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Hard Cases Make Bad Law: A Response to Austen Ivereigh on Amoris Laetitia

The following guest editorial was submitted by a reader who works in the office of Marriage and Family Life of a US diocese. With retributive action already having been taken against several of the signatories of the theological censures against Amoris Laetitia, we have agreed to publish this essay anonymously.

I would like to begin by thanking Austen Ivereigh, who in his December 30, 2016 column at Crux (Critics of ‘Amoris’ need to look at concrete cases) got – though perhaps unintentionally — to the core of this debate. The concrete examples he put forward are indeed those extremely difficult, exceptionally rare cases that trouble the consciences of everyone taking part in this discussion. Many people know someone who has been abandoned unjustly by a spouse through no real fault of their own, exposing them to great economic, social, and psychological distress. Some keen observers and participants in this debate are indeed those exact people. Everyone desires to see vindication and lasting fulfillment for them. They certainly suffer and Jesus does not fail to draw close to them in their suffering.

The thought of an abandoned spouse picking up the pieces of their life and moving on to find a new companion naturally brings relief to those looking in from the outside, particularly if children are under the care of the abandoned spouse. Hopefully this new companion demonstrates all the fidelity, affection, and self-giving care for the abandoned spouse that her unfaithful husband failed to provide. Images of a brand new, healed and happy family bring solace. The desire arises for this new family to participate fully in the life of the Church and have the new union recognized as a valid marriage.

Occasionally though, the abandoned spouse is faced with the tragic scenario of being unable to obtain an annulment due to a lack of witnesses or a paper trail gone cold. Even more rarely, perhaps they had all their ducks in a row and the ecclesiastical tribunal didn’t find the case convincing enough to declare the previous marriage null. This is a bitter reality for some people.

Leaving aside the juridical factors, when one asks the ultimate question, “would Jesus smile upon a new union such as this?” the gut reaction would seem to be “of course!” In what bizarre world would the God of mercy, healing, closeness, the marginalized, the abandoned, the wronged, not approved of such a union? What could Jesus possibly have against such a classic example of human beings moving past the crushing consequences of sin and betrayal?

These are the sentiments which I would venture to say guide Ivereigh’s thought process on this issue. They are perfectly reasonable, compassionate sentiments. I do not believe they stem from a visceral hatred of “conservative” theologians or some maniacal desire to dramatically alter the course of the Church’s journey through history.

These sentiments lead Ivereigh to claim that the word “adultery” just doesn’t correspond with the sexual relations between the aforementioned abandoned spouse and her new companion. This is understandable. To most,  adultery signifies relations rooted in irresponsibility, lust, selfishness, infidelity, and pleasure-seeking. It would be uncharitable and illogical to believe that these were the motivating factors within the sexual union of the two people in question. Their relations seem to be like those of other married couples rooted in stability, self-giving, and the desire to affirm their love.

This does not sound like adultery. I get it.

When the Church has traditionally made the demand for two such people to forgo their sexual relationship due to the irregularity of their bond it has struck many as draconian, blind to the reality of couples who have long since left behind “spouses” with whom they never really had anything close to what they have now.

Can’t these theologians and hierarchs see that this is not adultery? Can’t they see that this is authentic love?

While compelling, all of this misses the central point to the whole debate: the consistent teaching of the Church that two people can form an indissoluble bond of marriage which prevails until one of them dies — merely by speaking words to one another in the span of approximately 45 seconds. Here I refer, of course, to the marriage vows.

At its core, this is not an issue about canon law.

Time and again those on Ivereigh’s side of the argument have couched the whole thing in terms of those who are open to applying the law compassionately on a case by case basis and those who are legally “rigid”. I understand that the authors of the dubia leave themselves open to such a perspective due to their use of the phrase “more uxorio”. It looks as though the interest is precisely in “upholding the law” at all costs, concrete personal situations be damned.

This misses the point.

Certainly the canonical argument is vital in its own right to the life of the Church. However, canon law exists to protect deeper, more fundamental theological realities. In this debate, all of the canons in question concern the integrity of marriage as a sacrament and indissoluble bond, the sanctity of the Eucharist, and the necessity of upholding the commandments of God Himself to obtain eternal salvation.

As much as Francis speaks about the victory of mercy, tenderness, and compassion over a legalistic, rigid mindset, this is not what drives him to the conclusion that some people living “more uxorio” can have recourse to the sacraments. He knows as well as anyone in the Church that a person who has sexual relations with a person who is not his or her actual spouse is objectively committing adultery. There is no way around that fact. What constitutes adultery, no matter what the interior motivations, is blindingly obvious: sexual relations outside the context of a valid, sacramental marriage. It’s the reason why the language of “objective” states of mortal sin can’t be dropped from the debate despite all the mitigating addendums tacked on about a lack of subjective culpability.

How then does Francis make peace with the possibility of those with no declared annulment in a ‘remarriage’, objective adulterers, receiving the sacraments? It’s simple: Francis believes that the overwhelming majority of what we call marriages in the Church are actually null. Fraudulent. Deficient. Not real. Unfounded. His original (unedited by the Vatican Press Office) comments on June 17 in Rome are the Rosetta Stone to this whole ordeal:

“We are living in a provisional culture… and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know… They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard…

They prefer to cohabitate, and this is a challenge, a task. Not to ask ‘why don’t you marry?’ No, to accompany, to wait, and to help them to mature, help fidelity to mature. I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity but there are local superstitions, etc…”

Francis is at peace with those “more uxorio” receiving absolution and communion because he is convinced that there is a very good chance the original marriage wasn’t a real marriage at all. Even if the external forum can’t declare it null for one reason or another, Francis trusts the internal forum to pick up the slack and get to the bottom of things. An individual’s conscience rises to the rank of ecclesiastical judge and the accompanying priest ascends to the position of the local ordinary. The abandoned spouse, her new companion, and a priest can discern over time that the original marriage never existed and that even though a real sacramental marriage isn’t possible due to the missing annulment, their union, although a civil marriage, is a real marriage and their sexual relations are essentially the same as those between spouses in a valid marriage recognized by the Church. The second portion of Francis’ June 17 remarks obviously put into play the possibility of cohabitation with proven fidelity (the hypothetical hard case in question) as being an actual marriage which is a source of God’s grace.

All of this belies a fundamental mistrust in the capability of a man and woman in today’s culture to stand at the altar and enter into a marriage through the spoken exchange of vows. Francis is not alone in his opinion. Well-known promoter of Theology of the Body Christopher West expressed his essential agreement with the pope based on his experiences as an archdiocesan director of marriage preparation. There are definitely many within the Church who would say that the canonical presumption of a marriage being valid as an annulment process begins should be reversed to one of invalidity. It’s a great big mess out there and there is no reason to punish someone by withholding communion from them when the vast majority of “marriages” are not in fact marriages at all. Even though the annulment process went off the rails somewhere, statistics indicate she or he is still probably right in their conviction that their marriage wasn’t real in the first place.

What of it then? Hopefully it can be seen by now we are far beyond the realms of “applying the law” or “upholding the law”. We are touching on the fundamental question of whether the Church can ever know if two people are really married. If we want there to be such a thing as indissoluble sacramental marriage and we want it to be accessible to all types of Catholics, then we must rely on the premise that two people can create this sacrament by speaking vows in public in one specific instance. If we want to maintain the integrity of the sacrament, we must have marriage tribunals that carefully examine broken unions and distinguish the sham weddings where no one really gave their lives in freedom to one another and the real weddings where people actually did what they intended and gave their lives away to one another and the Lord in love.

What is impossible, though, is to delegate such determinations to the realm of the internal forum. It is barely within the competence of a third party ecclesiastical tribunal to make such a weighty declaration as “that was never a real marriage”. It is nowhere near the competence of the conscience of an individual spouse (or confessor) to make such a determination, no matter how well-intentioned they might be.

To be as intellectually honest as possible, I will grant that perhaps our hypothetical abandoned woman is indeed correct. In reality there was never a real marriage in the first place. I imagine there are actual situations where this is true and for some reason it will just never be declared as such by a tribunal. Is her sexual relationship with the new companion still adultery in the moral sense and not simply in the legal one?

The answer is yes. For the obvious and simple reason that as a Catholic, the only way this woman can enter into a real sacramental marriage is through a Catholic wedding ceremony with the exchange of consent in public. Without an annulment, this is, of course, impossible. Without the valid sacrament she and her new companion would be forever cohabitating in a civil marriage and not as real spouses. Sexual relations with someone who is not one’s real spouse are always adulterous. Full stop. Her circumstances are indeed tragic if all these factors are true. But the logic of the Gospel dictates that she would accept this situation and courageously renounce sexual relations with her new companion as an act of taking up one’s cross in the mystery of suffering.

In the Eschaton, we will figure this all out. We will discern clearly between the real and the unreal, the true and the false, the valid and the invalid. Here and now, though, we must take Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 18:6 very seriously, and understand that the role of the priest, tribunal, and even the pope himself is to defend the indissolubility of marriage and accompany the faithful in their journey to put away sin and put on Christ. Such a task is a thankless one in the eyes of the world, but of infinite value in our desire to conform ourselves more perfectly to the one willing to sacrifice all for the sake of love.

If Ivereigh (and those who agree with his position) wants this hypothetical woman’s sexual relationship not to be “morally” adulterous, there is only one pathway forward: indissoluble, sacramental marriage with her new companion. If one cannot provide that as a possibility and yet still proposes their sexual relations as something which can coexist with the Holy Eucharist, one stands nakedly, objectively, legally, and morally outside the teaching of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.

107 thoughts on “Hard Cases Make Bad Law: A Response to Austen Ivereigh on Amoris Laetitia”

  1. “All of this belies a fundamental mistrust in the capability of a man and woman in today’s culture to stand at the altar and enter into a marriage through the spoken exchange of vows. Francis is not alone in his opinion. Well-known promoter of Theology of the Body Christopher West expressed his essential agreement with the pope based on his experiences as an archdiocesan director of marriage preparation. ”

    Then why, pray tell, were these couples ever married in the first place?

    • Because a) a priest was lied to, or b) a priest did not have the courage to say- No, c) a bishop did not support or overruled or punished a priest or priests who did say – No, or d) the marriage prep put forth by the dioceses is so pitiful that there is no way to discern which couples have an understanding of a lifetime commitment regardless of the future actions of a spouse.

      Of course your question was probably rhetorical.

      • It could be any or all of the a-d reasons that you gave. When Pope Francis said that “They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for their entire life,” he may be somewhat correct. But Francis chalks it up to the “culture” rather than to extreme lack of catechesis, though culture does play a part, too. Given that we hear very little from the pulpit or parish bulletins regarding what marriage truly is, it isn’t surprising that we have a marriage crisis today.

        Here’s an example. My niece was recently married in Colorado Springs. She isn’t Catholic, but she married a Catholic man, in a Catholic Church in that city. She didn’t need to convert. Before the Council, I don’t believe that this would have been allowed.

        • Two points : I was just about to raise the issue of not hearing encouraging sermons from the pulpit on what marriage is, and the trials that face couples in our permissive society. Words of encouragement, advice, and support groups, would greatly alleviate the pain of trials that are experienced in marriage.

          Just because one experiences marital difficulties, it does not mean that most marriages are failed experiences. On the other hand, surrendering our burdens to the God of love, understanding and mercy, gives us hope. Setting our sights on the ideal and working towards it with God’s grace, most often brings solace and a better relationship with a spouse.

          Secondly, the annulment process brings closure to a difficult relationship, and peace of mind. Divorce-on-demand
          is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our society, and our economy.

          My niece went through a difficult marriage, but an understanding parish priest, counselling, patience, and a willingness to surrender her pain, brought rewarding results – she and her husband are the happy parents of two.

          P. Francis’ remarks : that the “great majority” of Catholic marriages are “null” – in other words, not actual marriages – and that some cohabitating couples are in a “real marriage,” receiving the grace of the Sacrament, were painful to those of us who have stayed faithful in our marriages (my case of 54 years) and seen how God has brought peace to our marriage, despite difficulties.

          Article worth reading : Pope Francis: Most Catholic marriages are
          invalid, some ‘cohabitations’ are ‘real marriage

    • The excerpted quote from Pope Francis (I’ve seen it before) is almost enough to make one give up. Taking my cue from Fr. Z., I’m “enduring the present pontifical parenthesis.” Barely.

    • Because ultimately, at its final conclusion, this “belies a fundamental” rejection of Supernatural Grace, that which flows from the Redemptive Act of Jesus the Christ, True God and True Man, as it rests utterly and ultimately in the Modernists’ rejection of the Divine Nature of Christ as True God. In caritas.

  2. It’s become a dumbed-down culture, even among the highest prelates in the Catholic Church who want everyone to “feel better” instead of working to “do better”. Doctrine is settled, moral teaching has spoken, both before Christ’s Incarnation, and moreso after He came among us. Rules are rules, and sometimes they’re tough and require much virtue to obey. That’s why the Catholic religion is so hated by the world, and by many who weakly identify as “Catholic.” The situation-ethics, do-what-you-feel-is-best approach doesn’t cut it ….here, or when we face Christ at our Particular Judgement. So let’s all get in practice, shall we? And cut the wimpy, please-make-exceptions-becuase-our-feelings-are-hurt garbage. If life on earth is a training ground for heaven, let’s get back in shape and follow the rules that we know have existed since the inception of the Church. It takes every single Cardinal virtue to do it, but Christ gives us what we need for battle….in the Church, through the Sacraments, and by our working to remain in the State of Grace. Just do it.

  3. Well put exposition of the issues. Notwithstanding, a Decree of Nullity is not infallible. When a Decree of Nullity is issued in good faith but nevertheless in error (i.e. God had joined them together in the first instance and only God would know) do the parties who have been granted the erroneous annulment commit adultery when they engage in sexual relations? If not, does this not mean that ‘man has put asunder’ the first union which was valid?

    • Possibly. But the man in question (or woman) would have to answer to God on Judgment Day for lying in order to fraudulently obtain the annulment.

      • One need not lie at all and still recieve an erroneous annulment.

        Canon 1095 defines a person unable to contract a marriage due to ‘mental incapacity’ thus:

        “1095. They are incapable of contracting marriage:
        (1) who lack the sufficient use of reason;
        who suffer from grave lack of discretion of judgment concerning
        essential matrimonial rights and duties which are to be mutually given
        and accepted;
        (3) who are not capable of assuming the essential obligations of matrimony due to causes of a psychic nature.”

        Let us suppose that the Tribunal errs in assessing any of these three ‘psychological’ conditions at the time the marriage was contracted. Perhaps in the eyes of God one’s ‘psyche’ was sufficiently formed , notwithstanding one is perfectly honest with the Tribunal. It is a fallible call. My original question remains.

        • Too many people are getting to far into the weeds on all this. Canon lawyers in the church all have doctorates earned either in Rome or at the Catholic University of America.

          Yes, Canon 1095 does state what you cite. Again, as Jafin, the moderator said on this thread, we are only talking about two Catholics getting married. Many other situations exist that canon law deals with concerning this subject. Yes, the Tribunal can err. But any marriage tribunal can only rule and come to a judgment based on all the evidence and documentation they obtain from the parties involved.

          • I don’t think it’s ‘in the weeds’ by a long shot, Al, to question if an erroneous fallible Declaration of Nullity issued by a Tribunal under Canon 1095 in respect of ‘two Catholics’, even presuming all parties were forthright throughout the process, effectively means that in those particular instances ‘man has put asunder’ what God had joined together, i.e. the first union.

            If the Declaration of Nullity, even issued by the Tribunal in the utmost good faith, is erroneous nonetheless, then do the parties commit adultery in-fact notwithstanding their individual consciences convince them that their new union has the blessing of the Church?

          • If the Church has made a definitive judgment regarding the validity of a marriage, then that is on the shoulders of those who made that decision- not ours, and not the couple in question. Let these folks answer to God. Have faith in God, and in Jesus Christ! He will work all of this out…just KEEP THE FAITH as best you can.

          • Please God I am keeping the Faith, Al. I suppose that perhaps invincible ignorance might come into play for those receiving erroneous Declarations of Nullity. Even so:

            “But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Luke 12:48

          • A very late comment: When Jesus gave to his Apostles the authority to bind and loose, He said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Without that authority, all of the Church’s decisions in matters of morality would be merely provisional.

            I suggest that this “power of the keys” applies to diocesan marriage tribunals. If a tribunal finds the evidence of nullity persuasive, and assuming that all parties and witnesses acted in good faith, the “loosing” of the once-presumed-valid marriage bond is accepted in heaven as it is on earth.

          • I understand limiting consideration to marriages involving at least one Catholic; limiting it to those involving two Catholics see to be unduly restrictive considering the number of Catholics who marry non-Catholics.

          • These problems have arisen since VII. Prior to that council Catholics were encouraged to only marry Catholics. If you wanted to marry outside the Church you had to get a dispensation which was a difficult & long procedure & depended on the Bishop. Marrying the unbaptised was a No No. If a Catholic marriage broke down they got a separation not a divorce as the CC didn’t recognise civil divorce. That practice worked well for Catholics & should be reinstated. Once the rules that stood us well were meddled with then chaos was the result. Culture may change but the Ten Commandments don’t. We must go back to being Catholic firstly & merciful secondly.

    • If the people involved in the annulment process were sincere and not lying to obtain a Declaration of Nullity and received one when they should not have due to the misjudgment of the Tribunal (which is one of the reasons why, prior to PF’s destruction of the Annulment process, the law required an automatic review by an independent Tribunal) or an intentional false declaration (for whatever reason) then the corresponding marital acts would still be objectively adulterous before God but the Good Lord would not hold those engaging in the adulterous relations subjectively responsible for them as they are acting in Good Faith and abiding by the judgment of the proper Ecclesial Authority: they would then be venial sins and not mortal. If one of them or both of them lied to obtain the Declaration of Nullity, then those who lied would be subjectively guilty of that and everything that flows from it.

      Those who issued the decree erroneously would be held to account by the Lord and it too would be based on their competence in the matter and whether or not they were sincerely mistaken (as in trying to render justice, but missing the mark) or truly negligent or intentionally deceitful.

      A Declaration of Nullity does not dissolve the Sacramental Bond, it simply posits that the Sacramental Bond was never established between the parties. Therefore, a Declaration of Nullity cannot in itself dissolve a Valid Sacramental Bond, as that is beyond it’s purpose and competence. So, the ‘marital’ acts of the hypothetical case would still be adulterous, even though the subjective guilt of the acts would be mitigated by the parties engaging in them due to their ignorance of the Truth and their Good Faith acceptance of the Ecclesial Authority (once again assuming the innocence of the parties involved in the acts, as in they are not being deceitful.)

      • Thank you Fr. RP. So when, say 25+ years or so after the first marriage, everyone’s dimmed though agreed recollection is that the groom was ‘psychologically immature’ 25+ years earlier and also quite likely inebriated or hung-over when vows were exchanged, that while the Tribunal’s subsequent Declaration of Nullity may well be in error owing to faulty recollections of the parties (predicated on those presumed underlying facts) and even though the groom may have been sufficiently mature and sober to be validly joined in God’s Eyes in the first instance, the union following the anullment would be adulterous but the couple’s good faith reliance on the erroneous Decree would nonetheless incur though somehow diminish their punishment after death, i.e. by way of invincible ignorance?

        • These links are concerned more about civil marriage as a whole. This article confines itself to Holy Matrimony. It is not the concern of the CC what the civil law provides for marriages between peoples of different faiths or none because religious beliefs don’t enter into their diktats. Most Christian churches have their own rules associated with marriage as do the Muslims, Jews etc. The main reason for having civil law at all is to provide for the children of these marriages & cohabiting couples. The confusion for the CC only arises when Catholics go outside the Church to marry & prior to VII there were only a few isolated cases of this happening. Catholics therefore must take responsibility for their intended actions prior to entering Holy Matrimony which certainly is for life. Divorce cannot be an option as otherwise the sacramental aspect is destroyed & that would be directly contradicting Our Lord’s holy intent and anathema.

  4. One of the best posts OnePeterFive has ever had! Presented both sides clearly and compassionately — with real compassion, not the artificial mercy that has infiltrated the Church.

    • I was doing some research concerning this topic and it seems that this attitude, epitomized by Cardinal Kasper, has been around for a very long time. The following is St. Cyprian speaking in regard to this Divine Prohibition.

      ” Moreover, beloved brethren, a new kind of devastation has appeared; and, as if the storm of persecution had raged too little, there has been added to the heap, under the title of mercy, a deceiving mischief and a fair-seeming calamity. Contrary to the vigour of the Gospel, contrary to the law of the Lord and God, by the temerity of some, communion is relaxed to heedless persons,—a vain and false peace, dangerous to those who grant it, and likely to avail nothing to those who receive it. They do not seek for the patience necessary to health nor the true medicine derived from atonement. Penitence is driven forth from their breasts, and the memory of their very grave and extreme sin is taken away. The wounds of the dying are covered over, and the deadly blow that is planted in the deep and secret entrails is concealed by a dissimulated suffering. Returning from the altars of the devil, they draw near to the holy place of the Lord, with hands filthy and reeking with smell, still almost breathing of the plague-bearing idol-meats; and even with jaws still exhaling their crime, and reeking with the fatal contact, they intrude on the body of the Lord, although the sacred Scripture stands in their way, and cries, saying, “Every one that is clean shall eat of the flesh; and whatever soul eateth of the flesh of the saving sacrifice, which is the Lord’s, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from his people.” Also, the apostle testifies, and says, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.” He threatens, moreover, the stubborn and froward, and denounces them, saying, “Whosoever eateth the bread or drinketh the cup of the Lord unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”—-St. Cyprian of Carthage

  5. I’d say the world’s obsession with sex largely drives this issue, in addition to a complete loss of the idea that we suffer in this world to get to heaven in the next. A few decades of loneliness and struggle is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. This movement is geared toward keeping people happy in this world, which makes one wonder how much the clergy pushing for this believe in the next.

    • Excellent point. It’s probably already been mentioned but can anyone else see this issue surrounding AL and the current surge of homosexual normalizing and so-called same sex marriage coalescing around the repudiation of celibacy for the sake of the Gospel? And then turning towards priestly celibacy?

      • Father mentions hell at least once a month, and goes in-depth on the Sunday of Meatfare (Sexagesima on the TL calendar), the 5th, 7h, 11th, 14th, 16th, 22nd (Dives and Lazarus), 23rd, 26th and 28th Sundays after Pentecost.

  6. So instead of presuming the validity of all marriages, we’ll presume the invalidity of all marriages until proven valid. What?! This twisted logic will only further serve to degrade the Sacrament of Marriage, and the Catholic Church’s moral teaching authority.
    Prior to Vatican II, Catholics could only marry Catholics. Since then, Catholics can marry outside of the Church only with the permission of the diocesan bishop AND his granting of a canonical dispensation from the Catholic form (rite) of Marriage. Barring both of those (and, perhaps, a dispensation for Disparity of Cult- unbaptized person), the marriage for the Catholic is invalid in the eyes of the Church. Granted, many Catholics just go get married by a Justice of the Peace or go to the Protestant church. Afterwards, they often approach the priest, and the non-Catholic converts, and the marriage is then canonically convalidated.
    Confusing? You bet. Why not just return to the days when Catholics married only Catholics? Just my thoughts.
    This issue hits close to home for me. My sister- born, baptized, and Confirmed cradle Catholic- chose to marry a man who was Protestant. My sister and her then fiance’ then went to the parish priest. The pastor told my now brother-in-law, that they could get married in the Protestant church only if he would agree to raise any children they might have as Catholic. He refused. They walked out, and married outside of the Catholic Church. Worse, my sister left the Faith altogether, and my niece and nephew go to the Protestant church.
    This is the reality for so many families. Gee whiz, if the Pope wants to treat all marriages with the presumption of nullity, then why even remain a Catholic?
    Francis must go, and the sooner the better whether through resignation, or deposing himself via the Dubia, fraternal correction by the Four Cardinals…it does not really matter to me how. He must GO.

    • So instead of presuming the validity of all marriages, we’ll presume the invalidity of all marriages until proven valid.

      I have a friend who was very orthodox in her beliefs. But she got upset with me when I criticized the Pope’s errors.
      The conversation veered to the Pope’s comments about invalid marriages. It turned out that this is what she likes about the Pope because she is in a difficult marriage. With this Pope, she then gets a free pass for leaving her husband.

      Since then I have noticed that those who are supportive of Pope Francis are those in such marriages who would like to ditch their spouse or those who are in adulterous marriages.

  7. You wrote: “sexual relations outside the context of a valid, sacramental marriage.” A marriage need not be sacramental to be considered valid.

      • A marriage is only a sacrament between two baptized people. If both or one is unbaptized it can still be valid in the eyes of The Catholic Church but just not a sacrament.

        • Interesting,
          Now, I am sure it wasnt always that way. The requirements must have been more stringent at some point.

        • Sorry…the validity is based on Canon Law. Was the marriage freely chosen; are they of age; do they consent to each sex act being open to possibility of life (no contraception); etc… The civil validity means nothing bc the state will let anyone marry anything.

        • And this natural marriage becomes a sacramental marriage when both parties are baptized.

          I think for the sake of the article that using the term sacramental was just fine. We are talking about Catholic marriages here. Yes, there are other marriages, but for the sake of the conversation, being clear about what kind of marriages we’re referring to – valid ones – throwing the word sacramental in there helps get the point across. Otherwise you use a ton of words that don’t really help the cause. Trust me. I’ve done it.

          • A Catholic married to an unbaptized person is not in a “sacramental” marriage–but it’s totally irrelevant. If there is divorce and a second “marriage,” the moral issues are totally unaffected by the “sacramentality” of the first marriage. Only its validity matters.

            Many articles are written in which the word “sacramental” used again and again, when it should never appear at all.

          • Prior to VII Catholics could not marry an unbaptized person & such a marriage simply wasn’t recognised by the Church. All this chaos was introduced by the ‘spirit’ of VII & their embrace of false ecumenism according to Marxist/Masonic/Modernism. Even marrying another Christian needed a long & difficult procedure & wasn’t always given. The non-Catholic had to sign a contract that they would not interfere with the children of the marriage being totally reared as Catholic. Of course, many such Christians converted as they had no problem with that vow but since VII they demand that such an imposition on them is illegal (by civil law). The CC brought all this on itself & now has to urgently disentangle the mess.

          • A Catholic married to a non-Christian does not have a sacramental marriage, so the distinction still needs to be made.

  8. Your introductory remarks about Ivereigh’s piece were a tad too kind, in my opinion. I thought his piece was snarky and arrogant. If we don’t want to end up like the Protestants, we’ll defend Matrimony with every fiber of our being.

    We do indeed live in a throwaway culture. It’s a pity that the Catholic Church, which by divine vocation must stand as a bulwark of the truth, has yielded to the culture and, in many ways and places, given up its identity as the City of God: the most perfect society this side of heaven; to be in the world but not of the world. As always, the antidote to a “throwaway” and “provisional” culture is Tradition, in which truth and beauty are preserved and handed on to each new generation, so “they” won’t be assimilated into a culture that is anti-Christ, a culture which, according to the pope, makes marriage—man’s most fundamental and natural vocation—nearly impossible to achieve by the great majority of human beings.

    As an aside, I would also point out that a couple entering marriage do not make “vows” strictly speaking; rather, they consent to marriage.

  9. Okay, the Church must detach itself from the “legal process of marriage”

    Here’s why. The current “legal process of marriage” has a built in divorce clause. All government sanctioned marriages are, by definition, unenforcable contracts.

    How can a Priest ratify a marriage contract that is not binding until death? Does not his consent in signing that document nullify God’s hand?

    God, and I am being presumptuous, would say ” How can you make me sign something that contradicts my will in, and your obligation to, this sacrament?”

  10. When I was married, I was an unbaptized atheist and my wife a nominal Methodist. Yet, we both understood that marriage is a lifetime commitment. To suggest that most people don’t understand this implicitly is absurd. As another commenter said, they know it and they reject it.

    Besides the entire false debate misses the ultimate point — salvation. The Eucharist is not an end, as the pope would have us believe. The Eucharist is a means to the end of eternal beatitude. And that is why is makes no sense to attempt to expand the category of people who are able to receive Holy Communion — even if they are able to receive so that they can be “integrated into the life of the Church,” they have no life in them by virtue of their persistence in a state of mortal sin. That the pope has so successfully turned the argument away from any discussion of eternity means that he and his ilk have (to at least some extent) already won the discussion.

  11. It can only remain unutterably stunning, the darkened, preternatural cunning of the man who claims the Chair of Saint Peter, as the Vicar of Christ, in this debauched, degraded, and spiritually benighted world, to be his own dwelling place. Pope Bergoglio, as quoted above, creates a nearly perfect syncretic language construction. He actually claims that those two human persons who present themselves, from a premeditated understanding, having been formally taught in so called “premarital counseling” programs from their parish, who then stand before “an audience” of witnesses to the act of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, AS it IS confected, and yet the “holy”, Roman Pontiff then purports that the overwhelming majority of the wedded persons in these specific circumstances, are somehow ignorant of precisely what THEY did in the exchange of their specific public vows. The unmitigated hubris of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in claiming such a patently distorted ideology of his own, to be the “reality” of what ACTUALLY occurs in the act of the holy Sacrament commanded by God, in and of itself, claims diabolical disorientation of his mind as its genesis; a willful blindness.

    Pope Bergoglio then doubles down on his own personal assault, which he continues to wage with malignity and rancor against the Bride of Christ, His Mystical Body in this darkened world, when he then has the irredeemable audacity to suggest then, that those two human persons who, in the objectively mortally sinful act of ongoing fornication, somehow have, “real marriage” in his vernacular. To quote him:
    ‘ ” I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity but there are local superstitions, etc…” ‘
    He claims to be, “sure” that, “…this [ perpetual fornication ] is a real marriage…” but somehow that which Christ Himself has given us in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, in the Mystery of Love, as Love and Truth Himself, simply is not real. That brethren is calling the lie the truth and the Truth the lie, which is a diabolical disorientation proffered by Lucifer himself through his useful slave. He then makes claim to the perpetual fornicators having, “…the grace of a real marriage BECAUSE OF their fidelity…”. This statement, in and of itself, places an affront to Truth Himself, as Pope Jorge claims that his diabolically disoriented version of truth, “because of their fidelity”, they possess “grace of a real marriage” and yet Pope Jorge claims, that Sacrament which God deems to be imbued with Supernatural Grace, somehow falls short of the Bergoglian measure of which act does and does not contain grace. This ideological distortion of truth, which he fully owns, can only find its genesis straight from the bowels of hell itself. God have mercy on this man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and God have mercy on His True Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, outside of which there is no salvation, taught by Her as a deFide Truth and as thus immutable. In caritas.

    • When talking marriage and Canon Law in the Catholic Church, one must understand that different terms mean different things. Such as: sacramental (valid and licit marriage between two validly baptized Catholics); validity & liciety (meaning that all the canonical requirements and the Catholic form of marriage were fulfilled); mixed marriages (Catholic and Protestant or Protestant and a Protestant can be valid & licit with the proper dispensations for the Catholic party but not sacramental). Other types of marriages outside of either the Catholic Church or any Protestant denomination is another story all together.

      Okay. I know all of this is confusing- I spent an entire year in the seminary taking graduate level courses in Canon Law. However, I am a bit rusty as it was nearly thirty years ago I sat in that course. (No, I am not a priest, but did prepare years ago.) All of this said, it used to be much more simpler when Catholics married only other Catholics!

    • I would say that ‘sacramental’ automatically means ‘validity’ to a Catholic. As this article pertains to Holy Matrimony (a Catholic sacrament) the use of the word ‘sacramental’ is pertinent. Schismatic Christians have their own rules & of course the non-baptized go by the rules of civil authority (if indeed they marry at all). Their regulations should not be of any interest to the CC as was the case prior to VII. If Catholics want to marry outside the CC that is their right, but they should get married in a Registry Office. That way, if things go wrong they can more easily get a dispensation from the CC & remarry within it. They cannot be allowed to impose their own personal opinions which are contrary to the Word of God.

  12. Bravo! And many thanks to whomever wrote such a grand piece as this.

    I wish PF would understand that many who work in a Catholic apostolate, ( laity), as i do, do not wish to harm or make life more difficult for any soul. But if a soul longs to be united with Christ, then he or she will hopefully
    understand that he or she must “reorder” or ” turn around” and put on Christ.
    That is my goal, our goal, in working in a Catholic post abortion ministry. For that is our Lord’s goal for each soul he has created, regardless of circumstances. It does not happen overnight! There is an accompanying, if you will, but always with God’s goal in mind.

    It does saddened me, just a bit, that PF believes that those of us who have fidelity to our Lord’s Word, His teachings, along with our Church, are not loving, not compassionate and hide behind rigidity.
    For some, possibly, but nothing could be further from the truth for myself, I pray, and for those who work in this apostolate along side of me.
    And many who do work in various, active apostolate, only want happiness for the people they serve as well.
    But that happiness, that “joy of love” that PF”s talks about, is found through one’s redemption in Christ, and in the hopes of desiring to lead a life of virtue and that includes honoring one’s vow made to Christ in the Sacrament of Marriage. How does one “heal” from any mortal sin, while they are living in another?
    Or to put in a different light; how does one truly come to the love of our Lord, and thus have true contrition for a past mortal sin, if he or she is living against our Lord’s teachings in a present mortal sin?

    This was a most wonderful article. Thank you so much OnePeterFive for posting it.

  13. Yes to most of the above, with one very serious caveat and a minor one: in my recent experience the woman in the scenarios above is just as likely to be the one who abandons the legitimate spouse and children to run after a new life. In fact, every situation of this nature that I have had to deal with in my parish is one of the woman abandoning her spouse and children, not the man. Feminism has poisoned the well.

    Get on a diet, have some surgery to fit into those skinny jeans and become attractive to someone else…this is happening on a regular basis now.

    I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of scoundrel husbands out there, there are, I’m just saying it is no longer the norm of the man abandoning the woman: women are now doing the abandoning and at an increasing rate.

    Also, Austen Ivereigh’s piece was polemical and condescending at best. Not a sincere effort to engage the problem at all, but rather to sling mud at anyone who isn’t in lock step with abandoning the reality of adultery and the indissolubility of marriage while pretending that they are not.

    • Statistically that is true. I think majority of divorces are initiated by the woman. The weaker sex indeed.

      In fact, in analyzing same sex marriage, Ryan Anderson mentioned that lesbian marriages have the shortest span because you have two partners complaining about “their needs not being met” 🙂

      Austen Ivereigh’s piece is not just polemical. It is idiotic. If he bothered to exercise his intellect, he would not have come up with that.

  14. “Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know… They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard…”

    This is garbage. People do know what “the rest of my life” means. The prevailing romantic notion of marriage is still “happy ever after”. I have not met anybody who entered into marriage expecting it would fail or desiring that it was only a temporary arrangement. Even though the prevailing culture militates against permanence in marriage, couples who approach the sacrament still believe that divorce is one of those things that will never happen to them. Now that cohabitation has become socially acceptable there is a perfectly “legitimate” option for those who do not want life-long commitment and permanence, and the only reason people choose to get married is precisely because they want the commitment and permanence it brings.

    Concepts like “til death do us part” are not rocket science and are understandable by any sane person. The bars to sacramental validity are deliberately set very low as the Gospel is simple and graspable by the poor and uneducated – it is not the preserve of the learned and articulate. What we see in the above sentiments is an anthropopessimism which runs completely counter to the Gospel and which leave no place for grace in this world. He is making excuses for sin and treating people like infantile cretins. Once you start down the road of this “people can’t help themselves” rubbish, you dehumanise them by pretending that they are not free moral agents, and you lie to them by pretending that they can avoid the consequences of the choices and actions they make in life.

    He might think that God makes trash, but he will have a job on his hands convincing God of that idea.

    • The next Sacrament to repudiate will be Holy Orders. Men leaving to get married will trot out the same excuses – I was too young, didn’t understand that being an ordained priest was a lifelong commitment, etc. I blame the post VII CC for this whole chaotic & wilful usurpation of the Ten Commandments. It all goes back to that council & their notions of a false ecumenism that doesn’t tally with Christ’s commandment to His Apostles to ‘go & TEACH all nations what I have taught you’. They ceased ‘teaching’ as in the spirit of ecumenism it wouldn’t be viewed as ‘nice’. The next pope will have it all to do. Let’s hope he is Traditional in mindset & commands the authority & vigour to oversee the restoration of Christ’s Church on earth.

      • Good morning, Ana,

        The quintessential question is “which church” will the “next pope” restore? That question bespeaks the essence of, “what is it that is actually remaining of the One, True Church?”. It would seem to be that the church which has been constructed since VCII is not the One, True Church established by the Son of God, made Man. The utter reality is that the post-VCII church has as its pinnacle liturgical act, a mass which is fundamentally ideological from its very essence and as thus it cannot be of Divine origin. Not only that but it was concocted with the preternatural gifts of Lucifer himself, bestowed upon one of his sons, Annibale Bugnini the Freemason, made to destroy in the minds of the faithful, the gift of Supernatural Faith, that which is both freely given and completely underserved. And now the question, “has the new mass succeeded in its specific intent?”. Everywhere we look around the world, the evidence rests, res ipsa loquitur, that the new mass has been quintessentially successful in destroying the One, True Faith writ large in the minds of the faithful.

        The post VCII popes, each and every one of them, have either been deceived or they have been/are deceivers, but for perhaps JPI who died under suspicious circumstances at best. Brute reasoning leaves us with no other alternative, as again, these truths remain res ipsa loquitur. There is no magic and there is nothing new under the sun. In the balance, there has been an anti-Church constructed from within the very vineyard of the One, True Church. For all intent and purpose, it “looks like” the One True Church because it controls all of the “property” of the Church of Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God, but it is the church that Lucifer has brought forth by proxy through his useful minion Freemasons. It is the church which preaches the anti-gospel for the purposes of the person of the Anti-Christ, who may well be in our midst. That which we cannot know until he reveals himself. It would seem that we haven’t yet seen nearly enough worldwide carnage for that realization to occur.

        That said, the Luciferians are trying very hard to accomplish that chaos in this time. Just look around. The Hegelian dialectic of synthesis was used near perfectly in bringing forth the amoral, megalomaniacal fool as the current president-elect, for instance. The deception is writ large and as thus like that of the Anti-Christ, I would submit. There is now a certain level of appeasement because of the election of Trump that has occurred among many of those who would seem to be genuinely in the pursuit of the authentic, One, True Faith. This Trump deception is causing division with derision among otherwise seemingly devout Catholics, within families and amongst friends. This can only be an anti-Christ level of deception. We are in trouble in this world, indeed. In closing, it would seem that the next pope, if we have one (prophecy of St. Malachi in the context of all else going on), will be the Pope of a very, very, very small faithful, remnant Catholic Church which will be ever so exquisitely persecuted in our time. In caritas.

        • I’m sure Mark that we have already had a conversation on Sedevacantism & that you already know I regard their stance as heretical. They essentially are similar to the Orthodox who feel they are the One True Church founded by Christ on the First Apostles yet are also in disarray.

          As I have said before, even if the VII Council was in error no-one has the authority to say that Christ has not sustained his Sacraments & Liturgy or that He has transferred them somewhere else. The Church of Christ must be visible otherwise you fall into the Protestant error of the unscriptural invisible church. Our Lady predicted the Apostasy would begin at the top of the CC but never did she say to leave en masse & go to Econe or to join the Orthodox, Protestants or Sedevacantists, because Peter decided that Rome is where he would build the actual foundations of Christ’s Church which provides the Apostolic Succession that schismatics have broken away from, hence their invalid ordinations.
          The Sedes don’t have any faculties to minister as their priests are latae sententiae & do not have the authority, infallibility or indefectibility to do anything let alone licence or ordain priests. They are in a far worse position that the Traditional Orders who have always recognised the Papal Office & thereby kept Apostolic Succession intact. The Sedes have backed themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape. Wanting others to join them, which so many continuously do on Catholic websites, is a seriously grave error. They, like the rest of us, must stick to the True Faith & that means putting up with PF & cronies for the present while storming heaven for a True & Traditional Pope to be elected very soon.

          Satan loves disorder & undoubtedly PF’s pontificate has provided humongous amounts of that, leaving Traditional Catholics feeling very battered, but we must stay with Christ’s Church & persevere to the end. Our Lady’s Triumph will bring us great respite even if it is only for a short time. All this chaos has been predicted – we just didn’t realise that we would be required to live through it & give witness to the True Faith despite the Marxist/Masonic/Modernists & their supporters we have had to deal with. Drifting away in another direction, not attending a valid Mass, staying at home instead of meeting your Sunday obligation, not partaking of the Sacraments (when available) will not endow Sedes with God’s grace. He has not left His Church (we have His promise) but He does require our commitment to serve Him through thick & thin until He calls us home. To suggest that there has been no valid Pope for the last 60 odd years (some claim going back much further) is ridiculous & would mean that the Gates of Hell have prevailed & consequently that no-one has valid orders & Christ has abandoned us. That stance would certainly suggest that Sedes have lost trust & hope in God’s promise & are no better than agnostics.

          • Hello Ana,

            I concur with you. Sedevacantism is an evil, as it is a privation of the good which is due God’s people, and in this context, that is real Apostolic succession. In my thesis above, I am not suggesting that the anti-Church is a result of the absence of a true pope, rather I am suggesting that the true popes since VCII have either been deceived or are deceivers. That, in and of itself, does not make them anti-popes, particularly as none of them has yet deposed himself during life nor declared to be anti-pope post-mortem. We are now on the cusp, as you know, of that self-deposition occurring, consequent the Dubia. Christ did not command that the Blessed Sacrament would be confected until the end of time, rather that His Church would prevail. Bishop Athanasius Schneider and especially his dear mother, know what it is like not to have the Blessed Sacrament confected.

            Lucifer is far too intelligent and wily to attempt to do that which he knows he cannot do. Rather, as our Blessed Mother, our love, the Mother of the One Who Is Love, has told us, the apostasy will start at the top. Consider this Ana. One cannot both be an apostate and be true pope. If Francis declares himself to be, as he deposes himself, a manifest heretic or as frankly apostate, which it would seem that he is declaring himself to be, then who has been pope for the past almost 4 years? Not a “trick” question. Either it has been Benedict XVI, the most wretched pope of all time, yet still pope, or there hasn’t been one. As you know, there is only one pope. Nothing has changed about Francis along the course of his diabolical pontificate. He simply continues to move the ball down the court into the realm of the understanding of one world religion, which is “all paths lead to God”, not necessarily under one name, other than perhaps the “religion of man”. In caritas.

          • Honestly, I believe all popes since VII have been Modernists. What with the Assisi debacle & JPII & PB visiting & praying in mosques, the ignoring of the child abusers & enablers, the large number of appointments of Liberals to episcopal offices, the Vatican Light Show, commemorations in Lund, etc. etc. none of them have truly given strong Catholic leadership, rather they have turned the Papal Office into a Presidency & the Vatican into a Parliament. There has been little emphasis on the Word of God & virtually no evangelisation.

            As I have already said I am having great difficulty in regarding PF as a legitimate pope & I certainly do not accept the innovation of an ‘extended papacy’. The fact that the CDF have been silent on the matter & the claim of the victorious St. Gallen Group (Mafia) is very demoralising. That’s not to say they have not been valid popes but neither have they been totally good ones, though PF is the worst ever. If PB has retained infallibility he should speak out but maybe that was taken away by some means from him, legitimately or otherwise. If he hasn’t retained infallibility why is he still resident in the Vatican? Some day we’ll be told but only after a Traditional Pope takes control. I hope to live long enough to see that day!

          • Hi Ana,

            Please know who Ratzinger is. Observe him closely. Listen to what he says and observe what he chooses not to say. Watch his action and his inaction. Read his “scientific paper” that he penned several months before his elevation to the bishopric, which he has never refuted nor stated to be as error in fact. He wrote of the path of the “divorced” and civilly “remarried” as having a path to the Sacraments way back then. Read his words now about Francis. Find them here: In caritas.

    • “He is making excuses for sin and treating people like infantile cretins. Once you start down the road of this “people can’t help themselves” rubbish, you dehumanise them by pretending that they are not free moral agents, and you lie to them by pretending that they can avoid the consequences of the choices and actions they make in life.” – as you stated

      YES! This is the diabolical seduction, which not only harms the laity, but many priests as well.

    • Surely most get people getting married do so because they know it is indissoluble. People in love want total commitment and that is why they enter into indissoluble marriage.

      • I’m afraid most people nowadays get married for a variety of reasons many of which do not relate to love, more lust I would say. They require status, the removal of sin from what would otherwise be an illicit relationship, companionship in old age, a better lifestyle, someone to care for them etc.

        By pandering to their requirements PF et al are bringing genuinely committed persons down to the level of animals who only have their instincts to follow.

        • No doubt there are mixed motives but how better to fulfill the motives you mention than by entering into a marriage which you assume to be indissoluble. Take companionship in old age for example.

          • I agree, but few young, or indeed not so young, do. Cohabitation has taken over as there is no commitment involved. There are very few marriages now – even the Town Halls are quiet.

          • Precisely. Those who do not want commitment or are fearful of the terrible pain of marriage breakup do not get married. Those who do get married most probably do it for the commitment of indissolubility.

          • We mustn’t forget that very many of to-day’s young adults were themselves victims of divorced or separated parents which would definitely have had a bad effect on their outlook. The CC should never have recognised civil divorce & to make it necessary in order to obtain an annulment is farcical. The annulment (if legitimate) should come first, then the civil divorce to meet governmental requirements. As it stands, the Church is forcing couples to divorce rather than supporting them through difficult times.

  15. Ivereigh says (1): “To take an obvious example, a woman abandoned by her abusive husband who remarries to provide for her children might be in the same legal category as the philandering playboy who ditches his wife for a younger model, but no one could claim that both are in the same moral category.”

    Wrong. They are in the same moral category. Morally speaking, they are both committing actions that the sixth commandment forbids. And while the violations of the sixth commandment on the part of a philandering playboy might be more serious than those violations committed by the woman in question, nevertheless the acts of both constitute grave matter. Similarly, stealing a cheap car to take it on a joyride is a grave sin, as is helping oneself to millions of dollars by fiddling the company books. Both acts fall into the moral category of theft, but one is more serious than the other. This is pretty basic stuff a child can understand – but not our chattering classes, it seems.

    Ivereigh says (2): “Imagine that the woman in the first case, over time, experienced a radical conversion in her life, and is today an active member of the church community. Let us suppose she cannot, for technical reasons, obtain an annulment (these are rare cases), and the first husband has long since remarried.”

    Notice the begging of the question here? Ivereigh posits that the woman has experienced a “radical conversion” in her life. But, after that radical conversion, she is having sex with someone who is not her spouse! So the unwary reader is seduced by Ivereigh’s narrative into believing that one can have a radical conversion to the Church and yet go on violating the 6th commandment. But this is the very proposition which the critics of Amoris Laetitia (myself included) dispute. To convert to Christ and His Church means to commit to leaving one’s sinful ways entirely – however painful that may be – and to following Him. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” All of them. Not just the ones you think you’ll be able to keep.

    It’s a pity that, whenever they rise to the challenge (and this is rare), the “obvious” examples proffered by the defenders of A.L. are such fake constructs.

  16. I entirely agree with and support the teachings of Our Lord and of His Catholic Church on the indissolubility of marriage.

    That said, to my horror, I know that Francis is right in a great many cases.

    Very many young and middle aged people today not only have no real understanding of keeping their word, they have no word to give. They sometimes do not even know what “give your word” means.

    I have watched them solemnly promise all kinds of things, promises made under conditions of the utmost clarity, where everything was carefully and thoroughly explained. They promised. But to them, this was merely a social ritual, about as meaningful as the tooth fairy.

    It was simply incomprehensible to them that if following through on a commitment led to any significant degree of suffering, that they were obliged to do so anyway.

    Incomprehensible, unthinkable, shocking, and unbelievable.

    Yes, I know many people who post here know of or have made vows and kept them, often at great cost.

    But the young? They do not believe in a commitment to a lunch date.

    Having been on the receiving end of an indignant explanation of why I had no right to expect that the lunch date would be kept (we confirm everything by phone, everything changes all the time, that’s your generation, not mine – and this from a highly intelligent young military officer), I can tell you that this is literally true.

    Can better catechesis help? Maybe sometimes. But not with people for whom the instruction itself is an empty social ritual that they have to go through.

    I do not know what to do about it. It is the result of a nearly totally corrupt culture. Certainly Francis’ solution: validate the lack of a given word, and erase the consequences – is the worst solution.

    In reality, I think we have all seen this, and recognized it, though not in relation to marriage vows. Think of people that you know. The promises you heard them make. That they might even have meant, at the time.

    I began to notice this decades ago: that people not only did not keep their word, they had no word to give. Because words have no meaning at all, only emotions and desires are real. Ask their college professors.

    For many young people today, their marriage vows are only an expression of the emotion and the desire that the marriage should last for a lifetime. To be crucified to pay for that? No way.

    A few do. I have watched them, and honored them for it.

    • Good evening HudsonLink,

      You seem to suggest that a marriage is somehow held together under the power of the human person/s who participate in the act of the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. The Holy Sacrament now is the same as it was when God placed it into time and space. Ignorance of the law, “is no excuse”, considering the laws of man. How much more so with the laws of God? At the time of the Deluge, circumstances would have been similar to our time, as we know people were marrying and carrying on with their lives, when the rains came. God will punish our iniquity as He allows us to suffer under the power of our own free will, which He protects with His Divine Sovereignty. We are just beginning to see what Love, as Deus Caritas Est, looks like in rejection. God will continue to allow us to follow our collective will and we will suffer beyond one’s imagination to fathom, in the here and now. The loss of the intellective understanding of the import of the marriage covenant with God is merely another mode of the suffering that this godless culture will endure as its critical and irreplaceable foundation of family life is all now but destroyed. The human family is a reflection, as miserably imperfect as it is, of God in Relatio as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This culture denies that and as we do we will suffer in an heretofore unimaginable and unmitigated way. In caritas.

      • I really like your statement that “The loss of the intellective understanding of the import of the marriage covenant with God is merely another mode of the suffering that this godless culture will endure as its critical and irreplaceable foundation of family life is now all but destroyed.”

        That expresses it in a nutshell. The loss of the intellective understanding indeed. Vows are only wished and hopes, and words have no real meaning.

        Unfortunately, since my intellective understanding was not up to your first sentence, I was definitely not suggesting it.

        The loss of the ability to reason, or to place any value on logic or on rational thought, or indeed to even have any belief that it exists, is indeed a source of suffering, and ultimately leads to violence of one sort or another, as genuine conversation dies.

  17. By the way, I have been able to persuade a number of cohabiting (or intending to cohabit) people to choose marriage with a very simple phrase:

    “So why would you want to be a rental?”

    Generally they look stunned, and often decide that marriage is the better path.

    I have a small collection of the resulting wedding invitations.

    No promises, but you might try it with a cohabitation-oriented young person. Or not so young.

  18. I can very well understand the request for anonymity. His head could be on the chopping block for writing such a brilliant reponse. The vindictive occupants of the Vatican would have seen to that.

  19. Much of what our Holy Father says is so disappointing and frustrating. But when he said most marriages today are probably invalid I nodded my head in agreement. Not because most couples don’t intend their marriage to be for life. But because most couples are closed to the possibility of conceiving a child at the very time they take their vows. Most modern bridal couples are deliberately artificially infertile when they say, ” I do.”

    • Only the firm intention *never* to have children when one marries renders a marriage null. A couple using contraceptives that gets married and plans, when it suits them, to have the regulation 2 children at some point down the line, is committing grave sins but is not of a disposition that would render the marriage null.

  20. I like this article in general, but I object to this claim: “He [Francis] knows as well as anyone in the Church that a person who has sexual relations with a person who is not his or her actual spouse is objectively committing adultery. There is no way around that fact.”

    He does not “know” this, and he believes that there is indeed a way “around” this fact.

    Amoris indicates as much. We cannot hang everything on his comment about the vast majority of marriages being invalid. The fact is that Francis does not believe marriage is in every case indissoluble. He asserts in Amoris that the moral questions having to do with marriage must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and he grossly distorts the teaching of St. Thomas by making it seem as if the Angelic Doctor taught exceptions to exceptionless evils.

    Francis is effectively teaching that the morality of a human action is determined primarily and fundamentally by the concreteness of the situation. He speaks of universal, objective moral goods as “rules” that admit of various “exceptions.”

    Francis does not acknowledge the object of moral action, but reduces moral action to circumstances and intention. This is abundantly clear from Amoris.

  21. My in-laws were both married previously. Both are converts. My mother-in-law converted before her first marriage; my father-in-law converted after his marriage to my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law was married in the Church and her annulment went through relatively easily from what I’ve been told. On the other hand, my father-in-law, who was married in a Baptist church (I think), was actually denied an annulment originally! This was because one of the people who wrote a letter to the tribunal on behalf of his ex-wife was the woman whom she had left him for and with whom she was now living! My mother-in-law wrote an impassioned letter to the bishop stating that the whole debacle was making her consider leaving the Church and he was eventually granted the annulment. On a related note, before my father-in-law converted to Catholicism, he would accompany my mother-in-law and their children (now my wife and brother-in-law) to Mass. He was there with them every Sunday. The pastor actually offered to allow him to receive Communion since he was living a better Catholic life than many members of the parish! Fortunately, my father-in-law refused and instead began the RCIA process.

    At any rate, I am personally familiar with a “hard case” and yet I fully support the efforts of Cardinal Burke and the others to defend the integrity of the Church’s teaching tradition on marriage and the reception of Holy Communion

  22. Justice Scalia once remarked that a man who, during a marriage ceremony and before witnesses, says “I do” when he really meant to say “I don’t” is married—lock, stock, and barrel. To escape his plight, he must now go to court and subject himself to all the complications and expenses of the divorce laws in the state where he resides.

    It is impressively “modern,” to say no more, that the new dispensation emerging from Rome, as a sacramental matter, would spare that man even this bit of bother.

    Now that’s revolutionary thinking for you, says I.


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