Marriage workaround

I was pleased to see my old friend, Dennis, again. Our conversation rattled on until he reached a subject of greater immediate importance to him. He had been married, divorced and re-married. And he told me of his distress about his relationship with the Church. He had recently read Cardinal Müller’s remarks that there was no chink in the Church’s position on re-married Catholics receiving the sacraments, that the Orthodox Church was in error about this, and that second marriages were beyond the mercy of God. I was able to reassure him at least that even the head of the CDF could not decide on the stretch of God’s mercy. Since I am not in the business of solving moral problems for others, I confined myself to asking him how his options with regard to both wives and the children of the marriages would relate to justice.

The question came as a surprise; it had not occurred to him, as a Catholic of our older generation, that justice might be an issue – after all, this was a matter of Church law. We had not been brought up to understand that justice rather than law is the place to start. And I was left to reflect that although the Church’s insistence on the indissolubility of consummated, sacramental, marriage is a given, the major developments it has permitted over the centuries in the matter of marriage might well one day allow the remarried to receive the sacraments. It might even argue that those caught in an objective state of sin might need them more than most.

The first issue which came to my mind was the emphasis we give to sacramental marriage by comparison with natural marriage. This contains the danger that we devalue natural marriage – forgetting that this is built into our created nature. We may even forget that Jesus’ statement “…what God has joined together let no man separate” predates sacramental marriage.

Despite this, it is taken for granted that a Catholic contracting marriage outside the Church will be regarded as free when making a second marriage. The logic may be irrefutable but justice may not be served. The Church is merely saying, as a legal statement, that the first union was not a marriage for the Catholic and therefore there is no marriage bond. But the Catholic party undertook a natural marriage by making a solemn promise, and has now – with or without good reason – broken it. And the partner was entitled to rely on that promise. At the very least there should be some indication in the solemnization of the Catholic marriage that something regrettable has happened.

Many couples enter marriage with the intention of avoiding conception, at least for a period. They might do this either by a form of physical contraception or by chosen suspension of fertility through taking the pill. But this, it is argued by theologians in good standing, confines their sexual connection to non-marital acts which are, by definition, incapable of achieving consummation. This would leave the marriage potentially open to being dissolved.

Secondly, a marriage between unbaptized people can be dissolved if one party decides to be baptized and the other party is unwilling to remain peaceably in this situation. Called the Pauline Privilege, it enables the former marriage to be dissolved. Although the Privilege is exercised “in favour of the faith” the new partner does not, with the bishop’s permission, actually have to be baptized. This is certainly odd. An extension in the XVIth century allowed slaves to re-marry although the disposition of their former wives could not be ascertained. Is this what Paul had in mind?

Thirdly, the Petrine Privilege, which strangely does not appear as such in Canon Law, enables the Pope to dissolve any marriage between non-Catholics, consummated or not, provided one of the partners was not baptized. It has often been exercised in the past — and in a wide range of, somewhat elastic, circumstances.

Annulment of marriage is a different issue since it is concerned with whether or not a true marriage has ever taken place. The most tendentious area concerns whether the couple had been able to form a proper married relationship at a psychological level. It might come as a surprise that marriages which have survived several years, and borne children, can qualify for annulment under this head. I know of cases from my marriage counselling days when this lack of capacity was crystal clear, but the evidence will always be uncertain. Timothy J Buckley CSSR told us in Catholics in England, 1950-2000 ”the grounds for annulment are now so broad that it is possible to argue, as some canon lawyers do, that it should always be possible to establish a basis for annulling a marriage whenever it has irretrievably broken down.” John Paul II spoke, in 1987 of “the scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage destroyed in practice by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity.” And in 2009 Benedict XVI made a similar point. Interestingly, Francis, returning from Rio, noted that he had heard the view that half of all marriages are reputably void through defect of intention. And he said, of the issue of remarriage and the Sacraments, “I think that it’s necessary to look at this in the totality of matrimonial ministry.“

Against the patchwork of accommodation developing over the centuries, I wonder whether admitting remarried Catholics to the sacraments, without prejudice to the irregularity of their status, would be such a big step. We shall see.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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99 Responses to Marriage workaround

  1. Karl says:

    Marriage is a joke in the Catholic Church. It is irredeemably corrupted.

    Yes, I am Catholic and divorced, against my will.

  2. Peter D. Wilson says:

    ” But this (constant contraception), it is argued by theologians in good standing, confines their sexual connection to non-marital acts which are, by definition, incapable of achieving consummation.” Is this understanding of “consummation” widely accepted? I haven’t come across it before.

    • Quentin says:

      I can’t give you a quick answer on this, but here are two relevant links which rehearse the argument.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin Thank you for the above info.
        I asked a question ,received a reply, but no answer

      • milliganp says:

        I find Christian Brugger’s analysis deeply disturbing. By his measure the vast majority of current Catholic marriages do not get consummated on the wedding night. Most of those we marry are looking to start a family “sometime in the future” and the vast majority of this camp is using artificial contraception as the means of choosing when to start a family.
        I’ll posit a test case:-
        A couple marry mutually agreeing that they will start a family in 2-3 years and use artificial contraception as the means to regulate this decision. 3 years into the marriage they are considering ending the use of contraceptives but one day the wife comes home, joyful that she has just been promoted. “Obviously I need to keep working for the next couple of years” she says, “We’ll have to consider starting a family later”.
        According to Brugger’s model, this remains an unconsummated marriage and the husband has the right to request dissolution so that he can marry someone willing to start a family. However, I’m not sure a marriage tribunal would accept Brugger’s argument on non-consummation.

        And as you like complex cases I’ll posit a slight alternate:-
        The same couple marry and decide to use condoms as their means of contraception. 18 months into the marriage they have a drunken night where they have intercourse without a condom – does that consummate their marriage?

        I’m tempted to rephrase the joke “What do you call 100 moral theologians at the bottom of the ocean” – “a useful start”.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I am not too sure about your meaning when you say’ Many couple enter marriage with the intention of avoiding conception.
      Does this rule apply to Natural Family Planning, also would it be non consummation if they use the infertile time.
      I would understand the couple not being able to afford perhaps a family straight away, although I became pregnant on our honeymoon and 3 months later after the first.It was hard going as we were in a furnished flat. But would not change it now.We chose to get married when we did.
      You say ‘secondly’ regarding non baptised couples- I always thought non baptised people could not receive the Sacrament of Marriage. So how would the Pope dissolve it.
      Perhaps I read you wrong.
      That’s all for now.

      • Quentin says:

        Here is the answer given by the Catholic bishops of the USA

        Do Catholics ever validly enter into non-sacramental marriages?

        Yes. Marriages between Catholics and non-Christians, while they may still be valid in the eyes of the Church, are non-sacramental. With permission, a priest or deacon may witness such marriages.

      • Quentin says:

        On your other point St Joseph, the use of the safe period is not regarded as a non-marital act. So that’s OK.
        However I have read an ‘ingenious’ argument which says that the marriage act is not ordered to conception if the woman happens to be infertile at the time — that is, there is no egg to meet the sperm, just as the use of a barrier contraceptive ensures there is no sperm to meet the egg. This is OK if it happens by chance. But confining its exercise to non-fertile days shows a deliberate intention to contraceive by such a choice of non-marital acts. This argument is not put forward to tighten the Church’s instruction but, it is claimed, to show its inconsistency.
        Don’t get me on the question of how many climaxes a woman is entitled to, compared to the man! This is all a somewhat idiotic jungle.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        “This is all a somewhat idiotic jungle.” – a legalist’s paradise, perhaps. Thanks for the links, anyway.

      • milliganp says:

        In my mind there is no doubt that the mere use of natural family planning does not make a marriage “open to life” without the concious desire to raise a family -and to not limit that family for mere convenience or economic reasons.

  3. Quentin says:

    Daphne McLeod of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice is happy that I should post this message she sent me today.

    Dear Quentin,
    Thank you for your e-mail about marriage. There is no question that Christian marriage, once freely contracted before God, is a life-long union with no escape until the death of one of the parties.
    This is the only honest interpretation of Jesus’ words “What God has joined together no man can put asunder”.

    This is why Rome had to refuse King Henry VIII an annulment when he wanted to drop Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. After careful examination no grounds were found for an annulment, so, even though the Church lost England over it, Rome had no choice but to stand firm.

    When I married, many years ago now, I rejoiced in this firm teaching. I think two people really in love want to be joined together for life. It makes for their security and it gives their children security. However, if one of the partners in a marriage proves really impossible to live with there are grounds for separation but never re-marriage.

    Also this total indissolubility of marriage needs to be taught to children while they are at school, so they later approach this Sacrament with the appropriate caution. They may say it is safer to remain single as St Peter said when Our Lord explained this to the Apostles !

    Finally, we must remember the power of Grace to enable us to overcome any difficulties. The Nuptial Graces are perfectly fashioned to this end.

    Best wishes, Daphne.

    • RAHNER says:

      Simply regurgitating a theological viewpoint from the 1950’s will achieve nothing. Moral teaching is capable of change and development. Fortunately, for most Catholics McLeod’s views and people like her just don’t matter any more…….

      • milliganp says:

        I think a number of Daphne’s points are valid.

        We (the church) simply don’t teach (or live) God’s plan for men and women in any sort of meaningful way. I’ve been involved in marriage prep and most of those attending are well educated people in responsible jobs but I’ve not met one person (outside the formation team) who seems to be aware of what Christian marriage is truly about. This is a significant failure of the church.

        At the risk of inflaming another debate, the watershed definitely occurred with Humanae Vitae, large numbers of priests dissented from its teaching and, in order to not be seen to challenge the church, simply gave up talking about the moral dimensions of marriage.

        Daphne’s view is, however, deficient in its lack of understanding of marriage as defined in Gaudium et Spes or reflected the current code of canon law.

        It is important to recognise, as Daphne emhasises, that our teaching on marriage comes directly from Christ and thus has the highest level of authority. We may discuss the pastoral care of those who have failed marriages but must not confuse this with “Catholic Divorce”.

      • St.Joseph says:

        ‘Mrs Daphne McLeod’ do you mean?
        Maybe it does not matter to you It matters to me and plenty more. It is not fortunate at all!!

      • tim says:

        Some might term this chronological snobbery.

      • milliganp says:

        In support of Tim, and to paraphrase Chesterton, “Democracy demands that I respect the view of a street sweeper, tradition demands I respect the vews of my grandfather.” Any appeal to modernity over the ancients in matters of morality is always to be held suspect.

  4. claret says:

    I agree with Karl , the first to post, with his comment : Marriage is a joke in the Catholic Church. It is irredeemably corrupted. I would add that it is open to mockery.
    There cannot be a proper debate on sacramental marriage without looking at the whole issue of marriage in the Church. It is a hotch potch of contradictions and again is very much down to the whims of the pp within certain flexible guidelines.
    I had to sadly shake my head when I read in one of our Catholic papers that it was a cause for celebration that a famous male film star had just married in the Catholic Church. The article seemed unconcerned by the fact that this was his third marriage and his previous two wives were still alive !
    Many couples ( a majority in the UK? ) marrying today arrive at a Catholic Church from the same address and their children are bridesmaids and page boys. No questions asked or answers required. As they leave the Church it is the last they ever see of it.

    • milliganp says:

      The only way we the church could address your opening comments would be to refuse to marry anyone, then everybody would be living in sin!
      To provide a more rational response, in my own Diocese well over 90% of those we prepare for marriage are living together and at least a similar number are using artificial contraception. Relatively few have children – the vast majority of those who have chidren outside marriage never marry. For most of the couples we prepare they are marrying in anticipation of starting a family. Priests seem to fall into 2 camps, those who make a point of emphasising church teaching on marriage and contraception (about 20%) and those who completely ignore it (60%). The former favour the principal that it’s better to be married than living in sin and see marriage at least as a cure for the latter evil.
      It is harder to be sure on faith practice but I suspect that 50% of those we marry will next visit church for the baptism of their first child.
      The problem is, if we threw all the sinners out we’d have a very small, elderly church and Christ himself said that he came for sinners, so we stumble through. It’s easy to be certain posting on a blog, a lot harder when you have two young people who want to celebrate their love for each other.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank yoiu for your reply to my post below.

        I agree with you on the above, we are all on a road to conversion,and we must not put those off even though they are not living the way we all ought to.
        Many will disagree with me-however I stand by it.
        We are not going to bring anyone to Church if we tell them you must be perfect first.!
        At least then there is a chance for those to be converted As long as the priest tells them what they ought to be doing!
        Perhaps why the Church losing Catholics- because they are not given an opportunity to change.

  5. St.Joseph says:

    Claret .
    My late husband was baptised in the Methodist Church but when he converted to RC in 2003 the priest told him he had to be Baptised as his infant baptism may not have been valid as sometimes the water is not poured on the babies forehead properly
    When we were married in 1962 he did not have to- so does that mean our marriage was not Sacramental.. Does anyone know.
    We were not able to have Mass or flowers on the Altar (although my mother persuaded the priest to allow roses on the Altar) no hymns only Ave Maria when signing the Register,.
    I never missed Mass and my husband came more often than not for most of the 4 years we were courting and engaged So I went to earl y Mass and confession and Holy Communion on the day,as I wanted to do that Nor photos or cine film in the Church-but outside.
    Although saying this I did feel when my husband became a Catholic- more one in the Lord as if our marriage was complete.. Perhaps only a feeling.
    . .

  6. milliganp says:

    With great respect, the RC priest who baptised your husband is at least guilty of the sin of scrupulosity; the Catholic church accepts the validity of baptism of all the major Christian faiths and the method of pouring the water is not of the essence of the sacrament. A person cannot be baptised twice so I hope the priest at least had the sense to call it a conditional baptism.
    Pace that, it took great courace and conviction for someone to marry outside the faith at the time you did and your married life and work are a tribute to the courage of your faith. I think God’s grace is like sunlight, if He wants it to get through it get’s through unless we resist it.

  7. mike Horsnall says:

    “I agree with Karl , the first to post, with his comment : Marriage is a joke in the Catholic Church. It is irredeemably corrupted. I would add that it is open to mockery…”

    My wife and I were married before I became catholic so we were blessed and ‘properly’ married as it were. My marriage is not a joke nor is it irredeemably corrupt; being the most sacred thing in my life it is not open to mockery either- please think before you post.

    • tim says:

      Mike, of course your marriage is neither a joke nor corrupt. But you are misinterpreting the post. What is meant is: “The Catholic Church’s attitude to (or teaching on) marriage is corrupt and open to mockery”. . One may not like this much better, but at least it isn’t intended personally.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Think about it a bit. Catholic teaching on marriage is not some abstract thing like a theory or a song but is instruction to an end.If I teach you to swim badly you will swim badly. The Catholic Church teaches and defines marriage-not abstractly but as sacrament.If the teaching is corrupt then so is the outworking. This is not a light complaint based on a superficial misreading of a thoughtless post.

      • tim says:

        Mike, I will think about it and I will come back to you later.

  8. milliganp says:

    I think it is important to discuss the purpose of the sacrament of Holy Communion as reflected in our practice of denying it to those in “irregular unions”. If Holy Communion is a reward for good behaviour then hardly anyone should approach the altar. We might achieve more as a church if, for instance, we allowed access to Holy Communion after sincere confession of a “state of life”.

    I’ll give a real but unhappy counter-example. I know of a priest (traditionalist of course) who is in an active homosexual relationship. His understanding of moral theology allows him to engage in sexual intercourse, go to confession and then say Mass. In his moral universe each act is a separate, forgivable, sin. It’s not a “structure of sin” as he’s not living with his sexual partner. The same priest happily denies Holy Communion to those who are separated or divorced and living with a new partner.

    That his position is hypocritical is obvious to most; however, if he is right about his own situation does this imply we ought to treat other irregular unions differently.

    I have an odd sense of humour and did once suggest that perhaps a couple could live together as brother and sister, at which point they could come to communion. If at any point their sexual urges overtook them they could come to confession and admit the sin of incest; it might just pass the test of a moral theologian and their Priest would stop complaining about how boring confession had become.

    • tim says:

      “(traditionalist, of course)” is harsh. If you do not want this to be taken as a cheap and thoughtless jibe, you had better explain why you think it is just. Or you could withdraw it?

      • milliganp says:

        Sadly, Tim, most of the hypocrites I know are traditiotionallst. I know a number of gay “left wing” priests but they have the decency not to apply double standards, and they certainly try to remain celibate. I believe that any priest who finds it impossible to remain celibate should stand down from their ministry – gay or straight.

      • tim says:

        Very well – you say ‘of course’ because this accords with your own experience. But ‘of course’ assumes that others will naturally agree with this slur, and that I object to. In my (limited) experience ‘traditional’ priests give at least as good an example of holy life as those of more liberal views.

      • John Candido says:

        These illicit experiences that are clearly outside the proper domain of any ordained priest, who are committed to a life of celibacy, are confirmation, yet again, of the importance of taking authors such as former priest and Psychotherapist, A. W. Richard Sipe with the respect that they deserve. Titles such as ‘A Secret World, Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy’, Published by Brunner/Mazel (1990) by A. W. Richard Sipe, and ‘Shattered Vows, Exodus from the Priesthood’, Published by Michael Joseph, (1990) by David Rice, are serious works requiring more respect from Catholics from all walks of life.

    • Quentin says:

      Milliganp. I can’t resist the challenge of:

      “And as you like complex cases I’ll posit a slight alternate:-
      The same couple marry and decide to use condoms as their means of contraception. 18 months into the marriage they have a drunken night where they have intercourse without a condom – does that consummate their marriage?”

      I imagine that Brugger would argue that if the couple were so drunk that they were out of their minds, it wouldn’t be a human act, and therefore no consummation.

      I would argue that, if one were that drunk, their would be no performance anyhow.

      • tim says:

        Let me put another case (possibly slightly more common). A (teetotal) couple use condoms invariably, intending to avoiid conception. But after a year or so, the wife becomes pregnant anyway. Has the marriage been consummated? Or is Brugger’s thesis deficient?

      • milliganp says:

        Tim, if you had read both articles by Brugger you would have seen that he maintained that an accidental conception which takes place within a structure of contraception does not qualify as consummation.

      • tim says:

        Thanks, milliganp. As you may have guessed, I have not read either article by Brugger and have no current plans to do so. But to contend that consummation with contraceptive intent is not consummation seems to me a stretch.

  9. John Candido says:

    Milliganp’s post above is quite refreshingly honest. I also agree with Rahner. These dated views about the indissolubility of marriage are lacking in common-sense. I am all for marriages to stay the course and husbands and wives who genuinely seek prayer, the sacraments, and counselling where appropriate, whenever there are difficulties that need outside expertise. However, regrettably some marriages are prime candidates for separation and divorce.

    That being the case, I cannot see any reason at all why the Roman Catholic Church insists on ancient rubrics such as restricting the Eucharist to ‘intact’ marriages, and discriminating against Catholics who have divorced and remarried. It seems that the church has defined marriage to theologically reflect the permanency and sanctity of celibacy and the priesthood. The rollcall of papal infallibility, the indissolubility of marriage, and the permanency of the priestly state, provides a pattern to the educated eye. Could it be that the Church has lost sight of humanness and common-sense in overemphasising rubrics and the overuse of its authority? The whole matter is hypocritical, unjust and ludicrous!

    • milliganp says:

      John, for someone who’s obviously read a book your historical analysis is way off. Christ himself asserts “what God as joined together…” two thousand years ago – a statement that predates compulsory permanent priestly celibacy by several hundred, if not a thousand years.
      Similarly the exclusion of the divorced and remarried from communion could not be ancient since even civil divorce is a product of the last 150 years and has only been widespread for about 50 years. As recently as 1950 in the UK divorced people were not allowed to attend functions at which the king was present. Episcopalian churches, which have always had married priests, only recently admitted remarried divorced people to communion and most still do not allow remarriage after divorce.
      Given that you’re wrong on divorce and priestly celibacy the included reference to papal infallibility hardly makes for a consistent pattern for anything but the uneducated eye.

      • RAHNER says:

        “Christ himself asserts “what God as joined together…”
        Then why have the Orthodox permitted divorce/remarriage for centuries? The idea that you can base moral teaching on a few quotes from the NT is absurd. I think you really DO need to read the article in Theological Studies……..

      • milliganp says:

        Rahner, you need to understand the Orthodox position. They allow divorce and remarriage on the basis of Economia, the need for people to live at peace. They do not understand the first marriage to have been ended and the subsequent marriage is not deemed to be sacramental. So it’s utterly unlike Roman Catholic annulment or civil divorce.
        The direct words of Christ himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity are not as easily dismissed as you suggest (or indeed condemned as absurd). We need a pastoral solution for marriage breakdown but let’s not dispose of marriage entirely to allow it.

      • RAHNER says:

        I would be surprised if any Orthodox theologian accepted your account of their position. And of course Orthodox teaching differs from the RC position – that was my point!

      • Quentin says:

        I did in fact consult Nektarios on this point. He conferred with an orthodox priest, who doe not claim to be an expert in this area. He wrote:

        “First, why is it possible? Because Our Lord said divorce and remarriage is impossible “except for fornication.” This is understood to mean, that fornication by a married person, which we call adultery, destroys the union between the spouses, which excludes all others. The Oneness of the two parties is compromised by the sexual union of one spouse with a third party – becoming one with them. I do not know what the Church teaches about the cohabitation and continuing “union” of the spouses after one has sinned and destroyed the marriage, yet returned to the home and the marriage bed. Repentance is always possible and Grace returns after penitence over time.
        However, if the erring party persists in their adulterous relation, abandoning the innocent spouse, then the innocent party, after all attempts at reconciliation prove ineffectual, can apply for a divorce and permission to marry someone else.
        The second marriage, if permitted to the innocent party by the Bishop after due enquiry, is never celebrated with the joy and accompanying blessings as in a first marriage. The status of the second would correspond to that of natural marriage, licit but not honoured as is sacramental marriage. There would be a time of denial of Holy Communion to both parties, according to the instruction of the bishop ( guided by the penitential canons of the Fathers) but it is unlikely to be lifelong. It may be for seven years, or even two, but I simply don’t know, since it depends on the bishop.
        With this limited understanding of mine, I cannot see that a divorce, or permission to marry, could be given to the guilty party, should the innocent and injured spouse choose to remain chaste even after being abandoned. But once the injured spouse had petitioned for divorce, and their remarriage is permitted, then I do not know if a remarriage by the guilty party is ever permissible. Persisting in the guilty relationship is the opposite of repentance, so their admission to the Divine Mysteries appears to be precluded.”

        You may also have seen a good letter on the subject in last week’s Tablet.

  10. Iona says:

    I thought absolution in the confessional was contingent on the penitent’s having a firm purpose of amendment?
    How can Milliganp’s actively homosexual priest possibly have a firm purpose of amendment?

    • Michael Horsnall says:

      How can any of us have firm purpose of amendment for whatever habit drives us to confession? How many of us can truly promise never to commit a particular sin again?

      • Iona says:

        But it sounds, from Milliganp’s account, as though the priest is being quite cynical in his use of confession.
        A firm purpose of amendment is not incompatible with a recognition that one’s weakness is such that one will more than likely commit the same sin again at some point.

    • milliganp says:

      The church allows that certain forms of compulsive behaviour derrogate from firm intent, e.g. Drug and Alcohol addiction. This is not to excuse but to allow that we often have long term structures of sin. Now it could be argued that the dread fear of the economic impact of having a child might, for some, be in the same category.

  11. Iona says:

    Daphne McLeod says: “This is why Rome had to refuse King Henry VIII an annulment when he wanted to drop Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. After careful examination no grounds were found for an annulment, so, even though the Church lost England over it, Rome had no choice but to stand firm”.
    Henry himself thought that there were grounds for annulment, – that Catherine had previously been married to his (Henry’s) brother, therefore her marriage to himself was technically incestuous. Perhaps if Clement VII had been minded to, he might have accepted this argument. But – and here I’m not sure of the details – Catherine of Aragon was in some way related to Clement (his aunt, maybe?) – or, pressure was brought to bear on him from her family – so he determined in her favour – marriage valid – rather than Henry’s.

  12. Iona says:

    Having checked with “Wikipaedia” I find that Catherine was the aunt of the Emperor Charles V, and that Clement VII was “subservient to the Emperor”.

    • milliganp says:

      I think that Daphne McLeod’s choice of Henry VIII was not the best possible example. The simple fact was that the Pope was not free to act and would probably have acceded except for the pressure from Charles V; however this does not affect the fundamental principal of the indissolubility of a valid marriage. Henry’s argument was that his marriage was not valid -he was seeking dissolution not divorce. Sadly, when he didn’t get his way he quickly abandoned any sense of probity.

  13. RAHNER says:

    This article from Theological Studies may be interest…..

    Click to access 65.3.1.pdf

    • milliganp says:

      Thanks Rahner, 47 pages! I’ll comment in a fortnight.
      For Brits, Fr Tim Buckley wrote a book “What Binds Marriage” based on research carried out for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales. Like any work that tried to achieve a nuanced approach to the complexity of marriage it got kicked into the long grass.

  14. St.Joseph says:

    Your comment at 9.47am
    You are quite right what you say. It is in the intention. is between a married couple to decide when they have sexual intercourse. if they wish to abstain it is entirely up to them They choose how many children they will have and as long as they are not using contraception -that will be the only sin they are committing
    Marriage is for. childbearing.But every act is not for conception(that is why only 5 days are fertile). it is also for the union of husband and wife. making love.This will place a whole new picture on the meaning of Marriage.
    Same sex ‘marriage’ can never be the same as male and female-even if one is infertile,
    I say this but probably not explaining it very clearly and I am sure you know this already,but there are some who think every act should be open to life,It is only open to life when the female is fertile-without prevention Also the Lord can intervene there, He ‘can work miracles’..

    • milliganp says:

      This is not to contradict but to throw some historical light on the subject. The need for consummation was introduced to prevent “spiritual marriages” where a man and woman would marry and immediately enter religious orders with a vow of permanent chastity.

      Marriage is strongly tied to family but many couples cannot conceive and so we must never judge anyone for having “too few” or “too many” children. Similarly there is a wonderful role for single people in being supportive brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

      Sadly, merely posting on a blog like this means one has a “point of view”, I’m trying hard to stay charitable but the brevity of the medium can sometimes leave the wrong impression.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Many a couple who thought they were infertile (females) and could not have children.After practising NFP became pregnant with more than one , one lady had 4 afterwards,and one lady is now having her 3rd after many IVF’s and costing a fortune.
        I have detailed this many a time on the blog.
        This is often the case.
        I wish it was better known. The Crighton Method information is on the internet!
        I believe when we fall in love and marry it is wonderful to share one body with having a child together,a part of each. It is sad when doctors don’t suggest NFP for a women to understand her fertility.
        A while ago I asked my surgery if I could leave some leaflets on the notice board as there are so many for other things ,plenty for STD.,but the answer was’ Not really’ . On the internet. I saw a NFP conference I think organised by the Bishops I think!That is really not good enough, It ought to be better known to each parish.
        Maybe it is and I have not seen it.Also I am not able to be involved any more for health reasons..I just pray about it.
        Would you say it is embarrassing to priests. I can understand if that is the problem! Otherwise I don’t understand it.

  15. Horace says:

    Quentin says
    “The first issue which came to my mind was the emphasis we give to sacramental marriage by comparison with natural marriage.”

    I was always taught that ‘marriage’ was a contract between a man and a woman.
    In the case of a marriage contracted in church before a priest, then the priest was present as a witness and to bless the union [which therefore had the status of a ‘sacrament’ and was the proper way for a Catholic (or pair of Catholics) to be married].

    The following quote from Deacon John Cameron ( seems to me to sum up the situation appropriately:-
    “Valid marriage, sacramental or not, contains exactly the same rights and obligations. There is no distinction except for the moral duty of a Catholic partner to witness to the faith and do all in his or her power to continue the practice of the faith and to all in his or her power to see that the children are baptized and raised Catholic.”

    It seems to me obvious that marriage is extremely important and highly emotionally charged so that it is unsurprising that there is a great deal of controversy and confusion on this subject and the associated subject of contraception.

    From my simple minded point of view:-
    1) Marriage is about having children.
    Marriage is a natural phenomenon. See, for example, the film “Blue Lagoon.
    From an evolutionary point if view, many species – especially higher mammals – enter into a monogamous and essentially permanent relationship which is unequivocally in the interests of the resulting offspring.
    2) Marriage, for humans, is not easy.
    After being married for some time differences in personality and ambition very often surface, which may make one or both partners wish to end the marriage but because marriage is intended to be a permanent relationship the only solution to this dilemma would be to demonstrate that this was not a proper marriage in the first place – hence all the arguments which surround the concept of annulment. [Divorce is slightly different because in this case some action by one or both parties is usually considered to have sundered the permanent relationship.]

    Now to consider the question of admitting remarried Catholics to the sacraments.
    Obviously, from the point of view of the Church, unless it can be shown that the original marriage was invalid then the second marriage must be invalid and the person is living in a state of sin.
    The question is what should he or she do about it?
    One obvious possibility would be to divorce (or at least arrange a separation) thus terminating the second ‘marriage’.
    Another possibility is suggested by milliganp – that they should agree to live “as brother and sister” [Apart from the fact that the general response to such a situation would be “Pull the other one!” it seems to me quite reasonable].
    Nevertheless the married partner would have to arrange a separation and make appropriate arrangements for the welfare of the original spouse and any children.

    Finally he/she would have to go to Confession (Reconciliation), repent of the sinful behaviour and declare an intention not to continue it.

  16. St.Joseph says:

    On reading your post through again, I seemed to have missed the point where you say ‘Many couples enter marriage with the intention of avoiding conception at least for a period.
    They might do this either by a form of physical contraception or by chosen suspension of fertility through taking the pill.

    Perhaps it would have been wiser to say that the pill is not always effective in controlling fertility and many women get pregnant and it causes an early abortion, also it encourages one to have a later abortion-or to use the mini-pill which is also an abortifacant.
    It is as well to read the instructions on in the packets as it warns against this.

  17. St.Joseph says:

    John Candido.
    We know that there will always be weakness in the Priesthood..No surprise Scripture tells us that. It did not leave out Judas. We are not surprised that the Devil tempts those close to God.He does not call saints.! They become saints..

  18. John Candido says:

    St.Joseph, I think that the Roman Catholic Church is failing to come to grips with the reality of celibacy, as exposed by A. W. Richard Sipe in, ‘A Secret World, Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy’, published by Brunner/Mazel, New York, 1990. To repeat what I have written previously, it is his estimation that at least 30% of Priests are not faithful towards the rule of celibacy at any one time, in relationships with women (Sipe, 1990…p. 74).

    In addition, around 10% of Priests are active homosexuals (Sipe, 1990…p. 133). This brings a total rate of Priests who are not behaving as genuine celibates at any point in time to around 45%, give or take a small number of percentage points in either direction, when you include paedophilia, as its offending rate has a disputed discrepancy of between 4 & 6 %.

    Of course any person can legitimately dispute these figures by asking Richard Sipe, how they were determined, and how accurate are their estimation. They are entirely fair questions. I will assume that these figures are both reliable and accurate for the purposes of this post, in order to ask some pertinent questions. If nobody can find inaccuracies or any set of faulty assumptions in the work, we should all take this book extremely seriously. As Catholics and Christians, there is no alternative, if we love the Church.

    There is no dispute, despite our personal theological biases, that all of us care about the Roman Catholic Church; its mission and its standing in the world. Why would we bother with SecondSight, if we didn’t care? Given that we do genuinely care about the Church, is it wise for the Church to turn a blind eye, be asleep at the wheel, or bury one’s head in the sand, over a 45% rate of offending by priests, as presented by Sipe’s monograph?

    My own opinion is that if Sipe’s work is broadly true and accurate, nothing less than some sort of Vatican based commission of inquiry must be put in train by Pope Francis, in order to study Sipes’ conclusions. Assuming that the commission of inquiry is broadly in agreement with Sipe, what should the Roman Catholic Church do in relation to the rule of celibacy, for both Priests and Religious? These are the questions, amongst others, that the Church needs to consider and debate.

    • milliganp says:

      John Candido
      I’ve checked out Richard Sipe’s website and, with great respect, he is not operating from a neutral point of view. Similarly his research seems to be entirely based in the USA which has the worlds most overtly sexualised culture. This is not to deny there is a problem.

      However one of the implications of his work is that the problem is celibacy rather than inappropriate sexual behaviour by priests. The reality is that, if we had married priests the problem we’d be dealing with would be priestly adultery.

      In my mind there is no doubt that a repressive mindset with regards to the sexuality of priests in formation has not been helpful and I am aware that, despite a far greater investment in the pshyo-sexual profiling of men preparing for orders bishops continue to ordain some candidates with worrying profiles.

      But finally, as we’ve discussed with marriage, how a person feels at 26 is not the same as they are going to be at 40, 50 or 65. Priests are subject to the same strains in human development as the rest of us.

      One of the options proposed is the possibility of viri probati, the ordination of mature men in stable established marriages. I’m a married deacon and I know of 2 cases in my own diocese which illustate that this solution will not be without difficulties. In the first case a man was one week away fom ordination when a parishioner wrote to his PP pointing out that he was in a long-term adulerous relationship with a parishioner – is ordination was cancelled. In another a deacon left his wife to live with another woman. I don’t think we can ever expect those in orders to be fault free.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Sorry to have to say this and upset the ladies.
        But females who encourage priests to have affairs will have to answer for it.
        I can understand why they fall in love with a priest if they find his presence desirable, in the personage of Jesus,but it does not make sense because if that is the reason, they ought to help him to keep his vocation as he the priest. like us all are children of God.
        Let them think about it -if it was their son would they wish a female to upset his vocation.
        I am sure they would not!
        This is also how I consider marriage as I said above, we become joined together with the Lord and with our children one body and blood,and I do not understand when we have children in a marriage with someone else’s sperm or egg-it seem to me splitting up the natural union. But that is Catholic thinking so I can forgive those who don’t feel the same way. I would find it difficult to have a stranger (father) of my children I would adopt.

  19. Singalong says:

    It is interesting to look at the Theological Studies Document recommended by Rahner, and its conclusions, but that is a very long way from anticipating that the Church will change its teaching soon or at all. For the present, this leaves the possibility of annulment as the only route to try for those who don`t decide just to leave the Church altogether, and consider themselves free from all its requirements. Inevitably there is pressure for the grounds on which these are decided and granted to be extended and stretched.

    If the use of artificial contraception from the beginning, is valid grounds for an annulment, then most of today`s marriages could probably be dissolved. In addition, I think it indicates that this practice, especially when continued for any length of time, constantly saying not yet, not yet, when this, when that, year after year, militates against the spouses` ability to persevere, and grow in love and loyalty to each other, and makes it at least highly likely that they will not stay together.

    The solemn vows to each other, made with such enthusiasm, in front of God, and His representatives, as well as all the couples’ family and friends on the day of the wedding, need to be supported by cooperation with the graces of the sacrament, and following all the Church’s teaching, if they are to have any hope of being kept.

    The couple need to know quite clearly what these teachings are, from good marriage preparation, ideally, if they are fortunate, through their own experience and learning as they grow up, and also from good courses and instruction in the months before the wedding, provided by good committed people like Milliganp.

    It seems that priests do not always ascertain that these teachings are properly understood and accepted by the couple before they agree to conduct the wedding, which should be essential. This failure is in marked contrast to the thoroughness of annulment tribunals afterwards. Prevention is better than cure.

    Far too much attention is focussed on increasingly lavish and expensive wedding parties and celebrations, as well as stag and hen parties beforehand, and very often far too little on the much more important marriage which it is all about.

    • Singalong says:

      The first paragraph of my comment above was inadvertently left out, bad pasting on my part I expect, so here it is:

      I think that the Divorce Law Reform Act of 1967, nearly 50 years ago, and the almost universal secular acceptance of all forms of artificial contraception, have caused even more misery than they were mistakenly intended to prevent. Unfortunately, very many Catholics do not seem able to stand firm, and are over influenced by this prevailing culture, with the inevitable result that we are affected as much as the rest of society. We have discovered this, to our cost, in our immediate family.

  20. Geordie says:

    Henry VIII wanted a divorce not an annulment. Therefore divorce must have existed before his time, because he didn’t invent the word.
    Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to the king of France and then she divorced him with Church agreement and married Henry II of England. Members of the Monagasque ruling family have been granted annulments in recent years. Frank Sinatra was granted an annulment. My friend who is not rich and famous was refused an annulment.
    The situation is a joke.

  21. claret says:

    Having left the blog for some days I have not had chance to respond to the attack on my contribution to the blog when, among other things I wrote of mockery, and as Geordie above , of the situation as being a joke.
    Neither joke, nor mockery, were meant in the literal sense of the word. I would have thought that was obvious. Apparently not by one reader.
    I am a married person, married in the Catholic Church and have been so married to one person for well over 40 years. How could I possibly regard my marriage, and that of any other person as a joke or a mockery?
    My ‘complaint’ is that Church teaching and practice are at variance when it comes to marriage.
    I read with interest on here how some parishes have marriage preparation courses. Great news but I have yet to live in any parish ( and I have moved around quite a bit!) that has anything like a structured marriage preparation programme. In most cases it seems to be a condition that the Catholic ‘half’ , if not already practising, should turn up for Sunday Mass for a few weeks before the big day. ( I was never asked/ required on my marriage to attend a course. There wasn’t one anyway, although I would have welcomed one.)
    A lot written on here about annulments. Did not Pope John Paul 2 lament the ease with which annulments are given in the USA. ? I cannot quote the specific figures but it is something along the lines that 90 % of all annulments in the Catholic Church take place in the USA and that over
    90 % of applicants get an annulment if they are resident in the USA. ( I guess those are year on year figures.)
    This speaks of inconsistency and, as with many other sacramental practices in the Catholic Church is governed to a large extent on the particular practices of the pp.

    • milliganp says:

      Claret, don’t get me going on PP’s which to me means “Pope in the Parish” – each with their own set of rules, this is not to admit the many good men are out there but they are sadly not a majority.
      But to come to your main theme, inconsistency in interpreting nullity; without digging out statistics it does seem that the USCCB has made nullity an almost meaningless process, one can almost imagine “I had my fingers crossed” as adequate to the task of having mental reservation. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a system for admitting that people sometimes fail – so we have to maintain the pretence of a pre-existing flaw.
      I like to present real examples rather than hypothetical ones. I spent 3 years at the junior seminary and a classmate who had gone on to ordination left the priesthood in his forties to marry a parishioner whom he’d been counselling through a divorce; the church accepted his request for laicisation. I remember at the time thinking “hang on, we both made lifetime commitments, you to the priesthood, me to marriage – how come you can get out of it?” (and perhaps, why can’t I serve the church as a priest).
      There is no doubt in my mind that the church applies double standards, and that this undermines the message of the Gospel. However I can’t see two wrongs making a right. It’s perplexing to say the least.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I understand your feelings and all I can think of it is that when a marriage fails there is more at stake than the priesthood-it can affect generations of children and we don’t know how it will affect the plan God has for us..It is still very sad when priests give up ,but sometimes some good can come out of that and he can make something of the future if no one else is hurt. That to me is the main problem.,But marriage can affect so many especially when children are involved, So of the two I feel it is the most complicated. and the most selfish.
        Sometime a separation can help a marriage for a time. Perhaps that is what the Church has in mind.
        I must be very unsettling for priests when married men become ordained in to the RC Church I wonder if the experts thought of that!.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Sorry, just realised I have been spelling your name wrong.

      • milliganp says:

        My youngest daughter wen through serious emotional difficulties in her teens because several of her close friends has parents splitting up and she is deeply empathetic. When my wife and I argued it always caused her upset as any sort of a family split was her worst nightmare.
        We need to name the evil that breaks up marriages and is is nearly always selfishness, a direct sin againt the self-giving which marriage is supposed to be. Sadly selfishness is one of fallen humanities principal weaknesses.
        Given the postings on the Orthodox attitude to marriage breakdown I’ve read several sites and it does seem that the Orthodox place far greater emphasis on the use of spiritual direction and reconciliation as part of the process of trying to save a failing marriage. In the Catholic church we seem to wait till it’s all over and then see what we can do with the pieces.
        I think we have a mountain to climb in just getting young people and those preparing for marriage to understand what we believe is God’s plan.

  22. Michael Horsnall says:

    “But finally, as we’ve discussed with marriage, how a person feels at 26 is not the same as they are going to be at 40, 50 or 65. Priests are subject to the same strains in human development as the rest of us…..”

    Hooray hooray, a bit of sense at last.MilliganP 18th @8.32 am has the nub of it here. Do you all remember when you were last subject to serious sexual temptation and how very difficult it was? The last time it happened to me I was 57 and fell for one of my students. It was sheer torment lasted a couple of years and not to yield was the hardest thing I’ve ever done-and that was despite having a wife I love, a good circle of friends and a family I adore. Imagine then the priest, possibly with none or few of these supports and coming also under the assaults that are definitely launched against those strongly committed to holiness of life through ordination.
    Furthermore why do we think that the falling of a priest into a sexual relationship should be that unusual or outrageous? is it a situation beyond forgiveness or restitution? Sometimes I think that what we really want to do with our priests is that they should dress in red and blue costumes then leap off high buildings so then we could condemn them as they fell. The more I am around priests and deacons the more I think of Moses needing to have his arms held up by others in battle. Yes of course there are many difficulties and yes crime needs to be punished- but otherwise the answer we CAN be part of is to see beyond the cassock to the man-support them, go on..ask one to lunch!!

  23. St.Joseph says:

    Mike would you know how many Nuns leave the Church to marry or even have affairs.
    No one is criticising priests if they feel they are not cut out for the priesthood.after all.
    But we must remember that there are plenty who can run the race to the finish and stay faithful.
    You say yourself that it can happen even in marriage.
    What was the cause of yours, you were not a priest.,and you probably had plenty of friends.
    We should not confuse physical attraction with love.
    There is always a reason behind it. Teachers fall in love with students and vice versa, priests with parishioners and vice versa, counsellors patients and doctors etc all sorts of reasons, when one is in a unhappy relationship.The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
    Most priests are supported in parishes, more so than ever.Maybe that’s the problem-there ought to be more prayer life. and devotions….


  24. Michael Horsnall says:

    ST Joseph:
    Yes you are right. My own view is quite simple. There is nothing to say that desire, once having found its object, will always rest there. Put simply, the mechanism within which causes us to fall in love in the fuller sense rather than simple physical attraction is not uniquely monogamous! This means that our marriages are continually in a state of being chosen- we chose each day to honour our vows in the face of temptation-this is partly why marriage is a sacramental covenant rather than a contract. This is why prayer is so important I think and I strongly agree with you about the need for prayer life and devotions, devotions particularly because they seem to be able to channel feelings better, its an interesting subject and one which needs airing from time to time or else we all dwell in some fantasy story where spiritual aspiration is completely unconnected to daily life. You ask me about cause and I have to tell you I simply do not know, one day the lightning just fell.

  25. Michael Horsnall says:

    “Neither joke, nor mockery, were meant in the literal sense of the word. I would have thought that was obvious. Apparently not by one reader….”

    Sooner or later it should become obvious that the use of hyperbole in discussing issues of sacramental importance isn’t such a good idea unless one makes it crystal clear what one is doing by clarifying there and then. Not much point in saying things you don’t mean or meaning things you don’t say especially when the subject is sensitive. You did not say that ‘the situation’ was a joke you said that marriage was irredeemably corrupt. Did you really expect that such a malignant form of words would go unchallenged?

  26. claret says:

    I trusted, mistakenly in your case, that my choice of words would be taken in the full context of what followed. Indeed I did not say marriage was corrupt but if it assists you is some way to call me to account then we have both had our day.

    • mike Horsnall says:

      August 15th:
      “I agree with Karl , the first to post, with his comment : Marriage is a joke in the Catholic Church. It is irredeemably corrupted. I would add that it is open to mockery…”

      August 19th:
      “..Indeed I did not say marriage was corrupt but if it assists you is some way to call me to account then we have both had our day….”

      Hmmm, bet you didn’t inhale either…

  27. St.Joseph says:

    Your comment on August 15th @ 8.50.Would you say that a couple who made the date for their wedding in the infertile days would be non Sacramental?
    I made the point of confining intercourse to infertile days in case of wanting to postpone pregnancy for important reasons. Also what do you think are important reasons on ones wedding night.. It would seem to be a pre-meditated sin-do you think.Or no valid marriage, there fore abstaining from Communion until they decided to have a family!.

    • Quentin says:

      St Joseph, thank you for obliging me to make my meaning clearer. For my part, I think that the marriage act when performed on a known infertile day is a proper marital act. It is an expression of conjugal love which, for good reason, lays aside the likely outcome of conception. It can also benefit procreation when this is taken in the wider sense of strengthening the bond and so creating a more secure background for good parenting.

      The point which the argument makes is that it is inconsistent to claim that choosing to use contraceptives or the pill makes the act non marital while not applying the same argument to the deliberate choice of days when no egg is present. In all these cases the intention to avoid conception is the same, and the use of the method is equally artificial. By artificial I don’t mean wrong or unworthy but that the action to control the consequences of sexual intercourse is deliberately undertaken through the application of human ingenuity.

      Here, you might also consider the post-menopausal marriage. It is meaningless to say that the couple’s sexual expression is always open to conception. There is no possibility of an egg. Yet the marriage act can remain a marvellous way in which the loving intimacy of the couple is promoted. Nature provides for this of course for good biological reasons, just as circumstances may provide good reasons for preventing conception while the couple are still biologically fertile.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you for your clear and specific reply..
        I still think maybe that the situations are different in a much as a couple is using a contraceptive method not for the reason that the Lord made us to.plan a family
        I hope I don’t seem to be nit picking here, I don’t mean to be, however I can understand how some will be confused with this kind of reasoning I am trying to think of a comparison and will maybe come up with one.

        This would not be one, but say I was to fall in love again now a widow well past fertility and got married, I understand the point you make.(not that I am going to).
        However to take away the ‘means’ to fertility must separate somehow the union of the marriage..I would not have chosen 18th August for my wedding day if I had known my fertility-but I am glad that I did or I would not maybe have had the happiness I have now with my present family. Was this the Lords plan for me?
        Help me out here Quentin.I am struggling with this one..

      • Quentin says:

        St Joseph, sorry you are struggling. I have probably confused you. The Church quite clearly teaches that the use of the safe period for the normal good reasons of planning a family is absolutely fine. By the same token it does not affect the consummation of the marriage. (The only possible bad outcome arises if one of the couple make it as a condition of the marriage that they will not have children. Were you to marry again, however unlikely that may be, that condition would not arise of course.)

        But as a theoretical question the issue might be raised because of history. That is, prior to HV, the issue of contraception was seen in terms of barrier contraceptives. This was seen as changing the nature of the sexual act by preventing the seed from reaching the egg. Sterilisation was out because it was illegitimate to remove an important function of the body (other than for commensurate health reasons). But with the appearance of the pill in the 1960s a new issue arose. The sterilisation was only temporary (so the body retained its function, and of course there was no interference with the sexual act).

        Considering this new issue was the task of the famous Commission. But early on in the Commission’s work it became clear that the whole contraceptive question needed to be reconsidered. As you know, all artificial methods were to be outlawed by Paul VI, contrary to the recommendation of the Commission. But the Pope made it clear that sterilisation, permanent or temporary, was also wrong if used with a contraceptive intention. While the Pope argued forcibly that the use of the safe period was legitimate because there was no artificial interference with the procreative function, there are those who argue that the use of the safe period was equally artificial and had exactly the same contraceptive intention.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My comment below may seem that I did know when I was fertile.
        I didn’t. By getting married on the 18th August as I did, I most probably conceived on my honeymoon. Which now I am glad that I did.I think that makes more sense. Maybe you understood it anyway, in case you didn’t!

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        Quentin – I am now more thoroughly confused than ever about the distinction between marital and non-marital acts of intercourse. To me, the only moral difference between reliance on the “safe period” rather than chemical or mechanical contraception is the element of abstinence in the former. The argument for cementing the marital bond applies to either. As for what constitutes or does not constitute “consummation”, I can’t help feeling that any position depending on such fine and disputed legalistic points as have been brought to bear must be in practice unsustainable. Thank goodness, for me the whole topic is academic!

  28. Singalong says:

    Milliganp, Yes, much more early, ongoing and thorough education for the vocation of marriage is urgently needed, but for marriages in trouble now, Retrouvaille has a lot to offer, including intensive weekends, aiming to help couples make a fresh start, and begin to overcome their difficulties.

  29. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wilson.
    I always thought that we administered the Sacrament of Matrimony on each other and the priest was a witness. Then consummation happened with intercourse! That is the Sacrament .It becomes legal when the registry is signed.
    That is why same sex can not be a Sacramental marriage. Just a civil partnership.The registry side of it.between a male and female.

    However, there are those who will try to confuse the churches teachings with the difference or sameness of NFP and artificial contraception. Which is really a valid discussion to make Gods point for Him! So that people will be enlightened ,but not to criticise.. For those who don’t believe in God-it does not really matter one way or another.Only for the health reasons.

    • Peter D. Wilson says:

      St.Joseph – my thought is the same as yours. As for same-sex “marriage”, I’d put it on a level with the Dadaist claim (in Tom Stoppard’s play “Travesties”) for “the right to urinate in different colours” – please pardon the indelicacy!

  30. St.Joseph says:

    Peter Wilson..
    Thank you,.That is something my late husband would have said!

  31. St.Joseph says:

    I know it is a difficult subject for someone to really understand..
    As far as the Pill is concerned , it was not known I believe that it acted as an abortafaciant,,and also the thinking that it was not until it implanted in the womb was it thought to be wrong.
    But as we have progressed in the knowledge of fertility we are wiser now and more knowledgeable. when conception takes place..
    So as it may seem that it has the same contraceptive intention, it can not be possible to be a ‘contraceptive’ if one is infertile.
    We must be able to plan our family,for the right reason.
    We are not expected to have more children than we can cope with,,that does not mean financially either.The Church is not against family planning.People don,t know that.
    Years ago people had big families and it is always thought that it was a Catholic thing,so the wrong impression is given..

  32. Quentin says:

    Singalong has brilliantly unearthed a translation of Cardinal Müller’s full article. You will find it available for the next couple of weeks on
    It’s well worth reading. The translation is awkward in places, but it gives us a fairer view of the Cardinal’s position.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you Singalong.
      Interesting as it is, it is not new, only re-iterating what we always know, and won’t be changed.
      I don’t see it making any difference to those who have contracted a second marriage and are living a decent catholic life without an annulment and who need the reception of Communion.
      It speaks about a persons conscience not being applicable to the reception of the Eucharist -therefore it seems that obedience to the Law over-rules a man’s inner conscience which only God can judge.
      If I were a EM I still would not refuse Communion if a person came up to receive..
      So in that case would I be a sinner too!!!

    • Singalong says:

      Quentin, I would like to take the credit for finding this document, but fear I cannot, unless it was also on Fr. Longenecker`s Blog?
      It is very interesting to read, but not a very good translation.

    • Quentin says:

      A thousand apologies to you, Singalong. And also to Iona — who was in fact the person who sent me the translation. My only excuse is that I had three browsers up at the time — and that my wife was calling me for lunch.

  33. Iona says:

    It’s a Google translation. Nuff said.
    Apparently there is no “official” English translation.

    • Quentin says:

      There is at least one word in German left untranslated gebeichtete which may confuse. The English equivalent is ‘confessed’.

      On the issues of the stretch of God’s mercy, a final paragraph summarises:
      “The mercy of God is not a dispensation of God’s commandments and the teachings of the Church. Rather, it gives the power of grace to meet them, for the fall and rising again to a life of perfection in the image of the heavenly Father.”

      No one could disagree with that. But there is a precedent. While the Church firmly teaches the wrongness of artificial contraception, the general pastoral approach is not to drive this too far. No doubt the Cardinal would argue that the maintenance of the indissolubility of marriage is too important a principle to allow such leniency.

  34. St.Joseph says:

    Would Pope Francis be among the many?
    Pope Francis if I heard it right did not do the same as Pope Benedict when giving out Communion as he did not want to refuse those he knew ought not to receive..
    Pope Benedict at least gave people the opportunity to kneel before him and say as we all do.’Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed’.
    I don’t know if it is relevant but the Gospel on Tuesday- the Feast of St Bernard. , Jesus said to Peter, 3 times ‘Do you love me-Then feed my Lambs and feed my sheep
    . A Food for our journey. And we are all on that road.!

  35. John Candido says:

    Pope Francis is going to be one of the most significant and important Popes of the 21st century, or any century for that matter. He will most likely be in the same league as Pope John XXIII. He is an extremely capable administrator and governor of the Roman Catholic Church. He has been instigating many independent investigations on various issues, such as the administration of the Vatican bank. I can imagine and visualise him calling a third Vatican Council, in order to facilitate an ‘Aggiornamento’ (updating the church), which could lead to far-reaching reform. By the way, it is arguable in the internet age that there is a need to call thousands of Bishops to attend in person which would be prohibitive and present logistical nightmare, when the Church has access to online seminars, speeches, workshops etc.

    • tim says:

      Maybe it is arguable whether there is still such a need, but exchanges of emails and electronic dialogue (even with Skype or the like) still fall short of face-to-face meetings. I am all for ‘modern ameliorations’ but ‘ancient institutions’ will always adapt slowly, and will probably be right to do so in the present case.

  36. St.Joseph says:

    We speak about annulments where a marriage can be annulled meaning that a true Sacrament never existed.
    Couples have married in the Church over the years most without proper pre-marital counselling , Love shining in their eyes in their hearts, not really knowing the responsibility they have especially if it is a mixed marriage. They were not really practising their faith. If the non-catholic partner did not want to carry out his duties to the children or wanted his wife or husband to have an abortion. So they separated and later on the non catholic wanted a divorce to remarry-often a divorce is necessary by the Church for financial reasons, that is not against church teaching! I think!!
    To advance in years and the person with the responsibility for bringing up the children in the faith carry out all the duties as it was expected in the marriage falls in love having matured in faith through going to Holy Communion, the choice will be civil marriage or no Holy Communion.
    Reading some of the comments made after Pope Benedict’s comment above, it is a hardening of heart that Jesus talks about. And I still believe it to be uncharitable. It is not a case of black and white.!
    I still believe it to be inconsistent.
    I suppose the church would rather the Catholic to commit sin have abortions use abortafacients to save her marriage, lose her faith and the children’s. Just so it sticks to Church Law.
    We have no right to condemn.


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