Saturday, October 26, 2013

"The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour"

In his quarter century of annual addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope John Paul II showed growing dis-ease about possible misuse of marriage tribunals, triggering the Vatican's 2005 Dignitas Connubii.

In his own addresses to the Roman Rota, I believe that Pope Benedict XVI continued in the same vane:
  • "pastoral sensitivity must be directed to avoiding matrimonial nullity when the couple seeks to marry and to striving to help the spouses solve their possible problems and find the path to reconciliation" [Emphasis added.] (1/28/06).
  • “the conviction that the pastoral good of the person in an irregular marital situation requires a sort of canonical regularization, independently of the validity or nullity of his/her marriage...has also spread in certain ecclesiastical milieus" (1/27/07).
  • "The value of interventions of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium on matrimonial and juridical issues, including the Roman Pontiff's Discourses to the Roman Rota....authoritatively teach the essential aspects of the reality of marriage" (1/26/08).
  • "a problem that continues to be very real is visible to everyone....that of preserving the ecclesial community 'from the scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity...on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness.... real incapacity...is always an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary" [Emphasis added] (1/29/09)
  • "some maintain that pastoral charity could justify every step towards declaring the nullity of the marriage bond in order to assist people who find themselves in irregular matrimonial situations. Truth itself, even if lip service [sic] be paid to it, tends thus to be viewed through a manipulative lens that would seek to adapt it, case by case, to the different requirements that emerge....Charity without justice is not charity, but a counterfeit" [Emphasis added] (1/28/10).
  • "The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area" [Emphasis added.] (1/22/11).
  • "Christian maturity leads one to love the law ever more and want to understand it and to apply it faithfully....These reflections acquire a special relevance in the area of laws regarding the constitutive act of Matrimony and its consummation, and the reception of Holy Orders, and of those [laws] pertaining to the respective Processes" (1/21/12). 
  •  "although the spousal bond is a natural reality, it has been raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized....The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does [Emphasis added]....Yet, closure to God or the rejection of the sacred dimension of the conjugal union and of its value in the order of grace certainly makes arduous the practical embodiment of the most lofty model of marriage....
    the sacrifice offered by the abandoned spouse or the spouse who has suffered divorce, is still precious today, if — recognizing the indissolubility of the valid matrimonial bond — they refrain from 'becoming involved in a new union…. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church' [Emphasis added.] (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio [22 November 1981], n. 83)".

While the secular press would have us believe that Pope Francis would really like to dilute Church teaching, giving us a "Marriage Light" - NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  This past week, Pope Francis' head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave us The Power of Grace:
    "Today even firm believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions?  Are her hands permanently tied on this matter?....
    "The comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also that of indissolubility.  The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly:  'Do not be faithless to the wife of your youth ... with whom you have made a covenant' (Mal 2:14-15).
    "Above all, it was his controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address this theme.  He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: 'from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and ... the two shall become one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder' (Mk 10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk 16:18).  The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.  The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God himself.  It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no longer at man’s disposal....
    "Saint Paul presents the prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ....
    "Christian marriage is an effective sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church.  Because it designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between the baptized is a sacrament....
    "In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character.  This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.  But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be underestimated.
    "In the West, the Gregorian reform countered these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original understanding of Scripture and the Fathers.  The Catholic Church defended the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great sacrifice and suffering.  The schism of a 'Church of England' detached from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the dissolution of his marriage....
    "Through the sacrament the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense:  it becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s irrevocable fidelity to his Church.
    "Marriage can be understood and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.  If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its sacramental character is obscured....
    "The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio – issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s dogmatic teaching on marriage....They too belong to the Church, they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the Church’s life.  3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist.  Two reasons are given for this:
      a) 'their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist'
      b) 'if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage'....
       
    "if for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the two partners must 'bind themselves to live in complete continence'....
    "the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience....If doubts remain over the validity of a failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage tribunals....
    "He [Pope Benedict XVI] confirms 'the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments', but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote 'special concern' to those affected: in the wish that they 'live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children'.  If there are doubts concerning the validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by the competent marriage tribunals.  Today’s mentality is largely opposed to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its indissolubility and its openness to children.  Because many Christians are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little socialization within an environment of faith [Emphasis added.].  Therefore assessment of the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.  Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s established and approved practice, is that the couple live 'as friends, as brother and sister'.  Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided, 'lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of marriage'.  A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms....
    "Where the fundamental insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as crises in priestly and religious life....
    "On the other hand, the ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one man and one woman has lost none of its fascination....Moreover, one must not forget the anthropological value of indissoluble marriage:  it withdraws the partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods.  It helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful experiences.  Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer from marital breakdown [Emphasis added.]....
    "If anyone should doubt whether the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:  'He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  So they are no longer two but one flesh' (Mt 19:4-6)....
    "The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly inevitable, but only by trusting in 'the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God' (1 Cor 2:12).  Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared 'as a bride adorned for her husband' (Rev 21:2).  The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is to be proclaimed with prophetic candour [Emphasis added].  By adapting to the spirit of the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.....  
    "Admittedly there are situations – as every pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or psychological violence.  In such hard cases, the Church has always permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together.  It must be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive.  Pastors and Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in faith....
    "It is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to present themselves for holy communion.  This argument, based on a problematical concept of 'conscience', was rejected by a document of the CDF in 1994.  Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave unconfessed sin would always be an impediment [Emphasis added.].  At the same time they have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.  In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps them 'not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it' (Veritatis Splendor, 64).  If remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the competent marriage tribunals [Emphasis added]....'If the prior marriage of two divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible.  The conscience of the individual is bound to this norm without exception' (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 'The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on truth' L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)....
    "Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion, but he said to her 'Go and do not sin again' (Jn 8:11).  God’s mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules of the Church.  Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father....
    "Insofar as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the indissolubility of marriage."


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I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

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