Sunday 30 March 2014

The Wrong Remedy

Divorce is a terribly painful experience for many people. However, given the consistent teaching of the Church that “He who divorces and marries again commits adultery”, we need to remember that we cannot eradicate the objective sinfulness of a situation by giving approval via reception of Holy Communion.

Supporters seek to be pastoral to the divorced and civilly re-married by admitting them to Holy Communion, but there are some harmful pastoral effects to be considered if we do, such as insensitivity toward the abandoned spouse and the example given to the children. Consider how the abandoned woman might feel if her husband –who divorced her to civilly ‘re-marry’ the lady who used to sit three rows in front of them at Mass- were to be publicly ‘affirmed’ with Holy Communion every Sunday. Consider too the example of commitment given to young men and women; how dependable or secure can they be in entering marriage when the example before them is that the home and children can be abandoned without spiritual consequence? Also to be considered is the scandal and example given to the parish, not to mention what it would say about the Church as a trustworthy guide in the spiritual life if She were to simply accept sins we have difficulty avoiding. Too many dangers are opened up in the rush to be [inauthentically] ‘pastoral’.

The idea that we can admit those in non-sacramental ‘re-marriages’ to Holy Communion reminds me of the priest who publicly advised a young person on an internet forum that instead of struggling and praying for the graces to overcome masturbation, the questioner should just thank God for the pleasure it brought. We wouldn't advise someone with a persistent cough to simply thank God for having the reflex and ignore the problem, so why fail in charity in care of the soul?  True love (Christian charity) puts the salvation of souls before all else; before being applauded as a politically correct community; before being liked personally. In the interests of safeguarding all that is holy (the Sacraments and our children’s souls) we need to be clear that what is not in accord with the Gospel is to be avoided rather than ways sought to accommodate it. The Sacrament needed by those in objectively sinful situations is not Holy Communion but Confession, with a supportive community helping them to remain faithful to the Gospel. If a person feels too lonely to continue after a divorce, we Catholics have some culpability for failing them. God's treatment for weakness is grace; for loneliness it's us - we are to live the Works of Mercy.  


  1. I've previouly posted here a few times, under my full name, not pseudonymously. I'm posting now under a pseudonym only because I invoke third parties, one of whom is now dead.

    I agree with the message of this post very strongly. It needs to be said more often, and more forcefully, AND BY OUR PASTORS, and precisely for pastoral reasons. I'd like to comment on the second paragraph in particular, the most significant part to me being "consider too the example ..."

    The deceased person to whom I refer is my father. My father was not, and my mother, still living, is not (never has been) Catholic. I'm an adult convert. I'm also a bastard - or, at least, I was, my parents marrying, in the mid 60's, when I was an infant. That bastardy was, I think, a matter of some shame, and I knew nothing of it until I was 18 or 19 or 20, and even then I learned about it only inadvertently, and have never discussed it with either of my parents. But my father married my mother, for my sake. (Another advantage of posting anonymously is that I can be free to say that my mother is a difficult woman and my father's life with her was not easy for him. Still, on his death bed, his love for her was evident: I am charged with looking after her, and so I am trying to do and intend to do for love of him and of her and of Christ Himself.)

    My parents were nominal protestants, like most of the modern English. And so was I, as a child. So as an adult Catholic convert I was surprised, but edified, by my father's attitude to a neighbour who had abandoned his youngish wife and family for another woman. Speaking to me privately, but firmly, and before my own marriage, he made plain his anger at this abandonment. It was WRONG, and he knew it. He did not invoke his own example, but I knew that he had abandoned neither my mother nor me, and I am grateful to him for it. Who knows what would have become of me otherwise? Certainly, I should have been unlikely to have known him and to love him. (Please pray for him; he died relatively young, of cancer. His name is John.)

    We need examples like my father's, and we need our bishops and parish clergy to provide the leadership, and pastoral support, and faithfulness to the Gospel, to encourage the faithful and wider society to be committed unconditionally to their families. Without that support we risk falling deeper into the social and moral mire in which we currently find ourselves, and our eternal souls are imperilled, as are those of our children.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Lancastrian.
      It must have been disappointing to discover your parents’ ‘situation’ accidentally. From your father’s good example your own faith seems to have been fed -that you can care for your mother for love of God, love of your father, and love of your mother is a tribute to you all.

      I agree with you that courage and charity are needed by both clergy and laity but especially by the Bishops; the right thing to do is not always the easiest and doesn’t carry immediate reward, but bears fruit nonetheless. As you say, the moral quagmire will only worsen if we don’t get firm leadership now. But I honestly wonder if our shepherds have not gone so far down the non-shepherding role for so many years now they genuinely think being soft on issues is the way of Christ.

      With prayers for all your family, living and deceased,


    2. The non-shepherding of the past decades has borne mountains of rotten fruit - the bishops and priests can see as well as anyone the results of their gross failures.

    3. Thanks for your comment Lynda.
      Yes, I agree with you on both on counts.
      God bless,

  2. As mentioned elsewhere, this problem comes back to a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of “pastoral”.

    A shepherd looks after and guards his flock. He stops them wandering off into danger. He does not, and cannot, allow them to stray into error.

    Adultery is a Mortal Sin. Tough, but there it is.

    To allow the divorced and remarried to receive Communion is to allow further Mortal Sin, and then Sacrilege. The priest or bishop, who does this, also commits Sacrilege.

    Such laxity is not “pastoral”, it is profoundly wrong!

    Of course they should be welcomed and succoured in their parish, just not allowed to receive Holy Communion, until they resolve their difficulties.

  3. I agree with you Andrew. We are failing in our care of people in these irregular situations by not both challenging them and supporting them. We need to think as a parish how we can help these people.
    God Bless

    1. Sallyanne,
      Thank you for the comment and affirmation.
      We do need to find ways of supporting that don't compromise truth or the sacrality of the sacraments and souls.
      God bless


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