September 23, 2015

REPOST: Of Doctrine and Discipline; Of Justice and Mercy



It is not the Catholic Church that needs to change its doctrines or disciplines to suit the Faithful. It is the Faithful that need to change to the doctrines and disciplines of the Church.


The hot-button topic of divorced and remarried sans annulment has, in the past and more recently, been the subject of vast emotional, secular and theological debate. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Catholics worldwide, there must be hundreds of thousands of Catholics (why else the emphasis on the matter?) who have been marginalized and ostracized and therefore are in need of radical help in combating this seeming injustice. These individual Catholics sit within or without the Church waiting for the day they can once again walk down the aisle to receive Holy Communion like everyone else. But is it really an injustice that presently keeps them away? Is it truly the Catholic Church’s fault they are prevented from receiving the one – and the only one, apparently - Sacrament they desire a return to? Where does the culpability lie – with the individual or the Catholic Church? Who is in need of change of mind and heart – the individual or the Catholic Church? Whose rule or way of life is in need of change - the individual or the Catholic Church?

If it’s required to be stated at all, those who marry without benefit of annulment have - of their own volition - chosen to sin against the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, subsequently placing themselves outside full communion with the Catholic Church. The need to find their personal “happy place” via a second marriage really doesn't even enter into the picture; it is an emotional argument, at best, as a reason for their return to full communion.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “… that passions be governed by reason.” Therefore, was a second marriage while still morally bound to the first - knowing full well the Laws of God and the Catholic Church would be violated – a reasonable decision? Or a decision base purely upon the passions?

It is readily apparent that for some, passions did indeed rule the day. They have willingly chosen the wider gate, rather than the narrower one, ignoring the words of Christ in Matthew 7: “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.” The narrow gate being God’s Law, the hopeful assurance of our salvation and eternal Happiness. 

The correction, then, is an amazingly simple one, the solution of which has been in effect for centuries: to return to the Sacraments, to return to full communion, fix the sin! If an annulment cannot be granted for the first marriage, then live as brother & sister within the second; if you can't live as brother and sister, then separate for the sake of your Soul. Is it not better to submit to Truth than to error; better to be concerned for the Soul in Eternity than the Body on earth? Is this not the reasonable and prudent course to take as a Catholic? It also goes without saying that guidance from a trusted priest is needed before any course of action should be decided upon. But one must be ready to make hard decisions, regardless.

All of the talk about the “pastoral care” that is needed for those who voluntarily chose the path of sin is, to me, incredulous, when there is such deafening silence for the “pastoral care” of abandoned spouses and children. Since when do the needs of the one trump the needs of the many? Since when does the spiritual care of abandoning spouses trump the spiritual care of the innocent ones? Are not both equally in need? Why does the Catholic Church suddenly feel the need to lower Christ's standards to ensure the "feel-good" emotional state of a select few, while chopping the legs from under others who have chosen to remain Faithful to Christ’s teachings and their first and only marriages? Where does true mercy lie? Where does true justice lie? It certainly does not lie with the focus on loving the sin and the sinner, but on hating the sin, loving the sinner and converting the sinner to save their Soul.

Hymn: God of Mercy and Compassion

The divorced and remarried sans annulment want full communion and don't want to feel badly because they are restricted – by their own decision - from receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord. All, right then… all that is required of them is to correct the sin by Confession, Repentance and Absolution, and restitution to the offended insofar as it is possible. Everyone else in the Catholic Church has to do the same to gain Heaven, without changing the rules. The divorced and remarried are no exception, so why are they - and the Catholic Church – seemingly trying to make them one? The solution has never been hidden; has never been abrogated; has never been out of their reach. But you would think all three have been, would you not, from all the fuss and commotion?

If the Catholic Church had as much pastoral concern for marriages pre-divorce as they do post-divorce, it is not a far reach to say that many more marriages would be saved. The Catholic Church and her Bishops should begin to work more diligently to assist Catholic spouses in preserving their Sacramental marriages by (1) stopping the implicit assent to first marriages being irremediably broken simply because a civil divorce has been granted, (2) enforcing and applying the Canon Laws that concern reconciliation, and (3) remind couples in Pre-Cana conferences the serious nature of and what is meant by Fidelity, Permanency and "till death we do part". By so doing, they may correct many of the problems currently being experienced in Catholic marriages and which remains the raison d'être of the Synod. If assistance in repairing the foundation of the marriage can be done at the earliest stages of cracking, rather than simply abandoning it, much of the need for a solution for the divorced and remarried would be moot and perhaps more fervent and vibrant Catholic marriages would be the result.

Copyright 2015 David Heath - All Rights Reserved