Wednesday, 7 March 2012

More on divorced and 're-married'

A commenter, Elizabeth, left an interesting and thoughtful comment on a post of a few days back, which I thought deserved a full reply.  I have italicised her comments: my replies are in normal text.

Pope John Paul has a very good explanation of Church Teaching on this in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. 

That's Familiaris Consortio, and I agree it is an excellent exhortation.

I think it should be read by everyone who is in this situation (Second Marriage), and everyone who is voicing an opinion on the subject.

I am slightly wary of the expression 'Second Marriage' in this context, as it risks implying that a Catholic with a living spouse can validly contract a second marriage; which is not the case.  I do agree that all interested in this issue would do well to read Familiaris Consortio, particularly §84. The late Holy Father manages to convey both the importance of extending understanding and charity to those in such a situation, and also the importance of maintaining the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage, and the objective evil of this situation.

One of the big problems in the Church today is the expectation that everyone should go up and receive Communion. 

I quite agree: this leads to all sorts of problems.  When I see how few people go to confession, and how many to communion, it strikes me that there is an imbalance; and it clearly places significant presure on those who, for whatever reason, are not able to receive, either on a specific occasion, or for continuing reasons.

If someone does not, it really is no one else's business.

Absolutely right.

When there is a family with children involved then parents have a duty to raise those children as best they can.

Indeed - the late Holy Father makes the same point in Familiaris Consortio.

If someone decides to stay in this kind of marriage for whatever reason, and respects Church teaching with regard to Holy Communion, they should be left alone.

Here I think I differ. Familiaris Consortio §84 again: 'The Church... cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by a sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage.'  If by 'left alone', is meant 'people should refrain from making unpleasant remarks', I do agree. But the Church has a duty to continue to proclaim the Gospel and call people to repentance, even when that is uncomfortable.

Often people have strayed from the Church got themselves married to someone who is divorced and then when children are born realize how much the faith means to them, and how much they want to pass it on to their kids. People do fall from grace, we all do in various degrees. 

People in second marriages have enough heartache without fellow Catholics piling on more. Imagine being unable to reconcile the two things you love the most, and having a torn conscience. Sometimes living together as brother and sister is not an option because one partner finds that too hard to accept.

Indeed: it is a very heavy cross.  However, if a Catholic is in such a situation, high on his or her lists of concern should be the salvation and sanctification of the person with whom he or she is living.  Ultimately, that must mean working to remedy what Pope John Paul called 'the broken sign of the Covenant.'  

They need our sympathy and our prayers. Pope John Paul says they should not lose hope.

Indeed.  The hope, of course, is that they should eventually be fully reconciled to the Church once more, and able to receive Our Lord in a state of grace; and by their heroic virtue assist the sanctification of their children and their children's other parent - as well, ideally, as their original spouse.

I would only add that my original post was prompted by calls which fly counter to what the late Holy Father wrote: calls to admit to Holy Communion those whose 'state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.'

All the quotations in my comments are from Familiaris Consortio, §84.

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