: only a very few serious sins required sacramental penance (in the form of entrance into the order of penitents) in the early centuries. Personal repentance, yes, but not the sacrament. Similarly, digamy (remarriage after the death of a spouse) was sometimes regarded as grounds for exclusion from communion. And the sense of “unworthiness” you refer to as keeping people from Eucharistic communion was generally exaggerated and superstitious, so much so that Lateran Council IV (1215) had to require annual Easter communion as a minimum. It took centuries for the Council of Trent’s encouragement of frequent communion to take hold and decades more for Pope Pius X’s encouragement to have its effect.
    The same Jesus who spoke of divorce and remarriage also stated that God seeks mercy, not sacrifice.

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    First of all, this is a brilliant blog post; one of the best I’ve read on the Patheos Catholic Channel. Very balanced, thoughtful and informative.

    That said, I have to take issue with one specific statement:

    The word obedience gets a bad rap nowadays, but I think a better word for it is trust.
    There is a practical aspect to it: Catholicism is this very complicated
    beast, but you can be sure that whatever you’re thinking about, a lot
    of people who are a lot smarter and holier have been thinking about it
    better than you for longer.

    I’ll grant you the truth of that specific statement, but there’s another side that the more strident “conservative” Catholics frequently miss: whatever the issue of contention may be, you can be equally sure that a lot of people who are a lot smarter and scientifically (or otherwise) well-informed have been thinking about it better than you for longer. (I’m using “science” here as a general place-holder here for any field of study that may develop propositions that conflict with those of the Church.)

    This does not mean that that science is always right and the church is always wrong. But it does mean that serious and thoughtful Catholics of good conscience may find highly-informed commentary that challenges Church positions to be more convincing than carefully-considered Church commentary defending an opposing position. As an admittedly skeptical Catholic, I never take it for granted that Church commentators are automatically correct and therefore must always be obeyed.

    I do maintain that obedience should be the default position, but I see no reason to stick with the default option if more convincing evidence contradicts it.

    As to the issue at hand, I remain ambivalent, but lean towards maintaining the ban on the divorced-and-remarried having access to the Eucharist. Civil divorce is so easy to obtain as to effectively make a farce of many marriages, whether sacramental or civil. If sacramental marriage is to mean anything, it must require serious consideration before being entered into, and similarly careful examination to determine its nullity.

    But that also means, as noted in this blog post, that the process for determining the validity of a disintegrating marriage should be streamlined and consistent across all dioceses.

    • Most of the philosophies that hold the most promise in that fashion, are also so young that they don’t have a chance of countermanding the massive amount of evidence the Church has gathered for her positions over the centuries.

      • Shaun G. Lynch

        In my experience, the Church generally has no “evidence” for its positions, just a combination of blind faith and metaphysical rumination.

        That’s fine if the subject in question is purely metaphysical or spiritual, in which case empirical evidence is unlikely to be available (e.g. Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist), but it’s useless when the subject matter is experiential. In such cases, Church positions that contradict observed reality are liable to be rejected outright by anyone who doesn’t feel a need to automatically believe or obey whatever the Church says (which is a majority of self-identified Catholics, and the vast majority of non-Catholics.

        Such anti-scientific posturing serves only to undermine the Church’s own credibility.

        • “In my experience, the Church generally has no “evidence” for its positions, just a combination of blind faith and metaphysical rumination.”

          You apparently have never read Summa Theolgicae or any of the minutes of the councils, or for that matter any encyclical by any Pope in that case.

          “That’s fine if the subject in question is purely metaphysical or spiritual, in which case empirical evidence is unlikely to be available (e.g. Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist)”

          There is plenty of empirical evidence for the Real Presence; the problem is most modern skeptics don’t seem to know the meaning of the word “empirical” (it isn’t “throw out all evidence I find politically incorrect”).

          “but it’s useless when the subject matter is experiential. In such cases, Church positions that contradict observed reality are liable to be rejected outright by anyone who doesn’t feel a need to automatically believe or obey whatever the Church says (which is a majority of self-identified Catholics, and the vast majority of non-Catholics.”

          I find the church positions actually *confirm* observed reality- and that all the warnings she makes about what will happen when one goes astray from the teachings are in fact 100% correct.

          A great for-instance was the contraception ban. Pope Paul VI warned us that the result of ignoring church teaching on this subject would be the spread of pornography and the reduction of women to sex slaves, and he was right.

  • TapestryGarden

    The annulment process helped me understand what marriage was supposed to be. For divorced Catholics it gives pause whether their intent for remarriage was valid. I don’t think waving a magic wand is appropriate. If I remarry it will be done with proper intent and prudential judgment both of which we’re lacking the first tine.

  • LoveMyChurch

    If not for the Church’s teaching on marriage, I would have left my husband a few years ago. After years of pain and misunderstandings and intense despair and sorrow, I would literally sit with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in regular, frequent prayer, feeling quite sure that legal marital separation was the only way forward. I scrutinized the Gospels and the Catechism, truly seeking to understand how our situation fit within the teachings of Our Lord and His Church.
    I intended to secure a legal separation and live away from my husband, clearly understanding that this path would include a single, celibate life in order to remain in full communion with the church. I believed that given our situation, this path–though regrettable–would even be best for our five children.
    All I can say about what happened next is that the supernatural grace of the sacraments (Holy Matrimony, Eucharist, and Confession) saved my marriage and changed our hearts. Praise God!
    I pray the synod will result in a more widespread understanding of the beauty and truth of our Church’s teachings about marriage and the efficacy of the Sacraments.

  • “We are not called to be “good Christians”; we are called to be saints. And that means the Church must place demands on us. And for some of us, some of the time, those demands will be very hard. Christian life goes through the Cross. A Church of low expectations, a Church that says we might as well give people in (apparent) mortal sin communion because they can’t live a holy life is not the Church of Jesus Christ.”

    Why am I reminded of St. Thomas Aquinas’s reasoning on why Canon Law can’t become Civil Law?

  • confusedcatholic

    “We have to get out of this legalism which says that Catholic life is to check all the right boxes and to abide by a series of don’ts and play the game by the rules and if you play the game right you get a reward at the end. The Catholic life–the Christian life–is, first and foremost, a radical call to holiness.” Beautifully stated.